We received no further rations that day until the evening, when another small dole of watery greasy coffee was handed round as in the morning. But we never glanced at this noisome liquid. The terror which we had been dreading so fearfully had burst upon us. It was raining hard! At first only a gentle refreshing shower, it developed into a torrential downpour, and gave every indication of lasting for an indefinite period. Consider the situation—approximately two thousand human beings stranded upon a bleak exposed field, absolutely devoid of any shelter, except the solitary paltry marquee. Little wonder that our faces blanched at the prospect before us. How should we be able to sleep? What horrors would the dawn reveal? God only knew.
“THE BLOODY NIGHT OF SEPTEMBER 11”
By ten o’clock in the evening the rain was falling in sheets and the water coursing down the slope to collect in the depression speedily formed a shallow lake at the bottom end of “the field.” No one can form the slightest impression of the wretchedness of those who were exposed to the full fury of the elements through the ferocious and brutal inhumanity of Major Bach. The little food which had been served out to us so sparingly failed to keep our bodies warm, let alone fortify us against the visitation by which we were now being overwhelmed.
The wind increased in fury until at last it was blowing with the force of a gale. The trees creaked and bent beneath its onslaughts, and those who had ventured to seek the slight protection afforded by the overhanging branches, trembled with fear lest the trees should be torn up by the roots or heavy limbs be wrenched free and tossed among them.
Those who had secured the shelter offered by the solitary marquee and who, notwithstanding the irrespirable and filthy atmosphere, considered possible suffocation and the danger of fire to be preferable to the drenching rain, were confronted with a new and far more terrifying menace.
The wind catching the broad surface which the tent offered commenced to flap whatever loose ends of the canvas it could pick up, with a wild, nerve racking noise. The whole marquee swung and reeled to and fro, the sport of the boisterous gusts. The main poles creaked as they bent beneath the enormous strains to which they were being put. The guy ropes, now thoroughly saturated and having contracted, groaned fiercely as if about to snap. Hurried efforts were made to slacken the ropes slightly, but the wind, driving rain, and inky blackness of the night, as well as the swollen hemp, hindered this task very effectively. Indeed the tension upon some of the stakes became so acute that they either snapped or else were uprooted.