LADYSMITH, November 2, 1899.
“Long Tom” opened fire at a quarter-past six from Pepworth Hill, and was replied to by the Naval Brigade. Just as I walked up to their big 4.7 in. gun on the kopje close to the Newcastle road, a shell came right through our battery’s earthwork, without bursting. Lieutenant Egerton, R.N., was lying close under the barrel of our gun, and both his legs were shattered. The doctors amputated one at the thigh, the other at the shin. In the afternoon he was sitting up, drinking champagne and smoking cigarettes as cheery as possible, but he died in the night. “Tom” went on more or less all day. In the afternoon Natal correspondents dashed down to the Censor with telegrams that he had been put out of action. They had seen him lying on his side. I started to look for myself, and at the first 100 yards he threw a shell right into the off-side of the street, as though to save me the trouble of going further. Another rumour, quite as confidently believed by the soldiers, was that the Devons had captured him with the bayonet and rolled him down the hill. I heard one of them “chipping” a Gordon for not being present at the exploit. Now “Tom” is a 15-centimetre Creusot gun of superior quality.
All morning I spent in the Manchesters’ camp on the top of the long hill to the south-west, called Caesar’s Camp. There had been firing from a higher flat-topped mountain—Middle Hill—about 3,000 yards beyond, where the Boers have taken up one of their usual fine positions, overlooking Ladysmith on one side and Colenso on the other. At early morning a small column under General Hunter had attacked a Boer commando on the Colenso road unawares and gave them a bad time, till an order suddenly came to withdraw. Sir George White had heard Boer guns to the west of their right rear, and was afraid of another disaster such as befell the Gloucesters and Royal Irish Fusiliers. The men came back sick with disappointment, and more shaken than by defeat.
I found the Manchesters building small and almost circular sangars of stones and sandbags at intervals all along the ridge. The work was going listlessly, the men carrying up the smallest and easiest stones they could find, and spending most of the time in contemplating the scenery or discussing the situation, which they did not think hopeful. “We’re surrounded—that’s what we are,” they kept saying. “Thought we was goin’ to have Christmas puddin’ in Pretoria. Not much Christmas puddin’ we’ll ever smell again!” A small mounted party rode past them, and the enemy instantly threw a shell over our heads from the front. Then the guns just set up on the long mountain of Bulwan, threw another plump into the rocks by the largest picket. “It’s like that Bally Klarver,” sighed a private, getting up and looking round with apprehension. “Cannon to right of ’em, cannon to left