Topic: The Field of Battle
The Disaster at Koorn Spruit. the Royal Horse Artillery working their guns.
from: h. W. Wilson, With the Flag to Pretoria, 1902
Harass, Worry, and Bait Your Enemy
Ian Hamilton's March, 1900, as presented in Frontiers and Wars, Winston S. Churchill, 1962
Nevertheless, function or no function, it is war, and the way to win war. Harass, bait, and worry your enemy. Once he is more frightened of you than you are of him, all your enterprises will prosper.
Thus disturbed, I thought it might be worth while to walk up to the outpost line and see what was passing there. When I reached the two guns which were posted on the near ridge, the officers were in consultation. Away across the Sand River, near two little kopjes, was a goodly Boer commando. There were about 150 horsemen, with five ox-wagons and two guns. The horses were grazing, but not outsaddled. The men were lying or sitting on the ground. Evidently they thought themselves out of range. The subaltern commanding the guns was very anxious to fire — 'really think I could reach the brutes'; but he was afraid he would get into trouble if he fired his guns at any range greater than artillery custom approves. His range finders said '6,000'. Making allowances for the clear atmosphere, I should have thought it was more. At last he decided to have a shot. 'Sight for 5,600, and let's see how much we fall short.' The gun cocked its nose high in the air and flung its shell accordingly. To our astonishment the projectile passed far over the Boer commando, and burst nearly 500 yards beyond them: to our astonishment and to theirs. The burghers lost no time in changing their position. The men ran to their horses, and, mounting, galloped away in a dispersing cloud. Their guns whipped up and made for the further hills. The ox-wagons sought the shelter of a neighbouring donga. Meanwhile, the artillery subaltern, delighted at the success of his venture, pursued all these objects with his fire, and using both his guns threw at least a dozen shells among them. Material result: one horse killed. This sort of artillery fire is what we call waste of ammunition when we do it to others, and a confounded nuisance when they do it to us. Even as it was an opportunity was lost. We ought to have sneaked up six guns, a dozen if there were a dozen handy, all along the ridge, and let fly with the whole lot, at ranges varying from 5,000 to 6,000 yards with time shrapnel. Then there would have been a material as well as a moral effect. 'Pooh,' says the scientific artillerist, 'you would have used fifty shells, tired your men, and disturbed your horses, to hit a dozen scallawags and stampede 150. That is not the function of artillery. Nevertheless, function or no function, it is war, and the way to win war. Harass, bait, and worry your enemy. Once he is more frightened of you than you are of him, all your enterprises will prosper.