Cuddio Rhestr Erthyglau

11 erthygl ar y dudalen hon



THE FIGHTING ON SPION KOP. LADYSMITH GARRISON WATCH THE FIGHTING. LADYSMITH, Saturday (by Special Runner to Estcourt, Tuesday). The besieged people of this town, civilians and soldiers alike, have just endured a period of sus- pense more trying to the nerves and more weari- some to the patience than anything they had experienced since the first day of the blockade. From our commanding heights we have watched the apparently victorious advance of a powerful British army forcing its way to our relief. We have seen the enemy driven from strong positions and preparing to retreat all along the line. Our arms were actually outstretched to embrace onr saviours. In our eagerness and joy we almost persuaded our- selves that we were within hailing distance of the dun-coloured host in the far distance. And now ? Our exultation has given place to settled melancholy accompanied however by a fierce determination to work out our own salvation if need be. We have seen with our own eyes the British advance stayed at what was very clear to us watchers the very moment of complete victory. To-day we realise that Buller's army is no nearer to us than it was two weeks ago. The main facts have already been heliographed to us very briefly. Here are the deatails. The first indication we in Ladysmith had of the presence of General Warren's force at and about Trichardt's Drift was the shelling by the British guns on Wednesday, January 17, of the great mountain about three miles on the side of Pot- gieter's Drift, on the Tugela, known as Taba Nyama, or Black Mountain. From the heights aronnd Ladysmith, crowded with eager watchers at the first welcome sound of Warren s guns, were plainly visible the British positions on the south side of the Tugela. On Zwart's Kop and on the mountain opposite Potgieter's Drift we could see the flash of the British guns, and we followed tne course of each hurtling shell until it burst amongst the Boer trenches on the Taba Nyama. Never were military operations watched with such keen interest and with such spectacular ad- vantage. The shelling continued heavily on Thurs- day, the 18th, and Friday, the 19th. On the latter day we knew from the shrapnel bursting along the ridge running north from Taba Nyama that our field artillery had got to work, and great was our rejoicing. On the afternoon of that same Friday there was cannonading, and later on we learned that the British army had crossed the Tugela in three places. Nevertheless there was no change whatever in the Boer positions on or near Taba Nyama until Wednesday, January 24th. On that day the Boers had two canvas camps, one on each side of Taba Nyama Nek, and also four large waggon laagers further north. On Wednesday, the British gunners shelled the ridge north of Taba Nyama above Pinknev's Farm. The shelling commenced at daybreak, and sharpnel was almost exclusively used. The shelling was severe, and it was continued until the afternoon, when it ceased with strange suddenness. Meanwhile we saw the Boers rapidly inspanning their waggons, and their agitation was palt a le to all experienced watchers. Towards evening large numbers of waggons began trekking northwards towards Van Reenen's Pass, and the news was helio- graphed into the town that Warren had occupied Taba Nyama. On Thursday morning, the 25th, we were de- lighted to observe that many of the Boer waggons bad left the laagers, while most of those left were engaged in inspanning preparatory to joining in the general trek or retreat in the full light of day. Before long the retreat had commenced in earnest, for strings of waggons, extending for miles, weie observed moving across the piains from Taba Nyama, all evidently having the same objective- Yan Reenen's Pass. Numerous mounted burghers were also proceed- ing in the same direction, but the canvas camps on each side of the Taba Nyama Nek remained un- changed, and herds of cattle continued to graze as usual on the pasture within the shadow of the great mountain. Here indeed, was a remarkable phenomenon, which we discussed excitedly. If, as we had been assured, the British soldiers had stormed and cap- tured Taba Nyama, otherwise Spion Kop, the pre- vious afternoon, and continued to hold it, what were the two camps doing on the Nek, and why were the cattle below unmolested P Either the Boers had retreated en masse, abandoning every- thing to the victors, or they intended to return after getting their waggons to a safe distance. In any case it seemed strange that our mea showed no signs of activity. However, no immed- iate solution of the problem was forthcoming. During the Thursday there was a little artillery firing, and several British shells burst over the ridge at the same spot as on Wednesday. Night fell with- out any explanation of the situation, and the staff have professed to be quite in the dark as to what had happened. On the morning of Friday, January 26th the startling circumstances was revealed that the Boer waggon laagers which were broken up on the previous day had reappeared, and were in precisely the same position as before. We could net say whether they were the same waggons which had trekked on Wednesday night and Thursday, or whether they were fresh ones bringing up supplies of food and amunition, passing the empty ones on the road, There was no firing on either side on Friday, and this, together with the continued presence of the Boers in force in the vicinity of Taba Nyama, made the situation decid- edly puzzling us. That night we learned that Warren bad secured the crost of Taba Nyama mountain, driving out the Boers with great loss. But at the same time, a Boer report came in which stated that 100 -if our men had been taken prisoners. There was an entire absence of hostilities on the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in the neighbour- hood of Taba Nyama, which was sufficiently ac- counted for by the presumption that an armistice bad been agreed to for the purpos-eof enabling both sides to collect their wounded and bury tueir dead. In fact waggons and ambulance carts were seen going and coming from Thursday morning until Saturday afternoon. The scene on the plain between Taba Nyama and Ladysmith was unchanged until Sunday, January 28. On the morning of that day a new Boer laager became visible on the Colenso road nine miles away. The Boers were much in evidence in the conntry between Rifleman's Ridge and Taba Nyama. On Sunday afternoon we learned the dis- heartening truth that after actually taking and holding Spion Kop on Taba Nyama Warren, for some reason, had retired or had been driven back, and that the Boers bad reoccupied the commanding position. We were further told that our losses in killed, wounded, and prisoners amounted to the terrible total of 1,100. Our only consolation in our sore disappointment was in learning that the Boer losses were considerably more than our own, that they also had many of their number prisoners, and that Warren's artillery has destroyed seven out of the eight guns brought on the scene by the Boers. We were told that the Boers were demoralised, but our own eyes did not furnish on Sunday evidence in support of this optimistic statement. On Monday, January 29th, the scene before us was still unchanged, except that the Boer iaager on the Oolenso road had disappeared as quickly as it had come. There had been then an entire sus- pension of hostilities on Taba Nyama since the previous Sunday. On the Monday news was re- ceived by us that while a body of British troops were making the passage of the Tugeia on Satur. day, the 27th, at Skiet's Drift they were hotly attacked by a Boer commando, and that thereupon another British force unexpectedly fell upon the enemy and smote them hip and thigh. We gloried to hear that there had been what we have so long been yearing fighting—and that our men had bayonetted nearly every Boer of the commando.