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A Handbook of the Boer War

And without communicating with Thorneycroft


Heliograms

and flag messages from Spion Kop, orally handed in and incorrectly transmitted by scared signallers, bewildered the recipients and increased the density of the Fog of War upon the Tugela. To Lyttelton was flashed an appeal for help without a signature. A message sent by Crofton soon after he assumed command, in which he reported Woodgate's death and said that reinforcements were urgently required, was transmuted into a despairing cry which made Warren think that he had lost his head, and which led to his supersession. Warren replied that there must be no surrender, and that Coke was on his way up with reinforcements.

Warren and Lyttelton, as well as the Umpire in Chief, Buller, were too far away to be able to appreciate the situation on Spion Kop, or to know how much or how little of the ridge was in possession of the British troops. Lyttelton's naval guns, playing upon the Little Knoll, were twice silenced by a message from Warren, who was under the impression that the whole of the ridge from the Twin Peaks to the main position on Spion Kop was held. A demonstration made earlier in the day by Lyttelton towards Brakfontein was checked by Buller, who was unwilling to engage the enemy in that direction.

The Boers, a small party of whom before Woodgate's death had climbed the dead ground, and had come within fifty yards of the main trench, again attained the outer crest, and a counter attack led by Thorneycroft

in person partially failed, and although the verge was not wholly abandoned, only the main trench filled with dead, wounded, and unwounded men parched with thirst, remained for effective resistance. Woodgate had already paid the penalty for the hasty and fatal act of squatting down in an indefensible position, and lay among the other victims strewn upon the plateau; but the British soldier is not easily discouraged by the errors of his leaders. The cry "_nous sommes trahis_" is never heard from his lips, and when called upon on active service,

To live laborious days and shun delights,

he rarely fails to do his duty.

At mid-day the situation on Spion Kop was hazardous but not hopeless. Reinforcements had arrived and were quickly absorbed in the works which they quickened with patches of new vigour, but the terrible hail of bullet and shrapnel was not abated. No definite orders had been given to Clery, who was on the southern crest of the Rangeworthy Heights, except that he was to "use his discretion about opening fire against the enemy to his front, with a view to creating a diversion," a discretion which he exercised by doing nothing.

Shortly before noon a step was taken by Buller, who was four miles away on Mount Alice, which enlarged the area of the Fog of War and brought Spion Kop within its chilling grasp. Thorneycroft was ordered to take command on the summit with the local rank of Brigadier-General, although there were several officers present senior to him: but many hours elapsed before the appointment was made known to all of those whom it most concerned. Coke, who was now on the S.W. spur, was unaware of it, and without communicating with Thorneycroft, sent at 12.50 p.m. to Warren a message which was not delivered till 2.20 p.m., that as the summit was crowded and the defence was maintaining itself, he had stopped further reinforcements.


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