About ten a tremendous explosion far away told that the Boers were blowing up the bridges behind them as they fled.
And so with to-night the long siege really ends. It is hardly credible yet. For 118 days we have been cut off from the world. All that time we have been more or less under fire, sometimes under terrible fire. What it will be to mix with the great world again and live each day in comparative security we can hardly imagine at present. But the peculiar episode called the Siege of Ladysmith is over.
HOW LADYSMITH WAS FED
LADYSMITH, March 23, 1900.
Where all worked so well it would be a shame to say Ladysmith was saved by any particular branch of the service—the naval guns, the Army Service Corps, or the infantry soldier. But it is quite certain that without the strictest control on the food supply we could not have held out so long, and by the kindness of one whose authority is above question I am able to give the following account of how the town was fed for the seventeen weeks of the siege.
A celebrated French writer on military matters has said: “There are two words for war—le pain et la poudre.”
In a siege le pain is of even greater importance than la poudre, for “hunger is more cruel than the sword, and famine has ruined more armies than battle.” Feeding must go on at least three times a day, and every day, or the men become ineffective, and the hospitals filled.
At the beginning of November, 1899, Ladysmith, containing over 20,000 souls, with 9,800 horses and mules, and 2,500 oxen and a few hundred sheep, was cut off from the outer world, and nothing in the way of supplies was brought in for 119 days, except a few cattle which our guides looted at night from the besieging enemy. The problem was how to utilise the food supplies which were in the place, and those who had the misfortune (or, as some say, the good fortune) to go through that trying period will say that the problem was very satisfactorily solved in spite of the enormous difficulties the Army Service Corps had to contend with.
The two senior officers of that corps—Colonel E.W. D. Ward, C.B., and Lieut.-Colonel Stoneman—recognising the possibility of a siege, and also that a big margin is everything in army administration, had caused enormous quantities of supplies to be sent up from the base to Ladysmith. The articles were not even tallied or counted as received, in spite of the remonstrances of the consignors; but by means of Kaffir labourers, working night and day, the trucks were off-loaded as fast as possible, and again sent down the line to bring up more food.