On Sunday, February 11th, No. 4 Field Hospital once more reached Chieveley, after the tedious march from Spearman’s of which mention has been made. The hospital was pitched near the station, and not far from the spot it had occupied on the day of the battle of Colenso. Chieveley is represented only by a railway station and a station-master’s house. There are, however, many eucalyptus trees about these buildings, and the spot is shady. The ground stands high, and miles of undulating country are open to view. There are a Kaffir kraal or two in sight, and many mimosa groves, and beyond them all the line of the river. Chieveley, therefore, as a camp was well esteemed.
The sojourn at Chieveley began with that terrible fourteen days of incessant fighting which ended in the taking of Pieters and the relief of Ladysmith. Every day at sunrise the guns began, and it was not until sunset that they ceased. Any who looked up from their work in the camp, and turned their eyes towards Umbulwana, would seldom fail to see the flash of a lyddite shell on the far-off ridges, or, clear against the blue sky, the white puff of cloud from a shrapnel. Every day the wounded came in, mostly towards evening. Fortunately their numbers were few.
The days had again become very hot and very trying. It was weather which the soldier is apt to describe, in the vivid language of his kind, as weather "when a man should have his body in a pool and his head in a public-house!"
Standing in the station at Chieveley was commonly to be seen the armoured train. Whatever iron plates could do to make a structure indestructible had been done; but to such beauty as a railway train may possess nothing had thereby been added. The sailors had, however, been busy with the engine of the train. The engineers had given it the outline of a square gasometer, but the "handy man" had covered the disfigured machine with ropes as with a garment. From the top of the funnel a veil of closely placed ropes trailed to the ground. A like panoply of ropes covered the body of the engine, and its wheels, and its cylinders, and its every detail. The officers called this production the "Russian poodle," but the soldiers gave it the name of "Hairy Mary"; and this name clung to it.
During the movement to Spearman’s, Chieveley had been carefully fortified. A space round the station had been marked off by a very deep wire entanglement. Trenches had been dug, and some sort of a fort thrown up. There were entrenchments about the stationmaster’s mild little house, and before the windows were erected iron plates with loopholes such as were used on the trucks of the armoured train. Similar iron plates formed a barricade along the modest veranda, and the result of it all was that the small unobtrusive house was made to look fierce and truculent. The few bare rooms were used by the Headquarters Staff, and the rough tables and stools were littered with all sorts of war-like paraphernalia. Among these insignia of battle, murder, and sudden death were two strange objects which had been left behind by the looting Boers, and which seemed out of place. One was a stuffed jay, and the other a dressmaker’s lay-figure or "bust." The bird was stuck upon the wreck of the mantelpiece, and stared amiably and foolishly from its perch. The "bust" was life-size, and suggested the torso of a black woman, with a little polished knob for a head. It may have at one time graced the salon of a Parisian dressmaker. It was, however, now no longer used to show off dresses, trimmings and flounces, for a helmet surmounted the graceful chest, and belts, carrying pistols and swords, hung from the fine shoulders or clung to the delicate waist.