So the bombardment went on cheerily through the early morning, till about 10.30 it slackened down in the inexplicable Boer fashion, and hardly one shot an hour was fired afterwards. The surmise goes that Joubert cannot get his men up to the attacking point. Their loss last Saturday was certainly heavy.
Yesterday the Boers, with fine simplicity, sent to our ambulance camp for some chlorodyne because they had run short of it, and were troubled with dysentery like ourselves. Being at heart a kindly people, we gave them what they wanted and a little brandy besides. The British soldier thereupon invents the satire that Joubert asked for some forage because his horses were hungry, and Sir George White replied: “I would very gladly accede to your request, but have only enough forage myself to last three years.”
The day passed, and we did not lose a single man. Yet the enemy must have enjoyed one incident. I was riding up to spend an hour in the afternoon with Major Churcher and the 200 Royal Irish Fusiliers left at Range Post, when on an open space between me and their little camp I saw a squadron of the 18th Hussars circling and doubling about as though they were practising for the military tournament. Almost before I had time to think, bang came a huge shell from “Puffing Billy” just over my head, and pitched between me and them. Happily, it fell short, but it gave the Dutch gunners a wonderful display of our cavalry’s excellence. Even before I could come up men and horses had vanished into air.
All day strange rumours have been afloat about the Division supposed to be coming to our relief. It was expected to-morrow. Now it is put off till Thursday. It is even whispered it will sit quiet at Estcourt, and not come to our relief at all. To-night is bitterly cold, and the men are chilled to the stomach on the bare hillsides.
November 14, 1899.
The siege is becoming very tedious, and we are losing heart. Depression was to-day increased by one of those futile sorties which only end in retirement. In the early morning a large Boer convoy of waggons was seen moving along the road beyond Bluebank towards the north, about eight miles away. Ninety waggons were reported. One man counted twenty-five, another thirteen. I myself saw two. At all events, waggons were there, and we thought of capturing them. But it was past ten before even the nucleus of a force reached Range Post, and the waggons were already far away. Out trotted the 18th and 19th Hussars, three batteries, and the Imperial Light Horse on to the undulating plain leading up to the ridge of Bluebank, where the Boers have one gun and plenty of rocks to hide behind. That gun opened fire at once, and was supported by “Faith,” “Hope,” and “Charity,” three black-powder guns along Telegraph Hill, besides the two guns on Surprise Hill. In fact, all the Boer guns chimed in round the circle, and for two hours it was difficult to trace where each whizzing shell came from, familiar though we are with their peculiar notes.