29 Oct 14
“Time is precious stuff. Even a lifetime isn’t enough.”
From “Some Other Time,” written by Leonard Bernstein for the 1944 Musical “On the Town.” Most famous rendition was Barbra Streisand’s from 2009
Observations of a Boer (South African of Dutch descent) Commando during the initial days of the Battle of Ladysmith (and the ensuing prolonged siege) during the Second Anglo-Boer War in early November of 1899. From a book entitled “Commando, a Boer Journal of the Boer War,” authored by Deneys Reitz. This book was presented to me by a good friend from South Africa, now an eminently successful American citizen:
“Both sides were maintaining a vigorous short-range rifle contest, in which the (English) soldiers were being badly worsted, for they were up against real old-fashioned Free State Boers for whom they were no match in sharpshooting of this kind. Time after time, I saw (English) soldiers looking over their defenses to fire, and time after time I heard the thud of a bullet finding its mark, and could see the unfortunate man fall back out of sight, killed or wounded…
Free State men had eight or nine dead and fifteen or twenty wounded. English casualties were two-hundred killed, and as many injured, the disparity due to the fact that English soldiers were no match for us in rifle-shooting. Whatever the defects of the Commando System (and there are many), Boer superiority in marksmanship was as great now as it had been in 1881″
The last sentence is a reference to the First Anglo-Boer War, which lasted less than a year and ended with a hopeless “settlement.” Overconfident British had been unexpectedly defeated by determined, and highly proficient, Boer riflemen at the famous Battle of Majuba Hill, and, fearful of additional military embarrassments, they subsequently talked the Boers into an fragile armistice, rather than continue fighting. The Boers naively agreed, a mistake they lived to regret! That fatally-flawed “settlement” literally set the stage for the Second Anglo-Boer War, which smouldered for two decades and then erupted once again into general armed conflict in 1899.
That all took place over a hundred years ago. Even then, events in South Africa were being overshadowed on the world stage by the simultaneous Boxer Rebellion in China, the Spanish-American War in Cuba and the Phillippines, and the Russo-Japanese war in Manchuria.
Most Americans never heard of the two Anglo-Boer Wars. However, I have close friends who today live on the very ground where it was fought and who still consider it “recent history!” I’ve personally toured most of the battle sites and poignant memorials. It takes your breath away!
When reading that book, I am reminded, once again, of the critical importance of proficient individual rifle skills. Our equipment today is vastly superior to that used by those courageous Boer commandos, but the principles of sights and trigger remain the same. Poor shooting is still eminently possible, even with our advanced rifles and sighting systems. And, as we see, poor shooting will invariably result in defeat and needless casualties.
The reader may be naively thinking that machine guns, artillery, air strikes, and death rays (mostly not available in 1899) render conventional rifle skills irrelevant.
Don’t be so foolish!
There is a saying, “All politics are local.” So is all fighting!
Even now, ISIS fighters in Syria seem mostly unimpressed with all our Western high-tech “warfare-from-afar.” We all may find ourselves immersed in something similar to the foregoing, sooner than any of us think, and we’ll likely have no high-tech assets on our side!
And, that day your life will depend solely upon your rifle and your individual skill with it. As hapless English soldiers discovered over a century ago in Africa, you don’t want to mess with highly-skilled and determined riflemen!
Modern military rifles, and skills to operate them at maximum efficiency, are the result of many lifetimes devoted to the advancement of this Art, of countless bloody battles, of learning and relearning, the hard way, so many important lessons. That expensive body of knowledge is now available to us, and we dare not fail to take advantage of it!
“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times”
There are not enough years in your life to practice 10,000 kicks 10,000 times! So, use what time you do have wisely and efficiently, so that your life will be long and triumphant.
History does not deal kindly with the naive and unprepared!