January 9, 1900.
One long blank of drenching rain unrelieved by shells, till at sunset a stormy light broke in the west, and a few shots were fired.
January 10, 1900.
In the night the authorities expected an attack on Observation Hill. They hurried out two guns of the 69th Battery to a position outside King’s Post. The guns were dragged through the heavy slush, but when they arrived it was found no guns could live in such a place, fully exposed to all fire, and unsupported by infantry. So back came the weary men and horses through the slush again, getting to their camp between 2 and 3 a.m.
At intervals in the night the two mountain guns on Observation Hill kept firing star-shell to reveal any possible attack. But none came, and the rest of the day was very quiet. My time was occupied in getting off a brief heliogram, and sending out another Kaffir with news of Saturday’s defence. Two have been driven back. The Boers now stretch wires with bells across the paths, and it goes hard with any runner caught.
January 11, 1900.
The enemy was ominously quiet. Bulwan did not fire all day. From King’s Post, whilst visiting the new fortifications and the guns in their new positions all about it, I watched the Boers dragging two field guns hastily southward along the western track, perhaps to Springfield Drift, over the Tugela. Then a large body—500 or 600—galloped hurriedly in the same direction.
A sadness was thrown over the day by Lord Ava’s death early in the afternoon. If he could have recovered the doctors say he would have been paralysed or have lost his memory. He was the best type of Englishman—Irish-English, if you will—excellently made, delighting in his strength and all kinds of sport, his eye full of light, his voice singularly beautiful and attractive. His courage was extraordinary, and did not come of ignorance. At Elands Laagte I saw him with a rifle fighting side by side with the Gordons. He went through the battle in their firing line, but he told me afterwards that the horror of the field had sickened him of war. In manner he was peculiarly frank and courteous. I can imagine no one speaking ill of him. His best epitaph perhaps is the saying of the Irish sergeant’s which I have already quoted.
The ration of sugar was increased by one ounce to-day, the mealies by two ounces, so as to give the men porridge in the morning. For a fortnight past all the milk has been under military control, and can only be obtained on a doctor’s certificate. We began eating trek-oxen three days ago. Some battalions prefer horse-flesh, and get it. Dysentery and enteric are as bad as ever, but do not increase in proportion to the length of siege. There are 1,700 soldiers at Intombi sick camp now. A great many horses die every day, but not of the “horse-sickness.” Their bodies are thrown on waste ground along the Helpmakaar road, and poison the air for the Liverpools and Rifles there. To-night the varied smell all over the town is hardly endurable.