An Incredible Era: A Diary From The 1890 Pioneer Column That Founded Rhodesia

Editor: Celebrating the incredible Pioneer Column that founded Rhodesia, here is ‘Skipper’ Hoste’s account of his time in the Column. This is an abbreviated version, please read the full version in Rhodesiana Vol 12, September 1965. Uploaded by

‘Forty Years Ago: Rhodesia in 1890’

by H. F. (Skipper) Hoste

Henry Francis Hoste was one of the older officers when at the age of 37 he was commissioned as a captain in the Pioneer Corps, but he had a wealth of unusual experience to contribute… In 1877 he was a member of an expedition sponsored by the Foreign Office to enquire into [in order to end] the slave trade in Central Africa; Herbert, a brother of Cecil Rhodes, was another member of the party, which became the first to reach the north tip of Lake Nyasa overland. Subsequently he rejoined the Union Company as its Commodore and from 1883 to 1890 was captain of the R.M.S. Trojan. He describes below the circumstances in which he met Rhodes and joined the Pioneer Corps as Captain of ‘B’ Troop… During the 1896 Rebellion he was commissioned as a major and appointed second in command of the Salisbury Field Force. He died in January 1936.

A few years before his death he compiled an account of ‘Forty Years Ago: Rhodesia in 1890‘, which was clearly taken very closely from the diary he kept during his early days in the country…


Inspired By A Humble Cecil Rhodes

The first time I heard of the expedition for the purpose of occupying Mashonaland was from Rhodes himself in August 1889. It happened thus: I was sailing from Southampton to the Cape in command of the R.M.S. Trojan belonging to the Union Steam Ship Company; we had passed through the Needles Passage, dropped the pilot, and having set a course that would take us down channel, I came off the bridge, and was just entering my cabin, when I heard a voice behind me say “Hallo, Hoste! Have you forgotten me?” I turned round to see who it was, and found Rhodes standing there. I shook hands with him, saying, “I did not know you were on board; I don’t think your name is on the passenger list.” “No, it isn’t”, he replied. “I didn’t want a crowd of people seeing me off, so 1 sent a clerk up from the office to take my ticket, and I believe my name is Thompson, however now we’re away I’ll resume my original name.”

During the voyage he used to come into my cabin and sit there telling me his schemes, and what he was going to do with his new country… Soon after this we arrived at Cape Town, and Rhodes went on ashore taking his plans and schemes with him; however I couldn’t get them out of my head, and I made up my mind that if it could be worked I would take a hand in the forthcoming expedition.

Heading Into Disputed Territory: A War Zone

I can say that I was not altogether a green hand at that sort of work, as a few years before I had managed to get leave from the Union Company, and had joined a Foreign Office expedition led by Fred Elton that went into Central Africa for the purpose of inquiring into, and suppressing [ending] the slave trade. Rhodes’s brother Herbert was also a member of the expedition.

To cut a long story short, I got everything fixed up by the beginning of the new year… I arrived at Cape Town on February 20th, 1890, where I learnt that a contract for raising and equipping the Pioneer Corps, to which I had been appointed, cutting the road to the vicinity of Mount Hampden, building forts, and occupying Mashonaland, had been entered into between Cecil John Rhodes (on behalf of the British South Africa Company) and Messrs. Johnson, Heany, and Borrow. I also learnt that the High Commissioner – Sir Henry Loch – had insisted on the Pioneers being accompanied on their march north by several troops of the newly organised British South Africa Company’s Police, the whole Force to be under the command of Lieut.-Col. E. G. Pennefather (6th Inniskilling Dragoons) who was O.C. Police.

On June 25th, 1890, we broke camp at Macloutsie, and marched on again… We crossed into the “Disputed Territory” on June 27th. It was claimed by both [Chief] Khama and [King] Lobengula, hence its name. We had now to take all sorts of precautions; we laagered [formed a protective circle of wagons] whenever we halted, whether by day or night, and we marched by day only, as there was always a chance that Lobengula might send some of his impis [warriors] to turn us out.

June 28th was quite an eventful day. During our midday halt we were joined by ‘A’ Troop of the British South Africa Company’s Police. They were a hundred strong and a smart and useful crowd at that… That night we laagered at Selous’ camp. He had been making a road for us. We found him very fit. He reported that all was quiet across the border and so far as he could find out all that Lobengula wanted was peace and quiet. Selous now joined us as Chief Intelligence Officer.

Frederick Courteney Selous (front seated) leader of ‘H’ Troops of Bulawayo Field Force, Matabeleland, 1890s. The highly regarded Rhodesian Selous Scouts formed in 1973
would be named after him.

June 30th. We laagered that night at Baobabspruit after another dusty march, but my troop was forming the advance guard, and had quite a pleasant time. During the march Adair Campbell, who was scouting on the flank, nearly rode over a leopard: it grinned at him and slunk off into the bush. We arrived at the Shashi river, the boundary of Matabeleland proper, on July 1st. As soon as we had laagered we started to build a fort [Fort Tuli].

From 1890 to 1893 Tuli was the main entry to Rhodesia and a small town rapidly grew up at the foot of
the fort. It was the discharge depot for the Police who left Rhodesia and a training depot for
new recruits, the head of the telegraph, and here the first hospital in Rhodesia was started by
Mother Patrick and her Dominican Sisters on April 1st, 1891. By July, 1891, Tuli even
boasted its own newspaper, the Tuli Times.  Below: Fort Tuli diagram.

We had hardly finished drawing up our laager when 18 Matabele warriors appeared on the scene. They crossed the river and came swaggering into our camp as if they owned it. They were a tough looking lot; big hefty men, variously armed with assegais and guns of many patterns. They all carried oxhide shields, the hallmark of the soldier. Borrow took the opportunity of airing his Sindebele on them [a Bantu dialect] and chaffed them; which amused them mightily and they roared with laughter at his jokes. The next day our Matabele friends were still loafing about the camp and were becoming rather a nuisance, so we gave them an ox to eat, and told them to go home. They took the ox, crossed the river driving it in front of them, and were seen no more.

Soon after they had departed the O.C. sent for me and told me that I was to collect 40 volunteers, as he wanted me to go across the river to cut a road for the column, and reconnoiter the country generally; I should possibly have to go in three days’ time. I at once fell in ‘B’ Troop and said,

“I’ve been told to get 40 volunteers to come across the river with me to cut a road and reconnoiter. I’m giving you chaps the first chance. Now all who’ll come with me two paces to the front. Quick march.”

The whole troop stepped forward like one man. I then dismissed them and reported to the O.C. that all my troop had volunteered. So that business was settled.

The Pioneer Column’s trek.

Horse Sickness Strikes The Column

That day horse sickness broke out among our horses in earnest and we had several cases [a disease spread by midges and mosquito’s].

On July 4th a crowd of thirty Matabele turned up with a letter from Lobengula that had to go to Headquarters. I don’t know for certain what was in it, but I heard that it was to say that he didn’t think that he would be able to hold his young men, so we’d better go home again. It was sent on to Headquarters, and the Matabele Induna stated his intention of remaining in our camp until the answer was handed to him. Under these circumstances Major Johnson thought it would be better to delay my departure until these unwelcome visitors left, as they would undoubtedly send word to Bulawayo if we went, and though the Matabele might think twice before they attacked the column, they would hardly be able to resist the temptation of having a smack at a small party. We were still losing horses from horse sickness at the rate of four or five a day.

Lobengula Khumalo (c. 1845 – presumed January 1894) was the second king of the
Northern Ndebele people (historically called Matabele in English). 

July 5th. At daylight Radikladi—Khama’s brother—marched in with 250 men. 50 of them well armed and mounted, who were to act as scouts; the remaining 200 were labourers, to work on the roads, herd cattle, and do odd jobs. When the Matabele saw this crowd march in they cleared out at their best speed, and crossed the river. We sent scouts to shadow them, to see what their game was. The scouts returned soon after dark, and reported that they were making a bee line for Bulawayo, where I imagine that they reported to the King that Khama was taking a hand in the matter. As soon as the Matabele were out of sight, I got orders to parade my troop in full marching order the next day at 10 a.m. I was to take Dr. Litchfield with me in case of accidents,4 and Selous was to come as guide. Dr. Jameson, who had joined us a few days earlier in his capacity of Rhodes’s alter ego, was coming along too. We were to have a wagon, to carry kit and food, a water cart, and five spare horses.

Chief Kama was a devout Christian he
reined: 1872–1873, 1875–1923.

On July 5th… as I was going to mount my horse, Trumpeter, I discovered to my disgust that he was showing unmistakable signs of horse sickness, so… I handed Trumpeter over to ‘Daddy’ Farrell and asked him to do his best for him.5 We crossed the river and landed on the other side, thus being the first members of the expedition to enter Matabeleland officially, though the first to actually cross were Heany,6 Heyman and myself.

As soon as we reached the other side we started chopping out a road. Our modus operandi was that one man of each half section dismounted and chopped, the other man rode, led his mate’s horse and carried his rifle. As soon as the man with the axe got tired they swopped jobs. In this way we got along fairly well and, though the trees were Mopane, which is about the hardest wood in Africa, we had done five miles of it by sunset.

On July 7th we had another day’s hard chopping. We were still among the Mopane trees, but we did a good day’s work, about 13 miles, and eventually made our zariba near a Makalanga kraal. The people there were very civil and obliging, selling us goats, sheep, and milk. They also supplied us with two guides to take us to the Tshabezi river, the guide who had come with us from Tuli having come to the end of his tether. They told us that the Matabele had not been their way for some time—a fact that their prosperous condition told us better than anything that they could say.

A kraal near Bulawayo circa 1890

July 11th … That afternoon I got an accession [honorable addition] to my force in the shape of ten of Khama’s mounted men under a chief named Matipi, a decent old boy, but he would never have taken a prize at a beauty show; my chaps nicknamed him “The Wildebeeste.”

July 13th being Sunday we had a day off. In the afternoon I received word From the column to say that they were on the road, and had crossed the Shashi. I was therefore instructed to stay where I was until they caught me up, which would probably be in five or six days. On the strength of this I handed over to Selous (who was Chief Intelligence Officer) a sergeant and ten men, and old Matipi and his ten Mangwatos, to enable him to patrol the country round about.

Pioneer Road from 1895 map of Rhodesia at 1 : 1 000 000 scale. This map shows both
the original pioneer road, surveyed by Selous, and the very slightly more direct
telegraph line. The site of Beitbridge is between Middle and Main Drift and I have
marked it “B B” across the river.

The Brutality of Tribal Wars

On July 14th we started in to make a good drift across the river. Selous’ patrols returned in the evening and reported that they had not come across any Matabele. They had visited several kraals and had found the Banyai—as the natives in that part of the country were called—in a very miserable condition, mostly living in holes in the rocks, like baboons. They, the Banyai, said that they had been raided some months back by the Matabele, who had killed all the old men and women that they could lay their hands on, and taken away the young men, girls, and cattle. This the Matabele called “collecting taxes.”

July 15th, one of our patrols reported that they had visited a Banyai kraal about twelve miles off, and that the people there had told them that twenty Matabele under an induna, Tombela, had passed by four days before. They were on their way to the Limpopo to “collect taxes” in that district.

A slightly better than cave dwelling Mashona kraal, 1890s. Many Mashona kraals
were located among boulders or on kopjes as a protection against Matabele raids.

That night a brute of a hyena paid us a visit. He came within a yard or two of our zariba at about eight o’clock in the evening, as we were smoking our postprandial pipes, and let out a yell that would have roused the dead. Now there was a yarn floating round that the war-cry of the Imbezu, Lobengula’s crack regiment, was the howl of a hyena, so I fancy that some of the crowd thought for a moment that we were for it. I am sure Jameson did, for he said in the silence that succeeded the yell, “That’s a good imitation”. However Selous reassured him by saying:

“Don’t you worry yourself, Doctor, there’s no human throat in the world that’s capable of making that infernal row”.

After the first yell the brute wandered round the zariba for another half hour, and then loafed off still howling.

In the dark of night their howl can be disconcerting!

The total strength of the Pioneer Corps was now 21 officers and 167 noncommissioned officers and men… Of the Police I can only give a rough estimate, they amounted to somewhere about 200 all told. There were also attached to the column about 500 Coloured men and natives, made up of drivers, leaders, servants, and Khama’s contingent.

When the column marched in I rejoiced to see my horse, Trumpeter, trotting along at the head of the spare horses, with his tail cocked, looking as fit as a fiddle. ‘Daddy’ Farrell told me that he had had horse sickness right enough, but mildly, and had salted, the proof of which was that I had him until he died of old age ten years later.

Celebrations End in Hilarious Disaster

We left the Tshabezi the next morning, and proceeded on our way to the north and, to the great disgust of my troop, ‘A’ Troop was sent on ahead and we had to stay with the column… On July 20th we had several promotions among the N.C.O.s of the Pioneer Corps—among others I remember that my brother Derick was promoted to Lance-Corporal.7

That evening they had a little “tea-party” to celebrate the promotions. I gave Derick a bottle of whisky to wet his stripe with, and they raised another bottle or two besides, with the result that they had a very merry evening. Unfortunately it ended in disaster. It appeared that H. P. Brown, who was my Troop Sergeant-Major, had chafed himself slightly riding, and late in the evening confided his trouble to the Hospital Orderly, who told him that he would give him some carbolic oil to rub the place with. Accordingly they went off to the hospital wagon together, where Hosking, the H.O., told Brown to clear for action, and hold out his hand:

He then poured a liberal allowance of what he thought was carbolic oil into Brown’s hand, and told him to rub it in hard. He didn’t rub for long. In less than a minute he was careering round the laager, holding up his breeches with one hand, shouting and blaspheming loud enough to wake the dead; at any rate he woke the whole laager up. I turned out ‘B’ Troop to catch him, which after a while we succeeded in doing; we then handed him over to Dr. Litchfield, who we looked upon as a member of the troop. It was then discovered that they had got hold of the wrong bottle, and had used carbolic acid instead of carbolic oil. The poor chap was very badly burnt, and had to stay in the Hospital wagon for some weeks.

The next day we had to laager on the south bank of the Bubye river while a drift was being made. As I was busy with my crowd in the bed of the river fixing up the drift Biscoe came down to have a yarn, and while he was there he spotted a black face peering at us out of the reeds on the north bank, so we went to investigate and found nine Matabele warriors hidden away there watching us. I told them that they had better come up to the laager and see the N’kos M’kulu… One of them, who was apparently the head man of the party, told Colonel Pennefather that Lobengula had sent them to see that the Banyai didn’t hurt us. The Colonel replied that it was very kind of Lobengula, and told them to go back to the king and thank him for his care of us. He then ordered that a goat should be given them, and as soon as they had got it they went on their way rejoicing.

On July 23rd we had a capsize. I was doing rear guard with my troop, when Major Johnson rode up and told me to scrape up all the old sailors that I could find, as the wagon that carried the engine and boiler belonging to the electric searchlight had capsized crossing a donga… In a short time we had the wagon the right side up again, and found that the only damage done was a slight crack in the smokestack, which had been unshipped and lashed alongside the boiler.

We arrived at Matibi’s on July 25th and laagered for the day in a natural Amphitheatre surrounded at some distance by high hills. The hills were inhabited by the Banyai, whose kraals were stuck up in all sorts of inaccessible places. They came down in crowds to trade mealies, pumpkins, beans, etc. They told us that so far as they knew there were not large bodies of Matabele about, but that some months before they had been raided, many of their men being killed, and a lot of women and cattle carried off.

We broke up our laager at 2 p.m. and proceeded to cross the Mtchwani river. It took us close on five hours to get the column across, as the bottom of the river was muddy, and wagon after wagon stuck. However all hands turned to, most of them stripped to the bare buff [naked], and with much shoving and shouting, the wagons were eventually got through, and we laagered on the north bank.

That afternoon a party of sixteen Matabele came across ‘A’ Troop, who were ahead road-making, and told them to quit working and go back. However, as no one paid any attention to their orders, they watched operations for a bit and then went off again, and disappeared in the thick bush. The next day a party of about twenty Matabele turned up while we were on the march. They were inclined to be cheeky, and wanted to know “What the white man had lost, and why were they looking for it in their country?” However they eventually went off without declaring war.

Editor: Fleeing the genocidal maniac Shaka Zulu [the Defecane 2,000,000 slaughtered), Mzilikazi sought to establish a Matabele Kingdom with
brutal force. He arrived in Rhodesia a mere 60 years before the White man
and conquered all, including his fellow Bantu’s, the Shona.

On July 27th our march was through a long valley with high granite hills on each side of us. On the top of the hills we could see groups of the wretched Banyai watching us, doubtless wondering who we were, and wondering whether our advent would do anything towards stopping the reign of terror under which they had lived for so long.

Their hopes were met. Cecil Rhodes led many peace negotiations,
including between the tribes.

Terrors In The Night!

July 27th. The day after we crossed the Nuanetsi a herd of zebra flashed through the main body and the rearguard. They bumped into some donkeys that were being herded along in the rear of the wagons, carried one of them off with them, and kicked and bit it to death.

August 3rd. Selous, who had been away for some days looking for a practicable pass by which we would be able to get up on to the high veld, returned that morning having found an excellent one, which we named Providential Pass. About noon he and I were sitting in the Orderly Room tent, and he was telling me all about his discovery, when we were startled by an infernal din; yells, shouts, and screams accompanied by the yelping of dogs. We jumped to our feet, Selous exclaiming, “My God! They’ve caught us on the hop!” We rushed out of the tent, revolver in hand, fully expecting to find a Matabele impi on the rampage, but it was only an unhappy hare being chased through the camp by a mob of wagon drivers and a mixed pack of dogs.

On August 5th we proceeded on our way again, and ‘B’ Troop once more took the lead and was full of joy in consequence. To help us, Major Johnson gave us a large gang of Khama’s men to assist in cutting the road. They were not much use however; in fact they delayed us if anything, and that night they nearly poisoned us with the stink of the putrifying hippo meat that they had loaded on to their wagon. The next morning we were up and away after an early breakfast. I sent our sable allies, and their stinking meat, back to the column with a letter of thanks for their valuable services…

At about 6 p.m. the column arrived and… I learned that that morning Johan Colenbrander had arrived from Bulawayo with a message from the King to say that,9 although he would do his best, he feared that it would be impossible to hold his young men any longer if we persisted in going on. Colenbrander told the Colonel that the impis were clamouring night and day to be led against the white men and that things looked very serious indeed; in fact he went on to say that if we went on we would be attacked and wiped out to a man.

Impi are warriors and always vastly outnumbered the pioneers. They were far more aggressive and effective than modern day “historians” credit them. Above a depiction of the
Matabeleland Rebellion in 1896.

After some little discussion a message was sent back to Lobengula to say that we appreciated his efforts on our behalf, but if his young men did attack us it would be very bad for them. The column then marched on northward, and Colenbrander left for Bulawayo, shaking his head in a most doleful way, and saying that we were all doomed to destruction. It was thought that in these circumstances it would be better for my troop to sleep at the laager every night, and start from there on our road-making job every morning.

August 7th. We came across a small party of Matabele in the morning. They were evidently watching our movements, and in the afternoon we sighted quite a large body of them on the hills near Chibi’s. We thought at first that they were only Banyai, but when we got our glasses to bear on them we made out their shields and assegais. They were probably the impi that was quartered at Chibi’s. There must have been several hundred of them. However they contented themselves with looking at us only, and they were quite welcome to do that if it gave them any pleasure.

Indecent Exposure!

The next day [August 9th] we, ‘B’ Troop, pushed our way on ahead of the column, and after a hard morning’s chopping arrived at the Tokwe river at noon. As soon as we had had some food we inspected the river, and found that though there was a good deal of water in it, we could make a good drift if we blew up the rocks that were in the way. As we had drills, hammers, dynamite, etc., in our scotch cart we got to work on them at once. Five of us spent four hours stark naked, except for our hats, in the river, putting drill holes in the rocks. As soon as the holes were finished we loaded them, lit the fuses, and up went the rocks in fragments, to the great astonishment of a gang of natives who had been watching our proceedings with much interest. As soon as we were ready to fire I told the natives to clear out, so they got behind some rocks on the bank of the river and peered over the top of them, but as soon as the shots began to go off they left their cover, and took to the bush at their best speed; they’d seen enough for one day.

Shona women grinding maise [corn) staring at another strange object set up by a white
man, this one being known as a camera.

On August 10th we laagered at the foot of Providential Pass near Fern Spruit. That evening Father Hartmann went out for a stroll and lost himself.10 Several parties went out to look for him but without success. He turned up bright and smiling the next morning, having spent the night lying hidden under some bushes half a mile from the laager, under the impression that our fires, which he could see, were the fires of a Matabele impi.

August 18. The next morning we were off again at dawn, and at 8 a.m. we emerged from the pass on to the high veld. The first things that caught our eyes were two large white patches that looked like snow, but which turned out to be nitre, if I remember right. Our relief on leaving the hot steamy low veld, where for months we had seldom been able to see for more than two hundred yards round us, and arriving on the open veld with a cool, invigorating breeze blowing, may be imagined.

We laagered about a mile from the pass, and a spot was selected on which to build a fort to guard the pass. The fort was to be named after Her Majesty Queen Victoria.

We had now finished the most arduous part of our journey and, what was more, we had little to fear from the Matabele in the open country that we were now in.

On August 18th, ‘B’ Troop, who were still roadmaking, got away after an early breakfast. The column was to give us a decent start and then follow on. Roadmaking on great open plains of the high veld was a pleasure. We now made two parallel roads, about fifty yards apart, as it had been decided to have a double line of wagons, instead of the long cumbersome single line that we had had up to then. All we had to do as a rule was to tow two young trees, one astern of the scotch cart and one astern of the water-cart; the wagons just followed the spoor that they made. Now and again, of course, we struck patches of bush, but after the dense bush of the low veld they were child’s play.

On August 20th, as we were now pretty safe from being held up by the Matabele, we began to make night marches again. We in ‘B’ Troop now had a fairly easy time. We used to leave the laager as soon as we had had breakfast and push ahead, marking out the road, until we had done ten miles or so. Then we camped for the night at the first suitable place for making a laager that we came to. The column generally caught up and laagered alongside of us at dawn.

The Famous Selous

I noticed some little time ago that someone, no names no pack drill, wrote to the papers to say that when Selous left us we promptly lost our way. Without wishing to be rude and contradictory. I may say that that statement was absolute rubbish. Without Selous we would certainly have lost our way coming through the low veld, but when he had guided us through that and up on to the high veld his job was practically over. Johnson, Burnett, Borrow and Spreckley, all members of the Pioneer Corps, had shot all over the country that we were passing through when Selous left us and knew it from A to Z.

American President Theodore Roosevelt and Frederick C. Selous
in Africa circa 1909.

On September 2nd we were laagered on the headwaters of the Umniati river. The following day was the coldest of the whole trip; it was blowing a hard easterly gale, accompanied by showers of icy cold rain. We who were ahead were trying to reach a place that had been christened Mooi Fontein by van Rooyen, a very celebrated hunter.13 We reached the place just before sunset, and Burnett was proved to be quite right. It was a beast of a place to come in on a cold night. There was not a scrap of shelter… so we turned to and dug some trenches to sleep in. It was easy work digging, as the soil was mostly sand. We made them about two feet deep and as we threw up all the soil we dug out on to the weather side, we were fairly well sheltered from the wind and passed a comfortable night after all. The column turned up at dawn and laagered near us.

We stayed there that day, partly to give the cattle a rest and partly to select and mark out a place to build a fort, which was to be called Fort Charter. ‘A’ Troop (Police) was left behind to build the fort and garrison it.

On September 3rd, 1890, ‘A’ troop was detached from the Column to build Fort Charter
 (Fig. 5), opposite Chief Mtigeza’s kraal. Although reduced in status to a post station in
August, 1891, Charter became important after the occupation of Matabeleland, standing as
it did where the road to Bulawayo joined the main Pioneer Road south from Salisbury.
This fort still survives, and its vicinity is laced with tracks, some probably of this period,
while the original buildings of Meikle’s Hotel and Zeederberg’s coach house, both built
in the 1890’s, still stand nearby.

September 5th. ‘A’ Troop (Pioneers) took the lead and ‘B’ Troop took their place in the column.

The next day we laagered on the headwaters of the Sabi river, where we found Mr. Colquhoun and his party, with the exception of Selous and a few troopers, waiting for us having fixed up his treaty satisfactorily. Selous had gone on to Manica to make a treaty with Mtassa, otherwise known as “Sifamba Basuku” (‘He who walks by night‘), who was an independent and powerful chief on our side of the Portuguese boundary.

September 7th found us laagered on the south bank of the Umfuli river. V/e found ‘A’ Troop there, and shortly after our arrival Capt. Burnett, Lieut. Nicholson and Tpr. Langerman, who had been ahead spying out the land walked in dead beat with their saddles on their heads. It appeared that on September 5th they were a long way ahead, pretty close to the Hunyani river in fact, and were camped for the night, when a lion turned up, killed two of their horses, and scared away the other one. Burnett got a shot at the lion and was pretty sure that he had hit it, but it was very dark and the beast got into some thick bush that was close by, so he had to let it go. They could not recover their lost horse. He, the horse, made up his mind that the locality wasn’t healthy for horses and had gone off at a gallop, so as they were due at the Umfuli drift at daylight on the 7th there was nothing for it but to load up their saddles and tramp back..

That day, as there was a pool of deep water below the drift, we put together the sections of our little Berthon boat and launched it on the pool,14 which was about half a mile long. Biscoe and Ivan Fry came with me, and we sailed the boat up and down the pool, to the great astonishment of some natives who had turned up and who had never seen either a boat or a canoe in their lives.

Finding Salisbury After Witnessing Decimation

The country we were passing through at this time had once been thickly populated. There were any amount of the remains of destroyed kraals about, but the Matabele had swept the country clean and, with the exception of an isolated village here and there perched on the top of an almost inaccessible kopje, there were no signs of any inhabitants.

For some time past a good deal of discussion had been going on amongst the authorities as to where we should eventually halt and build the fort. It had to be built on a healthy spot as undoubtedly it would become the nucleus of a town later on. Nominally we were marching for Mount Hampden, but that was only because Mount Hampden was a prominent landmark the latitude and longitude of which were approximately known. The country round it was also well known to Selous, who had discovered and christened the mountain, to Major Johnson and to several other members of the expedition. For some days scouts had been searching the country ahead for a suitable place, and the general consensus of opinion pointed to the open country near the Makabusi about twelve miles south of Mount Hampden.

It was finally decided to halt between the kopje, called by the Mashonas “Harari”, and the Makabusi river, and to build the fort there. The fort was to be named Fort Salisbury, after the Marquis of Salisbury, then Prime Minister of England.

At the first streak of dawn on September 12th we broke up our laager at the Six Mile Spruit, and started on the last lap. The column wound slowly over the veld and presently, as we surmounted the ridge that bounds the valley of the Hunyani, what is now called the Salisbury Kopje came into view. As we got nearer we saw that the shallow valley between the Kopje and what is called the Causeway was a yellow mass of flowers. They were something like candytufts in shape and, as we discovered later, they gave off a very pleasant smell at night.

‘B’ Troop was doing guard that morning so, by the time we arrived and dismounted, the last laager had been drawn up and the long five months’ march from the railhead at Kimberley had terminated.

The Pioneer Corps was disbanded on September 30th and within twenty four hours the members of it were scattering all over the country prospecting, each one of them perfectly certain that he would make a fortune in twelve months. The majority formed themselves into small syndicates so Biscoe, my brother Derick and I. following the fashion, formed ourselves into one too. Derick went off to the Hartley Hills, and Biscoe to the Mazoe. I stayed behind to finish off some business, and also to fence the stand that we had pegged off at the foot of the Kopje, in the little settlement that was springing up round Fort Salisbury.

Less than 10 years later, looking North along First Street, Salisbury early 1900s.


1. Mazinz.ane Bay was the estuary of the Buzi and Pungwe Rivers.

2. Lieut. E. C. Tyndale-Biscoe was an ex Royal Navy officer, serving with ‘C’ Troop of the Pioneers which consisted of artillery and machine guns; it had also a searchlight with donkey engine and generator all mounted on wagons.

3. Major-General the Hon. P. S. Methuen (later Lord Mcthuen) was Deputy Adjutant General at the Cape, and responsible for ensuring the military efficiency of the Pioneer Corps and the British South Africa Company’s Police.

4. Surgeon-Lieut. J. W. Litchfield was attached to the Police.

5. Lieut. F. O’C. Farrell was Veterinary Officer to the Pioneer Corps.

6. Major M. Heany, a Virginian by birth, a West Point graduate and once a lieutenant in the United States Army, commanded ‘A’ Troop of the Pioneers, and Captain H. M. Heyman ‘A’ Troop of the Police. The latter played a distinguished part in the country’s history and was knighted for his services, in 1920.

7. William Derick Hoste was considerably younger than his brother. He died of fever on the Umfuli river, near Hartley, in 1893.

8. ‘Rocky Mountain’ Thompson was a civilian prospector accompanying the Column. He was immortalized by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick in Jock of the Bushvelcl, where he figured as ‘Rocky Mountain Bill’.

9. Colenbrander was trading at Lobengula’s kraal and in very amiable relations with the chief and the Matabele indunas as a consequence of which the Company offered him an appointment as their representative in Matabeleland. In this capacity he kept Rhodes, and the Column, informed of events there.

10. Fr. A. Hartmann, S.J., was one of the two chaplains of the Pioneer Corps.

11. Lieut. F. Mandy, Pioneer Corps.

12. Lieut. R. G. Nicholson, Pioneer Corps.

13. “Beautiful Spring”. Johannes Cornelis van Rooyen had been hunting in the country since the 1870’s.

14. A Berthon boat is a folding boat sometimes used as a lifeboat on small craft.

15. The Six Mile Spruit is now Waterfalls, where the Beatrice Road crosses the Makabusi River.

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3 Responses

  1. Linde says:

    Thank you for posting such a great read! Many fascinating details and observations. I am especially struck by the nature of the journey itself. In order to get into what the Berlin Conference 1884 termed ‘disputed territory’ when it reached agreements on principles of effective occupation – a road first had to be made into it. And we get to see the Brits making the road. And we get our first glimpse of Rhodesian high veld – the disputed territory and its rock is granite. He describes “granite hills’ as the refuge for the populations that were remnants of decimation.

    These were undoubtedly the centuries of tribal wars over the slave traffic out of the interior. As Catherine Austin Fitts has said: “Slavery is the most lucrative business in the world and it always has been.” The Ottoman Empire – which sent representatives to the Berlin Conference was the biggest demand for African slaves. [This always gets airbrushed out of our Judeo-Marxist history because (of course) the Jews owned the Big Slave Companies and dominated the trade out of the Barbary, Gold and Ivory Coasts.

    In the Pioneer Column diary we get an eye witness observation of the decimation as a result of these wars with the surviving ‘hold-out’ villages occupying inaccessible positions. Their was no agriculture for the support of a large African population because the high veld clearly were hard, highly mineralized soils of granite hills. Only the Europeans had the technology and agriculture for hard soil / high yield farms – the practices that would enable large populations to grow and prosper.

    • Editor says:

      One of the reasons for the 4th Comintern decree to “decolonise” Africa (i.e. remove the ethnic European) was to destroy the key tenents of Western civilization being brought to Africa. The best of the West was in men like Dr David Livingstone and Cecil Rhodes and these men opposed slavery. Once white man created Rhodesia slavery in that territory was abolished. Great plans were underway to end slavery on the east coast with the help of the Uganda-Kenya Rail-line which was intended to break the Arab Caravans and thus the slave trade. Meanwhile those attending the 4th Comintern conference were aware that the USSR and later other Communist nations depended on slavery. The entire Gulag system (more than 400) was designed for slavery and extermination of democratic dissent. The Gulags were operating while Rhodesia was invaded by the Soviet and other Communist blocs that operated hundreds of slave labour concentration camps right up to the so-called “collapse” of the USSR -in fact 1,700 gulags were operating in the 1980’s providing millions of slaves for the Regime!
      Communism is dependent on slavery that is why Castro kidnapped thousands of people from Mozambique to work as slaves in Cuba WHILE also providing weapons, training and manpower to Mugabe’s Maoist terrorists in ZANU-PF. Yet the West continued with its disastrous ‘De-colonization’ agenda aiding them. In fact the Scandinavian nations, for example, were helping the Communist forces in Mozambique to destroy Rhodesia with no regard to the scorched earth holocaust unleashed by Communist forces after Portugal withdrew. (A Handful of Hard Men, Hannes Wessels p177). It would seem clear that Fabian and Masonic forces were strong in Europe.

      • Linde says:

        When I first started reading the RR website a few years ago I was deeply impressed by the intrinsic merit and interest of the Rhodesian national history and also how many other histories it crosses and upon which it comments. Here you mention the slave trade of the Ottoman. Very true. The permanent, world-wide Revolution of the Fourth ComIntern is another one and you are writing on that now. Rhodesian history also has much to say on the subject of the Western Counter Revolution, and RR has many excellent contributions here.

        The De-colonization dictate of the Third, Fourth ComInterns and the UN General Resolution is a key point. All opposed to the European Agreement at the Berlin Conference to end slavery in Africa – which Rhodesia was carrying out to the letter. In this matter we see all the fallen Western powers obeying the dictate of the Revolution which has always been a Communist Agenda of Colonization AND slavery.

        All of Southern Africa stood athwart that Agenda and that is why all hell broke loose precisely there. I see how the political analysis of this material can come to any other conclusion.

        Fabian, Masonic forces were strong in the US, UK and the rest of the Anglo-sphere (excepting Rhodesia) and they all showed us their cards in the Rhodesian war of independence. All of these nations are owned as corporate infrastructure of the central bankers and their private money trust. The Owners of that trust and the Owners of the Revolution are one and the same and they dictate policy to all these vassal governments. For example of the US – through the Council on Foreign Relations (founded by the Rockefeller foundation at the same time as the Federal Reserve).

        It was the genius of the Counter Revolutionary Rhodesians to prize the foundations of the British institutions and civilization, legitimately part of their Rhodes patrimony, from the ownership / control of the Corporation of the City of London and begin a work of restoration for those institutions for a new nation.

        But the crypto Communist powers of the West – all assets of the Revolution and all concealing their agency with the myth of Anti-Communism – partnered up with the Perestroika Deception of today. Between the Eastern and Western Blocs, the Revolution has simply flipped the script.

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