The Boers, however, had many cats to watch. Climbing up the ridge towards its left end, I sat among the rocks with the Liverpools and Devons beside one of the batteries, and got a good view of the Boer position. They were in irregular lines and patches among the rocks of some low hills across a little valley in our front, and were stationed in groups upon the two higher mountains (as one may call them) upon our right and left. Both of these points looked down upon our position, and it was only by keeping close among the stones under the edge of our ridge that we got any cover, and that indifferent. But, happily, the range was long, and for hour after hour those two hills were simply swept by our shrapnel. On our right the long mountain edge, where the enemy’s gun had been, is called Mattowan’s Hoek. The great dome-like hill (really the end of a flat-topped mountain in perspective), on our left, was Tinta Inyoni.
Our infantry lay along the ridge, keeping up a pretty constant fire, and sometimes volleying by sections, whenever they could get sight of their almost invisible enemy. Sometimes they advanced a little way down towards the valley. On the right the Gloucesters about eleven o’clock came over the ridge on to a flat little piece of grass land in front. I suppose they expected to get a better range or clearer view, but within a few minutes that patch of grass was spotted with lumps of khaki. Two officers—one their colonel—and six men were killed outright, and the official list of wounded runs to over fifty. When they had withdrawn again to the ridge the doctors and privates went out to bring the wounded back. Behind the cover of the rocks the dhoolies were waiting with their green-covered stretchers. In the sheltered corner on the flat ground below stood the ambulance waggons ready. All the ambulance service was admirably worked that day, but I think perhaps the highest credit remains with the mild Hindoos.
By twelve o’clock the low hills in our front were burning from our shells, and the smoke of the grass helped still more to conceal this baffling enemy of ours. It was all very well for the gunners, with their excellent glasses, but the ordinary private could hardly see anything to aim at, and yet he was more or less under fire all the time. As to smoke, of course the smokeless powder gives the Boers an immense advantage in their method of fighting. It is hardly ever possible to tell exactly where the shots come from. But I noticed one man near the top of Tinta, who evidently had an old Martini which he valued much more than new-fangled things. Whenever he fired a little puff of grey smoke followed, and I always thought I heard the growl of his bullet particularly close, as though he steadily aimed at some officer near by. He sat under a bush, and had built himself a little wall of rocks in front. Shell after shell was showered upon that rocky hillside, for it concealed many other sharpshooters besides. But at each flash he must have thrown himself behind the stones, and when the shower of lead was over up he got, and again I saw the little puff of grey smoke and heard the growl of a bullet close by.