75th Anniversary of the Mazoe Patrol Brochure
Text on Cover Page:
Survivors of the Alice Mine settlers and of the two relief forces sent to bring them to Salisbury. Note the improvised armour plating on the wagonette.
Contemporary drawing of Fort Mazoe.
With the retreat of the survivors from the Alice Mine to Salisbury mining and other activities had come to a standstill at Mazoe. In July, 1896, a contingent of the Rhodesia Horse was sent to re-establish authority. It travelled via the Tatagura valley and chose a site for a fort, named Fort Mazoe, on a small hill betwccn the Alice Mine and Tatagura River; construction started at once.
The fort became the base for extensive operations in various directions, up through the Poort and back along the telegraph line to Salisbury where the track ran close to a number of rebel kraals, north-west to Amanda's, and down the Mazoe valley towards Abercorn. It was occupied by a permanent garrison and supplemented by Columns, for movement and action, of up to 300 Europeans of the Mounted Infantry and local Volunteers as well as 150 African friendlies.
The remains of Blakiston, Routledge and the others killed during the withdrawal to Salisbury were collected and buried at Fort Mazoe. The site of the fort and of the graves passed from local knowledge until they were identified in 1968. It is not certain that the graves still contain the remains of those buried there in 1896, as it is possible that they were removed to and re-buried in Salisbury, but of this there is no record.
The importance of Fort Mazoe lies in it being the base from which the Mazoe area was re-occupied. It was abandoned in November, 1896, when a site which was more suitable to changing conditions was chosen a mile and a half down the valley—Fort Alderson.
The Mazoe Patrol
TWENTY-SEVEN miles from Salisbury near the Mazoe Valley lies the Alice Mine, one of many gold mines in the area. In June, 1896, the Mashona rebelled. Authorities in Salisbury feared for the safety of the white inhabitants at Mazoe, eleven men and three women, and despatched J. L. Blakiston and H. D. Zimmerman in a wagonette to bringing he three ladies, Mesdamcs Salthouse, Cass and Dickenson.
Meanwhile at Mazoe J. W. Salthouse, Manager of the Alice Mine, had advised the inhabitants to congregate at his property where, on a small hill behind the mine, a rough fortification of timber and rocks was built. However, there had been no rebel attack in the area and most of the party decided to return to Salisbury without taking any real precautions for their safety. The leading group had gone about three miles when they came under heavy fire from the tall grass. Three of the group, including Cass and Dickenson, the husbands of two of he ladies, were killed. The remainder retreated hastily to the Alice Mine laager.
Plan of Mazoe area
Plan of Mazoe area
A grim situation faced the small group. Blakiston and Routledge volunteered to go to the telegraph hut, some 1¾ miles away from the laager, to send a message asking for help from Salisbury. Both men were killed on their way back but their heroic action undoubtedly saved the lives of the men and women in the laager. The laager was subjected to incessant rebel fire from the surrounding hills, but no-one was injured. On the morning of Friday 19th a patrol often men
under Dan Judson arrived. But as this reinforcement was not considered adequate to get the party back to Salisbury in safety, Hendrik, a Cape driver, was promised $200 to ride to Salisbury for further reinforcements. On the way he met Inspector R. C. Nesbitt with a patrol of twelve men. The patrol reached Mazoe on the morning of Saturday 20th.
At mid-day the entire party ot thirty-three set oft. Salthouse had fitted a wagonette with bulletproof iron sheets which gave protection to the women and one sick man. The journey back was one of extreme bravery and endurance. Mile after mile the small group pressed forward while horses and men were becoming weaker and weaker. The tall winter grass was swarming with rebels and yet, miraculously, only three men were killed and five wounded on the nightmare journey.
T.G. Routledge - J.L.L. Blakiston R.C. Nesbitt V.C.
At 10.30 p.m. they reached Salisbury. The three ladies had displayed courage of the highest order. Nesbitt received the Victoria Cross for his part in one of the most heroic actions in colonial history.
Trans Continental Telegraph Office from where Routledge sent the message to Salisbury.
The hut was situated below the ridge on which Fort Alderson was subsequently built
All illustrations are from the National Archives of Rhodesia.
Produced by Rhodesian Breweries Limited for The Rhodesiana Society.
Printed by Mardon, Salisbury
ORAFs also extracted the following accounts and poetry from Ballads of the Veld-Land by Lynn Lyster
THE MAZOE PATROL
How Succour Came To Mazoe
Note.—When the Matabele Rebellion swept over Rhodesia in June 1896, like a devastating hurricane, many magnificent acts of heroism were performed before the tide of bloodshed and outrage was rolled back by the comparatively small body of European settlers then in the country. Perhaps the most pathetic and heroic incident in the chronicles of Rhodesia is the story of what is known as " The Mazoe Patrol." The mining staff of the Alice Mine, situate at a distance of more than a mile from the Mazoe Telegraph Station, were, almost without warning, besieged by an overwhelming horde of Matabele, drunken with blood and slaughter. The narrative of the Mazoe Patrol naturally resolves itself into three chapters, the first being the splendid self-sacrifice of Blakiston and Routledge, the telegraphist in charge of the Mazoe wire, who left the shelter of the hurriedly constructed laager determined to reach the telegraph station and despatch a message to Salisbury for aid. This they succeeded in doing, but at the cost of their lives.
Then followed the plucky dash on horseback to Fort Salisbury by Piet, the Hottentot, for reinforcements, and the subsequent desperate running fight made by the Patrol while escorting the women and wounded from Mazoe to the Fort, a distance of over thirty miles.
The Ruby of self-sacrifice—
God's priceless precious stone—
Glows, when as ransom for a life
Devotion gives its own,
And in undaunted fearlessness
Goes forth to die alone.
A chivalrous and knightly deed
Rhodesian annals tell
Of Blakiston and Routledge, who
In Honour's tourney fell
To save Mazoe's women from
The gaping jaws of Hell.
As thunders from a summer sky
The crashing levin-bolt,
So burst the Matabele storm
Of carnage and revolt,
And poured a stream of ruthless war
From every savage holt'
Mazoe Post lay isolate,
Defenceless, far afield,
While every donga, krantz, and kloof
Marauding foes concealed;
And every wind that stirred the reeds
A warrior's plume revealed.
Fort Salisbury, the nearest help,
Lay thirty miles away,
And knew not of Mazoe's plight,
Nor where the danger lay;
So men could only wait for death,
And women only pray.
Time and again the rifles rang!
Time and again the foe
Reeled beaten from the laager's walls,
Row upon writhing row;
Yet natheless still the sea of plumes
Tossed restless, to and fro!
'Twas in this hour of direct need
That Chivalry awoke,
And Blakiston and Routledge, grimed
With blood and sweat and smoke,
Through the Matabele Impi,
On their deathless errand, broke !
True hearts were they, and kindly, though
The life they led was rough;
They recked not of the danger;
They were made of sterner stuff—
There were women in the laager,
And for them it was enough!
They knew, alas! that shame and death
Would fall to woman's lot;
And as they thought of what might be
Their blood burned fiercely hot.
So, if to save them men must die,
Well, death it mattered not!
Together, racing side by side
(This was the plan they made),
So one, perchance, might reach the wires
And telegraph for aid,
Then succour, if it came at all,
Would not be long delayed.
Speechless, their comrades gripped their hands
A silent, sad good-bye;
Whilst through the flashing battle-light
Dew shone in every eye ;
Full well they knew those gallant hearts
Rode out for them—to die!
The women watched them ride away,
With many a fervent prayer
That Heaven would raise a shelt'ring arm
And hold them in its care;
Yet, as they vanished from their sight
They sobbed in blank despair.
Followed—An agony of dread!
Hope, crucified by Doubt,
Supped vinegar and hyssop
As the moments lengthen'd out!
Then, hark! Returning hoof-beats,
And a faint, far-distant shout!
Back! back they raced ! But, ah ! alas !
Poor Blakiston was sped !
Down to the very saddle-bow
Swayed low his drooping head !
God! Struck again!—and man and horse
Lay motionless and dead!
No safety by that dreadful path
Might Routledge hope to gain!
No passage to the laager's walls
Through that death-dealing rain!
One chance alone for him remained—
To reach the open plain!
He left the track, and in the Bush
Was hidden from their sight.
God rest him! For he made his stand
And fought his lonely fight
For Womanhood; so gave his life,
A brave and gallant knight'
So succour to Mazoe came,
Won by self-sacrifice!
And well we know their noble hearts
Grudged not the bloody price.
They knew, when Fortune " throws a main
She plays with loaded dice.
God send us more such Errantry,
Grand, chivalrous, and bold,
As in Rhodesia's Chronicles
Is writ in words of gold,
Where "Blakiston" and "Routledge"
Are on Valour's page enscrolled !
The desert's restful silence
Shrouds them softly, for a pall!
The whispered Vespers of the Veld
Around them gently fall!
In Woman's heart their names are shrined
Best resting-place of all!
THE MAZOE PATROL
How Piet The Hottentot Rode For Mazoe
Note.—Following on the heroic deaths of Blakiston and Routledge, the second incident in the Story of the Mazoe Patrol is the plucky dash on horseback by Piet the Hottentot, through the besieging lines of the Matabele Impi, in response to Captain Judson's call for a volunteer to ride for reinforcements to Fort Salisbury. Captain Judson reached the laager at the head of a small patrol, starting immediately the pathetic message despatched by Blakiston and Routledge, and paid for with their lives, was received. He found, however, that without further help it would be impossible, with the women and wounded, to force a way through the Matabele. Piet the Hottentot, son of a despised race, proved himself nevertheless a true scion of Chivalry—the Brown Knight of Mazoe. Mounted on the swiftest horse in the camp, and starting on his perilous ride at midnight, he successfully fought his way through miles of hostile country till beyond the reach of pursuit. He succeeded in his desperate venture, and but for his plucky ride it is probable that the lives of all in the laager at Mazoe would have been sacrificed.
It is pleasing to know that he was suitably rewarded for his gallant action by the Chartered Company.
Cuckittv-clack ! clickitty-clack!
Who is it gallops so hard on the track ?
Up through the donga and over the brink!
Hope of Mazoe in desperate plight,
Piet, the brave Hottentot, speeds through the night!
Back in the laager the women at prayer
Face the grim spectre of cruel despair!
Back in the laager the men are on guard,
Sleepless and bleeding, and assegai-scarred;
Strength'ning defences of hurdle and thorn,
Straining fierce eyes for the glimmer of morn.
Back at the laager a ravening horde'
Shouts the " Usutu! " Red murder's abroad !
Murder relentless and cruel as hell,
Sounding poor shuddering Womanhood's knell!
Speed, Pieter, speed! Spur, Pieter, spur !
He who would falter is branded a cur!
Someone to Salisbury township must ride,
Braving the jaws of the death-trap outside ;
Threading the dongas and spruits in the dark,
Riding each mile as an assegai-mark,
Who will for Woman bear jeopardy's brunt ?
Piet, the brave Hottentot, steps to the front.
" Baas! I can ride—I can shoot—as you know;
Give me a horse—but a horse that can go.
Lend me a ' Webley '—then open the gate—
See if a Hottentot cannot ride straight.
Brown though my colour, my courage is White;
Baas, I will ride for Mazoe to-night."
Give him the best of the horses, they said :
Judson's bay charger is three-quarter bred;
Long in the barrel and low in the hock;
Comes of a staying, hard-galloping stock.
Delicate muzzle and spirited eye,
Rocket can race when another would die.
Draw back the hurdles with " thorn " interlaced !
Quickly the chevaux-dc-frise is displaced—
Out like an arrow shoots Rocket with Piet
Crouched on his withers—the Hottentot" seat"—
Caution no longer will serve! Give him rein!
Home go the spurs—he is snorting with pain!
Scatter of pebble and snapping of stick!
Riding for Honour, he never looks back'
Meercat and jackal scud off in affright
As he goes thundering past in the night!
There, by the watch fire's flickering glow
Lurk the grim forms of the pitiless foe !
Springing alert as the galloping hoof
Wakens the echo in donga and kloof.
Spur, Pieter, spur! There are lives on your speed!
Drive home the rowels ! Alas! he must bleed!
Crouching, their scouts are preparing to spring!
Rocket strides on with a thoroughbred's swing—
Takes off—covers thirty good feet in his leap—
Scatters the foe as a leopard will sheep—
Pecks—and recovers—a bound, and a snort!
Clear! and they're racing for Salisbury Fort!
Flash.'—'tis a shot from his flank—but a miss!
Whizz!—'tis an assegai's sibilant hiss!
Whir-r I—'tis a knobkerrie, wide of its mark.'
Zip! there's a scar in the Kaffir-Boom's bark
Where in the shadow it looms far ahead
Spotting Night's cloak with its splashes of red.
Murder behind him and perils around!
Death follows hard on his track as a hound
Hangs to the quarry he marks as his prey,
Biding the time when he turns him at bay.
Shrill in his ear sings the whistling wind !
Faint come the shouts of the Impi behind;
Loud ring the clattering shoes in the Krantz,
Muffled where watcr-reeds screen his advance.
Rocket is flagging and spent with fatigue,
Yet he is conquering league after league:
Twenty long miles has ho flung in his rear,
Salisbury township draws ever more near.
Distance and danger his courage defies,
See, he is gallantly breasting a rise,
Nostrils a-quiver and quarters a-sweat!
Call on him, Piet, he will answer you yet.
Rocket responds to the touch of his rein,
Sec him stretch out like a greyhound again!
Pedigree tells in such desperate straits;
" Blood " never reckons the Handicap Weights—
Lithe as a leopard, his sinews are steel;
Gamely he answers the Hottentot's heel.
Up to the Courthouse the messenger raced!
Then there was arming and mounting in haste!
Men threatened vengeance and women turned pale
Hearing the words of the Hottentot's tale:—
Bold, plucky rider, his mission was done!
Help for Mazoe his courage had won! * * *
Only a Helot! a serf of the soil,
Hewer of wood, and the Bondman of Toil!
Natheless as gallant and brave as the best,
Risking his life at Compassion's behest.
Swart though his skin, yet his courage was White,
Greeting, 0 Piet! to Mazoe's Brown Knight!
THE MAZOE PATROL
How The Women Came Out From Mazoe
Note.—The closing incident of the Mazoe episode was the desperate running fight made by Captain Judson's Patrol while escorting the women and wounded from the Mazoe laager to Fort Salisbury. It is a thrilling record of dogged valour and determination. For thirteen long miles it was one unceasing struggle through the valley of death, every furlong towards safety being bought by the blood and lives of the plucky little band of rescuers. During this perilous journey a member of the Salvation Army, named Pascoe, lay on the roof of the wagonette containing the women and wounded, and with his rifle helped to beat off their assailants, preventing the vehicle from being rushed. Several times the Patrol were brought to a stand, and fought desperately against overwhelming odds. At the start Captain Judson had been compelled to dismount half a dozen of his men, their horses being required to draw the wagonette containing the women and wounded, all the mules of the team at the Alice Mine having been shot during the attack upon the Mazoe laager. This retarded considerably the pace at which the escort travelled, and added greatly to the perils and difficulties of the retreat. Near the Lime Works, on the road to the Gwebi, the party were fought to a standstill and nearly overpowered, though they finally succeeded in rushing the wagonette through the ranks of the attacking force, but with severe loss. The episode is a magnificent epic in Rhodesian annals, where the names of Judson, Nesbit, McGreer, Van Staaden, Jacobs, Burton, Ogilvie, Brown, and Edmonds will ever hold an honoured place. The circumstantial details given in the ballad were obtained from one of the members of the Patrol.
Ere Routledge and Blakiston fell they had flashed o'er the wire
That call from Mazoe which told of extremity dire ;
And though we could raise in response but a skeleton force,
Yet Judson had ridden, hotspur, with a handful of Horse.
And now there was mounting in haste, for at Salisbury Fort
We heard with dismay the ill-news Piet, the Hottentot, brought;
That Judson's Patrol were in straits, and with women to guard,
Had found that all hope of escape from Mazoe was barred.
We reckoned to fight our way through—though a hazardous task—
Yet what we might find in the end men were fearful to ask;
Red Murder was out, with rapine and outrage and shame!
We raced against time with the fire of our vengeance aflame.
The laager! the laager at last! and their rifles still spoke,
As flash after flash rent the screen of the eddying smoke:
A wave of relief swept away the last vestige of fear,
As borne on the wind to our ears came the sound of a cheer.
We dashed from the edge of the Bush with encouraging shout,
The shock of our charge putting foes to confusion and rout;
And when from the saddle we swung in a smother of sweat,
Hope shone in the women's tired eyes, though their lashes were wet.
We halted and rested a space, for the horses were blown,
And safety depended, we knew, on our chargers alone.
Perforce, we must spare not the spur, as we fought our way back,
And how would we fare if so much as a buckle were slack ?
Mazoe to Salisbury Fort was a thirty-mile ride,
With Death pricking fast, every foot of the way, at our side;
So knowing the price we must pay for a single mishap,
We tested and proved every girth and surcingle and strap.
We armoured the Mine wagonette with a boiler-plate screen
To shelter the women. We knew that the fire would be keen.
Dismounted six men of the troop and their horses inspanned
With makeshift of riempje and rope we had found to our hand.
'Twas nearing high noon, and the sun with its vertical rays
Draped kopje and donga and Veld in a quivering haze:—
" Let go "—and away dashed the team, as they sprang to the trace.
Then—Fate held the stakes in her hand of a life - and -death race!
Zip! Zip!—and the spattering lead rang like hail on the shield!
Vesuvius Mine came in view as the furlongs were reeled.
The screen, though it clattered and clanged, 'gainst the bullets was proof,
And Pascoe, Salvationist, fired from the wagonette's roof.
Our comrades unhorsed in the fight, though they stumbled and tripped,
Ran clinging to stirrup and strap, or a saddle-flap gripped;
And so through the smother of dust and the sweltering heat
Toiled panting and tortured with thirst in that awful retreat.
The labouring team were in straits—we must give them a rest,
So halted and fought for a spell with the Lime Works abreast;
Close quarters! for barrel and butt countered assegai blade,
And stubbornly beat back each rush as 'twas desp'rately made.
Then, sjambok and rowels and lash! and the wagon- ette rocked!
We levered a boulder aside and the wheel was un-blocked.
A lurch—a wild scramble of hoofs as we crashed through their ranks!
Once more we were forcing a path, though they crowded our flanks.
McGreer reeled back in his seat—'twas his death wound, he knew—
Then slipped from his mount with a groan as he waved us " Adieu !"
But Hendricks at top of his speed doubled back on our course,
Dashed out through the smoke, and returned - with a riderless horse.
When Nesbit and Edmonds went down we were fought to a stand,
And fired till the barrel burned hot to the grip of the hand;
While Judson and Brown, spurring hard, galloped back for McGreer,
But found him stretched dead on the Veld fifty yards in our rear.
And when Sataroga was passed and the Drift was in sight,
The pick of our team came to grief, sorely wounded; poor wight;
We knew, by the wild way he plunged, he was grievously hit,
And marked the red gash on his neck, as he fought with his bit.
The "off-wheeler" dropped in his tracks and dis- ordered the team;
We cut him away from his trace—put a knot in the riem—
But scarce had we finished the task, when his mate with a leap
Fell over the pole, at our feet in a quivering heap.
We thought that, indeed, 'twas the end—they must rush us at last!
Each moment the odds were increased, men and horse falling fast!
Van Staaden and Jacobs were dead, and Ogilvie struck;
While Burton was choking in blood like an assegaied buck.
The women, courageous and calm, 'midst the carnage and rout,
Stretched tremulous hands from the screen, passing cartridges out;
And others to bandage our wounds tore their linen in strips,
The while they prayed Heaven for aid—though with quivering lips.
The river, thank God!—At last we were nearing its brink,
Yet not for a moment dare stay that the horses might drink;
So filling our hats as we raced by the wagonette's side,
We drained the first draught we had quaffed in that desperate ride.
So furlong by furlong was won, till the Gwebi, afar,
Made glad our strained eyes where it shone—Hope's inspiriting star I
Once crossed, then we knew we were safe, and in reach of our goal:
Its gleam gave fresh courage and strength to the flagging Patrol.
The wounded " off-leader " gave out, and went down with a crash:—
His pitiful eye seemed to plead, "You may spare me the lash "—
The jackals would polish his bones!—pity 'twas that such fate
Should fall to a comrade-in-arms and a staunch- hearted mate.
The Gwebi was forded and passed—our deliverance won!
No ambush could menace our front—there was cover for none;
At length we might slacken our speed and our efforts relax,
For the road to the Fort lay as bare as the blade of an axe.
'Twas thus were the women brought out through that Valley of Dread—
The miles marked with horror and blood and the graves of our dead l
'Tis thus that to succour the Weak ever Chivalry fights,
And blazons the page of To-day with the names of our Knights!
Recompiled, by Eddy Norris, from a copy of the brochure made available by Diarmid Smith. Thanks Diarmid
The recompilation was done for no or intended financial gain but rather to record the memories of Rhodesia.
Paul Norris for the ISP sponsorship.
Paul Mroz for the image hosting sponsorship.
Robb Ellis for his assistance.
Should you wish to contact Eddy Norris please mail me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also see http://rhodesianheritage.blogspot.com/2012/02/mazoe-patrol.html