November 4th, Saturday
Rather amused at seeing little black boys letting off fireworks in honour of Guy Fawkes Day. The climate of this place just now is very changeable, one day one wants winter things and the next quite as hot and the sun stronger than the hottest day in England and sometimes the wind blows a dreadful hurricane, blowing the dust up in sheets, most unpleasant. We moved into a private home (Sir R. and personal staff) on Nov 6th and run it practically with our own cook, whom we brought from England, and servants; much more convenient than hotel.
First day I felt anything like fit and beginning to conquer my cold which has been the most severe I've had for years.
Gen. French and staff arrived, having fought at Ladysmith, a reconnaisance on the 2nd, and then got thro' to Durban, their train being shot at twice by Boers; a lucky escape, a shell went thro' a trunk in van.
Tried a lot of remounts for the staff, all ponies ranging from 14.3 to 13.1 hands; rather good little beasts, much better than they look. Mackenzie sent on two from DeAar, a dun and brown, both good sorts. A "cipher" telegram came from Durban today, received them by pigeon from Sir G. White at Ladysmith, saying all well there, in spite of Boer bombarding; also that Boers had sent in a lot of refugees under flag of truce; he sent a party to meet them outside line of piquets, and the Boers, the beasts, fired on them before they had reached the line of piquets again. Quite beautiful day today like the best of English Spring. The Roslin Castle arrived with Gen. Hildyard and staff and 2/W Yorkshire Regt; sent on immediately to Durban. The Moor, the mail, arrived having broken down 4 times; very late. General Ld. Metheuen and Sir Gatacre and Sir G.F. Clery and staffs, and A.S.C. on board. I got a wire from on Nov. 8th, sent on Nov 1st, asking where 62nd
Battalion, answered it; to DeAar.
Mails came in, got news from home, all right, dated Oct. 20th; also heard from M at DeAar, seems to have had a fine time with 1000 mules just sent, mostly stallions, breaking down his fences, getting loose and generally playing the devil with the mares; I pity him; they came from Italy. T. Atkins with an obstreporous one heard saying "now you long faced......, none of your pranks, you haint in th' Italy now my son". Written this up to date now. I forgot to mention that Schreiner came to lunch with Gen'l first day we landed, struck me as being a bit cunning.
Busy trying horses for General, think I've got one to do. Then had a long time at Sir G.White's despatch giving account of battles at Glencoe and Elandslaagte; about 3000 words to "code" which would have filled 100 at least of Eastern telegraph forms, but Gen. came to conclusions it was not worth it. The Boer position at Glencoe or Dundee appears to have been a very strong one and the losses seem to have been more or less equal on both sides, tho' the victory rested with us; but with what object?!
A great many more Boers might have been killed being within 2000 yards of R.A. but the G.O. would not fire on them, as they put up white flag, without apparently having any idea of surrendering, and they were allowed to retire thus. Three troopers arrived today, the Yorkshire, Aurania and Lismore Castle; the Yorkshire and Lismore sent on to Natal and the Highland Light Infantry and R.E. disembarked here for DeAar way. Two more arrived in the evening, the Trojan (hospital ship) and Howarden Castle, latter unable to get into harbour because of gale.
Went to Cathedral, as I did last Sunday, very good organist and choir; quite nice service. Lunch with Sir R. at Mr Frost's at Roudebosch about 5 miles out, where we went by train.
Took despatch to be sent on as quick as possible to Gen. Clery, sent in Pavonia as she starts today. Very hot last two days. We are preparing for a start to Natal. Algy King came to see me and passed afternoon.
Mail came in, got letter dated 3rd Nov. and others; extraordinary reports seem to have been spread at home. Gen. Clery now commands at Maritzburg and is getting a fairly stong force. Found my brown pony today possessed of a deuce of a temper and very mulish; fear he won't be much good in action. Glenggly with o/R.H.A. and Siberinen with Ld.Gt. and 1 squadron Inniskilling Dragoons and German with 1/Rifle Brigade went temporarily to Maitland and R.Brigade to Natal. Very busy all day with cipher telegrams.
Bustled about getting servants and grooms ready to start off, only having before been able to hint at a start soon as Gen. wished it as he kept as quiet as possible. Got horses (20) on board, and baggage, by about 5 pm. S.S. Mohawk, and Gen and ourselves, personal staff, left in launch at 6.45 and went on board ship which had gone into harbour to allow Kildonian Castle with 1/Welsh and 2/Northumberland Fusiliers to dock, they go on to E.London. Manchester Port with Royal Dragoons went out of port in front of us for Durban. The Briton which brought mails, also brought Somerset Lt. Infantry. Government pay £17,000 a month for Kildonian Castle, 10,000 tons. They returned to Cape afterwards. This ship Mohawk we are on now 4,200 tons; they pay 17/6 a ton a month. Luckily we are having a very nice smooth passage and it is rather nice having the rest. Two R.E. officers, Gironard and Manifred, come with us for service in Natal on railway work.
Ld. Methuen is now on his way to relief of Kimberley and Sir R. expects will be there by the 28th. Gen French has gone to Naawport or that way to engage commandos about Colesburg. Gatacre at Queenstown. The telegraph wire was cut South of Estcourt where Gen. Hildyard is with his brigade on the 20th; Mr Lause of the bond ministry took a special train for Dordrecht on the day we left Cape Town, was going by Patiala to E.London, whereby hangs a tale!, it remains to be seen why.
Nearing our destination, in sight of land all yesterday and today, most unarbitory. Sandy country yesterday but today nothing green, a certain amount of trees, wooden houses dotted here and there, and rocky boulders, high hills in the distance; arrived Durban about 5.30, had dinner on board and came up by special to Maritzburg, arrived at about 11.30.
Sir R. and self came up to Government House to stay; the others at Imperial Hotel. Got news from Ld. Methuen that he had routed the Boers near Belmont on 23rd, inflicting large losses, our troops behaved very gallantly and turned enemy out of strong position; our losses were
Oriental arrived with Brig.Gen. Barton and 1/R.W. Fusiliers; sent on to Natal (Yorkshire had 2/R.W. Surrey and Lismore Castle 2/E. Surrey Rgt). Gascon arrived with 2/Coldstream Guards, sent DeAar way. Rumours arrived that Joubert wounded or dead. Howarden Castle (2/R. Irish Fusiliers) sent on to Natal.
Nelbia (1st Scots Guards and half 2/Northamptons) and Ariucian (7.4.66th RFA) arrived. Ariucian to Natal.
Mail boat arrived, went for a gallop on the sands this morning on brown pony, broken a small bloodvessel in his nose or head. Brittanic (2/R.I. Rifles) and Harlech Castle (half 2/Northamptons) arrived, went to Orange River.
No letters by mail from home except a bill. Ghurka with Maj. Gen Sir H. Colville arrived and 3/Grenadiers, Nomad with horses for Cape Colony. Manila with 2/Devons and M.I. Rode out yesterday to see the S.A. Light Horse who are being raised, they were started about a week ago and are 500 strong having ......300; struck me as good looking lot of men; a parson joined as a trooper, sporting of him. Been hard at work on Col. George Gough's despatch on his reconnaisance near Belmont, 4 men wounded and 2 officers killed and 2 wounded, rather large percentage! Young Brooke 9th Lancers had narrow escape.
City of Cambridge (2/Scottish Rifles), City of Vienna (12th Lancers) and the Malta arrived. 1/Coldstreams disembarked Cape Town for Orange River, City of Cambridge went on. City of Vienna 12th Lancers for Cape.
Mohawk, Oriana (A and S Highlanders) and Gepholonia (1/D.L.I.). Pigeon wire yesterday from Ladysmith to say all well. Boers rumoured last week that Gen. Buller had been to Orange River and so disgusted with British troops, had gone home. Another that he was spitting blood in Cape Town!
Forbueng arrived, Mongolia, Seaforth, Jamaica, America and .........
Blackheath, Pavonia; telegram yesterday from Ladysmith saying all well, sent by pigeon post. Went down to docks to see R battery arrive in America, saw Johnny Robinson and the others all well, also Algy King; dreadful ship - took 24 days; horses looked well. Inniskillings (1 Squadron) in Jamaica, thought horses looked bad. Prah had mules from N.Orleans - took 40 days. R. goes on to DeAar. Gepholonia brought Gen. Lyttleton and 1/Durhams who go on to Natal. Pavonia also goes to Natal with 2/R. Fusiliers and 2/R.I.Fusiliers.
Grenadiers Officers Men
2 26 Killed
7 36 Wounded
1/Coldstreams 8 Killed
2/Coldstreams 2 6 Wounded
1/Scots Guards 9 Killed
3 34 Wounded
North'd Fusiliers 2 12 Killed
4 32 Wounded
D.L.I. 3 Wounded
2/Northamptons 2 Wounded
Went to church with Gen'l. and the Governor Hon. Sir Hely Hutchinson. Gerard came up to stay here also. Governor's a.d.c. was in that capacity with Penn-Symons when he was killed at Glencoe; his name is Murray in the Black Watch; tells me the guns fired too long on the Boer positions and killed some of our men storming it. Ronald Brooke 7th Hussars, a.d.c. to Sir G. White is laid up here in the house, he was out with Ian Hamilton at the Elandslaagte battle and got hit twice, one thro' his thigh about 8 inches above the knee which just grazed the bone; he showed it to me, quite healed up having 2 small round scars; has to lay in bed as he has got water on the knee from it; the other wound was with a piece of shell close to the left eye which has partly damaged his sight but occulist says not permanently. Another telegram came just before dinner from Methuen saying he had had another desperate fight near Grasspan, where he had gone after the previous fight, and defeated the Boers again, no detail as to our losses except that Naval Bde. fought gallantly (afterwards found out fought as infantry); 50 horses (Boer) were found dead in one place which seems to show our shells played pretty good havoc there.
A telegram later came with casualties. R.N. had 2 officers killed, one a midshipman, 2 other officers of Naval Brigade killed, about 160 men wounded, 19 killed; evidently the officers wearing no uniforms diminished the percentage of loss in them.
Sat next to Brig.Gen. Yule at dinner the other night who told me about the retreat from Dundee; it was a wonderful piece of endurance, 60 miles in drenching rain; they moved out of Dundee only with things they stood in, all baggage lost. No sleep for 6 nights and days.
Got a wire early this morning giving account of Methuen's having had to fight at Modder River; he describes it as one of the hardest in the annals of the British army; they were fighting for 10 hours, 8000 Boers (found out after to have been 11,000), and drove enemy from position and Pole-Carew's Brigade had just crossed when wire was sent. He praised the work done by the 2 batteries of R.F.A. very highly. I bought a chestnut horse, an Argentine, yesterday for £60.
Went out early this morning as no telegrams to do and saw the Royals and had a gallop on the race-course, like any new horse. Two men, Young, a correspondent to Natal paper, and Michell, a telegraphist, came to see General. They had come thro' the Boer lines from Ladysmith and got safely to Weenen, which came into our possession again yesterday, a force of 4000 strong of Boers with they thought Joubert went thro' it only the day before; the men told us it was quite wonderful the little damage the shells fired into Ladysmith had done, only at the time of their leaving 8 men killed by them; also during all sorties only 100 killed and wounded; they also said that on the 9th when Boers tried to take Ladysmith they were driven back with great loss, 800 men. Kruger is reported to have been at the end of the telegraph all yesterday; looked on as ominous! This place, Maritzburg, is quite nice and airy and pretty, one might looking over the distance imagine one was in Northumberland, except the roads are all red.
I think it rather interesting now to mention the fact that Cecil Rhodes wired a few weeks ago to Milner to urge the relief of Kimberley as there were plenty of troops at Orange River; 2 regiments and a battery! this reminds one of the raid time; Jameson, Willoughby and F. Rhodes are now at Ladysmith.