Early in the afternoon I met Mr. Lynch, known as one of the Daily Chronicle correspondents in Cuba last year. He was riding his famous white horse, “Kruger,” which we captured after the fight at Elands Laagte. One side of this bony animal is dyed khaki colour with Condy’s fluid, as is the fashion with white horses. But the other side is left white for want of material. Mr. Lynch showed me with pride a great white umbrella he had secured. Round it he had written, “Advt. Dept. Ladysmith Lyre” In his pocket was a bottle of whisky—a present for Joubert. And so he rode away, proposing to exchange our paper for any news the Boers might have. Eluding the examining posts, he vanished into the Boer lines under Bulwan, and has not re-appeared. Perhaps the Boers have not the humour to appreciate the finely Irish performance. They have probably kept him prisoner or sent him to Pretoria. On hearing of his disappearance, Mr. Hutton, of Reuter’s, and I asked leave to go out to the Boer camp to inquire after him. But the General was wroth, and would not listen to the proposal.
December 4, 1899.
This morning the General offered the use of the heliograph to all correspondents in rotation by ballot. Messages were to be limited to thirty words. One could say little more than that we are doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances. But the sun did not come out all day, and not a single word got through.
In the afternoon I rode out to Waggon Hill, south-west of our position, to call upon the two howitzers. They are heavy squat guns about twenty years old, their shells being marked 1880, though they are said in reality to date from 1869. They were brought up from Port Elizabeth where the Volunteers used them, and certainly they have done fine service here. Concealed in the hollow of a hill, they are invisible to the enemy, and after many trials have now exactly got the range of the great 6 in. gun on Middle Hill. At any moment they can plump their shells right into his sangar, and the Boer gunners are frightened to work there. In fact, they have as effectually silenced that gun as if they had smashed it to pieces. They are worked by the Royal Artillery, two dismounted squadrons of the I.L.H. acting as escort or support. Them I found on picket at the extreme end of the hill. They told me they had seen large numbers of Boers moving slowly with cattle and waggons towards the Free State passes. The Boers whom I saw were going in just the opposite direction, towards Colenso. I counted twenty-seven waggons with a large escort creeping steadily to the south along some invisible road. They were carrying provisions or the ammunition to fight our relieving column.
We hear to-day there will be no attempt to relieve us till the 15th, if then. A Natal newspaper, with extracts from the Transvaal Standard and Diggers’ News, brought in yesterday, exaggerates our situation almost as much as the Boers themselves. If all Englishmen now besieged were asked why most they desired relief, there is hardly one would not reply, “For the English mail!”