Scouts Get Ready For Battle (2)

Part Two of the story about Scouts heroically recreating the Battle of Mafeking.

By 7:00 in the morning the British cooks are setting out a cold breakfast of cereal and fruit. The camp is buzzing with energy. Colonel Baden-Powell has assigned the younger Scouts to patrol the perimeter of the camp, in case the Boers mount a surprise attack in the wee hours of the morning. Older Scouts are filling balloons with water and placing them in a large green tub. Horace Martineau is checking the catapults for damage during the Boer sorties the night before. A hundred brown paper bags filled with flour are lined up on picnic tables to be used as bombs. The British are still angry that the Boers came into camp and stole all their water guns the night before.

Over in the Boer camp, General Cronje is still in his sleeping bag, trying to convince his aides to bring breakfast to his tent. They refuse his arrogance, and hungry Scouts beat the sides of his tent with sticks and their hands until he gets up and orders breakfast to be served. Morale is low as the Boers send spies to check on the British army. Paul Kruger, the catapult master, checks his weapons and realizes that he should have spent more time showing the new Scouts how to tie a serviceable timber hitch. There is only one working catapult and little time to repair the rest. At least they have the water guns they took from the enemy in last night’s raid.

Queen Victoria
Scout in a dress plays Queen Victoria

The boy chosen to be Queen Victoria dons his white dress, then flaunts his new-found femininity in front of the British Army. They laugh and send him to taut the Boers, who are irritated by the transvestite Scout, who is now prancing and frolicking through the trees. There is some taunting and whistling, but the boy in the frilly dress seems to relish playing his part. Maybe too much. An older Scout cautions him to tone it down or Queen Victoria pictures are likely to end up on Facebook.

Suddenly, the calm is shattered by a gigantic and unexpected explosion. A bottle bomb has been detonated near the British encampment. The explosive device, assembled from a soda bottle, dry ice, and a little water has been created by a Boer soldier to intimidate the British, who promptly scatter for cover. The Scoutmaster, hearing the explosion, marches angrily towards the sound, looking for the culprit. The Boer bomb maker is running through the trees to escape capture, momentarily happy that he could denote at least one bomb from his arsenal. After being tracked down by the leaders, assisted by a Ranger on an ATV, the boy stoically endures the expected adult tirade and reluctantly accepts his banishment from the rest of the games.

Scouts Prepare for Battle

Just before 10:00 am, the announced starting time, armies begin assembling on the field of battle. The ground is wet and muddy from yesterday’s rain. Baden-Powell has positioned his British catapults to the west behind the picnic tables that have been pushed onto their sides to provide some protection. The water balloon brigades are to the right, ready to flank the opposing army when ordered into battle.

The Boers stretch across the field in front of their lone catapult, many holding water guns or super soakers at the ready. A large red, white, and blue Dutch flag is unfurled and waved by the Boers to intimidate their oponents and give courage to their young fighters. Some adults are in costumes, adding to the excitement. Adrenaline is pumping and everyone is ready for the fighting to begin!

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