1st. Yesterday a large party of women and children, who do not belong to this district, were sent away; the Boers turned them back, and when they were retiring deliberately opened a heavy lire on them, killing and wounding many. This is not the first deliberate outrage on the native women and children, and in addition they have flogged and turned back women trying to escape. Colonel Baden-Powell has addressed several remonstrances to General Snyman on the subject, and pointed out that he cannot expect the native chiefs in the vicinity to restrain their tribesmen, if the Boers persist in murdering their friends and relations, and that he, Colonel Baden-Powell, cannot be answerable for any subsequent occurrences in the way of reprisals on the part of the natives, to which General Snyman has answered as a rule more or less civilly (generally less) that we and the natives may do our worst. To-day is the usual sort of day, heavy sniping at intervals and a fair amount of shelling. Certainly the amount of damage done to Mafeking in life and property has been wholly disproportionate to the amount of shell fire sustained, the reason of course being the soft mud bricks of which the houses are constructed; and to-day we had two very fine object lessons of the extensive damage these shells would have done among more solidly constructed edifices. Mr. Whitely, the mayor's, house, which is built of stronger materials than any other house in Mafeking, was struck by a shell, and the damage done was far greater than was usually the case. Round the house of Mr. Bell, the magistrate, there is a loose stone wall, the shell struck and exploded at the base of it, the fragments of shell did but little harm, but one boulder about twice the size of a man's body was hurled about twenty-five yards, and two rocks about twice the size of a man's head were projected through the house some twenty-five yards away, while stones of various sizes were hurled great distances and in every direction. So, though thanks to its flimsy construction, Mafeking has escaped better than many a more important town would, it does seem rather like breaking a butterfly to use modern siege guns against a place of this sort. However, it is still a fairly lively butterfly in spite of twelve thousand pounds of metal from one gun alone. We have developed a new trench N.E. of the town to enfilade the enemies' sniping trenches, which, though it does not silence them, seems to annoy them passably.
2nd. Shell fire. Our new gun was tried on the sniping trenches, more for ranging purposes and to learn her extent and powers than anything else. The Boer trenches showed great curiosity as to what she was and why she did it, for her shells burst with a most delightful report and seemed to spread very nicely. A new toy like this is a god-send to us in our present dull condition.
The Boers during the experiment, however, kept themselves and their curiosity underground. The Boer big gun was removed at sunset and the usual crop of surmises, bets as to destination, cause of removal, &c, sprang rapidly into existence, and at any rate gave us something to talk about; it takes very little to interest us here.
3rd. The Boers tried dynamiting our trenches last night, but failed, our advanced parties are within forty yards of each other. At dawn the big gun, which had shifted back to the south-east heights from where she flanks our brickfield advance, commenced heavy fire, sending thirty-six or thirty-eight shells before breakfast, and mortally wounding Sergeant-Major Taylor of the Cape Boys; we also had four or five others wounded more or less severely. They, however, stuck to their ground, in shallow trenches which were hardly any protection, and that we suffered no greater loss is a matter of astonishment to everybody.
Our seven-pounders then commenced on their trenches, and the firing was heavy all round the whole morning. The Boers contemplated renewing their entertainment in the afternoon, but our snipers had crept up to within about eight hundred yards of the big gun and commenced picking off the gunners. Trooper Webb, CP., fortunately shot their Artillery Officer whilst laying the gun, at a fairly early stage in the performance, and this seemed to damp their enthusiasm. They commenced running about like a lot of disturbed ants, messengers were dispatched to the laager, their doctor arrived on horseback, and they then proceeded to hoist three Red Cross flags on the work. They carried a stretcher under a guard towards the laager and met a carriage, but he was apparently too bad to be put in that, and the carriage returned to the laager, when some mounted men rode forth, and, meeting the stretcher, dismounted and followed behind. Altogether they seemed very depressed whilst we were correspondingly the reverse, and in the confusion the big gun forgot to go off, and was removed before ' dark. With the exception of musketry the rest of the day was quiet. Our saps have now crossed each other.
Sunday. This morning at daybreak the Boers were still working, so we gave them a volley at forty yards and are believed to have shot four. Sniping continued all day, and later on we killed another. From this quarter the Boers, who were evidently very cross, sniped viciously all day. I walked up with Captain Williams, whose turn it is now for duty in the brickfields, and personally I consider it a most undesirable place of residence. The big gun has disappeared. We are all glad to hear that our old friend Cronje is in a tight place; from all accounts he will trouble us no more.
5th. The big gun is back at the old place east of the town; her immediate entourage evidently prefer gun practice at a safe range, for we have shot a good many gunners. Their efforts to get the gun off under musketry fire always cause amusement. They rush to the gun, and then disappear, this goes on sometimes quite a long time before the gun gets fired. Sergeant Major Taylor died last night; he was a splendid fellow and a good representative of the Cape Boys, who are a most gallant race of men and good shots. In times of peace he was one of the leading members of the Church in the location. There is heavy firing in the direction of the brickfields, so I must see. what is going on.
6th. Yesterday our seven-pounders made very good shooting on the Boer brickfield trenches, and after Mr. Feltham, Protectorate Regiment, had thrown dynamite at them for some time, the Cape Boys went to poke them out of their sap with the bayonet, but the wily Boer was gone; they had closed their sap. In this fight of " sit down " (as the Zulus say), 1 for one had worn out much patience and several pairs of trousers, and we seem to be borrowing more and more hints in the way of mortars, hand grenades, &c, from our forefathers. The Boers seemed much annoyed yesterday afternoon, and heavy firing-went on last night and is going on this morning. The big gun did not fire yesterday though she was elevated and pointed several times, nor has she fired this morning. There are strong rumours that the Boers intend to trek, and are preparing for it; that the gun we see is a dummy; and that the real one has been withdrawn to defend a position on the frontier. We sincerely hope it is true.
6th. The gun proved herself to be the " old original" by letting us have two or three shots in the evening.
7th. Heavy firing all night in the brickfields; only two shells. The Boers have commenced to trek. Trooper McDonald, Cape Police, died. His was an adventurous career; lie joined the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders in '47, served in the Crimea (French and Sardinian Medal, two clasps), served in the Indian Mutiny, was kidnapped when embarking home by Americans, fought for the North against the South, deserted the North and fought for the South, afterwards went to Australia, thence to New Zealand, and served in the Maori War where he was taken prisoner. Later he came to South Africa, served in the Basuto War, Sir Charles Warren's expedition, Carrington's Horse, the B. B. P., and transferred to the Cape Police, in which corps he has died of hardships and old age, fighting the Boers. He is not the only Crimean veteran we have here, both the Navy and Army are represented. Mr. Ellis joined the Royal Navy in 1854, served in the Baltic and the Black Sea, came to Africa and served in the Galika War. Mr. Brasier served in the Crimea and Mutiny, and there are others of whose extent of service I am not so certain. The contrast between them and the Cadet Corps, who are utilised for orderly work, &c, is remarkable, and if the Boers have their greybeards and boys fighting, why so have we. It seems very curious at first, but one soon gets used to it, as indeed one does to the underground residences, all business, as far as possible, being carried on in dug-outs; dining-rooms, offices, stores, barracks, even the bank where Mr. Urry, who with Captain Greener runs our paper coinage, sits in charge of a vast amount of paper, but very little hard cash, for the Kaffirs have buried all specie obtainable, are below ground. In our dug-out we have some siege mice, born since its construction, of a friendly and confiding disposition, who come and feed on the table, and play about and have a good time generally; other animals are therefore not admitted.
8th. Good news arrived of Cronje's defeat and surrender, and the wiping out of Majuba Day. Soldiers were proud, the population at large delighted, but most of all the South African Englishman. For the last twenty years he has been taunted by the Dutch with Majuba; he can now hold up his head again, and nothing could conduce more to a permanent pacification of South Africa than the wiping out of the day. Henning Pretorius, one of the leading Transvaal burghers, when he heard of Majuba, said, "Now it is finished. They will never stop till they have wiped us out." This he maintained till his death, which occurred recently, and he always urged that the Boers should make friends with us and become one nation. Usual heavy firing at night, only one shell.
9th. Heavy firing all night, commencing early with heavy volleys on the north and north-west fronts. I rode round the western outposts; it is a very pleasant ride and the Boers were pretty quiet, at least as concerned me, for they took no notice at all.
10th. Heavy firing this morning in the brickfields, the gun is elevated and pointed on the town, in which position she has remained for the past two or three clays with very occasional shells. The Boers are daily treking by degrees. I propose to go down to the brickfields this morning as that is about the liveliest spot in Mafeking, though I fancy very little of it will go a long way.
Trooper Webb of the Cape Police was shot through the head in the brickfield trenches last night; a fine specimen of a splendid corps. He was shot through the ankle in a sortie at the commencement of the siege, and when able to hobble he came out for duty as look-out man and orderly at headquarters; yesterday, as he was not so lame, at his earnest request he was allowed to go on duty in the advanced trenches, and during his first tour of sentry-go, was mortally wounded by a chance bullet in the dark. He is greatly regretted by the townspeople and all ranks, and Her Majesty loses a fine soldier, a first-class policeman, and a good all-round man.
I went down to the brickfields this morning and met Captain Fitzclarence and Captain Williams; things were pretty quiet down there in the morning, though they livened up again shortly afterwards. I went round the trenches with them. One's mode of progression is distinctly uncomfortable, bent double, with a certain amount of water in the trenches, which are shallow as yet between the various works, but being deepened daily. The various works and trenches all have their names, Regent's Circus, Oxford Street, &c, whilst our most advanced work is called the New Cut, and the Boers' trench forty yards away Houndsditch. The sound of the
Mauser at this short range has a very different effect to its sound at the longer ranges, and the crack of the bullets when they strike is like the explosion of a young shell. The Boers at these ranges are very quick and good shots; the}' shoot at your hat if visible, or at the sound of your voice, and as the loopholes, have to be kept closed, the only way of looking out is by means of a pair of Zeiss glasses which project over the edge of the parapet while one's head is in safety some inches below, even so they put a bullet through one of the lenses this morning (which, as they were mine, did not please me) and through the hat of the look-out man, but with them you can see right into the Boer loopholes with comparative safety, though bullets frequently, owing to the tremendous penetration of the Mauser, come clean through the upper part of the parapet, and the sand bags on the top are cut to ribbons. The advance post is occupied by the Cape Boys, who under Lieutenants Feltham and Currie (who has recently been promoted) take it da}r and day about; one was shot this morning. This post which we now occupy was sapped up to and occupied from the other side by the Boers, but was retaken by the Cape Boys under Currie, with Captain Fitzclarence and some of the white garrison; they had to emerge in single file from a narrow opening which was commanded by the Boer loop-holes, and run round the edge of the excavation of the brickfield up to the loop-holes occupied by the Boers, a distance of some twenty yards; the latter fled on their approach. We have now occupied it from our side and strengthened the work. The trenches approaching the advance works are exposed to fire from the front and right flanks, but are being strengthened daily. On our return from the advance work we made our way to the river bed where Currie's post is established, and it was there that poor Webb was killed. The garrison of the trenches are now fairly housed and comparatively safe, though, of course, casualties occur daily; still, if the Boers try a sortie they will meet a very warm reception.
Sunday. Last night heavy firing as usual, but to-day,contrary to our late custom, peace has reigned in the brickfields, and botli sides sat on their parapets and asked after various friends on the other side. The Boers have lately, as the natives express it, become much more tame, and have allowed Kaffir women to gather wood, pumpkins, and Kaffir corn without molestation. Our Sunday was absolutely peaceful and quiet, and as we are not able now to indulge in mounted sports, &c, owing to the condition of the horses, we have fallen back on cricket as our Sunday relaxation.
12th. The natives went out last night, and McKenzie's boys got into Jackal Tree which they found empty. The Baralongs attacked Fort Snyman from the rear and had a lively engagement with the hundred odd Boers who garrisoned it, and after finishing their ammunition, withdrew with a loss of one killed and two wounded. We know of one Boer dead for certain, for Trooper "Webb of the C. P. blew his head off at the entrance to the work, and we fancy that at the short range our volleys must have accounted for several more. General Snyman has returned and notified his arrival by an unusually heavy dose of shell fire. I rode round the western outposts this morning with Captain Wilson; the natives seemed quite pleased with themselves, more particularly as they had secured some thirty head of fat cattle in a raid two days ago. We then inspected the soup kitchens which he is managing, and which are a great improvement on those first started; the food provided is very popular with the natives, who come in their hundreds for it.
13th. Our runners brought us in good news of the relief of Ladysinith and the heavy Boer losses. Everybody is consequently jubilant, and our only regret is that we can't drive these Boers over the frontier and clear British territory; however, Colonel Plumer is at Lobatsi, and as there cannot be any considerable body of Boers between this and Kimberley, we ought soon to have the line open both ways. They began shelling early and kept on with their home-made shrapnel all day, killing two and wounding several. One shell burst in a pigeon-house and killed sixteen valuable carrier pigeons; the shot is somewhat large for pigeon shooting, but apparently effective. The base of another shell went through the head-quarter office, making a hideous mess, but hurting no one; in fact, they were shooting offices all round, and the ordinarily neatly-kept official papers were in two or three cases much upset and covered with the debris of their various abodes. This new shrapnel is essentially a man-killing shell, for which reason I suppose the Boers have paid particular attention to the earthworks, per contra if they want to snipe cattle or slay men they generally employ common shell. Last night a cattle raiding party came in with some horses, saddles, rifles and bandoliers belonging to some deceased Boers. The Boers had tracked this party of Baralongs, who, seeing them following on their spoor, had doubled back on their own trail and ambushed them at short range. They accounted for six or seven, and relieved their dead of their arms, &c., as far as they could, before the Boers recovered from their surprise, and drove them off with a loss to the raiders of one killed and two wounded, the latter of whom they brought in. This success has naturally much pleased the natives, and encouraged them greatly for future raids, which is most useful, as the results feed us and harass the Boers. The advanced trenches also got a couple by moonlight as they were creeping up to our trench.
14th. Shelling has begun again this morning, quite up to its best form. The Boers in Snyman's absence take things much more easily, and if we could only kill him here and Kruger in the south, as well as old Cronje, it would save a vast amount of trouble, for it takes these leaders all their time to keep their followers up to the scratch. They had a sort of " indaba " this morning. I only trust it was bad news for them, they get their news about a fortnight before we do.
15th. Fairly quiet day, pretty heavy shelling.
16th. Very little shelling. The Cape Boys in the advance trenches were playing a-concertina, and so chaffed the Boers, saying they were dancing, and asking them to send some ladies, &c, that one of them, either attracted by the music or bursting with repartee, popped up his head, and was incontinently shot by a wily Cape Boy, to the intense delight of the others. They have a distinct sense of humour, though possibly a somewhat grim one. The advance trenches are now deepened and strengthened, and are as safe as it is possible for them to be to walk about in; from the advance trenches the Boers and ourselves throw bombs, and they are also using explosive bullets; their bombs are made like old hand-grenades, the bombs of both sides being charged with dynamite. They throw theirs by hand, but ours, though of a cruder form (being mainly jam tins) are propelled in a much more scientific manner. Sergeant Page, of the Protectorate Regiment, has rigged up a bamboo as a fishing-rod, and casts his bomb with great precision the short distance to the Boer trenches.
17th. Pretty quiet day. Last night McKenzie's boys raided Jackal Tree fort, killed one Boer and a Kaffir, and secured three horses and rifles. The dug-outs are all so close to various residences that it was amusing to see one card party, disturbed by the ringing of the bell, dive from the mess to the dug-out, and actually be back picking up their cards before the shell which had passed high in the air, had exploded. Vices in time of peace become virtues in war time; the most expert Baralong cattle thief, who under other circumstances would assuredly be in durance vile, is now indeed a persona grata and leader of men, and whilst enjoying himself at the top of his bent is making the most of his fleeting opportunity.
18th, Sunday. I went down to the brickfields to the advanced trenches; down there both parties had agreed not to shoot, and exchanged tobacco for peach brandy, &c, asking after their various friends and relations. I got three snap shots at the Boers in the advance trench, and we studied each other with great curiosity, our clean shirts, collars, and Sunday clothes apparently astonishing them as much as their remarkable grime surprised us. On the way back there is a pleasant meadow, in which we lay and smoked and tried to pretend it was England, though that was somewhat a failure. Whilst down there I met an old warrior who had drifted a long way from his last fight. A native of Bagdad, he was in Sarif (?) Pasha's command at Plevna, which he said was a very different siege to this; he says they fought only occasionally there, and then killed thousands of men, but rested in between, whilst here we were continually shooting. If we killed thousands here the siege would soon come to an end. The old man is very fit and seems to enjoy his fighting still. Runners came in from the south this morning who had seen the relief of Kimberley, which impressed them very much. They said that the man who wrote the Bible must have been referring to the English army, when he spoke of the Tribes of Israel and the thousands which composed them, and that the aforesaid army was big enough to eat up all the Kaffirs; they reported, also, that the searchlights of the force advancing up the line had been seen as far as Taungs, and that the Boers were concentrating, but are pretty thick between here and the advancing force. As regards this place the boot will soon be on the other leg, as the Boers are now afraid to move about except in large bodies, and we hope that our communication will soon be thoroughly restored. The runners from Setlagoli reported that the raiding party I spoke of on the 13th, had killed and wounded some twenty Boers, including the man who had shot one of our Baralongs in cold blood the day before. There was a smoking concert to-night to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, largely attended by Irishmen and others; the proceedings were harmonious throughout.
19th. A fair amount of shelling. A party of Boers and three guns have returned from the north, where native rumour says they have had a repulse, and in which direction musketry fire was faintly heard yesterday morning.
20th. We got runners in from the north; the Boers seem in a bad way all round.
21st. More runners in. To-day we were unlucky, and we had a few casualties.
22nd. More runners. Plumer's column twenty-four miles away. –
23rd. We shelled the brickfield trench, but did not succeed in drawing fire from the big gun, which has been almost silent for the last few days. ln the garrison there are soldiers from all parts of the world, one German veteran who served all through the Franco-German War in the 84th Regiment, Trooper Block by name, was through the Orleans campaign, and has since served in all the South African wars; there arc men who served in the Chilian war, the Carlist,and in fact practically every known war for the last fifty years.
24th. Last night the Boers evacuated their brickfield trenches, which we occupied with much cheering; they left several cases of dynamite behind connected with a wire, with which they proposed to blow up our men; the wire was, however, promptly disconnected: In Dutch newspapers discovered in the trenches was found the account of the fall of Bloemfontein, which was confirmed by runners from Plumer this morning. The Boers have now withdrawn to a respectful distance all round the town, which is, however, still invested, but the big gun so far is quiet. This must be the beginning of the end, and we have nearly completed our six months' siege. I fully expect the big gun to be removed in a day or two j last night was the first, time she has failed to reply to our artillery fire.
We have started a post-office here, with stamps, &c, and also a very tastefully designed £1 note. I must finish off my entries as a go of fever makes it difficult, almost impossible, to write at all.
24th. Last night Sub-Inspector Murray and Trooper Melahue, Cape Police, went out, and having reconnoitred the rear of the enemy's trench, came to the conclusion that it was unoccupied. Inspector Browne, of the Cape Police, and the Cape Boys under Lieutenants Feltham and Currie, proceeded to occupy it. The Boers had left a mine of 250 lbs. of nitro-glycerine behind. Sergeant Page, Protectorate Regiment, discovered and disconnected the wire. The men cheered themselves hoarse, and rightly too, for this is the most decisive success we have scored since the commencement of the campaign, as the town is now for the first time free from musketry fire, and our guns are again within striking distance of the Boer artillery.
25th, Sunday. The Siege Exhibition took place to-day. A most creditable exhibition from the ingenuity shown, and also considering its peculiar surroundings. We shall hope to forward some of our exhibits home. I went out and inspected the Boer trench. If it is " an ill bird that fouls its own nest," a Boer is indeed ill. They are occupying a trench about seven hundred yards away, from which they shoot with a certain amount of precision, but with no result, upon their late happy home. Personally, I particularly wished to inspect the brick kilns, at which I had discharged some hundred rounds of ammunition. Itis very interesting, but still somewhat annoying to find that it is practically bullet proof; however, on the other hand, the particular place of resort from which I had fired the said ammunition was also fairly safe, so perhaps I had no reason to grumble, and at any rate I had frequently silenced them.
26th, Monday. Exceptionally quiet to-day. Late at night I was in Mr. Weil's dug-out when he received the news of the English troops' arrival at Vryburg. Mafeking accordingly jubilant.[ This eventually turned out to be untrue.]
27th, Tuesday. The Boers commenced early and continued a heavy shell fire all day, pouring more shells into the town than they had any two days of the siege. It was very curious, but the news received the night before caused the population to show more absolute disregard for the shell fire than they had done on many days when the bombardment was comparatively light. The Premier's message to the two Presidents was published this evening, and now even the most pessimistic admit it is possible that there may be a satisfactory solution of the war. We hope we maybe able to slightly assist in a less passive manner than heretofore.
28th, Wednesday. After our treat of yesterday, absolute quiet reigns to-day. Really there is no understanding the Boers. Our locally manufactured field-piece burst last night, but the shell managed to reach the Boer laager. What they contemplate and what is their plan of campaign leaves everybody wondering. No ulterior object can be obtained by their desultory mode of conducting operations. Occasional casualties, which is apparently their only object, is the sole result arrived at, and these casualties are, we think, more heavy on their side than ours.
29th, Thursday. A quiet day. The Boers gradually evacuating their eastern trendies.
30th, Friday. The guns are fairly quiet. We are gradually occupying the evacuated trenches.
31st, Saturday. In the morning a quiet day. In the afternoon a body of four hundred or five hundred Boers and three guns hastily left their eastern laager in a northerly direction. I took up a position in the convent, and from there could see considerable confusion and excitement amongst the Boers galloping backwards and forwards in the direction of Signal Hill. The sound of guns too was distinctly audible to the north, some six or seven miles away. The garrison livened up. The guns under Major Panzera and Lieutenant Daniells commenced playing from every face. A mounted squadron under Major Godley demonstrated towards Game Tree fort on the north. For an hour or so things were lively, but quieted down.
Our old " Lord Nelson " reached the laager, and the big gun was annoyed by the Hotch-kiss. It is a curious fact that all the pieces of ordnance with which we are " blessed " are obsolete naval guns. Rumours as usual flying around and we really had something to give scope for conjecture.