Sunday, June 22, 2008


Yes, it's another post about the 'Doctor Who' episode "The Unicorn And The Wasp"!

Colonel Hugh Curbishley was the husband of Lady Clemency Eddison and the father of Roger Curbishley. After the death of Professor Peach, the Colonel was one of the suspects as the killer. During his interrogation by the Doctor and Agatha Christie, the Colonel claimed to be in a different room at the time where he was reminiscing about his time during the siege at Mafeking. However, we in the audience know better - we got to see his flashback to his daydreams about the naughty girls in a burlesque show.

As to what really happened at Mafeking? As usual (because it's so easy to access!) here's a quick sketch of the Siege at Mafeking from Wikipedia:

The Siege of Mafeking was the most famous British action in the Second Boer War. It took place at the town of Mafeking (now Mafikeng) in South Africa over a period of 217 days, from October 1899 to May 1900, and turned Robert Baden-Powell, who went on to found the Scouting Movement, into a national hero. The lifting of the Siege of Mafeking was a decisive victory for the British and a crushing defeat for the Boers.

President Kruger of the Boer Transvaal Republic declared war on October 12, 1899. Under the orders of General Cronje the Mafeking railway (railroad) and telegraph lines were cut the same day, and the town began to be besieged from October 13. Mafeking was first shelled on October 16 after Baden-Powell ignored Cronje's 9 o'clock deadline to surrender.
Although outnumbered by over 8,000 Boer troops, the garrison withstood the siege for 217 days, defying the predictions of the politicians on both sides. Much of this was attributable to some of the cunning military deceptions instituted by Baden-Powell. Fake landmines were laid around the town in view of the Boers and their spies within the town, and his soldiers were ordered to simulate avoiding barbed wire (non-existent) when moving between trenches; guns and a searchlight (improvised from an acetylene lamp and biscuit tin) were moved around the town to increase their apparent number.

A howitzer was built in Mafeking's railway workshops, and even an old cannon was pressed into service. Noticing the Boers had failed to remove any of the rails, Baden-Powell had an armoured locomotive from the Mafeking railyard loaded with sharpshooters and sent up the rail line in a daring attack right into the heart of the Boer camp followed by a safe return to Mafeking.
The Boers decided that the town was too heavily defended to take, and on November 19 4,000 Boers were redeployed elsewhere, although the siege remained and shelling of Mafeking continued. Aware of the approaching British relief columns, the Boers launched a final major attack on the evening of May 11, succeeded in breaching the perimeter defences and setting light to some of the town, but were finally beaten back.

The siege was finally lifted on May 17, 1900, when British forces relieved the town after fighting their way in.

Robert Baden-Powell was given credit for his tactical maneuvers, but I think that in Toobworld, he learned them from studying reports from the US Cavalry.
Back in the 1870s, Fort Burnside in the Dakotas was attacked by Sioux Indians led by a chief named Running Horse. They killed all twenty of the soldiers inside, but were later tricked into believing that "The Ghost Soldiers" all came back to life to defend the fort. This was accomplished by a gambler named Bret Maverick with the help of two soldiers who were accompanying him: Sgt. Baines and Corporal Daggett. 'Maverick' was able to hold off at least one hundred Sioux warriors until reinforcements could arrive, although Daggett lost his life in the process.

By making it look like Running Horse was killed by a soldier he had already killed, Maverick drove off the rest of the Sioux from their siege of Fort Burnside.

It's pozz'ble, just pozz'ble, that Baden-Powell decided similar tactics could be employed at Mafeking to hold off the Boer. And he owed it all to Bret Maverick....

Toby OB

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