SUN AND FEVER
February 3, 1900.
The day was fairly quiet. Old “Bulwan Billy” did not fire at us at all, and there was no movement in the distant Boer camps, though the universal belief is that the enemy is concentrating round Ladysmith for a fresh attack.
In the evening the rations were issued to the civilians under Major Thompson’s new regulations in the Market House. Each child, or whoever else is sent, now brings his ticket; it is verified at a table, the cost is added daily to each account, the child is sent on down the shed to draw his allowance of tea and sugar, his loaf, and bit of horse. The organisation is admirable, but one feels it comes a little late in the day. The same is true of the new biscuit tins which are to be put up as letter-boxes about the camp for a local post, and of the new plan of making sandals for the men out of flaps of saddles and the buckets for cavalry carbines. For a fortnight past, 120 of the Manchesters have gone barefoot among the rocks.
Sunday, February 4, 1900.
The sun shone. Women and children went up and down the street. I even saw two white-petticoated girls climbing the rocks of Cove Redoubt to get a peep at “Princess Victoria”—otherwise “Bloody Mary.” It was a day of peace, but every one believes it to be the last. To-night an attack is confidently expected. The Boers are concentrating on the north-west. A new gun was seen yesterday moving towards Thornhill’s Kopje, and sounds of building with stones were heard there last night. It is thought the attack will be upon the line from Observation Hill to Range Post. Every available man is warned. Even the military prisoners are released and sent on duty again. The pickets are doubled and pushed far out. A code of signals by rocket has been arranged to inform Buller of what is going on. It is felt that this is the enemy’s last chance of doing so big a thing as capturing this garrison.
But all that is still uncertain, and in the quiet afternoon I harnessed up my cart for a gentle drive with Sergeant-Gunner Boseley, of the 53rd Battery. He is a red Irishman, born at Maidstone, and has done eleven years’ service. During the attack on the 6th he was sitting beside his gun waiting for Major Abdy’s word to fire in his turn, when a 96lb. shell from “Bulwan” struck him in its flight, and shattered his left arm and leg. He says he was knocked silly, and felt a bit fluttered, but had no pain till they lifted him into the dhoolie. He broke the record, I believe, by surviving a double amputation on the same side, which left him only about 6 in. of thigh and 4 in. of arm. For every movement he is helpless as a log. Four of us hoisted him into the cart, and then we drove round to see his old battery, where the greetings of his mates were brief, emphatic, and devoid of all romance. We then went up to the tin camp, and round the main positions, which he regarded with silent equanimity. I thought he was bored by the familiar scene, but at the end he told me he had enjoyed it immensely, never having seen Ladysmith by daylight before! The man is now in magnificent health, rosy as a rose, and no doubt has a great career before him as a wonder from the war.