The Darkest Night
The night is darkest before the dawn. -- Sir Claude MacDonald
"JULY 13th -- and a Friday," wrote Sir Claude with feeling. He thought it "the most harassing day" of the entire siege. Meyrick Hewlett wrote that many believed "the end had come." As dawn rose the Fu was shelled heavily by four Krupp guns. The Japanese and Italian defenders, dodging a hail of shells and shrapnel in the thin gray light, could see the guns just 150 yards away. As the attack grew yet more furious and burning buildings collapsed around them, Colonel Shiba ordered a retreat. He had originally planned nine lines of defense and now fell back to the last but one. No one blamed him. Even the acerbic Captain Poole wrote, "I put Colonel Shiba . . . on a golden pedestal for endurance and perseverance."
At 4:00 P.M., the Chinese attacked on all sides. The Jubilee Bell rang out and as men came running Sir Claude dispatched them to the most vulnerable parts of the defenses. He was about to send ten Russian marines to the Fu when he received a welcome message from Shiba that he was holding his own again. At that very moment the German second secretary von Bergen appeared, gasping that the German Legation was under great pressure. The Russians were sent there instead, arriving just in time. The Imperial troops were about to charge, shouting, yelling, and brandishing their banners. The Russians joined the German forces under Lieu