Martin Hooijmans | Lars de Ruyter
The sun was starting to set on the field, turning the bright red uniforms of the English soldiers the dark shade of blood. They sat at the entrance to their camp, casually cleaning their guns, entertained by the training exercises of the cavalry. These horsemen were as serious in their saddles as ever, the tips of their lances glistening menacingly in the light of the low sun. Nobody in their right mind would dare challenge these gladiators of the English Empire. They had nothing to fear, not even from the original settlers of this land who had opposed them for so many years. These Boers, children and grandchildren of the Dutch, German and French farmers who had seen their South-African country taken from them by English rule, had refused to live under the new regime and had trekked north to establish a nation of their own. The British government had not approved, and war had commenced between the vast armies of the Empire and the small guerrilla forces of the Boers.
It was almost over, however, in favor of the English. The Boers had lost most of their settlements and the red-colored armies encircled them in every direction. There was nowhere to run and nowhere to hide, or so the English soldiers believed. They relaxed, unaware of the dangers that lay ahead of them.
A young cavalier, fresh out of training, was the first one to spot the firm line of galloping horses that had appeared on the horizon, each one carrying a warrior donned in a different assortment of clothing that was ideal for the field. ‘Boers’ he muttered, and swiftly passed on the word to his commander. Seconds later, a war trumpet alerted everyone in the area, a line of cavaliers was formed and the grim tension of battle took hold of every man. The commander held back his cavalry for the time being, confident that the foot soldiers would be true in their aim and fire each member of the Boer commando out of his saddle before any English blood would touch the earth. He was already counting the medals that would lie in store for him and his men.
The Boers approached swiftly, their riding caps pulled firmly over their ears, the setting sun behind them transforming their figures into impressive silhouettes. The English commander signaled his soldiers to choose their targets, an arrogant smile donning his face. It didn’t falter as the Boers moved into firing range, it didn’t falter as he heard the sharp whistle of traveling bullets, but it did falter when upon impact the Boers ignited into a fierce inferno. Instead of an easily vanquished band of farmers, the English now faced a commando from the depths of Hell. A line of fire was about to launch itself into camp, surely destroying everything in its path. So the commander, completely dumbstruck, did the only thing he could possibly think of as he sat there on his majestic horse, the only thing that would protect his men. He charged.
Cavalier after cavalier took the flaming horses head on, lances extended, ready to ram each Boer off his horse. As they came closer, the young cavalier who spotted the attackers made another gruesome discovery. The horses were not carrying Boers, they were carrying puppets, and that was not all. In the midst of the flames he saw stick after stick of dynamite, bound to explode any time, definitely when stabbed by a lance. He began to shout, desperate to warn his fellow cavaliers, but it was too late. The explosion triggered a chain reaction, ripping apart lines of cavaliers and horses in a matter of seconds and pulling up a thick layer of smoke that engulfed all survivors. All sight vanished.
In the camp, all men were silent. Their first in command was lost in smoke, likely in battle. Their second in command was lost for words. No training, no field experience had possibly could have prepared anyone for this cruel display of warfare. And it was not over. From the smoke came a thundering salvo of gunfire, directed at the camp. Soldiers fell, others blindly fired their guns into the fading smoke, possibly dropping more of their own men. It was utter confusion. Utter panic. It was the true face of warfare. Cruel. Relentless. Unforgiving.
When the smoke vanished, the English fighting force could see twenty or so Boer horsemen riding hard into the sunset. Twenty Boers had wiped out the entire cavalry. The face of Africa was turned red. Not by the English flag, but by English blood.
The nation would belong to their empire.
The day, however, belonged to the Boers.