KIMBERLEY is the centre of the mining district in Cape Colony, on the border of the Orange Free State, 650 miles from Cape Town, 230 miles from Mafeking, and about 80 miles from Bloemfontein. It is a town of some importance, with 45,000 inhabitants, public institutions, and places of worship. There is a suburb— Beaconsfield—with 10,000 inhabitants. In both places about half the inhabitants are coloured.
In the last week in October Kimberley was invested, and the inhabitants bravely set themselves to defend it. Its normal garrison grew from 600 to 4,196, with 197 officers, and 26 guns. After 10,000 natives had been sent " home," there remained a considerable community to feed for four months without fresh supplies. The huge grey mine heaps were converted into fortresses, miles of barbed wire surrounded the town; and there was patrolling by armoured train and mounted infantry. Colonel Kekewich was in command.
The enemy appeared on Oct. 15, cutting the telegraph wire, and then an encounter with the armoured train led to a "brush" at Spyfontein. By the 19th, the railway bridges at Fourteen Streams and Modder River were destroyed.
Mr. Cecil Rhodes, having a large interest in the De Beers Mines, arrived on Oct. 12, and played a conspicuous and generous part in the succour of the imprisoned denizens. He and his company are credited with subscribing thousands of pounds to the relief fund, for when provisions became short soup kitchens came into vogue, and pint rations were served out to 16,000 poor persons in a day. Among the relief works was an avenue a mile long at Kenilworth, made under Mr. Rhodes' supervision, to be planted with orange trees, with espaliers for vines and also pepper trees. The company, too, found £2.000 for wages for road-making. Entertainments of various kinds helped to cheer the people. The relief fund amounted to ^26,000, of which ^17,000 was given by Mr. Rhodes and his company.
The bombardment varied much, sometimes 400 shells falling into the town in one day, and at other times the performance was ludicrous. The besiegers blew up the De Beers dynamite stores, seven miles from the town, when 1400 cases of 35 tons, worth ^3,500, were destroyed. Buildings outside the town were burnt and pillaged.
Our military operations consisted of sorties and shelling chiefly. No place above ground seemed to be safe from the missiles of the enemy. Civilians were killed and much property destroyed. In a sortie on Nov. 28, Col. Scott Turner and 24 men were killed in capturing four redoubts and some food stuffs. The De Beers Company made a gun and also shells.
At Christmas Mr. Rhodes provided 42 plum puddings for the camps. Typhoid fever and scurvy were now on the increase.
The following extracts from the diary kept by Reuter's Correspondent at Kimberley during the last weeks of the siege will give some idea of the daily danger and sufferings of the citizens:—
Jan. 11.—Scurvy has attacked the natives with alarming virulence, and they are dying fast. The supply of lime juice and other anti-scorbutics is exhausted, and vine cuttings have been tried in lieu of green food.
Jan. 12.—The principal medical officer states that the food difficulty is responsible for the unusual mortality, the death-rate being three times as high as in December. Typhoid is very prevalent. Neglect to boil water before drinking it is probably the cause. Fresh and condensed milk is only distributed by those holding medical permits.
Jan.(13.—There are fifty cases of typhoid now in the hospital. Small quantities of eggs are being sold at 15 shillings a dozen, fowls fetch 12s. 6d. each, and potatoes three shillings a pound.
Jan. 15.—A supply of soup has been started, and is being distributed at less than cost price.
Jan. 16.—The soup is acknowledged to be a success. Two hundred gallons were distributed to-day. The military have taken over all foodstuffs and other stores.
Jan. 17.—Leave has been granted to the inhabitants of Beaconsfield to shoot small birds for food. Some mules have been slaughtered, and are pronounced superior to horseflesh.
Jan. 18.—Horse rations were to-day reduced to six pounds of mealies and four pounds of chaff daily.
Jan. 21.—The Dutch living outside the barriers, and holding passes for entry into the town for food, are able to keep the enemy informed of our contemplated movements, while we have to rely for information concerning the enemy on natives, who are seldom trustworthy.
Jan. 23.—To-day 5,250 pints of soup were distributed.
Jan. 24.—Five hundred shells were poured into the town to-day in a reckless way, the hospital, the scurvy compound, and private houses all receiving attention. This bombardment was probably due to the earthworks which the defenders are erecting.
Jan. 25.—In nearly every garden small family shell-proof holes have been dug. The shelling is increasing. Mr. White, Manager of the Standard Bank, was so unnerved that he decided to spend the day in the strong room of the bank.
Jan. 26.—Four hundred shells were fired by the enemy to-day. The scurvy compound, which is flying a Red Cross flag, has been made a special target by their gunners.
Jan. 28.—To-day 7,500 pints of soup were distributed. Messrs. Wernher, Beit, and Co. gave 500 free tickets for the necessitous poor.
Feb. 7.—Six shells, weighing ioolb. each, have seriously damaged a number of buildings in the town. A little girl was severely bruised. The enemy's newspapers report the capture of Mr. Jordaan, Mr. Rhodes's secretary, who, nevertheless, is still here.
Feb. 8.—The Kimberley Club was damaged by a fragment from a bursting shell. A store caught fire and was extinguished with difficulty.
Feb. 11.—The day was spent in making bomb-proof shelters. Two thousand five hundred women and children were lowered into the mines throughout the night, while the men sought a place of safety which has been hollowed out in the debris heaps.
Feb. 12.—Four houses are burning furiously at Kenil-worth. They were ignited by 100-pounder shells, which have been falling every three minutes.
Feb. 15.—All the morning a heavy cross fire was directed against the garrison occupying Alexandersfontein. Hundred-pound shells and shrapnel were bursting in Kimberley, and every one was lying low. All shops and banks had been closed.
A wonderful change, however, presently came over the scene. At two o'clock heliograph signals were observed announcing the approach of General French. Clouds of dust, raised by the rapid advance of the cavalry, were soon afterwards noticeable, and the enemy could be seen limbering up their guns and fleeing in an easterly direction.
The glad tidings spread rapidly everywhere. Mounted and unmounted men hastened out to welcome the relief column, while those at home hoisted flags.Our deliverers were welcomed with a universal feeling of joy and thankfulness. One hour we were enduring an overwhelming bombardment, the next we were free and could say, " Never again!"