BATTLE OF TINTA INYONI
Ladysmith, October 27, 1899.
If you want to “experience a shock,” as the doctors say, be with the head of a column advancing leisurely along a familiar road only six miles from camp, and have a shell flung almost at your feet from a neighbouring mountain top. That was my fortune about the breakfast time of peaceable citizens last Tuesday morning. A squadron of Lancers and some of the Natal Carbineers were in front. Just behind me a battery was rumbling along. A little knot of the staff was close by, and we were all just preparing to halt. We stood on the Newcastle road, north of the town, not far from our first position at the Elands Laagte battle of the Saturday before. The road is close to the railway there, and I was watching an engine and truck going down with a white-flag flying, bringing back poor Colonel Chisholme’s body for burial. Suddenly on the left from the top of a mountain side beyond a long rocky ridge I saw the orange flash of a big gun. The next moment came the familiar buzz and scream of a great shell, the crash, the squealing fragments, the dust splashing up all round us as they fell. I have never seen men and horses gallop faster than in our rapid right-wheel over the open ground towards a Kaffir kraal. I think only one horse was badly hurt, but at no military tournament have I seen artillery move in such excellent style. It was all over in a minute. The Boers must have measured the range to a yard, and just have kept that gun loaded and waiting.
But in tactics jokes may be mistakes. That shot revealed the enemy’s position. Within ten minutes our gunners had snipt the barbed wire fences along the railway, had dashed their guns across, and were dragging them up that low rocky ridge—say, 300ft. to 400ft. high—which had now so suddenly become our front and fighting position. Three field batteries went up, and close behind them came the Gloucesters on the right, a few companies of the second 60th (K.R.R.) the Liverpools and the Devons in order on the centre and left. On our right we had some of the 19th Hussars and 5th Lancers; on our left a large mixed force of the mounted Natal Volunteers, who were soon strongly engaged in a small valley at the end of the ridge, and suffered a good deal all day. But the chief work and credit lay with our guns. Till they got into position, found the range and began to fire, the enemy’s shells kept dropping over the ridge and plumping into the ground. None were so successful as the first, and only few of them burst, but shells are very unpleasant, and it was a relief when at the second or third shot from our batteries we found the enemy’s shells had ceased to arrive. We had destroyed the limber, if not the gun, and after that the shells were all on one side. Some say the Boers had two guns, but I only saw one myself, and I watched it as a mouse watches a cat. One does.