The Relief of Mafeking

A Night Exercise

By Fred Fishell and Linda Florence

Contributor's Note: This is a reprint of an article from the February, 1992 magazine THE LEADER. I picked it up at Philmont where I was teaching a class "Working with Junior Leaders". This Camporee was also run by the York, PA Council. They did a great patch.. All black with a moon and flashlight, etc. - very creative. Raymond Burett

What could be more exciting to a boy than skulking through the dark doing daring deeds. At the Woodbine Area Camporee last spring, six 8-man patrols made up of patrol leaders and assistant patrol leaders skulked and dared through a challenging night exercise to bring relief to Mafeking.

Preparation for the ordeal began with distribution of rules and equipment lists. Each member of a patrol was assigned a number from 1 to 8 which he had to pin firmly to his beret so that it could be easily seen. Nine projects awaited them, and each patrol member was to assume command of the project corresponding to his number, while the next man in the numbering system became his second. On project eight, man #1 was second. For project nine, worth triple the points of the other projects, the patrol was directed to elect a leader just before they tackled the task.

Required personal equipment for each boy consisted of a Scout stave, 25 ft. of rope for lashings, a flashlight, compass, pencil or pen and paper, and his beret with his number (at least 3" high) pinned to it. Required patrol equipment was a pocket knife, wind and waterproof matches, fish-line or twine, bandaids, adhesive tape, electrical tape, a water bottle, a small covered pot, and an accurate watch or stop-watch capable of timing up to 30 minutes.

A draw determined the patrols starting order, one by one at intervals of 20-25 minutes (determined through walkie talkie contact with project leaders on the course), they gathered for a stirring briefing.

Your destination is Mafeking. The heroic defenders of this important outpost of the Empire have their backs to the wall. Unless a flying column can reach them with ammunition, medical supplies and military intelligence obtained en route, the garrison is doomed!

"For this hazardous mission, each member of every patrol has been selected from among the volunteers for his enterprise, leadership ability and useful skills. To be successful, each patrol will have to mould itself into an efficient fighting machine which can operate as a unit and the best use the collective skills of its members.

As soon as the rousing challenge faded into silence, the patrols submitted to the first inspection, a tally of all personal and patrol equipment worth 10 points, one of which was deducted for each missing or unsatisfactory item.

Then they were told to gather a portable bundle of firewood, kindling and tinder which they believed would provide enough fuel to bring water to a boil.

And finally. they were issued a detailed map of the route, including magnetic North and event locations. a block of ice (25 or 50 lbs) one raw egg: a score card to present at the start and finish of each project (except project 8). Projects 1-8 were worth a maximum of 10 Points. Project 9 could add 30 points to the score.

As the patrols signed in at each project they received another briefing. This one to prepare them for the immediate task at hand. The routine changed slightly for project 8 where the necessary detail was passed along by the leader who signed their project 7 scorecards.


Patrols had to cross a swamp filled with dangerous quicksand in order to bypass Boer pickets. The 37th Rover Crew set up a safe route of balance beams, rubber tires, a rope landing net, etc. Patrols lost a point for each piece of equipment lost to the quicksand.


The Boers, low on troops, had a break in their besieging cordon at this point but had covered the gap with three searchlights (powerful flashlights or carbide lamps focused through cardboard tubes). Two of the lights made a fixed pattern sweeps at regular intervals. The third was aimed at one spot (where the Boers detected noise) and came on for five seconds at regular intervals. The terrain was relatively open, but offered intermittent cover, and patrols had five minutes to observe and establish the searchlight pattern before they attempted the crossing. They had to cross in 15 minutes.

A point was deducted for every man or piece of equipment caught in the open, and no points were awarded if the crossing took longer than the time allowed.


Two patrol members were established at each of four posts set at 10 to 15 yard intervals around a circle with a diameter of approximately 5 yards. No man could leave the circle, and no man was allowed to shout a message between posts.

The men at Post A learned that trackers discovered traces of a Boer commando moving towards Mafeking, and established its strength on the basis of 220 individual pairs of feet (440 feet). Their duty was to pass the message (By Morse Code or semaphore if they knew it, or by handwritten note tossed in a shoe or taped to a pot lid and thrown as a frisbee) to Post B.

The men at the second post, after receiving the message, learned that two-thirds of the enemy force were on horseback. They had to pass to Post C the strength of the commando in terms of mounted men and men on foot (88 cavalry, 44 foot).

The men at Post C, after receiving the message, learned that a quarter of the men on foot were unarmed officer's servants, medics and kaffir trackers. They passed to Post D message giving the armed strength of the commando (88 cavalry, 33 infantry).

When the patrol members at Post received this message, they learned that there was one Corporal, one Sergeant and one Lieutenant for each 30 foot soldiers, and two Corporals. one Sergeant and one Lieutenant for each 40 cavalrymen They also learned that every armed man had a carbine, except for the Lieutenants, who carried only sabres. Within a time limit of 25 Minutes for the total exercise, they had to determine the commando's total firepower (the number of carbines) and report to the intelligence officer at their post (118 carbines). The paper and pencil certainly came in handy!


Here the patrols met another gap in the Boer line which, although undefended at night, was thoroughly patrolled at daybreak by a commando with highly experienced Zulu trackers. Any trace left by the passage of a the patrol meant that they would be overtaken by a mounted enemy force before they reached Mafeking. Using flashlights, the patrol tried to make a 10 minute crossing that avoided traps like unraked patches of sand, piles of stones set in distinct patterns, and trip wires attached to knock-down stacks. They lost a point for each mark they left, and a point for each minute over 10 they used to cross the gap.


This time it was necessary for patrols to put out of action a field gun trained on a mountain pass they had to cross. They'd been given the gun location, and an idea of the perimeter beyond which they'd be safe from defenders of the gun. To spike the gun, a patrol member had to reach the gun circle without losing his beret to a defender.

The attacking patrol lost points for each beret snatched by defenders. No points were awarded after 20 minutes or if an attacker removed his own beret to avoid capture.


Patrols crossed a part of the veldt notorious for dangerous man-eating tortoises. Fortunately the man-eaters were slow movers so that the men had two minutes warning of their approach. Fortunately also, the miserable creatures couldn't climb, could reach no further than two feet above the ground with his beak. Unfortunately, once the man-eaters treed a victim, the only way to drive them off was with boiling water.

When the patrol heard the warning rattle they had to move all members least two feet off the ground and start to boil water. Project leaders (tortoises in disguise) verified the safety of the patrol members, deducting a point for each dead man. Two points were deducted if the patrol didn't manage to boil water within 20 minutes of hearing the rattle.


Patrols were surprised by Boer howitzer fire and man #6 was hit. The other men administered first aid for a gaping wound on the calf of his right leg, and for shrapnel he caught in his stomach. Then, because he was in very bad shape, they had to improvise a stretcher and VERY GENTLY transport the casualty to a nearby British - Forces Hospital (pointed out by staff). To verify the gentleness of handling during transfer, they placed a raw egg under the head of the casualty.

Patrols paid penalties of:

3 points for a broken egg (even if the disaster occurred before they reached this project);

4 points for a stretcher collapse;

6 points for no stretcher;

2 points for failure to apply pressure to the wound;

1 point for giving water to a casualty with an abdominal wound. (At one point in the game, a project leader whispered to the casualty to ask a patrol member for water).

Then, before moving on, the patrol received the following instructions for...


"This is an enemy project. You will observe a table with a Coleman lantern on it. One of the patrol members must elude the defenders and reach the circle without losing his beret. As soon as one member has safely reached the circle, you'll hear a whistle. At this point all your casualties will revive and you'll all approach the table. On it you will find a display of toy soldiers or a picture representing the Boer field force. You'll also be shown the location of the nearest British telegraph office (50-75 yards away) where you will file your intelligence report.

"You'll have three minutes to observe the display and get safely to the telegraph office. After three minutes a whistle will sound and the defenders may once again kill you by snatching your beret, even if you are within the circle. A man who's killed cannot make a report. Reports shouted with one's dying breath will lose all points! "This is considered a desperate sortie. Casualties are expected and will not count against your patrol unless all are killed in the attempt. Points are awarded for information retrieved. There will be 10 items on the table. You'll receive half a point for naming each item, and another half point for a correct answer to a question about each item. The PL must decide how many should take a quick peek and hightail it safely to the telegraph office, and who, if anyone, should stay for a longer look and then run the gauntlet to report.


In order that the garrison at Mafeking would know help was on its way, patrols had to fire a beacon to a height of at least 3 yards above grade. They had 30 minutes to erect a beacon and devise a remote firing method that allowed them to light the thing within 10 or 20 seconds of the firing signal. They used the equipment they'd brought with them, and a tin of sand and gasoline provided to them on site. They gained a maximum of 15 points for the structure, 5 points for the firing device, and 10 points for organization, ingenuity and spirit.

And so they relieved Mafeking, but the total success of the venture had yet to be determined. Back again at the starting line, ice blocks were either weighed or melted down in a bucket and the volume of water judged. The biggest block took 15 points, the second 10 points, and the third five.

Eggs were examined. A perfect raw earned egg (cracked after inspection to ensure it hadn't been blown or boiled) earned 15 points; a cracked but unbroken egg took 10; and a broken egg or piece thereof took 5 points or fewer.

From 9:30 pm Saturday to 3:30 am Sunday makes quite a night's adventure, but he boys met the challenge and the leaders who made it possible found even further reward later that morning. They stayed bunked down while someone else cooked the breakfast.

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