February 5, 1900.
The noise of guns boomed all day from the Tugela. It sounded as though a battle was raging along miles of its banks, from Colenso right away west to Potgieter’s Drift. I could see big shells bursting again on Taba Nyama and the low nek above the ford. Further to the left they were bursting around Monger’s Hill, nearly half-way along the bank to Colenso. From early morning the fire increased in intensity, reaching its height between 3 and 4 p.m. At half-past four the firing suddenly slackened and stopped. That seems like victory, but we can only hope.
February 6, 1900.
Firing was again continuous nearly all day along the Tugela, except that there appeared to be a pause of some hours before and after midday. The distance was hazy, and light was bad. The heliograph below refused to take or send messages, and we had no definite news. But at night it was confidently believed that relief was some miles nearer than in the morning. For myself, the sun and fever had hold of me, and I could only stand on Observation Hill and watch the far-off bursting of shells and the flash of a great gun which the Boers have placed in a mountain niche upon the horizon to our left of Monger’s Hill, overlooking the Tugela. Sickness brought despondency, and I seemed only to see our countrymen throwing away their lives in vain against the defences of a gallant people fighting for their liberty.
One cannot help noticing the notable change of feeling towards the enemy which the war has brought. The Boers, instead of being spoken of as “ignorant brutes” and “cowards” have become “splendid fellows,” admirable alike for strategy and courage. The hangers-on of Johannesburg capitalism have to keep their abusive contempt to themselves now, but happily only one or two of them have cared to remain in the beleaguered town.
At a mess where I was to-night, all the officers but one agreed there was not much glory in this war for the British soldier. It would only be remembered as the fine struggle of an untrained people for their liberty against an overwhelming power. The defence of the Tyrol against Ney was quoted as a parallel. The Colonel, it is true, pathetically anxious to justify everything to his mind and conscience, and trying to hate the enemy he was fighting, stuck to his patriotic protests; but he was alone, and the conversation was significant of a very general change. Not that this prevents any one from longing for Buller’s victory and our relief, though the field were covered with the dead defenders of their freedom.
February 7, 1900.