Annie Rayne, Arbroath
A Child At War In Southern Africa

MS 239

Annie Rayne

Life of the Seige of Mafeking

My Life During the Seige of Mafeking

I will try to interest you for a few minutes by trying to describe my life during the Siege of Mafeking. Although I was not very old I can remember a great deal about what happened We left Pretoria in the early part of September for Mafeking, my Uncle having wrote asking my Mother Baby and myself to come round as he thought there would be no war there, it being such a small place, consisting only of a few shops, houses, churches and the railway camp. When we arrived there, there was no sign of war what ever, there were no soldiers the nearest camp being at a small village called Zecrust {?}. After being there about two weeks Baden-Powell and his men came in and pitched their camp right opposite the house we were living in, then the men that were employed in the railway shops were all issued with guns and they only had three nights drill before the first shot was fired by the enemy. The first we heard of it was that the railway line between Mafeking and Bulawayo had been cut off cutting us from all communication. That night the women and children were all put out of their houses and out into a lagar out in the open veldt. We had to sleep there for three nights with nothing but a blanket to cover us but the firing became so bad and the enemy began to approach so near that orders were given for a large trench to be dug for us it consisted of simply a large hole dug in the ground and a few sheets of iron put on top for a roof. The bags were filled with sand and laid on top of the iron then soil on the top of the bag. The entrance being just large enough to allow one person in at a time and when it happened to rain we had to go into the house near the trench as the water all came rushing in. There were about two hundred women and about a hundred children in that one large trench We only got out for half an hour at a time to cook a little food and had to hurry back again. On Sundays we were able to go home for the whole day as the enemy was not allowed to fire, Then the hardships began. The children all took sore eyes in fack(sic) it became so bad that my Uncle took us out of the trench and got a bullock waggon for us, I escaped from having sore eyes but had to attend to some of the others We lived in the waggon for about six weeks then my Mother had to help nurse the wounded men that were convalesent as the hospital was full, And they had made the railway institute into a hospital where the convalescent men were kept, therefore we had to get a trench dug in our back ground as it was too far from lagar to the institute, and the children had to carry the food which their Mothers made when they were not on duty One day alittle friend and myself were carrying the food to the institute when the big gun called Big Ben fired and we were given orders to throw everything we had in our hands lie fiat on the ground The big shell burst past a fence where we were lying and the pices(sic) flew all over the place. A piece struck the little girl who was with me in the heart and killed her on the spot The same piece rebounded and struck me in the forehead and made a nasty gash but I was able to get up and going about in a few weeks, although it gave me a fearful shock About this time our food began to run short and our rations were cut down to a pound of bread, a pound of horse flesh, two ozs of tea and the same of sugar This had to last three of us fo(sic) a whole day, so you may imagine in the beginning of the siege we had very little to eat far less towards the end, food we could not buy as it was so expensive, about the middle of the sixth month our ratons came down again to a quarter of a pound of bread, half a pound of horse flesh, or donkey flesh, two ozs of tea and no sugar this time as it was finished and milk we could not get as it being kept for the hospital I preferred the donkey flesh to the horse flesh Donkey flesh when it is cooked is as white as snow this lasted for another month when we were put on biscuits which were very hard they had to be put in boiling water for an hoir(sic) or two before we could think of eating them about this time many of the little children died of nothing else but starvation. We were now begining(sic) to think we were never to get relief as it was getting into the eighth month. The last attempt to take Mafeking was made one saturday moring(sic) about four oclock when we were wakened up. When we heard the Shouting of Kaffirs and the firing of guns, we were surrounded in the north by Eloff and his men and on the south by Sryman and his men. Eloff and his men came through the Kaffirr Location and set it on fire, burning many of the poor Kaffirs who had not time to escape and those who had time to escape fled up into the town Eloff came into the town as far as the drill hall about half a mile from the centre of the town before our men _______ from the time Eloff went into the hall until eight oclock at night when he was forced to put the white flag out, and surrender. It was great excitement that night when we were allowed to go to the top of the street and see Eloff and the few men that were not killed march by they were led to be imprisoned, all the time Eloff was comng in at the north, Sryman was supposed to be coming in at the south but everytime they signaled each other a dummy figure would work and Sryman naturally thought there was about a hundred men in the fort, but there was only this dummy figure which a cliver Lady had made and she and her Husband were the only two in the fort, so Sryman and all his men fled for their lives. The last few weeks we were besieged was trying time as we had very little to eat and very little water. We were partly living on starch made into puddings Locust flied with salt and anything we could get that was fit for eating. When the starch was finished my Mother had to boil the White shirts and give baby and myself the water that came off them to drink it was great excitement when a swarm of Locust came, to see all the people that were able to catch Locusts, our last dish was what they called sewem[?] It consisted of the sweepings of the oats after the horses had fininshed. They were put into a barrel with water and left to ferment for a whole day. We could not eat manage to eat them though the poor men had them in order to keep up their strength Now I think we came to the worst part of the long eith[t] month siege, It seemed a very long week as we were expecting the relief column evey(sic) day. We could see them with the naked eye fighting against the enemy as they were so near to Mafeking, at last about six oclock in the moring(sic) we saw the relief column in front of our house they pitched their camp and then went through the town We were very disappointed when we found that they had no food for us. Thy(sic) stayed one day in Mafeking and then went out the opposite side to which they came in order to try and capture the enemy they were on the Bulawayo line we had to wait for four days after Mafeking was relieved for food and then when it did come we could hardly look at it. Then the people began to leave Mafeking. We had to wait a whole month before we could get a trian to Cape town an when we got there nobody knew us we were so thin My Mother was the only women(sic) in the whole of Mafeking that went into the siege with two children and came out without losing any. Now I think I have told you all I can remember during my life in the Seige of Mafeking.

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