The Lindley Action
From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
The Lindley Action
To the EDITOR of the PALL MALL GAZETTE.
Sir, — I can assure your correspondent "Trooper, 45th (Dublin) Co., I.Y.," that nothing can be further from my wish than to hurt the feelings of himself or any of his comrades in my account of the Lindley surrender. I have given them every credit for individual gallantry. As to the general result, I have recorded my impression, which is formed after reading a considerable amount of evidence. I have seen at least ten accounts, two of which were written especially for my own information. Without going into matters of opinion, I should like to check "Trooper" upon one or two matters of fact, because if he is quite correct I have been misinformed.
He says : "Our battalion had not got with them a single spade." One account which I have says that the bodies of those who fell in the first day's fighting were buried with the help of the only spade. Another says : "Picks and shovels were to be had ; the ground on the top of the kopjes was in places workable." In any case, a bayonet at a pinch can in time throw up some cover. I am informed that the Bushmen and Rhodesians who made the defence at Elands River were also short of trenching tools. "A willing man, goaded by pom-poms, can burrow very deeply into solid rock," says one of their officers.
"A Trooper" misquotes me when he says that I stated there were twenty-six waggon. I mentioned no number. I may, however, have given a false impression by using the word "convoy" instead of "transport." The latter has been substituted in the later editions of my book. The waggons contained, as I stated, supplies of ammunition, but they had only one day's rations. On the other hand, I have reason to believe that on Monday, May 28, two hundred sheep and lambs came into the possession of the defenders. And there were always the horses.
"A Trooper" says that there were five thousand Boers round Lindley. If so, the odds were certainly most disproportionate. I should be glad, however, to verify those figures before finally adopting them. The numbers of the enemy have been most difficult to gauge in the various actions in this war, and in none more so than in this one. We know, however, fairly exactly how many men De Wet had with him when he cut the line only a few days later. He had about twelve hundred. Witnesses of the final assault on the small kopjes at Lindley describe the assailants as not being more than a few hundred in number. We know also that Colvile was being worried all the way to Heilbron during a large part of the Lindley investment. The evidence, therefore, is rather against the presence of the very large force which "A Trooper" mention. I have no doubt that "A Trooper" is perfectly right in his estimate of the effect which the stand at Lindley had upon the general operation. If it were not for the resistance of the Yeomanry, De Wet would certainly have cut the line several days earlier. — Yours faithfully,
Undersham, Hindhead, Haslemere, Jan. 9.
A. Conan Doyle.