The great Bulwan gun began shelling us later than usual. It must have been past eight. The Devon officers had long finished breakfast, and after inspecting the lines were gathered for orderly room in their mess. It is a fairly large shed on a platform of beaten earth, levelled in the side of the hill. The roof, of corrugated iron and earth, covered with tarpaulin, would hardly even keep out splinters, and is only supported on rough wooden beams. It is impossible to construct sufficient head shelter. The ground is so rocky that all you can do with it is to build walls and traverses. Along one side of the mess tent a great traverse runs, some eight or ten feet thick, and about as high. When the sentry blows the warning whistle at the flash of a big gun, officers are supposed to come under the shelter of this traverse, till the shell has passed or declared its direction. At the first shot this morning I heard no whistle blow, but it was sounded at the second and third. It was the third that did the damage. Striking the top of the traverse, it plunged forward in huge fragments into the messroom, tearing an enormous hole in the tarpaulin screen. Unhappily Mr. Dalzell, a first lieutenant with eight years’ service, had refused to come under the wall, and was sitting at the table reading. The main part of the shell struck him full on the side of the face, and carried away nearly all his head. He passed painlessly from his reading into death. The state of the messroom when I saw it was too horrible to describe. The wounds of the other officers prove that the best traverse is insufficient unless accompanied by head shelter. Though their backs were against the wall, seven were wounded, and three others badly bruised. Two cases are serious: Lieutenant P. Dent had part of his skull taken off, and Lieutenant Caffin had a compound fracture of the shoulder-blade. Lieutenant Cane, an “orficer boy,” who only joined on Black Monday, was also wounded in the back. The dhoolies quickly came and bore the wounded away to the Wesleyan Chapel. Mr. Dalzell was buried in the afternoon. “Well, well,” sighed the old gravedigger, “I never thought I should live to bury a man without a head.”
To-day, for the first time, we heard that Lord Roberts had lost his only son at Colenso. The whole camp was sad about it. The scandal over the robbery of the sick by the civilians at Intombi has grown so serious that at last General Hunter is sending out Colonel Stoneman to investigate. I have myself repeatedly endeavoured to telegraph home known facts about the corruption and mismanagement, but all I wrote has been scratched out by the Censorship. One such little fact I may mention now. The 18th Hussar officers at Christmas gave up a lot of little luxuries, such as cakes and things, which count high in a siege, and sent them down to their sick at Intombi. Not a crumb of it all did the sick ever receive. Everything disappeared en route—stolen by officials, or sold to greedy Colonials for whom the sick had fought. It is a small point, but characteristic of the whole affair.