Fortune smiled on them; as yet they had met with no very serious reverses. Magersfontein, Stormberg, Colenso, Spion Kop, were so many offerings of scarce vanquished Boers to the veiled Goddess Liberty. But towards the end of February, 1900, clouds gathered over the Republics.
Raffles was dead killed as you may remember at the battle of Spion Kop and I, his companion, who had never known want while his deft fingers were able to carry out the plans of that insinuating and marvellous mind of his, was now, in the vernacular of the American, up against it.
The guns shelling Pepworth Hill there were two batteries of them now were still at their work, just in front of our left now and about half a mile away. Away to our right and further advanced, but quite exposed in the open, were two other batteries, shelling some distant kopjes on our right at the foot of the great mountain lump of Lombard's Kop.
The attempt to reach Ladysmith was then renewed, taking the road by Potgieter's Drift to Brakfontein. It was decided first to get possession of Vaal Krantz, a height three or four miles east of Spion Kop, to the right of the road. The movement began on February 5th, under the immediate direction of Sir Redvers Buller.
It would probably have been better for Buller if he had freely acquiesced in the idea of Pall Mall and had allowed Warren, but not necessarily the Vth Division, to operate in a country with which he had become acquainted twenty years before in the Bechuanaland Expedition, but he could not foresee Spion Kop; and Warren while moving towards the Orange was suddenly recalled to Capetown and ordered to reinforce the Army of Natal with the Vth Division; and Methuen was allowed to retain his command at Modder River.
This force, of which the infantry belongs to Lyttelton's brigade, carried and defended against counter attack a hill called Vaal Krantz, at the eastern end of the Brakfontein ridge. To the east of Vaal Krantz runs a good road to Ladysmith, along which the distance from the Tugela to Sir George's White's outposts is about ten miles. To the east again of the road is a hill called Dorn Kop.
There was a burial party going out to Spitz Kop early the next morning, and Major Pollock and I had leave to go with it. No one was armed, the ambulance being preceded by an orderly carrying the P.M.O.'s bath-towel.
He was recommended, after crossing the Tugela at Trickhardt's Drift, to proceed west of Spion Kop, and to pivot his right and swing round on to the open plain in rear of the Boer position facing Potgieter's Drift. Warren, who was not of opinion that the Boer right was weak, marched out of Springfield on the evening of January 16.
Giles and Jesse Hayman would no longer defend the coast but go to South Africa quite soon; Jolly and Val would be following in April; as to June well, you never knew what she would really do. The retirement from Spion Kop and the absence of any good news from the seat of war imparted an air of reality to all this, clinched in startling fashion by Timothy.
His requiem rang out from the naval battery in its duel with the enemy's heaviest artillery. Soon other Boer guns joined in from Lombard's Kop and the slopes of Bulwaan, throwing shells about the town as if resolved to compass its ruin.