COLENSO, Thursday, February 22nd, 1900. Success is comparatively dull. Here were we making a fighting march along the range of Monte Christo, flanking the enemy, taking him at a complete tactical disadvantage, making his whole line bulge and crumple because we were pushing hard on it at one end, and yet there was never a moment when one was thrilled as by the impotent heroism of Colenso, Spion Kop, or Vaal Krantz. Your own successes in war may be dull to watch; it is not dull indeed to your heart, but warming and genial, if your heart has been frozen, and sickened with failure. The fighting march, as I may call the battle of Monte Christo, was dull to see because it was gradual, the events of a day seemed trifling, and the fighting was more than half invisible. But the accumulated events made it the best achievement so far of Sir Redvers Buller’s column. And what a pleasant irony was success here and now! A month before we had left this place— these close-tangled, knotted hills—to find a way round. We were back here with our knowledge of geography strengthened. There was no way round. These hills from Colenso westwards are a spur of the Drakensberg mountains. East of Colenso the country, if dissimilar, is no better. What then was to be done? The honourable obligations under which we were laid to help Ladysmith were not dissipated in proportion as the military enormity of attacking these hills became clearer. Quite the reverse. What on earth, then, was to be done? We had seen the outlying camps round Ladysmith; we had been in frequent communication with the garrison; we had read their tales of bad water, of horse and mule to eat, and of the ever-growing sickness; we could never forget the laconic splendid message as far back as January 6th : “Hard pressed.” Reason said, nevertheless, “Leave these hills; do not fight for 8,000 men when you will lose more in saving them. Do not make sentiment superior to expediency. Scatter your forces no longer. Concentrate a great army in the Free State, and go forward with all the strength of military wisdom at your back.” Reason said all this; but reason is less than impulse, or conscience, or faith, or hope, or charity, or, perhaps, even than madness. No, no—none could think, after all, of sacrificing Ladysmith. How, then, was Ladysmith to be helped? I imagine that in this quandary Sir Redvers Buller argued thus: “There is no way round. Very well; it matters little where I try to push through. All places are equally bad; all attempts are equally desperate. In these circumstances, the best thing to do is to reduce my line of communication as much as possible. If I am forced to retreat, as I very well may be, I shall then have no difficulty that is purely unnecessary. In short I must return to the railway.” At least the decision fits the argument. Back to Chieveley the relief column came. The 13th and 14th Hussars, the Royals, the York and Lancaster Regiment and the Lancashire Fusiliers were detailed to watch our left at Springfield. The army shot an arrow, so to speak, on to Hussar Hill. This place was to be ours, and then become the starting-point of new operations. It was called Hussar Hill because a few Hussars had been cut off there and killed while reconnoitring. It is necessary to describe the position. The hills at the back of Colenso—of which Grobler’s Kloof is one—run roughly east and west. East of Grobler’s Kloof a range falls away to the south at right angles to the hills behind Colenso. This range is on the south side of the Tugela, and Hlangwana and the hills called Monte Christo and Cingolo are part of it. Now the long low ridge of which Hussar Hill is part lies in the angle made by the Grobler’s Kloof range and the Monte Christo range. The ridge runs parallel with the Monte Christo range, and is divided from it by a shallow valley; in other words it lies roughly north and south. The scheme was to take Hussar Hill, or to avoid confusion, I will say the long Hussar ridge, cross the shallow valley, march up Cingolo, and then move along the line of the range on to the enemy’s flank. On Monday, February 12th, some mounted infantry visited Hussar Hill, to find out more accurately what sort of place it was. The Boers were in the habit of visiting it every day. On this day they let the mounted infantry walk about on it while they themselves lay in a donga near by. Some infantry and field guns had come out with the mounted infantry, but seeing their comrades safely on to the place where they would be, they went home. At last the mounted infantry started for home too. Then the Boers rushed from the donga, boldly lined the top of the hill, and fired luxuriously into the departing force. The mounted infantry arranged their retirement judiciously—in succession of squadrons. Sir Bryan Leighton’s squadron came last, accompanied by some Colt guns on Lord Dundonald’s galloping carriages. The force came away with about a dozen casualties. Mr. Jack Churchill was hit in the leg. He had just arrived from England, and this was the first day’s fighting he had seen. It seemed as though he had paid his brother’s debts. On Wednesday, February 14th, Lord Dundonald marched out early to Hussar Hill. A battery of Field Artillery, and the Irish Fusiliers followed him. The Boers raced him for the hill. He won by about five minutes. The Boers were three-quarters of the way through the donga which runs from Hussar Hill to Hlangwana—a scraggy water-track, with a thick stem and arms struck out on either side, like a ruined feather. From this they fired on to the hill, and we ground back our answer from the Colt machines and tossed shrapnel down on the places where the gunners thought the Boers were likely to be. Hussar Hill was ours. Now to bring up the army. For three days the hill was like a standing flywheel which winds everything up to it. The chief need was water, and to get water we must spread out. All Thursday and Friday we were edging crabwise along the ridge south-eastwards; little white bursting globes of smoke went first, probing the bush, teaching us the way; the mounted infantry came next, and the whole column was beckoned on, as by the white arms of a siren, by the silver band which was curved in the valley at the end of the ridge. That was the Blaauwkrantz; that was water. It was slow work moving. The troops lay about for the greater part of the day, and craved water. The sun was uncovered; the heat was mordant. “We are just laying and drying up,” I heard a soldier say in a phrase, I thought, of unapproachable descriptive quality. Meanwhile the Boers sat among the mimosas and in their elaborate sand-bagged trenches on Hlangwana, and on all the range between there and Monte Christo. On Hussar Hill we had, besides field guns, four naval twelve-pounders, two five-inch garrison guns, and a battery of howitzers. And the Boers shelled us with an invisible three-inch gun. No place on the hill was sheltered. The Boers must have been bewildered by the very number of targets. Sometimes they fired at the guns for a few minutes, then they would change to a group of battery horses, then to a filing line of infantry, then to a transport train. And we! Why, on those rare occasions when we see a gun or a few Boers we are only for the moment relieved from the constant puzzle of having nothing to fire at. On Saturday, February 17th, our bombardment waxed to a higher power. The naval gunners on Hussar Hill were splendidly protected by sandbag works, and though they were shelled with precision lost no men. With one of the five-inch garrison guns it was otherwise. They were not protected. Why not protected? “It’s not our way,” the army gunner says. Major Caldwell sat in a deck chair near the five-inch guns—the type of the cool, scornful British artillery officer—and kept saying, “Number one gun, fire.” “Number two gun, fire!” while I talked with him about the battle of Domokos, which we had seen together in Greece. Earlier in the morning a shrapnel had burst among the detachments of one of these guns while they were staking out the gun, and of the six men not one escaped. One was killed, five were wounded. Our field guns were now on the east side of the Hussar ridge, hidden among the thorn bushes, poking their noses across the valley at the parallel range. The howitzers from behind the narrow ridge flung up their charges of lyddite. What a dull pursuit is that of the howitzer gunner, who has nothing but the blank side of a hill and a few sticks for his direction in front of him, and must fire all day as he is told, and see nothing for his pains. From Monte Christo a buttress or spur runs out; it is a hill of smooth sides (when you see them from a distance) and rich green grass. Green Hill it was named at once. Red dashes, when trenches had been cut into the red earth, were the lineaments of its smooth face. Under one’s gaze the unwrinkled face grew disfigured and pock-marked with the bursting shells. Soon one end was alight, and the grass fire steadily ate its way forward under a constant breeze. But all this day never a Boer stirred on Green Hill that I could see. That morning three brigades were at the foot of the Monte Christo range, already hidden in the thick thorn bushes that drape the hills. General Barton, with the Fusilier brigade, was on the left; Colonel Norcott, with the light brigade, in the middle; General Hildyard and the English brigade on the right. The South Lancashires and the Lancaster Regiment were on watch west of Hussar Hill. The Middlesex, Dorsets, and Somerset Light Infantry lined the Hussar ridge, and looked across the valley to Monte Christo. The three attacking brigades—Barton’s, Norcott’s, and Hildyard’s—were right away south, in the mouth of the valley—far south of all the Boer entrenchments. They were to bore up the side of the hills as they marched, and by the time General Hildyard was on the sky-line the Boer position would be outflanked. A long march is the price of a flanking success against a mobile enemy. The brigades disappeared in the bushes; you could follow their progress only by finding a few men where the bushes opened or by the advance of the rattling. The Boers were probably firing from the bushes on Monte Christo. It would be tedious, if it were possible, to describe all the details of this fighting march. The Welsh and Irish Fusiliers appeared at last in open mealie fields below Green Hill — first a handful and then whole companies running, scattered about, their bodies bent forward, falling down—hit? No, up again!—and so on, and on, and on, dropping and bobbing up again, while the Boer fire grew stronger and stronger. It had been swamped by our artillery, but now, as the gun fire slackened in front of our men, it grew and flourished, and spread even to Green Hill, on which (you could have sworn) there was not a living soul an hour before. And now the Fusiliers were coming back, and the Rifle Brigade and the Durhams and the Scottish Rifles and the 60th on the slopes of Cingolo, were trailing back too! A reverse? No, it was only that General Hildyard was already on the top of Cingolo marching towards Monte Christo, and it was useless to press the untactical attacks below. Night fell. The Queen’s, of Hildyard’s Brigade, and some mounted infantry were already on the dip, or neck, which joins Cingolo to Monte Christo. They were black against the sky. On Sunday morning the bombardment of Green Hill began all over again. On went the three brigades, marching and fighting blindly. The Fusiliers were at a higher level than yesterday. Green Hill was shelled till you would have thought it shaken to its base. Not a Boer stirred on it. In the bush north of it the Boer riflemen were still firing, but not strongly. They were meditating retreat; they were plainly fighting a rear-guard action. And now it was one o’clock, and the ensign of success appeared above the crest of Monte Christo. It was the first line of the Queen’s. The regiment had had to fight hard this morning along the neck and on the east side of Monte Christo. But here were the skirmishers. The Boers saw them, you may believe, sooner than any one did on our side. The Boer firing dwindled more. Of what use were their trenches on the face of Green Hill now, built tier upon tier, and reaching back from one position to another, all built against a frontal attack with an unassailable conviction of the stupidity of the British army? The Queen’s skirmishers ran out from the bush on the crest of Monte Christo on to a patch of open grass. A wisp of smoke blew out in the air below them. Shrapnel was creeping up the hill. Now it came higher. A third—it was right over the men,—and the dust danced on the ground. The men snatched up stones lying about them, and in a moment they were lying behind miserably insignificant ramparts. Another shrapnel puffed into white smoke overhead. A man darted up, ran a little way, picked up another stone, ran back, and threw it on to his rampart; then he ran off a little further, picked up another stone and came back with it and threw that, too, on his rampart. So he worked feverishly, running each time a little further afield, and for ever stooping and turning and straightening. He was for all the world like a man in a potato race. And whenever he thought it was time for the next shell he would lie quite flat behind his stones. Pom, pom, pom, pom-pom! For the first time that day we heard the hated Vickers-Maxim. The stringing- grey smoke fluttered along the little works which offered a perfect line on the open grass. When you have seen a thing like that you know why a Boer general called the British army the bravest and the stupidest in the world. Again the chain of shells came; more links were in it. The men ran back to the bushes. It was time. Could they hold the hill? Yes — reinforcements were working their way up—every minute the skyline was more thickly toothed with them. Already below the Irish Fusiliers were climbing Green Hill. The Scots Fusiliers were behind them— their pipes played them up; and an officer led his horse, and a mule with ammunition was coming too—there is not much rifle fire where horses and mules can be taken—all marching up the scarred and pock-marked side of the hill. Then up went a cheer, which some of the Middlesex and Dorsets answered across the valley. Green Hill was ours. Monte Christo was ours. The Boers were retreating. They had been fighting a rear-guard action only. “Hids toe, huis toe"! “home, home!” It was time. They were tricked out of their position in this instance. They went, nor stopped till they had crossed the river. And our loss was only 179. Our men were among the abandoned tents. Gaunt ponies, reins, saddles, Mauser cartridges, “pom-pom” shells, flour, biltong, Dutch Bibles were theirs for the taking. The valley was filled with the clatter of our field guns rushing for new positions. Would the Boers fight a rearguard action all the way to Ladysmith; or had they another strong position across the river? High spirits assured us of the former. But never mind to-morrow. To-day is ours; we have marched round the gospel of mobility.