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From The Thames Advertiser 23 March 1896:



The Johannesburg Trouble

-o-

LETTER FROM MR H.C.T. LAWLOR

We have been permitted to make the following extract from a letter from Mr. H.C.T. Lawlor, of Johannesburg, to his brother (Mr. G.J. Lawlor) at the Thames:-

The New Year was spent by me under rather unusual circumstances. We have been playing at reformation or revolution, but it did not come off. The capitalists and leading citizens (in consequence of the corruption and ineptitude of the present Government) have been uniting for some time, very secretly, for a reformation. Petitions and requests being laughed at by the Government, things have been coming to a head for some time. At last, on the 31st December, there was great excitement in town. It was reported that Dr. Jameson, the administrator of Rhodesia, had crossed the border from Mafeking, and was marching for Johannesburg.

Mounted men were hurrying about seeming on business bent, then men carrying rifles, then big crowds of mounted men getting rifles served out to them, all hurry at 2 p.m. I found on my return home a card on my door to call at a certain place at 2.30 p.m. A few days previously I had been asked for my name in case of an emergency. I called, and found a lot of men cleaning Lee-Metford rifles. I was told to fall in at Von Brandis Square at 7.30 p.m.

I fell in with a crowd of, I suppose, 200 men, and marched to the outpost of the town to a place called Mazareth Housh. We had two Maxim guns, and commanded the High Road from Pretoria, and also protected the High Reservoir. We were kept here for a week, drilling and sentry duty, with plenty of false alarms - twice in one night we had to fall in. The house was well loop-holed and entrenched. We also were camped out by the reservoir, where one of the Maxim guns was placed in a commanding position. All this time we were hearing all sorts of conflicting rumours - that Jameson was at Krugersdorp, at Langlaate Star, &c.

In the evening, after hearing that he was at Johannesburg, we fell in to receive him, not knowing that at this time he was a prisoner. We heard that Willoughby had been shot, and all sorts of lies. One whole day we were in the trenches expecting an attack all the time. Nobody seemed to know anything. At last, on Tuesday, January 7th, we got definite word that Jameson had been captured at Randfontain, about 20 miles from Johannesburg, and that all the men had to lay down their arms, as the High Commissioner had taken the thing in hand, and that if this were not done the Boer Government would shoot Jameson and all his men - 500. We had to obey orders: the only satisfaction we had was that the arms were to be handed to the High Commissioner (Robinson), and even this was a lie.

It appears that there were not 3000 rifles provided. I saw at least two companies of men without arms, and in town there were five bodies of men the same way. “No arms” was the cry. It now appears to be the general belief that the Reform Committee never intended to fight, but simply to make a big demonstration when they were ready. Dr. Jameson suddenly and unexpectedly made his advance and upset all their calculations. How he was cajoled into coming has yet to be found out. Some think the Government got the key of the cypher and thus got the pull of the situation.

What partly makes people think the Committee did not intend to fight is that it got about that a train with arms, ammunition, artillery, and men, was to leave Pretoria at a certain hour to go to Krugersdorp, of course, passing through Johannesburg. A certain party got wind of this and offered to intercept this train, and secure everything, only asking the authority of one of the head committee; this was refused and dire was the consequence of this neglect, for it was the appearance of these artillery men and re-inforcements that caused Jameson's party to surrender after he had been led into a regular trap, it is said, by a false guide.

People are as mad as anything: they hardly know whom to blame, as things are so mixed up. I do not know myself. The Committee, some say, would not send to assist Jameson for international reasons, others that at the time there was an armistice of 24 hours. I think myself, armistice or no armistice, international reasons or not, Jameson should have been supported through thick and thin. Some rejoice that no fighting took place seeing the town was unprepared and really unarmed, but even the few that were armed could have supported Jameson well as he had to be reckoned with, and after getting him in then make terms if still necessary. The surrender of Jameson's 500 to 3000 Boers has elated the Boers, and correspondingly depressed the Uitlanders, especially as we did not fire a shot, and we are the laughing-stock of the world. This is hard on us, for all were enthusiastic, and wanted to fight to the last. But the arms had to be laid down. All the town has been searched for arms, more or less, and the Boers can do as they please now, as the Uitlanders are harmless. The people felt very grateful to the Maoris for offering to assist us, but things are so mixed up we do not know where we are. The High Commissioner had it all in his own hands, and, unfortunately, he appears to be an old woman, more anxious to obtain the thanks of the Boers than get redress for our grievances. Cecil Rhodes has just arrived in England. He is the only hope of the situation, as he is the only man in South Africa that knows his own mind, and is determined to carry out his intention, which is, I believe, a 'united South Africa.'


New Zealand Mounted Riflemen
in Southern Africa.
Click to enlarge the photo.
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