During the remainder of the siege, and it was to last for nearly two months longer, the struggle, to quote White's official despatch, " became one against disease and starvation even more than against the enemy."; The bombardment by the heavy guns went on daily, and there was a constant exchange of rifle fire along the outer line of the defences, but there was no severe' fighting, and the casualties were few. The garrison "had rather to endure than to act. They were, no' doubt, kept hard at work in strengthening their; defences, especially at points which, like Caesar's Camp and Wagon Hill, had been shown to be open tq dangerous attack; but henceforth their attitude was to be one of patient vigilance. The active work of defeating the Boer army was now for the troops under Buller; while the garrison in the citadel, over which the British flag still floated, was to watch him trying, week after week, to break through to their relief at one point and then another of the great Boer fortress which hemmed them in.

At daybreak on the morning after the attack White rode out with Beauchamp Duff and Rawlinson to Wagon Hill. He was received by Ian Hamilton, who took him all over the scene of the fight, and they spent an hour climbing about the position, among the rough boulders and grass. After this White went to see his brother officer, Dick-Cunyngham of the 92nd. Then he sent to Buller two telegrams describing the fight and the consequent situation. He said the enemy had been repulsed everywhere with heavy loss, and that the troops had behaved excellently, and were elated at the service they had rendered to the Queen. But the second telegram, sent after the casualty lists had been made out, informed Buller that 37 officers had been killed or wounded during the day. It went on:—

Troops here much played out, and a very large proportion of my officers have, up to date, been killed or wounded, or are sick. I would rather not call upon them to move out from Ladysmith to co-operate with you; but I am confident enemy have been very severely hit. (230 officers out of 592 were now unfit for duty.)

It must indeed have been " painful," as White said, for him to come to this conclusion. He had always shown himself, for twenty years past, essentially a forward, fighting soldier, and nothing could have been more uncongenial to him than to send such a message.   Buller's comment upon it was :—

From this day forward I entertained no further hope of assistance from the Ladysmith garrison.

And White must have felt that this, or something like this, would be the probable effect of his words.

Nevertheless he had not meant to say that under no circumstances would he call upon his exhausted troops for a fresh effort in the field. The fight of the 6th January had, it is true, shown him that he had no strength to spare. Only by throwing in all hi» reserves, and more, had he been able to repel the attack ; and in case of another determined onslaught he felt that he would have hard work to hold his fourteen miles of defences. He had now recognised, for the first time, that to move out any considerable part of his force was to expose Ladysmith to grave danger. Still, on hearing next day, the 8th of January, that Buller was about to start upon his second attempt at relief, White once more prepared his flying column, which had been broken up after the Colenso fight, and telling Buller that " uninterrupted communication would be double value to me while you are en route for here," got ready for at least a demonstration, possibly something more, in support of the relieving force when an opportunity offered. In the last resort, if the relieving force failed to break through, it was his intention to abandon Ladysmith, with everything in it, and make a desperate attempt to cut his way out to them. This, as will be shown, he afterwards! proposed, but fortunately the necessity did not arise. ,

Meanwhile sickness went on increasing at an alarming rate. On the 13th of January there were 2150 men in hospital, on the 16th 2400, "and many very weakly men at duty."

But Buller was trying hard to carry out his formidable task, and bring them relief. The country to the west of Ladysmith, inside the mountain line held against him by the Boers, is fairly open; and there are gaps in the line through which the summits of some of the hills south of the Tugela can be seen from various points of the Ladysmith defences. On the 12th of January the heliograph flashed out on a height above Potgieter's Drift, and from this time forward the besieged garrison received almost daily some information about Buller's movements. His advance seemed to be slow and difficult, and the anxiety in Ladysmith grew intense. On the 14th January the attempt on Potgieter's appeared to have been given up.   Buller telegraphed :—

I find the enemy's position covering Potgieter's Drift so strong that I shall have to turn it, and I expect it will be four or five days from now before I shall be able to advance towards Ladysmith. I shall keep you constantly informed of my progress.

This was disappointing, but there was no sign of any want of confidence on Buller's part, and the .garrison still hoped for his speedy success. White answered on the 15th January—

Your No. 156 of yesterday just received. I can wait. Wish you best of luck.

After this there was an interval of two days without any further news.

It may be explained here that the heliographic communications between White and Buller at this time, and throughout, were not as frequent or as full as might have been expected. The reason for this was, it seems, partly the fear that messages might be intercepted and understood by the enemy. Lord Roberts stated in his evidence before the War Commission that the Boers did in fact intercept and correctly decipher some of his messages.

But on the evening of the 17th January came the welcome and long-expected news that Buller was over the Tugela.   He signalled :—

I crossed one bridge at Potgieter's to-day, and am bombarding their position. Warren, with three brigades and six batteries, has crossed by Trichard's Drift,(Five miles west of Potgieter's.) and will move to the North to try and outflank Boer position. I somehow think we are going to be successful this time. . . . Every man in this force is doing his level best to relieve you. It is quite pleasant to see how keen the men are. I hope to be knocking at Lancer's Hill in six days from now.

This was great news, and White replied on the 19th January—

Congratulate you and ourselves on your successful progress, and have greatest confidence in seeing you soon.

Some fifteen miles away from Ladysmith to the westward, and clearly visible from several points of the defences, the double-headed hill of Spion Kop stands out beyond a broad rolling valley. Warren's turning movement was behind, to the west of, this hill, which formed the left of the Boer position ; and the watchers in Ladysmith looked out anxiously for the flash of a heliograph on or near its summit; for Spion Kop once taken, Buller's troops would have an easy task before them. The mountain barrier would have been pierced. Between Spion Kop and Ladysmith there was no strong position on which the Boers could fall back.

White knew that the hill itself was a formidable barrier. Writing to his wife on the 19th he speaks of it as a "very strong position." His letter goes on:—

Buller knows his business however, and we have only fto sit down and wait until his men appear on the top of the said hill. We can see ... his great Lyddite shells bursting on the enemy's side.

Soon White hoped to see what he called " the bright-faced hello."

But the flash was awaited in vain. On the 21st of January White signalled to Buller :—

If you can let me know when you intend decisive attack .on Boer position, I will demonstrate from here to draw as many as possible away from you. Experience leads me to think I can draw away a considerable number.

The answer was :—

We are slowly fighting our way up the hill. I will let you know when help from you will be of most assistance.

On the evening of the 22nd White could see parties of the enemy from the positions about Ladysmith going out westward to strengthen the force opposing Buller, and at daybreak he opened a strong artillery fire "to call them back." The two British forces were now so close, hardly twenty miles apart, that the Boer forces facing them could canter over to each other's support in an hour and a half. It was always difficult, therefore, at any given moment to know how many of the enemy were round Ladysmith and how many facing Buller.

On the 23rd January Buller signalled that an artillery duel was going on, in which the advantage rested with the British, and that on the following day an attempt would be made to seize Spion Kop. White replied on the 24th :—

Many thanks for the efforts you are making. We await news of result with utmost anxiety.

It was an anxiety in which hopefulness was predominant. So much was this the case that on the 23rd White had ordered the issue of full rations to the troops, who had for some time been limited to half the scale; and it had been announced in Field, Force orders that " the relief of Ladysmith may now be held to be within measurable distance." On the 24th shells were seen to be bursting on Spion Kop in great numbers, and apparently the attempt to seize it was being made, but no further news came. It had been made, and successfully, during the early hours of the morning. The shells were Boer shells, fired at the troops who had taken the hill. But this was not understood in Ladysmith. No news came on the 25th, but some of the Boer laagers on the Ladysmith side of Spion Kop were seen to be in retreat, " trekking " northwards. This seemed to show that Spion Kop had been taken, and that the Free State men were making for the passes of the Drakensberg. Then in the evening one laager was seen to return. On the 26th there was again no news from Buller, and the sun being hidden by clouds no news could be expected. The suspense deepened.

Sir Frederick Maurice in his History of the war says that at 10 p.m. on the 24th a lamp signal announced the capture of the mountain. If so, White never received the news. In a letter to his wife there is the following passage, dated the 26th :—

To-day has been very thick and rainy. There has therefore been no communication with Buller by sunflash (heliograph). Last night his signallers sent part of a message by lamp, and then ran out of oil before the message was half delivered. So far as it goes it is not encouraging, and looks as if Buller had failed in his attack on Intaba Nyama on the 24th.

Intaba Nyama, the Black Mountain, is the native name. The Boers called it Spion Kop, Prospect Hill, because it afforded a fine view to the southward across the Tugela.   The letter goes on:—

27th.—There was a thick mist all night. I was up several times in hopes it might be clear enough to signal by lamp, but no hope of it. This morning, 11 a.m., the sky is blue & the horizon towards the West (Buller's direction) clear. I wonder what I shall hear. Will the helio belie its bright face & convey sinister intelligence to me & my force ? The time is one of intense anxiety & our position here critical.

At last, about noon on the 27th January, the message came, and the long suspense was ended. The message had been written on the 25th, but there had not been sun enough to send it off. When it arrived, it brought to White and his troops a deep disappointment.   It ran as follows:—

No. 170, January 25th.—Warren took Spion Kop the 24th, and held it all day, but suffered very heavily. General Woodgate dangerously wounded, 200 killed and 300 badly wounded, and his garrison abandoned it in the night. I am withdrawing to Potgieter's, and mean to have one fair, square try to get with you, but my force is not strong enough, I fear.    I shall send particulars to-morrow.

This book, as before remarked, is a life of George White, not a history of the war in South Africa ; and except in so far as White is concerned it is unnecessary for me to touch upon the details of military operations. Nothing will be said here, therefore, about the vexed question of the abandonment of Spion Kop, nor generally about Buller's conduct of his difficult campaign for the relief of Ladysmith. All that need be noted is that the failure to hold Spion Kop, and Buller's expressed fear that his force was not strong enough to get through to Ladysmith, brought the commander of the garrison face to face with a very grave situation. He had now to consider the question whether the time had not come when he should make a desperate effort to cut his way out and save if possible some part of his force, even at the cost of abandoning Ladysmith, rather than maintain the defence of the town until the garrison became wholly incapable of action in the open. Once that stage was reached, the surrender of the whole would be inevitable sooner or later, if relief did not come from the outside.

On the 27th January White signalled to Buller :—

No. 55p, January 27th.—Your No. 170 of 25th only received to-day. We must expect to lose heavily in this campaign, and be prepared to face it. If you try again and fail, Ladysmith is doomed. Is not 7th division available to reinforce you ? I could feed the men another month, but not all the horses, and without guns my force could do nothing outside. My medical supplies are nearly out, and the mortality is 8 to 10 daily already. I put it to you and the Government whether I ought not to abandon Ladysmith and try to join you. I could, I think, throw 7000 men and 36 guns into the fight. If you would commence preparing an attack and draw off the enemy, say, in the afternoon of a day to be settled between us, I would attack that night, and do my best to join you. The attack from here ought to have great effect, but I fear my men are weak, and in some instances morally played out. The fall of Ladysmith would have a terrible effect, especially in India.(White dwelt on this point in his letter to his wife : " The fall of Ladysmith would be a terrible blow to England's prestige. It would have even a worse effect in India. . . . The fact that I, a late Jangi Lord Sahib, have had to haul down my flag . . . would shake India's belief in British power. Coupled to that it would be known that Lord Roberts Sahib, who is held throughout the length and breadth of India to represent England's military power, was in command and could not save us.") I am deeply impressed with the gravity of the situation, and trust you will repeat this to the highest authorities. Deserters report Boers lost heavily on 2-tth, and were quite disheartened by your artillery fire. If we stick to them we may effect a junction, but my proposal is a desperate one, and involves abandoning my sick and wounded, naval guns, and railway rolling stock. I could not keep the field more than two or three days. I would hold on to the last here if political considerations demand it, or if there is a prospect of sufficient reinforcements to relieve us.

White afterwards stated in his evidence before the Royal Commission that rather than surrender the garrison

I preferred to try to get some survivors through, and to give others the chance of going elsewhere than Pretoria.

It was a soldier's choice—rather a fight, however desperate, and whatever the losses, than a surrender.

But neither Buller nor Lord Roberts, to whom Buller communicated White's proposal, thought the time had come to carry it into effect. Buller signalled next day that he proposed to attack at Potgieter's, which he thought he could take, and that if he got through he would be able to arrange for a simultaneous attack, White on Lancer's Hill, and he on Roodeport, where the Boers were now reported to be holding an entrenched position. "Believe me I will leave nothing untried."   His message went on :—

Your No. 55p received since above was written. I agree with you that breaking out is only a final desperate resort. I shall try to force this position, and then we shall see. Some old Boers, who were very civil to our Doctors on Spion Kop, told them that there were 16,000 of them in front of us, and not more than 4000 left at Ladysmith. I have no.; means of knowing how true this is, but deserters say that most of the men are here. Lord Roberts says he cannot reinforce me, but that if you will wait till the end of February, he will by then be in Bloemfontein, and will have relieved Kimberley, which will, he says, reduce the pressure on Ladysmith. I doubt Roberts' forecast coming off, and think I had better play my hand alone, and as soon as I can. What do you think ?

On the same day White received through Buller the following telegram from Lord Roberts:—

I beg you will yourself accept and offer all those serving under your command my warmest congratulations on heroic, splendid defence you have made. It is a matter of the deepest regret to me that the relief of Ladysmith should be delayed, but I trust you will be able to hold out later than the date named in your recent message to Buller. I fear your sick and wounded must suffer, but you will realise how important it is that Ladysmith should not fall into the enemy's hands. I am doing all that is possible to hurry on my movements, and shall be greatly disappointed if, by the end of February, I have not been able to carry out such operations as will compel the "enemy to materially reduce his strength in Natal.

White's proposal, or suggestion, declined, he had now to consider what seemed to be the best course for Buller and himself to pursue. Buller proposed attacking again, but asked his opinion. He came to the conclusion that they had better play a waiting game, and trust to the advance of Lord Boberts rather than try to force matters. To Lord Boberts he replied through Buller :—

Many thanks from self and force for message and congratulations. By sacrificing rest of my horses I can hold out for six weeks, keeping my guns efficiently horsed, and 1000 men mounted on moderately efficient horses.   I should like to publish your intention to advance via Orange Free State as early as you can permit me to do so. It will encourage my garrison, and will be certain to reach and discourage Orange Free State men.

And to Buller he answered :—

No. 56p, 28th January.—Thanks for your No. 123 of to-day. It is most provoking about losing Spion Kop, I think it would be better if you stick to bombardment and slow progress by something like sap rather than commit yourself to another definite attack. Information, which I believe correct, says Boers are discouraged by_ superiority of your armament, and say they cannot stand it. Keep them, therefore, in their trenches, and bombard them as heavily as you can. I don't think they will stand it long. I trust to your preventing them from throwing their strength on me. I will hold on six weeks more by sacrificing many of my horses, and that period of bombardment, coupled with Roberts' advance, will make Orange Free State men, at all events, clear off. I believe your estimate of enemy's numbers here and before you may be correct, but his guns here are protected by wire entanglements and mines. Boers can, however, come here from Potgieter's in 90 minutes. In this lies their great strength. You must not let them leave you and throw their strength on me.

Buller did not accept White's view. Determined to break through if possible, he continued his attempts, to force the Boer positions; and it would be difficult to show that he was wrong in so doing. But whatever Buller's action, White's duty was now clear: to husband his resources as carefully as possible, and prolong to its utmost limit the duration of the defence.

The rapidity with which the physical strength of the garrison had gone down is at first sight surprising.

By the end of January the infantry were practically unfit for use in the field. To quote Sir Frederick Maurice:—

Even the short marches entailed by the relief of posts were already as much as many of the soldiers could manage, and that often only with many halts for rest by the way.

A month before their condition had been very different. But in truth the apparently rapid decline was natural enough. Since the outbreak of war the troops had passed through a trying time. None the better, many of them, for the confinement and discomforts of a long sea voyage, they had first had ten days or more of rough marching and fighting in the open. This had been followed by three months of siege, which entailed constant exposure and hard work on /the defences, and more fighting,—once, on the 6th January, severe fighting. Towards the end of the year sickness had begun to increase with the increasing heat. The drinking water, drawn from the dirty little river, had throughout been made tolerable only by boiling and the use of filters. For some time before the end of January the rations of beef, " very hard trek ox," had been partly replaced by horseflesh ; biscuit had been served out, in no large quantities, in lieu of bread ; there was very little tea, coffee, sugar, or salt; and there was practically no tobacco. Little wonder, therefore, that when once the strength of the men began to fail it failed rapidly.

This was the condition of things which White had to face when it was decided that he must prepare to hold out for another month—the men of his garrison weakening daily for want of food, and, it may be added, the horses also very short of forage, and losing strength like the men. Yet if the duration of the defence was to be extended this could only be done by making the scanty food supply last longer, that is, by decreasing the daily ration.

The first step taken in these circumstances, very reluctantly, was the sacrifice of a large part of the cavalry, which had been of so much service as a mobile reserve. Each regiment was ordered to keep only seventy-five of its best horses, for which food was to be issued. The remainder were to be turned out to graze on the dry " veldt." This left each regiment with one mounted squadron. The rest of the troopers received rifles and bayonets, and joined the infantry in the defences.

At the same time the rations for officers and men were cut down. They were still sufficient to support life, for horse-flesh was plentiful enough, but only half a pound of biscuit could be given, and an ounce and a half of sugar. Ten days later the biscuit ration was reduced by one-half, and the men became "really hungry." Lieut.-Colonel Gore, in his cheery account of the siege, writes at this time :—

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 regiments too were very short of men from sickness.

At this time we were showing in our weekly return that the officers, NC.O.'s, and men were getting " no nights in bed."

And Gore's regiment was a mounted one, the 5th Dragoon Guards.

This diary of a regimental officer, written at the time, is useful in giving an idea of the work which the men of the garrison had to do, and of their condition. It may be desirable to quote a few more passages.

Orders were received to-day that we were to bivouac every night in future on Observation Hill East. I 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 has to be abandoned as an impossible job. The weight of these 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. 13tk. . . . 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. . . .

Feb. 14th. . . . 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; ... 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 ! . . .

But while we have only minor ills to bear, sad reports come from the Hospital Gamp at Intombi. For three more of our poor weak comrades the long-deferred relief of Ladysmith ha* tarried too long!

Feb. 11th, 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 Bluejackets. 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 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 to be heavier on that day: they die as much from sheer weariness and weakness and from want of food as from the diseases to which the deaths are actually attributed.

This was a melancholy state of things; but, on the other hand, no record of the siege of Ladysmith would be just if it failed to bring out what Sir Frederick Maurice has called "the most striking feature of the whole defence, and that on which its ultimate success essentially depended"—namely, the skill and energy with which Colonel Ward and the officers of the Army Service Corps and Indian Commissariat, under his orders, utilised the meagre resources at their disposal, and kept the troops supplied with food of some kind. Colonel Ward had done invaluable work at the beginning of the war in collecting supplies at Ladysmith, on the chance of a siege, while the railway was open; and his services during the siege were equally invaluable. To no man in the command did White owe, or feel, more gratitude.

As the siege continued [White wrote in his despatch of the 23rd March 1900] and the supply difficulties constantly increased, Colonel Ward's cheerful ingenuity met every difficulty with ever fresh expedients. He is unquestionably the very best supply officer I have ever met, and to his resource, foresight, and inventiveness the successful defence of Ladysmith for so long a period is very largely due.

The work of Ward and his officers is described in detail by White in this despatch and by Sir Frederick Maurice in his ' History.' Indian corn was collected and utilised for food by crushing and grinding in mills belonging to the Natal Railway. While the slaughter cattle were still sound, many of them were converted into "biltong," as a reserve, in case disease should break out. All dairy cows were requisitioned, and a system was set up for the supply of milk to the sick and wounded. The feeding of the whole civilian population, several thousand in number, was taken over and organised. The muddy water of the Klip river, which, after the cutting of the main by the-enemy at the beginning of the siege, formed the only water supply, was purified by boiling and the use ofj Berkefeld filters ; and when the filters became useless for want of alum, three condensers were improvised, as also a system of filtration through sheets sprinkled with wood ashes. The flesh of horses which | could no longer be fed was worked up into "chevril," a strong meat soup, and this was issued nightly to the troops; a condensed form of it was prepared for use in the hospitals, in place of the meat extracts, which had come to an end, a jelly, like calves' foot jelly, was also made for the sick and wounded; "chevril paste," or potted meat, supplemented the flesh ration, and was much appreciated; " neat's-foot oil" was extracted for lubricating the heavy naval ordnance; finally, a sausage factory was established, which, White says, " converted the horse-flesh into excellent sausages." Everything, in fact, was done which Colonel Ward and his officers could devise to increase and improve the food supply, and but for their untiring exertions it could not have held out nearly as long as it did.

Meanwhile Buller, thoroughly convinced that to keep " pegging away," as he put it, at the Boer forces was the only chance of saving Ladysmith, and supported in that course by the enthusiastic eagerness of his troops, had decided to force the Tugela at Vaal Krantz, some miles nearer to Ladysmith than Potgieter's. The attempt was made, and the river duly crossed; but, after some sharp fighting, it became evident that the Boer position to the north of the river was as strong as ever, and on the 7 th February Buller came to the conclusion that a further advance on that line was inadvisable. He therefore withdrew his force to the south of the river again. But he had by no means abandoned his resolve to go on " pegging away," and the message informing White of his failure to get through by Vaal Krantz announced also that he meant to try again elsewhere. Beaten off in December at Colenso, the centre of the Boer mountain line, and now repulsed with severe loss in two attempts to break in to the west of Colenso, (At Spion Kop and Vaal Krantz he had lost 2000 men.) he had determined to march back right across the Boer front and try an attack on the eastern section of their line. As before explained, an attack by the east had been contemplated at the beginning, before the fight at Colenso, but had been considered undesirable because it involved a flank march over broken ground covered with bush, where his troops, new to the country, would have had to force their way under great difficulties, and where, moreover, the Ladysmith garrison could not have given much help. Now Buller's troops had learnt their work ; and, far from being disheartened by their repulses, were not only as eager for fighting as ever, but much better trained for it. This altered the situation. Buller therefore signalled to White on the 7th February—

The enemy is too strong for me here, and though I could force the position, it would be at great loss. . . . My plan is to slip back to Chieveley, take Hlangwane, the Boer position south of the Tugela and east of Colenso, and the next night try and take Bulwana Hill from the south. Can you think of anything better ? I find I cannot take my guns and trains through these mountains. I hope to be at Hlangwane on Saturday.   Keep it dark.

The failure at Vaal Krantz brought fresh disappointment to White and his troops.

For the third time [writes Maurice] the hopes of the straitened garrison were deferred. The prospects were gloomy in the extreme.   The condition of the town . . . grew worse daily. On the 9th the biscuit ration was reduced by one-half and the grain ration discontinued, even for the seventy-five horses per regiment which had been retained. Of the horses out at grass, no less than seventy per diem were being killed for food. Most alarming of all was the increasing feebleness of the soldiers still in the ranks. Practically unable to march, or even to use their weapons in a long day's fighting, they seemed alike at the mercy of an assault and unequal to any co-operative movement with the army of the Tugela. Only their spirit continued to burn brightly in their wasting frames, and this, communicating its fervour to the 'civilians, drew no less than 900 men from the ranks of the railway employes, transport riders, and artisans in the town ¦to answer a call for volunteers made at this time. They were enrolled as a battalion, which took its place in the defences.

The Boers, naturally enough, were much elated by their success at Spion Kop and Vaal Krantz, which they celebrated by a searchlight bombardment of the town. For some days past there had been reports that, after a conference between the Presidents of the two Republics, orders had been issued for another serious attack on Ladysmith ; and White had made all arrangements for meeting it, and for informing Buller by rocket signals, though Buller could have done little to help. It now seemed probable that the attack would come at once. But, though fully aware of the weak state of the garrison, the enemy had not yet forgotten the 6th of January. They shrank from the losses which must be incurred in carrying the defences by assault, and contented themselves with an attempt to flood Ladysmith by damming the Klip river near the foot of Bulwana.   This

scheme, suggested by Krantz, the commander of the German corps, was expected to have great results in damaging the British magazines and cutting off Caesar's Camp from the remainder of the defences. It failed entirely, as White had told Buller from the first that it would fail. The river did not rise at all, and no annoyance was caused. Krantz, indeed, rendered good service to the hard-pressed garrison by diverting the minds of the enemy from the bolder course; for an assault resolutely pushed home would have had a good chance of success.

On receipt of Buller's message of the 7th, White had replied :—

" Cannot offer suggestions, as do not know country, or where you propose to cross Tugela. I could help at Bulwana. The closer to Ladysmith you can establish yourself the better chance we shall have here."

White himself had, of course, no personal knowledge of the country in which Buller was to operate; but at first sight it seems strange that there should have been no information available in Ladysmith. The explanation, however, is simple enough. There had never been a survey on a large scale, partly because money was not available, partly for fear of arousing suspicion in the Republics; and British officers stationed in Ladysmith before the war were ignorant of the country, for the attitude of the neighbouring farmers was such that they were not allowed to go off the roads. General Hunter stated in his evidence before the Commission that " there was not a single officer in Ladysmith who could tell you anything." There was only one who had been even on the Bulwana Hill, four or five miles off.

For some days after Buller's message announcing his intention to move eastward no further news was received from him; but on the 13th February it became evident from the movements of the Boers that they were closely watching his march, and preparing to meet him in strength. White therefore signalled to him on that date that there was considerable movement among the Boer camps, and that some of the enemy were moving south, some eastward.    " We anxiously await news from you."

No answer to this message was received for three or four days; but in the meantime Buller forwarded one from Lord Boberts which rejoiced the hearts of the garrison.   It was as follows :—

I have entered Orange Free State with a large force, specially strong in Cavalry, Artillery, and Mounted Infantry: Inform your troops of this, and tell them from me I hope the result of next few days may lead to pressure on Ladysmith being materially lessened.

This was indeed welcome news, and a day or two later the Ladysmith garrison heard with delight that some of the enemy were beginning to move northwards. A body of not less than 2000 men with waggons was seen to march off towards the Drakensberg passes, setting fire as they went to some Natal farms. The Free State men were evidently getting alarmed at the invasion of their own country.

Nevertheless there was as yet no general movement of retreat on the part of the enemy. On the contrary, they were still working hard upon the Klip river dam to the eastward, and parties of them were still marching south towards Buller. Moreover Buller telegraphed on the 16th February that according to his information 300 Germans had joined the Boers round Ladysmith, and that White was to be attacked before the 26th.   White replied:—

I think another attack here quite possible. Have strengthened defences, and will try to give good account of ourselves, but men are on very short rations, and are consequently very weak.

He evidently did not feel confident as to the result if an attack were made. The powers of resistance of- the garrison were very nearly worn out, and unless speedily relieved Ladysmith might yet fall. Nor did there seem to be any prospect of speedy relief, for in warning White of the coming attack on Ladysmith, Buller had added that he had heard he was to be attacked at the same time. And though the sound of his guns was now to be heard in Ladysmith it was still distant. He was still to the south of the Tugela, no nearer than he had been two months before. The Boer fortress north of the river was still untouched. Indeed the enemy had not even been pushed back behind their moat.

I am engaged [Buller signalled on the 16th February] in trying to turn the enemy out of the position he holds south of Tugela river and east of Colenso.

The relieving force had seemed much closer when the garrison could watch their shells bursting on Spion Kop and the neighbouring hills to the westward. At least they had forced the river then. Now the whole work had still to be done.

In trying to form for oneself an idea of the situation as it appeared to White and his troops at this time, it is necessary to put out of one's mind all knowledge of what afterwards happened. What they knew then, on the 16th February, was that although Lord Roberts had crossed the Free State border, two or three hundred miles away, the enemy in Natal seemed as determined as ever to take Ladysmith; and that the only British force which could possibly relieve them, before starvation forced them to surrender, was, after suffering three complete repulses, exactly where it had been before it made its first attempt. And meanwhile they had become so weak from sickness and hunger that another attack upon them would be very hard to meet.    It was not a hopeful prospect.

But during the next few days the situation rapidly altered. It was known from Buller's messages that he was to attack Cingolo and Monte Cristo, two heights to the south-east, visible from some points of the Ladysmith defences. On the 17th February shells were seen bursting over them,

and on the 18th, to the delight of the garrison, Buller's attacking lines were seen to roll up the heights and crown the summits amid a great hum of firing. (Maurice.)

Cingolo and Monte Cristo were south of the Tugela, but the way in which they had been attacked and taken was promising, and on the 19th White signalled to Buller his congratulations " on your important success."   His message went on :—

Let me know when you intend attacking position north of Tugela, and whether you will come vid Bulwana or Colenso road, and I will try and co-operate.

On the 21st February Buller replied that he was engaged in pushing his way through by Pieter's, that is, by the more easterly road.

I think there is only a rearguard in front of me. The large Boer laager under Bulwana was removed last night. I hope to be with you to-morrow night. You might help by working north and stopping some of the enemy getting away.

This was glorious news. Nevertheless White, accustomed by now to disappointment, and well knowing that Buller's advance lay through a very difficult mass of hills, was by no means convinced that relief was at hand. Buller seemed to have got across the river, or to be certain of being able to cross it; but he had twice crossed it before, and yet found a further advance impossible. And, so far as White could judge, Buller's belief that the enemy was in retreat had no sufficient foundation. On the contrary, Boer reinforcements by rail from the north had been seen getting out at a station a few miles from Ladysmith, and during the last few days bodies of mounted men had marched south by Bulwana. White sent a message informing Buller of this, and a second message which ran :—

We can detect no signs of enemy retreating; all indications point the other way.

The Boer bombardment of Ladysmith, it may be observed, had actually increased in severity.

White's doubts were strengthened on the 22nd by a message from Buller :—

I find I was premature in fixing actual date of my entry into Ladysmith, as I am meeting with more opposition than I expected, but I am progressing.

White's native scouts had indeed reported that the Free State Boers on the west of Ladysmith had gone ; but the Transvaal men opposite Buller were apparently as numerous and resolute as ever, and his advance, if advance there was, seemed to be very slow, nor did the bombardment of Ladysmith show any signs of slackening. Moreover Buller telegraphed :—

Can only hold Monte Cristo temporarily. Shall endeavour to open communication with you further on.

This message, received on the 22nd, was disquieting ; and as no definite information came in during the next three days, while on the 25th the sound of firing to the southward died away, it was impossible not to fear that Buller had once more been repulsed, and that the hope of speedy relief must be abandoned. On the 26th firing was heard again, but at a distance, and as the day was cloudy no signals could be made. The rations of the garrison, which had been increased, were again reduced to quarter scale—that is, to " one-quarter of a pound of biscuit and three ounces of mealie meal"—and the hungry troops could only believe that the Tugela fight had ended in disaster. (Gore says the reduction was made on the 27th, but Maurice's 'History' seems to indicate the 26th.) It had not ended in disaster, and on the 27th the firing began again, swelling to "an incessant and tremendous uproar." Buller was taking Pieter's Hill. But in the evening, though lamp communication was established with Cingolo, Buller, uncertain as to the extent of his success, and unwilling to arouse false hopes, said nothing more definite than that he was " doing well."   He also signalled :—

I think you will be able to help me, but I am not close enough to you yet.   I shall communicate with you later on.(White's collection of messages has nothing about Buller's "doing well," but Maurice is probably correct on this point.)

Thus, even on the very last night of the siege, White and his troops were still in suspense as to their relief. The 27th February was " Majuba Day," the anniversary of the Boer victory nineteen years before, and the garrison certainly had no reason to suppose that their besiegers were contemplating retreat. The gunners on Bulwana celebrated the day by entertaining a party of Dutch ladies, for whose beaux yeux they dropped shells upon Wagon Hill and other distant parts of the defences, making excellent practice.    In the evening came news that Lord Roberts had captured General Cronje and his force at Paardeberg, and a wild burst of cheering went round the defences; but at midnight the enemy-opened a heavy rifle fire, which continued for half an hour, from every part of the investing lines. And on the morning of the 28th the troops awoke to " the usual dreary, dull, hungry routine," never suspecting that their long trial was at an end.

Yet the end had come. As day broke and the morning mists cleared away, the men in the defences, looking out across the open country, saw every road leading northward covered with long lines of waggons, artillery, and horsemen; and a few hours later, up on Bulwana, the Boer gunners, having fired one parting round from the great piece which had so long tormented Ladysmith, began to make preparations for removing it.   At noon Buller signalled :—

Have thoroughly beaten enemy; believe them to be in full retreat. Have sent cavalry to ascertain which way they have gone.

Five hours later the head of Buller's cavalry was seen near Intombi, and before dark Lord Dundonald with 300 troopers rode into Ladysmith. The siege was over.