Spearman’s Farm Camp, Tuesday, January 30th, 1900. If you looked up from the Tugela to the hills in which Sir Charles Warren fought you would say that they rose in a continuous slope to the top. But South African hills are like the sea: at a distance they seem smooth, but look close into them and you will find unsuspected valleys and crests. Nothing on the face of South African nature is what it seems. You see the British trenches up there, seeming to lie immediately under the Boer trenches, but if you go up you will find that they are on different hills, and a deep valley lies between. You see troops march out on to a sheer plain; and when they have disappeared suddenly in their march you learn for the first time that the plain is no plain but is full of dips and rises, dongas and unremarked kopjes. From the river it seemed for almost a week that Warren’s troops were within charging distance of the crests of all those hills; really they remained from the crests the distance that separates a victory from a retirement. If a turning movement was to be made in those hills at all it needed to be made at once—before the Boers had built their works so far to the west. If time were allowed to pass, the turning movement became a frontal attack. It was Sir Charles Warren’s misfortune to make a frontal attack. It were unprofitable and tedious to describe all the details of a six days’ battle which was visible only on one side. On all those days in varying degrees the hills crashed with guns and rattled with musketry. At a little distance you might have supposed that the resonant noises came from some haunted mountain; for the hills looked sleepy and peaceful and deserted, and there seemed to be no reason for all those strange sounds—the bark of field guns, the crackle of musketry, the rapping of Vickers-Maxims, and the tat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat of Maxims. At 3 a.m. on Saturday, January 20th, General Woodgate occupied a kopje half-way up to the crest-line of the hills, and guns were placed on it. Three Tree Hill it was named, though the cause of the name was soon removed. More guns were placed on a kopje to the right, more again to the left on the plain at the foot of the hills. Only the great hill Spion Kop now divided the right wing of our army—the force, that is to say, at Potgieter’s—from the left. At eight o’clock the guns on Three Tree Hill fired the first cannon-shots ever heard on those desolate hills. The infantry prepared to advance; General Woodgate was on the right, General Hart was in the middle, General Hildyard was on the left, but two battalions (the Lancashire Fusiliers and the York and Lancaster Regiment) belonging to General Woodgate’s Lancashire Brigade had been transferred to General Hart’s brigade. Up went the infantry, for another attack on hills, another frontal attack! You had some difficulty to pick them out from the freckled hillsides—were those rocks or men in khaki up there on the side of that kopje? Rocks. No—they move—they are men. They advance. General Hart, with the strongest brigade, was ahead of the others. One inferior height after another was put behind him in the series of kopjes that rise to the sky. And the Boers? They were invisible. Jagged schantzes against the sky showed where a few hundreds were. The rest had become part of the rocks and the brown grass. Soon even our own infantry became invisible from Three Tree Hill—invisible, unless you had the true eye for infantry, which can pick out its object, as the fisherman can in a stream, when another eye sees nothing. These are not the days in which a line of men four deep marches up to a similar line, and when both have discharged their weapons point-blank the line that remains the less thin marches through the other. Weapons, we are told to-day, are too terrible for wars to continue. What an ironical thing is fact! Soon, if the Boers cannot be dislodged by the long range skirmishing imposed by modern weapons, we may really return to the practices of the t-errible old days. If we attack with a sufficient number of men—how many Heaven only knows!—some must get through and be alive at the end of the day. Shall we emulate Grant in the American Civil War and launch a mass of men against a mass of men, and disregard losses when we call the issue of the day a victory? We may come to that. But we have not yet. Our own infantry, I say, were almost invisible. In Hart’s brigade the York and Lancaster Regiment and the Lancashire Fusiliers—regiments just arrived at the front—were in the firing line. The Dublins and the Border Regiment were almost level with them. The lines indeed had become mixed and broken—but not broken in retreat. For the first time a change had come over our infantry: they dropped behind shelter with an inspiration caught from their enemies, watched their opportunities, and moved forward with a most notable combination of caution and dash. Their skill was not yet, of course, the skill of the enemy, and an advance, however skilful, has still to be made more or less openly. Men were dropping, but the ground gained was a fair return for the expenditure. To say that is to vindicate the tactics of the day. May the inspiration of our men on that Saturday grow! Eye and intelligence alone are needed; the cheeriness, the quality of endurance, are fully there. 1 saw one man (in the enjoyment of one of those trifling licenses which are permitted on active service) trudging happily to the firing line with a puppy under his arm. The na'if act was somehow characteristic, and I scarcely knew whether to think it amusing or pathetic. I wonder how the man and the dog spent that day. Did the dog return yapping at the heels of stretcher-bearers? On our extreme left a headland ran out from the range of hills southward into the plain, and the mounted infantry were opposite the southern face of it. Bastion Hill it had been suitably named. “Go a little way up it. See what sort of place it is, and who is there. If it is strongly held come back, but if it is not, go on, take it, and hold it.” That was the sense of the order given to Lord Dundonald. When an officer is told to go on if he can, he finds in most cases that he can; and that is just what Lord Dundonald did that day. The South African Light Horse were told to go first. They dismounted and drew open like a fan into their line of advance. Now there was one man called Tobin—a sailor—and he sprang at the hill as though it were the familiar rigging of a ship. Up he went hand over hand, up an ascent like the slope of a bell-tent. Every one who watched held his breath for the man to fall—not from the steepness, but from a bullet. Ten minutes before all the others he reached the top. There he stood against the sky and waved his helmet on his rifle. No Boer was there, and the hill in a few minutes was ours. “It was splendid to watch,” Lord Tullibardine said the next day. “It was a V.C. thing, and yet, if you know what I mean, it wasn’t.” Yes, I knew what he meant; but the absence of Boers made no jot of difference to the motive of Tobin. Shall we not invent a reward for acts of valour which turn out to have been misprompted? If the top of Bastion Hill was empty, one of those accursed, unexpected ridges beyond it—they ought to be expected by this time at any rate— was not. When the Mounted Infantrymen sat down on the top of Bastion Hill the fusilade on them began. Major Childe — Childe-Pemberton he used to be—was soon killed. He was greyheaded, but this was the first day of his life in action. He had prophesied the night before that he would be killed “If I am killed,” said he, “put this as my epitaph : 1 Is it well with the child? And she answered, It is well.’” And the sad pun was respected by his comrades; and on the simple cross near Bastion Hill are cut the words, “Is it well with the child? It is well.” The Mounted Infantry held the hill till they were relieved. At the end of the day our infantry were lining a row of kopjes parallel with the Boer crests, but lower. A dip and a steep glacis, a thousand yards across, separated them from the Boers. Our loss in killed and wounded was some 400 men. At dawn the next morning it was seen that in the night the Boers had abandoned a few trenches on their right. Our men were in them like a flash; and that was the last move we made forward till the capture of Spion Kop. We strained at the skyline, but it was not to be ours. The fighting settled into its last stage of invisibility. Our men, as well as the Boers, were in the rocks. The glacis ahead was still impossible. The battle was only audible. The guns and the musketry took it in turns to play the first part. As soon as the guns slackened their work, the snipping (for the shooting was all the premeditated shooting of marksmen) began from the Boer ridges. Up to a certain point of aggravation it was allowed to grow, and then from nearly all our batteries would come the sudden bark of retaliation. Lyddite, fired from four howitzers with quite unexpected accuracy, knocked schantzes sideways. A Boer—on rare occasions two or three Boers — might be seen running away. But generally the lyddite and the shrapnel battened the enemy down in his works. He was quiet. Then our guns would become quiet too, and no sooner did that happen than the Boer marksmen would pop up again. Ping, ping, ping! round the very gunners who had scarcely had time to settle themselves behind the smoking guns. Bullets that missed the ridges could do nothing but drop over into the plain; the whole field was under fire. For a good part of two days 1 sat in the works on Three Tree Hill. Some signallers were at work there. One stood, at one time, outside the shelter of the breastworks with his flag in his hand. An excellent target, the Boers seemed to think. The singing of a bullet came more frequently overhead, one or two struck the ground near. “Better mind where you stand,” said another signaller. “I’m all right.” And so you might have thought after you had seen the man stand exposed there for hours, but at last he had exhausted his chances and he fell. He was only hit in the foot, but he spun round before he fell. Another signaller at the end of his spell of signalling dashed off to join his regiment in the firing line. “Where am I going?” he said, “Going to give ’em a ’undred and fifty of the best. That’s for my pal who was killed at Willow Grange”—his friend, one of the West Yorks, had been killed on that infernal shoulder of Brynbella—”’e would stay to ’ave a few more and then ’e got it in the ’ead.” The work of the stretcher-bearers on all these days deserves a chorus to celebrate it. An oddly assorted body of men, many of whom have come to the front expecting to perform ordinary labour for ordinary wages, find themselves drilled under an imperial officer and, at the command, flung into the firing line to pick up the wounded! The private soldier may be cool, but he could not be cooler than “the body-snatcher,” as the camp is pleased to call the bearer. I have seen one snatcher hurrying over the rocks in a pair of absurd canvas shoes, another in yawning boots and clothes that must have seen service in the streets of a town. Well, if the quality of heroism be measured by its unexpectedness, or the unsuitability of the means, the essence of it is yours, body-snatchers! How many of you, I wonder, have had your own bodies snatched by the fate from which you went to rescue others? A good many, I know, but people do not consult the casualty lists anxiously for your names. When fighting is after the manner I have described you can drift in and out of it imperceptibly. Only the piping song of a bullet tells you that you have come within the zone of fire; you can no more see the enemy than you could when you stood on the quiet veldt miles away. This green hill is under fire, that green hill is not; but both have the same innocent appearance, and perhaps the cattle are feeding on both. The stream of war has eddies; and you may be carried in a few moments from the pitifullest scenes to a grove quiet and shady, where the yellow apricots hang like lamps under the trees, and where you are inclined to think that such a thing as war never happened. Even in the firing line the elements of battle may be found elusive. “What did you throw that stone at me for?” cried a soldier to a man next him on one of these days. “I didn’t throw it,” was the answer. “You did.” ”I didn’t throw anything.” “Liar!” The men were ready to fly at one another when —what was that on the khaki uniform of the first man, beginning to show through, red and sodden? "You’re hit, man!” said the other. And of course it was quite true. On the evening of Tuesday, January 23rd, it was clear that we could get no further with the frontal attack. Sir Charles Warren had all the time had Spion Kop, of which the general direction is north and south, in his eye as likely to be useful. If we could get on to the southern crest of it we could probably push on to the northern end, and once there we could open a flanking fire on the Boer lines which ran east and west. Spion Kop, properly used, was the key of the position, and the key that would open the door of Ladysmith. Patrols had reported that there were only a few Boers on it. Therefore Sir Charles Warren presented his scheme for capturing it, and it was accepted by Sir Redvers Buller when it had been all but decided to bring the whole left wing back to Potgieter’s. Soon after dusk on Tuesday a party set out to make a night attack on the hill. These were Thorneycroft’s Mounted Infantry, the Lancashire F'usiliers, the Lancaster Regiment, two companies of the South Lancashire Regiment, and a company of Engineers; General Woodgate commander. It was a hand-and-knee march up the southern face—a climb over smooth rock and grass. It was necessarily slow; it is to the great credit of the party that it was steady. The force was three-quarters of the way up before it was discovered. Then a Boer sentry challenged it for the password. “Waterloo!” said an officer. The sentry turned to flee, but fell bayoneted where he turned. Thorneycroft’s were on the left, the Lancashire Fusiliers on the right of the front line. “Fire and charge!” came the order. The Fusiliers went forward at the deliberate conventional trot; Thorneycroft’s, with the untrained, admirable enthusiasm of volunteers, rushed forward in a frenzy. Only a picket was behind the sentry, and it vanished. But the crest was not reached till dawn. Colley made scarcely a longer or steeper march up Majuba. When dawn came the party found that it was in the clouds. It could see nothing but the plateau—400 yards across— on which it stood. Trenches were made, but it was difficult to determine the right place for them. The Boers were invisible; our own troops below were invisible; for three hours the party lived on a fog-bound island in the air. At last the mist lifted. The curtain rose upon the performance of a tragedy. The Boers—need I say on another ridge of Spion Kop?—began to fire heavily, and our men seemed to have no sufficient protection in the trenches. The space was small; they were crowded together. I will describe the scene as I saw it from below. I shall always have it in my memory—that acre of massacre, that complete shambles, at the top of a rich green gully with cool granite walls (a way fit to lead to heaven) which reached up the western flank of the mountain. To me it seemed that our men were all in a small square patch; there were brown men and browner trenches, the whole like an over-ripe barley-field. As I looked soon after the mist had risen (it was nine o’clock, 1 think) I saw three shells strike a certain trench within a minute; each struck it full in the face, and the brown dust rose and drifted away with the white smoke. The trench was toothed against the sky like a saw—made, I supposed, of sharp rocks built into a rampart. Another shell struck it, and then—heavens!—the trench rose up and moved forward. The trench was men; the teeth against the sky were men. They ran forward bending their bodies into a curve, as men do when they run under a heavy fire; they looked like a cornfield with a heavy wind sweeping over it from behind. On the left front of the trenches they dropped into some grey rocks where they could fire. It is wonderful to see a man drop quickly for shelter when he has to; his body might be made of paste, and for the first time in his life he can splash down in an amorphous heap behind a rock. Spout after spout of dust bounced up from the brown patch. So it would go on for perhaps half an hour, when the whole patch itself bristled up from flatness; another lot of men was making for the rocks ahead. They flickered up, fleeted rapidly and silently across the sky, and flickered down into the rocks without the appearance of either a substantial beginning or end to the movement. The sight was as elusive as a shadow show. The Boers had three guns playing like hoses on our men. On the west of the hill they were firing a Vickers-Maxim, in the middle a large Creusot gun, on the east of the hill another Vickers-Maxim. It was a triangular fire. Our men on Spion Kop had no gun. When on earth would the artillery come? Guns were the only thing that could make the hill either tenable or useful. When on earth would they come? No sign of them yet, not even a sign of a mountain battery, and we who watched wriggled in our anxiety. The question now was whether enough men could live through the shelling till the guns came. Men must have felt that they had lived a long life under that fire by the end of the day, and still the guns had not come. From Three Tree Hill the gunners shelled the usual places, as well as the northern ridges of Spion Kop, where the Boer riflemen were supposed to be. Where the Boer guns were we did not know. If only they had offered a fine mark like our own guns we should have smashed them in five minutes. The British gunner is proud of the perfect alignment and the regular intervals which his battery has observed under the heaviest fire; the Boer gunner would be sorry to observe any line or any intervals. He will not have a gun in the open; he is not proud, but he is safe. You might say that in this war the object of the Boer gunners is to kill an enemy who cannot see them; that of the heroic British gunners is to be killed by an enemy whom they cannot see. The European notion of field guns is that they should be light enough to be moved about rapidly in battle and not hamper the speed of an army on the march. Now does it not appear that the Boers will change all that for us? They have dragged heavy, long-range guns about with them and put them on the tops of steep hills, and we, of all people, know that they have not hampered the speed of their army. Some dunderhead, perhaps, proposed that such guns should be taken by the army into the field—some fellow who had never read a civilised book on gunner)’. But how many fools in history have led the world? Let us make ourselves wise men by adding another to the list. Reinforcements were ordered to Spion Kop. They were needed. The men on Spion Kop were crying out for them. I could see men running to and fro on the top, ever hunted to a fresh shelter. Some Boer riflemen crept forward, and for a few minutes fifty Boers and British heaved and swayed hand to hand. They drew apart. The shelling did not cease. The hollow rapping of the Vickers-Maxims was a horrid sound; the little shells from them flapped and clacked along the ground in a long, straight line like a string of geese. But the reinforcements were coming; already a thin line corkscrewed up the southern slope of Spion Kop. Their bayonets reflected the sun. Mules were in the column with ammunition, screwing themselves upwards as lithe as monkeys. The Dorsets, Bethune’s, the Middlesex, the Imperial Light Infantry—volunteers destined to receive a scalding baptism—were on the climb. From left to right of the field, too, from west to east, infantry moved. Hildyard’s Brigade and the Somersets emerged from behind Three Tree Hill in open order, and moved towards the Boer line on the north and towards the west flank of Spion Kop. The Boers snipped into them. A man was down— a shot rabbit in the grass with his legs moving. The infantry went a little way further north and east, halted and watched Spion Kop the rest of the day. General Woodgate had been mortally wounded about ten o’clock in the morning; the command came by a natural devolution to Colonel Thorney-croft, and this big, powerful man, certainly the best mark on the hill, moved about fearlessly all day and was untouched. The reinforcements poured up the steep path, which bent over suddenly on to the plateau at the top. It was ten steps from shelter to death. The Scottish Fusiliers came over the east side of the hill from Potgieter’s. The men were packed on to the narrow table under the sky; some were heard to say that they would willingly go forward or go back, but that they could not stay where they were. But no order was given to go forward. If there were few orders it was because the officers had dwindled away. In the Lancashire Fusiliers only three officers were unwounded; in Thorney-croft’s eleven were hit out of eighteen. Of Thor-neycroft’s men only about sixty came down unwounded out of 190. Late in the afternoon the 3rd Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifles advanced up the eastern slope of Spion Kop from Potgieter’s and seized two precipitous humps. The left half-battalion took the left hump, the right half the right hump. Never was anything more regular, and seldom more arduous. One hundred men were lost in the brief advance. I did not see it, and I am told I missed the most splendid thing that day. English people are fond of praising, with a paradoxical generosity, the deeds of Irish and Scottish regiments. Here is a case for praise, without affectation, of an English regiment. Night fell, and still no guns. The shell fire continued and the snipping. The Boers still had the range. At eight o’clock Colonel Thorneycroft decided to retire. We were to give up the key of the position and the key to Ladysmith—and no one will ever be able to find anything but praise for what Colonel Thorneycroft did that day. He had been sitting on a target for thirteen hours, and now he was going. It was necessary. Some men had fought there for twenty-one hours without water. In England the physical proof of what that means is lacking. The mountain battery was already up; two naval twelve-pounders were half-way up. But Thorneycroft was going now. It was necessary. When dawn came the officer in command of the naval guns on Mount Alice looked through the long telescope. He looked long before he answered some one who asked how our men were on Spion Kop. "They are all Boers and Red Cross men there,” he said. That was the first we, who had slept at Potgieter’s, knew of the retirement; it was the first the Headquarters Staff knew of it. In a few hours Warren’s force was coming back across the Tugela. “The way round” had failed. No, let me say one of the ways round had failed; another must be found. It seems now that wherever we go our way must be through hills; yet many more attempts must be made to overcome the heavy restrictions which modern warfare imposes upon a force attacking hills, many more sacrifices must be made to the inexorable before Ladysmith can be abandoned without disgrace. Sir Charles Warren made his retirement memorable for speed and orderliness. The last group was crossing the river early on Friday morning when a Boer shell plumped into the river. It was a signal of success, but Sir Redvers Buller, who stood by, would have watched anything else in the world with the same impassivity. We had lost 1,500 odd men in the week’s fighting. A doctor told me of the scene on Spion Kop on Thursday morning. A great proportion of the wounds had been made by shells, therefore they must not be described. A Boer doctor looked at the dead bodies of men and horses, the litter, the burnt grass where shells had set fire to it, at the whole sad and splendid scene where the finest infantry in the world had suffered, “No!” he said, with double truth, “we Boers would not. could not suffer like that.”