November 29, 1899.
A few more Kaffirs came through from Estcourt, but brought no later news. Their report of the fighting on the Mooi River was: “The English burnt the Dutch like paraffin. The Dutch have their ears down.” Did I not say that Zulu was the future language of opera? Riding past the unfinished hospital I saw a private of the 18th Hussars cut down by a shell splinter—the only casualty to-day resulting from several hundred pounds’ worth of ammunition. The two greatest events were, first, the attempt of our two old howitzers on Waggon Hill to silence the 6 in. gun on Middle Hill beyond them. They fired pretty steadily from 4 to 5 p.m., sending out clouds of white smoke. For their big shells (6.3 in.) are just thirty years old, and the guns themselves have reached the years of discretion. They fired by signal over the end of Waggon Hill in front of them, and it was difficult to judge their effect. The other great event was the kindling of a great veldt fire at the foot of Pepworth Hill, in such a quarter that the smoke completely hid “Long Tom” for two or three hours of the morning. Captain Lambton at once detected the trick, and sent two shells from “Lady Anne” to check it. But it was none the less successful. There could be little doubt “Long Tom” was on the move, “doing a guy,” the soldiers said. We hoped he was packing up for Pretoria.
In the evening Colonel Stoneman held the first of his Shakespeare reading parties, and again we found how keenly a month of shell-fire intensifies the literary sense.
November 30, 1899.
At night the Boer searchlight near Bester’s, north-west of the town, swept the positions by Range Post, the enemy having been informed by spies (as usual) that we intended a forward movement before dawn. Three battalions with cavalry and guns were to have advanced on to the open ground beyond Range Post, and again attack the Boer position on Bluebank, where there are now two guns. The movement was to prepare the way for the approach of any relieving force up the Maritzburg road, but about midnight it was countermanded. Accurately informed as the Boers always are, they apparently had not heard of this change from any of the traitors in town, and before sunrise they began creeping up nearer to our positions by the Newcastle road on the north. They hoped either to rush the place, or to keep us where we were. The 13th Battery, stationed at the railway cutting, opened upon them, and the pickets of the Gloucesters and the Liverpools checked them with a very heavy fire. As I watched the fighting from the hill above my cottage, the sun appeared over Bulwan, and a great gun fired upon us with a cloud of purple smoke. A few minutes after there came the sharp report, the screaming rush and loud explosion, which hitherto have marked “Long Tom” alone. Our suspicions of yesterday were true, and Pepworth Hill knows him no more. He now reigns on Little Bulwan, sometimes called Gun Hill, below Lombard’s Kop. His range is nearer, he can even reach the Manchesters’ sangars with effect, and he is far the most formidable of the guns that torment us.