“Swartzkopje, near Boshof, April 9, 1900.— . .. We are on our second expedition from Kimberley now. I don’t suppose we shall ever go back there, as we have brought our tents with us. We rejoined Methuen’s column at Boshof; at least, we were two days close to the town, but now nearly the whole column has moved to this place, about 5 miles from it. We had a fight there. I was lying by my saddle, dozing, when suddenly the order came, ‘300 men to saddle up instantly.’ The three squadrons of Yeomanry immediately turned out, and then ensued the most appalling ‘rush’ I ever had the misfortune to be in. All the horses were out grazing, over a mile away, and we had to run out for them. I couldn’t find mine, so I seized another, whose I don’t know. We galloped them back to camp with only the halters, hurled the saddles on, flung the accoutrements on ourselves, and dashed on to parade in record time. We went about 12 miles out, with scouts all round, and extended to 20 yards. The country was flat veldt, with occasional clumps of bushes and a few low kopjes. We were making for some higher kopjes which we could see in the distance. I and a man named Ramshay were the connecting file between two troops, which were a mile or so apart, and rode along by ourselves. The horse I had got hold of had the most curious gait imaginable; it was a real ambler, and the first I had ever been on, and I found it very comfortable, not nearly so tiring as a trot or a canter. The last 3 or 4 miles we went at a gallop, and the ground being honeycombed with holes, at least a dozen men and horses came down, one hurt rather badly, so I rode warily, I can tell you. At last I saw some kind of commotion, and the two troops began closing in to get through the two gaps cut in a barbed-wire fence. But between them, where we two were, there was no place, and we had an awful job to stamp it down and get our horses through, so we were left right behind. We rammed the spurs in and caught our men up near some kopjes, and saw what was going on, and heard several shots. Our guns (we had some with us from the artillery at Boshof) were getting into position and our men all dismounting. R. and jumped off and joined our troops. We had tightened up our straps and were standing easy, ready to advance on foot, and wondering what it would be like, when the major came galloping up, shouting, ‘Get mounted, all of you: There was a rush for the horses, and we galloped round one side of the kopje. Methuen was there, and I heard him say to Lawson, ‘Yes, they are all around us in these kopjes, and we’ve got to get them out somehow.’
“All the mounted men were now formed into a long line, which wheeled round to the rear of the kopje; my troop was at the pivot end of the line. I now understood we were going to catch them in the rear. When we got up to the hill we dismounted, every fourth man remaining mounted and holding the other three horses. Eden held ours. We then began going up the hill in extended order, while they potted at us. I heard my first bullet whistle by here, and ducked down behind an ant-hill and looked at the next man, who had done the same. We both grinned rather sheepishly at each other. The Hill was not steep, and had plenty of stones lying about. We advanced slowly up it, a short rush, and down behind a stone. Buzz! buzz! ft! ft! I saw two kick up the dust; one about 3 feet to my left, and the other about 10 yards ahead, and so did Corporal Little, my outside man; and again we exchanged a grin. I did not mind them so much singing by in the air, but ft! ft! thud! against the stones was not nice. About ten minutes later, when we were crossing an open space—or more open than usual—poor old Little went down with a bullet through his lung. He is bad, but will recover, I think. This went on for about two hours, we firing whenever we lay down; but I always fired at where I thought the bullets were coming from. I never saw a soul.
“All this time our artillery were banging away from the other side of the kopje, and a Maxim was going like mad. Any amount of our own shells came over us; they made a hissing, rushing sound in the air. A brave Kaffir boy, dressed all in white—why I don’t know—was dodging about like a rabbit among the rocks, with a bucket of water. It was not exactly ‘crawling,’ nor did it ‘stink ’ as Gunga Din’s did, though it was thick and muddy; but I never enjoyed a drink more in my life. I couldn’t wait to use the filter. Soon after this there was talk of the white flag, and, sure enough, they began to show one; but our officers said, ‘Don’t get up, keep down.’ Luckily for us we did, as the beggars kept on shooting. They said poor Campbell (Mrs. Patrick Campbell’s husband) was killed that way; he got up and walked forward too soon.
“We had fixed bayonets some little while before, and now ran up to the top. I shan’t forget the sight in a hurry. A big man, with a fat face pale with fear, ran towards us with his hands out, and was taken prisoner; three or four of them were lying about, dead. They looked so ragged, desperate, and dirty that I could hardly believe they were the men we had been fighting. One I particularly noticed was a boy of about eighteen or so ; he had a very thin, famished-looking face, and looked as if he had been dead some hours. They all looked more like tramps or gipsies than soldiers. I and three other chaps carried one badly wounded fellow down; we gave him a drink, and I tied up what was left of his foot in an old rag he had on him. I also tried to fix up his leg, which was broken at the thigh, with a rifle tied with pocket handkerchiefs as a splint, but it seemed to hurt him so much that desisted, and we carried him down as he was. Every one seized some trophy or another. One of our men got a Mauser rifle ; several got bandoliers; I took one cartridge from a dead man's bandolier as a memento. It was a Martini-Henry Maxim cartridge, with a brass case.
"Then we assembled again on the other side of the kopje and talked it over. E. came trotting along with our four horses. On seeing Cutsem and myself he sang out, 'I'm glad to see you chaps all right!'
"Methuen came down and said, 'I am very sorry for your casualties, but you have done very well indeed.' .
"The Boer loss was eight or ten killed (who were laid out in a row with their faces covered); how many wounded I don't know. We had four killed and a few wounded. Those of the enemy who were not killed or wounded, amounting to about 60, were taken prisoners. Among their killed was a famous French officer who had been in command of their force, Colonel de Villebois Mareuil. Lieut. Boyle of the 37th squadron was the only officer killed on our side. ‘Ah, poor Boyle! ’ I heard Lord Chesham say, ‘but it cannot be helped.’
“By the time we started the ride home it was getting dusk, and the sky was black with rain-clouds. We rode home in the most awful thunder-storm I was ever in—flashes of lightning making the whole place as light as day for several seconds, blinding your eyes with glare, and then plunging you into pitchy darkness again. The thunder burst in ear- splitting crashes over our devoted heads, and the rain came down in torrents. We had no greatcoats, but they would have made no difference if we had had them. The horses were dead tired, and I could hardly kick mine along. The squadrons all broke up, and we trailed home in a sort of follow-my-leader fashion. I got right away from the 38th squadron, and after the lightning stopped, the only way I prevented myself from getting lost was by riding behind a man wearing a white cricket shirt, who had given up his tunic to a wounded man. One man, cantering blindly on in the dark, rode slap into a barbed-wire fence. I heard the shout and scuffle of his downfall in front of me. Another got left, fell in with a patrol of Boers, and was nearly collared. We got to camp at last, and found there was hot stuff waiting for us, and a ration of rum apiece. Eden and I, after standing by the fire for some time, decided that we would not try to sleep that night in camp, in 2 inches of water, but would sneak off down to the town. We did so; and after wandering about a bit, and buying a loaf of bread each, we found an hotel with a nice dry wooden balcony, where we slept comfortably all night, with our loaves for pillows.”