From October 14th to November 2nd, 1899

Simons Bay, the headquarters of the British Cape Squadron, had become the scene of great activity. Rear-Admiral Sir Robert Harris took prompt precautionary measures to guard the ships of his squadron and royal dockyard against any contemplated machinations of the enemy, and also from seditionary acts of disloyalists with whom Cape Colony was known to be impregnated. Armed picket-boats patrolled round the ships by night, strong guards were posted at the dockyard and magazines, and proclamations were posted up informing the populace of the restrictions that were being necessarily imposed upon them. The crews of the squadron were also organized ready to land should any rebellious risings occur in the vicinity of Simonstown. Great disaffection among the Dutch-speaking colonists was known to exist, and the impulsive action of the dual republics— amounting almost to a coup d'etat—had called for the vigorous policy of vigilance.

The Terrible and Powerful (cruisers, 1st class), Doris (cruiser, 2nd class — flagship), Monarch (battleship), the gunboat Thrush, and a few small types of torpedo craft comprised the naval strength in port; the other ships of the squadron being now at Durban and Delagoa Bay and at important points around the coast.

Fleet routines were suspended, and a special daily programme was substituted, which chiefly took the form of field operations and other instructions which would be useful should the landing of a naval force become necessary.

The military position in South Africa during the early stage of hostilities will be briefly recapitulated, in order to place the subject under narration more clearly before the reader.

The armies of the two republics, then estimated at about 6o,ooo men, had been partially mobilized and concentrated near the borders of the colonies prior to the despatch of the Ultimatum. The Orange Free State forces were near the passes of the Drakensberg, while those of the Transvaal had assumed positions threatening the northern angle of Natal, which colony both forces—some 20,000 strong—simultaneously invaded under the supreme command of Commandant General Joubert. One detached force of Transvaalers, about 7000 strong, proceeded westward, under the famous General Cronje, to seize Mafeking, with its supplies and railway rolling stock. Another force of Free Staters, nearly 5000 strong, under Commandant Wessels, were attracted to Kimberley, with its alluring diamond mines ; while certain detached commandoes threatened the principle strategic positions in northern Cape Colony and along the western borders. Nearly two-thirds of the republican forces were thus ready for war, the principal movement being directed against Natal. The objective of the Boer plans, as emphasized by their sudden stroke of policy in forcing on war, was to crumple up our scattered forces, and seize the whole of South Africa before reinforcements could arrive. Possessed with the vast military resources since known to have been at their disposal, and the golden opportunities within their grasp, there was no earthly reason why their avowed intentions and aspirations should not have been crowned with success, or something like it. But the Shakespearian maxim,

" There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune,"

was not heeded—providentially for us. Otherwise, Mafeking, Kimberley, and Ladysmith, with their lines of communication severed, and all hope of retreat barred, would have been kept in isolation pending the fortunes of war. Nothing but the white ensign could then have kept the Boers from the goals of their ambition—Capetown and Durban—though the coast towns themselves the Boers could not have occupied, nor could even have approached within the range limit of the British squadron's guns. What might have then followed nobody could possibly foresee, for the whole of the Dutch colonists would by that time have made the struggle a common cause, thus at least doubling the Boer strength and creating an insoluble military problem. Perhaps a complete mobilization of the British Fleet and Army, and a general call to arms to fight for Imperial existence, might have been the final outcome—who knows ? But as the Boers did not execute this bold stroke, there is no further need to expatiate. Yet, the ambitious project of first taking those three towns, and thereby dealing a vital blow at our prestige, undoubtedly changed the Boer plan of campaign and saved the British forces from a task of infinitely greater magnitude—great even though the task was that did exist. So much for the Boer aspect; the position, as it concerns the British, follows.

It will be remembered that a force of about 6000 British troops were despatched from India in September, and proceeded direct to Natal, the ministry of that colony being justly alarmed at its undefensive condition in view of apparent possibilities. About 2000 reinforcements also left England to strengthen the defence of Cape Colony, besides the battalion of infantry brought from Mauritius in the Powerful, which ship, and the Terrible, had joined the Cape squadron, thus adding two large cruisers with 106 guns and 2000 men to the naval strength of the station. The military additions had now augmented the Imperial forces in South Africa to about 22,000 men when war broke out, viz. 15,000 in Natal under General Sir George White, and 7000 in Cape Colony under General Sir Forestier Walker.

The position in Natal, where it had been correctly surmised that the heaviest blow would be struck, had made it a military necessity to place the bulk of the troops in that colony. For urgent political and strategical reasons, Sir George White chose Ladysmith for his headquarters and defensible base, the concentration of an immense quantity of military material there, besides the junction at that point of the Free State branch line with the Natal trunk line, having given supreme importance to the town. Dundee, forty miles further north, the centre of the Natal coalfields, was held by General Penn-Symons with some. 5000 troops, and was the most advanced position held in the colony, the other important towns further north having been reluctantly but judiciously abandoned to the enemy, though the railway was unfortunately left intact.

To leave Cape Colony and our western possessions to run the hazard as the situation developed was all the general could do with the limited force at his disposal. The Rhodesian regiment, about 450 men, held Fort Tuli near the Limpopo drifts north of the Transvaal. The Bechuanaland Protectorate regiment, and police, together with the town guard, about 1000 strong, were holding Mafeking on the western border. Kimberley was defended by about 600 regular troops in conjunction with Cape police, local volunteer forces, and the town guard, a total of just over 3500 men. Orange River station, an important strategical point, was held by a force of about 2500 regulars and a few Colonials. De Aar junction, where considerable military stores had been accumulated, was occupied by 1000 troops. Naauwport junction on the Port Elizabeth line, and Stormberg junction on the East London line, were each held by some 500 men. The bulk of the remaining troops were established on the railway midway between De Aar and Naauwport, the rest being stationed on the lines of communication from Capetown northwards.

A glance at the map of South Africa will confirm the statement, that British troops never had a more arduous task than that which confronted them at this early period of the war. To hold the enemy in check, and prevent invasion as much as possible, until the reinforcements then outward bound could arrive, was their object, and all they could hope to do.

Napoleon's generals with their unique fighting experiences, could not have accomplished their task with better results than did the British commanders upon whom fell the shock of the enemy's premeditated onslaught. The gallant Baden-Powell, with a humorous obstinacy, successfully held Mafeking against vastly superior forces, the town being rigorously besieged for seven months. The pertinacious resistance of Colonel Kekewich kept Kimberley intact, until relieved by French's brilliant cavalry dash, after some four months' investment. The historical defence of Ladysmith by Sir George White is a brilliant episode in British military history, as the capture or surrender of the place would probably have produced disastrous consequences not easily gauged.

The enemy had obviously underrated the quality of their Imperial and Colonial adversaries, a peremptory summons to surrender, or a vigorous bombardment of each for a few days, being the only necessary preliminaries in Boer opinion to the possession of these three towns. They had arrested their forward movements in both colonies, bent on enforcing their submission ; the delay that this change of plan entailed was as fatal to their scheme as it was entirely in favour of the British. Kruger had appealed to the God of battles—a euphemism for foreign intervention—to assist the republican armies against the hereditary British foe, but the strategy of his generals was certainly due to a mistaken view of the situation. His fervent appeal was being ignored or refused, for the British side had received the supplicated favours instead—a counterpoise to the sentimental policy which had placed our South African dominions at the mercy of the enemy.

This brief prologue may afford a fair conception of the military position from the Ultimatum up to the investment of Ladysmith. The principal events of the war, but those affecting the Terrible in particular, will now be followed in their order of sequence.

Reinforcements being urgently needed at every strategic point threatened by the Boers, a naval brigade was despatched from the ships at Simonstown on October 20th, to co-operate with the troops holding Stormberg junction, whither they proceeded vid De Aar. Commander Ethelston {Powerful) was in command, Major Plumbe (Doris) senior marine officer, Captain Mullins {Terrible) the quartermaster of the marine force, and Fleet-Surgeon Porter {Doris) the senior medical officer. The brigade consisted of 300 marines, fifty bluejackets, with two Q.F. field guns. The Terrible contributed eighty marines, under Lieutenant Lawrie, and one medical steward and eight stokers for ambulance party. The detachments received a hearty send-off from their respective ships, and on landing were inspected by the admiral, who delivered a brief and inspiriting speech, reminding the brigade what the Navy expected from those who had the enviable honour to represent it on such momentous occasions as this. Preceded by the squadron's massed bands playing " Soldiers of the Queen," they marched to the station, and entrained for the front, where they hoped " to fight for England's glory," as the words of the tune to which they marched encouraged them to do. Thus commenced the Navy's active participation in the war.

The same evening a signal was made to the squadron announcing a British victory at Talana Hill, near Dundee. General Penn-Symons had received the first shock of the Boer armies, and had temporarily stemmed the swift current of invasion. This tactical victory cost our side the gallant general, who was mortally wounded, besides nearly 450 killed, wounded, and prisoners. The enemy had also lost heavily. The check, and gain of time, were the only results of the fight, except an object lesson in what British pluck can accomplish under capable leaders. This war has certainly proved that no hill is too high for the Boer to climb, or too high for a British soldier to dislodge his foe from. Two days after the battle the British abandoned Dundee, the Boer artillery having rendered the position untenable, the situation besides being too dangerous for a detached force to be placed in. The troops and necessary transport were hurriedly withdrawn to Ladysmith, the force being piloted through a wild and broken country by Colonel Dartnell, of the Natal Police, who was compelled to adopt a circuitous route to avoid undesirable collision with the enemy. A distance of nearly 70 miles was traversed in four days, 30 of which were covered by a forced march on the last day—a military exploit that must almost rank with a victory. Meanwhile, Sir George White was affording the retreating column invaluable assistance by creating diversions in their favour elsewhere. On the 21st, a force was despatched from Ladysmith under General French northwards. The enemy was met with at Elandslaagte and defeated with heavy loss; 200 Boers, including the wounded general who commanded them, and two machine guns, being captured. The main object of the British having been accomplished, the force was withdrawn to Ladysmith next day. Again, on the 24th, while the Dundee column were executing the most critical part of their hazardous march, the Ladysmith troops sallied forth and delivered another check to the enemy at Rietfontein, seven miles N.E. of the town. The safety of the column having been assured, the force retired, elated with their successes.

The brief details of the Natal fighting received from the front had clearly demonstrated that the Boers were preeminently superior in artillery, both as regards power and range.

They had in the field large mobile guns throwing a 94-lb. shell with an effective range of 12,000 yards. The British had only light field artillery, firing a 15-lb. shell, with a range of not more than 6000 yards. This disparity in artillery placed Sir George White in a very serious position, and necessitated his appealing to the Navy for assistance. The story of this appeal and the lightning response made to it is, perhaps, best related in the form of an extract from a speech, delivered by Admiral Harris at the public reception accorded him at Devonport in May, 1901. He said: "On October 25th, General Sir George White telegraphed—'The Boer guns are greatly outranging my guns. Can you let me have a few Naval guns ?' He replied in the affirmative, but found that there were no field mountings. Then he sent for Captain Scott, of the Terrible, and asked him when he could give him plans for mountings of 4'7-inch guns. Captain Scott replied, the evening he saw him, 'To-morrow morning, at eight o'clock.' The plans were produced, and, by dint of hard work in the dockyard, the guns on their extemporized carriages were, by 5 P.m. on the 26th, on board the Powerful, en route to Ladysmith."

These few words spoken by Admiral Harris give the reason why long-range guns were asked for. The fact that they would be required had, however, been anticipated by our captain, and some guns were actually mounted and ready for service on shore prior to the receipt of Sir George White's telegram.

The following extract from a paper read by Captain Scott, at Hong Kong, bearing on this subject, may be found interesting:—

"On October 14th the Terrible arrived at the Cape and found the campaign commenced, the Boers already across the Frontier, the British with insufficient troops to resist them, and their base 6000 miles from the scene of operations.

" Under these circumstances it was apparent that the Boers might invest Mafeking, Kimberley, and Ladysmith, and then, having their base open, bring down from Pretoria long-range guns, against which field guns would be powerless.

" I therefore took steps to see whether a mounting could be made which would enable the Terrible's long-range 12-pounders to be used on shore to keep the Boer, siege guns at a respectable distance. By the 21st a mounting was made, tried, and found satisfactory. It consisted of a log of wood to form a trail, mounted on an axletree with a pair of ordinary Cape-waggon wheels. On to this was placed the ship carriage, bolted down and secured in such a manner as not to interfere with its being put back on board, should circumstances have required it; the necessity of this of course added to the difficulty in designing the mounting, a fact which perhaps my critics overlooked when they condemned it as clumsy.

"On Wednesday, October 25th, General White, in Ladysmith, finding that he had no artillery capable of keeping the Boer siege guns in check, wired to know if it were possible for the Navy to send him some long-range 4'7 guns.

" The Admiral asked me if I could design a mounting for a 4'7 and get two finished by the following afternoon. It was rather a rush; but they were ready by 5 p.m., put on board the Powerful, and she started with them, and four 12-pounders for Durban.

" Immediately on arrival, Captain Lamb ton, with great promptitude, took the guns to Ladysmith. He arrived in the nick of time, and his brigade played a most important part in the defence of Ladysmith. Forty-eight hours after his arrival the door was closed, and the garrison remained beleaguered for 119 days. The mounting consisted of four pieces of timber, 14 feet long by 12 inches, placed in the form of a cross. On to the centre of this was placed the ordinary ship mounting, bolted through to a plate underneath. The pedestal and timbers were thus all securely bolted together. Next, the gun-carriage was dropped over the spindle, and secured down by its clip-plate. Subsequent experiments with a platform of this description showed that it was not even necessary to fill in round the timbers with earth; on firing, a slight jump of the platform, of course, took place, but this in itself was advantageous, as it relieved the strain."

Having explained how the guns were despatched, a description of their rapid transformation from immobility to that of complete mobility for field service may also be of interest. Prior to the war, the 4'7 gun came under the category of heavy ordnance, being used exclusively on board ships, where the mountings are secured to the iron decks, and in forts, where they are concreted down.

As no suitable mounting existed, one had to be extemporized, and Admiral Harris has tersely explained how promptly Captain Scott solved a problem upon which perhaps the fate of Ladysmith depended.

At 9 p.m. on the 25th, Captain Scott landed, to see the admiral with reference to opening up communication with Kimberley by searchlight. On his return, at 10 p.m., his earnest conversation in the gangway with the principal officers denoted that something of more import than this was on the tapis.

Rumours that guns were to be landed somewhere, and somehow, soon gained credence, but lacked confirmation. This, however, was forthcoming by midnight when the purport of the captain's mission became known, also that Sir George White's problem of how to checkmate the Boer long-' range guns had even then been solved. A few lines on a sheet of drawing-paper (the rough sketch of a gun mounting) was the result of a long conference between the captain and the commander, and represented the solution, which was at once handed to an Engineer officer for a fair copy to be reproduced to scale to facilitate the construction of the designed mounting. Minutes were proverbially golden ; but, through some unfortunate misinterpretation of instructions, the drawing, which should have been completed by daylight, was not even commenced.

This contretemps was not allowed to retard the urgent matter in hand, and the upshot was the sending of the rough sketch to the dockyard, where the mountings were constructed under the personal supervision of Captain Scott.

That evening, the 26th, the Powerful sailed for Durban with all available specially mounted guns, a performance which elicited the following eulogium in Sir George White's despatches :—

" Captain the Hon. H. Lambton, R.N., commanding the Naval Brigade, reached Ladysmith in the nick of time, when it became evident that I was not strong enough to meet the enemy in the open field. He brought with him two 4'7 and four 12-pounder guns, which proved to be the only ordnance in my possession capable of equalling in range the enemy's heavy guns. Although the ammunition available was very limited, Captain Lambton so economized it that it lasted out till the end of the siege, and under his direction the naval guns succeeded in keeping at a distance the enemy's siege guns, a service which was of the utmost importance."

A propos of their departure Captain Scott signalled to Captain Lambton—

" I shall be disappointed if your two 4'7's are not mounted in Ladysmith in less than four days, and the Boers sent to Hades with lyddite. Hope to see you soon with some more guns."

The signal was appreciatively replied to, and was a true forecast of events. The guns got there in the time specified, and the Terribles guns subsequently entered Ladysmith when relieved some four months later. The distance from Simonstown to Ladysmith by sea and rail was nearly 1000 miles. Such, then, is the true story of the famous incident of the despatch to Ladysmith of the naval guns.

Captain Scott, with laudable persistency, did not remain content with having produced a stationary or platform mounting for the 4'7 gun, but resolutely aimed at establishing practical mobility for it, so that the gun could accompany troops in the field. Success again rewarded his effort to confound the enemy and destroy their "corner" in heavy field artillery. Moreover, the British 4'7 gun easily outranged the Boer " Long Tom "—with a few thousand yards to spare.

Under his personal direction, which thus exemplified that he was no mere theorist, the mobile carriage was hastily constructed in the dockyard, scientific procedure being in this instance reversed ; for, instead of the carriage being built to the design, the said design was reduced or enlarged to meet the resources of available dockyard material. (The bluejackets facetiously described it as the scrap-heap carriage.) When this extempore-built carriage was completed, proper drawings of it were then made, and several more carriages were soon afterwards constructed. By its employment throughout the whole Natal operations under General Buller, the original carriage received ample attestation of its stability and utility.

On board the ship, the construction of 12-pounder mountings and carriages proceeded apace, the ship's mechanical ratings blending day with night without intermission. This department of the Terrible's " arsenal" was entrusted to Lieutenant Ogilvy, and Mr. Johns, the ship's carpenter.

The next item deserving notice was the installation of a searchlight on a railway truck. The admiral's instructions required it to be ready by the evening of the 27th, the order being received late the previous night. The necessary fittings were prepared during the night, and the task of fixing the apparatus, to which was attached one of Captain Scott's " flashers," was commenced at daylight. Just as darkness ' was setting in, signals were being exchanged with the ship. This creditable evolution, performed by the ship's artificers and electrical staff under Lieutenant Ogilvy, was highly commended. The military authorities had requisitioned this signalling apparatus to enable them to reply to beleaguered Kimberley's messages, which were being nightly flashed by the De Beers searchlight.

On October 31st, the following general signal was made to the squadron :—

" Owing to the concentration of some 20,000 Boers upon Ladysmith, our force moved out three miles yesterday morning. Boers opened with 40-pounder Naval Brigade doing splendid work. British object was to check Boer advance, which was accomplished. British gradually withdrew. Losses not yet received."

This signal implied that the Powerful's guns had been in action, a circumstance of great interest to those who had identified themselves with their opportune despatch.

An important phase of the war is now reached.

With the return of the Dundee column on October 26th, Sir George White had concentrated his whole force at Ladysmith, and was perfecting his defences to withstand the inevitable siege that loomed ahead. Before accepting investment, however, the general determined to give the enemy battle to prevent their converging too close upon the town, and perhaps delaying or smashing up the encircling movement going on. Circumstances ripened this decision on the 29th, when a coup de main was decided upon for the morrow. The general was fully aware that success, now that the Transvaal and Free State forces had united, was of doubtful issue ; but, whatever the result, the Boers must disclose their strength, which would furnish useful knowledge in determining future action. Reputations are often sacrificed for want of pluck ; but the bold and difficult enterprise Sir George White had planned proved him the possessor of that necessary quality to an unlimited extent.

About midnight, he sent an Infantry column 1100 strong, under Colonel Carleton, to seize Nicholsons Nek—a ridge six miles northwards of the town, in order to cover the British left flank and secure the northern approaches to Ladysmith. Later, General French, with a strong mounted force, took an easterly direction over Lombards Nek, Bulwana, to cover the right flank. The attacking force was divided into two commands. Colonel Grimwood commanded the right wing, which moved off during the darkness, taking a north-easterly direction towards Long Hill, about four miles distant The left wing, under Colonel Ian Hamilton, proceeded to take up a concealed position under cover of Limit Hill, ready to storm the main Boer position beyond, on Pepworth Hill, should Grim wood's Brigade be successful on the right. By daybreak the assigned positions had been occupied, and the British designs clearly exposed to the enemy's view. The artillery of both sides opened the battle, the six British batteries being stationed between the two wings to support Grim wood's attack, and then cover the main movement against Pepworth. Until towards 8 a.m. a hot contest ensued between the opposing artillery, the Boer guns on the right, which were assailing Grimwood's exposed flank, being quickly silenced. The range to Pepworth being too far for effective shrapnel fire, two batteries were ordered to move forward, when a sharp duel, in which the fire on both sides was delivered with marked precision, was waged for half an hour, resulting in the Boer gunners being driven from their guns into shelter. On the right, the Boers, having frustrated French's flanking plans, developed a movement that seriously menaced the safety of the right wing. Severe fighting now followed, the Boers making strenuous efforts to turn both of Grimwood's flanks. These tactics proving futile, the enemy, now strongly reinforced, tried to dislodge the brigade from the forward position they occupied. Supports and reserves were then pressed forward into the British firing line, and reinforcements drafted eastward from Hamilton's unengaged brigade; the position, effectively covered with two batteries, being thereafter maintained with little difficulty, though no advance was possible against the intense fire opposed to them. Towards noon ominous information had reached Sir George White that his plans elsewhere had met with disastrous and irretrievable failure, and that the town itself, bombarded by " Long Tom," was perilously exposed to the enemy. These facts, together with the knowledge gained that the Boers were greatly superior in numbers, gun power, and mobility, made a withdrawal to the town defences a strategic necessity. Already, two cavalry regiments and two batteries of artillery had been diverted to reinforce French, who was closely pressed near Lombards Kop, but was now enabled to withstand the enemy's vigorous attack as long as the battle was likely to last. The retirement of the fighting line was the signal for a furious fusilade of rifle and gun fire into their retreating ranks, creating a critical situation for a brief period which called for exceptional generalship to control. The covering field batteries (13th and 53rd) performed brilliant service in extricating Grimwood's wing from the perilous position which the retirement had created, fighting their guns at close range with stoical bravery, until the Infantry had got into a safer zone. The fighting line of a position which an enemy is using all his available strength to push back or capture is not a cheery place, even for war-seasoned soldiers. But to face about—not knowing why— and be pursued at close range with pom-pom explosives that send a thrill shooting through the spinal column, bullets that whizz by with an enraged hissing noise, and shells that burst all round with loud exultant explosions, is a far more trying ordeal. A retirement in such circumstances may tax all a general's powers to prevent it from becoming a disorderly retreat.

The Powerful’s brigade had arrived in Ladysmith early that forenoon, the mobile 12-pounder guns being promptly detrained and taken out towards Limit Hill; but, before they could get into action, the retiring movement, then in progress, occasioned a reluctant retreat. During their return journey the gunners of the omnipotent " Long Tom " espying their processional retreat, greeted the battery with a succession of 94-lb. shells, one of which burst under the leading gun, capsizing it and wounding all the gun's crew, besides stampeding the draught oxen and native drivers. The disabled gun was subsequently remounted and brought in. Meanwhile the other 12-pounders took up a position and opened fire on the Pep worth battery at about 7000 yards' range. Their precision of fire quickly enforced the complete silence of the Boer guns, including " Long Tom," for the rest of the day, thereby infinitely relieving the situation and enabling the hitherto hasty retirement to be conducted in a comparatively leisurely style back to camp. The propitious and opportune arrival of the naval guns had produced a great moral effect on both sides. They had dismayed the Boer artillerists, who found they no longer enjoyed "long-range monopoly;" had restored confidence to the troops, inasmuch as they now saw the dominating Boer guns dominated in their turn ; and had also allayed the semi-panic prevalent among the populace, which " Long Tom's " intermittent shelling of the town had created.

General French, as before stated, had not met with the success anticipated at Lombards Kop, and had finally to give way before ever-increasing numbers and take up a defensive attitude, finally retiring upon the town in accordance with orders. But the predominant slice of ill-luck of the day befel the Nicholsons Nek column, which had, in the blackness of night, nearly reached their destination when a disastrous incident occurred. A sudden commotion at the head of the column had the effect of stampeding the mules of the Mountain Battery, which bolted pell-mell through the compact troops to the rear, with the sections of guns and ammunition on their backs. Fortunately, most of the animals careered back to camp with their warlike cargoes intact, but some fell down deep dongas to be-eventually captured by the enemy, who thus secured three of the six guns. Although premature discovery had undoubtedly taken place, the instructions to occupy the Nek were effected without molestation from the astute Boers, and protective works commenced, all the more necessary now the battery of guns was gone, and most of the reserve ammunition likewise lost. The remainder may be told in few words. At daylight, the Boers, who swarmed the adjacent hills which dominated the Nek, directed a furious converging fire upon the now isolated column, who fought tenaciously to stave off what was an inevitable issue, unless opportune relief arrived. No relief was forthcoming; Fate had willed otherwise. The hazardous position of the column could not even be made known to General White, as the heliograph had also vanished in the stampede; nor could contact be made with them from the general, though his safety was jeopardized by their misfortune. The alternatives had to be faced sooner or later—surrender or annihilation. So when their munitions became exhausted the former of these two evils was chosen, though not until a brilliant stand had been made, and further fighting had become hopeless.1

Though the actual surrender was deeply humiliating to our prestige at this early period of the war, yet the fact of having Carleton's column the less to feed somewhat lessened the difficulties of maintaining the protracted siege which followed. It was, in fact, a blessing in disguise, if it could be possible to view it solely from that standpoint, which, of course, is out of the question. The total losses for the day were 1285 in killed, wounded, and prisoners.

By November 2nd, the investment of Ladysmith was completed by the enemy, and a rigorous siege commenced, which lasted for 119 days. The force thus invested totalled 13,500 of all ranks (Imperial and Colonial), besides a civilian population (white and coloured) of some 7500 souls ; the presence of these non-combatants, owing to the limited sustenance supplies, immensely increasing the military difficulties of the situation.

The Natal Field Force being now hemmed in by the enemy, the safety of the colony south of Ladysmith became a subject for grave consideration. The province of Sir George White had been to protect the colony from invasion, and he had-voluntarily accepted his present position as being, both from the political and strategical points of view, the best to adopt. The precipitate action of the enemy had enforced the general to make prompt decisions, with little time for forethought, or leisure to examine probable or possible consequences. This final decision to hold Ladysmith in preference to falling back south of the Tugela, was, as subsequent events proved, the act of a skilled strategist and a political pilot of sound judgment.

1 The surrender was prematurely made about 2 p.m. through the act of a subordinate—not by Colonel Carleton's orders—who commanded an isolated detachment, then nearly all placed hors de combat, or killed; though this result could hardly have been postponed much longer, as ammunition was nearly spent, and any attempt at charging through the enemy must have been a disastrous and futile effort.

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