1900 - Methuen and Lemmer in action at Wonderfontein.
Reconnaisance this morning under Col Scott Turner to ascertain strength and position of enemy’s men and guns. It moved out in the direction of Toll Pan and I sent out the armoured train a short distance to the North. It had the desired effect, as the enemy brought a gun into action from a position about a mile on the Kimberley side of the Intermediate Pumping Station. There were about 100 men escorting it, and about 250 came to Dronfield from the Susannah direction, and may have passed round to the Intermediate Pumping Station; at any rate the enemy has got a bit on the move, and I hope we are beginning to locate his guns – and his strength.
Code messages have been allowed hitherto from De Beers etc to the High Commissioner and to the Miltary authorities but I must stop this, as I find that all kinds of alarmist reports are being sent. I have always tried to give all details as to the military situation, and have kept back nothing. I only hope all my messages have got through. I have represented in my telegrams the dangers and difficulties, as they affect the Military situation, with so many rich people here who can employ special despatch and pay them very highly, it is most difficult to control telegrams, letters, and newspapers etc coming into, or leaving town, but I shall now take stronger action in order that the military situation may not be misrepresented.
The health of the troops and civil population continues good.
Major Fraser reports from Beaconsfield that he heard much volley firing on the Spitzkof direction. It is I think, probably Boer bad shots having practice on the Rifle Range.
As I have said before, it is a great pity those 2000 natives from the Premier Mine did not get through. It was arranged they should start at 11 pm and go by the Bosof Hills and I think that if they had taken this route they would have got through. Instead of this they were only got away by 2 am and did not go by the route arranged but went along the entire Western and Northern fronts of the defence, and were not clear until daylight. Naturally they were all driven back.
Cattle Guard again fired on by artillery in the evening from Felsted, and 2 culverts about 2 miles out on the Railway to North were blown up about 6 pm.
Another morning of unusual quiet. People sicken of the monotony when shells are not flying. We don't know any reason for the calm, except that the Dutch are burying their dead of yesterday. But the peace is welcome, and in riding round our positions I found nearly all the men lying asleep in the sun. The wildest stories flew: General French had been seen in the street; his brigade was almost in sight; Methuen was at Colenso with overwhelming force. The townspeople took heart. One man who had spent his days in a stinking culvert since the siege began now crept into the sun. "They are arrant cowards, these Boers," he cried, stamping the echoing ground; "why don't they come on and fight us like men?" So the day wears. At four o'clock comes an African thunderstorm with a deluge of rain, filling the water tanks and slaking the dust, grateful to all but the men of both armies uncovered on the rocks.
From the diary of William Watson, Ladysmith, November 1899:
We are getting used to the shells, and on the whole, so long as no one is hit, the sensation they cause, is not unpleasant. My son has some pieces of shell, weighing from three to six pounds each. Lumps of solid iron 2.5 inches thick. Of course if one of these dainty morsels hits a man, he may be regarded as past praying for. Bulier has now been landed at the Cape, for ten days. It is time we heard of the fall of Pretoria. — Two traitors were arrested yesterday, but as these wretches are never punished, I don’t see the use of arresting them. — The military powers never give us any authentic news as to what is taking place. This is, of course the right policy, but it is annoying, all the same. We are cut off from all the other parts of the colony, and so we never see a newspaper. We have more than enough of rumours, but these gradually turn out to be lies.
12 noon. Apparently there is to be no shindy today, as no shots have been fired.
1 p.m. Two shots from our lines, on the rebel two gun battery, on Bulwan. No reply. Probably they are busy burying the dead. They lost 650 men yesterday. Ladysmith is proving a more difficult nut to crack than they expected. The town is situated in a hollow surrounded by stony hills, which completely dominate the place. I believe the site of the town, was a lake, lagoon or a swamp, in bygone ages. Our batteries occupy most of the hills, but the rebels have a battery of big guns on Bulwan, which is the highest and biggest hill. This battery, commands the town.
4 p.m. We have had rather a quiet day, but the rebels are giving us a few shells now in the midst of a thunder storm, so it is difficult to distinguish the guns from the thunder.
1899 - From the diary of Miss Bella Craw in Ladysmith
No firing today. I am beginning to realize the meaning of Peace, perfect Peace. The Boers have asked for a 24 hours Armistice to bury their dead, but they can be seen fixing up and altering their guns. We hear today they lost over three hundred men in yesterday's action, and have sent in for two of our doctors to attend their wounded, they are short. This is the 10th day of our siege, a week ago last Tuesday since our last train went down to Durban. A crowd of visitors came in tonight, Harry MacFarlane, Mrs. Wentworth, Dr. Hyslop and Mrs. Pitchford, Bert and Uncle William.
1899 - From the letters writer by Lt Col Park in Ladysmith
I haven’t had much chance of writing lately. For one thing all tents have to be struck and rolled up at daylight and baggage stowed out of harm’s way, and we have to perch about in the sun most of the day and I can’t get at my writing things; and the last three days the Boers have been making things rather lively for us with shells, and everyone had to keep pretty close under the stone shelters and trenches of the different posts. Yesterday they made a regular attack all round Ladysmith, but were driven back everywhere with pretty heavy loss, and the result is that as yet (9.30 am) not a shot has been fired today. The infantry attack on my posts was weak and we soon hunted them out, but they fired shell at my advanced post for seven hours; and though they pitched fully forty shells on and into the post, it is so strong and well protected that not a man was touched. Every night we work away and make the defences bigger and stronger, and I think we can hold out against any attack the Boers can possibly bring against us.
We are all very well and the regiment is full of go and ready for anything, and the ease with which yesterday’s attack was beaten off has put everyone in great spirits. I have heard today that Gunning is doing very well. He is out at the neutral hospital camp about four miles down the river, and one of the padres came in from there and told us of him. No news yet from outside, but there is a general belief that a division under Lord Methuen is expected to arrive at Durban tomorrow, and that three more days will bring a chance for us. We shall then have stood a fortnight’s siege, and with hardly any losses at all. I haven’t had any sort of a wash, beyond my face and hands for ten days, and haven’t had all my clothes off for about the same time, as I hardly ever take off more than my coat and boots at night. The weather the last five or six days has been perfect, with a very hot sun all the middle of the day. I find standing in the sun for six hours, staring through glasses, as I did yesterday, is rather trying, both to eyes and nose. It is a great relief to have a peaceful morning and sit in a shady comer writing quietly. I can hardly realise just now what it would be like to get up at 6.30 a.m. and dress in comfortable clothes with a white collar and tie, and have breakfast in a house and to be able to go out freely without thinking of having to dodge shells and keep behind cover. I suppose in a week after all this business is over, it will seem like a queer dream, though now one feels as if one would always look up and down the road for a shell before starting out to go anywhere.
It seems years since we left Jullundur, and yet it isn’t quite two months. I don’t think the rest of the show will take long when once we are relieved, and I still have great hopes that January will see us back in India. I do so long for a scrap of news from you, and almost more to be able to let you know I am all right and well.