The air is full of wild rumours. A boy riding over Laing’s Nek saw 1,000 armed Boers feeding their horses on Manning’s farm. The Boers have been seen at a Dutch settlement this side Van Reenen’s. Yesterday a section of the Gordons on their arrival were sent up to look at them in an armoured train. It is thought that war will be proclaimed to-day. That has been thought every day for a fortnight past, and the land buzzes with lies which may at any moment be true.
Half the Manchesters have just marched in to trumpet and drum. When I think of those ragged camps of peasants just over the border the pomp and circumstance seem all on one side.
Friday, October 13, 1899.
So it has begun at last, for good or evil. Here we think it began yesterday, just at the very moment when Sir George White arrived. Late at night scouts brought news of masses of Boers crossing the Tintwa Pass, and going into laager with their waggons only fifteen miles away to the west. The men stood to their arms, and long before light we were marching steadily forward along the Van Reenen road. First came the Liverpools, then the three batteries of Field Artillery with a mountain battery, then the Devons and the Gordons. The Manchesters acted as rear-guard, and the Dublin Fusiliers, who were hurried down from Dundee by train, came late, and then were hurried back again. The column took all its stores and forage for five days in a train of waggons (horses, mules, and oxen) about two miles long. When day broke we saw the great mountains on the Basuto border, gleaming with snow like the Alps. Far in front the cavalry—the 5th Lancers and 19th Hussars with the Natal Volunteers—were sweeping over the patches of plain and struggling up the hills in search of that reported laager. But not a Boer of it was to be seen. At nine o’clock, having advanced eight or nine miles, the whole column took up a strong position, with all its baggage and train in faultless order, and went to sleep. About one we began to return, and now just as the mail goes, we are all back again in camp for tea. And so ends the first day of active hostilities.
[Illustration: General sir George Stewart white, V.C., G.C.I.E., G.C.B., G.C.S.I.]
THE FIRST WEEK’S WAR
Ladysmith, Thursday, October 19, 1899.