Sent out again to say operation would not be delayed longer than midday tomorrow if no answer coming; answer came back saying Botha expected at noon and would then give "his plans".
Gen. goes out to meet Botha half way between outposts, very interesting situation, not returned yet as I write... They got in late and discussion decided by an armistice being arranged till evening of 5th to allow time for Botha to communicate with his Government to see if they would accept Gen's terms; this is Chris Botha, a man of about 35 they say and well educated fine-looking chap. General proposed that they should disperse to their farms in which case they would be left alone and to leave their big guns behind.
Telegram came causing Stopsford great excitement from Roberts sending congratulations to General on surrender of Botha and his army; evidently he had misread B's wire about conference. Heard afterwards news had not been repeated to England luckily.
Went to Ingago and bivouac close to where battle was fought. Very cold at night. Telegram from Roberts at Pretoria came, also answer from Botha refusing to accept terms.
Gun on Pongwane commenced firing at ours on Inkwelo about 9 am; very hot sun today. One sees Laing's Nek and Majuba etc.
Hildyard's division at Yellowbloom Farm, some heavy guns on Van Wyk, both on top of spurs to the right; 2 5inch and 2 12 pounders on Ingago plateau; 2 5inch on south spur of Inkwelo and 2 4.7's on the easterly apron, and others. Lyttleton's 1 bde. close to Buffalo River in Transvaal abreast of Cilery's brigade at Ingago; Dundonald at Mt. Prospect and Brocklehurst with 18 and 19th Hussars with Hildyard. We started from Ingago at 7.30 and rode over to Hildyard who commenced to march towards Botha's Pass at about 9: Van Wyk had been in Aachen the day before. The guns bombarded the Berg and at about 11 the infantry opened to attack formation, Hamilton's brigade on the right and Wynne's on the left. They got to the top of the Berg with little opposition, all on the right of Botha's Pass but there was some firing when they arrived at the top and the enemy opened with a high velocity gun and a pom pom but were soon put to flight. We arrived at the top of the Pass at about 4pm and found the Boers had set fire to a good deal of the grass. I saw them retiring over the brow about 4 miles to our North West. Brocklehurst then went forward with all his cavalry and 4 field guns, at a walk, why not faster I don't know.
We bivouacced at the side of a steep kloof at the top of the Berg, a bitterly cold wind blowing and our baggage didn't arrive till 7.30. 6200ft above sea.
Remained at same spot to give time for baggage to get up on top of Berg.
Went out in afternoon and went around the Boer trenches which were along the Berg and also a long line of them along Inweloane which was taken by Hamilton's brigade; why on earth they were turned out so easily as they were I cannot conceive as they were very well placed and made, mostly on the front side of slopes with earth thrown behind about 2 ft broad and 4 ft deep and quite rectangular; on the Berg they were placed mostly to command the sides of the slopes with a crossfire by which our men could have come up; on Inweloane they were about 1/2 mile back from the crest line. I think the fact of our holding Inwelo and getting guns on the Southern ridge of it rather broke their nerve and also the fact of our left getting to the top of Botha's Pass threatening their right rear though some way off. Dreadfully cold night and very damp.
Marched to a point about 2 miles beyond guns — . We arrived about 2.30, I was in charge of our baggage and found the guide who showed the way; took us to the right of our flank which was a trifle uncomfortable. I went out to the front about 3.45 hearing the guns open fire to see what was up, having heard from Gen. Hildyard that it had been reported that about 600 Boers had been seen moving from East in a North Westerly direction. I saw Byng who told me he had taken a high Kopje in the morning on the lower slopes of which I found him; he had had a small fight with about 60 Boers and driven them off; after that he told me he saw a regular Boer army about in his estimation 3500 men; he sent off a squadron to a Kopje on the left front to try and head the advanced guns which they did and had a hot fight for the remainder of the day, in some cases they were within 12 yards of one another, the main portion of the Boers apparently stopped on either side of Almond's Nek. Our guns came into action at about 3 pm.
Started towards Almonds Nek in the morning. Wynne's brigade on the left, Hamilton's in centre and Coker's on the right; met with no resistance for some way but at about 2 o'clock we heard the horse artillery guns (A Battery) to our front and we galloped forward to them; they were about 4 miles from Almond's Pass and shelling a hill to our right front to support Gough and his composite regiment which was taking a Kopje there; a Boer gun opened fire from somewhere, I couldn't make make out where, at the battery a few minutes after we arrived; the infantry were halted for some little time but began to advance about 3 o'clock, Hamilton's brigade going for the left and centre of Pass and Coker's the right; Wynne now occupying hills on our extreme left. As soon as infantry began to advance a heavy pom pom fire was opened on them; our artillery consisting of 2 field batteries (under Paget) Gordon's howitzers, 4 12 pounders under May and 4.7's under Jones R.N. came into action and also our pom poms. Soon after the infantry began the advance the Boers turned one of their pom poms on to the place General and staff were and also the high velocity gun and for about 2 minutes it was very hot and unpleasant, about 60 shells coming all round the place and they were very near some of them, luckily only one horse got hit, but it fairly scattered the men holding them; the General, Trotter and self with some of staff then went down to our left front and I was sent forward to find out what the Queens were doing as seemed to be getting too much to the left; I found Burrell (Major) who was commanding them somewhere near the front line and he told me of where he had seen Boers retiring into position behind the rocks and also suggested where he would like a battery to help him , a place I thought to be good as it would enable a good fire to be directed up to where the Boers went, rather flanking them. I reported this back to the General and he moved practically all the mobile artillery there and it was quite beautiful to see, when they came into action, how it moved the enemy, our right (the Dorsets) directly on the right of the pass being then stopped from crossing a very "hot" zone got up again after the hills on the right were crowned. This fight lasted about 2| hours and completely routed the enemy and we hoped would have effect of turning off Laing's Nek as ground all beyond Almond's was reported to be flat and clear of Kopjes on which the Boer's won't fight. Went up with the General just as it was getting dark on to the hill on the right to see Gen. Coke but we didn't find him. I should say the Boers got a heavy knocking in this fight as the artillery were playing on the rocks at a good range and to a certain extent flanking the spurs. Our casualties were about 130 killed and wounded. Boer doctor here says loss 140 killed and 510 wounded.
Went up the Pass having bivouacced just below, about 7.30 with General and rest of staff. Found when mist cleared that the next 4 miles was by no means a plain but that if the Boers were holding the hills beyond they had a strong position. About 9 am the S.A. Light Horse were sent on and we went on till about a mile from the ridge in front when some firing took place but the enemy soon cleared and all the baggage supplies were brought up. We then went on to the ridge and could see the Boers retreating over the hills some miles ahead, some in direction of Ermelo and others towards Standerton. It was then a case of finding water. We bivouacced about 3| miles from Volkseurt, west of it Joubert's 2nd son who was living in a farm close by, came up and asked that his farm should be let alone as he had several of his father's things there; of course he was left alone on signing the declaration of neutrality; he said that if the Burghers only knew they were going to be treated like that he was sure very many of them would come in and surrender. I went to two little farms and bought some butter at one; full of women and children, the men away fighting and one woman said Kruger had threatened that if they didn't continue fighting they would be shot and also if they surrendered they would be sent as slaves to St.Helena; this was confirmed by the Landeart at Volkseurt next day.
General and rest of us with 2 squadrons of Cavalry (19th) rode into Volkseurt, a rotten place, and received the keys and surrender from Landeart who seemed to be in a great "funk", he was going to be hanged or something. Rode to station and found everything in order there and then to Charlestown, which had been completely looted by the Boers, on to Laing's Nek where we encamped on the same spot where Boer general was at Majuba, rather a luxury to get a tent especially for having a bath as wind very cold. Rode with General up the trenches on the Nek, a tremendously strong place, the trenches running right along the crest line from Majuba to Pongwain, quite 6 miles; the trenches are about 2 ft. broad and 4 ft deep and to a great extent excavated in solid rock, the time and trouble expended on them must have been enormous; they also had "running in" trenches from the back so that they could run in unseen and under shelter. The gun emplacements had regular burrowed holes on either side with baulks of wood on the top; the trenches running round to Pongwain entirely enfiladed anyone coming up through the Nek and I think any troops coming into the basin below the Nek with Pongwain on one side and Majuba on the other must have been annihilated.
Went up Majuba with Lees and West and had our lunch there. We rode up nearly to the top to the Western part and had to climb the rest, very steep. Found trenches were made all over the place especially to resist an advance from the direction in which Colley made his; they also ran right away east on to Nikenteno. A heap of stones marks the spot where Colley fell and there are many graves at top, of the 58th Regt. It seems extraordinary how we were turned off in '81 with even half precautions being taken, there being only two places the Boers could have climbed up by. I forgot to say yesterday I again walked over the Nek trenches with Trotter and saw the ends of the rail trench blown in and the lines all pulled up; a memorial stone also marks where several of our men, mostly 58th, fell at the battle of Laing's Nek and how they managed to get up as far as they did is wonderful; it was all on the East side of the Nek. On one of the doors of a house near our bivouac is written up "Rache fair, Samo Fashada, Jameson, Confarentie Bloemfontein, Majuba, Schimohortze, Leve Gladstone". The Boers evidently entered the house on the 21st October last as it was written up in large letters and Z.A.R.
Rode over with Lees to cemetary at the bottom of Nikenteno where Colley is buried, also many other officers and men who fell at Majuba and Laing's Nek. Cemetary wall kept and I hear paid for by Government.
Roberts apparently has been in some difficulty with his communications, having them cut North of Kroonstadt. Rode in afternoon down to Buffalo River, the clearest water I've seen in this infernal country and then went up to the extreme left trenches of Boer position.
Bitterly cold wind today, no sun and constant showers. Rode to see trenches on the lower slopes of Nikotein, practically the Laing's Nek position is entrenched for 7 miles.
Rode by myself to 0'Neil's Farm and went up to place where Colley dropped his post below Majuba then went across to Nikotein Pass and so round the bottom of Majuba back to camp.
Marched to Volkeist
Marched without oppostion to a mile or two beyond Zandspruit; we waited at the railway station for some hours for Gen. Hilliard and his column from Makkerstrom and it arrived about 3. We bivouacced as darkened.
A very misty morning, very cold; started early and marched in fighting formation to Paardekop Station where we bivouacced for the night.
Marched to Katsbork Spruit, no opposition; our baggage though it started after the cavalry, got in front of it! Clery made a forced march with the infantry and the cavalry were to get to Standerton and receive its surrender or to send word back if occupied by the enemy. The country is over rolling terrain after Paardekop all the way to Standerton, splendid cavalry country. Dundonald's lot got to Standerton in the afternoon. All the railway stations and the line itself in this country are very well made and appointed.
In charge baggage, very misty cold again; got to Standerton pretty early; the Landeost bolting yesterday and also police and Boers who were here; a few English left in place and also the railway officials, Hollanders of whom about 30 or 40 have been stuck in goal as apparently they made offensive demonstration on Gough arriving with his composite regiment yesterday. The railway houses are very neat and well kept. We are staying in a house on the side of the square. I live in a room. We hear about 600 prisoners of ours, mostly Imperial Yeomanry, went through here the other day, taken at or near Lindley; Rundle seems to be stuck up that side and immovable, which is a pity. In searching for a house yesterday for Gen. Clery I came across a Hollander doctor who was with Boers at Magersfontein; he said they had a great many wounded there but that the day they were bombarded not a single man was touched.
Church this morning with 3rd M. Brigade; parson preached sermon who has been in S.A. 36 years, nearly all oration on the causes of the war and pointing out the righteousness of it. Find my friend of yesterday, the doctor, being moved off to jail, arms being found under his floor. The Boers burnt £30,000 worth of teak sleepers just before leaving, also blew down one span of railway bridge over the Vaal.
The identical flag that was hauled down at Pretoria in '81 was hoisted here today on the Courthouse flagstaff.
The telegraph line behind us cut.
Telegraph again destroyed.
Gen. Clery moves towards Greylingstaadt with a brigade 1000 cavalry and some guns.