Chieveley. February 9, 1900
LONG ere this reaches you the country will have learned the disappointing news of General Buller's third failure to pierce the Boer lines and relieve Ladysmith. The feeling of chagrin that must have penetrated all loyal British hearts far and wide never, I think, can have attained the poignancy, the mortification, felt by all ranks here. Officers and men declared that they were humiliated and disgraced. Yet, surely all this was the exaggeration of disappointment, for the troops have not yet sustained any actual defeat at the hands of the Boers, nor have the enemy ever shown the least tendency to press us when it has been decided to retire the soldiers out of action. Waiting and hiding in strong, natural positions, which they have toilsomely and elaborately fortified, they have been content to score the negative success of maintaining their ground. But of ourselves. There was a moroseness abroad rarely manifested by the Queen's troops. That General Buller, upon whom rested all the weight of the responsibility for the third failure, felt keenly chagrined at the defeat of his plans, even his iron courage and will failed to hide. He had brought his troops into a position where he had doubted not but that they would possess him and themselves of the key to Ladysmith. The planned stroke had not miscarried, the hill was captured; but, alas ! the wished-for key did not fit the Boer lock.
To occupy a detached foothill called Vaal Krantz, and win past between the lofty Spion Kop and Doom Kloof ranges, had been his object Spion Kop rises over 1900 feet above the Tugela; Doom Kloof is higher by several hundred feet. Less than twenty-four hours' fighting and close examination of the ground convinced him that the road he had chosen to try by was impracticable—nay, all but impossible—whilst the enemy held the high mountain fastnesses upon either side of the gateway. The situation became intensified for the worse when the Boers showed that they had mounted heavy cannon to right and left of our position. Upon the north-east slopes of Spion Kop were two 3£-inch Krupp guns, and upon Doom Kloof first one and then a second 6-inch Creusot cannon. These latter weapons, outranged as well as outclassed, in metal, all our array of artillery. The 4.7 naval guns, worn out as they were, did good service ; but the enemy, firing from a higher plateau, had the range of them for a considerable distance. Happily the Boer shells, though big, are not remarkably deadly when they explode.
Although General Buller very early foresaw the real situation of affairs, he struggled on for a time, hoping, no doubt, that the chances of war might disclose some unexpected advantage to our arms. But the position did not improve, nor did the multitude of war councils and counsellors help to mend matters. Retirement, he felt sure, was the only solution of the difficulty, as it was one that no fighting could overcome. There were suggestions, applications—nay, almost protests, more or less audible—that he should, at least, let the Army fight one general action before deciding to retire the men. Thrice had the troops carried hills at some cost, and thrice had they been withdrawn from them, held back from pushing forward and engaging in a battle royal. It was pointed out that his army had not yet fought a general action, only a brigade more or less being permitted to engage at a time. The hot-blooded wished to essay the ordeal of trial by bullet and steel before abandoning the attempt from Potgieter's to open the Ladysmith road to British arms. "What mattered a loss of 5000 men or so," they urged, "for were not 8000, or more, awaiting relief in Ladysmith ? " " Yes," it was answered, " if the enterprise succeeded; but, again, it was better to try, and even fail, than make no attempt of any kind." To which response was, " Yes; best to try, but in the best available direction ; but wrong to do so where the attempt to break through was almost foredoomed to defeat."
These are the free, but, I think, accurate condensations of what took place. All sorts of daring proposals were made to Sir Redvers Buller to carry the heights and capture the enemy's big guns, only to be rejected. Then spleen found vent in expressions of discontent, mistrust, and what-not, that 11 General Debility" or " General Paralysis" had command of the army in Natal. In spite of all, General Buller stuck to his own view, which was probably based upon information far outside the ken of the majority of his critics. Let me not be misunderstood. I am neither defending nor accusing the line adopted by Sir Redvers. Probably he was right At any rate, he was likely to come to a decision based upon facts in his possession, which is more than can be honestly said for the majority of his severe critics. Most probably not 5000, but 10,000 men might have been led only to slaughter or imprisonment had the impetuously irresponsible had their wish. And I am not without hearty sympathy for many who would have dared and risked all upon a single issue, when the apparent advantages lay with the enemy. The General, whose own temperament would, I am sure, have preferred to fit in with such an enterprise, had the sober resolution to hold fast to his conviction, that the guidance of the British troops, through checks, disappointments, hardships, to sure victory, was above all his highest duty. Hard as it may seem to say so, I am not disinclined to believe that General Buller, in falling back for the third time, has adopted the wisest course under the circumstances. To refuse to pursue a faulty plan further, to decide to withdraw, and try all over again at some other point, requires a great degree of hardihood and courage, even in the commander of an army. I fancy most people would have persisted in following their blunder through to the bitter end.
Many of the failures of the campaign, I must declare, are attributable solely to our own neglect to employ some portion or other of the almost limitless material means the Empire possesses. Neither our generals nor commanding officers, as a rule, Jiave as yet accurately gauged the enemy. Take, for instance, the simple question of cannon. Of these the Fleet have abundant store, to be had almost for the asking by our generals. Captain Scott, R.N., and others, offered to mount even 6-inch guns upon trucks and despatch them towards Colenso. Under a fire of two or more 6-inch cannon, with their 100-pound lyddite shells, and ten, or even twenty, 4.7 naval guns, not a position that the Boers occupy but could have been made absolutely untenable. These for long range; and to deal with sharpshooters another, but a 6-inch, battery of howitzers would have settled the business. To stay beneath the fire of such batteries would have been like dwelling in Pompeii in the days of the great destruction.
We all knew on Sunday, February 4, that next day General Buller intended attacking the line of low hills opposite Potgieter's Drift. Brakfontein is the principal feature of the chain that, running nearly east and west, connects the Spion Kop mountain ridges with Doom Kloof. The latter, in turn, is but the western spurs of the Grobler's Kloof heights opposite Colenso. From Potgieter's and the other drifts in the convoluted W and adjacent bends of the Tugela, the roadways pass over either Brakfontein or some other part of the six to eight miles long low chain of ridges. As a barrier they interposed between the Army and Ladysmith. Brakfontein was fortified and loomed as threateningly upon us as Fort Queln does over Metz. But far more seriously menacing were the eyrie-like fastnesses of Spion Kop and Doom Kloof, guarding on either hand the portal and lesser ranges. Modern cannon could send shells from summit to base of either mountain, thus more effectually barring the drifts and roadways.
Neither by wire nor letter were we permitted to give details of what was to take place on Monday. There was to be a feint or demonstration from our left against Brakfontein, and a determined attack later in the day upon the right, to carry the separated crested hill of Vaal Krantz. From Signal Hill and Swartz Kop General Buller and staff had looked upon Vaal Krantz. They had come to the conclusion that it was possible to seize the hill, for the Boers had not strongly fortified the spot From Vaal Krantz, Krantz Kloof and other positions were to be occupied, and, under the cover which the interlocking ridges gave, the Army was to be hurried across the Tugela upon pontoon bridges to threaten Brakfontein and other salient points from flank and rear. It all looked very feasible from Swartz Kop ; but in this corner of Natal every hill seems to be commanded by another behind or to right or left of the one you desire to occupy. And so General Buller found out later. Recollect, hasty carpers, that scouting is no easy thing in Natal, more particularly before an enemy whose rifle-practice at 1500 yards is not to be despised. The fine sighting of the Mauser rifle, and the high velocity of its bullet, make it a far surer shooting weapon than the rough Lee-Metford. But it is no use putting a fine weapon in Tommy's hands.
Very quietly our preparations were completed. Guns were with infinite labour placed upon Swartz Kop, and Warren's division, with other troops, moved down towards the intended field of action. Swartz Kop, viewed from Mount Alice or Signal Hill, seems a relatively small double-topped mountain rising out of the plain to the east of Potgieter's Drift. The eastern is much the larger of the two hump-backed, rough-wooded, rocky eminences. Both, despite their rugged sides, are relatively smooth and flat on top. Guns were placed upon either. Upon the eastern summit were put the 7-pounder mountain battery, two 15-pounders field artillery, and six naval 12-pounders. Yet there was ample space for more upon the mountain's flat roof, which extended to one and three-quarters of a mile, and was proportionately broad. The ever-wonderful mules somehow, notwithstanding many falls, got the mountain battery up, although the place was as steep in parts as the side of a house. The sailors, helped by the Scottish Rifles, with steel hawsers warped their guns up over the worst parts. It was altogether as astounding a performance as heaving batteries to the masthead of a ship. As for the ammunition, the soldiers carried it by hand, each man bearing a shell or powder-charge. Except by using one's hands, there were parts of the hill it was impossible otherwise to surmount. I saw six mules toiling up on a later day with water-beakers for the men. The leading one, when nearing the top, missed his footing, rolled over and over, cannoning against the others. Down with fearful clatter of falling rocks, scrambling hoofs, and affrighted snortings went the six mules some 200 feet. Killed to the last "kicker"? Not a bit of it! Only their harness knocked about Muleys all right, shook themselves, and went at it again. As has been too often the case, we set to work making and repairing roads when they were ceasing to be of further use to the troops or transport in the particular vicinity.
There was a morning mist, or heat haze, which delayed the commencement of operations on Monday, February 5, before Potgieter's. The cavalry was divided into two brigades : the Regulars being placed under Colonel Burn-Murdoch, of the Royals, who took them to the right, near the base of Swartz Kop; Colonel Lord Dundonald had the Colonials, and was closer to Potgieter's. Sir Charles Warren, who was left with one brigade, occupied the lower plateau west of Mount Alice, overlooking the road winding down to Potgieter's Drift. At 6 a.m. the cavalry went forward, but it was an hour later ere our naval guns from Mount Alice began the battle. They directed their fire against the Boer works upon Spion Kop, Brakfontein, and the positions fronting Potgieter's. The dongas, trenches, and redoubts were conscientiously shelled. But the action proceeded very slowly, the enemy remaining, as is his custom, remarkably quiet—lying, as the troops call it, "doggo," waiting a chance for a snap-bite at us. So thoroughly well made are many of their trenches, having direct communication with dongas, that the Boers can ride upon horseback into or out of their works. Their tracks are, indeed, practically covered ways, for the Boer uses corrugated sheet-iron to roof over part of his trenching. Colonel (now Major-General) Wynne has succeeded to the command of the Lancashire Brigade since General Woodgate was wounded. About 9 a.m. he led his men forward from behind the five low, detached hills, or hillocks, a mile north of Potgieter's Drift. These we have held almost since the first movement made in this direction. Brakfontein, and the other parts of the larger chain are two miles farther north. Wynne made as though to turn the east corner of Brakfontein. The new balloon was sent up to spy out what the Boers were about, and more particularly where their cannon were placed. Balloons, like good maps, are scarce military commodities in Natal. There are sixteen of them said to be shut up in Ladysmith, with no means of using them, the gas-cylinders being emptied. The former balloon employed here was hulled with shell, Maxim, cannon, and Mausers, and finished up its career by being ingloriously torn against rocks during a storm. Another balloon was obtained, and is being worked by two Sappers and a crew of bluejackets. The wire rope, and much other gear, had to be picked up and bought in Natal. Doing things piecemeal is a tiresomely miserable feature of our War Department service. As for that matter of maps, the best one of Natal was produced by the German military attach^ from his pocket, whither it has been returned.
As the Lancashire Brigade went forward in widely-spread and far-apart successive lines of skirmishers, five field batteries and the 50-pounder howitzers thundered lyddite and shrapnel upon the enemy's trenches and works. The balloonist directed by telephone where the Boers clustered thickest behind their defences. Well to the front of the infantry, in the earlier stages, kept the sailors and aeronaut—the latter an R.E. officer. Brakfontein and the adjacent ridges were reverberating with din of exploding missiles, and columns of rock and dust were flying into the air from the detonating lyddite bombs. The ridges were smoking and afire. It had been arranged that the batteries upon Spion Kop were to remain masked until later in the day, when the serious attack was to be delivered against Vaal Krantz. But the disclosure by the Boers of the possession of Maxim cannon and a big gun upon Spion Kop led them, at 8.30 a.m., to join in the bombardment The infantry went steadily, slowly forward, as if to charge the Boer works. By 9 a.m. they were near enough for the enemy to begin sniping in earnest at ranges of 1200 yards or less. Their marksmanship was indifferent, and the troops, disregarding their tormentors, walked or ran forward. At convenient stages they would lie down flat upon the ground and open independent and volley firing at the enemy concealed in dongas and trenches.
Meanwhile the Royal Engineers were busily laying down a trestle-work and pontoon bridge combined near Munger's Drift, which is up-stream from Schiet Drift. Munger's has the reputation of being an unsafe and treacherous ford. The Boers awoke a little too late to the danger of our bridging at Mungers. When they discovered what was going on at the drift, they opened a sharp fusillade upon the sappers and the covering party of soldiers. To General Lyttelton had been entrusted the task of rushing Vaal Krantz. The Boer cannon—pompoms, and 40-pounders—came to the assistance of their burgher marksmen, and poured a rapid, incessant fire towards Munger's crossing. Their aim was indifferent, and so, luckily, only five sappers and a few soldiers were wounded. Whilst the cannon and rifles were flashing fire and hurtling death, there were two helios at Ladysmith glittering and sending us messages to Signal Hill. By means of these simple apparatus and our corresponding stations, Generals Buller and White were enabled to communicate smartly and fully with one another.
The bridge having been completed, there was no further need for continuing the demonstration between Brakfontein. Under a redoubled fire from Boer guns and Mausers, General Wynne proceeded to withdraw his brigade. To the casual observer it was, probably, as if the Lancashire lads had been driven in, although they were retiring very deliberately and in perfect order. I could see no indications of undue hastening in any direction. At slow march the brigade came back towards the detached kopjes from which they had set out. The whole range of batteries, except the Royal Horse Artillery, which was not brought into the firing-line, effectually dominated the Boer Mausers, at any rate. Brakfontein and its nearest neighbours were spurting dust, flame, and rocks like an active volcano. The 5-inch siege-guns made incomparably good practice. As for the howitzers and 4.7-inch naval guns, they also were doing great execution. Substantially the demonstration on the west before Brakfontein was over by 10 a.m. But the artillery still kept out in the open, within a little over 2000 yards of the hill chain, pounding the Boer lines without stint.
Towards high noon the storm of artillery, roar and shock of cannon, and shriek of shells in mid-air was almost deafening and bewildering. The great missiles tore overhead with the uproar of a locomotive hammering through a tunnel at express speed. When the din became furious, musketry joining in the uproar, it was as the tear and whirl of hundreds of huge machinery wheels broken loose, or many engines racing. Never was stouter, more indomitable courage displayed than by the howitzer and field batteries. A hurricane of Boer common and shrapnel shell descended upon them. Shells burst to right, left, front, and behind them, but found them unmoved. Nay, the missiles struck under the limbers, almost under the gunners' feet, and out of the bursting, splashing, smoke, and dust-encircling clouds, steadily the gunners laid their pieces, pulled the lanyards, flash of exploding shell answering upon the instant with darting flame from British cannon. To and fro the gunners walked, doing their duty without fluster or haste, and showing by their shooting that their aim was good and true. Horses were wounded and one or two were killed. A few gunners also fell, and were carried in, and for nearly an hour the contest rose and fell from the enemy's lines, but from ours the fire continued with unabated force and steadiness.
Orders were sent to the batteries to go on with the original instructions and move to the right, so as to more nearly and directly shell Vaal Krantz. About half-past noon preparations were made for withdrawing three batteries. Forward trotted the teams with the limbers for one battery, the unflinching gunners meanwhile loading and firing to the last moment. When all was in readiness the guns moved off in perfect alignment, the six upon one axle, as if upon show parade. And yet it was deadly war, for the Boer shells were falling and tearing the ground upon all sides. So battery by battery, the last in sections, was retired and sent off to take up new positions facing Vaal Krantz, nearly two miles to the east Let it be remembered that our artillery were fighting in the open, upon low ground overlooked by the Boer works and trenches. The last three to be withdrawn were ammunition waggons. All the wounded and left material were placed very deliberately upon the two which had teams. For over five minutes they waited, putting things to rights and re-arranging harness, under a rainstorm of shells. Then they walked off the field, followed by shells step by step. The last waggon, belonging to the 78th Battery Royal Artillery, had no horses. They had been wounded, and one or two of them killed. Thereupon the artillerymen took charge, and, whilst one handled the bar, or tongue, the other four bent themselves upon the wheels, trundling the lumbering vehicle back from the field. Under a scathing fire they rolled the waggon nearly 200 yards, when comrades, noting the state of affairs, ran out under fire and helped them to bring in the vehicle safe and sound. How all, or any, escaped seemed little less than miraculous. The balloon, which also had to shift, had its visitation. From its lofty altitude it was wound down to the ground, only to be made the steady target for Boer guns and rifles. The wire hawser, bought in Durban, which only weighs four pounds for every 100 feet of length, and sustains a breaking strain of 1600 pounds, was disconnected. Then the six sailors and two sappers, with bullets and shells dropping at their feet, marched away after the batteries with the bobbing, big, translucent sphere. For sailors they walked remarkably well, holding on whilst the smoke and dust raised by the Boer shells almost blinded them.
Shortly after 1 p.m. our batteries were at it again, slating the Boers upon and around the hills near Vaal Krantz. . A number of the enemy had got into the dongas under Doom Kloof—or, rather, one of its detached foothills. The men of Hildyard's Brigade and the batteries paid particular attention to these gentry, and succeeded in greatly quieting them. Sniping also went on from across the Tugela against the east slopes of Swartz Kop, but the Colonial cavalry kept the Boers there in check very speedily in that direction. The atmosphere grew clearer as the afternoon advanced. At 3 p.m., from near Munger's Farm, General Lyttelton launched his brigade at Vaal Krantz. The farm buildings across Munger's Drift, under Doom Kloof, were stoutly held. With the Durham Light Infantry leading, and the 3rd Battalion King's Royal Rifles upon their right, up rose from the sloping banks of the Tugela the troops, and dashed forward towards the rugged sides of Vaal Krantz. From front and flanks the enemy opened fire. Apparently our shell-fire had shaken the enemy's nerves upon Vaal Krantz. Scarcely 200 remained to defend the position, and of these half bolted when the Durhams, with a cheer, ran in with the bayonet and caught them in their trenches.
There was angry, hurried work with steel, and peppering of fleeing Boers; but the affair was over in a minute. Some ten Boers cried for mercy, holding up their hands, and were made prisoners. With the perverseness of that kind of creature, now they are safe, several have since declared their unconquerable resolution to fight again when they get a chance. One of these is an Austrian named Moeller, and a so-called Englishman named Knight, who gives a Capetown address. Amongst the other prisoners is a gentlemanly Hollander named Bok, son of the ex-State-Attorney of the Transvaal, and an Irishman named Tully, an old burgher. In the trenches were found a number of dead Kaffirs, who had been fighting side by side with the Boers. Our prisoners tell us that many thousands of natives have been forced to fight against us by the enemy besides the Kaffirs, who follow their masters into battle. An injured Kaffir fired at and wounded an officer in the hand after the latter had striven to save the man's life. From prisoners we have had further confirmation of the fact that the enemy make use of the Red Cross ambulance waggons, flying the Geneva flags, to convey ammunition for cannon and small-arms during battle. Of that I have, on more than one occasion, seen evidence during the last four days. Nay, I strongly suspect that they have not hesitated to carry the Maxim cannon (pom-pom) from part to part of the field under the protection of the Red Cross flag.
There was a statement that gained credence that Buller meant, when the light brigade seized Vaal Krantz, to send forward all his cavalry and pierce the Boer lines, turning back upon the reverse slopes of Brakfontein. For that purpose, Colonel Burn-Murdoch lay waiting with the Royals, the 13th and 14th Hussars, and the chestnut R.H.A. Battery, on the north-east side of Swartz Kop, and Dundonald with the Colonials nearer Potgieter's. But the dash, for some unknown reason, was never executed. Probably the disclosure of the strength of the Boer artillery led to an estopper being put upon that part of the planned operations. As quickly as possible General Lyttelton secured cover for his men upon the eastern crest of Vaal Krantz. The ridge was found to be somewhat razor-backed, angular, and unsatisfactory. From behind, a further hill made it rather insecure, whilst, as the Boers held ground to west and east, as well as north, Lyttelton's men were treated to a heavy fire from Mausers, backed by the pom-pom and cannon from Spion Kop. The grass upon the slopes had been set alight by the shell-fire, and volumes of blinding smoke interfered with the shooting. A fairly determined effort was made by the enemy towards the close of the day to drive us from the Vaal Krantz; but, reinforced by the Scottish Rifles and the 3rd Battalion King's Royal Rifles, the men, without much difficulty, repulsed the assailing Boers and held their ground.
Hildyard had moved up to render assistance, but Lyttelton, with two battalions, was able to deal with every effort used by the Boers. He kept the most of his men well under cover, lying along the base of Vaal Krantz. His brigade had been strengthened by the Devons, who remained near the pontoon bridge. One of the unpleasant discoveries made was that it would be very difficult to get guns upon Vaal Krantz. The batteries, therefore, that were to have gone forward at once to that advanced position, were held back whilst the pontoon bridge was strengthened and widened, in the hope that later on they could be sent across. There was hot firing until 7 p.m., when a slight rain began falling, helping to damp out the widespread grass-fires running along the Boer line of hills. The troops, who had nearly all descended from Spearman's with most of the baggage-train into the low ground, prepared to bivouac. General Buller and his Staff, who had remained throughout the day below Swartz Kop, directly opposite Vaal Krantz and Munger's Drift, decided to remain upon the field with the men.
We had learned that 4000 Boers occupied the Doom Kloof, and that the rest of the Transvaal Army, under Joubert, were gathered, or gathering, along our front. In one commando of 1000 men it was said there were no fewer than ten languages needed to converse with the men. Delay was to be alone feared, for it would afford them time to dig into new positions, and bring up big guns from Colenso and Ladysmith. Perhaps we have not always made the most of the little mobility we possess, and the transport has been the millstone round our leaders' necks. Let me emphasize that our transport has never failed us yet, but has been always enterprising and up to time, and the army has never lacked for superabundance of supplies or ammunition. But it is in the nature of things in modern warfare for it to be unwieldy and needing space, and more men to guard. Monday, on the whole, closed auspiciously. The Boers had been driven from Vaal Krantz, the key of their advanced position facing the drifts. It but remained for us to try to pour through and turn their works to right and left, or march on to Ladysmith. But how about our baggage and supply-train ? Something more had to be* done, for it could never be safely brought on with us whilst the Boers were able to shell the drifts and pontoons.
The Boers cunningly set fire to the grass near General Lyttelton's position, and by means of the light it gave shelled the brigade during the night, bringing up the Maxim cannon. But still we held our own, and more, having forced the enemy further from the hill. Before sunrise the enemy startled the camps by firing from Doorn Kloof their 100-, or, to be accurate, 96-pounder Creusot gun. Their shells burst in every direction, several falling at no great distance from General Buller's headquarters.. They make much noise, but, fortunately, do very litde injury—none whatever commensurate with their sound and fury. Under the fire of two or three pom-poms, the 30- and 40-pounders from Spion Kop, and the Creusot, the enemy tried several times to regain the lost position. Our big guns and naval 12-pounders bent all their energies to knocking out the Boer ioo-pounder, but without complete success. We blew up ammunition waggons and what-not, but the gun itself was so well covered that it apparently could not be reached. When our bursting lyddite ceased to make havoc around their battery and pit, out again the long black muzzle of the Boer gun would be run and recommence firing. Evidently it was mounted in such a way that it could run upon an inclined pair of rails. Very smartly and pluckily the enemy worked the weapon for all it was worth, but little harm they did us, thank goodness! Our naval guns were more successful in dismantling and knocking out one of the 3½-inch Krupps mounted upon Spion Kop. During the course of Tuesday afternoon General Buller had given up hope of penetrating the Boer lines. I learned as much from his own lips. He was deeply chagrined that the matter had turned out so, and thought it unwise to assume graver risks. Ladysmith had been a notoriously unsafe place, and troops ought not to have been allowed to remain in that town.
Firing went on steadily throughout Tuesday. Our field-batteries and howitzers continued doing their allotted duty, pounding the Boer trenches and the dongas in front, and they paid no heed to either Long Toms or the Krupp shells, both of which dropped occasionally and indiscriminately beside the batteries. That evening, at sunset, Hildyard's brigade relieved Lyttelton's upon Vaal Krantz. " Never " said an officer to me, " have I grovelled so long and wearily in the dust as I did during our thirty-six hours' watch upon Vaal Krantz." Hildyard had to repulse a very severe night-attack of the enemy, which his brigade—the Queen's East Surrey and West Yorks—did in gallant style. Wednesday was much as Thursday, fighting all day, but we were making little or no progress upon or along Vaal Krantz. The cavalry and some of the stores were ordered behind Swartz Kop for shelter. That afternoon there was a council of war upon the field, at which all the generals were present except Clery, who has met with an accident to his leg, which confines him temporarily to bed. All advocated retirement, as the lines could not be forced, except Major-General Hart, who was for storming Doom Kop. The brave Dublin Fusiliers volunteered to capture or destroy the one or two Boer Long Toms upon Doom Kop, and General Hart, whom his brigade called General No-Bobs—for he never ducks for a shell—wanted to lead them.
At 6 p.m., Wednesday, orders were issued for the retirement of the supply column, which had unfortunately, and somewhat recklessly, been sent down the one steep road to the low ground. That evening the Boers were shelling the column, and the hospital, which was much too far within their cannon-fire area. Throughout Wednesday night and Thursday the retirement of the whole army continued, the Boers shelling the waggons and troops in all directions—as usual doing, I assure you, very little hurt Our naval guns remained upon Signal Hill, replying whilst the pontoons were taken up. The guns removed from Swartz Kop, and all our baggage and stores, were hauled back upon the upper plateau. To-day (Friday) the last of the stores and troops have been withdrawn from Spearman's, and are encamped around Springfield, on their way hither. What next? Well, within three days General Buller means to make an attack, with not a brigade, but his whole army, over the old Colenso ground, which I have all along maintained should never have been left, as it is upon our best line of communications—the railway. Before Monday you will have startling news, I hope, and hear that Ladysmith has been this time in reality relieved. I am sorry to say that they are on very short rations there, and have been reduced to eating horseflesh for some weeks. But they mean, with or without our help, to attempt to break out God bless and help them!