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November 30th 10 years 1 month ago #1573

  • djb
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1899 - Kimberley siege day 47 (37%). Ladysmith siege day 29 (24%). Mafeking siege day 49 (22%). Sixth Division announced for South Africa.
1900 - Transvaal Government reach the Tautesberg.

In Kimberley:

The enemy appears this morning to have returned in considerable numbers to the Spitz Kof and Wimbledon ridge. I hope this is due to the action on 28th.

I am going into the question of hospital accommodation. I calculate that 120 sick or wounded in addition to those now in hospital could be admitted to it.

By discharging a certain number of convalescents for treatment elsewhere, this number could be increased.

Enemy quiet to-day with the exception that there is evidently movement of men and wagons from Susanna direction towards Scholtz’s neck.

This evening 9 pm following signal message was received from search light South, distance off could not be estimated.

“To Clack, Cape Police Kimberley. PORT KLOCKFONTEIN delighted.”

In Ladysmith:

At night the Boer searchlight near Bester's, north-west of the town, swept the positions by Range Post, the enemy having been informed by spies (as usual) that we intended a forward movement before dawn. Three battalions with cavalry and guns were to have advanced on to the open ground beyond Range Post, and again attack the Boer position on Bluebank, where there are now two guns. The movement was to prepare the way for the approach of any relieving force up the Maritzburg road, but about midnight it was countermanded. Accurately informed as the Boers always are, they apparently had not heard of this change from any of the traitors in town, and before sunrise they began creeping up nearer to our positions by the Newcastle road on the north. They hoped either to rush the place, or to keep us where we were. The 13th Battery, stationed at the railway cutting, opened upon them, and the pickets of the Gloucesters and the Liverpools checked them with a very heavy fire. As I watched the fighting from the hill above my cottage, the sun appeared over Bulwan, and a great gun fired upon us with a cloud of purple smoke. A few minutes after there came the sharp report, the screaming rush and loud explosion, which hitherto have marked "Long Tom" alone. Our suspicions of yesterday were true, and Pepworth Hill knows him no more. He now reigns on Little Bulwan, sometimes called Gun Hill, below Lombard's Kop. His range is nearer, he can even reach the Manchesters' sangars with effect, and he is far the most formidable of the guns that torment us.

All day the bombardment was severe, as this siege goes. I did not count the shells thrown at us, but certainly there cannot have been less than 250. They were thrown into all parts of the town and forts. No one felt secure, except the cave-dwellers. Even the cattle were shelled, and I saw three common shell and a shrapnel thrown into one little herd. Yet the casualties were quite insignificant, till the terrible event of the day, about half-past five p.m. During the afternoon "Long Tom" had chiefly been shelling the Imperial Light Horse camp, the balloon, and the district round the Iron Bridge. Then he suddenly sent a shell into the library by the Town Hall. The next fell just beyond the Town Hall itself. The third went right into the roof, burst on contact, flung its bullets and segments far and wide over the sick and wounded below. One poor fellow—a sapper of the balloon section—hearing it coming, sprang up in bed with terror. A fragment hit him full in the chest, cut through his heart, and laid him dead. Nine others were hit, some seriously wounded. About half of them belonged to the medical staff. The shock to the other wounded was horrible. There cannot be the smallest doubt that the Boer gunners deliberately aimed at the Red Cross flag, which flies on the turret of the Town Hall, visible for miles. They have now hit twenty-one people in that hospital alone. This last shell has aroused more hatred and rage against the whole people than all the rest of the war put together. When next the Boers appeal for mercy, as they have often appealed already, it will go hard with them. Overcome with the horror of the thing, many good Scots have refused to take part in the celebration of St. Andrew's Day, although the Gordons held some sort of festival, and there was a drinking-concert at the Royal. But the dead were in the minds of all.

About midnight we again observed flash-signaling over the star-lit sky. It came from Colenso way, and was the attempt of our General to give us news or instructions. It began by calling "Ladysmith" three times. The message was in cipher, and the night before a very little of it was made out. Both messages ended with the words "Buller, Maritzburg." It is said one of the Mountain Battery is to be hanged in the night for signalling to the enemy.

In Mafeking:

This was the hottest day's firing we have had for some time. At 3 a.m. a heavy fire commenced all round. The Boers had been annoyed by our native snipers in the river and brickfields, and commenced firing so-called volleys from their trench in the direction of the river bed. The Cape Boys and the squadron fired on the big gun and Ellis's corner fired on the Boers. Our Hotchkiss also fired, but the seven-pounder gun, concealed in the bed of the river, did not fire, but awaited developments, as its position was still unknown to the enemy; this went on with short intervals all day, but an hour and an half before sundown began a most furious fusillade all round. Creaky, who had now been furnished with cover for her gunners, joined in the fray, and for over an hour heavy firing was incessant, and a very pretty fight followed. In all this firing on the south-eastern corner the bullets drop in the town, and the market square and surrounding streets are no places for a contemplative stroll at these times. The other day, during a game of football, a ninety-four-pound shell passed through the players and burst in the town house, in the centre of the square, but marvellous to relate, none were injured though the interior of the town house has disappeared. To return to the skirmish, after a vast expenditure of ammunition our casualties were nil; I trust the enemy's were heavy. In a Transvaal paper, dated December 2nd, they confessed to several being slightly wounded lately by our continuous fire.
Dr David Biggins

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Re: November 30th 10 years 1 month ago #1581

  • Brett Hendey
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David

As usual, the diary excerpts provided an interesting start to the day. Thank you for posting them.

The one on Ladysmith mentions a traitor from the Mountain Brigade to be hanged for signalling to the enemy, something that is new to me. Do you know any more about this affair? Traitors were probably not exactly rare in Ladysmith at that time, but a serving member of the Mountain Brigade seems a most unlikely candidate.

Regards
Brett

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Re: November 30th 10 years 1 month ago #1584

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Brett,

That came as a surprise to me too. I'll check the medal rolls and casualty rolls and see if they show anything of this.

As you say, not an expected source of a sympathiser.

Best wishes
David
Dr David Biggins

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November 30th 5 years 1 month ago #50252

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

No further definite news, and we are still in readiness, awaiting the order to move. We got orders last night to go out at 1 a.m. today with a column, but the order was cancelled two hours later, so I suppose the information at headquarters was false. The rumour is that the Colenso column is only fourteen miles off, but nothing has been seen or heard of them as far as we know, and as there is a strong N.W. wind blowing, we should not hear firing from their direction, which is nearly due south. Lord Ava told me yesterday that pigeons and runners had been got through almost daily lately, so that you will have plenty of news from the press telegrams regarding the safety of the Ladysmith garrison, and will at all events know that I have not been killed or wounded.

All the guns all round had a great set-to from daylight till about 7 a.m. today. I don’t know what it was all about, but happily they were so occupied in pounding at one another that they left our little camp quite alone. I don’t think much harm was done - on our side, at all events. Sergeant Cowl managed to get a sheep in the town yesterday, and we had mutton chops for breakfast and Quaker oats! You should have seen the greedy joy on the faces of the subalterns! I expect there will be roast mutton for dinner tonight - and more joy. Sergeant Cowl also got some fresh potatoes - a luxury we haven’t tasted for more than a week. He has done wonders in the catering line, and has always got us more than a full share of any stores which were to be bought or looted, so that, all things considered, we have been very well fed. I hear another issue of the Ladysmith Lyre is coming out today. I have got a copy of the first number, and have ordered one of the second. I shan’t post it, as it would probably be lost, and you wouldn’t understand the topical allusions in it either.
Dr David Biggins

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November 30th 5 years 1 month ago #50253

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

Expected call didn’t come off - disappointed - may yet have to go, being warned to hold ourselves in readiness. Heavy artillery and musketry firing, since day break. In town to get material to repair riding breeches reduced to rags. While at Sparks Bros, a shell burst about 40 ft. in rear of Town Hall - no damage done. Strolled up again after tea and seeing a crowd at the Hospital (Town Hall) joined to see what was up. Learnt that a shell had just found its mark having entered the roof exploding on top of wall killing a sapper of the Balloon Section who had that morning entered the place with sore eyes. 9 others were wounded. The shell, a segment weighed 80 lbs., sent everything in the room flying. The marvel is that more were not killed. Fortunately 3/5 of the sick had been removed to the tunnel cut across road at a depth of 15 ft. below the surface. I then went across the road making for the camp and passing the Royal Hotel, found it lighted up and quite a gathering inside. Looking in, the Proprietor Charlie Jones (who was my forwarding agent at Dundee) saw me and insisted upon my joining the party. Not requiring much persuasion, I did so, thus returning once more to the luxuries of civilized life, for champagne etc. were in galore. The proprietor gave a banquet in honour of St. Andrew’s Day and his own birthday. Party broke up 10.15 singing God save the Queen and Old Lang Syne. A number of military and Volunteer officers were present and altogether it was quite an agreeable treat. One of our Bandsmen died during the night of dysentry.
Dr David Biggins

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November 30th 5 years 1 month ago #50255

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1899 - From the diary of Miss Bella Craw in Ladysmith

At daylight this morning we were wakened by the sound of firing of all kinds and descriptions. It began at about 3.30. We got up at sunrise and for a time they seemed to be coming (the shells) from all sides.

We did not go to our hole at all today. There was a small engagement in Potgieter's direction, so far I have not heard the casualties. This afternoon, Aunt Fanny, Mama, Wilfrid and I all went for a walk and a very pleasant one too. We went past the Gordon Camp and saw a little of a game of Polo, but while we were watching, a shell came whizzing along and fell a short distance from the ground. They never looked aside but we walked on thinking it dangerous ground. At the bridge we were asked by the Sentry there for our passes, which none of us had but Wilfrid. This is the first time I have been asked for mine. However, he let us pass.

We stood for a time and watched some of the Gordons cleaning their helmets and best of all listened to the bag pipes. Five men were playing in the bed of the river on the sands, out of sight of "Long Tom", "Whispering Willie", "Silent Susan", and "Slim Piet" and ever so many more. It was such a treat to hear the pipes again. It was cheery to say the least of it.

From there, we went through the Light Horse Camp, went through their burrow. They are the very best I have seen. We crossed the river, passed the Prison and saw some of the Boer prisoners on the balcony.

From there we went to see the news posted up at the Post Office, found none, but saw Captain Adams there and he showed us a copy of "The Lyre" edited by Mr. Stephens. I must have one. During our walk shells were falling in the direction of the Town Hall. On our way home we were told that one had gone through the Town Hall again, killing one of the wounded and re-wounding eight others. Uncle George came in after dinner and brought a copy of "The Ladysmith Lyre".

It is very funny, most amusing. It calls the new 6-inch Boer gun "Nasty Knocks."

Extracts from Ladysmith Lyre.

Leading Article - The Situation.
The situation is unchanged. Under the heading of Advertisements is: Please note change of Address L. Tom, House, Life and Commission Agent, Horse breaker, slaughterman etc. begs to inform his numerous patrons in the Navy and Army that he has transferred his old-established business from Pepworth's Hill to Lombard's Kop. By punctuality and strict attention to business he hopes to merit a continuance of former favours. No credit:
Smash on delivery.

The poet under the River Bank

Wake for above Umbulwana the coming day
Lights up the signal for the guns to play;
How sweet to know 'tis but a living tomb
Awaits you, and there's time to creep away.

E'er the last shadow of the darkness died
Me thought a voice within the cavern cried:
"Look here, there ain't no room for more than ten,
And if you're late, you'll have to stop outside."

Oh dreams of pluck and fears of cowardice!
One thing at least is certain, cordite flies,
One thing is certain in this town of lies,
If Long Tom gets you on the head, you dies.

Some of escapes and some of ventures tell,
To some life's dull without bombardment - well,
The far off shrapnel makes a pretty cloud,
And Sweet's the whisper of the distant shell.

Some talk of future glory and of rank,
To some a coat without a medal's blank,
Oh, take the cash and let the credit go!
Be like the soldiers when they took the bank.

A pipe of Boer tobacco 'neath the blue,
A tin of meat, a bottle, and a few
Choice magazines, like Harmsworth's or the Strand
I sometimes think war has its blassings too.

Outstretched where yellow waters mumur still
Where Kaffirs cook, and high the cauldrons fill,
Whilst neither wine nor whiskey is forgot -
And peace to Joubert on his Pepworth Hill!

And sweet it is when, without trace of fear,
You tread the darkening town, for night is here,
Or, wondering why sometimes they fire at twelve,
Sink into bed - but know the culvert near.

So when the peace shall find me safe and well,
'Twill be a further joy each night to tell
How many a bullet nearly touched the spot -
And in my window place an empty shell.
Dr David Biggins

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