Siege of Mafikeng

Baden-Powell‘s leave here or starve here policy.

The Firm of weil the only store aloud to open on a Sunday
Soup Kitchen

The month of January were a bad month for the Garrison, the food were running low. At the start of the siege Baden-Powell calculated that he had enough food for the white garrison to last at least a month (until Feb..). Supplies for the Africans that meant their staple diet of mealies, were not expected to last beyond December. The primary reason why the white relatively well-off were because the firm of Weil  had stock-piled thousandths of tons of flower at Mafikeng to export to Rhodesia. Baden-Powel bought all this supplies and when the Cape authorities refuse to pay for it Lord Edward Cecil paid a half a million pounds for it. Still Baden-Powel managed the answer that has been hidden for 75 years in Baden-Powell’s confidential staff diary of he siege. In short he done it by taking from the black garrison to give it to the white garrison. And a part of the black garrison were given the choice, they can starve in town or try to run trough the Boer gauntlet. This details were made clear in Baden-Powell’s confidential diary:

“Nov 14: The census shows our numbers to be as follows:
Whites: men 1,074, women 229, children 405
Native: 7,500 all told
Supplies: Meat plentiful live and tinned 180.000 lb
Meal and flour 188,100 lb
Kaffir corn and mealies 109,100 lb

White rations required daily 1,340
Native ” ” ” 7,000
Thus we have 134 days for whites
” ” ” 15 days for natives”

After the first stock taking seemed very serious all the meal and flour supplies in town – whether belonging to merchants, individual Africans, the railway authorities, or the army itself – Were rationed. AND Baden-Powell forbade the Africans to buy bread. He was determined not to allow the ‘white’ rations that meant flour or meal considered edible by white people, to be eke out the proportionally smaller supplies labeled ‘black’ rations. He did at first prevent the African’s from starving by giving them part of the 362,000 lb of horses’ rations of grain and oats not included originally, by doing this he leveled the black and white rations. In his diary he wrote on ‘Dec 30: Food re-inspected: of meat and groceries there are plenty… and n going into meal I found that there are 60 days for both white and natives if my present system of rations for all in strictly adhered.’ At the beginning of January Baden-Powel decided to slightly reduce the horses’ rations of grain, though the horses still received ten time’s the men’s ration.

Baden-Powell was beginning to put the rationing of the Africans on a regular basis. And now a new snake presented its head. The members of the white garrison, who could not afford their rations were being paid for either by giving credit or by drawing on a special fund set u by the authorities. On the other hand the Africans had to pay for their food and pay handsomely although it were taken from their own stock. Baden-Powell however believed that there was a large-scale hoarding of grain by the natives and closed all their stores.

“Dec 31 In coming through the stadt we saw some very thin Matabele stripping inner bark from fresh cut wood to make into food.”

“Jan 1 : Believe that ‘large stores of grain hidden away ‘ in the stadt. Closed shop {i.e. refused rations to all Africans} to see if there is any real want. “

“Jan 7: Barolong natives in the stadt are getting a little suspicious of us. They want to know… why we are trying to take all their grain from them.”

By early the following month Baden-Powell made a decision that he could “stretch” the white part of the rations after all up to the third week of May that is 105 days from 8 Feb. The “black” rations on the other hand would only last a month. It turned out that it wasn’t the black Africans in the stadt that was hiding some grain, but the white merchants that were distinguishing themselves by doing it. Weil, the main army supplier, proved to have been deliberately understated his supplies in the hope of raising his price. And the army  Service Cops sergeant-Major in charge of rations was found to be running his own black market to the whites who could pay the army bakers. Beside that Baden-Powell discovered that there are more food that had first appeared, he also discovered that some of the mealie meal set aside for natives will be available for bread baking for the whites. The reason why they could use the mealie meal was because some baker had found how to grind horses’ oats to make flour.

The blacks of the town starved. Even the dog cemetery was raided for it’s bones and other remains. Emerson Neilly of the Pall Mall Gazette wrote: I saw them fall down on the veldt and lie where they had fallen, too weak to go on their way. Hunger had them in it’s grip, and many were black specters and living skeletons…”

Places were the food issue is mentioned:

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