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January 14th 10 years 1 week ago #2027

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1900 - Kimberley siege day 92 (74%). Ladysmith siege day 74 (62%). Mafeking siege day 94 (43%). Plumer occupies Gaberones.
1903 - Legislative Council of the ORC meets.

In Kimberley:

The light was so bad to-day one short message only could be sent by Helio. In any case Bulfontein is not a very convenient place to signal from, and it is outside the defences and therefore I hope we may be able to get into communication from some other place.

Enemy quiet to-day; he is reported to be making a new work further down the ridge towards Otto’s Kopje.

I find great difficulty in keeping the mules and horses for whom there is no forage alive. There is so very little grazing; and the rain came too late. I am altering the grazing ground for them, but it will not be so safe, and I can only place natives in charge of them. The mounted troops are very fully employed with the 2 cattle guards (1st) between the Reservoir Lazaretto and Otto’s Kopje (2nd) over the milch cows to the North of Kenilworth; there is so little grazing that I am now putting as many carcasses of cows and horses into the cold storage daily, as can be dealt with.

Major Fraser reports from Beaconsfield that the enemy’s guns were firing from Spyfontein early this morning, and that at 5.50pm about 250 mounted men came from Scholtz’s Nek to Alexandersfontein.

The following messages were sent during the night by search light.

“From Int KB to Int MD. Jan 14th No 105. Statement in private letter dated Taungo 8th instant which reached ere to-day as follows: Boers investigating Mafeking have left the place and are moving on Kimberley. Boers have been spreading information that they have won great successes, natives in consequence becoming very restless.”

Only part of the following was sent through by search light, I shall try to get the remainder through by Helio to-morrow.

“From Kekewich, To Methuen. Jan 14th No 103. Following is present situation here, which you night wish to communicate to chief of staff. Stop. Perimeter of Kimberley defences is eight miles and I have strong observation post at Otto’s Kopje mile and a half beyond North East defences. Effective garrison for whole of these defences consists of Garrison Artillery four seven pounders one maxim and seventy, all ranks Section Engineer Company fifty all ranks, three companies Loyal North Lan Regt 2 maxims and three hundred and forty all ranks, Mounted Infantry LN Lan Regt twenty all ranks. Cape Police Mounted Branch three hundred and thirty all ranks. Dismounted hundred and forty ranks two guns and Det twenty all ranks, three maxims and Det eighteen all ranks. Battery Diamonds Field Art hundred and sixty all ranks. Kimberley Lt Horse three hundred and forty all ranks. Town Guard six maxims and two thousand and fifty all ranks. Am compelled to hold Premier Mine three and half miles East my defences force in same garrison Garrison Art two guns and then by three all ranks. One Company LN Lan Regt seventy all ranks. Town Guard two hundred and fifteen all ranks. This post most important as whole water supply for garrison and town derived from the Mine, in consequence connecting defences have been constructed at Beaconsfield and garrisoned by Town Guard three hundred and fifteen all ranks. Imperial officers in Kimberley. Staff – self and two others. Artillery four. Engineers one. Loyal North Lan Regt ASC one RAMC one. Retired officer LN Lan Regt commends Beaconsfield Town Guard. Give you this information to make you realize the small scale on which I can co-operate if large bodies of enemy continue investment of Kimberley, Wimbledon Ridge, Spyfontein and Carter’s Ridge are formidable positions and at present so strongly held that attack by me on them would be very costly and promise of success is small. Only direction in which I can now make sortie in co-operation with movement of relief column is towards Alexandersfontein.”

“From Int KB to Int MD. Jan 14th No 104. Reported Boers have armed the Batapins, some of whom are now in this neighbourhood."

The following message was sent by Mr Rhodes – to Field Marshal Lord Roberts. “You will excuse me making a proposition but I feel that if the whole resources of Rhodesia are called upon we could relieve Mafeking from Bulawayo. You must remember that the Tranvaal forces have to a great extent been withdrawn from Mafeking to Spyfontein, and that though the distance between Bulawayo and Mafeking is great namely fibe hundred miles, still the railway is practically intact to LOBATST which is within 30 miles of Mafeking and passes through friendly country. I feel sure that if you call upon Rhodesia the whole community will volunteer and that we might fairly expect a force of at least 3000. I think you might reasonably divert Colonel Plumer from TULT leaving a few police. I do not think we need fear the natives in Rhodesia and in this crisis one can run the risk of the removal of the great majority of the Police. As far as the charter is concerned we will do everything to make this movement successful and give all our strength to assist. I suggest to you Sir sending a telegram through BEIRA to Mr. Milton and Capt Lawley administrators at Salisbury and Bulawayo respectively calling upon them to raise and move down an adequate force to relieve the Mafeking garrison. Probably this is your view. I merely send Capt Lawley to do everything to forward your plans. If you are in favour of this suggestion we have excellent runners here and can send to Mafeking to encourage the garrison your doing the same through Hope Town.

In order to avoid killing off all the milch cows I have arranged to give only a portion of beef each day, and the larger portion of horse flesh, - the ration of meat of any kind (1/4 lb) for the inhabitants being so small Captain TG Tyson is starting a soup kitchen, and will arrange to give those who wish it a pint of soup instead of their quarter pound of meat. The idea is an excellent one and I much hope it will take on.”

My calculations as to remaining forage from the 12th instant are as follows: Forage is great difficulty, and it is sad to think of the many nice horses who have been, and will have been killed for meat.

I am doing my best to retain the best of the horses in the town for military purposes – but this will be very costly. Oat hay and chaff. ÷ 1500 horses = 268700 lbs = 45 days at 4 lbs.

Experience proves that the natives outside the compounds are not nearly so liable to scurvy as those in them. The former appear to be able somehow or other to get anti scorbutics and as Meal is cheap they have pay with which to buy different things which together with more exercise tends to keep them more healthy.

Signalling by helio is to take place daily from 6 am to 11 am. I much hope it will be a success. It is very important we should be able to communicate with the relief column very quickly should the necessity arise.

In Ladysmith:

Absolute silence still from the Tugela. On a low black hill beyond its banks I could see the British heliograph flashing. On a spur beside it I was told a British outpost was stationed. In the afternoon we thought we heard guns again, but it was only thunder. With a telescope on Observation Hill I saw the Boers riding about their camps. On the Great Plain they were digging long trenches and stretching barbed wire entanglements. To-day all was peaceful. The sun set amid crimson thunder-clouds behind the Drakensberg; there was no sign of war save the whistle of a persistent sniper's bullet over my head. Our weather-beaten soldiers were trying to make themselves comfortable for the night in their little heaps of stones.

In Mafeking:

Great excitement caused by disappearance of Creaky, many rumours. She was seen in at least six different places, but we all hoped she had taken a fond farewell.
Dr David Biggins

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January 14th 6 years 1 week ago #44778

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From the diary of William Watson, Ladysmith, January 1900:

Sunday, all quiet. — Rather late in the day, the Imperial light horse, have been supplied with bayonets for their rifles. The army chiefs, are at last beginning to discover, what I have maintained for years, that it is the steel only will give us the victory. — John Churchill, who knew something about soldiers, said a British army is of little use unless well fed. Our army, both men and horses, is half starved. Economy may be a virtue under some circumstances, but it is not one when applied to an army with such work to do as this army has. Starvation and disease, always go together. Take for instance the Spanish army sent to put down the Cuban rebellion. A few were killed in battle, and twenty times as many by disease, brought on by starvation. Considering the way our men are fed, it is not surprising they eat anything they can lay their hands on. The fruit they steal is not fit for pigs to eat. It would not be eatable for another month at the earliest, and is as hard and tasteless as the wood of the tree it grows on. Eating such muck, is sure to bring on disease.
Dr David Biggins

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January 14th 5 years 1 week ago #51340

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1900 - From the diary of Trooper A J Crosby, Natal Carbineers

Mounted parade at 4.30. Church parade at 7 o’clock. Took horse to graze Waggon Hill Point. Some of the fellows amused themselves snipe shooting at Boers, but the range was too great to do any damage. All the hills around are covered with sangers and stone walling, our men are working at same night and day. Many are the rumours of Buller’s movements, and when we are to be relieved, but take little notice of them. I only pray the siege will soon be raised so that we might get out of this hole. Considering the time we have been boxed up here, we have little reason to grumble at our rations, but I am always hungry and at the present moment, could I see a dry crust of bread, I would gladly eat it. Paraded at 5.30 p.m. for picquet, moved off at 6 o’clock. On Cossack first with Lean, L. Busch, next to 4 picquet. On guard 7 to 9. Moonlight - close day.
Dr David Biggins

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January 14th 5 years 1 week ago #51341

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1900 - From the diary of Miss Bella Craw in Ladysmith

Everyone very much delighted. Buller expected in a day or two. OhI I hope so, for the sake of these sick. If they could only get away and have proper nourishing food. I am glad to say Mama is improving nicely. Her temperature is normal but she is very weak.

I have had a lovely afternoon. Got four hours off duty. Left at four o'clock, get home in time for afternoon tea. Just before I left the Hospital Mr. Normand and Mr. Brooking of the I.L.H. called to see me, so we walked down together. Capt. Adams, Fred Tatham, Mr. Varty and Mr. Fanshawe all came. Then at about six I went for a lovely ride with Bert. Mr. Fred Tatham asked me to go for a ride with him at 5-30 a.m. tomorrow to Observation Hill to see the surrounding country, the Boer Camps and Buller heliographing. I hope to be back by 7 or I will be late for duty.
Dr David Biggins

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January 14th 3 years 11 months ago #57507

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1900 - From the diary of Major George Tatham, Natal Carbineers

Quiet and very hot all day.
Dr David Biggins

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January 14th 1 week 1 day ago #80745

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1899 - Diary of the siege of Mafeking by Edward Ross

Sunday, 14 January

Thank goodness another day without having to dodge shells and Mauser bullets, or having to skip down either one’s own or somebody else’s dugout, when the big bell goes.

Mentioning dugouts reminds me of the IOI little yarns connected therewith, that would make a grand addition to "Balzac’s Droll Stories” but much too sultry for you, Mr. Diary. I am afraid the dugouts are responsible for a good many things, unwritable, almost inconceivable to the mind, but...

I borrowed Mr. Riesle’s cart this morning and want round the western outposts with camera. I had a successful trip, negatives turning out excellent.

Sports or rather entertainment by squads of B.S.A.P. and C.P. on the recreation ground today were really excellent. The prize was won by the C.P. who gave us a very good variety show; Coxwell’s parody on "If it wasn’t for the houses in between” was deservedly encored. B.P., who was sitting on the ground under the awning of his cart, seemed immensely amused, slapping away and encoring like a bald-headed old man in the front row at the ballet. Everything passed off splendidly, and we were only sorry that Sunday was fast coming to a close.

It was noticed first thing this morning that the enemy’s big gun had been removed from their main fort on the east of the town. Cannot be seen anywhere, but a good look-out is being kept.

Notice sent us today for Court House reserve to disperse to different redoubts, so shall pack up my "field kit” and remove myself down to Early’s corner.

The church this evening was simply packed and a very interesting sermon given us by the Rev. Weekes, who has, almost without exception, held service every Sunday evening since the siege commenced. No other church but the English has held service.

It is at times amusing to hear the ladies talking of having to go back to their laager on Sunday evenings. One young lady says that on Sunday evenings they commence getting the "blues”, otherwise "mopes”; Monday is one long day of the "dumps”, otherwise, "I do not want to talk to anybody” sort of feeling; for them all, Tuesday they begin to get over it a little, and on Wednesday they, like school children waiting for holidays, begin to count the days to the next Sunday. It must be a terribly monotonous time for them down there during the week, more especially now that the men are not allowed to go down there without a written pass, and this can only be obtained when a good excuse can be given by the one wanting to go there.

Notice was sent round late this evening by B.P. that the enemy’s big gun has been removed from their big fort and placed in position to the east of the race course, and as their working can hardly be discerned, very little warning can be given the town as to when she will fire. It therefore behoves people to be now more careful about their movements in and about the town. The enemy have not got nearly such a good view of the town as formerly, they being only able to see the east front; at the same time, it makes it far more awkward and uncomfortable for us poor benighted creatures, not being able to have any warning when their deadly missiles are being so unmercifully discharged at us. Tomorrow I suppose we shall know all about it. B.P. says they have chosen the worst possible position they could take up, and that by laying a few more rails on our temporarily constructed railway to the water works, he could get the armoured train within range of them.
Dr David Biggins
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