Ladysmith, Saturday, March 3, 1900. The Tugela seemed to be ten thousand times in flood; never before had it such a mighty rushing voice. The Rifle Composite Battalion (reservists of the Rifle Brigade and the 60th Rifles, with ten years’ service at their backs almost to a man) and the Border Regiment were firing across the deep, narrow valley at the bottom of which the river runs. All the Maxims the battalions had between them were firing too till the water round the barrels boiled and boiled again; the Colts added their deep, deliberate rapping; and the river, drawing it all down, gave an impressive resonance to the continuous sweeping roar. It was February 27th, and the hills east of Railway Hill were being prepared for an attack. As I rode across the plateau east of Hlangwana I discovered guns in new positions pointing at hills which had always stood serenely outside the conflict. The signs of battle are not to be mistaken; as you ride towards the fighting they become more and more suggestive till they culminate in the end and meaning of them all—the death and mutilation of men. First you find groups of unprotected commissariat waggons waiting for the order to go forward, ready loaded; then, perhaps, a hospital—for you are still in the area where tents are allowed—then a column of infantry marching in mass, for this place is outside the range of the enemy’s guns; then, further on, an ammunition train, but this is sheltering behind a kopje; then infantry supports, limbers, and limber teams, all hidden behind hills—visible to you, invisible from the front, so that the whole field is arranged on the plan of one of those advertisements which appear quite different from different sides. Last stage of all, you are abreast or in front ot the guns in action and among extended lines. It was battle again, and this was the plan of it :—We were to take the hills east of Railway Hill. These lay beyond the strong Boer line of defence, and if we took them (some of them would need scarcely more than to be occupied) we should have high hills on which to put guns and a hill from which to flank Railway Hill. The thought of taking Railway Hill was not given up; the hill was to be the pivot of the attack, and both a frontal and a flank attack from the east were to be made that day. Now what the Composite Battalion and the Borders were doing was to send a dropping fire across the river on to all the threatened hills. There may not have been many Boers on them, and as usual we could see none, but if you drop lead, as the two battalions seemed to be doing, on to a large part of South Africa you are bound, at least, to inconvenience some one. All this time the attacking battalions were creeping in one long thin line (their legs moving like those of a monstrous centipede) along the north bank of the river, which here flows again from west to east. Below the cascade a pontoon bridge had been newly built at a place discovered by Colonel Sandbach. The disposition was as follows: Colonel Norcott’s brigade, consisting, for the day, of the Durham Light Infantry, the Rifle Brigade, the East Surreys, and half a battalion of the Scottish Rifles, attacked Railway Hill in front. Colonel Kitchener’s brigade, consisting, for the day, of his own regiment, the West Yorks, the South Lan-cashires, the Royal Lancaster, and York and Lancaster, attacked the next hill to the east, and also made a flank attack on Railway Hill. General Barton, with the Scots Fusiliers, Irish Fusiliers, and Dublin Fusiliers, attacked Pieter’s Hill on Kitchener’s right. General Barton’s infantry, stepping high because of the rocks, must have moved a couple of miles under the river bank; skirmishers as scouts peered ahead into the bush and beckoned on the rest, and the body drew itself up to the head, and then the head went on again till the whole force drew up below Pieter’s Hill. From bottom to top the business seemed to occupy a fragment of time. You could hardly wink, as it seemed to me, before there were the front rank men showing strangely big against the sky, and the gunners, had they been less sharp, might easily have mistaken them for Boers. It is bewildering, in any case, to follow your own men in the wide, modern field of battle, and the position of the General, who has so much to remember and so many levers to work, is like that of the signalman at Clapham Junction. Once more by going far enough we had marched round the enemy. It all seemed so brief an exploit, and it was so quiet in the performance that you had to think hard to remember that this was success—something that advanced the campaign more than all the tempestuous unsuccess of a Railway Hill or a Spion Kop. But to-day Railway Hill was to see another sight. I never saw infantry strain at the leash as they strained this day. The renascence of confidence and power and spirit and dash was complete. It was Majuba Day; the attack had been planned dramatically. None could say that it was planned vindictively by Sir Redvers Buller, who has a nice appreciation of the ridiculous military importance which the inconsiderable affair of Majuba Hill has acquired from the proximity of a political arrangement. But the private soldier has a strong sense of what is elementarily dramatic; and the General who has lives to save as well as to take would be wrong to neglect any one of the mediums through which he can work. On this day, too, the troops had been told that General Cronje had surrendered unconditionally, and one had traced the passage of the news as the squib of cheering and commotion spluttered along the lines. On the hill to the east of Railway Hill the infantry were already sitting near the top. It was theirs at their discretion. Only the difficult assault of Railway Hill remained. The East Surreys and the Rifle Brigade in front and the South Lancashires on the east had all crept up to a certain point. The South Lancashires lay on the near slope of the railway bank; if you had not seen them go there you would have said that they were heaps of ballast shot at intervals. If a man put his head above the line the track flew up in dust. A mere handful of men squirmed over the line and chose their rocks on the other side. It was well, and they were a few yards further, but that did not make the taking of Railway Hill much the nearer. Another handful and another crept across. But still was it not critical? How were they to cross that ghastly open hillside? I was still thinking it was critical, and it was nearly five o’clock. And then came the most extraordinary revolution, sudden, astounding, brilliant, almost incomprehensible. Across the railway the South Lancashires suddenly rose up out of the ground, stones rose up too, and turned out to be infantrymen—more must have passed over than I had counted—and all began to run, not in stiff lines, but with the graceful spreading of a bird’s wings straight up the hill. Splendid, and always new is the rush of British infantry, but had not the Inniskillings done this before? Would this gain the hill now, that had not been gained before? I waited, stricken with admiration and suspense. And then another revolution happened. Further on the right of Railway Hill came a second rush of infantry out of invisibility, or at least, from the unobserved and wholly unexpected, and it converged on the first careering body. On a small stony kopje on the lower slopes of Railway Hill the sweeping wave broke. Two trenches were there—Boer trenches. And now out of the trenches and down the back of the kopje ran black figures—speeding before the infantry, outstripping them. I had never seen a Boer run like this in the open before. Out of one trench an arm—just an arm—appeared waving a shirt or a towel—a grotesque of the arm that grasped Excalibur. Some soldiers stooped over the trenches—prisoners were made—and then on after the rest of the wave which had split on the kopje and mended itself again. The whole party joined the men who had charged on their left. The assault on Railway Hill was doubled. Up and up and up the South Lancashires went, seeming to drive and haul themselves up the side of the hill with arms and heads and legs. Now one man was on the top-most trench and waving his helmet on his bayonet, and down the sharp, stony, foot-destroying descent on the other side went a headlong, heedless flight of Boers. Shrapnel whipped and stung them home. On foot they went; there was no time to snatch their horses, or perhaps, as some say, their horses were, most of them, dead, or, again, had been taken away from them. On the trenches I could see a bayonet jabbing here and there; but for the most part the men pointed their rifles till hands were thrown up, and in a few minutes nearly sixty Boer prisoners were being led down to the river. “I bayoneted that man,” a soldier said, pointing to a prisoner, and here he rehearsed the appropriate action. “Did you hurt him much?” some one asked. “Oh, no,” was the answer, “I bayoneted him as gently as I could. And I gave him water, too; he had more than I did. Ah, I told him he was a lucky man to fall across me” Up the slopes of Railway Hill supports now walked as leisurely as though the place had always belonged to us; the low, evening sun glittered on their front, and their backs were as black as the backs of silvery fishes. On every part of the hill troops climbed up into the sun and a golden, splendid property. On all the hills in front of me British troops bristled. A sudden realisation of the victory swept over the field; there was a cessation, almost a silence; guns no longer crashed; and then from some part of the field there came a little unaided cheer, that asked assistance. Assistance came; cheer answered cheer, backwards and forwards across the river, till all cheers became the same cheer, and staff officers forgot that they were not as ordinary officers and threw up their helmets and shook hands with one another. No one minded that the Boer gunners were throwing a dying flare of shells on to our hills. The night was on us, and that is the time to build entrenchments. Never was an attack better timed. The next morning we had to look to the Dundee road for Boers. There they went, a long line trekking north. We stared across the open country that reaches to solid Umbulwana, familiar yet new, and felt that it was a matter of hours to relieve Ladysmith. The hills on which we stood were sown and scorched with our own shells; trees were stripped and scoured and smashed; sixteen Boers were dead in one trench; some boys, and some old, old men and two women were among the dead (I had a qualm for the victory then), and all the trenches and littered clothes were covered with the peculiar noxious yellow substance of lyddite. It would be insulting to our own success to say that the Boers who had stood for days in that nauseous welter of death were anything but the bravest of brave men. On Wednesday evening, February 28th, some of the Natal Carbineers, the Natal Police, and the Imperial Light Horse reconnoitred as far as Ladysmith, and finding no opposition entered the town. Colonel Rhodes and others were watching from one of the Ladysmith hills and saw them coming. “They are Boers,” said some one. “If they are,” said Colonel Rhodes, “they have become remarkably like our men.” As the horsemen approached the truth became clear. The town resounded with excitement. Rations had just been reduced a little further; the relief was unexpected; no one knew that the Boers had all gone, so silently and skilfully had they managed to creep away. I rode into Ladysmith the next morning. 1 expected, frankly, a scene that would be some tax on the emotions. I remembered the words of a soldier who had said the day before, “I suppose when we get in there we shall all be hugging one another for joy.” Probably the enthusiasm and the emotion had spent themselves the night before; an English frenzy has at best a short life. I know that when I rode in I found people of ordinary countenance surveying an ordinary situation. I have been greeted with as much ardour in the afternoon in London by a man with whom I had lunched two hours before. The garrison were a little inclined to be angry with us for having taken so long to reach them. I overheard the greeting of one distinguished general to another. “Well, how have you been getting on?” asked the besieged one. “All right, thanks,” was the answer, an a temporary silence followed. For a short time I was disappointed. Then I found half the explanation. “Two months ago,” said the officer, “the thing was a strain, but we got over that. Two months ago we were enthusiastic when we heard you were coming, but we got over that. Two months ago -----” so he went on. Why, of course! What can a man do, or think, or feel on quarter rations when his skin begins “to tighten over his bones.” I felt as though I were in a place as unsubstantial as a shadow land—gaunt men greeted one with wisps of smiles without violence of feeling, gaunt grooms combed gaunt artillery horses with the husks of the old assiduity. As for the garrison “cutting their way out,” in the exhilarating phrase, there was not a company of infantry that could march a mile and a half, and not a horse that could pull a gun three miles without dropping. This is the natural explanation of this gentle end, like the quiet breathing away of a life, to a splendidly endured siege. And for the rest the demeanour of the garrison was found to be so admirably English, so characteristic of Englishmen who had fought a siege in an English manner, that on reflection my disappointment at the lack of the expected and the poignant become richly endeared to me.