Started at daylight and marched to Krugersport. Brocklehurst and his cavalry with about 600 infantry and a battery of artillery occupied Kruger's Port yesterday, had a little fighting and enemy took some guns away West. We met with no opposition to speak of, a little sniping when we got to turn off the road fork. Bivouacced in some nice shady ground at school house.
About 4pm a Long Tom and a Howitzer opened fire on camp from ridge to our West, evidently guns which had gone before Brocklehurst yesterday and should have been driven away. They went on firing 'till about 5.30 and killed 2 S.A.L.H. and wounded 4 more, very unpleasant, At about 6.45 when dark and camp had lit fires, the howitzer began again and did a good deal of damage, killing one officer in Devons and wounding some more S.A.L.H. and doing for 20 horses. (Another officer dangerously, 7 or 8 bullets and thigh broken, going on well). Sat down to dine under fire, Brocklehurst and Myndham dining, glad to say they stopped at about 7.30.
A party of volunteers from Brocklehurst's lot and some guides went up about 11pm to try and capture guns, heard next morning that they found guns gone when they got there. The infantry might easily and so could the cavalry have moved out of range but suppose they thought it too much trouble or else would not take initiative having thinking they ought to ask the General first. Artillery only people who had sense to do it.
Marched into Lydenberg, got very nice little house and good garden with plenty of roses round edge and some vegetables belonging to one Pentnow, a prisoner in Pretoria; Stayed some place thundered and lightening last night and most of this morning; very wet and rather cold.
Charming day, best I've known in S.A. Got 3 mails day before yesterday of Aug. 17,24 and 31st. Truculent looking Boer woman wife of Schoemann, head Boer this commando camp to ask General to let her go out see her husband. General let her! and shook hands, a beastly woman.
Hurrah, thank Heaven the General announced at breakfast this morning that we started back tomorrow to Machendodorp en route for England and with luck we may catch the mail from the Cape on the 24th; it's almost too good to be true and I shan't feel out of the wood 'till we get on the sea.
Started at 8.30, troops in Lydenberg lining the road and cheering, the same men that did the same at Ladysmith. They looked fine and healthy and very different to what they were then. Gen. Lyttleton takes command of the line from Middleberg to Lydenberg, Generals Howard and Kitchener left behind, also Brocklehurst. S.A.L. H., Strathconas and some M.I. and A Battery R.H.A. come with us as far as Machendodorp. Bivouac at Badfontein close to where we were before. Beastly stuffy hot valley here. Dead cattle and horses all along road. Fellow called Turner in R.B. bought my cream pony for which I gave for it £26.
Marched to close to Helvetia. Tremendous gale of wind in afternoon. Davidson in Inniskillings commands post at Badfontein, used to be pal of mine in Singapore; he got shot right thro' head at Pieter's, then lay between the two fires for 36 hours, was sent home and got out again before we left Paadekop.
Marched to Machadodorp. Road all the way strewn with dead oxen etc; arrived about 9am and found Gen. French and staff just got there. Handed over all hired horses, lunched with French and then took train and we got as far as Belfast. Engine ran out of water and we stopped close to the Kopje at Bergendal; had a look at position North of line which Pole Carew had in front of him, very strong and trenches ingeniously placed.
Started at 5am and reached Pretoria about 2pm. Gen. Stopsford, Miles and Trotter went to Grand Hotel, Lees and I to cavalry Hd Quarters where Miller (Greys) put us up; his servant shook mine warmly by the hand, found he had been at Faxton some years ago with Adams. Saw a great many chaps I knew in Pretoria, dined at club and had Miller to dinner.
Settled train and take General's and other horses etc. down to the Cape. Hear line blown up last night and some men killed and taken prisoners at Vlanlangte on Natal line last night. Gen. goes that way tonight. A train just behind us ran off line yesterday, not altogether safe travelling. Miss Roberts sent over to me asking me to go and see her, which I did of course to tell her about her brother. Lees and self dined with intelligence (H......., Furse, Forestier-Walker); took our own last 4 bottles champagne.
Started 12.30 for the Cape, reached Viljoens Drift at dark and stayed night. Only one 2nd class carriage put on for Cape; train arrangements shocking at Pretoria; had a bit of a row with 'em. Found a saloon put on at Elandsfontein, which tried to get. Capman said belonged to Gen. Manager and has orders to return safely. Had several goes at him thro' Station staff officer and at last prevailed and we slept in it and also took a man called Paget (of Somerby, Leicester), in with us.
Hear line whipped up at Bethuline.
Started off early about five, and got to Kronstadt at 11.30am. when we wasted nearly two hours as train stopped by line being broken in two places last night between that and Bloemfontein, also telegraph for 3 miles. Went on about 10 miles and have now been standing still for 3 hours. Got as far as Ventenburg having passed over the breaks, and saw telegraph down for about 3 miles. Saw commandant who said a commando of 1500 men was reported to West and about 500 to East with 2 guns; reinforcements came down in our train for him, attack not improbable.
Move off at daylight and not sorry to leave, reached Bloemfontein at about 3. Got a bath etc and went to see Col. Long, who is commandant; dined with him and had long talk over Colenso; he is quite right now in spite of his wounds, (bullet went thro' right arm, lungs and liver). From intelligence received, things look uncomfortable for our journey tomorrow. Small parties of Boers all over the place and they killed an officer and took 5 men near Jagersfontein Road.
Reached Norvalls Post, thank goodness, now we can run at night; we were quite defenceless so it was not quite a comfortable journey as really one felt it would have been very easy for them to take us, feel we are fairly set for home at last. I think the O.R.C. one of the most godforsaken looking countries I've ever seen, nothing but a great flat waste, little herbage and all brown and dusty.
Pity the poor devils left behind on lines of communication. A young officer came into our carriage at Jaggersfontein Road to ask if any news, seemed to be rather concerned, they evidently were having an anxious time there; Boers who shot the officer the day before sent in an impertinent and brutal note with the men they released: saying "we have caught five of your sheep and killed one"; I hope they will soon get the brutes, the line really is very unsafe.
Woke up and found we were just leaving DeAar.; I wish I could have got out and seen my dear friend Costy Graine but couldn't; how I wish he were with me now. Oh well, it's not to be.
Left Town's R. Station at 7am and got into Cape Town after many annoying waits, at about 9pm. The country from Hex River all the way down is charming, grand and picturesque and the green quite beautiful and abundance of flowers; the mountain tops were just covered with snow which adds much to the beauty; I must say our two old colonies but for the gold are far the nicest. Go to Mt. Nelson Hotel.
The luxury of sleeping in decent sheets and the getting of a real nice large hot bath in the morning beggars description.
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