The “Chevril” factory was started to supply soup, jellies, extracts, and even marrow bones made from horses; a sausage factory was instituted; and a biltong factory was run in order to utilise the flesh of horses which would have otherwise died from starvation. A grass-cutting labour gang was organised to go out and (under fire) cut grass and bring it in for our cattle and horses; a wood-cutting labour gang went out daily and cut wood for fuel—being “sniped at” by the Boers constantly; mills were worked by the A.S.C. for the purpose of grinding maize, &c., as food; arrangements were made by the A.S.C. for a pure water supply by means of condensation and filtration; coffee was made by roasting and grinding mealies; the gluten necessary to maize to make bread was supplied by Colman’s starch; and in short nothing was left undone that ingenuity could devise.
And yet, in spite, of all that human power could do, as the days dragged out the supplies grew shorter. The scale of rations, much to the sorrow of the lieut.-general commanding, had been several times reduced, and once more, on February 27, it was again found necessary to cut them down, with a view to holding out until April if necessary. On that day the ration scale was as follows per man, per day, this being the extreme limit:—
For Whites—Biscuit, 1/4
lb.; Maize meal, 3 oz.
For Indians and Kaffirs—Maize meal, 8 oz.
Europeans—Fresh meat, 1 lb.
Kaffirs—Fresh meat, 1-1/4 lbs. (Chiefly horseflesh.)
For White men—Coffee or tea, 1/12 oz.; pepper, 1/64 oz.; salt, 1/3 oz.;
sugar, 1 oz.; mustard, 1/20 oz.; Vinegar, 1/12 gill.
For Indians—a little rice.
The Indian, it will be observed, would have fared the worst, much against the will of the authorities, for he does not eat beef, much less horseflesh.
We had not, however, to spend the month of March on this scale of diet, for to our great joy, about midday on the 28th, we received the following message from General Buller:—“I beat the enemy thoroughly yesterday, and my cavalry is now pursuing as fast as bad roads will permit. I believe the enemy to be in full retreat.” The ration scale was at once doubled, and that evening Lord Dundonald’s cavalry arrived.
[Illustration: SKETCH PLAN OF COUNTRY SOUTH & WEST OF LADYSMITH]