1st. The enemy shelled Cannon Kopje again, and galloped up from the south within about a mile, dismounted, and made a show of attack, but were driven away. Shell fire and sniping.
2nd. Desultory shell fire and lots of sniping at horses watering, five horses wounded. At about 10 p.m. Lieutenant Murchison shot Mr. Parslow, Daily Chronicle representative, but as the matter is still sub judice, comments or opinions are undesirable.
3rd. Heavy shelling and sniping. The Boers having occupied a position in the brickfields, Captain Goodyear and the Cape Boys attacked them and turned them out, during which Captain Goodyear was unfortunately severely wounded in the leg.
Inquest this morning returned a verdict of wilful murder against Lieutenant Murchison, who will be tried by Field General Court Martial. Mr. Parslow's funeral took place to-night, attended by the staff and many others; the other correspondents and myself carried the coffin to the grave.
4th. Heavy shelling and sniping all round, eight horses shot. TheBoers having experienced the delights of the dynamite explosion, now determine to repay us in our own coin.
Loading a truck with dynamite, they brought it up to the top of the incline on the railway, which runs from the north down to Mafeking Station, meaning to run it into the station and explode it in the town. In this amiable intention they were foiled, as either owing to the rustiness or roughness of the line, which had not been used for three weeks, to the defective fuse, or some other unexplained cause, it blew up a mile and a half out of town, and I trust assisted a few of them to the other world. The curious part of the explosion was that everyone insisted that a shell had burst exactly over the spot he happened to be in, and it was not until next day that the occurrence was explained.
5th. Sunday. Band, and celebrated Guy Fawkes day with fireworks, first warning the enemy not to be alarmed.
6th. A smart bit of work on the part of the Boers. Their big gun opened fire at 4.30 a.m., and after firing one shot they took her round to the south-eastern heights, where they had erected a work for her, and fired again within twelve hours; by the remote road they preferred, it must have been more than four miles; two field guns and a large escort accompanied her.
7th. Rumours were rife as to the intended attack on the native stadt this morning, but this pleasant attention was anticipated. At 3 a.m. Major Godley paraded with Captain Vernon's squadron, Protectorate Regiment and mounted Bechuanaland Rifles under Captain Cowan, with two seven-pounders and the Hotchkiss gun, under Lieutenant Daniel, R. S. A. P., Captain Marsh's Squadron P. R., being held in readiness to support, if necessary, from the southern portion of the stadt. And here it must be explained that due west the Boers had established a laager with about two hundred and fifty men, two twelve-pounders and a diabolical one-pound Maxim in entrenchments, and daily shelled the stadt and western defences, and that it was from this quarter that the attack was expected. However, Major Godley took up a position within good range of the laager, and as day broke the Boers were roused by the seven-pounders and the Hotchkiss, supplemented by long range volleys. The Boers broke to ward Cronje's large laager, about three or four miles south-west of the stadt. I was watching operations from the top of the B. S. A. P. fort, and the whole fight was clearly discernible in its earlier stages, an admirable example of Boer tactics, as their advance to their attacking position was across our western front, though at safe distance from rifle fire. Within ten minutes of the commencement of fire knots of Boers came galloping from the large laager, in tens, twenties, twos and threes, anyhow, in fact, and about half way they met the Boers who were retreating, who then rallied and returned with them to the attack. They swept over the ridge towards the north, and as they drew nearer were assailed by long range volleys from Captain Marsh, and then the fight began. There could not have been less than five hundred, personally I fancy eight. Their guns were in full swing and firing wildly fortunately, for the majority of the shells burst by the women's laager and the fort, which did not seem logical, as we were not hurting them. Their one-pound Maxim, however, was putting in good work. The object of the sortie had been attained in drawing the attack where we wanted it, and a gradual and slow retirement on the works commenced. Then, unfortunately, one of our guns was temporarily disabled, but under a very heavy fire was righted without any casualty, which was miraculous, as the one-pounder had got the range and put shells around it all the time, shooting off the heel of a man's boot and bursting all around and among the men and horses. However, all got under cover all right. Captain Vernon handled his men coolly and well, and retiring by alternate troops they kept the enemy at bay. The fire was very heavy, and but that the majority of the Boer firing was wild, we should have lost heavily. Major Godley was shot through the hat, slightly wounded in the hand, and his horse shot. The Beehuanaland Rifles at their baptism of fire behaved steadily and well, and Captain Cowan was well justified at his pride in his men. The Boers attacked the entrenchments, advancing to within six hundred yards of them, but wTere beaten off with loss. Working round to the northern flank, however, they managed to account for eleven horses and two men in about as many seconds, but the undesirable attention of the stationary Maxim convinced them that their presence was no longer necessary. It was very hot whilst it lasted, and then to the looker-on came the welcome sight of first one, then twos and threes, then larger bodies, cantering off in the direction from which they had come, and then, the most welcome sight of all, three large wagons flying the Red Cross flag coming to pick up their casualties, showing that their loss must have been heavy Our loss, six men wounded, six horses killed, nine wounded, and many cattle and donkeys in the vicinity of the forts killed and wounded.
8th. Sniping and shelling and a new earthwork being constructed by the Boers three, thousand yards due north of the B. S. A. P. fort, called Game Tree fort.
9th. The cheering news from Natal of three British victories has arrived, great excitement prevails, and naturally—it is our first news for nearly a month. Shelling and sniping of course goes on, and one shell burst in Colonel Walford's stable, where three horses were together, and killed the centre horse, thirty-one shrapnel bullets being found in it. The others were untouched, as were also the men all round.
10th. Game Tree fort has begun with high velocity twelve-pounders. These are pernicious guns. Old Creaky can be provided for. She is carefully watched from everywhere — if she is pointed a bell rings, when the smoke comes from her muzzle another bell rings, and everybody goes to ground till the shell does (or does not) burst. But these smokeless guns give no warning; the report and the shell arrive simultaneously. Twenty-seven shells were fired in a very short time round the fort, three burst in it, and one knocked a bucket from a nigger. But when they had got the range accurately the Boers desisted. Their artillery tactics are marvellous. They fire in a casual way at anything; if they get the range accurately they seem satisfied, and begin to shoot at something else. They keep on shooting for some time and unexpectedly stop; then just as vaguely begin again, with apparently no ulterior object, but general annoyance. One thing only is certain, that from 4.30 to 5 a.m. Creaky will fire a round or two, and probably stop till after breakfast, and that from 8.30 to 9 p.m. she has never missed her farewell shot.
11th. Shelling all day, sniping getting really lively.
12th. News of Colonel Plumer's column. We were all grieved to hear of poor Blackburne's death.
13th. Slight shell fire, very quiet all round.
14th. Sniping and shelling rather lively, to compensate for yesterday.
15th. Very quiet. Heavy rain during the night; the Boers entrenching themselves towards the brickfields. An American despatch rider of Reuter's, Mr. Pearson, arrived, having ridden from south of Kimberley—a great performance.
16th. Heavy thunderstorm and rain; shelling and sniping all round.
17th. Shelling and sniping. The big gun again shifted rather farther back. Mr. Pearson started on his adventurous ride back to Cape Town. I wish him every success.
18th. To-day is the beginning of the end, I hope. Cronje's laager to the south-west is breaking up and trekking south. All squadrons have been warned to be in readiness to start at once, and we hope our turn is coming at last, but General Cronje is capable of any ruse to draw us out and endeavour to overwhelm us in the open. They do not forget to leave us Creaky, who gave us a heavy doing to-day; sniping is going on continually daily on our south-eastern and eastern front.
At this point of the siege it is worth while to review the situation. The Boers have been compelled to detach a large portion of their force to the south, leaving, however, ample men to invest the town. They have had four severe lessons and seem more disinclined than ever to come to close quarters. They have, however, entrenched themselves in suitable positions round the town, and it is impossible to say at any given point what their strength might be. Our strength is about nine hundred rifles, including all available white men, and a sortie, even if successful, might seriously impair our strength; whereas, as we are, we can hold the town, which is our primary object. For a sortie at the most we could only hope for two hundred to two hundred and fifty men, and the rapidity with which the Boers concentrate, and their vast superiority in artillery, would give them a very good chance of inflicting a defeat, which might be ruinous. No! their shell and musketry fire is annoying, but with the precautions that have been taken they cannot inflict sufficient damage to compel surrender. Thus, the whole thing resolves itself into a matter of "patience, our turn is coming soon." For if we cannot get out, neither they nor three times their number can get in.
From this time on till the beginning of December it may be as well to explain the situation in advance. The fighting on the western and southern fronts had almost ceased, but the Boer entrenchments were occupied by picquets, who indulged in occasional sniping, and it was unknown how many were in the rear of them. The fort to the north, Game Tree fort, was armed with a five-pounder gun, and was occupied fairly strongly, and between that and the waterworks was another trench, occupied by the Boers, from which they were eventually ousted by the fire of the Bechuanaland Rifles. To our eastern front lay the trench by the race-course, strongly held; and south of that in front of McMullen's farm (the Boer main laager), a trench about thirteen hundred yards from the town. There are four or five brick-kilns about eleven to twelve hundred yards from the town, running in a diagonal direction from the trench down towards the Molopo, and it was about here that the continuous skirmishing took place; our works being pushed out to meet theirs from the bed of the river, which was connected with the town by a trench running due south from Ellis's corner, past the old Dutch church. Their guns were admirably placed for raking the town, stadt, and defences on the south-eastern heights, about three thousand yards from the town. To the south of the river the Cape boys occupied a trench, near the eastern end of location, and about two thousand yards from the enemy's big gun.
19th. Sunday. Band and calls. Laager, to the north-east at Signal Hill, trekking eastward.
20th to 23rd. Daily shelling and sniping. Captain Sandford moved the Boers and the seven-pounders from the western entrenchments. One of these guns they now abandoned with the exception of a picquet.
24th. Shelling and sniping; the B. S. A. P. fort came in for most of it; two men wounded.
26th. Sunday. We had our first game of polo, a concert, and a football match. Church in the evening.
27th. An advanced trench had been constructed in the river bed, six hundred yards from the Boer trench, and fourteen hundred yards from the big gun: Lord Charles Bentinck occupied it after dark.
28th. The big gun was harassed by volleys all day, and did not fire much, a lively skirmish going on at intervals throughout the day on the eastern front, Maxims, guns and rifles; Cape Boys partaking from the south of the Molopo. Fitzclarence relieved Lord Charles Bentinck this evening. The Boers vacated the brick-kilns after the firing had been going on for some time.
29th. The long-range volleys have undoubtedly had good effect. The big gun cocked up her nose and fired two rounds wildly this morning. On the eastern front was a crowd with telescopes and field glasses, laughing at the gunners, who could plainly be seen dodging about, and making many futile efforts to get off their piece safely somehow. Ellis's corner, Fitzclarence's squadron, the Cape Boys in the river bed and in the trench, volleyed him directly old Creaky's muzzle was elevated. The enemy could not find out where the fire came from, and fired their smaller guns and one-pound Maxim, on chance, all about the place, but did no harm. Creaky only got off three rounds to-day. When the Boers in the trench tried to join in, the Maxim at Ellis's corner was turned on to them; while the Maxim from De Kock's fort paid a similar attention to the race-course trenches. The Boers in the north-west also shelled today. Lord Charles Bentinck relieved Fitzclarence after dark.
30th. This was the hottest day's firing we have had for some time. At 3 a.m. a heavy fire commenced all round. The Boers had been annoyed by our native snipers in the river and brickfields, and commenced firing so-called volleys from their trench in the direction of the river bed. The Cape Boys and the squadron fired on the big gun and Ellis's corner fired on the Boers. Our Hotchkiss also fired, but the seven-pounder gun, concealed in the bed of the river, did not fire, but awaited developments, as its position was still unknown to the enemy; this went on with short intervals all day, but an hour and an half before sundown began a most furious fusillade all round. Creaky, who had now been furnished with cover for her gunners, joined in the fray, and for over an hour heavy firing was incessant, and a very pretty fight followed. In all this firing on the south-eastern corner the bullets drop in the town, and the market square and surrounding streets are no places for a contemplative stroll at these times. The other day, during a game of football, a ninety-four-pound shell passed through the players and burst in the town house, in the centre of the square, but marvellous to relate, none were injured though the interior of the town house has disappeared. To return to the skirmish, after a vast expenditure of ammunition our casualties were nil; I trust the enemy's were heavy. In a Transvaal paper, dated December 2nd, they confessed to several being slightly wounded lately by our continuous fire.