Ladysmith, January 7, 1900
FOR the second time the Boers have made an attack on Ladysmith, and for the second time they have failed, with disastrous results. Their first attempt was made as far back as November 9. The lesson they then got lasted them nearly two whole months. Yesterday, in the dim hours before early dawn, they again essayed the task of capturing a portion, at least, of our defences, and they were repulsed with a loss which is estimated by the Headquarters Staff at 1100 men, killed and wounded. The assault was made with desperate energy and determination, and the action, which was almost hand-to-hand, lasted from before three in the morning until six in the evening, or fifteen hours of hard fighting. In my telegrams I have already described the main features of the battle, and before entering into a more detailed account here, it will not, perhaps, be amiss to give some account of the events which led to it, and also a brief description of the scene of the action.
After the repulse of the attack of November 9, the Boers confined their siege operations entirely to long-range firing with heavy guns. No attempt was made to push their works closer to the town, or to bring their artillery nearer our lines. For a time the bombardment was conducted with considerable energy from some twenty-five or thirty guns, the evident object being to compel the garrison to surrender. Finding that their fire did not have the desired effect, the artillerists relaxed their efforts, and a desultory pounding from the guns on Bulwana, Gun Hill, and Telegraph Ridge was all we had to endure. After the capture of the guns on Gun Hill and Surprise Hill, the bombardment, except for occasional spurts, became even more desultory, and we had reliable information that consultations as to whether the siege of Ladysmith should not be raised, were held between the Transvaal and Free State commanders and field-cornets. The Free State Boers, it is said, strongly urged that the siege should be pushed with vigour or else abandoned entirely, while the Transvaal Boers, many of whom witnessed our evacuation of Dundee before the fire of their 6-inch Creusot guns, still had faith in these weapons to compel surrender. From the time of these conferences onwards there were frequent disputes between the Free State and the Transvaal Boers on the question of the siege, and finally the former accused their comrades of being afraid to attack Ladysmith. The Heidelberg (Transvaal) Commando openly took the same side.
Matters were approaching a serious stage when General Joubert hastily returned from Colenso, where his army is confronting Sir Redvers Buller, and a grand conference was held on the 5th inst, at which, after much recrimination between the two parties, Commandant de Villiers, of the Harrismith (Free State) Commando, said the Free Staters were as good as their word, and he would lead his men against Ladysmith. The Commandant of the Heidelberg Commando, who had all along sided with the Free State in the dispute, pledged his followers to the attack also. So it was arranged that the attack should be made in the early hours of the following morning. Reinforcements, estimated at 7000 men, were hurried up from Colenso, and every Boer that could be spared from the northern and eastern surroundings of Ladysmith was brought round to the south-west We now know, as we have known all through the siege, that the Boers had most intimate and accurate information of all our movements, and it was admitted by some of them to our people on the morning after the battle that, in selecting Saturday morning, they were influenced by the knowledge that we would that morning, and all through the night, be engaged in mounting a 47-inch gun on Waggon Hill, and they hoped that the noise of our working-party would drown the sound of their approach.
Having decided to attack, the Boers, with that unerring eye for country and the unfailing instinct for choosing a military position which they seem to possess, selected the long ridge known to us under the collective names of Maiden Castle, Caesar's Camp, and Waggon Hill (but which is all included in the local name of Bester's Ridge), as the point where they would make their attempt It was an admirable choice. The ridge runs nearly north-east and south-west. It is fairly high, and is covered with huge boulders and stones, like all these barren African hills. At the eastern end the mimosa bush that grows on the plain extends right up to the edge of the plateau, and affords admirable cover. The southern and western faces are bare, but the rocks with which they abound offered just the sort of ground that suits the Boer rifleman. From the foot of the hill to the Rooi Kopjes, or Red Hills, about a mile away, where the Boer position begins, is a level, grassy flat, intersected at two or three places by dry watercourses. Late in yesterday's desperate fight these watercourses were fatal spots to the enemy, as I shall explain later on. Waggon Hill marks the western extremity of the ridge, and Caesar's Camp its eastern. The troops occupying the position on the night of the 5th inst. were the ist Battalion Manchester Regiment at Caesar's Camp, four companies of the ist King's Royal Rifle Corps on the middle of the ridge, and seventy men of the Imperial Light Horse on Waggon Hill. At the latter point there were also thirty men of the Royal Engineers, and half a dozen sailors of the Naval Brigade, who were engaged in mounting the 47-inch gun. But little effort had been made to strengthen the hill with earthworks or shelter-trenches. The Manchesters had erected a few circular stone sangers, and the Rifles had also made some tentative attempt to provide cover; but Waggon Hill and the neck connecting it, with the main ridge, were entirely without shelter save that furnished by the boulders. At the extreme end a sandbag redoubt was made for the gun, but it was not defensively occupied when the attack was made. This failure to carefully fortify their position cost our troops many a brave life. It was so obvious a duty that its neglect almost makes one think that the men were careless of their lives, were not the latter supposition controverted by the action of a few of them during the progress of the fight
It was at Waggon Hill that the first attack was made. Shortly after midnight the Light Horse pickets heard a hymn being sung in the Boer lines. To men who have spent years in the Transvaal, as every man in the Light Horse has done, this should have conveyed a warning. The Boers do not sing hymns at midnight without some special reason, and a doubly keen watch should have been kept upon them. Nothing special, however, seems to have been done. One small picket of eight men at the foot of the hill was all that was out, and on top the Sappers and sailors toiled away at their gun. Suddenly in the darkness, about half-past one, the picket saw within a few yards of them a body of men approaching. They challenged, and the answer came in perfect English, " Do not fire, we are members of the Town Guard." This latter is composed of civilians enrolled to patrol the streets of the town during the night, and, if necessary, to take an active part in its defence. The members of it do not wear uniforms, and, when carrying bandoliers and rifles, they almost exactly resemble a party of Boers. The Light Horse picket should not, however, have been so easily deceived, as the Town Guard is never employed outside the limits of Ladysmith. The picket accepted the reply, and the Boers, advancing closer, poured in a volley. Five of the picket were shot down, and the other three taken prisoners.
The volley warned those on the top of the hill, but it was too late. A second party had scaled the western face of the hill unobserved, and the first intimation of their presence was a rush into the gun-position and a volley from their rifles. Several of the Sappers fell dead, and an attempt of the Light Horse to recapture the position was repulsed with the loss of a number of men. Then, in the darkness of the night, began the hard ding-dong fight that went on for fifteen hours. The Sappers and Light Horse, after the first rush, quickly recovered themselves, and, getting under cover of the rocks, they drove the Boers away from the naval gun, where it was lying on the ground near the emplacement Lieutenant Digby-Jones, R.E., with a courage and resource that merited boundless praise—had the gallant young officer lived to hear it—rallied a group of men, and, placing himself at their head, charged the emplacement and routed the Boers out from behind the sandbags and drove them down the hill. Meanwhile the Boers, many of whom had come barefoot, so that they made no noise on the rocks, had stolen up the nek and began pouring in a terrible fire on the brave Light Horsemen and Engineers. A few of the former, who were in a sangar on the King's Royal Rifle Corps side of the nek, did something to subdue the Boer fire, but in the darkness and confusion their fire was dangerous to friend as well as foe. So until the dawn brightened in the east the fight went on.
Wherever our men saw a rifle-flash along the edge of the hill they fired at it. The Boers, from the cover of the rocks, replied, and again and again made attempts to rush forward, but our troops shot them down the moment they appeared on the little plateau on the top of the hill. Requests for reinforcements were sent off, and about daylight some companies of the ist King's Royal Rifles, three companies of Gordons, under Major Miller-Wallnutt, and a few score of Light Horse, came up. The Gordons and the Rifles lined the inner slope of the hill, while the Light Horse and the Sappers still held the end and a portion of the southern edge. The Boers were on the nek and along a part of the outer slope. This was the position nearly the whole of the livelong day. Men kept close under cover behind the rocks and stones, and where they saw a foeman's head or body, they took a snapshot at it and dodged down again under cover.
Hour after hour passed and neither side gained an inch. Both lost men fast, and nearly every man killed or wounded was shot in the head. In the afternoon poor Lieutenant Digby-Jones was shot dead, while encouraging his little force in the gun emplacement. His death caused the utmost grief to General Hamilton, who was in command during the day, and had expressed his intention of recommending the heroic youth for the Victoria Cross because of the gallant way in which he had recaptured the gun emplacement Lieutenant Dennis, another officer of the Royal Engineers, was killed while endeavouring to animate the Gordons and King's Royal Rifles to a bayonet charge to clear the nek. He sprang forward and called on the men to follow him, but when he had got twenty or thirty yards he saw that none had responded, and he turned to run back to cover. As he did so a Boer rose from behind a rock, at ten paces' distance, and shot him dead on the spot. The next instant the Boer himself fell, shot by a Light Horseman in the sangar above. Major Miller-Wallnutt, of the Gordons, was directing the fire of his men with splendid effect, and exposed himself with almost reckless bravery. Again and again did the Boers try to shoot him down, without success. At length a huge Boer, with a long, flowing beard, leaped to his feet, and, with instant aim, shot the Major in the head with an express bullet The missile was of the ordinary explosive sporting type, and the poor officer s head was almost shattered to pieces. His murderer—there is no other word suitable— was riddled with bullets before he could sink back to his place, and next morning his body was identified as that of Commandant de Villiers, the man who urged the attack at the conference. In death he still clutched his rifle so that it could hardly be taken from his hand. He had fired no fewer than 110 rounds from the spot where he was killed, the empty cartridge-cases were lying in a heap at his side, and he had nearly 800 unexpended rounds in his satchel and bandolier.
The Boers who made the attack at this point were all from the Free State, chiefly from the vicinity of Harrismith, and many of them used sporting and Martini-Henry rifles instead of smallbore weapons. In some cases the men who fired with sporting rifles used the ordinary explosive express bullet, which inflicts wounds of an appalling character. One man of the Imperial Light Horse had a dreadful experience. In the first rush of the Boers he fell wounded between two rocks at the edge of the hill. A Boer sheltered himself partly behind the rocks and partly behind the body of the wounded man. From this position he shot two men dead and wounded a third. It was an urgent necessity to silence this man's rifle, but to do it without hitting a wounded comrade was not easy. Again and again was the Boer fired at without effect, until at last a lucky shot struck him square on the head, and he dropped dead across the wounded Light Horse trooper. When the latter was recovered, some hours later, it was found that he was hit in eight places : two of the wounds were inflicted by the Boers, but six were caused by the bullets of his own comrades while trying to shoot the Boer. Despite his multitudinous hurts the man is in no danger, and will again become fit for duty.
But rifle-bullets were not the only projectiles our brave fellows had to face. Every gun that the Boers could bring to bear opened fire on the ridge at daylight. There were guns on Middle Hill, on Table Hill, and along the Rooi Kopjes, that threw shells on to the southern slopes of Bester's Ridge, while the Creusot gun on Bulwana swept the northern slopes and the whole extent of the plateau towards Caesars Camp, In all, some thirty guns were in action against us yesterday. About five o'clock the 21 st Field Battery was sent out beyond Range Post Hill with an escort of the 5th Dragoon Guards. It rendered excellent service in checking the advance of supports to the Boers, and cleared the enemy's reserves out of the deep donga between Middle Hill and Mounted Infantry Hill. The battery and its escort drew the fire of Middle Hill for a time; but, fortunately, there was soft ground immediately in front, and neither the gunners nor the Dragoons suffered much beyond the loss of a few horses. So the fight went on until midday, each side firing away as hard as the men could load their guns and rifles. There was no movement or action in the battle: it was simply a duel of rifle against rifle, and gun against gun. Before midday exhaustion compelled a slackening of the fire, and the men lay behind the rocks, with only an occasional shot to show they were there, until nearly five o'clock, when a tremendous rainstorm came up, accompanied by thunder and lightning. Under cover of rain the Boers advanced again, but on Waggon Hill they were met by a charge with the bayonet by the Gordons and King's Royal Rifles. They did not wait for the steel, but ran panic-stricken down the rocks, while the bullets rained among them, and brought the fleeing men down by dozens. Our officers and men had not escaped lightly. In addition to the officers I have named, there was also killed Major Mackworth and three officers of the Imperial Light Horse; and Colonel Edwards, Major Davis, Captain Codrington, Major Doveton, and Lieutenant Campbell, all of the same regiment, were wounded. Of the casualties among the men on Waggon Hill, it will be enough to say that the Light Horse had fifty-three men killed or wounded, the Gordons twenty-three; while of the thirty Engineers who were on the hill seventeen were hit, and the half-dozen sailors had one killed and two wounded of their small number.
Lieutenant Mathias of the Imperial Light Horse, brother of Colonel Mathias, of Dargai fame, performed a highly meritorious service in saving a Hotchkiss gun that was on the nek. The gun was surrounded by Boers, and when they were driven back for a moment by our fire, Lieutenant Mathias dashed forward, dragged the gun into our own position, and then down the reverse slope of the hill. It was a plucky action, and prevented the weapon falling into the hands of the Boers, as in a few moments they had returned to the spot on which it had stood.
But, meanwhile, all day an equally fierce and even more critical battle had been in progress a mile or so away at the other end of the ridge. The Manchesters, and some companies of the King's Royal Rifles, met the earliest attack, and had to yield a little to it, but only so much as enabled them to take up a better position. Reinforcements consisting of five companies of Gordons, three of the 2nd Battalion of the Rifle Brigade, and three companies of the Devons—the bravest and best on the field—came up later on; and when the rainstorm broke, the last effort of the Boers was defeated, and they were driven pell-mell off the ridge into the roaring torrents that filled the now foaming watercourses. I must, however, take the events of the day in their order. The attack on the Caesar's Camp portion of Bester's Ridge was made by the Heidelberg Commando, which came on about 2060 strong. Owing to the distance it had to traverse, it did not reach the ridge until about three o'clock. Our pickets were being changed at the moment, so that, fortunately, there was double the usual number of men on the spot. Lieutenant Hunt-Grubbe, of the Manchester Regiment, who was in charge, heard a suspicious noise along the edge of the hill, and was surprised to hear voices saying, " Border Mounted Rifles, this way. Come on B.M.R." Wondering what had brought the Natal Volunteers there, and never dreaming for a moment that it was the old Boer trick already played with some success several times during the campaign, the lieutenant ran down a little way to ascertain what was the matter, and found himself among a crowd of at least 200 Boers. He was instantly seized, and his • sword and field-glasses taken from him, while his captors jeered at him for his simplicity. Simultaneously with the capture of the unlucky officer, the Boers opened fire on the pickets, and, dashing on in the uncertain light, rushed the sangers nearest the crest of the ridge, and shot or drove out their occupants before they had time to offer effective resistance. The second line of sangers or stone walls was more obstinately held, and, despite their most determined efforts, the Boers never got a foot further along the ridge. About six o'clock the enemy tried to reinforce their attack by sending a great body of troops up through the bush on the north-eastern slopes of Bester's Ridge. The movement was observed and promptly reported by the Border Mounted Rifles, who had been thrown well forward in this direction. Major Abdy's battery, No. 53, Royal Field Artillery, at once opened a searching fire of shrapnel from a position near the western edge of the mimosa bush. The shells were thrown with splendid effect, and not only stopped the Boer reinforcements but inflicted heavy loss, as we saw by the dead next morning, on those who had already got some way up the slope.
This advance, as well as the main attack on this point, was of a most treacherous character. They took advantage of the neutral hospital camp at Intombi's spruit, and kept their men under cover of the hospital tents until the last moment, thereby masking the fire of our men, who could not open on them lest they should shoot their own sick and wounded in the hospital. In the same way our battery was kept silent for a time when it could have been doing good work. When the battery did come into action there were eighteen enemy's guns, four of them 6-inch Creusots, firing at Caesars Camp. a Puffing Billy," however, turned his fire on Major Abdy's battery immediately the first shot was fired by it The conduct of the gunners under the fire of this gun—which was throwing shrapnel shell, fortunately with percussion fuse—was simply magnificent I watched it from the crest of the hill above the battery, and again and again I saw our guns fired right out of the cloud of smoke from the enemy's bursting shell. One gun I noticed in particular. A shell exploded, as I judged, right on the gun, and gunners and all disappeared from view. I gazed, fascinated, through my glasses, expecting to see a dismounted gun and mangled men when the smoke had cleared away. But almost before the first shock of the explosion was over, " flash " went the crimson lance of flame from the muzzle of the gun I had thought wrecked, and the shrapnel, aimed as true as if at a peace practice, went smash into a group of the enemy, killing or wounding fifteen out of seventeen of them. It was a splendid exhibition of the coolness and nerve of our gunners, and was worth risking something to see. But it was not only one instance : again and again did I notice shells bursting not a dozen yards from the battery, and the men went on with their work without even turning their heads to look atthem. Surely it is an act of blind folly, or worse, for the officials in Pall Mall to insist on keeping such men armed with what is admittedly the worst field-gun in Europe, and one that is inferior in every point to the field-guns used by the Boers.
I have described how the Boers treacherously used the hospital camp to cover their advance. Another instance of their peculiar methods must be given. About half-past four a man was observed coming up the hill waving a white flag, and shouting, " Don't fire! I want to surrender! I'm coming in." Fire was slackened for an instant, and then it was seen that the white flag man was only a screen covering the advance of about a hundred Boers who were coming along behind him, hiding as well as they could in the thick mimosa bush. An instant afterwards and the flag-bearer and a goodly proportion of his following were shot down. There were no more renewals of this dastardly trick during the battle.
When the Manchesters had been holding the ridge for nearly three hours, several companies of the Gordons arrived, and advanced along the ridge in splendid style. As they came well forward they learned that the sangars, which they had been led to suppose were held by the Manchesters, were really in possession of the Boers, and Captain Carnegie headed a daring and successful bayonet charge for their recovery. Forward the"Gay Gordons" sprang over the rough, rocky ground, firing as they went, and losing men at every step. The Boers waited until they were almost within reach before breaking and running away. One Boer alone waited for the steel. He was quite a young man, and knelt coolly taking aim at Colour-Sergeant Price as the latter rushed forward with his bayonet The sergeant and the Boer fired at the same instant, and each wounded the other. But the Gordon was able to keep his feet till he reached his foe; then once, twice, the steel went home, and he fell unconscious across the prostrate body of Lieutenant Hunt-Grubbe, who had been lying a prisoner and uninjured among the Boers in the sangar. The dead Boer, the wounded sergeant, and the officer lay in one heap, and for the moment the soldiers thought all three of them were dead. Afterwards, when Price was carried away, it was found that he had been hit in thirteen places, but the only really serious wound was that inflicted by the Boer whom he killed.
It is worthy of note that, although there were three bayonet charges on Bester's Ridge yesterday, only one dead Boer was found with a bayonet wound. In no case, save the one, did they even wait for the steel. The Gordons came into the fight under disheartening circumstances. Colonel Dick-Cunyng-ham, V.C., their commander, while waiting two miles away for the order to advance, was hit by a stray bullet and mortally wounded before he had even started for the scene of battle. About the same time Lord Ava, when acting as galloper to Brigadier-General Hamilton, was shot through the head, and also sustained a mortal wound, while trying to locate the position of the enemy. While the Manchesters and the Gordons bore the brunt of the fight on the eastern slope of the ridge, the Rifle Brigade and the King's Royal Rifle Corps held the southern edge. After midday they were hard pressed, and six companies of the ever-trusty Devons were rushed up to reinforce them. They arrived in the nick of time. The King's Royal Rifles had been fighting steadily all the morning. Shortly before the rainstorm they had taken up a fresh position, upon which the Boers sought to advance further along the top of the ridge. At this critical stage the Devons arrived, and, fixing bayonets, they charged the advancing Boers, checked their forward movement, and compelled them to retire in utter confusion back over the crest. The gallant Devons suffered heavily, both in officers and men, but they held the ground they had won, and earned the special thanks of Sir George White for their splendid and timely charge, which undoubtedly saved the day at its most critical juncture. Many acts of individual heroism were performed here, as well as elsewhere, during this hard-fought fight; but there was none more deserving of mention than that of the corporal of the Devons, who crossed an open space swept by a very hell of fire, to fetch water for wounded officers lying in a sangar. Three times did he go and return, and surely the charity and heroism of his act secured him a special providence, for he went and came unharmed, while others less exposed were falling by dozens. So close and deadly was the fire that out of a stretcher-party of four belonging to the Devons, which tried to cross this space, two were shot dead and one was dangerously wounded.
At last the long, hard-fought day drew to a close. The storm that had been threatening since noon at length came up, and, under cover of it, the Boers made their final effort At Waggon Hill, along the southern edge of the ridge, and at Caesar's Camp, they made a fierce and simultaneous rush. Hundreds of Boers, who had been hidden all day among the rocks and stones, leaped out, and, reinforced by huge masses from the dongas and spruits in the valley, they rushed forward in a wild attempt to carry our position. But the British soldiers were ready for them. Amid rain so heavy that men could not see each other a hundred yards away, and with the lightning and thunder flashing and pealing incessantly overhead, the two forces met Never have I heard a heavier or more continuous rifle-fire. That of the Boer was as fierce and as deadly as our own; but, behind the leaden messages of death from our rifles was the bayonet And, better than all, was the dogged, unbending courage of the British soldier, which, as has been well said, is never so true and steady as at the close of a long, hard-fought, and doubtful day.
It was the supreme and critical moment of the battle. Through the blinding rain and driving mist our soldiers plunged their way in headlong charge. They minded no more the enemy's bullets, no thought of death or danger chilled their courage; the foe was in front, and the fierce blood-lust—that awful, uncontrollable desire for physical contact with his enemy, which now and then comes to a soldier, and makes him the most ferocious being that breathes—filled every man, and panting forward rushed Devonshire men and Manchester men, the grim Scots of the Gordons, and the eager cockneys of the Rifle Corps. The hardy farmers, who had assailed them so bravely all day, saw them coming, and knew they had met their masters. For one brief instant they stood and fired, then for very life they broke and fled, afraid to face the bayonet The rain, which had been falling with more than tropical violence, began to lighten at the moment, and our soldiers, unable to reach their flying enemy with steel, once more opened fire.
Now the Boer began to pay in earnest the penalty of his temerity in attacking British troops. Across the plain over which they had to retreat, the storm was pouring rivers of water. The dry dongas and watercourses, which earlier in the day had afforded safe shelter, and where they had gathered their dead and wounded, were now roaring torrents. On the banks of Fourie's Spruit and Intombi Spruit the Boers hesitated, but they had to make a grim choice, and make it quickly. In front was the rushing water, and behind and all around were the flying bullets. Into the streams they plunged, and numbers were washed down into the Klip River and drowned. The dead and wounded men who had been left in the dongas and spruits for safety were also swept away by the floods, and not a few of the fugitives were shot as they struggled out on the opposite banks. It was a complete and absolute rout, so complete that this morning the Boer burial-parties admitted to our men that it was the most disastrous battle they had fought since the beginning of the war. Our losses are, unhappily, by no means light. In officers they were especially severe, no less than forty-four being killed or wounded. One company of the Gordons at the close of the battle was commanded by a lance-corporal, who was the senior officer unwounded.
The Imperial Light Horse was commanded by a junior captain, and could only muster about 100 men fit for duty out of nearly 500. The Devons and Manchesters also suffered heavily, but the saddest loss on our side was Colonel Dick-Cunyngham. He had only recently returned to duty after recovering from the wound he received at Eland's Laagte. Lord Ava's wound is also a fatal one, and he is universally mourned. He was a favourite with every one, and his cheery presence will be missed by all who knew him, and especially by General Hamilton, on whose staff he served.
Of the general aspect of the battle there is little to say. It was less a battle than a prolonged duel to the death between long lines of desperate, determined men. The enemy, partly by treachery, partly by a brave rush, obtained a position in the hours of darkness. He gained not an inch during the whole dreadful day, and he lost very little until the last charge drove him away headlong. It was a fight in which the mettle of both sides was well tried, and, thank God! that of our own proved to be the best in the end.
At two other points besides Bester's Hill were attacks made by the enemy—a tentative one at Helpmakaar Post, and a more serious attack at Observation Hill, in which the enemy came well up to our lines. In both cases they were easily repulsed, in that against Observation Hill with heavy loss to the Boers. The regiments engaged here were the Leicesters, Liverpools, three companies of the Devons, and three or four of the Rifle Brigade. The latter were very much exposed to artillery fire from Surprise Hill and Thornhill's Kopje. Their sangars were blown flat by the shells, and it speaks admirably for their steadiness that, with practically no cover, they resisted and drove back a very heavy and determined attack. Our total loss in the battle was 121 killed and 242 wounded— a total of 363. It was a heavy loss, but it was the price we had to pay for keeping Ladysmith out of the hands of the enemy. Very few prisoners were taken. In the early morning some Light Horse troopers were captured, but when the Boers retreated they left the men, some of whom were wounded, behind them. Two officers of the Gordons were also captured. They were taken to the Free State laager, from which, however, they subsequently escaped, at the cost, I am afraid, of much personal discomfort to the militant parson who had mounted guard over them with a rifle. Our troops took half a dozen or so wounded Boers, who are now in hospital; but, so far as is known, not a man of ours remains in the hands of the enemy.
To-day has been spent in the sad work of caring for the wounded and burying the dead. General Joubert, early in the morning, sent in a request to be allowed to send parties to remove his dead. To this Sir George White returned a reply saying that the dead Boers in our lines would be carried down the hill and handed over on the neutral ground on the plain, but that no Boers would be allowed in our positions. The arrangement was subsequently carried out, and 133 were handed over to their friends. This was the number actually killed on top of the hill. It was only a small proportion of the number killed on the slope, in the mimosa bush, and at the spruits during the retreat, all of whom were, of course, removed by the Boers themselves, or were washed away by the floods. Our own dead were buried, some on the battlefield, and some in the little cemetery at Ladysmith, where, alas ! many a freshly-turned mound of earth covers the last resting-place of a brave and gallant soldier.
The honours of the day are shared about equally by all the troops engaged. General Sir George White has already borne tribute to the gallant and timely services of the Devonshire Regiment. Brigadier-General Hamilton pays a similar tribute to the gallant Volunteers of the Imperial Light Horse, whose stubborn courage and cool, steady fighting did so much to save the day at Waggon Hill. Addressing Colonel Edwardes (late of the 5th Dragoon Guards), the commanding officer, General Hamilton says—
“I write this line just to let you and your brave fellows know that in my despatch it will be made quite clear that the Imperial Light Horse were second to none. No one realizes more clearly than I do that they were the backbone of the defence during that long day's fighting. Please make this quite clear to the men. To have been associated with them I shall always feel to be the highest privilege and honour."