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November 20th 10 years 1 month ago #1468

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1899 - French arrives at Naauwpoort.
1901 - Commandant Buys captured near Villiersdorp.

In Kimberley:

Fresh vegetables for the troops are now most difficult to obtain. They get them 3 times a week at a cost of about £75 per week!! a very heavy charge, but it cannot under the circumstances be avoided, and it is of course most necessary to keep the troops in good health.

Enemy seen early this morning getting what is supposed to be a gun into position near Kampersdam. They have also commenced two new works near Webster’s farm and under Dronfield Ridge.

I am endeavouring to raise a corps of picked scouts, with knowledge of the country and who can speak Dutch or Kaffir or both. They should be useful during any advance from this place. The difficulty now seems to arm them. I may be able to obtain a few LE carbines for them.

Mr Rhodes is increasing the Kenilworth Defence force to 100. (25 mounted 75 not), and by placing abattis ect to make it at any rate difficult for any but a determined enemy to enter that suburb by day.

Passes for those living outside the barriers, or who wish to go out for various reasons, such as looking after their houses, property etc still continue to give much trouble. All cases require careful investigation, and this work alone occupies my staff officer Capt MacInnes, for several hours a day.

In Ladysmith:

"Gentlemen," said Sir George White to his Staff, "we have two things to do—to kill time and to kill Boers—both equally difficult." The siege is becoming intolerably tedious. It is three weeks to-day since "Black Monday," when the great disaster befell us, and we seem no nearer the end than we were at first. We console ourselves with the thought that we are but a pawn on a great chessboard. We hope we are doing service by keeping the main Boer army here. We hope we are not handed over for nothing to ennui enlivened by sudden death. But the suspicion will recur that perhaps the army hedging us in is not large after all. It is a bad look-out if, as Captain Lambton put it, we are being "stuck up by a man and a boy."

Nothing is so difficult to estimate as Boer numbers, and we never take enough account of the enemy's mobility. They can concentrate rapidly at any given point and gain the appearance of numbers which they don't possess. However, the balloon reports the presence of laagers of ten commandoes in sight. We may therefore assume about as many out of sight, and consider that we are probably doing our duty as a pawn.

This morning the Boers hardly gave a sign of life, except that just before noon "Puffing Billy" shelled a platelayer's house on the flat beyond the racecourse, in the attempt to drive out our scouts who were making a defended position of it.

In the afternoon I rode up to the Rifle Brigade at King's Post, above the old camp, and met Captain Paley, whom I last saw administering a province in Crete. Suddenly the Boer guns began firing from Surprise Hill and Thornhill's Kop, just north of us, and the shells passing over our heads, crashed right into the 18th Hussar camp beside a little bridge over the river below. Surprise Hill alone dropped five shells in succession among the crowded tents, horses, and men. The men began hurrying about like ants. Tents were struck at once, horses saddled, everything possible taken up, and the whole regiment sought cover in a little defile close by. Within half an hour of the first shell the place was deserted. The same guns compelled the Naval Brigade to shift their position last night. We have not much to teach the Boer gunners, except the superiority of our shells.

The bombardment then became general; only three Gordons were wounded, but the town suffered a good deal. Three of "Long Tom's" shells pitched in the main street, one close in front of a little girl, who escaped unhurt. Another carried away the heavy stone porch of the Anglican Church, and, at dinner-time, "Silent Susan" made a mark on the hotel, but it was empty. Just before midnight the guns began again. I watched them flashing from Bulwan and the other hills, but could not mark what harm they did. It was a still, hot night, with a large waning moon. In the north-west the Boers were flashing an electric searchlight, apparently from a railway truck on the Harrismith line. The nation of farmers is not much behind the age. They will be sending up a balloon next.
Dr David Biggins

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November 20th 5 years 1 month ago #49972

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

Still no news, except for a rumour that the relieving column cannot advance yet, as its artillery have not arrived, and that, as they only left England on 6th November, they cannot be at Durban for another three or four days at earliest, so that, if the shave is true, we may expect to have to sit here for at least another week. Tomorrow will be a month from the battle of Elandslaagte, and two from date of leaving Bombay, and this is twenty-first day of this siege. The last two days have been lovely weather, and so long as it keeps fine we are not at all badly off. Fresh vegetables have given out, but we get lime-juice, and preserved vegetables, and fresh meat and plenty of bread, and today there was a ration of most excellent bacon, which was a very welcome change.

All beer is finished, but we still have a fortnight’s supply of whiskey, and the soda-water factory in the town has started work again, and we get a little now and then for a treat. I have just opened my tin of cocoa for use in the early mornings, as the ration tea, made with very muddy water, is not nice. I haven’t used any other of my stores beyond soap and candles.

Yesterday, being Sunday , we had an absolutely peaceful day, and not a shot was fired by either side. It has been almost as quiet this morning, and I think the Boers have quite given up the idea of regularly attacking this place, and mean just to sit round and keep us in as long as they can. Our posts are said to be quite the show forts of the garrison, and we had a crowd of visitors yesterday afternoon to look at them. The men certainly have worked splendidly, and there isn’t another regiment in the place to come near them. I met Colonel Ian Hamilton two days ago, and he said we were to come back to his brigade as soon as the siege is over. I am very glad.
Dr David Biggins

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November 20th 5 years 1 month ago #49973

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

Vedetted duty 1 and 2 and 4 to 6.30. Beautiful morning. The Boers opened fire at 6.20, also musketry firing since daybreak all round at piquets. Returned 7.30 to farmhouse and taking up position again 5.30, on duty till relieved by new piquet at 8 o’clock. The shells from “Long Tom” and “Slim Piet” struck the English Church and the Gordons camp. Returned to camp at 8.30. Supped and turned in at 10 o’clock. Couldn’t get to sleep till after 11, men in adjoining tents having a sing-song. Told we need not parade early morning for which much joy.
Dr David Biggins

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November 20th 5 years 1 month ago #49985

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1899 - From the diary of Miss Bella Craw in Ladysmith

All quiet again today until about four this afternoon when the Boer guns began to play again, while we were watching a cricket match from our gate, Carbineers against B.M.R.s, Carbineers again victorious. They all seemed to come down the street, one fell in front of the convalescent Home, another in front of the Church, and the next went through the porch. Where it entered it only made a hole as big as the shell, but it took the whole of the opposite wall away.

Folks seem to think tonight is going to be hot. Ever so many families have gone down to the River bank to sleep. They came up at dusk for some refreshments etc. and have all trooped down again. I do hope nothing will happen. It is awful to hear it at night. We all, since the one fell so close to the house, have a wholesome dread of them. They sound dreadful at all times but in the night they are truly awful.

We hear this evening that the Boers have been up to more trickery and taken 58 men prisoners at Chieveley, near Colenso, captured two trucks, and killed or wounded seven men. We heard two of the wounded were sent to the Neutral Camp Hospital, and we hear Captain Wylie is one of them, of Shepstone, Wylie and Binns of Durban, wounded through the leg they say.
Dr David Biggins

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November 20th 3 years 11 months ago #57434

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

Morning quiet. Shelling and musketry during afternoon and evening, also about 2 a.m. following morning when one 96 pounder fell in front of church and one struck the porch damaging that part and shaking the west end very much.

I hear of no casualties from this night's shelling.
Dr David Biggins

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November 20th 1 month 4 weeks ago #79842

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1899 - Diary of the siege of Mafeking by Edward Ross

Monday 20 November

The enemy commenced their bombardment at a little before five this morning, and between that and breakfast-time planted about twenty-three or twenty-four shells right into the town. After a slight stoppage for breakfast they again commenced shelling, and kept it up all day.

We hear that a new Boer commander is in charge, and he evidently wishes to endeavour to do what Cronje failed in. He also has some new guns, and these appear much smarter than the last, they fire much quicker and aim better and are not nearly so straggling as before.

We have had a very hot time, shells all day and could hardly move out of our dugouts, for 40 of Creetje’s heavy ones have been counted.

De Kock’s stable where we only lately had a Maxim in the loft was completely demolished by one of Creetje’s big ’uns.

Thank goodness no casualties today.

We hear today through native sources that the great Cronje with his commando of 240 waggons has been suddenly recalled and is leaving for the south, and in his place here have been left Commandant Snyman in command and Commandant Erasmus of the Free State Artillery in charge of the guns. For instructions, according to spy information, they are to watch Mafeking and the border, and to harass us with large and small guns and rifles, and if an opportunity occurs, to take Mafeking. We have no doubt Snyman will have a try if it is only to outdo Cronje at his own game. Well let them try, they will regret it.
Dr David Biggins

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