The chief attacks were directed against the Manchesters in Caesar’s Camp (we are very historic in South Africa) and against a mixed force on Observation Hill, two companies of the Rifle Brigade, two of the King’s Royal Rifles, and the 5th Lancers dismounted. The Manchesters suffered most. Since the investment began the enemy has never left them in peace. They are exposed to shells from three positions, and to continual sniping from the opposite hill. It is more than a week since even the officers washed or took their clothes off, and now the men have been obliged to strike their tents because the shells and rifles were spoiling the stuff.
The various companies get into their sangars at 3 a.m., and stay there till it is dark again. Two companies were to-day thrown out along the further edge of their hill in extended order as firing line, and soon after dawn the Boers began to creep down the opposite steep by two or three at a time into one of the many farms owned by Bester, a notorious traitor, now kept safe in Ladysmith. All morning the firing was very heavy, many of the bullets coming right over the hill and dropping near the town. Our men kept very still, only firing when they saw their mark. Three of them were killed, thirteen wounded. Before noon a field battery came up to support the battalion, and against that terrifying shrapnel of ours the Boers attempted no further advance. In the same way they came creeping up against Observation Hill (a barren rocky ridge on the north-west of the town), hiding by any tree or stone, but were completely checked by four companies of Rifles, with two guns and the dismounted Lancers. They say the Boer loss was very heavy at both places. It is hard to know.
In the afternoon things were fairly quiet, but in walking along the low ridge held by the Liverpools and Devons, I was sniped at every time my head showed against the sky. At 4 p.m. there was a peculiar forward movement of our cavalry and guns along the Helpmakaar road, which came to nothing being founded on false information, such as comes in hourly.
The great triumph of the day was certainly the Royal salute at noon in honour of the Prince of Wales. Twenty-one guns with shotted charge, and all fired slap upon “Long Tom”! It was the happiest moment in the Navy’s life for many a year. One after another the shot flew. “Long Tom” was so bewildered he has not spoken since. The cheering in the camps was heard for miles. People thought the relief division was in sight. But we were only signifying that the Prince was a year older.
[Footnote 1: Despatched by runner on November 20, but returned to the writer on December 23, and despatched again on January 1.]
November 10, 1899.