The Dutch crept up quite unobserved. At last a sentry challenged, and was answered with “Friend.” He was shot dead, and was found with rifle raised and still loaded. The alarm was given, but no one realised what had happened. Captain Long (A.S.C.), who was superintending the transport of “Lady Anne,” told me he could not understand how it was that bullets kept whistling past his nose. He thought the firing was from our own sentries. But the Dutch had reached the summit, and were enfilading the “nek” and the whole extremity of the hill from our left. As light began to dawn it was impossible to show oneself for a moment on the open top. The furthest range was not over 300 yards, and the top of a helmet, the corner of an arm, was sufficient aim for those deadly marksmen. Unable to stand against the fire, the Light Horse withdrew behind the crest of the hill, whilst small parties continued a desperate defence from the two big gun-pits.
Nearly all the officers present have been killed or wounded, and it is difficult to get a clear account of what happened from any eye-witness. Four companies from each battalion of the K.R. Rifles came up within the hour, but no one keeps count of time in such a struggle. The Boers were now climbing up all along the face of the hill, and firing from the edge. All day about half the summit was in their possession. Three times they actually occupied the gun-pits and had to be driven out again. Leaning their rifles over the parapets they fired into the space inside. It was so that Major Miller-Wallnutt, of the Gordons, was killed. Old De Villiers, the Harrismith commandant, shot him over the wall, and was in turn shot by Corporal Albrecht, of the Light Horse, who was himself shot by a Field-Cornet, who was in turn shot by Digby-Jones, the sapper. So it went on. The Boers advanced to absolutely certain death, and they met it without hesitation—the Boers who would never have the courage to attack a position! One little incident illustrates their spirit. A rugged old Boer finding one of the I.L.H. wounded on the ground, stopped under fire and bound him up. “I feel no hatred towards you,” he said, “but you have no reason to fight at all. We are fighting for our country.” He turned away, and a bullet killed him as he turned.
Before six o’clock the defence was further reinforced by a party of Gordons from Maiden Castle. They did excellent work throughout the day, though they, too, were once or twice driven from the top. But the credit of the stand remains with the I.L.H. and a few sappers like Digby-Jones, who held one of the little forts alone for a time, killed three Boers with his revolver, and went for a fourth with the butt. He would have had the V.C. if he had not fallen. So perhaps would Dennis, of the Sappers, though I am told he was present without orders. Lord Ava, galloper to General Ian Hamilton, commanding the defences, was shot through the head early in the day, about