Chieveley Camp—General Butler’s Final Advance to the Relief of Ladysmith from Chieveley—The First Seven Days of the Fighting—Hussar Hill—Cingolo—Monte Cristo—How the Key to Ladysmith was captured—Hlangwane.
While the main body of General Buller’s army was concentrated at Chieveley Camp, under canvas, feeding on fresh beef and bread, with which they had long been unfamiliar, about 4,000 of the enemy were being retained at Potgeiter’s Drift by a gallant little force entrenched at Springfield, who were still enduring all the hardships of active campaigning. This force consisted of Burn-Murdoch’s Brigade of Cavalry, the Chestnut Battery Royal Horse Artillery, two naval 12-pounders, and two battalions of infantry. On February 11 Bethune’s Mounted Infantry were detached from Dundonald’s Brigade and sent to watch the line of the Tugela north of Greytown. This was done to prevent any Boer raid in the direction of Weenen, and they accomplished this duty most thoroughly.
On February 12 the outposts at Springfield encountered a party of Boers under General Botha in person, who had crossed the Tugela to inspect the position vacated by our troops. The Boers, getting the crest of a hill first, opened a heavy fire on the squadron, who were on very rough ground and had to retire, but finally dispersed the enemy after having received reinforcements. While the Boer Commander-in-Chief was reconnoitring one end of the British position in person, General Buller was similarly en-gaged at the other end of the Boer position. It was like a game of hide-and-seek.
At 8 a.m. Lord Dundonald, in command of 700 mounted men, the Royal Welch Fusiliers and the 64th Royal Field Artillery, left Chieveley to make a reconnaissance towards Colenso. The rendezvous aimed at was some high ground about five miles south-west of Colenso, known as Hussar Hill, an eminence facing Monte Cristo and Cingolo, and getting its name from the fact that a patrol of the 13th Hussars had been surprised there six weeks previously. Since then the enemy had been in the habit of visiting it daily. Dundonald found it occupied this morning, but the enemy cleared off, after a short resistance, leaving two of their men wounded. Shortly after General Buller arrived, and from the top spent some time in a careful study, through his telescope, of the position held by the Boers, especially Hlangwane, which they had occupied. At one o’clock the force, having achieved its object, returned towards Chieveley Camp; and the enemy, who up to this had been lying low in silence, returned to the hill in considerable numbers, and started a heavy rifle-fire, which was just as briskly replied to by all arms of Dundonald’s force. Both sides suffered a few casualties, in our case there being a dozen wounded, including Lieutenant J. Churchill, S.A.L.H.; our opponents’ loss was not known, but one dead Boer was found on the ground two days later.
The 13th was so intensely hot that General Buller did not make any forward movement. On this date I received orders to take over the medical charge of the Rifle Reserve Battalion, a regiment composed mainly of reservists of those battalions of the King’s Royal Rifles and Rifle Brigade who were at this time in beleaguered Ladysmith, and commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Hon. E. J. Montagu-Stuart-Wortley, C.M.G., D.S.O. As I was informed that the regiment was to march out on the morrow, 1 spent the afternoon inspecting the medical and surgical equipment, also replenishing bandages and medicines from the Advance Medical Dep6t, which was attached to Major Kirkpatrick’s Field Hospital, under Lieutenant J. B. Short, R.A.M.C. Absolute secrecy was maintained, however, by headquarters as to where we were going and what was to be done; a day’s outing, with perhaps, at the most, a reconnaissance, was hinted at I had been misled by such a story before, during the Spion Kop expedition from Springfield, when I left many necessaries behind, so I determined not to be caught napping this time.
In the gray dawn of the 14th, regiment after regiment silently stood to arms, and marched out from Chieveley Camp. Their objective was Hussar Hill, about five miles to the north of Chieveley, which had been occupied by the enemy. The route taken was on the east side of the railway. The force was joined on the march by other troops, who had moved out during the night. General Hart’s Brigade was left behind to hold Gun Hill, Chieveley, and the southern line of railway; and Burn-Murdoch’s Brigade with ‘A’ Battery Royal Horse Artillery was left at Springfield to watch the left flank, but with these exceptions General Buller’s entire force was on the move.
LIST OF FORCES SENT FORWARD FROM CHIEVELEY ON FEBRUARY 14.
Second Mounted Brigade (Colonel the Earl of Dundonald).
South African Light Horse.
Thorneycroft's Mounted Infantry.
Composite Regiment of Mounted Infantry, which included— apd Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps, Mounted Infantry Company.
and Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers, Mounted Infantry Section. Natal Police Detachment Natal Carbineers, one squadron.
Imperial Light Horse, one squadron.
Second Division (Major-General Hon. N. G. Lyttelton, C.B.).
13th Hussars, one troop.
17th Company Royal Engineers.
Brigade Division Royal Field Artillery, which included—
7th, 63rd and 64th Batteries Royal Field Artillery.
Divisional Ammunition Column.
Second Brigade (Major-General Hildyard, C.B.).
2nd Battalion West Surrey Regiment and Battalion Devonshire Regiment, and Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment and Battalion East Surrey Regiment
Fourth Brigade (Colonel Norcott, 1st Battalion Rifle Brigade, commanding), and Battalion Scottish Rifles.
3rd Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps.
1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry.
1st Battalion Rifle Brigade.
Fifth Division (Lieutenant-General Sir Charles Warren, G.C.M.G., K.GB.).
1st Royal Dragoons, one troop.
37th Company Royal Engineers.
Brigade Division Royal Field Artillery, which included—
28th, 73rd and 78th Batteries Royal Field Artillery.
Divisional Ammunition Column.
Tenth Brigade (Major-General Talbot Coke), and Battalion Somersetshire Light Infantry, and Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment and Battalion Middlesex Regiment
Eleventh Brigade (Major-General A. S. Wynne, C.B.). and Battalion Royal Lancaster Regiment 1st Battalion South Lancashire Regiment Rifle Reserve Battalion.
Sixth Brigade, attached Fifth Division (Major-General Barton, C.B.). and Battalion Royal Fusiliers, and Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers.
1st Battalion Royal Welch Fusiliers, and Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers.
61st Howitzer Battery Royal Field Artillery.
Two 5-inch guns (16th Company, Southern Division, Royal Garrison Artillery).
Four naval la-pounder guns.
Detachment Section, Telegraph Division, Royal Engineers. Corps Troops, Ammunition Column.
REINFORCEMENTS DESPATCHED AFTER FEBRUARY 14.
February 17.—Two 5-inch guns (16th Company, Southern Division, Royal Garrison Artillery).
February 18.—19th Battery Royal Field Artillery.
February 19.—Two 4'7-inch naval guns (travelling carriages). February ao.—Four naval 1 a-pounders; 4th Mountain Battery; Pontoon Troop Royal Engineers; Balloon Section Royal Engineers. February as.—Fipth Brigade (Major-General Hart).
Royal Dublin Fusiliers.
Imperial Light Infantry.
February 22.—First Cavalry Brigade (Colonel Burn-Murdoch).
1st (Royal) Dragoons.
Headquarters and two squadrons 14th Hussars.
‘A' Battery Royal Horse Artillery.
February 25.—Two 4‘7-inch naval guns on platform mountings.
February 26.—1st Battalion Border Regiment
February 27.—1st Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment.
At about 8.30 am. Dundonald’s Brigade secured Hussar Hill The Boers tried to dispute the possession of it, but the South African Light Horse, by a smart piece of work securing a commanding ridge, brought up four Colt guns and poured a deadly fire into all the dongas in which the enemy were concealed, and they were compelled to retire. Meanwhile General Lyttelton’s force worked round on the right, and General Warren’s advanced in front and on the left. In close proximity to the Boer position the central force halted. The Rifle Reserve Battalion at once set to entrenching themselves, the men forming up in lines, and passing along rocks from hand to hand to others who were digging trenches or building sangars under observation of the company officers, who were taking their share of that work. This method of sangar-making, though ingenious and rapid, is not without danger, as it not only tires the men, and leaves them liable to heat-stroke on a hot day, but may also lead to cases of hernia Two such cases came under my notice on this occasion—both fresh ones, and caused by men trying to lift stones of greater bulk and weight than should have been attempted. While watching the entrenching operations, I noticed General Buffer a few hundred yards away on the top of the kopje; he was resting against a withered tree, and scanning the Boer position through his telescope.
The artillery opened fire towards mid-day, and the enemy returned the fire with several guns. Meanwhile General Lyttelton had advanced along the Blue Krantz valley, and was sharply engaged with some of the enemy, who had established themselves in the thick bush and rocks. The firing was heard by the Ladysmith garrison, and they signalled that ‘the Boer camp at Taba Myama had broken up. This showed that the Boers had appreciated the general advance, and were going to concentrate in front of us.
The next two days, like the 14th, were so hot that no infantry movements on any scale were advisable; as it was, several cases of heat-stroke occurred, and water for drinking was very scanty; it had to come by train from down-country to Chieveley, and thence to the troops in tanks on ox-waggons.
Early on the 15th the enemy shelled the bivouacking troops, but did no damage. Later on General Buller extended his position to the right by the occupation, after some opposition, of Moord Kraal, and commenced a steady artillery fire, which was directed chiefly from Hussar Hill. On this were placed the two 5-inch and five naval 12-pounders, in addition to some field batteries. The Rifle Reserve Battalion moved out to the left flank for the night. We had our officers’ headquarters beside some deserted kraals and a looted farm. The latter place was a perfect wreck, all the furniture broken, and the floors littered with torn books, letters, and photographs belonging to some recent loyal Natalian; amongst the debris lay the family Bible, torn and desecrated. Several small parties of Boers kept our outposts active all night: they had crawled up the dongas from the village of Colenso, and kept sniping us from the cover of some adjacent mealie-fields as we slept.
On the 16th the infantry outposts were pushed forward as far as the Gomba stream, and a portion of Cingolo mountain was reconnoitred by some of Dundonalds Brigade, which was engaged in protecting both flanks of the army and its line of communication with the railway at Chieveley. A steady bombardment was kept up by our artillery all day, their fire being chiefly concentrated on Green Hill; the enemy, who were being reinforced, replied with some half-dozen guns. Lukas Meyer wired to Pretoria on this day that1 heavy fighting is proceeding at Blue Kranz, the British being in overwhelming numbers; all the Federal positions are maintained at present.
On the 17th Sir Redvers Buller began his final advance on the Boer positions, General Lyttelton with the Second Division attacking Cingolo Hill and Nek, while Lord Dundonald’s orders were to remain in rear of the flanks of the infantry and see that they were not rushed, also to take any available chance. Had he remained strictly in this position he would probably have seen no fighting. Taking two regiments with him, the Composite Regiment and the South African Light Horse, he started at daybreak to get round in rear of the enemy’s position on Cingolo and attack him from behind, sending all his wheeled guns and ammunition carts to the infantry. He made a long detour across the Blau Krantz valley to the south and east, threading his way for four hours, concealed by the bushes and scrub. In this manner he got to the south-eastern slopes of Cingolo without attracting attention. His climb now began, and a difficult climb it was, the hill being very steep and covered with a dense undergrowth of bushes, with huge masses of rock piled in wild confusion, over which the horses had to scramble as best they could. Riding was impossible; all led their horses, and slowly but surely the top plateau was neared. The last part of the ascent was in single file, along a path so narrow and overhung with branches that the loads were being continually dragged off the ammunition ponies. Such an advance up a hill, known to be held by the enemy, was one of extreme danger, alike in its conception and its execution; it was a bold stroke in a great game. Fortunately, the movement was not opposed, probably because the attention of the defenders was taken up by the advance of the infantry towards the western sides of the mountain, and a small plateau was found near the top of the hill, protected by some rocks from the heights above. One squadron only was formed up, when the Mausers began to speak. This squadron at once dashed forward on the left and secured the high ground from the enemy, who, completely surprised, fled and took up a position further back, from which they opened a hot fire. More squadrons being now formed up, our men, reinforced again, made a rush forward, and, not knowing how few were opposing them, the Boers retreat soon became a regular running fight for two miles along Cingolo, one set of trenches after another being taken in rear by our men. While one of Lord Dundonald’s regiments was thus engaged with the enemy along the top ridge of the hill, the other regiment, the South African Light Horse, made a debouch to the right flank, and, working roughly parallel with the top, completed the business. The infantry, meanwhile, was advancing against Cingolo, but as our mounted men had now swept the hill, only one regiment, the Queen’s, came up on the southwestern end, and a terrible clamber they had. The day being hot, there was much suffering from lack of water. What the loss from a direct attack would have been with Boers in the trenches on Cingolo, with a safe line of retreat such as the Boers love, it is impossible to say; but it would have been very heavy, so that th e end well justified the means. Luck also favoured the enterprise, for had the enemy not been watching the infantry advance on the west, finding out Dundonald’s advance just too late, the casualties of our mounted men on that day would have told a very different tale. Thus was Cingolo Hill taken.
During the day the Rifle Reserve Battalion were moved to the eastern slopes of Hussar Hill, where they took up a position beside the Royal Lancaster Regiment. Our situation here was not an enviable one, as we lay around and behind the artillery, who drew a considerable amount of the enemy’s shell-fire. Notwithstanding admirable sand-bag embrasures, the naval men suffered to some extent. One shell, which came from a Long Tom mounted during the night, knocked over six out of seven naval gunners, killing two and wounding four, the infantry, as is the rule, getting all the stray shells into their bivouacs on the slopes; they had, however, a little compensation, as some of them did a brisk trade with a neighbouring field force canteen, which was buying up all unexploded shells for the trophy-hunters in Maritzburg and Durban. A unique case of surgical interest presented itself to me during the day. A Kaffir driver, wielding a long bamboo-handled whip of the ordinary colonial type used for driving oxen, came under shell-fire. Not appreciating such a display, and eager to get by as quickly as he possibly could, he let out a long string of Kaffir adjectives at the oxen, and followed this up with a ferocious lash of his whip at the foremost ox of his team. By some chance the tail of the lash caught in the bough of a mimosa-bush behind him, and the impetus of the blow was of such violence that the upper bone of the man's arm broke below the shoulder-joint with a crack clearly audible to me, though I was standing some twenty paces away. I put his arm in splints, and sent him to one of the field hospitals in the rear.
During the afternoon the 64th Royal Field Artillery was sent across the Gomba valley, there to support a flank attack, which had been arranged for the follow-ing day. At nightfall the Fourth Brigade held a position half-way between the Gomba spruit and the Nek, and the West Surreys bivouacked for the night on the northern crests of Cingolo. We all went to sleep ‘cheery’ that night, in anticipation of the morrow, which was fated to place the key of Ladysmith in our hands.
At dawn on Sunday morning, the 18th, the enemy ‘opened the ball’ with their guns by shelling the troops on the sides of Cingolo; however, they did little damage, sangars having been built by our men during the night At eight o’clock Hildyard’s Brigade crossed the Nek, the West Yorks leading, the Queen’s and East Surreys supporting, and attacked Monte Cristo. Captain T. H. Berney, of the West Yorks, leading the assault, was the first man up, but was unfortunately shot in the head as he gallantly reached the top. The Boers then bolted before our infantry got a chance of using their bayonets. Our men pushed forward with a rush and an enthusiastic cheer, and gained the steep crags of the summit. This action drew a shrapnel-fire from the enemy’s guns on Hlangwane, which lay to their left; and while they took cover our artillery shelled the more distant hills, the heavy guns being chiefly in action, as the range of the enemy’s position was too far for the Field Artillery at this period of the day. In a short time the Boer artillery was silenced.
General Lyttelton now advanced Norcott’s Brigade, and the Rifle Brigade worked forward along the western slopes towards the back of the enemy’s position, the Royal Welch Fusiliers, supported by General Warren, who sent Barton’s Brigade forward, assailing the eastern flank. At the same time Dundonald’s Brigade watched the western slopes, and drove back those of the enemy who went there to escape from the effects of our guns. They were assaulted by a heavy artillery fire on their front and flank, attacked on their flank and rear, and made but a slight resistance. The combining of our forces was the signal for hearty cheering, which was increased when the 7th Battery Royal Field Artillery arrived in support of the 64th Royal Field Artillery, for ‘Tommy’ loves the gunners. The position was carried by the Royal Scots Fusiliers, and abandoned precipitately by the enemy, who left behind a large quantity of material, many dead and wounded, and a few prisoners. This occurred before mid-day. A well-earned rest followed, and the work of entrenching commenced. One of the prisoners, named Constantine von Braun, claimed to be a Colonel in the Prussian Army. He wore an oilskin coat with steel netting.
Throughout this attack, which was made in echelon from the right, the naval guns under Captain Jones, R.N., and the Royal Artillery under Colonel Parsons, R.A., rendered the greatest possible assistance, shelling the successive positions until the enemy closed on them. General Buller, noting that our troops, who were now firmly planted on Monte Cristo, both enfiladed and commanded Green Hill, with its two miles of Boer trenches, had ordered a frontal advance. But our opponents were not to be caught napping, and very wisely had evacuated this position, hurriedly crossing the Tugela in great disorder, and leaving several of their camps, with waggon-loads of ammunition, stores and supplies, in our hands. The troops were in excellent spirits, being much gratified with their achievements, and, despite the great heat and scarcity of water, were anxious to continue. One could hear them expressing wishes that, tired as they were, they could start in pursuit. Nevertheless, the men wanted water; roads had to be made across the Gomba valley for our artillery and transport, and owing to the nature of the country intercommunication between units was difficult, so General Buller determined to let them bivouac where they stood, and bring up the rest of the force and other guns during the night. We had done very well, notwithstanding a casualty list of over a hundred. We had taken a formidable position in Monte Cristo; the key to Ladysmith was in our hands; we had three brigades and two batteries right across the enemy’s centre; but there was still a strong position on Hlangwane, facing us, about two and a quarter miles to our front, and on our right the river-bank. These, taken together, made a formidable obstacle in a difficult country. The weather was intensely hot, and the ground traversed exceedingly awkward; but the energy and dash of the troops was very pleasant to see, and all had done well. When such is the case, it is hard to select, but the work done by Dundonald’s Cavalry, the Queen's, the Scots Fusiliers, and the Rifle Brigade, was perhaps the most noticeable, while the steadiness of the gunners and the excellent practice of the guns, both naval and military, were superb. It should be added that the infantry received considerable help from the fire of the long-range naval guns at Chieveley.
Ladysmith garrison watched the shelling of the enemy's position all day with intense satisfaction. Even the British infantry were observable thence while making the ascent of the hill. The besieged heliographed to Weenen to this effect, and added that there was a splendid position on Asvogel Krantz, which, if seized, would command the railway to Nel-thorpe, besides the back, and perhaps even the summit, of Bulwana Hill. I had an opportunity of walking over Green Hill, Monte Cristo, and Cingolo during the afternoon, and examining the Boer position. Green Hill I first visited; its grassy slopes were 'pock-marked’ with holes from our shells, the ground being one mass of pieces of shell in the form of iron splinters, copper driving-bands, and shrapnel bullets.
'A bull in a china-shop,’ speaking figuratively, could scarcely make such a litter. The trees, bushes, rocks, and ground were distorted by lyddite. Here a tree cut across, its trunk strangely twisted and stained yellow; there a boulder, large enough for four men to hide behind, had been struck and split into segments, separated by great brimstone-smelling fissures. The path of lyddite could be easily traced, for everything within some distance of its explosion is stained a canary yellow colour. The Boer trenches on Green Hill and the adjacent hills, which we had taken, extended over an area of more than two miles. They were a marvellous example of the ingenuity, cunning, and patience of the enemy with which we had to deal. Looking at the entrenchments from the British side, even with a powerful telescope, one would be deceived, so artfully were they concealed by a facing of bushes or sods, so well put together and matching the surrounding ground that it was almost impossible to detect any irregularity of surface. On close examination, these trenches proved so interesting that I think them worthy of a short description. As the surface soil was extremely shallow—not 6 inches in places—and as the trenches were sunk to the depth of about 5 feet, they had for the most part to be hewn out of the solid rock. This seemed to have been done entirely by manual labour, as marks of picks were apparent on the stone. The sites selected were chiefly just along the sky-lines, but if a means of communication existed from the side of a trench with the back of a kopje, two, or even three rows of trenches might be present one above the other. Although there were some two miles of trenches, none of them were straight, but cut in zigzag fashion to avoid enfilading Are; many had traverses also for this purpose, and in some the traverses were tunnelled in such a way as to allow of communication between one trench and the next. The width of the trenches at the top was never more than feet, and they widened out at the bottom to nearly 4 feet, being, in fact, so hollowed out as to afford excellent shelter ' against shell-fire. The clay and rocks removed to make the excavation were thrown up in front in the form of a solid embankment, which was in many cases surmounted by sacks full of clay, with sods, cut grass, and bushes in front to conceal the ridge. The bottom of the trench was strewn with hay or straw for comfort, enabling the occupants to sleep there at night, and many were roofed over either with beams of wood, having sacks of clay between, to protect the occupants from shell-fire, or with sheets of corrugated zinc, tom from the roofs of our colonists’ houses in Colenso, to afford shelter from the sun.
The following casualties were reported by General Buller as having occurred between February 15 and 18: Officers—1 killed, 8 wounded; men—13 killed, 155 wounded, 2 missing; a full total of 179.
On the 19th the Second and Fifth Divisions moved forward along the south bank of the Tugela, and the Sixth Brigade, under General Barton, occupied Hlang-wane Hill, after a short but sharp skirmish. While our troops were lying among the rocks on the eastern side of the hill the enemy brought some pom-poms and Creusots into action, which enfiladed them from the north. Some Boers similarly placed on the western slope of the same hill were enfiladed by our artillery. The hill was for a short time enveloped in thick smoke from the bursting shells of the artillery of the opposing army, this being materially increased by the dry grass and scrub taking fire. The infantry behaved with great gallantry. Captain W. L. Thorburn, of the Royal Fusiliers, continued to direct die advance of his men after receiving a mortal wound in the abdomen. Sergeant E. Ford, of the West Yorks, when both his company officers were shot, took their place and commanded with cool judgment and courage.
On Hlangwane being taken, the enemy crossed the Tugela to the north, and practically evacuated Colenso.
The trenches south of the Tugela were now all in our hands. At the rear of Hlangwane we found a big Boer camp, which was captured. Among the tents standing I noticed one, a rather large marquee; this had been looted from the British hospital equipment which was captured from us by the enemy at Dundee, after the battle of Talana Hill, and had been used by them as a headquarters tent for General Botha. A considerable quantity of food was also found—flour, potatoes, bags of rusks and meat, some of the latter in pots on still smouldering fires; to all appearance the Boers were well provided with good food. I never saw such a variety of rubbish as lay about both in the laager and in the trenches: old clothes, old boots, and tin cans were strewn everywhere; among the debris were also picked up pairs of corsets, pieces of crape, and other feminine gear. I heard that a letter was found from Joubert to General Fourie, evidently in reply to a request from the latter for help. Joubert stated his regret at not being able to comply with Fourie’s wish, as he had 3,000 men put out of action in the direction of Spion Kop. The Boers also left behind about 1,700 new picks and shovels, and about 60 horses. The amount of Mauser ammunition abandoned by them in the trenches was very considerable, and 1 had an opportunity of picking out from amongst it specimens of the following illegal articles: soft-nosed, flat-nosed, split-nosed rifle bullets; also the cupped man-stopping revolver ammunition. All these bullets are but varieties of what are called 1 expanding bullets,’ often erroneously described in the press a 'explosive bullets.’ The wounds they produce are of such a barbaric and ghastly nature that their use in war is forbidden by international law. During the day our
heavy guns were moved to the north end of Monte Cristo, and the addition to the force of two more 47 naval guns on travelling-carriages was decidedly welcome. It has been suggested (Major Callwell, R.A., in 'Proceedings R.A.I.’) that had some of our long-range guns been placed on Monte Cristo the Boer retreat might possibly have been made more difficult. In favour of this view is the fact that their main line of retreat lay over a temporary bridge, which they had built close to and within range of this hill.
All through the afternoon and on to dusk in the evening, looking through our glasses in the direction of the Colenso- Ladysmith road, vast clouds of dust met our eyes, and gave rise to much discussion. It was apparent that an important change in the disposition of the enemy’s forces was in progress. Some said it was the arrival of reinforcements; others, that it was merely a change of front; but the majority were of opinion that a general retreat was in progress. Major Stuart-Wortley was one of the officers holding this last opinion; he obtained permission from General Buller to advance on Colenso village during the night, and endeavour to occupy it by dawn the following morning. During the night the enemy kept flashing the rays of a search-light which they had mounted near Colenso on the positions occupied by our troops, showing that they evidently anticipated a night attack, but a few shells from our naval guns fired in the direction of the apparatus made them cease. There were seventeen casualties among our troops during this day.