1899 - Diary of the siege of Mafeking by Edward Ross
Monday, 15 January
Big Ben opened on us from the race course this morning sending the first five shells over to Cannon Kopje, [the] next four or five during the day over and about the town, one smashing up the back of Herd’s house. The gun is about the same distance away and not in such an effective position. About 8 p.m. they sent another big shell at Cannon Kopje together with a 12pounder, at the same time firing a rifle volley into the town.
Tom and I were just going down to our redoubt and had a narrow squeak, bullets whistling all over us. I am now fixed up at Early’s corner. There is no bomb-proof down there, so for shelter from shell splinters we have to lay on the ground under the lee of the house. This is no protection from shrapnel, but we have to put up with that. The shelter at the fort is merely a death trap, being a hole in the ground covered with one layer of galvanized iron with two or three inches of sand thrown on top. It is far safer to lay flat outside, as, if a shell struck the hole, it would penetrate and explode inside, whilst outside if the shell strikes the hard ground, it either ricochets, travelling high in the air for perhaps another mile, or else explodes and the pieces rise and travel right straight ahead for a like distance. The odds are about a million to one about it striking one fairly when laying flat.
The enemy’s snipers have been hard at it today. Old grey-beard Moses, at the back of us, has been hard at work with his ping-bom ever since daylight this morning. He never by any chance hits what he aims at, but I suppose the Boers have a certain amount of ammunition with them, and if they did not fire it away old Oom Paul would think they were doing no work, and be very angry about it.
Two runners from the north came in this morning, but brought no definite news except that Plumer’s column is all right.
It is said that B.P. sent word to Plumer not to attempt to relieve Mafeking unless he could keep open the line of communication with Bulawayo, as, if he did manage to get in, we could not feed him. Quite right, it would not be very nice to live on J rations all round. And the meat that we do get, ugh! I have heard of patent india-rubber boarding-house steaks that can be washed and rinsed, but these would make the fortune of any boarding-house keeper and give 50 in a 100 to the I.R. ones. We intend saving ours up to cover our splinter-proof dugout with - its any odds that shrapnel would not penetrate them. And the bread, well there, we speak less about that than the widow of a man who was hung speaks about ropes.
Dr David Biggins
The following user(s) said Thank You: QSAMIKE, Moranthorse1