1900. Jan. 1.—Welcome the new year! Blaaubank sends four shells which burst in our camp about 4.40 a.m. A Happy New Year! We begin it in Green Horse Valley, and trust that ere long it may indeed prove a happy and prosperous new year to the dear old regiment!
Great dinners were again the order of the day in the three squadron officers' messes, and certainly the most was made of the fare obtainable.
After dinner a flash was seen in the dark sky which was thought to be lightning : a dull boom, however, succeeded it, and stop-watches having been produced, it was found to be firing from big guns directly over Caesar's camp. From the flash to the report was 81 seconds, making the distance about 17^ miles. This went on for about half an hour or so, and then ceased —suddenly as it had begun.
It is indeed tantalizing not to know anything of what is going on ! We imagine that these are British guns, but cannot be sure they do not belong to the Boers ! It makes you appreciate the sound of a noble distant " boom " in widely different moods, whether you know the gun causing it is dealing death to friend or to foe; whether it is the voice of a friend bringing the long-deferred relief, or the voice of an enemy still prepared to bar the way. In short (to drop from halting poetry to prose), let me anonymously confess that I should like some jam, and a few potatoes! (Eggs are now selling at iys. per dozen !)
The Boers fired at us during the night, and we fired back at them more than they gave us ! "The subject then dropped." A Happy New Year!
Jan. 2.—While the commanding officer was going round "Stables" in Green Horse Valley, Bulwana began coming dangerously near us. The first shell burst near the Native Field Hospital 300 yards from us, and near which was our regimental guard tent. No. 4389 Private Charles Aslett (second servant to Lieutenant Dunbar), who was riding his master's charger at this spot, was severely wounded in the thigh and groin by six splinters and bullets, and the horse he rode was killed. " Stables " were interrupted for the time, and the men ordered into their shelters.
Shells fell in the camp of the Imperial Light Horse close to us, and finally one landed in the middle of the river a few yards from the horses of " D " squadron. Had this shell carried on a few yards further, it might have done serious damage, bursting on the ground.
The officers were photographed in a group this afternoon.
Jan. 3.—Just before dawn Captain Lambton, R.N., repeated his little plan of the 28th December, and let the Boers have about six rapid shots to our left of the big gun at Bulwana. The shells were seen to burst admirably, and we hope the result has been good, as several stretchers and ambulances were seen to visit the spot afterwards !
Very heavy rain came on in the afternoon, and unfortunately all got a thorough soaking coming up to Cove camp.
Jan. 4.—A mild bombardment in the morning. Blaaubank sent four shells into Cove camp, two of which did not burst, and were secured by officers as trophies.
Persistent rumours are current in Ladysmith to-day that a British force is now at Helpmakaar. (We got to know this fine old rumour by heart: it occurred about twice a week ! No British force was at Helpmakaar before May!—St. J. G.)
Unfortunately, we have to-day 103 men actually in hospital—in Ladysmith and in the neutral camp at Intombi ; in addition to these, there are 13 men " attending." On this account, more than any other, we should all be glad to welcome the relieving column, and get proper food for the men sick with dysentery and enteric, and also a change for them to a higher and more healthy spot. Death reports of the following two men have just been received this day:—
No. 4517 Private James Jones—2nd January: enteric.
No. 4069 Private Alfred Milton—3rd January : enteric.
The latter was a band boy.
Jan. 5.—Green Horse Valley. This day was saddened by the following death reports from Intombi camp:—
Second Lieutenant C. S. Piatt: enteric fever.
No. 4427 Private William Bray: enteric fever.
No. 3818 Private Charles Butler: dysentery.
Enteric fever—that scourge of India and South Africa—has taken a heavy toll from the Ladysmith garrison already. We have hitherto been almost as fortunate as any regiment here—the 19th Hussars being the worst sufferers amongst the cavalry regiments.
Poor young Piatt had only just completed his firs' year's service when he fell a victim, greatly regretted by all. He was always keen in the performance of his troop duties, and his kindly and unselfish disposition had won for him the esteem and affection of his brother officers. He was buried in the cemetery near the Intombi camp : a telegram of sympathy was sent to his father, at Barnby Manor, Newark.
Jan. 6, Saturday.—Heavy firing woke us at 3 a.m. We began saddling up as usual at 3.15 a.m., "exercised " from 4 to 4.30 a.m., and then went down to Green Horse Valley. All this time the firing had been incessant, and very hot, and as day dawned it became apparent from Cove camp that Wagon Hill was the affected locality; we could not make out at all what was taking place, however.
At 5.10 a.m. orders came for the 5th Dragoon Guards to take its part in the long day's fight, the official report of which is here appended :—
From the Officer Commanding 5th Dragoon Guards to the Brigade-Major of Cavalry, Ladysmith.
Ladysmith, 7th January, 1900.
With reference to the part taken by the regiment under my command in the defence of Wagon Hill on 6th January, 1900, I have the honour to report as follows :— I received orders at 5.to a.m. to proceed to the artillery 8camp and there place my regiment at the disposal of Lieut.-Colonel Coxhead, R. A. On arrival there I received orders to act as an escort to the 21st Field Battery Royal Artillery, and proceeded, in company with this battery, to a point about a quarter of a mile from Range Post outside the line of defences, arriving there at 5.45 a.m. In going to this point we drew fire first from Bulwana, while crossing the Iron Road Bridge, and secondly from the gun at Rifleman's Ridge, as we descended the outer slope from Range Post; no casualties occurred from this fire.
The orders for this force were to prevent, by means of artillery fire, any Boers crossing from Mounted Infantry Hill to attack Wagon Hill.
The battery came into action at about 6.15 a.m. with Mounted Infantry Hill as its objective, and as its left flank was secure from attack, I placed my regiment in a nullah about 400 yards to the left rear of the battery. I detached one officer's patrol to the left front of the battery to the foot of Wagon Hill, and a second one to patrol up Flagstaff Spruit along my right front; I lined a stony ridge about 400 yards in front of my regiment with the dismounted men of one squadron, and held the other two squadrons in readiness to charge across my front from right to left should any attack issue from Flagstaff Spruit. The battery was now fired at from Middle Hill on its front, Rifleman's Ridge on its right, and Telegraph Hill on its rear ; some rifle-shots also reached the battery, but from where I cannot say. About 8.10 a.m., the firing having considerably slackened for some time previous, the battery withdrew from action, and formed up in the lower ground near my regiment. Our situation now remained unchanged till about 11.50 a.m., except that the enemy were bursting shrapnel directed against the 18th Hussars, who were trotting along the road close to us in driblets.
At about 11.50 a.m. the enemy apparently had found out our position, and fired three shells at us from Telegraph and Middle Hills, causing the battery to move a short distance.
Shortly afterwards two shells from Middle Hill actually fell in the narrow nullah crowded with men and horses, but fortunately only wounded Captain Darbyshire's charger and one squadron horse.
At 3 p.m. I received urgent orders to send two squadrons to Wagon Hill immediately. I left "D" squadron under Captain Darbyshire as escort to the 21st Field Battery, and took my remaining two squadrons to Wagon Hill as quickly as possible, under fire from Rifleman's Ridge on the way there. On arrival I dismounted my two squadrons by sections with carbines, and was directed by a sergeant-major of the King's Royal Rifle Corps to take the dismounted men up the hill to a spot near the headquarters of the King's Royal Rifle Corps, where I reported myself to Lieut.-Colonel Gore-Browne of that regiment. At about 5 p.m. I was requested by Major Campbell, King's Royal Rifle Corps, to take my men in the direction of Wagon Hill Point, and act as a reserve in the event of our firing line being driven back. I accordingly placed my men among some rocks along the inner crest line of the top of the hill, so that I could sweep the level plateau with fire should the Boers show over the outer crest line. In this position I remained till the end of the day's engagement without being called upon to fire, one man receiving a slight bullet-wound in the forearm, No. 4128 Private Ellis John Campbell.
Previous to this I had directed Lieutenant Reynolds, who was in charge of the Maxim gun detachment of my regiment, to place himself at the disposal of the officer commanding at this post. I attach Lieutenant Reynolds' report, and would recommend to your favourable notice that officer, and also No. 3352 Sergeant Harry Harris, 5th Dragoon Guards, for the good service they did on this occasion.
Darkness having now set in, and firing having ceased, I was directed to take my two squadrons to Wagon Hill and assist in holding it during the night. Finding myself senior officer at this point, I assumed command of the troops on Wagon Hill. Two and a half squadrons of the 18th Hussars were disposed from the 12-pounder gun emplacement on the right, along the crest line and facing Mounted Infantry Hill, and joining on to their left; three companies of the King's Royal Rifle Corps carried my front line to the point where I joined hands with the Devonshire Regiment, who held, the next section on my left. The two squadrons of 5th Dragoon Guards I placed as supports just beneath the inner crest line. I employed my whole force in constructing a line of sangars rather below the outer crest line, from which fire could be brought to bear down the slope of the hill. The sentries were pushed out down the hill about forty yards in front of this line of sangars; all the men slept in the sangars. At 3.0 a.m. work was resumed on the sangars. At daylight, as no enemy was seen, work was continued, and the bodies of the dead collected. At 9.40 a.m., on the 7th instant, I received orders to take my regiment back to camp, upon which I handed over the command of Wagon Hill Post. My regiment arrived at Green Horse Valley without further incident.
Meantime Captain Darbyshire, who had been left with his squadron near Range Post as escort to the 21st Field Battery Royal Artillery, reports as follows :—
His situation remained almost unchanged from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.; occasionally sniping shots were fired from Flagstaff Spruit at his dismounted men. It had several times been reported by our patrols that Boers were making their way down this spruit, and a very sharp look out had been kept on it, and the two squadrons above mentioned had been in readiness to charge them in flank should they make any serious attack from the open.
At 4 p.m. heavy rain fell, and gradually, by flooding them out, drove Captain Darbyshire's squadron and also the Boers out of the nullahs they were hiding in. It was now too thick to see clearly, but some Boers went away over Rifleman's Ridge in twos and threes, and the majority went back towards Middle Hill direction.
At about 7.30 p.m. the battery received orders to retire, and Captain Darbyshire's squadron also retired to camp, arriving there about 8.50 p.m. without further casualties than those already detailed in my report.
In conclusion, I would recommend to your favourable notice my adjutant, Lieutenant W. Q. Winwood, who acted as my staff officer during the day and night, and was of great assistance to me in many ways.
I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your obedient servant, (Signed) St. J. Gore, Major,
Commanding 5th Dragoon Guards.
Some " unofficial" notes on the day may be of interest here. Our battery crossed the iron bridge over the Klip River first, and we followed in " sections." From this bridge up to Range Post the road is in full view from Bulwana all the way. As the head of the regiment marched on to this bridge, the familiar column of white smoke spirted up into the clear air from the top of Buhvana ! After the regulation pause of twenty-two seconds came the roar and the rush, and the big shell burst just abreast of us, but some little distance to our left, in the camp of the Gordon Highlanders. It now appeared as if we were in for this all the way up to Range Post; but, fortunately for us, something more tempting must have distracted Bulwana's attention, as he did not again fire at us !
As the head of our column was descending the slope outside Range Post, a shrapnel from Rifleman's Ridge seemed to burst right in front of the leading "section," quickly followed by several more as the regiment trotted out of the defile. It is difficult to understand how there were no casualties here.
When Major Blewitt's battery came into action, the commanding officer and adjutant had a fine view of a stirring sight. The Boers' field-gun on Middle Hill seemed to out-range our guns, and persistently dropped its shells right in the middle of the gun teams, which suffered considerably. The picture was one which a De Neuville might have seized upon for its deeply dramatic interest!
During the artillery action the regiment had a quiet time, but when the battery subsequently formed up alongside of it at 8.10 a.m., the enemy's guns began " trying for it." From now until 3 p.m. we remained in this small nullah, which afforded only partial concealment from view, and none from fire. During the morning the 18th Hussars trotted out along the road a hundred yards distant from us by twos and threes, attracting an occasional shrapnel from Rifleman's Ridge, which burst over our heads with a sharp crack. They soon after trotted back again in the same fashion, the Boers' gun repeating its practice.
The enemy's three guns—Rifleman's Ridge, Middle Hill, and the 6-inch gun on Telegraph Hill—all knew whereabouts we were, and kept firing occasional shots, which were all close to us. Middle Hill alone could actually see us, and he put two shells actually in the nullah, right amongst the crowd! It was marvellous that only Captain Darbyshire's chestnut charger and one troop horse were hit. The horses were attended to in the nullah, and then led away to camp, the charger and its attendant narrowly escaping a shrapnel on the way up to Range Post. (Captain Darbyshire's mare unfortunately died a few days after, the " post-mortem " discovering a piece of segment shell which had penetrated beyond the reach of a probe.)
Meantime, neither officers nor men had had any breakfast, and it was not till about i p.m. that it was possible to bring some water and food out to them.
When the two squadrons went off to Wagon Hill, " Rifleman's Ridge" followed them nearly all the way with shells : the moving target, however, seemed to disconcert his aim, fortunately, as most of the shells went beyond us.
As our dismounted men reached the top of Wagon Hill, they were ordered to lie down just below the crest line : an incessant stream of bullets was now passing overhead, their fierce " hiss" occasionally varied by a loudly echoing "crack" as one struck full against a stone. At this time the wildest thunderstorm we had yet seen in this country burst over Wagon Hill, in gusts of wind and blinding streams of rain. The conflict on the plateau just above us raged more fiercely than ever, and the roar of the battle blended with that of the storm. Soon we were called upon to take up a covering position, in case the Boers should get beyond our firing line. The men lay on the rocks drenched to the skin, and waited. Gradually the firing seemed to slacken, and steadily night's shades swept over the hill.
Now, the sharp rattle of our Maxim burst out on our left front, sweeping down the nullah towards Bester's Farm, rattling out its pursuing vengeance again and again. Now, the fire has slackened and slackened into an occasional angry crack. The big guns have ceased their work long ago.
Crack ! The last rifle-shot has been fired ! The night has come. And Wagon Hill is safe in the keeping of the gallant men who have withstood the stress and the storm from darkness to darkness through that bitter day's strife !
Then we are free to move about; and then we hear disjointedly the tale of the Imperial Light Horse, found at this spot before day dawned, and still there at nightfall ; the tale of the rush of the small and gallant band of Boer-sold men of Majuba Hill renown, perhaps, who penetrated right up to our sangar, and now lie stark, mute evidences outside its walls ; and the tale of the heroic charge of " the Devons " in face of a blasting fire.
And we are filled with pride. And sorrow too; for bands of silent men are passing in the gloom, bearing their poor silent burdens. Comrades are seeking tidings of comrades they have lost.
But there is work for us to do. Plenty of it. Officers and men are drenched to the skin, and their old enemy of India, ague, is shaking many a one of our poor fellows. The men fetch their cloaks, etc., from their horses (which are still waiting below), and the latter are then sent back with some men to camp, bearing orders to send out as soon as possible the best they can get for feeding our hungry men, who are to remain here and assist in garrisoning Wagon Hill during the night.
[The party who were sent out from camp with these supplies started from Cove camp about ii p.m., and were floundering about amidst a confused mass of ambulance and other wagons during the pitch dark night until almost dawn! The rain had turned the track to Wagon Hill, from a bad road, into a morass studded with round boulders !]
Till after 10 p.m. we all work at making sangars ; and then all on Wagon Hill lie down at their posts, just as they are, in case there should be another attack. And the officers looking round their men's sangars and posts, step carefully in the murky gloom; for the living are lying down, carbine in hand, among the dead.
Jan. 7, Sunday.—All resumed work of making sangars at 3 a.m., and continued till about 7 a.m.
Profound quiet this morning ; not a gun fired. Sad sights all round us, tokens of the past struggle. Major A. H. M. Edwards, second in command of 5th Dragoon Guards, was commanding the Imperial Light Horse, which held this hill all day long on the 6th instant: he was wounded early in the day—shot in the shoulder narrowly missing his spine, as he was lying down firing with his men.
Lieutenant J. J. Richardson, 11th Hussars, who had been attached to the 5th Dragoon Guards until about a week ago, was commanding a squadron in the Imperial Light Horse. He also was wounded badly in the forearm early in the day.
Lieut.-General Sir George White visited Wagon Hill at about 8 a.m., and was good enough to express to the commanding officer his appreciation of the opportune arrival of all the cavalry on the previous afternoon ; General Ian Hamilton also expressed himself in similar terms to the commanding officer.
The Boers now sent in a flag of truce and ambulances, and asked that their dead might be given to them.
All being quiet, the regiment returned to Green Horse Valley at 11 a.m., after a very eventful absence of thirty hours !
All wanted sleep badly !
Death Report: No. 4441 Private John Douglas: enteric.
Jan. 8.—Green Horse Valley. Heavy rain in night.
Death Report: No. 4542 Private William Ross-brook : enteric.
Jan. 9.—Green Horse Valley. Rained all day. " B" squadron officers' " house," being on lower ground, was flooded out and abandoned. All horses had to be moved to higher ground. The river a raging torrent to-day ; dead horses and mules seen careening down the flood.
The commanding officer was sent for to headquarters to-day, and the reinforcement of Observation Hill, in case of an attack there, was specially entrusted to the 5th Dragoon Guards. Information had been received that an attack there was probable. The commanding officer, therefore, went out to Observation Hill from 10 to 12 p.m. to make arrangements for contingencies.
Jan. 10.—Turned out and saddled up at 2 a.m. Men then allowed to lie down, ready dressed, till 4.30 a.m. As no alarm occurred, then went to Green Horse Valley for day.
Telegraph Hill fired a great deal, otherwise the bombardment was slack.
Star shell were fired from Observation Hill during the night. All of us slept in our clothes, ready.
Death Report: No. 4203 Lance-Corporal William Rees : enteric. No. 3747 Private Alfred Game : enteric. No. 4606 Private Harold Dawson: enteric.
Jan. 11.—No attack. Green Horse Valley as usual. Practically no bombardment to-day ! It seems quite funny. The moon is getting brighter now— better for us.
Death Report: No. 44997 Private Harry Coppard : enteric.
Jan. 12.—Regiment to Green Horse Valley. The commanding officer took squadron leaders round Observation Hill to observe how the defences were laid out. At Green Horse Valley one squadron practised attacking another, to accustom the men to taking cover behind, and advancing over, these stony kopjes. A welcome rumour arrived that Sir Redvers Buller's relieving force was at Potgeiter's Drift, about 17 miles south-west from Ladysmith on the Tugela.
Death Report: No. 4128 Lance-Corporal Charles Orton : enteric.
Jan. 13.—Bombarding away again. In the afternoon Bulwana landed a shell within four yards of the " B " squadron officers' cooking-place ! Private Fox was standing there making a pudding : the shell luckily pitched just beyond him, and did not burst back. No damage was done, except that much earth was thrown into the pudding, which was spoilt; which fact had more stress laid on it than any other, when Private Fox described the occurrence to the commanding officer shortly after it had happened!
Jan. 14, Sunday.—A quiet day in Green Horse Valley. All cavalry commanding officers attended at the brigadier's office in the afternoon to arrange the details of a Flying Column. A very hot day.
Jan. 15.—Green Horse Valley. Bulwana bombarding.
Jan. 16.—The Boer 4.7 howitzer on Surprise Hill put a shell into the mess-tent of the 5th Lancers (next door to us) and wrecked it; slightly wounding Lieutenant Scriven, one of their officers. The fragments came into our camp also.
Death Report: No. 3934 Private C. Stirrett (11th Hussars, attached) : enteric.
Jan. 17.—At 5.30 a.m. we heard loud reports of heavy guns from direction of Potgeiter's Drift! No doubt now they are Buller's guns! Good business ! Absolutely no news about anything to be had! Bulwana fired a good deal to-day.
One of the officers' messes managed to secure a sucking pig for dinner ! An enormous luxury nowadays. Buller's guns seemed to go on firing at intervals all night long: most encouraging! (Possibly the sucking pig assisted in keeping one awake to hear them !)
Jan. 18.—Buller's big guns firing at intervals during the whole day. At about 4 p.m. they suddenly began firing at a tremendous rate. The commanding officer and Captain Kennard went quickly to Observation Hill West, from whence the British lyddite shells could very clearly be seen bursting, even with the naked eye. The hill, on which were the British guns and the heliograph,(This was " Spearman's Hill.) was well seen from here also. Firing gradually died away as darkness came on. Very exciting to look on at! They are both fighting about who is to have us! We could not see any Boers at all, or men of any kind: we had not the slightest idea as to what had been going on, or whether there had been any infantry assault at all, successful or otherwise. Most tantalizing.
Jan. 19.—The regiment received orders at 3 a.m. to go at once to Observation Hill, as an attack was anticipated there. We went there, dismounted immediately, leaving one quarter of the men behind, who took all the horses down to Green Horse Valley as best they could. Nothing having occurred up to 6 a.m., the dismounted men were sent, in driblets, to Green Horse Valley as usual.
At 12.30 p.m. orders were again received to be in immediate readiness to turn out mounted. We saddled up, and remained so for the rest of the day. Nothing occurred. Movements of the enemy towards this point had been reported during both the night and the day.
Jan. 20.—Buller still firing slowly all day. Very hot day. British field-guns seen bursting shrapnel over a ridge about 14 miles away in afternoon ; no sound could be heard from these smaller guns; no result could be made out by us.
Jan. 21, Sunday.—No firing at all from Boer guns round us. Buller still firing away! Very heavy thunderstorm about 9 p.m.
It has now been officially notified that the operations of the relieving force have so far been most satisfactory.
[At the last " auction " eggs were sold for 22s. the dozen, and ten very ordinary cigarettes fetched Js. 6d. We thought we should save money when this siege began, as one cannot possibly spend any on luxuries or amusements !]
Death Report: No. 4491 Private Robert Woollard : enteric. No. 3892 Private Thomas Butler : enteric.
Jan. 22, Monday.—A few of Buller's shells seen. The situation appears the same, except that our guns seem to have moved more westward. Telegraph Hill and Bulwana guns both firing away at us to-day. Reports current in evening that the Boers were seen to be bolting ! We smile at these reports now : we know them : "they come from Sheffield ! "
Jan. 23, Tuesday.—The commanding officer and adjutant rode to Observation Hill West at 4.30 a.m. Our garrison made a " demonstration : " fired off all our guns all round like anything.
The Boers hardly replied at first. At 6.45 a.m., when the commanding officer and staff were just going away, Surprise Hill howitzer landed a 40-pounder shrapnel a short way behind them. The fragments seemed to scour the whole hill, and the orderly's helmet was struck by a bullet, but no harm at all done.
Buller's shells again seen bursting on Ntaba-Nyama ridge.
Death Report: No. 3744 Private William McBride : enteric.
Jan. 24, Wednesday. — The commanding officer and adjutant, and other officers who were on Cove Hill after breakfast, had an exciting morning. We saw the British guns shelling the ridges near " The Sisters" (Mabed-Hlane) and Spion Kop. Very heavy firing all the morning. The lyddite shells seen from a distance have a peculiar effect: suddenly the thickish stem of a tree seems to shoot up from the level ground, and from it a fine spreading tree-top quickly expands on all sides ; the effect in many cases being like an enormous oak tree rapidly springing out of the soil, which on these hill-tops is generally of a reddish character.
About 11.30 a.m. the British big guns suddenly ceased.
Soon after a Boer gun with black powder, on a smaller hill " this " side of " The Sisters " (on which hill was also a Boer camp), was seen to fire nine shots at Spion Kop!
We instantly deduced that the British had taken this point, as they had been firing lyddite at it shortly before. Great joy! Wild excitement !
But we know nothing !
In the afternoon it is reported that a large body of men were seen to run down this ridge.
No information received all day as to what has really happened. The suspense is very great.
Jan. 25, Thursday.—The commanding officer and adjutant (as news-purveyors to the regiment) were at Observation West at daylight. Very clear morning. All the laagers and tents of the Boers were seen to be in the same places as yesterday ! A great shock ! There were a lot of officers here looking on : almost dead silence prevailed amongst them ; hardly a word was spoken, except in whispers. Evidently great anxiety !
Presently (through a telescope), signs of bustle in the laagers appear ; gradually wagons begin to file away from each laager, and soon all three laagers are seen stretching over the plain in column, filing away in sinuous distant threads, going North !
Hurrah ! we must have taken Spion Kop yesterday !
The good news was at once taken down to Green Horse Valley, and gaily discussed over breakfast there.
During the day the Boers were reported to be still " trekking ;" but towards evening an ominous report was made that one of their laagers had come back again !
No news received to-day: all very anxious to hear what has happened.
Jan. 26, Friday.—A cloudy day : no heliographing possible ! No news of any sort all the long weary day! Every man propounding his own theory and explanation of what has happened. Some were prophets of good, some of evil. All wearied with the fruitless task of trying to construct news with no materials.
An almost unique situation! Every one in the world has known what has happened long ago, except ourselves, the interested parties, under whose very eyes the battle has taken place ! They know in London, America, and Australia. Every Boer around us knows. But zve don't know !
Thank Heaven we had ducks for dinner to-night in our mess, bought at auction for some enormous sum. Let this one bright ray of comfort illumine an otherwise blankly uninteresting dismal twenty-four hours of existence.
Death Report: No. 2344 S.Q.M.S. Henry Thomas : dysentery.
Jan. 27, Saturday. — During the night news came in, from a Kaffir who had deserted to us from Telegraph Hill, that the British had taken Spion Kop, and that the Boer losses had been very great.
During the morning the sun came out, and helio-graphing was possible again. Then came the unwelcome news that although we had taken Spion Kop, the Boers retook it during the night! Our losses, too, were said to be very heavy.
Sad news this for all of us. It means that our comrades outside have suffered ; it means that the date of our relief is again postponed, and the period of suspense prolonged indefinitely.
About 9.30 p.m. a terrible thunderstorm burst over Cove camp. Men and officers all stood to their tent-poles, and struggled manfully with the raging elements ; the driving, pelting rain at first came straight through the dry tents, and every tent had at least pools of water on the floor. In the middle of the storm the wind suddenly veered round and blew straight back again with equal fury. This was fatal to many of our tents. When the wind and rain gradually abated, those of us whose tents remained standing ventured to let go their tent-poles and look outside.
Two-thirds of the officers' tents had been blown down, and some of them had been actually blown away! All were drenched, and, unfortunately, the poor officers on the sick list—Major Heneage and Captain Darbyshire among them—had lost their tents, and were wandering about drenched to the skin just as they got out of bed ! Four of the men's large tents were actually down, and all of them were flooded and invaded by torrents of mud that flowed along the ground before the driving hurricane. Nothing could be done till morning.
Not a pleasant day—or night!
Jan. 28, Sunday.—A scene of wreck as the sun rose on Cove camp. Luckily, it was Sunday, or the unusual stir and bustle in camp would doubtless have drawn fire from the keen-eyed gunner on Bulwana ! Luckily, also, a hot sun dried us, and the piles of bedding and clothes exposed to it all the morning.
All cavalry commanding officers met at General Brocklehurst's at 10 a.m., to consult about the necessity of reduced rations for our horses under the new conditions brought into being by the British reverse at Spion Kop. It is also known that the bread ration will cease from this date, and biscuit be substituted for it.
And so to church amid these thoughts and surroundings—in the little English church, the stonework of whose porch has been pierced by a shell from Pepworth Hill early in the bombardment, which nevertheless has spared the main building, where the oft-heard words seem to gather fuller and more real meanings ; and where the prayer to " Give us this day our daily bread" has a significance fortunately unknown to the many thousands of worshippers who will also be, almost mechanically, repeating these same words, on this day—at home.
Death Report; No. 4490 Private Stephen Harrington : enteric.
The events of the past week have been purposely presented here exactly as they appeared at the time to all of us. These glimpses of the outside world, seen through a telescope, and garnished with reports, true, untrue, and fantastic, constituted the life of the regiment during these monotonous, dreary days, and therefore they may perchance be allowed to find a place here. For the rest: we rose early; groomed and fed our horses ; slept; were fired at by various guns at regular hours; played Patience and Piquet; ate our rations; discussed military subjects, and rumours ; talked about what we were going to have to eat (looking forward several meals ahead); talked about the prices realized at the last auction for eggs, and triumphantly demonstrated that ducks at 15.?. 6d. apiece were better value than eggs at 3 5.?. per dozen!
People say that natives of India, among themselves, talk of nothing but money. Verily, I believe, our conversation at this season chiefly consisted of "yea," "yea," "nay," "nay," "Buller's guns," and " eating " !
Jan. 29, Monday.—All cavalry commanding officers received orders at 2 p.m. to-day to turn out all their chargers and squadron horses to grass; except 75, for which a small grain ration would be available for issue ! This was to be done at daybreak to-morrow ! A terrible blow to the regiment: we have tended and cared for our fine horses all the siege with such labour and zeal, and now all our work is to be thrown away! No doubt the measure is an absolutely necessary one, but it is none the less bitter to cavalrymen for all that. It means, possibly, the practical loss of the 5th Dragoon Guards as an efficient fighting unit in the present campaign. Such arrangements as conld be made, were made in hot haste, and the morrow looked for with apprehension. This step presumably was necessitated by what took place on the night of the 24th with Buller's force.
Jan. 30, Tuesday.—The best 75 horses in the regiment (including certain chargers) were told off as a mounted squadron, and sent down to Green Horse Valley under Captain Eustace.
A "dismounted regiment" of 18 officers and 173 effective N.C.O.'s and men was now left.
These led out the remaining horses which were to be turned out to grass, 305 in number, beyond Range Post, just outside our line of defences, and there they were turned loose to graze. The horses of the 19th Hussars were loose at this same spot also. Almost immediately the wild " Waler " horses began to get alarmed, and in less than a quarter of an hour the whole lot had stampeded and made off towards camp, galloping over rocks, into barbed wire fences, and encountering every danger possible. All day long horses were galloping about in every quarter of Ladysmith, and the streets were dangerous to ride in ! The men were employed all day in catching the poor brutes (who galloped into their old places in the horse-lines, and whinnied for their nose-bags to be put on them), and leading them out again beyond Range Post and turning them loose. In fact, we spent our day insisting upon disbanding, and getting rid of our horses out of camp, against their will! At night all the mixed mobs of horses were driven into the town, and some of them were got into a wired-in enclosure where they had to spend the night. Most of them again broke away and went back to their respective camps, and the men again had to take them back to the " kraal" for the night. This day was really the only day in which all ranks had been really down in the mouth, and the scenes were enough to make any cavalry soldier miserable.
To add to the foregoing depressing influences, the following order now appeared :—
" The following will be rations for men and horses from this date:
Rations for Officers and Men.
Preserved meat 0.5 lb. or fresh meat 1 lb.
Biscuits 0.5 lb. or 1 lb. of bread. 0.25 lb. of fresh meat will be issued in addition on days when biscuit is supplied.
Tea or coffee, one-sixth of an ounce.
Sugar, 1.5 ounces. Salt, 0.5 ounce. Pepper, 1/36 ounce.
For 75 horses per regiment—
Mealies, 3 lbs.
Cut chaff, 4 lbs.
Grass, 16 lbs.
Salt, 0.5 ounce.
All other horses to be grazed."
After this we had to give up providing tea at Reveille for the men. The shortness of bread or biscuit, and the short ration of sugar, were the things most keenly felt. Up till now we had been making porridge of mealie flour—which gave us all a good start in the morning, at any rate. Now our porridge stopped, and the men only had tea and biscuits for breakfast. The meat ration was good, certainly in quantity, and kept us going along.
Jan. 31, Wednesday.—Our horses were driven out of the kraal over Range Post to graze (or what few of them would go there !) : nearly all again stampeded and returned to Cove camp.
The horses were now a pitiable sight. The night had been wet and very cold ; many were lame, many cut about by rocks and barbed wire fences. Ours were irrevocably mixed up with the 19th Hussars, 5th Lancers, and 18th Hussars.
This state of things continued daily onwards ; the work was heavy on officers and men, who had constantly to be detailed to take out horses, or to go out and bring in horses reported to be straying out too far.
We now have a mounted squadron and a dismounted regiment in the 5th Dragoon Guards ! We have drawn out of store long Lee-Metford rifles and bayonets, infantry braces, and ammunition pouches, and we can put about 173 "infantry" men into the field to man defences where required. To-day shells from Surprise Hill 40-lb. howitzer kept dropping on Cove Hill just behind us, and sending splinters and stones all over our camp, causing some annoyance.
Feb. 1, Thursday.—The " mounted squadron" goes down to Green Horse Valley at 4.45 a.m. daily now, and the dismounted regiment remains in Cove camp. About 9 a.m. with a fierce rush the 6-inch gun on Telegraph Hill landed a shell just between two of our " B" squadron tents. A lot of men were within a few yards of where it burst, and yet no one was injured ! Two more shells came in at quick intervals almost in the same place, but the commanding officer had ordered the men to go on to the hillside, and fortunately they escaped. One man was just grazed. Although this gun is the same size as Bulwana, it is barely 6000 yards away, instead of Bulwana's range of over 8000 yards ; consequently it appears to come in twice as fast, and very much more viciously!
Feb. 2, Friday.—Same as yesterday. No news of any sort all this time about Buller's movements : nothing to think about except what we eat (or what we don't eat!).
Feb. 3, Saturday.—Great trouble about collecting straying horses. As usual, Buller's guns were heard a good deal to-day; not in the same places as before, apparently.
Allusion has been made to the great thirst for any interesting news from the outside world, from which we are completely cut off: we don't expect, of course, to be told anything about the future movements of the British forces, or anything that might be of the smallest use to the enemy, as all we know in Ladysmith goes straight out to the Boers through spies. Some little amusement was, however, caused about this time by a message heliographed in to us by the gallant colonel, who has come to the relieving column as intelligence officer. The message was to this effect: " Information has been brought in to Chieveley by a ' runner,' that there has been no gun on Bulwana for the past two days !" Ha, ha ! Ho, ho ! Here's a siege joke for you ! Something to make us laugh ! We don't know anything about anything in any other part of the globe, but we do flatter ourselves we know something about Bulwana ! It happens that Bulwana has been very unusually active during the day on which this message is received, and the reader may imagine the feelings of the eager inquirer after news when this astounding and gratifying piece of intelligence is smilingly fired into him by one of our genial staff officers!
After having spent the day in dodging 96-lb. shells from Bulwana, it is certainly refreshing to be informed in the evening that there is no gun on it! (Much laughter.) If ever our good friend the colonel happens to find himself in a besieged city (which Heaven forfend!) we have arranged to keep him thoroughly posted up in the latest harrowing details of the decease of the lamented Good Queen Anne!
It is strongly rumoured in the town that Ladysmith is to be attacked either to-night or to-morrow night. Full preparations were therefore made for our going to Observation Hill East at a moment's notice during the night—which, however, passed off peacefully.
Feb. 4, Sunday.—A peaceful day; no firing at all. Bathing parades. Received orders late to bivouac on
10Observation Hill. The three squadrons were distributed " in support" along the long front; the night was beautifully fine, and perfectly quiet; lying out was no hardship.
Feb. 5, Monday.—All of us got " under arms " at 3 a.m. As everything was quiet when day dawned, we returned to Cove camp about 5.30 a.m. for the day.
Soon afterwards Buller's guns were heard from about the direction of Keat's Drift, apparently, and in other places too. The firing went on incessantly, and was very heavy about 7.30 a.m. All day heavy "booming" continued: a tremendous bombardment about 3 p.m.! Firing continued till after nightfall.
No one in Ladysmith has any idea what has taken place ! Most exciting and tantalizing.
Death Report: No. 4286 Private Herbert Clarke : enteric. No. 4566 Private William Holt: enteric.
Feb. 6, Tuesday.—Firing from Buller and some Boer guns began about 5 a.m. To-day from our camp we could see the white puff of smoke as a Boer gun fired, and the answering column of brown dust as a lyddite shell burst on the same ridge. This appeared to go on all day long. One knows nothing of what is going on, and one's attention wanders away from this distant yet visible sign of fighting, in spite of the intense personal interest every individual man among us is bound to be feeling in it!
The commanding officer was on a Field General Court Martial to-day—held on a civilian charged with "using words calculated to create despondency," etc. It is high time that some check was put on this sort of thing. The evidence disclosed that the accused man—a contractor—had on several occasions used most improper language to N.C.O.'s and men of the Devon Regiment; exaggerating the British losses at Colenso, for example; suggesting that the soldiers here would have "worse things to come," etc., and words to that effect. He was found guilty, and sentenced to one year's imprisonment. The trial of this man will probably have an excellent effect, and show that a power to check any conduct of this sort among civilians does exist, and will be made use of if necessary. It was within the powers of this court to have sentenced the man to "Death," and the prisoner looked as if he knew it, during the trial!
Orders were received to-day that the regiment was to do some actual shooting with its new infantry rifles, to accustom the men to their use. Accordingly, we lined the outer line (some way below the crest) of Observation Hill East, and the men sat and lay among the rocks. Squadron leaders then practised their men individually by directing them to " hit" various objects pointed out in their front, omitting all other instructions (which are to be found in that interesting work, the " Musketry Regulations ").
It was extremely instructive and pleasant to see some of the men—hitherto always accustomed to be told everything by an officer—fire their first few consecutive shots.
Supposing a man to have been directed to "hit" a small bush, say 700 yards away : in some cases, from force of habit, he would hardly consider for two seconds what the distance really was, but put up his sights to, say 300 yards, very smartly. Then he would fire at his mark. Luckily, we could see where each bullet struck in the dusty, grassy plain. When such a man saw that his bullet had fallen very short of his mark, a revulsion of feeling came over him, and one saw men realizing for themselves that all these theories about sighting rifles and judging distance were real things, and practical things, and simple things!
It was now a pleasure to see how the whole character of the shooting changed, and how one heard men most intelligently advising each other as to lowering or raising their sights.
In this one respect lies the chief distinction between our men and the Boers. Our men can shoot capitally at a target, at a known range, and with officers (who themselves know the range) to tell them. The Boer is just the reverse ! Each man is capable of doing all this for himself; he shoots " with his head ;" the first thing he thinks about is, " What is the range ? " Consequently, any Boer can be put into a " sangar " by himself, with a bag of cartridges, and be told to stay there all day and shoot at any mark presenting itself, with the knowledge that he will use his head, and sight his rifle more or less correctly for any given mark whenever it appears.
But to return from this digression. Our firing had now grown fast and furious, and in our front were fast rising little columns of sand and dust where our bullets struck the ground. The Boer gunners on Surprise Hill must have been greatly puzzled at this sudden and extraordinary outbreak !
They thought they ought to do something; so, for some unexplained reason, they began firing shells on to the same part of the plain where our bullets were striking!
This lasted for some time, to our great amusement, and then the order was given to " Cease fire" and withdraw. While this was being done, " crack " came a shrapnel from the big howitzer and burst over our heads—fortunately doing no damage !
The Boers have found out where the bullets were coming from ! It's time to go!
The officers of the Leicester Regiment were placidly seated at their dinner-table in the open, close behind us, so they too had an excellent view of the burst of this shrapnel.
Apologizing to them for having called down this unwelcome interruption in their dinner, the 5th Dragoon Guards continued their walk back to Cove camp after the most instructive and novel " Monthly Musketry" which the commanding officer can recall to mind during his service.
Feb. 7, Wednesday.—Buller's guns again began early, and a great battle apparently raged all day ; now we have almost given up speculating on what is happening, or what has happened.
Orders were given for the formation of a flying column, to meet the relieving column should it get close to us. Under this scheme the dismounted part of the 5th Dragoon Guards were told off to defend the line of the greater part of Caesar's camp.
Accordingly the commanding officer and squadron leaders put in a very hot morning's work there, studying the line of defence and the ground. This place was especially interesting, as it was very hotly attacked by the Boers during the fight of the 6th January. To-day our Engineers are busy making sangars along this crest-line, and also clearing the field of fire by cutting down the trees on the slope below our sangars; these measures will no doubt very greatly increase the strength of our defence, should another attack be ever made here.
At the kraals into which the mixed mobs of horses of the various regiments are driven each evening, it appeared to-day that there were very few horses of the 5th Dragoon Guards comparatively.
When questioned, a sergeant of the 5th Lancers said that on the section of which his grazing guard was in charge, they only stopped 5th Lancers' horses from straying away! Report and inquiries having been made, it appeared that some clashing of orders brought about this unfortunate result.
It is greatly feared that many of our horses have gradually grazed away from us in this direction, and gone on till they reached the better grass near the Boer lines, and thus been taken ! Many of them were seen, and reported to have been seen, outside Observation Hill for several mornings past.
Simultaneously with the order to turn our horses out to grass, had been issued another: that each regiment was to hand over 33 horses—to be eaten !
A gruesome order for a cavalry regiment, hoping to continue to take its part in this campaign after "the relief," but no doubt necessary, and therefore made the best of by all of us.
A regular factory was started for turning out some very excellent soup, which was named " Chevril" by Colonel Ward, A.A.G. (B), having the fear of a prosecution for libel before his eyes if he had dared to call it " Bovril " !
This "Chevril" was certainly excellent, and was greatly appreciated by all ranks.
The heat during these last few days has been very trying, and to-night the heat seemed to continue almost as great—quite contrary to the usual grateful coolness.
Some officers slept outside, just as if in India still !
Death Report: No. 2017 Staff-Sergeant-Farrier Thomas Parker : dysentery.
Feb. 8, Thursday.—In. consequence of what had been heard about our grazing horses yesterday, the commanding officer sent out a patrol in front of Observation Hill at daybreak, under Lieutenant Dunbar, who had volunteered to take it. This patrol managed to rescue about ten horses and mules belonging to various corps, but mostly belonging to
5th Dragoon Guards. These horses, however, had been out so long without being driven in, that they had now strayed far away from our defences, and Lieutenant Dunbar and his patrol did very well in getting them back, as they came under rifle fire and also under shrapnel fire from Surprise Hill while engaged in rounding up these horses.
Buller's guns, and the Boers' also, were heard firing slowly all day. No news.
We were called upon to send away a second batch of 33 more horses for slaughter to-day — to the " Chevril" factory. The horses out at grass are becoming much more tractable (no wonder, poor brutes!), and spend all their time eating, instead of galloping wildly about as they did at first: consequently a marked improvement in the condition of those still remaining to us can be now seen, comparing them with the state they were in on the second day after being turned out.
This was the hundredth day of the siege of Ladysmith ! During the night, at about 1.30 a.m., Surprise Hill fired three howitzer shells which came somewhere near the camp—one of them, at any rate, sending stones, etc., over our tents. Then Bulwana took it up, and he fired several shots—some of which did not burst—into some place near the town.
It was most gratifying to notice how still our camp was ; hardly a sound was heard in it, and apparently no notice at all was taken of the shelling. Shells bursting at night are less pleasant than in the daytime, but the wishes of the commanding officer that every one should remain quiet, and that there should be no talking, were admirably carried out. Had the bombardment continued, and been effectual, orders would have been given to turn out quietly and move up to Cove Hill. It is most important at all times not to have people talking or making any noise during the night, as two or three men can spoil the repose of a whole regiment by so doing.
Feb. 9, Friday.—A 96-lb. shell, fired from Bulwana last night, was brought into our camp, and purchased for £6. It was complete, except that the fuse was out of it, and there was no powder in it when first seen : rather a mystery.
Buller's guns fired a few shots about 8 a.m., and then the firing seemed to stop altogether ; it was very hazy, and impossible to see any distance.
No news of any sort yet.
It was announced during the day that the bread ration was again to be reduced by one-half! Also that in future even the 75 favoured horses would receive no grain ration ! Bread is now to us " more precious than rubies."
Feb. 10, Saturday.—The "dismounted regiment" walked to Observation East, and did some useful aiming and "snapping" at various objects pointed out to them by troop leaders.
We concluded by some "judging distance," with some fine long ranges, the distances being ascertained by the help of a " Mekometer " range-finder, which the commanding officer has managed to pick up here.
For some reason not quite clear, these range-finders were taken away entirely from all cavalry regiments in India, and they were left with absolutely no means of ascertaining ranges!
We went " on service " like this, and lately we have been unable to train any N.C.O.'s to the use of the range-finder, not having an instrument to teach them with. If properly worked, this is an excellent range-finder—compared to any other known to us—for cavalry purposes, and it has been found most useful in making a hurried map of a piece of country which could not be traversed in the ordinary way on account of the enemy's presence. When one first arrives at a position which may have to be held for some hours or days, the Mekometer is invaluable for quickly preparing a table in one's note-book of the ranges to all the most well-defined objects in view : armed with this information, one can start an action with an enormous advantage, as one's fire should be instantly effective. If any one can invent a better range-finder, by all means let us have it; but don't say we must have none at all because there are a few slight imperfections in the Mekometer, which are well known to all who understand the subject.
Buller (or the Boers) again fire a few shots about 8 a.m. to-day. Much too hazy to see anything. Rain is now wanted very badly ; the heat is intense, and the grass is stopping growing, which will be a very serious thing for our grazing horses and cattle! No news.
There was a good deal of firing round Ladysmith to-day, and Bulwana especially made a very vicious "set" at the 18th Hussars and "the Manchesters," on the Caesar's camp plateau. Certainly the man who shoots this Bulwana gun is an artist at his work ; both the man and the gun are simply excellent; they seem to be able to place their shells just where they like ! We think the 6-inch gun that was on Telegraph Hill has been taken away for some days past, as it has ceased to annoy us.
Feb. 11, Sunday.—Church parade service, for the dismounted regiment, at 6.30 a.m., at the Naval Brigade camp (near ours), and in company with our gallant friends the Blue-jackets. The Rev. A. V. C. Hordern officiated, and gave a short service, as we stood in a nullah out of sight of Bulwana, for fear the gunner there might forget it was the sabbath, as he has done before !
Mr. Hordern has been out at Intombi camp, and only returned thence last evening. He himself has been ill with dysentery, poor fellow, and is still very weak, but at his duty. He gave us sad accounts of our comrades now out in hospital at Intombi. The poor fellows are suffering a great deal from dysentery, and enteric and intermittent fever. The cruel part of it all is that there is scarcely any of the all-necessary milk to give them, and they have to do the best they can almost upon the ordinary ration which we are getting. When once a man gets into a weak state, it is so difficult to pull him round again without giving him any good nourishing food. Of course, all the tinned milk, whisky, brandy, arrowroot, and everything that would be of value for sick men, was "commandeered " by our authorities at the beginning of the siege, to be kept for the sick and wounded ; so they are getting all there was, and is, available. Mr. Hordern says that the current state of affairs shows a very marked influence on the state of the sick and the daily number of deaths. If Buller's guns are heard nearer, or if any good news is given them, they cheer up wonderfully and say they feel better ; but if they have bad, or no news at all, the death rate is certain -o be heavier on that day: they die as much from sheer weariness, and weakness from want of food, as from the diseases to which the deaths are actually attributed.
A sad state of affars, for which we all feel deeply.
Feb. 12, Monday.—We saw some English papers to-day, and tried to realize the state of mind our friends in England must have been in during the two days after the attack made on us here on 6th January!
Apparently the last message from Ladysmith said, " Hard pressed "! Then the rain-storm came on, and no more news could be sent by the helio. It seems that in London they did not know the glorious result of that Saturday's work till the following Tuesday morning!
We heard to-day that " things are going all right."
A great relief to be told this : we don't want to know any details, if it is not considered advisable to give them.
Orders were received to-day that we were to bivouac every night in future on Observation Hill East.
This was an entirely new departure, and we are now in for a purely infantry role! However, we were all ready to take up anything, and at dusk walked out to our new post. We had to build two forts on the summits of two small hill-tops in the crest-line. They were made eight yards long, four yards wide, four and a half feet high, and from five feet at the bottom to three feet at the top in thickness. The ground on these hills is just like iron ; it is studded with large iron stones of various sizes embedded in it. It is impossible to say, when one starts to loosen a stone, how big it is underground ; sometimes, after ten minutes' work with a crowbar, a given stone had to be abandoned as an impossible job. The weight of the stones, too, was very great, and the labour of collecting them, carrying, and building them up in the moonlight was very heavy. The men and officers worked hard from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., and went to lie down on the hillside for the night tired, after some very heavy work, considering the weak state into which insufficient food had brought them.
Feb. 13, Tuesday— Walked back to Cove camp at 5 a.m. All quiet. We went out again at night, and completed the two forts begun last night. A heavy job, well over. The men are very weak, and not able for heavy work which in ordinary times they would think nothing of. All worked excellently, however. Bivouacked again as last night.
Death Report: No. 4534 Lance-Corporal Hugh Soliague : dysentery.
Feb. 14, Wednesday.—Back to Cove at 5 a.m. for the day. The regiment is now doing a sort of Box and Cox arrangement! The mounted squadron go to Green Horse Valley still in the daytime, and sleep at Cove ; while the dismounted regiment come to Cove for the daytime, and sleep at Observation East!
To-day the section of defences on which we have built our forts was formally handed over to the 5th Dragoon Guards, to be responsible for in every way ! It is much more satisfactory to have an independent command, to know exactly our line of defence, and be able to make arrangements for all eventualities in the section for which we are responsible. During the following days all ranks were busy morning and evening working on our new "Green Horse Post," and putting it in a thorough state of defence. Loopholes were made, sangars improved, places for Cossack posts at night selected, barbed wire put down in front of our line, etc. The commanding officer made a contoured sketch of the whole position, giving distances to all points within range. In short, all ranks entered into the spirit of their new duties with the greatest zest and alacrity, and felt proud that after having had one successful dart at the Boers at Elandslaagte in their proper role of cavalry, they were now entrusted with part of the outer line of the Ladysmith defences where they might have another opportunity of trying to do their duty this time dismounted.
The 15th, 16th, 17th, and 18th of February passed in this manner: more or less quiet, dull, listless, hungry days! We heard some good news from Lord Roberts, and are also glad to hear reports that our late cavalry commander, General French, is doing excellent work. An article about him appeared in a Natal paper, in the course of which it drew attention to the way in which cavalry men had come to the front as leaders during this war. Our excellent late "CO.," Colonel Baden-Powell, was also quoted as another instance ; to which we all say " Hear! Hear!" very loudly and proudly.
But while we have only minor ills to bear, sad reports come from the Hospital Camp at Intombi. For three more of our poor weak comrades the long-deferred relief of Ladysmith has tarried too long!
In Regimental Orders we read the now too frequent formula : " The ' CO.' greatly regrets to have to announce the deaths of the following " :—
16th Feb., 1900.—3861 Private Geo. John Smith, from enteric.
17th Feb., 1900.—4558 Private J. Trebbett, from enteric.
18th Feb., 1900—3832 Private F. Foster (11th Hussars, attached), from enteric.
Feb. 19, Monday. — Lieut-General Sir George White visited our No. 2 Fort about 6 this morning : a good view could be obtained thence of the country about Monte Christo, in which Buller is now operating. The Commander-in-Chief was able to tell us that all was going on capitally. Buller was heard firing a great deal to-day.
Feb. 20, Tuesday.—Heard more good news. Buller has taken his positions, and Roberts is forging ahead well! All very pleased. Guns again heard booming away towards Colenso direction—seeming very near.
The weather made an extraordinary change today ; it was about 300 colder than yesterday !
Surprise Hill howitzer fired two 40-pounders at Observation East in evening. No damage done then ; but in the morning the Leicesters had lost one man killed and two wounded at Observation West from this gun.
A fatigue party of ours, while on duty removing some tin roofing from the permanent camp, was fired on, and No. 4487 Private Woodburne Fell was slightly wounded in the neck by a shrapnel bullet. He was able to walk into camp, however.
Feb. 21, Wednesday— At 5 a.m., the " CO." having seen two Boers on "Wall Kopje," about 1700 yards away,a "sniping match" with them was indulged in. They were seen to jump at the first shot, and they quickly disappeared ; then they fired a shot back again ; after that we kept putting bullets so as to search out different parts of the rear slope of the hill. These Boers were not heard or seen again.
This power of annoying a body of troops from a distance is one of the most remarkable features of the new warfare ! Nowadays a man in khaki clothes can worm his way under cover to a certain spot, and there lie hidden in grass or behind a rock; thence for a radius of 2000 yards or more all around him he can send bullets whizzing about anybody whom he sees! Without going to the place, it is almost impossible to locate such a man : his rifle makes no smoke, and the report only gives a faint guide as to the direction, even. We have rifle ammunition in plenty, and so generally fire at spots likely to conceal a man when this occurs ; and sometimes the cessation of the sniping shows that one of our chance bullets has been near enough to make the "sniper" think it prudent to knock off his work for some time, at any rate.
In Cove camp, at about 11 a.m., a working party of infantry were up on the hill above us, but unseen to us. Surprise Hill fired at them : they at once retired to the crest-line just above our camp. Surprise Hill then pitched a shell just on the crest-line, which burst and deluged the whole camp with splinters! Three times this happened, and the working party kept going back again at intervals during the day. Most providentially no one was hurt, although many of the tents were struck, and also some of the men by spent bullets rebounding from the ground. The " CO." wrote asking that working parties should not be allowed on this hill during daylight, in fairness to our officers and men.
We were told this afternoon that there was good news in ! No details can be told. Never mind : it's good !
Feb. 22, Thursday.—In Cove camp at about 10.30 a.m. All was going on quietly as usual. The adjutant and three squadron sergeant-majors were " checking defaulters' books" in the very diminutive orderly-room tent. Suddenly a distant " boom " was heard, then a rushing noise, as a shrapnel from Surprise Hill skimmed just over the crest of the steep hill behind us and burst about twenty feet from the level of our camp—almost over the line of officers' tents. The " CO." happened to be at the guard tent at this moment, and so got a bird's-eye view of exactly what happened. The ground among and around the officers' tents seemed to be torn up by the shrapnel bullets, and a cloud of dust arose while the white smoke slowly drifted away. No. 4087 Private Thomas Howard the orderly, who was sitting outside the orderly-room, was struck in the back, and the bullet went through his lungs, poor fellow! Major Hilliard, R.A.M.C, was with him instantly, and within a few minutes he was bound up and on his way to No. 11 British Field Hospital. Two bullets passed through the orderly-room tent, but no one was struck. Most of the officers' tents had bullet-holes through them. Lieutenant and Adjutant Winwood, whose tent had been wrecked by Bulwana on 11th December when standing next to the " C.O.'s " bell tent on its east side, had now taken up his abode still next door to the " CO.," but on the west side. Into this tent a large piece of shrapnel casing, weighing some two pounds, found its way : it struck the pillow lying on Winwood's bed, tore it to pieces, and came to a full stop among the bed-clothes ! A good thing Winwood was not in his bed then ! The feathers from this pillow floated out of the tent, and pervaded the whole camp. There were about five or six officers on the sick list (but not sent to hospital) lying in their tents during this, but fortunately none were hurt. Search was at once made on the hill-top to see if any one were there to have drawn this fire; but no one was seen, and the mystery why this shell was thus fired has never been solved. Surprise Hill cannot see our camp at all.
Almost immediately after this " bolt from the blue " came a divisional order that the present meagre biscuit ration was to be doubled! No order could have been more popular! The want of bread or biscuit has been very severely felt by us all. No one can realize what it is to have every luxury and "extra" cut off, and then to be deprived of almost all one's bread as well, till it has been actually experienced. Buller was heard in the distance still fighting away. Our friends on the staff won't let out what the good news actually is, but say, " Isn't the extra biscuit good news enough for you ?" To which we fervently reply, "It is!" It is indeed tangibly good news ; and how we gloat over them when we each receive five and three-quarter beautiful whole biscuits for our very own, which may be eaten all in the same day!
By-the-by, an order was issued some time back stopping the auctions of vegetables, etc., at which prices had risen to an astounding pitch ; henceforward all these articles were to be " commandeered " for the use of the sick in hospital. As eggs had reached 48s. per dozen, and other produce was all in the same proportion, it was possibly becoming almost a scandal, and only tended to enrich those who had withheld their stores earlier in the siege, hoping to make an exorbitant gain from the soldiers who were fighting their battles for them. Now we were entirely dependent upon our rations, and really hungry we were; after every meal one got up regretfully after removing every crumb of biscuit from one's plate and the table. Dinner now consisted of a cup of " Chevril," some boiled " trek " ox (fearfully tough and often quite unchewable), some salt, pepper, mustard, and what biscuit remained of your day's ration of two and three-quarter biscuits ! With this one had to drink "Klip—1900," (I regret to say this high-sounding wine was only river water.—St. j. G.) and a very dirty, muddy drink it was as a rule, in spite of all the plans for filtering, condensing, etc. The total absence of all vegetables, butter, fat, jam, "drink," and smoke, and almost total absence of bread, and all the thousand little things one is accustomed to, told severely on officers and- men, and nearly all were looking decidedly pinched and wan by now; many complained of great weakness, and felt quite " done " after a short walk of a mile or so. The sickness among the officers seemed to have increased now, while that of the men had somewhat improved.
The following officers were on the sick list about this time, chiefly from dysentery and fevers :—Major Heneage, Captain Darbyshire, Major Hoare, Captain Mappin, Captain Gaunt (for a few days), Second Lieutenant Kinnear, Lieutenant Hon. R. L. Pomeroy, Second Lieutenant Melvill, Second Lieutenant Norwood, Lieutenant Watson, and other officers occasionally. With such a large number away from duty from various causes, we were indeed short of officers; the next senior officer to Lieut-Colonel Gore for almost two months past has been Captain Eustace, the shortness of officers being especially great in the higher ranks.
All slept at Observation East as usual; we have now got some tents there for the reserve, and some shelters made in the forts for the men there. We are so short of men from sickness that the men available for the reserve are often very few indeed. At this time we were showing in our weekly return that the officers, N.C.O.'s, and men were getting "no nights in bed."
Death Report; No. 3918 Private Walter Beardon : enteric.
Feb. 23, Friday.—In the night we had moved one of our two ancient, but now invaluable, howitzers from Wagon Hill to Observation Hill West. It was here well placed, out of sight of Surprise Hill; and when that enemy of ours began his usual games, it steadily got to work, and made it so hot for him that Surprise Hill gave it up as "not good enough." A great boon for the 5th Dragoon Guards, as we have a special enmity against this gun (and his gunners !) now. Private Howard, who was wounded by it yesterday, is doing well in Hospital.
No definite news yet.
Feb. 24, Saturday.—Buller has fired a tremendous lot yesterday and to-day. Firing gradually died away; we can make nothing out of what is going on.
The " CO." had the honour of eating luncheon with Sir A. Hunter (chief of the staff) to-day. Things are still said to be "going on most satisfactorily," so he returned to Cove camp much comforted both mentally and bodily ! Being asked out for a meal (by any one who can afford to do it) is a real compliment in these hard times ! It is indeed an engagement not to be forgotten or trifled with. In the piping times of peace and plenty it is always the wrong people who are asked out to dinner; it is the man who has plenty of money, and excellent clubs to dine at, besides having perhaps already several invitations for the same evening; it is that man to whom ordinary people's thoughts turn when they are casting about for " an extra man " to invite. Meantime many a poor devil with a badly filled inside would give worlds to have the leavings of the favoured one's dishes! Nobody will ask him to dinner!
This siege is actually conducive to moralizing!
Feb. 25, Sunday.—No parade service : the regiment is scattered all over the place in the mornings, and is too hard-worked and sleepy and hungry for more parades! We have no parson, either (another excellent reason).
At the English church the preacher discoursed chiefly of Noah and the Flood. During the service, several times the hoarse boom of our guns on the far side of Caesar's camp intruded itself upon us; curiously enough, they were firing at a working party of Boers who were making a dam across the river Klip just below the point where it leaves the broad valley in which Ladysmith town lies. This dam has inspired us all with much curiosity, and some surmise that the Boers' intention is to flood all the valley out when the next heavy rainfall occurs !
At any rate, this passing incident in connection with the two " Floods " seemed to place the preacher's discourse more in touch with the stirring events in the midst of which it was composed and delivered than his chosen subject would seem to give promise of.
No other firing occurred during this Sunday, and 13by 8 p.m. those of us not actually on sentry or patrol were asleep at our posts at Observation East.
About 9.30 p.m. a deal of firing was heard, and the commanding officer and staff went up to No. 2 Fort to see what was going on. Some of the " Leicesters " at Observation West had fired, and about fifty Boers (as my sentries estimated them) had been firing out of the darkness, but a long way off. None of our men fired a shot. At the same time heavy firing was heard in the south at a distance ; independent firing was answered by smart volleys : this was conjectured to be from Buller's force, but it seemed so near that several people listening thought it was round Caesar's camp. All was quiet again in an hour, and a disturbed night's rest resumed by some.
Death Report; No. 4528 Private Albert Rigby: enteric.
Feb. 26, Monday.—All quiet in morning; Buller's guns seemed farther off to-day! The Boers round us did a good deal of bombarding, but not at our camp.
In the afternoon came the splendid news that Lord Roberts had surrounded Cronje, killed and wounded 1700, and taken prisoner 8000 !
This was from a newspaper source " hclio'd " in to us. Every one simply delighted, and all as jolly as possible at the excellent prospect now unfolded. Buller added that the country was very difficult, and his own progress therefore slow ; but all going most satisfactorily with him.
All very quiet in the night; it rained and was very cold for our men on the hillside.
On this day the following appeared in Regimental Orders :—
"The Commanding Officer has the pleasure of announcing that Major General Howard, commanding B section of the defences, has expressed himself to the General Officer Commanding Cavalry Brigade as being much pleased by the good work done by the 5th Dragoon Guards on the post allotted to them on Observation Hill East."
Death Report; No. 4533 Lance-Corporal Benjamin Canham : enteric.
Feb. 27, Tuesday.—This is the great " Majuba Day " always celebrated by the Boers! We expect they will attempt to fire a " salute," or be funny in some such way; but the most likely times, sunrise and noon, both pass away quietly. In the afternoon Bulwana apparently had a party of Dutch ladies around the gun, and the gunner evidently was giving them a show of "how it's done." He sent some marvellously long shots at various places : at Wagon Hill, King's Post, and particularly at the howitzer which we had recently placed on Observation West. His shooting at the latter was certainly excellent, and we trust the ladies were satisfied with him. As far as we know, no damage was done during these feats of skill. Our gunners were coolly sitting on the edge of the pit in which was their howitzer, awaiting the dropping of the big shell: seen from Cove Hill, one shell seemed to be almost in the pit, but it proved afterwards to have been thirty yards away. An exhilarating spectacle of good shooting and pluck : the range must have been near 10,000 yards! And so " Majuba Day " went merry as a marriage bell— until the afternoon, when it was announced that the biscuit ration was to be again reduced! It may seem strange (to those who were not in Ladysmith) to write in this strain ; but it came as a real, tangible blow to a lot of under-fed, hungry men. The Englishman is always said to be peculiarly susceptible to "attacks on his " food," and here was an unexpected and very grievous one, however necessary. A memo, accompanied this intelligence, saying that it was in no way connected with any bad news, but that Sir Redvers Buller's progress, though very sure and real, was slow, and it was necessary to be on the safe side with the supply of rations. This time we received every man one quarter of a pound of biscuit (about one and three-quarters biscuit), and three ounces of " mealie meal " ! When this diminutive supply of biscuit for one whole day is placed in one's hand, one feels inclined to emulate the London cabman and observe, "'Ere, what do you call this? You call yourself a gentleman?" and certainly with more pardonable sarcasm than often used by our friend Jehu when he has received at least sixpence more than he ought to get!
In the evening official news is received saying: Following message has been received from Field-.Marshal Lord Roberts this morning, February 27th. Begins: " General Cronje and all his force were captured unconditionally at daylight this morning, and he is now a prisoner in my camp. Strength of his forces will be communicated later."
So it's all right—but apparently the former news was premature !
We have been puzzled since yesterday by the receipt of a telegram for one of our officers, " Kennary, 5th D.G.," containing merely the one word " Hurrah " from " Father." The officer's name is wrongly spelt, and it might be for either of two officers whose names somewhat resemble the one telegraphed. Both of the officers implicated in this mystery persist in disowning their parent in so far as he may be mixed up with this really cheerful telegram. They both say that they must really positively decline to " Hurrah " under present conditions. If (they say) the parent in question has been able to buy Maxim " Pom-Pom" shares before the rise, or if he has just had an unusually good dinner, they hope to be able to mingle their filial joy with his at some later date; at present, however, they have only got some horse, a biscuit and a quarter, and a glass of water, and they really can't run to a good " Hurrah " on that!
We are inclined to think, however, that the newspapers have played us a trick, and may have announced the " Relief of Ladysmith" somewhat prematurely. We hear that the "Fall of Ladysmith " was announced (at any rate, on the Continent) at least seven times, so possibly we may forgive a man who takes a more sanguine view, at any rate for his first offence.
About midnight heavy firing was heard, and flashes seen, upon Lombard's Kop and Gun Hill. The Boers are doubtless a bit "jumpy" there, and as the flashes of rifles were seen upon the top of Lombard's Kop, it is possible they may have shot a few of their friends on Gun Hill below, and so saved us some trouble. Our field-guns fired a few rounds in that direction, with what result we could not see.
And with this very excellent news from " Bobs" so ended "Majuba Day, 1900."
In the name of the British army we all say, " Thank God ! "
Feb. 28, Wednesday.—The usual dreary, dull, hungry routine. Men and officers perhaps a bit sleepier and duller than usual, after being all kept awake last night by the firing. We officers shuffle out of our tents sleepily at 12.30, and eat our minced horse, and as much of the precious biscuit as we can run to for this meal, accompanied by a very occasional remark; returning each to his own tent immediately he has eaten all he can get.
It is very hot in the stuffy tents, and a listless drowsiness pervades the whole camp. There is complete silence from the men's tents; the horse-lines are deserted and empty, save for some half-dozen wretched-looking horses (left in from various causes) swishing the flies off with their tails, now too weak to keep up the incessant stamping there used to be all the long day.
The " CO." is lying down in his tent. Presently the "D.A.A.G. for Water," Lieutenant Abadie, of the 11th Hussars, rides up to our camp: he stops outside one of our officers' tents and says, " Have you heard the news ? Buller gave the Boers a Hell of a licking yesterday, and they are now in full retreat!"
The effect of this is simply magical!
From this fountain-head throughout the camp north, south, east, and west branches off a wave, increasing in volume as it surges. People run from one tent to the next, carrying on the almost stupefy-ingly good news. Simply from carefulness not to exaggerate, or commit themselves to more or to less than the exact original message, the exact words of the first messenger are repeated. Throughout the camp, growing louder, and intensified by glad and willing messengers, resound the delicious words "a HELL of a licking!" The C.O.'s servant Harper bursts into his master's. tent shouting out, " Buller's given the Boers a—(pause)—devil of a licking!"
Crack! From Cove Hill just above our heads goes the 47 gun—a sound we have almost forgotten.
Whistling and chirruping, away goes the good shell through the air. See ! there it is! a great cloud of dust just beside the hated gun epaulement on Bulwana ! Crack! there he goes again ! It must be all right; he wouldn't waste his few remaining rounds like that if there were any doubt! Look ! In the epaulement one can clearly see the top of a " derrick "
Sticking up. "they are taking the gun away ! "
What a revulsion of feeling! We don't want them to take it away NOW! Thank God!
End of records written during the siege
SIX MONTHS LATER
(Ingogo, 3rd September, 1900)
No more could I, or any one else, write then. Amid our new-found joys and little surprises, meetings with friends, and the strange plenteousness of bread that soon began, there was no room for anything so dull as writing.
But the last and one of the most pathetic acts of the siege must be told here : how, on the morning of the ist March, a poor attenuated squadron of starving men and horses went out on the Newcastle Road with a battery, to try to pursue the Boers in their retreat! I saw one horse unable to leave the horse lines when his rider got on his back; this was one of the so-called " mounted" squadron, whose horses had not been turned out. I myself with the " dismounted regiment" was on Green Horse Post, watching with impotent rage the Boer hosts struggling painfully away on all sides of Ladysmith.
Our little pursuing force made its halting way out to Pepworth's Hill (of infamous memory!), and in reconnoitring it Lieutenant Dunbar nearly met with his end! The Boers were in a concealed sangar at the foot of the hill, and let his patrol come within 100 yards of them before they fired.
Dunbar's horse fell, but he jumped up and continued the run on foot; then the best thing possible happened to him: he tripped on a rock, fell headlong, and lay quiet in a hole with concussion of the brain! Meantime our guns cleared the hill, and later on Dunbar was found where he had fallen, and soon after was none the worse. Our horses could go no further, so little more could be done by our worn-out troops. Many horses fell dead.
Nevertheless, when I visited Pepworth Hill a few days later, my adjutant, prying curiously into the great epaulement where Long Tom used to be, saw a bullock's hide on the ground, and looked under it casually. He started back, looking scared. At any rate, one burgher of the Transvaal had been overtaken by the feeble but willing pursuit of the still unconquered garrison.