The main infantry attack was made by a force of five battalions with six field batteries under the command of Grimwood. He marched out of Ladysmith soon after midnight, but had not covered half the distance to the point of attack when an unfortunate incident deprived him of all his artillery and of two of his battalions. The guns marching in the centre of the column and acting under orders which were not communicated to Grimwood, diverged to the right and were followed by the two battalions in rear; and the absence of nearly half the force was not discovered by him until daybreak, and after he had taken up the position assigned south of Long Hill. Daybreak also revealed the fact that Long Hill which was assumed to be the Boer left was not occupied, and that Long Tom from Impati had been emplaced on Pepworth Hill. The cavalry brigade under French upon whom Grimwood relied to protect his right flank was two miles away in his rear; and finding himself attacked on that flank instead of from the front he was compelled to swing round and almost reverse his front. Thus far the general scheme of attack had signally failed. Carleton on the left had not reached Nicholson’s Nek and was in trouble; Grimwood with nearly half of his command gone astray, and having discovered that the enemy’s left was not on Long Hill but on Lombard’s Kop, had to improvise a scheme of his own; while French instead of conforming to Grimwood was compelling Grimwood to conform to him. At 8 a.m. Grimwood was suffering severely from artillery fire, and French whose cavalry now prolonged Grimwood’s line southwards was with difficulty holding his own. The enemy, whom the general idea destined to be outflanked and rolled up towards the north and pursued by mounted troops issuing from Nicholson’s Nek, was instead attacking vigorously from Lombard’s Kop on the east and seemed likely to outflank White; the infantry reserves under Ian Hamilton were almost expended; and the British artillery was unable to silence the Boer guns.
All through the forenoon Ladysmith and the little garrison left behind for its defence was the target of Long Tom on Pepworth Hill. The fugitives from Kainguba brought in disheartening reports and the Boers seemed to be threatening from the north. W. Knox, a Horse Artillery officer who had been left in command, anticipated an attack which he had little chance of meeting successfully with the scanty force at his disposal and sent an urgent message to White, who at noon ordered the battle to be broken off and the troops to retire to Ladysmith.
The retreat was effected in confusion. Grimwood’s force was the first to be withdrawn and was saved from disaster by the gallant stand made by two field batteries as it crossed the level ground. The cavalry scampered home in Grimwood’s track. A dramatic episode brought the battle of Lombard’s Kop to a close. Just as the baffled troops were entering Ladysmith a battery of naval guns, which had arrived from Durban that morning and had gone immediately into action, succeeded in silencing Long Tom and some other guns on Pepworth Hill, nearly four miles distant. In the evening Joubert sent in a flag of truce to White to announce Carleton’s surrender.