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November 14th 10 years 2 months ago #1431

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In Kimberley:

21 more cattle were brought into Bensons field this morning by natives.

I have found it quite impossible to hold the numerous Courts of Enquiry and Boards that should in ordinary course take place on losses of Government Property, etc; everyone is so very fully employed in the defence of the town that this kind of work must I fear stand over. This will doubtless lead to many questions arising hereafter, but it cannot possibly be avoided.

I have been trying daily to assemble the important Court of Enquiry to collect information as to the losses when the different police posts were evacuated, but it seems impossible for the reasons given to arrange it.

It is indeed curious how little reliable information we get notwithstanding every care having been taken to obtain it; we are really very much in the dark at the present moment as to the numbers of the enemy round the town, and even as to the numbers of his guns. We have received a certain amount of information from natives, but of course as a rule this is most unreliable. Curiously enough the De Beers Co do not appear able to obtain any good information.

Taking the above into consideration and that we know the enemy gets our morning paper, and is daily fully informed of all that goes on in the town the situation is indeed a difficult one.

With this very large town, notwithstanding every care, and every kind of arrangement to prevent it, it seems quite impossible to stop news being taken out – this makes a great difficulty in any reconnaissance or movements about to be taken which have to be arranged very secretly, and at very short notice, or we should certainly be forestalled by the enemy receiving information of them.

What a bill there will be to pay for the arrangements for the defence of this place alone. Town Guards, Volunteers, Kimberley Light Horse, clothing, equipment, transport horses, etc etc. I am trying my best to keep down expenses, and to keep account of everything, but it’s most difficult to regulate and arrange and everything is upset my bombardments and urgent defence arrangements, which must be attended to before anything else.

The Kenilworth Company of the Town Guard was formed on the 10th instant. I must hope it will be a success. Its organization is:
1 Capt. 1 Lieut. 1 Q Mtr. 52 NCOs and men. 25 horses.

It should be most useful in connection with the defence of Kenilworth, and will work under the orders of the OC Mounted Troops.

A quiet morning but at about 1 pm enemy commenced shelling from the Lazaretto position; most fell short, but a few reached the town. 95 shells in all were fired by the enemy; a few of these being at the Premier Mine Fort from the position near Alexandersfontein.

We are certainly very lucky, as although shells fell in a crowded portion of the town and did some damage to property, nobody was hit.

I have arranged for the combined bands to play daily in the different camps – it will help to cheer the people up.

Of course there are many important and confidential matters in connection with this siege to which, although they have had my most serious attention, I have thought it inadviseable for many reasons to refer to in my diary. Details as to these will be found in my code telegrams to the CSO.

The enemy appears to be increasing in strength of his works near Beaconsfield and Lazaretto.

The despatch riders I sent out last could not get through, and I have received no news of any kind for 4 days; it looks as if the investment was now more complete, and I expect the enemy has occupied Burkley West.

In Ladysmith

The siege is becoming very tedious, and we are losing heart. Depression was to-day increased by one of those futile sorties which only end in retirement. In the early morning a large Boer convoy of waggons was seen moving along the road beyond Bluebank towards the north, about eight miles away. Ninety waggons were reported. One man counted twenty-five, another thirteen. I myself saw two. At all events, waggons were there, and we thought of capturing them. But it was past ten before even the nucleus of a force reached Range Post, and the waggons were already far away. Out trotted the 18th and 19th Hussars, three batteries, and the Imperial Light Horse on to the undulating plain leading up to the ridge of Bluebank, where the Boers have one gun and plenty of rocks to hide behind. That gun opened fire at once, and was supported by "Faith," "Hope," and "Charity," three black-powder guns along Telegraph Hill, besides the two guns on Surprise Hill. In fact, all the Boer guns chimed in round the circle, and for two hours it was difficult to trace where each whizzing shell came from, familiar though we are with their peculiar notes.

Meantime our batteries kept sprinkling shrapnel over Bluebank with their usual steadiness and perfection of aim. The enemy's gun was soon either silenced or withdrawn. The rifle fire died down. Not a Boer was to be seen upon the ridge, but three galloped away over the plains behind as though they had enough of it. The Light Horse dismounted and advanced to Star Point. All looked well. We expected to see infantry called up to advance upon the ridge, while our cavalry swept round upon the fugitives in the rear. But nothing of the kind happened.

Suddenly the Light Horse walked back to their horses and retired. One by one the batteries retired at a walk. The cavalry followed. Before two o'clock the whole force was back again over Range Post. The enemy poured in all the shells and bullets they could, but our men just came back at a walk, and only four were wounded. I am told General Brocklehurst was under strict orders not to lose men.

The shells did more damage than usual in the town. Three houses were wrecked, one "Long Tom" shell falling into Captain Valentine's dining-room, and disturbing the breakfast things. Another came through two bedrooms in the hotel, and spoilt the look of the smoking-room. But I think the only man killed was a Carbineer, who had his throat cut by a splinter as he lay asleep in his tent.

Just after midnight a very unusual thing happened. Each of the Boer guns fired one shot. Apparently they were trained before sunset and fired at a given signal. The shells woke me up, whistling over the roof. Most of the townspeople rushed, lightly clad, to their holes and coverts. The troops stood to arms. But the rest of the night was quiet.' Apparently the Boers, contrary to their character, had only done it to annoy, because they knew it teased us.
Dr David Biggins

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November 14th 5 years 2 months ago #49845

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1899 - From the diary of Trooper A J Crosby, Natal Carbineers

rned to camp at 4.30, cleaning up tent, saddlery etc.

Fatigue pitching guard tents. Damp, disagreeable day. Boers firing at daybreak. In the afternoon a shell burst over N.M.R. and our camp, killing a man named Shirm or Schrum (Schram) of Eshowe of the N.M.R., while asleep in his patrol tent, a portion of the shell almost severing his head. Several pellets from the shell struck between my tent and an adjoining one but on one hurt. This is the first casualty from Boer shells amongst volunteers since Siege. Norton Smith, to whom I paid a visit just after, was the first to see the man referred to after being laid low. Nearly half our men laid up with diarrhoea and dysentery, making work very heavy for those fit. On guard 11.30 to 1.30 next morning. All our officers are on sick list - two in hospital. They should now be able to sympathize with the men, many of whom were accused of scheming.
Dr David Biggins

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November 14th 5 years 2 months ago #49846

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1899 - From the letters writer by Lt Col Park in Ladysmith

Still here, and no news of the relieving column; but the Boers are evidently afraid of coming out into the open to attack us, and have contented themselves the last few days with firing a few shells at intervals in a rather vague way about the place, and I haven’t heard that much harm has been done by any one of them. We are getting along as well as possible; but everyone is most deadly sick of the monotony of the siege, and would welcome anything for a change. It is a great bother to be obliged to strike and roll up all tents every morning, as one has to perch about homeless in the open all day in sun or rain. There is a sort of shelter from shells where the mess is, but it doesn’t keep out the rain or wind, when the sun is out it is infested by such a plague of flies as to be almost uninhabitable, so that one is left to wander outside.

Now that the building work in the posts is pretty well finished, there is not much to do at night beyond small repairs and improvements, and I am generally in bed by nine. Up every morning at 3.30, and as soon as day dawns I start round all the posts and see if everything is all right and what they want, and then stay up watching for Boers till about 6.30, and then down to breakfast - tough beef, bread and jam (of which there is lots). Then any little work there may be about the camp; more watching for Boers and more boredom till tiffin at 12.45. After that I generally try to find a sheltered corner and snooze for a bit, but am mostly routed up by people with chits, or staff officers wanting things done. Then at 4.30, tea, followed by another round of the posts to settle work to be done after dusk; dinner at seven - soup, more tough beef, bread and cheese - and bed.

This routine never varies, and this is the fifteenth day of it. I have never been outside the limit of my line defence during that time, and the only amusements are watching for Boers, and to see where the various shells pitch, and arguing about what they fired at. Some of the Boer shots are apparently fired at pigs, herds of cattle, loose horses, the railway line, single scouts, or pretty nearly anything they can see, and they rarely hit anything. The balloon has been up very high ail this morning, evidently watching for signals of the relief column, but no news has reached us yet. We were very hard up for books till yesterday, when a blessed angel - Colonel Rhodes, Cecil Rhodes’ brother - sent us a boxful of books and magazines, and we are very happy with them. Colonel R has retired and is now here as special correspondent to the Standard or some other big English paper, and he and Lord Ava, who is a special A.D.C. to Sir G. White, constantly come over to our mess and give us all the latest shaves from the town and head-quarter camp. The climate here is about as erratic as in England. Yesterday was blazing hot, and last night it suddenly turned bitterly cold, with a drizzling rain, and it is hideously cold today, with a bitter wind and a leaden sky.

I hope it will clear again tomorrow, as the cold shrivels me up. I can’t do anything here towards sending you money, I haven't had any pay since I left Jullundur, and there is no money in Ladysmith, and no means of getting any till the line opens again. Luckily I want next to none here, as there is nothing to spend it on beyond candles, stamps and such small wants, and now all the shops are shut up and barricaded, and nothing can be bought. Nearly tiffin time, so I will stop.
Dr David Biggins

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November 14th 5 years 2 months ago #49847

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1899 - From the diary of Miss Bella Craw in Ladysmith

The sixteenth day of our siege, and it has been hot and is, for we have only just finished lunch and have had to run to our hole, for they have begun in earnest again. Shell after shell over our heads. It is the first time we have run to the hole today. Colonel Green has been sent here an invalid. He and Mr. Crompton are suffering from the same complaint, dysentry. We have no servants but Mary and one little girl. All the others were afraid to stay and have gone home promising to return as soon as the "maboons" retreat and we are free again. So we find plenty to do and not much time to think of the shells. They began as usual soon after daylight. Before we were dressed one landed from "Long Tom" in our-front garden about 50 yards from our front door, and in no time a crowd of kaffirs and men were digging it out. We got a bucketful of pieces, it fortunately exploded in the ground. We have not yet heard of all the damage done today. Folks have not begun to venture out yet.\

Uncle George came in a little while ago and says a poor young man, from Stanger I think, was lying asleep in his patrol tent. A shell burst and a piece penetrated and cut his throat, killed him instantaneously. A kaffir was killed yesterday and three injured today. Another shell has gone through Mr. Murray's house, one fell in the street opposite the Standard Bank, another in the grounds of a house helow us and they took it out perfect, unexploded.

Ada, Bert, Wilfrid, Uncle Bill and I went to see it a little while ago. Another fell quite near it this afternoon. We saw and smelt the powder, and the dust rise. Later on in the afternoon I went to see the Barker girls. They have as great a dislike to creeping into a hole as we have. Theirs is very comfortable but small, just by the drift and facing the Imperial Light Horse warrens, which are a masterpiece. A lot of shafts running into the bank of the river and all connected by a long tunnel at the back. Before breakfast this morning a shell entered Ivy Lodge under the foundation of the dining room, the floor is all in splinters and they saw everything in the room broken. There seems to be a merciful Providence looking after these shells. If it had come five minutes later the room would have been full. There was not even a servant in the room. Captain Vallentine was waiting for Colonel Rhodes who sleeps at the Royal but messes with them, seven of them.

The man in the balloon was slightly out when he said he sighted the relief column 15 miles away. We hear there are only two thousand of them at Estcourt, and the others arriving every day at Durban. We heard today that General Joubert with a large column has moved on towards Colenso to meet them. It is to be hoped he will soon find himself between two fires. It would not be in keeping with the name he has earned of being "Slim Piet" though. I am afraid he has some big scheme on.
Dr David Biggins

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November 14th 3 years 11 months ago #57430

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1899 - From the diary of Major George Tatham, Natal Carbineers

Shelling commenced 6.50. 96 pounder fell in our garden, fired from Pepworth's Hill. Our artillery and cavalry had a scrap with Boers on O.V.S. Road, west of town, which brought on some hot fire from the enemy, and a false alarm during the night. No casualties. One N.M.R. man was killed by a fragment of shell falling in his tent and cutting the poor chap's throat while he was asleep.
Dr David Biggins

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November 14th 2 months 5 days ago #79733

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Source: Diary of the siege of Mafeking by Edward Ross

Tuesday, 14 November 1899

A very quiet night and only a few shots early this morning.

How news came we do not know, but we have just heard that the Army Corps will be arriving in Cape Town in a day or two; this means we have probably to be some considerable time still in siege, but at any rate we look forward to having our Christmas dinner in peace.

I am sorry to hear today that there has been a row up in the Volunteers’ camp, a sort of small rebellion. It appears that some non-commission [ed] officers and men have applied to headquarters, that Captain Cowan, the officer commanding, not only treats the men very unfairly but gives them triple duties and bullies them. After a lot of correspondence between them and headquarters, Sergeant-Major Tiffin, a gallant man in the field, has been dismissed without any evidence taken, or any question put to him. The N.C.O. and men are taking Tiffin’s part and applying for their discharge; this will affect the Volunteers all round. I am afraid it is a great pity as they defend some of the main positions in the town defences. Many of the Town Guard are also complaining at the very scant courtesy shown them by the imperial officers in charge here. These are men who hold very high positions in the town, and who are now living in the trenches and doing Tommy Atkins work for no pay and less thanks. It is the beginning of callousness and much grumbling in the camp. One certain corner is in a very disaffected state; most of the men in one of the redoubts talk of getting up a petition and working for the removal of their commander. Two or three men in other redoubts are giving up their guns. It is to be hoped that not much more of this is going to happen or there is no knowing what the end will be. 

The enemy again gave us a very quiet day, only sent one seven-pounder and a few Mauser bullets.

At 8 p.m. it is reported that the enemy are advancing in very strong bodies from both north and south and it is expected that they will attack early tomorrow morning. The Colonel has ordered out extra cossack scouts, outpost and special sentries tonight.

Heavy storm is coming up so we expect to be in the rain all night.

The authorities have issued to the Town Guard for the wet weather an allowance in the shape of Cape brandy, known to us as "streak lighting”. I wonder if they want us to get the D.T.’s! I proposed to B.P. that they should send it for the enemy, it would kill them a sight far quicker than our seven-pounders will.

In the meantime B.P. and his staff, etc., etc., are filling themselves with fiz, brandies and sodas, etc., and such like, and they have it sent down to their bomb-proof dugouts, but not for us in our damp and muddy trenches, where we are stuck day and night, whilst they get all the kudos, Awards of Merit, D.S.O.’s and C.M.G.’s, etc.
Dr David Biggins

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