The Clarkes of Graiguenoe Park

Extracts from Letters written by

Captain George Vernon Clarke

George Clarke was one of the 5,744 British officers and men killed in the Boer War. My grandfather, his brother, and later my father, his nephew, kept the few possessions sent back from South Africa in a box. I still have them. In the box was a typescript bound volume, containing this fascinating account of his adventures, leading up to his death in action. They are taken from many letters to his family.

This transcription by Penny Lindley.

SS Armenian, October 24th ‘99

I am sending off my last letter by the pilot. I arrived at Tilbury with my section at about 4 p.m. yesterday and got all my horses stowed away before dark. There was a thick fog on the river which did not clear away until the middle of to-day so that we did not get under weigh until 4 p.m. this afternoon. This is rather a fine ship for a cattle boat, 9,000 tons. There are 24 officers on board, about 700 men and 500 horses. The train from Aldershot to Tilbury took us along the north of London. It went very slowly and afforded the populace the pleasure of cheering at every station. Flags were hung out of every window, tablecloths waved in our honour as we passed. We felt quite heroes. We got a cheer from every steamship in Gravesend as we slowly steamed down the river. I am afraid we shall have trouble with the horses if we have any rough weather. We get about half of them out of their stalls for a quarter of an hour each day and groom them. I was on watch last night, which meant that I was crawling about the ship amongst the horses and men off and on for four hours.

SS Armenian, Thursday, 28th October [1899]

I have started writing a letter which I can go on with from day to day until I can post it. We have now crossed the bay and are somewhere off the coast of Spain. The weather becomes hotter every day ….. We are going to start clipping the horses tomorrow. They have great big winter coats on now. It will be rather interesting to know what they do about their coats when they get into a hot climate …. We saw a lot of porpoises yesterday and a whale today. Several birds, finches, starlings etc, have come on board. …

November 2nd, off the Gold Coast [1899]

Yesterday was the hottest day we have had so far, 86 in the coldest part of the ship …. We had a thunderstorm yesterday evening when the rain came down in torrents. We had a lot of sick horses on deck trying to get them all the air possible. I got wet through putting them under cover. … We passed the Canaries last Sunday night but did not stop. It was the only sight of land we will have on the voyage. We pass a ship about every other day, otherwise there is nothing to be seen except flying fish, which are very abundant. We are kept pretty busy so we have not time to be bored. Our usual routine is as follows:- Get up at 6 am, water and feed horses, breakfast 8.30, Parade 9.30, when the men are given their dose of lime juice, then to the stables where we work in the sweltering heat until 12.45. Lunch 1 pm. The afternoons are employed in getting the horses out of the hold of the ship and cleaning it; in teaching the reservists gun drill; revolver practice. Tea at 4 pm. Stables at 4.30 to water and feed horses, dinner 7 pm. The horses are again watered at 8 and 11 pm. After which I generally walk about the deck in pyjamas to cool until 1 am, when I try to find a cool spot to sleep in.

Sunday, November 5th [1899]

We crossed the Equator yesterday.

November 7th [1899]. Longitude 0, Latitude 13s

It is getting considerably colder now. …

November 13th [1899] Cape Town

Going on to Durban, only called here.

Still SS Armenian, November 14th

At 7 o’clock yesterday morning we sighted land and saw Africa for the first time. In another couple of hours Table Mountain rose out of the mist, and by one o’clock we were anchored outside Cape Town Harbour to wait for orders. These weren’t long in coming, Staff Officers arrived in a launch and told us to go on to Durban … We were all much disappointed at the news that we were to have another three days on the sea, but after reading in the papers of the siege of Ladysmith we realized that we should be in the thick of it much sooner than if we had got out at Cape Town and waited for the rest of the Army Corps before going on. … I was very much disappointed with the appearance of Cape Town. It was so overpowered by the height of Table Mountain that it looked like a little seaside watering place squashed in between the hills and the sea. The country all around looked lovely and uninhabited, so different from an English coast. …

By 4 o’clock we had weighed anchor and were going full speed ahead for Durban. Last night we passed the Cape Aghulas, off which they have worse storms and more shipwrecks than anywhere else in the world. I was asleep at the time, but I am told that it was very rough for about 4 hours. … We have been keeping the coast of Africa in view, and the long range of distant hills stands out very clearly.

November 15th [1899]

We have now passed Port Elizabeth and East London, and hope to be off Durban by 2 o’clock tomorrow. High tide is at 3, when we may be able to get over the bar. The coast all along here looks very barren, and desolate, without a tree to be seen. … Arrived at Durban, off to Pietermaritzburg at once.

Estcourt, Natal, November 19th [1899]

We reached Durban on Thursday last at 3.30 pm, when it was just high tide. A naval officer met us outside the harbour and brought us over the bar. At 4 o’clock we were tied to the quay, and by 7 pm, the first train-load of horses left the station. From that time till Saturday night, I did not get a chance to wash or change my clothes and got practically no sleep. My battery was sent up here straight, the other two were kept at Pietermaritzburg. We went up in three trains, the first two with men and horses, the last with guns. I went in the first train with the Major. We had supper provided for us about 10 o’clock and breakfast at Mooi River at about 5.30. From there to Estcourt, the line was considered unsafe as the Boers were about somewhere. We had a pilot engine in front to see that the line was all right, however we reached Estcourt all right. The second train arrived a couple of hours afterwards, but the guns did not come until 7 o’clock. There was great anxiety felt about the guns. The general here was much relieved when they arrived. They had been delayed with traffic. It is only a single line, and of course there is an immense amount of coming and going. This railway journey was a most disastrous one for horses. They were put into trucks, 18 in each truck. The trucks were too narrow for English horses, and they were very uncomfortable. Two of them broke their head collars and jumped out while the train was in motion and were killed, one we had to leave in a dying condition at Pietermaritzburg. Two have since died from the effects of the ship and train.

It was late on Friday night before we got the guns up to the Camp and the horses picketed out, and the harness carefully arranged to be ready in the event of a night attack. We have to rise at 4 am, every morning and harness up, so that on Friday night I only got 3 hour’s sleep. My horse was tied up to a wheel beside me, and was trampling on me the whole time, so I did not get much rest.

The force was all out on Saturday. I believe the Boers intended attacking. A few of them were visible on the top of a hill six miles off, but the Naval Detachment fired off their gun and frightened them away, which was a pity as we were all ready for them.

It is no hotter here than in June in England. The sun perhaps is more powerful, the nights are damp and chilly. It generally rains in the evening, but that does not matter now that we have got tents. Today being Sunday we are having an easy time and the horses are allowed to have their harness off. The Boers are supposed never to fight on a Sunday. The chief features of this place seem to be the niggers with mules and oxen. The niggers are very noisy. At Durban a stream of niggers carrying our harness in sacks crossed another stream with sacks belonging to the ammunition column. The confusion that it caused was very funny. They could not understand any English, and I had some difficulty in sorting them again. Mules and oxen are used for Infantry Transport. My horse at first strongly objected to meeting these teams of ten mules driven with long reins from the box of the wagon by a Kaffir, and the twenty oxen urged on by the curious cry of a black man with a long whip, but he is getting used to these strange sights now. The Natal Volunteer Artillery are lying alongside us here, and have been very good to us in providing us with the best fruit, pineapples, bananas, etc. There is a Brigade from Aldershot under General Hildyard, so we feel quite at home, and if it was not for the beards, which are allowed to grow, it would be difficult to realize that we were not on manoeuvres at Aldershot. … I hope to write next from Ladysmith, where a good deal of firing has been heard.

Estcourt, Saturday, 25th November [1899]

These letters, which I write to you, form the only sort of diary that I intend keeping so I hope they will reach safely. Last Wednesday we left Camp with two days’ rations, the West Yorkshires, Queen’s, and Border Regiment, and the Durham Light Infantry, and some Mounted Infantry, and my Battery formed the Force, in addition to a Naval gun drawn by a team of oxen. About four miles out we came to a steep hill, up which we had great difficulty in dragging our guns. Sometimes we had to put 12 horses in one carriage. It was pretty late in the day when we reached the top. The 30 oxen seemed to drag up the Naval gun which must be twice as heavy as ours without any difficulty. It was planted on the summit of a hill. We did not go any farther, but stayed the night on the top with horses hooked in and saddled up ready to move off at a moment’s notice. Our baggage waggons did not come up to us, so we had to exist that night, and the whole of the next day, on what we carried with us, which, in my case, consisted of two sticks of chocolate and a large biscuit. A heavy thunderstorm came on about 6 pm, and lasted, off and on, till 1 am. I have never seen such lightning, there seemed to be a regular network of flashes in the sky. It rained very heavily and hailed. The hail-stones were, without exaggeration, as big as walnuts, and hurt more than walnuts would, if they were thrown at us. My horse strongly objected to being pelted, and I had some trouble in keeping him quiet. Of course we were soaked to the skin, and were ankle-deep in water and mud. I managed to find a stone to sit down on where I got a couple of hours’ sleep. We were very glad when the sun rose and warmed us up. By five o’clock we were on the move to attack the Boer position. We were not in the forefront of the battle but for some reason or other we were kept very much in the rear, so that although we heard a good deal of firing we did not see much and did not fire a shot until late in the day. I am told the Boer Artillery fired on us once or twice, but I can’t say I noticed it. I did not see any man hit so it did not feel like a battle. Our Infantry took the Boer position but had to retire while we covered their retirement. The Boers came back to their position, but never followed us. We were the last to get back to Camp about 6 o’clock in the evening. Our horses had had no water and only one feed since they left Camp the day before, and were completely done up. It was as much as they could do to drag their guns home again. We had rather an unpleasant outing, but the Infantry must have had a much worse time. Some of them had no cloaks during the night, and during the day they had to walk about 20 miles with little or nothing to eat. The West Yorkshires lost 19 men killed and about 70 wounded the other Regiments only a few. I cannot see what good we did by the battle except to capture about 20 horses and two ladies’ saddles, one of which must have belonged to Mrs Joubert, who always accompanies her husband, but that was hardly a fitting compensation for so much loss, but we had to do something to keep the Boers busy and prevent them taking the railway. They are all round us, and for several days no trains have succeeded in coming into Estcourt, and we are just as much cut off as Ladysmith.

Frere, Wednesday

I have so little time in Camp and that I spend in eating and sleeping, that I must continue this letter on odd bits of paper at odd moments during the day. On Saturday night we heard that the Boers were retiring to Colenso, and on Sunday morning at 5 am we were ordered to leave Estcourt, and by 8 am, had left for Frere Station. Although the march was only 12 miles we did not reach Frere until 4 pm. We then had to go to the hills to watch for the Boers and we did not get to the camping ground till dark. Our baggage never arrived that night and we lay out in the open. We had no breakfast before starting but got some bully beef and biscuits in the evening.

The Boers had just left Frere station before we arrived, and had blown up a big railway bridge, and ransacked all the houses. I have never seen such a state as they left the houses in. They even cut open the mattresses in hopes of finding money hidden there. Nothing of any value was left except a cat and some dogs, which have joined our army. The remains of the armoured train which the Boers destroyed are near here. I wish I had a camera with me. On Monday morning we had to go out on picquet and the guns were left out on the hills all day. In the afternoon we fired at a party of 50 Boers at a range of 4,800 yards, but only frightened them. They were too far off to do any damage. On Tuesday morning one section went on outpost duty, the remainder of the Battery went out on a reconnaissance. Unfortunately I had taken some poison and was very bad in the morning, and so was selected for the officer to stay behind in Camp.

They had a very good day, lots of firing – and plenty of the enemy’s shell fell into the Battery without however doing any damage. I expect our shooting was more effective. The Boers have very good guns and they shoot very accurately but their shell don’t burst properly, and unless the shell happens to strike a man it does no damage.

They did not succeed in hitting any of the Cavalry either. One of the guns was upset going over an ant heap and a gunner’s leg was crushed. Today we are out again on the hill on outpost duty. It is very slow work, especially today as the Boers have blown up Colenso Bridge, and must have cleared out of this part altogether. I don’t expect we will leave this place until the railway bridge is mended. The 68th Battery has joined us. The line is open again from here to Durban. … The Boers have left a good deal of cattle and some sheep which they have looted. We have now got large herds in the Camp. They are very fine beasts much better than anything Charlie can boast of. I have seen some draught oxen standing 17 hands high. … This is a great place for insects, but there are no mosquitoes or any animals that annoy one. There are very fine beetles, butterflies and grasshoppers. … We hear firing going on at Ladysmith every day and are now about 25 miles from there. The Boers have got a very strong position at Colenso, and the river Tugela, which is too deep to ford, flows between us and them. I expect we will have a rough time turning them out. General Clery has come to take over the command, and it is rumoured that Buller is in Natal. I think this is a very healthy place, I have never felt tired and seldom hungry, and except on two occasions I have been very well. …

Frere, December 2nd [1899]

We are still here having a quiet time waiting for the bridges to be repaired and for the horses to recover. … Up to the present date we have lost 13 horses. … I go on picquet every other day, it is not very exciting work. … The farmers about here are going back to their houses and have started ploughing again as if the war was over.

December 6th [1899]

I think it is time we moved from this place. It is getting unhealthy. The water is bad. Although it is always boiled it is still quite muddy and has a taste which pervades the tea, vegetables, and everything. The 14th Battery came here yesterday from Mooi River, so now our Brigade Division is complete with Colonel and all. The Royals arrived here yesterday. … The chief amusement here in the heat of the day is watching the niggers work at the repairs of the bridge over the Blauw Kranz. They work very hard and sing the whole time. What they thoroughly enjoy is lifting a heavy weight and pulling a rope in squads of twenty or thirty. They then repeat a chorus consisting of about half a dozen words, and give an extra pull when the first word comes over again. The Kaffirs and Zulus get their rations and 30/- a month, a certain number of Indians are employed. They are very weak and lazy and only get 10/- a month without rations. Our Camp is close to the bridge, of which you will probably see pictures in the illustrated papers. There are several reporters here, but they are kept in great order much to their annoyance.

December 7th [1899]

Yesterday afternoon Sir R. Buller came up here, and had all the mounted troops and my Battery out on a reconnaissance towards Colenso. No shots were fired on either side. … The first train has just gone over the new bridge. …

Frere, December 10th [1899]

…. Everything has been very quiet and peaceful, no excitements, our horses are getting very fat. My own horse, I am sorry to say, has developed pink-eye. … It is a great nuisance as he was a very good horse, never was tired or lame, and only occasionally ran away with me. …

December 13th [1899]

My poor old horse had to be shot yesterday. I am afraid I shall never get as good horse again. … A large army of refugees arrived from Pietermaritzburg yesterday. They have been organized into ambulance and stretcher bearer companies. They are a curious looking crew of all classes and conditions, and may be of some use. … We signal every night by search light to Ladysmith. They are unable to signal back, but communicate with us every day by runners. They appear to be in no difficulties, and could get out of Ladysmith if they liked. Yesterday we heard that they had destroyed some of the Boers’ big guns. The Boers fire their guns at very long ranges, sometimes 10,000 yards off, but they do no damage. They don’t appear to have any fuses that will burst shell in the air, at these long ranges. We could send our shell with some accuracy as far as 6,000 yards, but cannot burst in the air beyond 4,500, which we consider our extreme range. I am quite sure that if we were allowed to get in close to them, that is two to 3,000 yards off, we would rapidly silence their guns. We have lots of naval guns here now which will be very useful in frightening the enemy from a distance, but they are not very mobile. … We are going to start early tomorrow.

Chieveley, December 18th [1899]

I hope you were not in any anxiety about the battle of Colenso. I think the newspapers had fairly accurate intelligence, and you may be sure that no news is good news as far as I am concerned. I was going to have telegraphed, only I had not enough money to pay for the address. Last Thursday morning, much to our joy, we were ordered to leave Frere. We encamped Thursday night at Chieveley station, about 4 miles from Colenso. On Thursday afternoon the Naval detachment fired several rounds into the Boers’ position, trying to get them to expose the position of their guns, but the Boers kept quiet, and there was no means of telling how many there were there, or where they were placed. Early on Friday morning we marched out to attack them in force. My Battery was told off to assist the Cavalry, and Mounted Infantry on the right flank under Lord Dundonald. We were in action off and on from 5 am to 3 pm and fired over 500 rounds, and changed our position a few times. Luckily for us, the Boers had no guns on their left flank, and their rifle fire did not get within 2,000 yards of us, but one of their “long Toms” played on us for a short time. The first shell fell a hundred yards short, and the next went over our heads, (I must confess I ducked my head as it passed) and fell right into the middle of our teams who were about 200 yards behind us. The drivers were dismounted at the time, and there seemed to be no commotion. Another shell soon afterwards fell into exactly the same spot. Several horses, but no men, were hurt. They were then shifted to a different place. It is not very pleasant being fired upon by one of these guns because you see the shell coming long before it reaches you, and there is a short moment of suspense wondering where the shell is going to pitch.

December 20th [1899]

… We were standing fast doing nothing, having nothing to shoot at, while the shell were coming near us, and on looking round I saw Sir Redvers Buller behind us. After talking to the Major he went away and the shells stopped coming near us. The Boers had evidently spotted him, for he was riding about with a large staff. He had just come from the scene of the disaster to the other two batteries of my Brigade Division. These two Batteries, the 14th and 66th, went right forward into the open without any escort to shell the centre of the Boer position at a range of about 2,400 yards. But on coming into action, some advanced troops of the Boers fired upon them at a range of 800 yards. They were so well hidden that it was impossible to tell where the bullets came from. The Batteries kept on firing until all their ammunition was used up. They then were defenseless and had to leave their guns, and get under cover in a ditch in rear where they waited for a fresh supply of ammunition and assistance from other troops which never came.

We did not know about it until the afternoon, when we saw the guns standing deserted in the open, guarded only by one solitary horse who was standing perfectly still. The casualties were very large, Colonel Long, severely wounded, Lt Colonel Hunt, shot through both legs, and a prisoner. Capt White-Thompson, wounded, and came into Camp in the evening. Majors Foster and Bailward, prisoners, Captain Goldie, killed. Schreiber, killed in trying to help the wounded into the ditch. Esthen and Grylls, wounded. The remaining subalterns, prisoners.

We knew them all so well. It is very sad. Captain Schofield, Buller’s ADC succeeded in bringing out two guns. The remaining ten were captured by the Boers. Captain Reed of my Battery, whom I daresay Marion remembers at the Templemore ball last year, made another attempt with three teams to save the guns, but before he reached them one driver and several horses were killed, his own horse was shot under him and he was wounded through the leg, and his trumpeter who had followed him without his knowing it, had his horse shot and was wounded in the same way.

 When the dead horses were got clear, he had to retire and Buller would not allow another attempt to be made at the time. Luckily they all succeeded in getting back without further casualties. Reed and the trumpeter are walking about now, a bit stiffly only. The Boers hardly ever show themselves and give a very unsatisfactory target to shoot at, and we never can tell what damage we are doing.

 They were working round on our right, and started digging a gun pit, but we soon stopped that. We can only tell when we are doing any good by the sound of their firing stopping. We then know we have dropped a shell somewhere near them. The whole force was ordered to retire back to Camp at about 12 o’clock, the attempt to take the Boer position having failed. We had to remain in action until all the Cavalry had come in, and we did not get back to Camp until about 4 p.m. It was a very tiring day and the heat was very trying and we were all very depressed over the day’s work.

The next day was Dingaan’s Day, which is the Boers’ great holiday, and we had a truce to look after the dead and wounded. At 1 a.m. on Sunday, our whole force retired. My Battery and two Brigades to a Camp half a mile south-ward under cover of a hill. That move in the middle of the night seemed a wild scene of confusion, columns of ox waggons, bound for different places, trying to cross each other, native drivers yelling at their oxen. Nobody knew what to do or where to go.

However, it cannot have been as bad as it looked, for by daybreak the baggage had got sorted out, and we were soon settled down in our new Camp. An eclipse of the moon did not improve matters. The Naval guns bombard the Boers every morning, but I don’t know what good they do. The Boers never reply, I expect they are saving their ammunition….They are not likely to come out of their position at us. It is a very strong one, and almost impossible to take. It is unfortunate that we have always to do the attacking. The Boers will only sit tight behind the rocks and wait for us.

This is a very dusty Camp and the water is scarce and bad. The drinking water comes by train from Frere. The Boers are very good to our wounded and prisoners, and are anxious to show themselves a civilized nation. I do not believe any stories of intentional firing on ambulances etc., that we read of in the papers. One man said they spoke English quite well with an Irish accent. Of course they have a good many British doctors on their side. My opinion of the Boers has improved since I came into the country. It is only the irregular Cavalry who have any real animosity against them. We now belong to Lt. Col. Parson’s Brigade Division, with the 64th and 73rd Batteries. The 14th has ceased to exist and there are only two guns of the 66th left.

Chieveley, December 27th [1899]

Your hope that I should be in Pretoria for Christmas was not far from being realised. If my Battery had been, as originally intended, with the rest of the Brigade Division, I should now be probably languishing in the Pretoria gaol as a prisoner of war.

This is the dirtiest and dustiest Camp I have ever been in … The water is getting scarce. We have to go 2 ½ miles for water for the horses, which mean 15 miles every day for them. The watering place is outside our line of picquets. I don’t know why the Boers don’t snipe us, as we are unarmed. The Cavalry go down there with carbines, but we have no small arms to speak of in the Battery.

It is now Midsummer and the heat in the middle of the day, 105 degrees in the shade, is too much for any active exercise. I hope I shall never spend a hotter Christmas.

We had a Church Parade service at 6 a.m. and sports in the after-noon for the men. There was great excitement over the final of the tug-of-war between the two Brigades. I hear that the Brigadiers even began to fight over it, and it had to be decided on the following day. The Cavalry held a sort of impromptu race meeting yesterday which was quite a success.

The Naval guns fired a few rounds every day except Sundays and Christmas day, on which they were given a holiday. The Boers have never replied, although their guns must be able to reach us. I believe we are waiting for reinforcements. Ladysmith can only hold out until the 15th of January, so that I hope that by the time you get this letter we will have crossed the Tugela and driven back the Boers…

We had a thunderstorm last night. We don’t however get much rain. The drought is worse for the Boers than for us, which is some consolation. You ought to get very accurate information about my Battery now. Captain Reed seems to have attracted several reporters whom we have got to know fairly well, the correspondents of Laffan’s Agency, Rene Bull, Winston Churchill, etc. Rene Bull took a Cinematograph of us coming into action. It will be probably on show in London. They have opened a rather good store here. We get excellent pineapples at eight-pence each. I ate a mangoe and will never eat another. It tasted exactly like furniture polish. We live principally on rations, which are very good. The Government provides fresh meat, bread, potatoes, coffee, tea, bacon and sometimes jam. Of course directly we move, we shall get nothing but tinned meat and biscuits which are very monotonous.

Chieveley, 1st January, 1900

… It is extraordinary how blindly ignorant the Government and War Office appear to have been about the doings of the Boers for the last ten years. Every British resident in the Transvaal knew things which were important, but which the Government seems to have taken no notice of. There is no doubt that the Boers have been preparing for war for several years. Although they have not many foreigners in their Army, the better class families have had some education in Europe, and they are by no means the ignorant race we were led to believe.

January 4th [1900]

Still lying here quietly. The Naval guns fire a few rounds every day, but I believe the Boers laugh at these……

Chieveley, January 7th [1900]

…We are expecting to move shortly, and if so without tents. At present we are living in the lap of luxury and are suffering less hardships than we did at Okehampton. We have a good deal of rain occasionally, but the sun comes out and dries everything in an hour. It is never very cold or unbearably hot. Yesterday we went out for a shoot at the Boer position. We had heard in the morning that the Boers had attacked Ladysmith and been driven off with great loss, and we went out, 6 Regiments and 3 Batteries, in the afternoon to try and draw the attention of the Boers away from Ladysmith. We went within 3,500 yards of Colenso and fired about 50 rounds per Battery at ditches and cattle. The Boers never opened fire on us. In fact, for all we saw, they might have left the place altogether. But that is their dodge. They are too wily to disclose their position until we get quite close. We returned in the evening. It was quite a pleasant change from the dull monotony of the ordinary life here.

January 9th [1900]

I hear we are going to shift our Camp tonight…

Pretorius’ Farm, January 11th. [1900]

…We left Chieveley at 6 a.m. yesterday and marched 8 miles in 8 hours, rather a record, to a place called Pretorius’ Farm about half-way between Frere and Springfield. Today we were sent out at 5 a.m. for what purpose no one seemed to know, and I am writing this letter sitting on an ant heap behind a hill waiting for the next move. We brought 2 Naval guns with us yesterday, and they got stuck in every drift we came across. This is a much greener and damper place than Chieveley. There are a certain amount of mimosa trees scattered about. They are flowering now and look rather pretty, much like hawthorn at a distance.

Sunday, January 14th [1900]

…Nobody could call this part of Natal beautiful, though I believe south of Pietermaritzburg and close to the sea it justifies its name as the garden of S. Africa. Here it is rather like Salisbury Plain and Dartmoor mixed, only on a larger scale. The farm buildings are very poor as a rule and not much attempt at making them homelike and pretty. Mr. Pretorius’ farm however, is an exception.

He must be a man of some wealth. At present he is a prisoner and there is a Kaffir in charge who has been selling poultry, etc., to the troops. We bought a pair of hens for four shillings and they were very good.

Warren has crossed the Little Tugela at Springfield and will, I hope, get across the Big river tomorrow…They have got a lot of traction engines here. One steamed out into the veldt the other day and used up its supply of coal and had to stop where it was. They generally stick in the drifts, but so do the oxen and mules…They have got a balloon in this country. But it was only built to go up about 1,000 feet above sea level. They quite forgot that this country is on the average about 4,000 feet above sea level, so the balloon won’t go up at all. A regular Sapper thing to do.

January 16th. [1900]

We are now at Springfield. We don’t seem to be hurrying much. I suppose we are collecting supplies. Pretty well the whole army in Natal is here now, and we shall want them too, for I hear the Boers have got just as strong a position in front of us now as they had at Colenso, and it will only be taken with great difficulty. However we are in a better position to cut off their retreat if we do beat them.

This is a better Camp than any we have been to yet. We can get fairly decent water. I sometimes long for water as clear as the Liffey. We don’t often get it…

January 17th [1900]

We left Springfield at 5 a.m. yesterday, and marched till 1 a.m. this morning. I don’t know exactly where we are, but at present we are in action on a hill overlooking the Tugela, about 20 miles above Colenso. There are only a few Boers on the other side to stop us. The West Yorkshires have got across in boats and have advanced about a mile on the other side. The Sappers have now (10. a.m.) nearly completed a pontoon bridge for the rest of the Army to cross by. We get a splendid view of everything that is going on. We have left our tents at Springfield and goodness knows when we will see them again.

18th January. [1900]

All the Infantry got across the river first. The Cavalry managed to ford, but it was some time before the bridge was ready for us, as the banks were very steep and had to be cut away a lot. My Battery got over at about 5 p.m. and the rest of the Artillery was not across until 2 a.m. this morning, and they are still (8 a.m.) busy with the baggage wagons. The Boers shot one man and one man was drowned. That is the total of the casualties. The Boers can hardly avoid us now, and I expect we will have a big battle today or tomorrow. We have, I hope, got well round to their flank and ought to be more successful this time.

19th January [1900]

We stayed all yesterday in the same place, harnessed up, expecting to move at a moment’s notice. But our only move was in the evening to another field close by, where we stayed the night. The grass was very long and dew very heavy so it was rather damp in the morning. My Battery marched off at 4.30 a.m. and took up a position (where we still are at 9 a.m.) about 2 miles north of the river. The Boers have got a strong position 4,000 yards further north, which I believe we are going to attack. We have fired 50 rounds. They have not replied, but we have distinctly seen them running about. I don’t think they can have any big guns there. Our Infantry are working round by the left, and I hear the sound of rifles already beginning.

January 20th. [1900]

The attack of yesterday came to nothing, and we went to a neighbouring river where we bivouacked for the night. The pontoons we crossed by have been removed to a place lower down the Tugela where 6 regiments have crossed, so that we have practically no communication. We have with us 4 days’ supplies, which ought to be enough. There is a rather good bathing place here. I took off my boots for the first time since leaving Springfield, and had a swim which was most refreshing. We were able to take the harness off the horses last night which was a change for them. My Battery was kept in reserve this morning, but now (12 noon) we are in action against the Boer position. The Infantry are about 1,000 yards off it. They seem to be getting on very slowly. We only fire occasionally to save ammunition. A few bullets come our way, but they must be either spent or fired at too long a range to hurt. The heat is intense and there is no shelter to be got.

21st January.

The Boers began to wake up at about 3 p.m. yesterday, when we had a busy time firing until dark. Several shells fell about us and bullets were whistling over our heads. A mule and a horse were killed behind us, but all the gunners escaped. There was a large crowd of people standing behind us when the firing began, and I am glad to say that after five minutes there were none but gunners left on the hill. We stayed that night close to the guns, and were ready for them again this morning.

22nd January.

We were in action the whole of yesterday firing occasionally not to waste ammunition. The Boers had not many field guns, and we were able to keep their fire down. I had been spending half the previous night wandering about in search of our supply wagon, which was broken down among the rocks, so I was rather short of sleep. The Infantry on the left seemed to get on very slowly, and the situation appeared to be just the same this morning as it was yesterday morning, except that probably the Boers have collected a lot more guns. Just as we had cleaned our guns out for the night last evening, the Boers emptied all their rifles at us so that we had to open fire again, which was annoying. This is the fourth day of the battle, but I believe Sir Charles Warren is in no hurry. We don’t get much chance of washing. I am very dirty and have got the best beard of any in the Battery. The Howitzers came here this morning, and have been firing at the Boer trenches with Lyddite shells. They certainly frightened them and they bolted like rabbits out of their shelter…

January 23rd.

This is the fifth day of the battle, which has not yet been given a name. I believe we could take the position if we liked, but only with great loss, which Sir. R. Buller wishes to avoid. I suppose Ladysmith is all right. At any rate Boers cannot be annoying them as we keep on pressing them here. The snipers have become more accurate. Nearly every bullet strikes the ground within 20 yards of the Battery. Two Infantry men were hit who were lying down about 30 yards behind our guns, and one of my men has just been shot in the leg. We have now built stone sangars round our guns, and I have built a very fine fort for myself. There is a comfortable feeling of security about a rockery in which I can take shelter when not otherwise engaged. We seem to be staying here so long that it is quite worth while making oneself comfortable. It is the Boer dodge we are playing now. I am afraid our shrapnel have little effect against their stone work, and they seldom show themselves in the open.

January 24th.

Last night we had a night attack by way of a change. We were with our guns as usual in the same place, while two Howitzers and some Mounted Infantry attacked a hill on our right. The advance began at midnight. At about 2.30 a.m. we heard cheering and some firing. All the Artillery then began blazing away at the centre of the Boer position to withdraw their attention from the real direction of our attack. It must have startled them a bit, as up to now we have been quite quiet until daylight appeared, and I think we kept our guns laid pretty accurately in spite of the darkness.

There was a thick fog this morning so we do not know the result of the night’s operations yet. It is a very steep high hill that we have taken, which commands both our and the Boer positions and it is to be hoped that we will be able to hold it. A mountain Battery is coming up to assist. Meanwhile the musketry goes on incessantly. Our Infantry are threatening both the Boer flanks, while the guns and Howitzers assist them, and also keep their people in the centre from breaking out.

The Boers have not got many guns. They have a “Long Tom” in the distance towards Van Reenan’s Pass, a Pom Pom, or quickfiring gun, in the centre, two of our field guns and two other bigger guns. They don’t use them very often. They must have more somewhere. I don’t know why they don’t bring them up.

5 p.m. I am afraid our Infantry have had difficulty in holding the hill. They must have lost heavily. We were doing very little at the time of the last attack. I saw it all very clearly, every figure silhouetted against the sky.

January 25th.

I don’t know what happened on the hill last night, but our troops have left it, and I see Boers with rifles walking about on the top. They have been bringing down our dead and wounded all day. It evidently has been an unnecessary and disastrous affair. My Battery shifted its position last night to a spot lower down. I was glad of the change as I was tired of sitting on stones. There are rumours that we are going to leave this place shortly. Supplies, I believe, are the difficulty…

January 26th.

We found ourselves here still this morning. I cannot think what our next move will be. If Ladysmith cannot hold out much longer, she is bound to surrender, for if we go back to try our luck at another place it will take us a month. We only fired a few rounds and had no bullets near us yesterday, so I seized the opportunity of shaving for the first time for ten days. I hear that most of the baggage has re-crossed the Tugela and we shall probably follow tonight. I shan’t be sorry for a change of clothes as I have nothing with me except a blanket and what I can carry on my saddle.

January 27th.

Last night there was a general retirement of the Army across the river again. We moved off at dusk in pouring rain, crossed by the pontoon bridge in the pitch dark, and halted until dawn and now (6.20 a.m.) we are in the same position overlooking the river that we occupied ten days ago…Everybody has, I believe, crossed in safety, and they are taking the bridge to pieces. And thus ends our second attempt, in which the only successful operations were the crossing and re-crossing of the river…The sun is coming out and the fog clearing, and I can see the Boers still in their trenches 4 miles away. I never thought we should get away so easily.

January 29th, Spearman’s Hollow Camp.

We have now got into a permanent Camp where I suppose we will stay for a week. We are two miles south of the Tugela, just out of view of the Boer position. I am afraid it is all up with Ladysmith.

January 31st, Spearman’s Hollow Camp.

The day before yesterday Sir Redvers Buller had all the troops paraded and told us that our work was not wasted, that the Boers were disheartened, and that within a week we should be in Ladysmith. We were all surprised at the last assertion. No one knows what his plans are or how it can be done now, if it could not be done a month ago, yet everybody seems to believe him. I expect we will move forward either tonight or tomorrow as there are now only five days left to complete the week.

February 3rd.

We have at last made a move. We marched off this morning at 6 a.m. and crossed the Tugela at Potkeiter’s Drift, where our Infantry have been holding some kopjes on the north of the river for some time. Now, (11.30 a.m.) we are comfortably settled for the day in a hot secluded corner by the river. We have now only two days left in which to reach Ladysmith…

Sunday, February 4th.

For some reason or other we are not going to disturb the Boers to-day, so we are having an easy day washing in the Tugela. We get no hay now for our horses, only corn, so have to graze them when we can. Here there is only about one blade to every square inch. However, they seem to find a certain amount to eat. We tie them by the hind leg to a peg, or else tie the head to a knee, Colonial fashion, and let them wander about. We have had no horse sickness yet. We keep their nose bags on all night, which is supposed to prevent it. It is certainly very bad for the nose bags, which hardly last a week. Our horses on the whole are not doing so badly. I have one ‘bus horse that is as fat, if not fatter, than on the day he left Piccadilly…There is going to be a big battle tomorrow, more successful this time I hope…

Spearman’s Kop, February 6th.

The battle started yesterday as I anticipated. The general scheme was that the six field Batteries should come into action against the centre of the Boer position while the majority of the Infantry went round to the right. The Batteries were to retire in succession from the left as soon as the Infantry got started.

The six Batteries came into action more or less simultaneously at out 8.30 a.m. My Battery being on the extreme right we plugged away all morning without getting any answer from the Boers, but at 11.30, when the first Battery had begun to retire, the Boers opened fire from some distant hills on our left flank with some long range guns. They were too far off for us to reach them so we had to let ourselves be potted at.

They began by knocking over two men of our Infantry escort, and then turned on to the Batteries. Each Battery in turn as it retired got it pretty hot as the teams coming up to take the guns away offer a fine target which the Boers are not slow to avail themselves of. By the pre-arranged scheme we were the last to retire. Several shells fell into the Battery. Luckily we got away without a single man or horse being hit. It is extraordinary how little damage the shells do.

Of course, they were firing at a very long range and the bits of shell would not hurt any more than stones thrown by hand. One shell fell a couple of yards from me. Craven jeered at me because I got scattered with earth, but his turn soon came when a shell burst so close to him that the concussion made his nose bleed. We are getting rather to enjoy being bombarded. The men think of nothing but collecting the fragments as trophies.

 I don’t think the other Batteries came off as well as we did. A gun belonging to the 78th Battery got rather out of hand when it retired, and galloped right in front of our Battery. It was only stopped by one of the leaders breaking its leg on an ant heap. One of our limbers over-turned on coming up to take the gun away and delayed us a bit. The Batteries re-crossed the Tugela by a pontoon bridge, and moved to support the Infantry on the right. My Battery was stopped just before we crossed, and sent back to the kopje behind which we stayed the night before. While there a shell burst close to the Battery, and a bit of the fuse hit a gunner on the leg, only, however, badly bruising it.

We moved off at day-break, crossed the Tugela and took up a position on a high hill overlooking the whole country. We have a fine view, but are rather out of it as far as the battle is concerned. Our Infantry have succeeded in getting on to a hill called Vaal Krantz, and we have heard rumours through the wounded, who have been brought back, that seven of the Boer guns have been captured or destroyed, but I don’t believe it.

Our Batteries and Infantry seemed to be having a very hot time just now. I was afraid they were being driven off the Vaal Krantz. They used a balloon yesterday, but I don’t think it did much beyond attracting the Boer shells. I imagine I have seen a lot of dust on the road to Van Reenan’s Pass. It might be Boers retiring, it might be reinforcements. There is a report that one of the Boers’ guns was discovered in an ambulance where it had been put for safety, but I don’t believe that. I do not know what the Cavalry and one Battery of Horse Artillery are doing. I have not seen them all day.

February 7th.

My section shifted its position a few hundred years away this morning, so that I am all by myself, which is rather dull. Nothing seems to have been done to-day. Everything remains pretty much as it was yesterday.

February 8th.

Last night everybody was very hopeful, but at 12 o’clock I was disturbed from my slumbers and told that the horses were to be harnessed up and that a night attack by the Boers was expected. I was not at all uneasy as I did not believe it possible, and nothing happened. There was, however, a great deal of noise of traffic on the road up the hill from the river, and this morning I heard that the whole Army had retired. The Boers dropped several shells this morning among our retiring troops from a distant 6 ft. gun, which our guns find very difficult to locate. This is the third failure to relieve Ladysmith. It seems impossible. We are too slow. We always gain a bit of advantage at first, and then find ourselves unable to get any further. I am told that yesterday our Infantry on Vaal Krantz found themselves fired on from all sides, so that nobody could show themselves, and they were unable to send to get anything to eat all day. I believe if they allowed a little private enterprise by Regiments, we would have something to say for ourselves. The Dublin Fusiliers, who are thirsting for revenge, are always volunteering to spike guns, but are not allowed. Colonel Kitchener was just stopped making an attack which he had carefully arranged and which would probably have been successful.

Spearman’s, February 9th.

All the Army is retiring to Springfield, Frere and Chieveley, except my Battery, two Naval guns and a Brigade of Infantry who are left here as rearguard. There was an immense amount of stores collected by the ford, all of which has to be carted back, a slow operation which will last two or three days. The Regiment that was holding the kopje the other side of the river retired to-day very cautiously. They were fired on, but no damage was done, as far as I could see. The pontoon bridge has been removed, and the last episode of this affair was the blowing up of an old float which might be of use to the Boers. Everything is very peaceful and quiet, and if the river rose at all we should be quite safe from attack. I am afraid it is all up with Ladysmith. I expect some of us will be left to guard the Tugela and others be sent round to the western portion of the Free State. I hope my Battery will be sent round. I am tired of Natal.

February 10th.

Last night there were sounds of firing at about 9 p.m., but all was quite afterwards. Sir Charles Warren came round before daybreak, and found me armed to the teeth and ready. He told me the Boers were very uneasy and did not know where to expect our next attack. They little think we have given up the show altogether. They were very cautious, and though they showed themselves more in their trenches, only about a dozen ventured out to the front, and a long shot from one of our guns drove them back. At 1.30 the Battery moved back on Springfield, where we stayed the night. There was a false alarm that the Boers were advancing in force on our left. It delayed us considerably on our march.

February 11th.

We marched from Springfield to Petorius’ Farm this morning. It was very hot. This time we formed part of the Advance Guard and got along much quicker. It is hard to realise that this is Sunday. Four Sundays since we left this place, during which time we have spent seven nights under canvas…I heard to-day that we are going to make another desperate attempt at Colenso, but I can hardly believe it. We are moving off early to-morrow, I don’t know where to.

Chieveley, February 13th.

We had a long day yesterday. We left at 4.15 and reached this Camp about 11 a.m. We are encamped in a different place this time. There are a lot of mimosa shrubs about, but the water is 1 ½ miles away. I believe we are going to do something shortly. At any rate the Boers must know that we have all come here, and they will be all at Colenso. I got your letter of 11th January, yesterday…Chocolate, food and meat lozenges are always acceptable as they are difficult to get. We had bread instead of biscuits yesterday for the first time for over a month. It is a great luxury. We are having a spell of hot dry weather, and I found my tent very stuffy last night, but it is invaluable as a shelter from the sun during the day time.

Colenso, February 22nd.

We crossed the river for the fifth time this morning at 5.30. The bridge was made yesterday, and about half the Army crossed. The Boers did not hold the kopjes with any great force, but they took a good deal of driving out and all last night rifle firing was going on. We are now about one mile from Colenso, and it is interesting to look at the battlefield of 15th December from the Boers’ point of view. It seems extraordinary that we should have been allowed to advance and retire over such open ground with such little loss. We ought to have been wiped out altogether. We were in action last afternoon, and had much pleasure in seeing several Boers running away. They are only trying to delay us now while their Army is being sent off by train as hard as they can to the Free State and Transvaal.

February 23rd.

Yesterday afternoon we advanced to a more forward position. In doing so we had to pass a bit of open ground which the Boers were shelling. Unluckily a shell fell at the feet of the leaders of our gun team, 6 horses were killed or wounded, and the Sergeant, 2 gunners and a driver wounded. The gun came on after a little delay with two horses only. The remaining two gunners following on their legs. When we did get into action we had nothing much to shoot at, which was rather disappointing. We had to stay in position till dark, when we retired to a more secluded spot, which we had to leave before it got light this morning. We were then sent back across the river and up a hill to a safe commanding position whence we got a fine view of Hart’s Brigades attack a hill in front.

February 24th.

It was nearly dusk before the Infantry reached within charging distance of the hill which Boers were holding with great determination. We had to stop firing as we could no longer see in the bad light how far our side had advanced. There was a lot of sniping all night, and this morning we heard that the Brigade had twice got to the top of the hill and twice were driven back, and they are now lying under cover half-way down, waiting for reinforcements. I am afraid they much have lost heavily. In fact, I expect these operations of the last two weeks will prove by far the roughest of the whole war.

This is the first day on which we appear to have made no progress. We heard to-day that Cronje was surrounded. There was great cheering throughout the Army, which must have astonished the Boers, who probably have been told nothing about it. I am certain that if the Boers do not retire, we shall get into a trap, but at the present moment we are nearer relieving Ladysmith than we have ever been. It is only nine miles away. I am very anxious to hear the details about Roberts’ successes, I wonder if Marshal was present at them. We only get uncertain rumours occasionally about other people’s doings. I had rather fun this morning firing occasional shots at parties of Boers who were trying to come down a road. They always ran when a shell fell anywhere near them. I think I succeeded in hitting one or two.

February 25th.

To-day being Sunday, we have an armistice to bury our dead, who must be very numerous, though I have as yet heard no details. Our Infantry are still entrenched on the side of the hill about 400 yards from the Boers’ position on the top. Nothing was done yesterday. It looks as if we were going to give it up again. The Boers are all standing outside their trenches and offering very tempting targets. There seem to be a great many of them. We have had very hot weather for the last two days.

February 27th.

We did nothing yesterday as I expected. It rained heavily last night, and to-day is quite pleasantly cool. We are still in the same place, and another attack is being made and so far (3 p.m.) it appears to be rather successful. As we have succeeded in tak –

February 28th.

In taking some hills, the Boers left without opposition. It was then that our business began, and from 3 to 6 p.m. our Artillery kept up a pretty hot cannonade. We were in a safe place with the river between us and the Boers, and got no shell or bullets near us. I will finish about the battle in my next as a post is going.

Hart’s Hill, February 28th.

I will now continue my last letter, which was broken off rather abruptly. Just before the fighting began, the news of Cronje’s surrender was announced to all the troops to cheer us on to victory. None of the Boers had heard of it, as we afterwards gathered from prisoners.

We got a splendid view of the whole battle, and I am glad I have good glasses. In many respects it was a model battle. Everything went like a book. The Artillery are getting into the way of co-operating with the Infantry. Everybody was lost in admiration of our Infantry, who advanced with great regularity, although they lost heavily in some places. It was not long before the hill, which Hart’s Brigade failed to take three or four days ago, was occupied.

 The Boers stuck to their trenches with great determination, in some cases waiting firing till the last minute, and then holding up their hands. When our Infantry were on the top of Hart’s Hill they found themselves under heavy fire from three quarters, and had to take shelter behind the crest until the men on our right had worked round. It was then getting too dark for us to fire with safety, and the battle looked in rather a critical state so I was glad to see that it was all right this morning, when we started to cross by a new pontoon which had been built where the banks were very steep.

There was a great deal of delay on the hills. We had to put ten horses in each carriage to get it up. On arriving at the top we settled down on Hart’s Hill while the Cavalry Brigade went forward. I believe some of them got into Ladysmith. It was very interesting looking round the Boer trenches.

I am glad to say the burial parties had been at work so I was saved from seeing many horrible sights. We passed several wounded men being carried back to Chieveley, many of them Boers, who much have lost very heavily. I saw a party of 52 prisoners. They were rather pleased with the prospect of a night’s rest, but despised the biscuits which we get, as they always are fed on fresh bread or rusks.

Their trenches were very deep, and must have given them perfect cover, except from a well aimed lyddite shell. There were crowds of cartridges in the trenches, some with dum-dum bullets, split bullets made by Eley & Co., London. The ground all round was strewn with our shell. Two women and a small boy were found dead in the trenches. The enemy drove away all their ponies, but left quantities of saddles on the ground, also a lot of tents and one parasol.

March 2nd.

On the night of February 28th, we bivouacked on Hart’s Hill, and in the morning started to march towards Ladysmith. All the Boers have vanished, but I do not expect there were many left to go, and the relief of Ladysmith has at last been accomplished. Last night we encamped at the foot of Umbelwana, about 4 miles south of Ladysmith. It was very wet. Luckily we managed to get some iron sheeting which we propped against a wagon and kept fairly dry. This morning I bathed in the Klip river. It is the first time I have taken off my clothes for over a fortnight. I don’t believe the Ladysmith Garrison have been suffering worse discomfort than we have. Our Infantry have had a worse time than the gunners, as for the last week most of them have been without cloaks, waterproof sheets and blankets, and they must have found it very cold at night. A Battalion looks very different to what it does in England. Few Companies have more than one officer, some none. Officers are barely distinguishable from the men. Some carry sticks, others rifles. Beards, rags, and Boer hats are the fashion. But they have always had their day’s rations…..

March 3rd.

This morning we have started on a triumphal march into Ladysmith. It is now 9 o’clock, and we have only gone a mile. I don’t know what is keeping us. I am sure we would be doing more good pursuing the Boers. Our Cavalry have done little lately, and ought to be quite fresh.

March 4th, Ladysmith.

We had a good deal of delay marching into Ladysmith on account of a drift over the Klip river which we had to cross and which was up to our girths. Our triumphal entry was a rather sad show, the relieving force feeling rather apologetic at being so long in coming. The garrison lined the street, but too weak and tired to stand up. I retract my last statement about their not having had a bad time. They all looked pale and thin, though clean. The supply of horse flesh would only have lasted three weeks longer, and I don’t suppose one of their horses would supply as much meat as an ordinary sheep. Every blade of grass out of reach of the Boers’ bullets was eaten up. Beyond it there is a luxuriant growth which is being rapidly eaten. There is quite a respectable town at Ladysmith, but of course, the shops are sold out of everything useful.

March 6th.

The Boers have quite been forgotten !

Sunday River Camp, March 10th.

Last Wednesday morning we got sudden orders to leave Ladysmith with the 4th Brigade, and move northwards…We marched that day to a place called Modder Spruit. The rest of the Division joined us on Thursday and on Friday we marched on here. The Camp is situated about half-way between Elandslaagte and Sunday River, near the railway, which the Boers have pretty thoroughly destroyed.

They have blown up every bridge of any importance along the line, and it will be some weeks before the first train arrives from Chieveley. The Boers evidently retired very leisurely. It seems extraordinary that we were not sent after them to hurry them up a bit. They left several dead horses and wagons on the road. Some wagons were full of provisions. They are great people for leaving their letters about. I am becoming quite learned in Dutch from endeavouring to translate them.

We had no time at Ladysmith to buy anything in the way of clothes. The best dressed man in the Battery is the Kaffir boy who leads our ox team. He appeared yesterday in a spotless white shirt and the best of suits. The papers must be interesting now. We have seen none since March 2nd, and have heard all sorts of rumours about the doings in the Free State, which want confirmation. Captain Reid has been made Adjutant to the India Brigade, and has left the Battery. A Captain Geoghegan has taken his place…

Sunday River Camp, March 13th.

…A canteen has established itself here, and it is rather a good one considering that everything it sells has to be brought 30 miles in ox wagons. Everybody is full of money, and it is no light matter to supply 5,000 men with luxuries like jam, tobacco and Quaker oats. No beer is sold except in small quantities to the Officers, and then at a shilling a bottle, the only thing not sold at cost price. I have just got 2 dozen bottles besides all sorts of luxuries for our men…Nobody thinks of the Boers now except when reading the papers…We have not yet got the Queen’s chocolate, and all are very anxious for it. The boxes will be as good as a medal…

March 14th and 20th Elandslaagte.

…We are still here, with no immediate prospect of a move…Polo has been started here…I lent my Boer pony to a Major Maundsell in the Durham Light Infantry whose horse was shot on the Tugela. I must get it back from him to try it for Polo. There is a good deal of sickness in the Camp now. I suppose a good deal due to the inaction after the rough time during the last two months. I have had no news of Martie except a letter he wrote from Cape Town to say he had arrived. I suppose his post is more uncertain than ours, as he seems to move more rapidly than we do. The nights are getting colder, but the sun is still very strong…

Buy’s Farm, March 22nd.

(Enclosing a sketch of his tent.)

This is the state our tent was in last Sunday morning. It was not done by a hurricane or a Boer bombardment, but by a party of the Scallywags’ horses which had broken loose during the night and wanted to drink up some water which was in a bucket outside. Unfortunately I had dug a deep hole beside the tent where I put things like butter to keep cool during the day. The hole was covered with a think bit of wood and a waterproof sheet. A horse stepped into it and fell on our tent so that the pole came through, and our morning slumbers were disturbed…Last Friday I went to Ladysmith to do some business. The shopping was not a success, as the ironmongers sold nothing but second-hand Boer shell, and the haberdashers had nothing to fit any ordinary sized man. However, I had a civilized lunch under a roof, on a linen table cloth with glass tumblers, the first time since I left Estcourt in November.

The Boers on the Biggarsberg are very restless. On Saturday they came out nearly to the Sunday river and tried to shell the Collieries, but did not damage. Of course they were soon driven back, but it was irritating to us who have no desire to bother them at present. Two sections of my Battery went out about two miles and sat down on the veldt the whole day…I think everyone is getting sick and tired of this War and wishes it was over…

Buy’s Farm, March 26th.

My dear Marion…I think I must get every letter that is written, 3 or 4 every mail…I don’t know how I can make any return for all the presents I receive. I sent Charlie some seeds of mimosa trees to plant about Graiguenoe. It is the only natural product of the country. I might send you a string of native beads made in Birmingham, or a mealie cob. My bus horse is fatter than ever. In fact the Army could never have got on without the bus horses and reservists…I got a letter from Martie this mail telling me about this pony being shot in the neck.. He writes to me pretty regularly when he has any particular news to tell…

Elandslaagte, April 1st.

My dear Mother, Our Sundays now have become so much like Sundays anywhere else that I have taken to beginning my usual weekly letter on that day, although the post does not leave until Wednesday…We shifted our Camp about half a mile yesterday as the old ground had got so trampled down and dusty and the flies got very bad. It is very hot during the daytime. The only way to keep cool is to lie in the tent with the walls rolled up to allow a little breeze to pass through…

April 4th.

I played Polo yesterday on my Boer pony which I have recovered. It is rather a success. Although it is only about 13 hands, and horses of 15 hands were being played in the game, I managed to hit a goal once. I was so small that I sneaked up unobserved behind the other horses. We never seem to be without some epidemic among the Battery horses. Now it is sand colic. They have got into the way of eating sand and one had died of it. The only way to stop it is to keep their nosebags on, or tie up their heads with bearing reins all day. They certainly get enough to eat now.

April 9th, Elandslaagte.

We now see most of the London weekly papers and occasionally a magazine or two…

April 10th.

We were disturbed this morning while at drill by the Boers firing with long range guns at the Camp of the 2nd Brigade. We were all harnessed ready to go out if necessary, but were not wanted so went back to breakfast. Our Camp had to be struck, however, as it was visible from the Boer position, and we remained all day in a hollow by the railway, while the Naval guns and the Boers had a long range duet.

I hear that our casualties were, one officer of the West Yorks killed in his tent, two sailors killed and one or two wounded. It seems ridiculous that we should have allowed them to put up their guns within range of us. The Boers have scored considerably over their day’s work. They have put us all to great inconvenience. We have to sleep in the open to-night, and to-morrow before daybreak have to move off to another Camping ground. I saw one shot fall about two yards in front of a couple of horses of the Imperial Light Horse just behind us. Neither animal was hurt, though it looked like certain death from where we were…I had a long letter from Marshal from Bloemfontein. It took three weeks coming. Things are not looking nearly so prosperous now, and war is very far from completion. All the papers seem far too confident…

Grogman’s Farm, April 12th.

Yesterday we left our old ground before daybreak and came over here about two miles. We are encamped in a hollow out of sight of the Boers beside a very comfortable farm house formerly owned by a rebel, now occupied by General Clery. To-morrow we are going to move at 8.30 a.m. somewhere else.

April 14th.

We are now pitched rather nearer Elandslaagte station…I am going to turn my pony into a beast of burden to carry mess stores so that we shall never be without lunch on the march. I am getting a couple of baskets made by the natives of a neighbouring kraal. The pony has got absurdly fat. His little legs are quite unfit to carry my weight at polo. We hear a lot of rumours about what is going on on the other side. That Bloemfontein had to be evacuated – that three Boer Commandoes were surrounded and utterly wiped out – that Van Reenan’s Pass has been taken with great loss. The very latest is that Kruger has committed suicide. I have just heard that we are shifting Camp tomorrow so am finishing this letter by candle light. My Battery is going to join Lord Dundonald’s Brigade who are encamped about 4 miles back near Modder Spruit…

Buy’s Farm, May 3rd.

I am sending you the box of Queen’s Chocolate though am afraid there is very little of the chocolate left. We have only just got ours and only 75 per cent of the men got any as there was not enough left for everybody. We had to draw lots for it. I was lucky enough to get a box. I went into Ladysmith yesterday.

The town has improved considerably. I succeeded in buying a dozen eggs for 4s.6d. and thought I was making a good bargain…

I think the railway must be very well managed. There is only a single line from Durban, and they are still repairing the bridges. In most cases the line has been made to go to one side of the broken bridge without any embankment and cross the Spruit by a small wooden bridge, so you have to go down the hill and up again. The Durhams have started Polo here. I have had one game with them on Slim Piet, but the Slim one was so lazy and fat I could hardly get him to gallop.

The Natal Carbineers gave a concert here last night in the open air round a bonfire. It was a great success. They had a lot of talent. Some of the singers must have been professionals. We are taking their officers on at a match of rounders to-day. The Battery played the Rifles at football the other day and were only beaten by two goals to one. We are going to have Sports on Monday. My Battery is to give a sort of fire alarm exhibition of harnessing up, galloping 100 years or so and firing off a gun. They are practising to-day, and the slowest team took about ten minutes, but they ought to take considerably less…We are getting rather tired of doing nothing but are bound to wait until Lord Roberts has done with the Free State and opened up Van Reenan’s Pass. We are not likely to knock our head against Lang’s Nek again.

May 8th, Collin’s Farm Camp.

Last Sunday evening we got orders to move the next day. That was the day that had been arranged for the Sports. We are always trying to have Sports and they are always being put off. Yesterday we left with Lord Dundonald’s 3rd Mounted Brigade, a Battalion of the 60th and the Durhams. Starting at 1 o’clock we marched to this Camp, about five or six miles. Our tents and heavy baggage are being sent back to Ladysmith, and I believe we are going to work around the Boers’ left on the Biggarsberg, but nothing seems known for certain. It is now nearly 11 a.m. and I have heard no signs of firing so I expect the Boers’ attack on Hildyard is not coming off after all.

May 9th.

We marched off at 8 a.m. this morning and reached the banks of Sunday River at 11.30, thirteen miles in 3 ½ hours, quite a record for this country. It is quite wooded country here and quite different from the barren wastes we have been accustomed to. I had a bathe this afternoon. No Boers in sight. I hear they have all gone off by train from Dundee, where I believe, we are bound for.

Washbank River, May 11th.

We left our Camp at 7 a.m. to-day and marched 7 or 8 miles to the Washbank, which has barely any water in it, though on the map it looks quite an imposing river. There was some firing going on at first after our arrival, so I suppose the Boers are not far off. It was quite cold this morning. It was just like riding to a Meet at Courtown on a cold foggy morning. It was a rough, hilly road to-day through some rather thick scrub. We have now got into open veldt again. I am writing this by moonlight. The remained of the 2nd Division have joined us, together with Buller.

13th May.

At 5 a.m. yesterday I heard that the force was moving on in the Helpmakaar direction, and that my section was to be left behind with the Scottish Rifles to protect a large supply park, which has been formed here. It is rather annoying. I don’t know how long I shall be separated from my Battery. The Army is now moving “on the air,” as all communication with Ladysmith has been cut off, they have to have sufficient supplies with them in this park to last until this present operation has been completed. I heard some big guns this morning, so I suppose there are Boers still about. If so, this seems a rather dangerous position as one Regiment and 4 guns is a small force to protect such a tempting morsel as the supply park with its 200 ox wagons.

14th.

Still here, but I think we must move on to-morrow for the Army will be without supplies on Wednesday. The Boers are north and west of them and are burning the grass as they retire.

Buth, May 15th.

We had to rise at 4.45 a.m. an early hour for this time of year, and the advanced party moved off at 6.30. We had about 16 miles to go with a rise of about 2,000 feet, and I reached this place at 1 p.m. The supply park, which was stretched away to the rear, extending over 10 miles of the road, is still coming in by driblets. The last hill up on to the Biggarsberg must have been an obstacle to the ox wagons. Buth is about half-way between Helpmakaar and Dundee, high up on the Biggarsberg, about 5,000 feet above sea-level. We met the tail of Buller’s Army here. All the Supply Columns remained to fill up their empty wagons from the Supply Park…

I hear that Buller has reached Dundee and that they have so far met with little opposition. The march to Helpmakaar was a surprise to the Boers who were not in time to man the trenches they had previously prepared. Now that we are on the top of the hill they have not much chance of taking up a position against us. They showed great lack of enterprise in not shelling our long unwieldy column to-day. There is lots of grass here, and the water is not bad, though to water the horses I have to draw it with buckets from a deep well. There are several farms about here, and a Church, a stone building which must be much too big for its congregation.

May 18th.

We left on the 16th to join the Battery, which is encamped at Dundee. There was a good deal of delay on the road owing to a grass fire. By 6 o’clock I was still 4 miles from Camp and it was getting dark. There were deep holes in the road which were impossible to see in the dust and darkness so that our progress was necessarily slow. Dundee seemed to be quite a big town with Banks and Town Halls and shops all of course shut up. I was there told to rejoin my Battery, but it was some time before I could find it. Nobody was able to direct me except a Hindoo mule driver, and it was 8 in the evening before I arrived at my destination. Yesterday the whole of Clery’s Division marched to Dannhauser. We came along very leisurely and took eight hours to do 14 miles. We left Dannhauser at 5.30 a.m. for Newcastle and are now, at noon, about half-way halting by a stream. There is a certain amount of grass here which the Boers have failed to burn. There are a lot of farms about Dundee owned by rebels. All their cattle and property have been confiscated, and everything of any use to the troops has been taken away…

May 19th.

It was dusk when we reached Newcastle. It is nearly as big a place as Ladysmith, and much prettier. All the inhabitants turned out to greet us. They were 40 English people who had their best clothes on and sported red, white and blue ribbons all over and displayed home-made Union Jacks…It froze last night and my waterproof sheet was covered with hoar frost in the morning, but I did not feel particularly cold. We have not had tents now for ten days, and I do not suppose we will be allowed them again until we reach Pretoria. The 4th Brigade (Rifles) with 2 Batteries went on towards Lang’s Nek this morning to support Dundonald’s Mounted Brigade, which is still father north. My Battery is remaining here with the 2nd Brigade until the other Division comes up from Glencoe, so we are having a day of rest, washing and grazing. I went shopping in the town. There were two grocers and a chemist open. They had a lot of things to sell and I bought all sorts of luxuries for the men. The place has not been so much wrecked as others we have passed…

I am afraid I have missed the mail, I believe for the first time since I have been in the country.

May 22nd, Newcastle.

We are still here, waiting until Saturday for supplies. They have to be carted from Elandslaagte, a distance of 70 miles. The railway will be repaired as far as Glencoe tomorrow, after which place there are no serious obstacles on the line up to the Ingogo River about 4 miles from here. The tunnel at Lang’s Nek has been blown up…

May 29th, Newcastle.

…The 2nd Brigade with my Battery are moving on to Ingogo tomorrow to join the remainder of the 2nd Division. I went out foraging the other day for eggs and milk, and threw some of my best, newly acquired Zulu sentences at the Kraal, but it was not much use as I could not understand what they said in answer. In most cases they knew more English than I did Zulu, I was offered a large pig to buy, but I did not see my way to carrying it home on my horse. The general idea now is that the Boers will give in as soon as the Transvaal is invaded. I hope that will be so, as I am getting rather tired of sitting on the veldt…

Ingogo, May 29th.

We left Newcastle at 7 a.m. yesterday, and reached this Camp at 11.30 a distance of 12 miles. Hildyard’s Division (the 5th) is, I believe, moving towards Utrecht, while another is working still further round to the right. Majuba and Lang’s Nek are distinctly visible from here. Majuba seems to be the highest hill about, higher and more precipitous than Spion Kop. It commands the road which goes over Lang’s Nek. Otherwise there do not seem to be any difficulties about the Pass beyond the steepness of the road.

The Boers are occupying Majuba Hill, also a hill called Pougwana on the other side of the Buffalo River. They have a disappearing gun on Pougwana, which they fired yesterday at the 4th Brigade at a range of seven miles. Pougwana is 11 miles from here, yet the air is so clear that with my glasses I could distinctly see the Boers moving about, and the gun appear over its parapet before being fired.

Yesterday I walked round to see the sights of the place, which consist of the old battlefield on which we are encamped, a monument erected to the memory of the men of the K.R.R. killed there in 1881, also graves and tombstones erected at the same time. I picked up an old rifle cartridge, which must have been used at that battle.

It is considerably colder up here. This morning I discovered ice in my bucket ¼ inch thick, and bathing in the Ingogo, even in the middle of the day, requires some courage. There have been lots of big gun firing all the morning, but I don’t suppose we shall attack until Hildyard has gone round…

May 31st.

Yesterday at about 12.30p.m. we heard that an issue of rum was sanctioned to celebrate Lord Roberts entering Johannesburg and cutting off the communications of the Boers at Lang’s Nek. A Staff Officer was sent out from here with a white flag to ask the Boers what they would like to do next, but they evidently don’t mean to give in just yet for they started firing their big gun from Pougwana. We are feeling rather jealous at being left behind in the race for Pretoria. A week ago it looked as if we might have a “look in” and get there first.

June 2nd.

The Boers were seen digging gun-pits yesterday and it was feared they were going to shell our Camp, so we had to shift a short distance so as to be out of sight. Now we are on a ploughed field, which is not the best of ground for picketing horses, who can pull up their pegs with the greatest ease…

June 4th.

On Saturday night we heard that there was to be an armistice for 3 days. I was sent on a trip to Ladysmith to collect stores, etc. I started from Ingogo at 11 a.m. and rode to Newcastle where I just missed a train and had to wait for a luggage train, which landed me at Glencoe at 2 a.m. on Monday. I slept the remainder of that night in a 1st Class carriage I found at the station, caught an Express at 6.30 and am now in the train hoping to reach Ladysmith by 10 o’clock, not rapid travelling, the distance from Newcastle being only 70 miles. I have to be back without fail on Tuesday night, so will only have a few hours for my shopping.

Ladysmith.

It is Bank Holiday. All the shops are shut. However, I managed to force an entrance into one or two of the most important.

Spitzkop, June 8th.

Contrary to all expectations we have moved out to attack the Boers. The 7th and 64th Batteries started at 10 o’clock with the 2nd Brigade to support Hildyard’s Division, which was attacking Botha’s Pass. We have now, I believe, got Botha’s Pass. There has been a lot of big gun firing, some pom-pom from the Boers, a little musketry and maxims from us. My Battery has not fired a shot yet. We have had some rather difficult country to cross, in some places having to hook in 12 horses to a carriage…

June 9th.

We bivouacked last night about 3 miles from Botha’s Pass at the foot of the Drakenberg. It was very cold and inclined to snow. Our wagons with our dinners and blankets did not turn up till 10 p.m. but I was so comfortable that I was rather annoyed at being woke up. This morning we left at 7 a.m. and got the Battery to the top of the Pass by 9.30. We had 1,300 feet to climb up and had to put ten horses into each carriage. There is a gate at the top of the Pass in a wire fence which separates the two Colonies. When we got to the top we went 3 miles northwards and are remaining here for the night in the hopes that our supplies will come up…The country west of us now is a high table-land, more like Salisbury Plain than anything I have seen in Natal which resembles Okehampton.

June 11th.

The night of the 9th was very cold and damp there being a thick fog. We left our bivouac on the morning of the 10th and reached the borders of the Transvaal at 5 p.m. about 18 miles. We stopped last night in the Transvaal and found it much warmer. I was not warm once during the 36 hours I spent in the Orange Colony. The sun has lost its power. We passed one modern looking farmhouse with stables and cemetery, but otherwise it seems a most deserted country, hardly any native kraals even. To-day we have up with us 3 Infantry Brigades, 2 Cavalry Brigades and lots of guns. 3,000 Boers are reported to be holding a strong position in front, and the Brigade has extended in attacking formation to advance upon it, but I don’t believe the Boers are there at all. Our 4th have fired a few rounds but we are taking it easy behind a hill…The chocolate that Marion and Bertha have sent me lately, comes in very useful now, and is most sustaining. One day I distributed meat lozenges to the men when the rations were slow in coming.

June 12th.

The Boers were found in considerable force yesterday occupying a Nek to oppose our advance, and we had a regular battle. I believe the Dorsets lost rather heavily. The Queen’s had 70 men wounded and 5 killed. My Battery came into action and fired altogether 92 rounds. We made a rapid move off to the left and caught the Boers in the flank just as they were retiring. We had a splendid chance, but unfortunately although we had got the range, the fuses burnt very slow, and most of the shell burst on grass instead of in the air. However, I expect we frightened them a bit. We stopped last night near where we were in action. There was a hard frost - 10o - – we moved off at daybreak…Grass fires are becoming a nuisance. To-day, at our midday halt, we had partially unhooked the horses, all the nosebags were on, and we were just sitting down to a comfortable lunch when some idiot set fire to the grass behind us. There was a strong wind blowing towards us, and we only just got the Battery away in time.

June 13th, Charleston.

We went as far as Sand Spruit Railway Station and stopped there last night close to some farms. The inhabitants consisted only of women and children who fully expected the Boors to blow up their houses. However, they consented to sell us a goose for 3s. Today we marched off at 8.30 a.m. and passing through Volksrust arrived at Charleston at noon. Charleston, which belongs to Natal, is practically deserted, while Volksrust, only 2 miles off, is a thriving Boer town where they are selling butter for 1s.6d. a lb and eggs at 4s. a dozen. I suppose we will have to wait for the railway to be re­paired and more supplies to come up before we can do any­thing more…

June 18th, Charleston.

…On Friday morning I woke up with my blanket and waterproof sheet and the surrounding country covered with a thick hoar frost, and with a violent cold in my head. On Saturday, thinking that exercise would do me good I walked to Majuba. It was 3 miles to the base of the hill, and an hour's climb to the top. I left my cold on the top, but sprained my ankle. However, after sitting down for a bit, I was able to hobble about the sights of the place. The top is about an acre in extent, slightly hollowed in the middle. The sides are very steep. In few places it is possible to climb up without using one’s hand. About the centre of the hollow is a small heap of stone, on one of which is written in black paint, “Colley fell.” I believe that before the war there was a stone cross. It is now no longer there. Close by is the tomb of Mr. Maude, only son of Lord Hawarden…There are also graves of the men killed at the same time, and a monument, all surrounded by a wire fence. The Boers had evidently intended to hold the hill pretty strongly. There were several trenches freshly dug…Lang’s Nek and the surrounding country is very strongly entrenched. We could never have taken it by a frontal attack. Luckily the Boers were not sufficiently numerous to hold both Lang’s Nek and Botha’s Pass, and we, threatening both, managed to get through where they least expected us…Yesterday evening it came on to rain very heavily. Exposure to dry cold does no harm to man or beast, but I am afraid if it comes on wet our men will suffer a good deal, until we get our tents. Last night we managed to get them into an ox waggon and a tin house so they did not do so badly…

June 19th, Joubert’s Farm Camp.

We are on the trek again, keeping on the left of the railway while Hildyard’s Division keeps the right clear so that the railway can be repaired in peace. Yesterday I saw the first train steam across the frontier into Volksrust. It was very smart, with a Union Jack on its funnel and several freight trucks full of officers and railway officials. It was closely followed by another train full of black navies…

20th June.

Moved off at 8.30 a.m. Some Boers were seen on the right, so the 4th Brigade and 7th Battery were detached to protect the right flank while the baggage came along. We are now halted. The Boers have disappeared.

23rd June.

We stopped the night of the 20th at Sand Spruit, the next night at Paardekop, and the last night at a Spruit about 6 miles from Stranderton…We made our longest march yesterday, 20 miles, but the country is so flat, the roads as hard as asphalte, the weather so cold that the horses and men felt it very little…

Standerton, 24th June.

We arrived here at about 10.30 this morning…The country here is quite different from the Mountains of Natal. It is almost flat, nothing but dried up or burnt grass, no trees, very little water. Standerton is a fair sized town. To-day is Sunday so all the shops are shut and I heard Church bells ringing as we marched in. We are encamped outside the town beside a house which is displaying a loyal Irish flag. There must have been a lot of British residents about here. The shop signs and notice boards are all written in both Dutch and English. A new Colonial Corps has appeared on the scene, the most curious looking of all the irregular Cavalry. They are the Strathcona Horse or Canadian cow-boys. They have wooden stirrups, high pommels, lassoes and bits of string and rope hung about their saddles. They seem to have very good horses, which I believe, they brought out with them…

Platrand Station, June 27th.

Yesterday we got rather sudden orders to move 2 sections of my Battery with the 10th Brigade, and my section with Bethune’s Mounted Infantry. We left Standerton at one o’clock, and arrived here (on the line towards Volksrust) at 5.30, a distance of nearly 20 miles. Much faster going than our horses have got accustomed to, crawling behind the Infantry. The rest of my Battery came in at one o’clock, and I have rejoined them… I believe we are intended to stop here and catch De Wet, who is trying to break through across the Vaal. Steyn is supposed to be hiding in a farm near here…

Platrand Station, July 7th.

Our expedition last Wednesday only resulted in the capture of 2 old Boers from whose farms some of our patrols had been shot at the previous day…Some of De Wet’s people broke over the line the night before last. It is difficult to prevent small parties crossing. We have only one Brigade and about 6 Squadrons Mounted Infantry to guard 40 miles.

On Friday the line was tampered with by the Boers, so the next day a force was sent out to the farms nearest the line. Six farms were blown up with the dynamite with which the Boers had tried to destroy the railway. Everything that could not be carried away was burnt. The women and children were sent by the next train to Volksrust. This means rather brutal treatment but it is the only way of keeping the line open, and the neighbouring inhabitants have had ample warning of what would happen if the railway was interfered with. We have only just got our tents after 2 months’ bivouacking.

Platrand Station, July 15th.

…We have now got De Wet on the south and Botha north of us…The war seems as far as ever from completion…A squall sprang up yesterday. It blew out the ashes from our Battery kitchen setting alight to the grass. Luckily it was discovered in time…The Lancashire Fusiliers were burnt out by another fire yesterday. The men’s tent escaped, but all their officers’ kits were burnt and they have been obliged to rig themselves up as best they can from the canteen here…

July 17th, Katbosch Spruit.

I was sent off with my section yesterday morning in rather a hurry, and was met on my arrival by ½ Company of the Infantry with picks and shovels to dig pits for my guns, which was kind of them as we generally have to dig them for ourselves. The Colonel of the S. Lancashires has been very anxious about his position here, and he was considerably strengthened yesterday with Infantry, Mounted Infantry and my guns. It is open country for miles round, and no Boers would dream of coming this way in the daytime. There are still reported to be 1,500 Boers on the Klip River looking out for an opportunity of crossing the railway and joining Botha…

Ezach Camp, Katbosco, July 20th.

My dear Marshal, It seems waste of time writing letters to you when De Wet gets them all. I wonder that your Army cannot manage to guard its own line of communication better…Last Monday, my section was bustled back here, about 4 miles from Standerton to assist the S. Lancashires in guarding the line. I have got a very strong position which I have fortified with 2 very fine gun pits and a connection trench, much better earthworks than any the Boers ever dig. The men show great keenness and energy in the work. The drivers come out in the afternoon to show the gunners how to use the pick and shovel. My fort ought to be complete by Tuesday…

July 22nd.

I heard yesterday that the 67th Battery is going to relieve us here so that we can rejoin our Brigade Division at Standerton…I can’t boast of having been in more than eleven battles so far, but then some of those battles lasted a whole week…There are a lot of men holding a strong position on the Ermelo road from Volksrust, the right of which we made a demonstration against from Platrand about two days ago…I am sorry to hear that you have been seedy. Jaundice is a very fashionable complaint, the result of too high living.

July 23rd.

While out for a Sunday afternoon walk yesterday, I discovered a foal standing beside its dead mother all alone on the veldt. The mother must have been dead 2 or 3 days. So to-day I took the horses out for exercise in that direction and finding the foal still there caught and brought it back to Camp with some difficulty. It was very shy, but will soon get tame, and is better off here than on the dry veldt. There is a lot of game here, duck, bustard, plover, buck and a sort of wild cat. I wish I had a gun. I ought to have been promoted by now. I was about 7th Subaltern according to the last gazette…Have just heard that De Wet has broken your line again. He is a wonderful man.

Standerton, August 1st.

My dear Mother, I had an interesting day on Friday last. I took my two guns out at 6.45 a.m., leaving my wagons to be taken on to Standerton. My guns were accompanying a small force under Major Adams of the S. Lancashires, consisting of the Volunteer Company of the S. Lancashires and a squadron of Bethune’s M.I. which was told off to collect some forage and cattle belonging to a Boer who had given in and wished to sell his stock to the Government before his brother Boers looted his farm.

The farm was about 12 miles off and we reached it at about 11 o’clock. I was shown a hill to take up a position on, while the Infantry advanced on the farm. A few Boers were seen to gallop away on our approach. The Infantry were all in the farm loading up the mule wagons, when I saw some 30 or 40 Boers gallop up to a kopje 600 yards from the farm. I got my guns laid on them at once, but they began firing first. My first shot went over their heads as I had overestimated the range. My third round was close enough to drive them away and they all galloped off as hard as they could.

I managed to make a shell burst in the air close behind them as they ran away, and sprinkled them with bullets. I killed one horse and wounded its rider. The Boers have now got a horror of our shrapnel, and they all retired to a safe distance, 7,000 to 8,000 yards on the sky line where they rode up and down looking at me. Whenever I saw any of them coming near the limit of my range, I plugged at him, and invariably had the satisfaction of seeing him run away. Meanwhile the Infantry continued loading up in peace. Major Adams came then to tell me that there were a lot of Boers on our right. I had previously seen about 30 mounted men riding about, two miles off, but thought they were some of Bethune’s M.I. from Platrand, so did not fire. I also had sent out a mounted man in that direction to look for water for my horses.

Four scouts were sent out to watch that flank, and they presently opened a very rapid fire and ran back as hard as they could and my man galloped back in a great hurry to tell me that there were 50 Boers behind a certain hill. I searched the hill with my glasses and presently saw two heads appearing. I laid a gun at 5,000 yards on the two heads which kindly waited for me. I fired, and after waiting a few seconds saw them suddenly disappear and the shell burst behind them. Undoubtedly the heads were cut off by the passing shell. I sent a second shell presently to burst in the air behind the hill, and three or four Boers broke cover. I had already fired 21 rounds, and had only 82 with me so I did not want to waste any especially as I thought we might have some trouble in retiring.

The Infantry had finished loading up by 4 o’clock, and we started the retirement with much cattle and farm produce. But the Boer is not the man he was, and he only followed at a very respectful distance, and I did not have to fire another round. We accomplished our object without having had anybody hit, and the Boers certainly lost 2 or 3 horses and men. I saw more Boers than there were of our people, and they could have surrounded us and cut us off, encumbered as we were with much loot, if they had had any pluck.

It was dark before I reached Katbosch, and I was given a fresh escort to take me to Standerton, which I reached at 9 p.m.

The following Monday my section was sent out with the 64th Battery to try and surround a few of the enemy. We drove them away but did not succeed in catching any, which was disappointing. It was a long day. We left at 4.15 a.m. and did not get back till nearly 5 p.m… We have got a very good lot of remounts lately, English horses, the only kind of any use for our work. We are trying to get a bit civilized again. Have started white tablecloths and glass tumblers. Railway communication has only just been made with Pretoria…

Pretoria, August 8th, 1900.

…We only heard yesterday morning that we were to come on here. They put the whole Battery in one train with an engine at both ends. In England the same force would have taken three trains. The men had to hang on where they could on the trucks with the waggons, while the officers rode on a truck full of Lyddite. It froze hard during the night and was pretty cold…I saw a gold mine by moonlight. Elandssfontein Junction is a small Swindon lit up with electric light…

Pretoria, August 9th.

My dear Charlie, I never thought I should get here. It is a great piece of luck, as I should not like to leave South Africa without seeing the sights…

They have put us into the Staat’s Artillery Barracks. They are very imposing buildings, quite new, and in many ways better than English Barracks. The Men’s quarters are lit by electricity, have bathrooms and are most luxurious. The Officer’s quarters are sort of villas with stoeps covered with creepers, and front gardens full of violets and geraniums. They can’t have much frost here…

I went into the town this afternoon. I did not see Kruger’s palace, but the Government buildings, Church, Bank and Law Courts are built round a square quite regardless of expense. In the centre is a pedestal with scaffolding round it. I do not know whose statue was going to be put on it, but it won’t be Kruger’s now…

Lord Roberts inspected us this afternoon. He was quite astonished at our clean appearance, and said he did not often see horses like ours out here. I expect he thinks that we have been doing nothing on our side, i.e. the Natal side. We have on the whole been much better fed and better looked after with Buller’s army. The Natal field force canteen is a great institution. There is nothing like it with this army…

R.A. Barracks, Pretoria, August 15th.

I have just had a wire from Martie at Simner and Jack Hospital. I am trying to get leave to go down to see him…

Pretoria, August 11th.

My dear Marion,

…I was out shopping this morning. Potatoes were 6d. to 9d. a lb, Milk 9d. a quart, Beer 2s.8d. a bottle, Invalid Port 4s., Biscuits and Butter not to be got at any price…I had a rather funny job last night. I had to go on guard with 50 men, over 170 women and 500 children, who were going by train from Johannesburg to their husbands and fathers who are with Kruger near Lydenbert. They were packed into thirteen open trucks and stayed the night here in the trucks. I had to guard them from 8 p.m. till 4.30 a.m. when they left for the front. They gave me no trouble, but they never went to sleep, and made a lot of noise chattering and laughing, they were so pleased at the idea of rejoining their husbands etc. All they wanted was water, which they were boiling all night long to make coffee. One lady had about ten children, all of the same size, which she packed like sardines in a box on the floor of the truck. I don’t know what Oom Paul is going to do with all these encumbrances, but I believe the burghers are anxious to have their families with them…

Germinston Hotel, August 16th.

My dear Mother, I succeeded in getting down here and saw Martie at the hospital. He seemed pretty fit and was walking about. He must have got a rather nasty fall and a great shock…I reached Elandsfontein at 3.30 this afternoon and found the Simner and Jack Hospital about a mile from the station. Martie took me to the hotel there where I engaged a room. I went with Marshal to tea with the nurses, and afterwards brought him back with me to dinner, and have just seen him safely back at the hospital. He talks of getting a few days’ sick leave to spend in Pretoria instead of staying at the hospital. It would be a good thing if he is well enough, as it must be rather dull at the hospital and he has not seen Pretoria.

Waterfall, August 19th.

Marshal came back to Pretoria with me on the 17th, and has put up at the hotel, as he did not bring any kit and thought he would be more comfortable in sheets. The next day he came to lunch at our residence. A large mail for me arrived at the same time full of congratulation, (on getting his Company) and while I was eating and reading I was ordered to go out at once with my section to Genl. Clement’s Brigade, which was encamped a mile out of town, so I had to say good-bye to Martie, and I don’t know when I shall see him again. I bivouacked last night with the Wiltshire Regiment, and to-day marched with them to Waterfall, 12 miles North of Pretoria, on the line to Petersburg. On arrival here I fired three rounds at some Boer scouts who ran away. We are bivouacked close to the place where the prisoners were kept. The enclosure is surrounded by a stiff barbed wire entanglement. There are a few tin houses in it which were used as hospitals…

Hammanskraal, August 22nd.

On the 20th we had a rather tedious march. I was told off for the rear-guard. We reached here at about 11 a.m. while the main body was fighting a small battle in which we lost a few men. The main body, reinforced by Baden Powell’s force, moved on northwards, while I was left with the West Riding Regiment to guard a quantity of supplies, which have been sent here by train. The object of this move is to try and catch De Wet, who is somewhere to the West of us now…I have to be harnessed up at 4.30 every morning in case of an attack at dawn, but otherwise there is nothing to do all day, and it is rather dull. The country about here is thickly studded with bushy trees, quite different from the ordinary veldt. We are about 1,000 feet lower than Pretoria and it is considerably warmer in the day time, and not a bit cold bivouacking at night.

24th August.

 Yesterday I got orders to move, and we marched to Pienaar’s River Station. Paget’s Column were about 5 miles north of this, Baden Powell is, I believe, at Warm Baths 20 miles further on…This is a very dirty, dusty place. A big railway bridge over the Pienaar River has been broken down. Trains run as far as the bridge. Supplies are sent on in trucks drawn by teams of oxen along the line. Considerable excitement was caused this morning by dust appearing at 7 o’clock. The dust got nearer and finally some mounted men appeared about 3 miles out. The Infantry manned the trenches, and I got my guns ready to fire. The party turned out to be Ian Hamilton’s force returning from the fruitless pursuit of De Wet. The 75th Battery was with them. Grobelaar with 800 men is ten miles east of us threatening the line of communication.

27th August.

 Early yesterday a train came from the north pushed by men. The oxen who were acting as engine, broke down a mile or two back. The train had some 150 released prisoners and about 30 Boers who had either given themselves up or who were taken prisoners. Several of them spoke English very well, including an officer of the Staat’s Artillery, who was chiefly concerned about the loss of his house, furniture and garden at the Barracks at Pretoria. They were all very sick of the War and had lost all faith in Kruger…

Pieenaar’s river, September 3rd.

…About 2,000 head of cattle captured by Plumer have been sent in here. Among them was an animal supposed to be a cross between a zebra and a pony. If so, it is a very rare specimen…

Pienaar’s River Station, September 6th.

…My Battery is still at Pretoria. I had four men sent out to me. They brought two tents which are not enough for forty men, but I can’t complain as nobody else here has tents. I have had some shanties made from bits of galvanized iron so that all the men will have cover when it rains. We have had a lot of wind but no rain so far. The dust and flies are getting very bad.

 They say this is a most unhealthy, malarious place in wet weather…About 150 waggon loads of women and children have been sent down to Pretoria from here. They were asked if they would like to go and join the Boer Commandoes, but they thought they were better off with us, and were very pleased at being sent back to Pretoria.

The various forces that march through here leave their dying animals in or near our watering place. Horses with sore backs or lame are left behind to shift for themselves. I looked at one horse and found that it could not have had its shoes off for over four months. The roads are too soft for the shoes to wear out and the hoofs had grown and got cramped. I had the shoes taken off and the horse was much better next day. It was thrown out of work from pure ignorance or neglect…

Pienaar’s River Station, September 12th.

My dear Charlie, I have been here for over a fortnight on the lines of communication for Paget’s and Baden Powell’s forces. There is little to do except watch my horses fatten up…Warm Baths has been evacuated and the railway is now held only as far as this place. Genl. Paget told me yesterday he was going to take my section out on an expedition and promised me some shooting…

The Munster Fusiliers marched in here from Warm Baths the other day. They have got a great reputation for marching. They certainly have the biggest lot of men of any of the Regiments that I have seen. They have, however, a weakness for drink. A party of them looted some medical comforts that were stored at this station consisting of brandy, champagne and invalid port. About a dozen of them had to be carried away on stretchers…

Hebron, September 14th.

My dear Mother, A day or two ago we left Pienaar’s River just as it was beginning to get dark. We marched till 8 o’clock along a narrow by-road. The dust added to the darkness and everybody got torn with thorns. I was wearing a thorn stuck through my nose like a native ornament. We halted till 9 o’clock for the moon to rise, and then crossed a drift over the Aapies River, halted for five hours, moving off again at 4 a.m. and reached a river called Stinkwater at about 7 a.m. We found that the water had all evaporated so we went on to Zoutpans, or Saltpans, where there is a deep hollow with salt at the bottom in the middle of the hills. We stayed all day at Zoutpans. It was very hot there. We moved on at 1 a.m. next day and reached this place just as it was beginning to get light at 5.30 a.m. The brook which flows close to the Camp is quite the prettiest place I have seen in the Transvaal, the water beautifully clear, the banks beautifully green. There are big rocks and trees scattered about, and birds in brilliant plumage hopping about. The sound of two farms being blown up reminded us that the war was not over yet…

Saturday, September 15th.

…I have just heard that I am to join Colonel Hickman’s force which marches at 3.15…

September 17th.

We moved off from Hebron and marched till dark, doing seven or eight miles. We then halted, unharnessed and fed, and moved on again at 3 a.m. Plumer’s force was in the front and Hickman’s behind, with the baggage in between. We got along at a good pace in the moonlight and arrived near the camping ground by 7 o’clock…There is plenty of water here, a big river, either the Crocodile or a tributary, and irrigation canals everywhere. There are a lot of farms and abundance of growing crops, oats, wheat, barley, peas. Some of Plumer’s men were fired on from the farms. In consequence the farms are being burnt down and we have been told to do as much looting and damage as we like. I am afraid my men up to now have been held with too tight a hand to be much good at looting and will not have a chance with Hickman’s people who are mostly Yeomanry, and Plumer’s who are Colonials of all sorts. This is a very go-as-you-please, free and easy army compared with any I have been with before. I have had my horses grazing on sweet peas and young wheat for an hour and a half.

September 17th.

My men did not do badly in the looting line. Half a dozen hens and a lot of pork and tobacco. I had very good pork chops for breakfast and am to have chicken for dinner. This morning I had my horses in a field of oats that would have been ready to cut in a fortnight. They did very little damage, which must have been disappointing to them as they worked very hard, and thoroughly entered into the game of destroying Boer property. About 100 of Plumer’s men rode about the field in line, but that did not do much good. In another field I saw 200 or 300 niggers trying to walk and beat the corn down. It seems wicked waste…

September 18th.

We left Crocodile Pont at 3 o’clock this morning and arrived at Hebron at 8.30. It was the quickest march I have done since I have been in the country…

Waterval, September 20th.

…On arrival here I made a thorough search for the missing horse. He was found among the Australian Bushmen, having been ridden by one of them on the last march. It was a big heavy wheeler. I think the Bushman must have felt that something was wrong when he mounted in the dark…

September 21st.

We marched in to Hamanskraal this morning. A section of the 38th Battery are taking a turn with Colonel Hickman’s force, and I am going back to Pienaar’s River. I had hoped never to see Pienaar’s river again.

September 22nd

We arrived at Pienaar’s river on the morning of the 22nd. It is more dusty and dirty than ever. A swarm of locusts came like a cloud on Saturday evening, but when they saw what a barren place this was, they passed southwards to some more auspicious spot…

September 27th.

The monotony of this place was varied this morning by a Boer attack. At 5.15 a.m. the horses had been fed and the men were having their morning coffee when I was warned to harness up at once. Soon after we heard musketry, and a few bullets dropped about the Camp. I came into action against the bushes, about 3,000 yards where I was told they were, and fired a round or two on chance. I then took one gun up near the station and fired into the bush in the direction from which the bullets seemed to come. I fired 50 rounds before the Boers ran away. My only casualty was one man slightly wounded in the boot. The Boers must have climbed up into trees about a mile off and were taking pot shots at my gun which kicked up a lot of dust whenever it was fired. I hear that one Bushman was killed, one wounded and two of the Munster’s taken prisoners. I don’t suppose the Boers suffered much loss, if any…

Pienaar’s River, October 4th.

The Boers lost more heavily than was at first supposed. They have admitted to 5 killed and 17 wounded. One man died here in hospital from a shrapnel bullet wound. We buried 4 or 5 Boers. We have had many scares that the Boers are going to attack again, but I think they have had enough for the present…

The remainder of my Battery has been ousted out of their comfortable quarters in Pretoria to join me here…

A lot of natives are being employed in building huts for the garrison. They are made of timber and grass, are cooler and more roomy than tents and hold fifteen men each. The natives here live in quite good houses made of clay walls and thatched roof. They wear European clothes, and the other day I saw a black ladies’ hockey match going on outside a kraal. They used a round stone for a ball, and played with sticks in the ordinary way. We have to stand to arms now every day at 5 a.m.

Pienaar’s River, October 7th, 1900.

…We were all very sorry about poor Cotton the Sapper Subaltern here, who yesterday, together with a Corporal, got blown up by one of his own mines, which he was setting for the Boers. He was the most energetic Engineer Officer that I have met out here. He was always busy making wells, horse-troughs and other things that were of great convenience to us…

Pienaar’s River, October 17th.

I have been compelled to go to hospital here from fever. It started about a week ago, and I thought I would soon get right if I kept in the shade during the heat of the day. But the discomfort of lying under a waggon on the hard ground, the perpetual dust storms, flies and heat, prevented my recovering, and left me a useless wreck and a fit subject for Mother Siegel’s Soothing Syrup. I am now in a tin house and am fairly comfortable, and hope to be right in a day or two. I can eat anything they give me, but don’t seem to be getting over the fever, which is never very bad. It is very hot, the shade temperature in the afternoon is over 100…

No.3. Model School Hospital, Pretoria, October 24th.

Last Thursday the Doctor said he had come to the conclusion that I had Enteric Fever, but that inoculation had spoilt the symptoms. On Friday I was sent down by train to Pretoria. I did not have such a very uncomfortable journey. There were 17 sick men laid out on straw and blankets on the floor of a truck especially fitted out with wooden roof and blinds to keep the sun out. I was very comfortable on a stretcher and was comparatively cool. We were five hours in the train.

On arrival at Pretoria they seemed surprised to see us, and there were only two men to carry the 17 sick from the truck to the Rest Hospital outside the station, a distance of 200 or 300 yards, so I got out and walked, but I was much weaker than I thought. They gave me some milk and soda-water in a small teacup and eventually I reached the hospital where I have a bath and went to bed. I doubt if my fever was anything more than malarial, and my temperature has been more or less normal ever since I have been in Pretoria, but I have been treated with great care.

I believe this building was a girl’s school. It certainly makes a very good hospital. The ward I am in holds 9 officers, and was decorated by Becket, the leading Upholsterer in the town, with screen and mats and pictures. There are roses plucked from the garden scattered about the room in vases. We get as much ice in our drinks as we want, and eggs and butter and every luxury… They told me yesterday that they are going to send me to Capetown or some other sea-side resort to pick up. I feel perfectly well now, except that I have no backbone.

Hospital, Pretoria, October 29th.

Last Saturday I was allowed to get up. I found a walk of 100 yards quite enough exercise. Yesterday I was a bit stronger, and today I walked nearly a mile without being particularly tired. The Doctor is talking about sending me home, which would sit me, as I am bound to be posted to some other Battery in a very short time…It would be nice to be home by Christmas.

October 30th.

My leave was in orders last night to go to Capetown, where I have to go before a Medical Board, who decide whether I am to go home…

No.4 Hospital Train, Nov.8th.

I did not leave Pretoria until daybreak yesterday. We got on to the train on Tuesday afternoon, had dinner and went to bed, and by the time we woke up we were well on our way to Elandsfontein. There are 100 men and 10 officers on this train, and it is rather crowded but still is more comfortable than an ordinary train. We are not allowed to travel by night until we get well into Cape Colony. Last night we got as far as Kroonstadt.

Nov.12th.

We reached Bloemfontein on Thursday afternoon, and there we stuck and did not get away until 11.30 a.m. on Friday. It was raining and our movements were too uncertain to allow me to visit the town, but is seemed to have a very English appearance, the houses being built of red brick principally. During Friday we only got as far as Springfontein. We left it at 5 a.m. on Saturday and got over the border by the middle of the day, and reached De Aar Junction at 10 p.m. We then began to see the difference of travelling through an old established British Colony. They put two engines on to the train and we went along at 30 miles an hour, with hardly a stop, reaching Capetown at 9.30 p.m. on Sunday. We slept in the train, and this morning found ourselves at Wynberg, about 10 miles out of Cape Town. We thus slept six nights in the train and took five days to do the journey of 1,036 miles. The scenery was very uninteresting for most of the journey. The Orange River Colony is as flat as a pancake and about the same colour. The Northern part of Cape Colony is practically a desert with dried up water courses, called the Karoo – we passed through 180 miles of it. After Matjesfontein the short scrub on the Karoo gradually changed into heather, and we went down the Hen River Pass, where there was very grand mountain scenery. The bottom of the valley is studded with houses and cornfields and green grass – there was some snow on the mountains.

All the bridges in the O.R.C. have been permanently repaired. Every bridge from Pretoria to Cape Town is guarded by a picket of from 6 to 100 men. Every station has a garrison. I suppose there are altogether 2,500 miles of railway to guard, which must take an enormous quantity of troops, and still it ought to be very easy for the Boers to destroy the railway by night – I wonder they don’t do it more often…

Out of the ten officers, five were gunners, and three of the gunners were Old Carthusians of about my standing – a rather extraordinary coincidence. The worst case on the train was a Boer who was wounded in May, and is paralysed in his legs, and was being taken down to Cape Town to some relatives.

Hospital, Wynberg Camp, Nov. 15th.

I am still in doubt about my future movements. I don’t mind much what happens to me as long as they don’t keep me here doing nothing. On Tuesday I was allowed to go into Cape Town to do some shopping. There are trains nearly every quarter of an hour between Wynberg and Cape Town through the suburbs. I am literally in rags, and was very ashamed of myself going into the streets of Cape Town among all the well dressed crowd. The streets were very crowded and the town appeared very busy and not at all affected by the war. I bought everything I wanted, and the prices seemed cheap after Pretoria.

Nov. 19th.

I have not had my board yet. I have been kept so long in suspense that I have quite recovered and have no particular desire to go home before the war is over. They are sending me to Claremont this afternoon, which is a sort of Convalescent Home, where I will have much more freedom and be able to go about where I like…

Claremont Sanatorium, Nov. 22nd.

I am getting quite strong again, and am putting on weight very fast. I have hired a bicycle for a week, so I may be able to get fit before I go back to the front. Here we can be out the whole day, as long as we are back by dinner at 7. I took the train to Simonstown on Wednesday but there was nothing to see except a coal yard. The Boers prisoners are about 2 miles out from the town and I had not sufficient energy to go out to look at them. Yesterday, several of us accompanied by the 2 nurses took a Brake and 2 Cape Carts and drove “round the mountain,” which is one of the things every visitor to Cape Town must do. It is certainly a very pretty drive, half the way along the rocky sea coast, and half through mountains covered with every kind of flower. It was about 30 miles round, and we had lunch and tea on the road…

Sanatorium, Claremont, December 5th.

My dear Marion,…I bought a Boer toy which was made by a Boer prisoner in Cape Town, and am sending it to you as I am afraid none of my nephews or nieces are sufficiently old to appreciate the joke…

Sanatorium, Claremont, December 11th.

My dear Mother, I have started mountain climbing by way of exercise, and made two attempts to get to the top of Table Mountain, which is 3,500 feet high…At the second attempt I got up a height of 2,500 feet, where I found a ranger’s cottage and got something to eat and went on to see the waterworks. It was very hot and I had had enough climbing for one day. It is no use going up Table Mountain except on the finest day, as if there is a cloud in the sky, it is sure to settle on the top.

S.S. Kildonan Castle, December 15th.

…I managed to get discharged from the Hospital last Friday, and yesterday got orders to come on board this ship, which is lying at anchor in Table Bay, to take charge of some 60 Court Martial prisoners and a guard of 40 men with 4 subalterns. It is not very exciting work, but I suppose is good for my health, and will only last a week, I hope.

December 18th

…There is one prisoner here who has had a varied career and is being sent home. He was born a gentleman, has deserted from two British Regiments, served with the Staat’s Artillery against us, and afterwards managed to get on our Intelligence Staff. I don’t know what will happen to him when he gets home. He seemed rather hurt when I put him with the other prisoners. He expected to be treated as a sort of officer.

S.S. Kildonan Castle, December 25th.

I hope you are having a Happy Christmas. I might be worse off than on this boat, as you may judge by the enclosed Breakfast Menu. The Captain of the ship held a Service this morning as he does on Sundays, and this afternoon there are sports for the crew and soldiers, and a concert this evening. Last night an electric launch sailed round the harbour, and sang Christmas Carols, visiting all the ships at anchor. There are 7 or 8 transports waiting about here to take some of the army home…Martie must have left Zuurfontein now, as I hear B.P’s Police have selected that place for one of their stations…

S.S. Kildonan Castle, December 26th.

My dear Marion…I am flourishing now although |I find life on board a prison hulk somewhat monotonous…We had a merry Christmas on board. We started the day by singing a hymn on the forecastle, prisoners, guard, crew and all, led by the Captain of the ship…In the evening we had a concert in which the song of the evening was “The Dublin Fusiliers,” which I heard for the first time… I may be sent up to Pretoria any time now. As they only give an hour’s notice I have to remain in a perpetual half-packed up state…The Boers are reported to be now 40 miles from Cape Town, but nobody seems to mind much, or to take any serious interest in the invasion…

S.S. Aurania, January 4th, 1901.

My dear Mother,…The prisoners are going home on this ship which sails on the 7th or 8th. I am afraid they will not take their guard with them. The “Aurania” is alongside a quay, and it would be difficult to keep the prisoners if they had any serious intention of bolting, but so far they have given no trouble. They are so anxious to get home that I believe they would not leave the ship if they were paid for it.

Maitland Camp, January 6th, 1901.

I handed over the prisoners yesterday and came on here. The Hotels are so expensive I decided to live in a tent in the depot…I have managed to collect all my kit from Maritzburg and elsewhere, including the Camp bedstead, so am very comfortable…

Narval’s Pont, January 12th.

I left Cape Town on Wednesday the 9th and had a very leisurely journey so far…The first instalment of B.P.’s Police are on the train. They are all in plain clothes except for their hats. I suppose they were sent out from England in too great a hurry to clothe them…

Viljeon’s Drift, January 14th.

…I reached Bloemfontein on Sunday afternoon and did not leave until 4 o’clock the next morning so had plenty of time to look around the town. I met Captain Reed, V.C., who has a staff billet there, and dined with him in the evening…

Pretoria, January 16th.

Jack Creagh got into my carriage at Viljeon’s Drift and travelled up as far as Elandsfontein…I got out at Kaalfontein to see Marshal, and stayed there half an hour. He was looking very well. The Boers had paid him a visit two days before, and had spent six hours in ventilating his residence with 12 lb shells. On arrival at Pretoria I went to see Col. Sclater, the A.A.G. for South Africa. He has posted me to the 87th Battery. It is a Howitzer Battery and is likely to go home at the end of the War. It is quartered at Johannesburg, which is lucky as it is the healthiest place in S. Africa. The 7th Battery arrived in Pretoria on the 14th; I am very glad of having an opportunity of seeing them before leaving for good.

Rand Club, Johannesburg, January 24th.

…The Battery is a good deal scattered, 2 Howitzers being at Springfontein, and 2 on separate Columns. Major Balfour and myself look after the remaining 2 in Johannesburg. We live in the Show Yard, so that we have lots of tin houses to shelter ourselves and the horses. I don’t think much of Johannesburg as a town. There are no decent buildings. The streets are so bad that you want to have a good eye for country to drive through them without upsetting. There is a very small civilian population. The shops have nothing to sell and few of them are open at all. There are two very good Clubs of which all officers are Honorary Members without having to pay any subscription. The Queen’s death was very sudden. We only heard of her illness the day before she died…

Johannesburg, 30th January.

My dear Marion…I am very comfortable here in my tin house. I mess with the East Lancashire Regiment, so am not at all lonely…The Boers have been very active lately. They blew up three-quarters of the electric works, which are 20 miles from here, and the town was in darkness for 3 days…The Major and all the subalterns are out on various Columns…

Johannesburg, February 1st.

My dear Mother…I feel twice as fit as when I left Cape Town. The Major being away, all the work of the Battery falls upon me in addition to the ordinary work of the section, so I have plenty to do. At the present moment, being the end of the month, I have got pay lists and accounts on the brain…

Johannesburg, February 7th.

…We had a fairly peaceful life, except for an alarm about once a week. I was dining last Tuesday with the Colonel, Sir. G. Thomas, when I was telephoned for, and had to rush back to the Show Yard, and found the troopers standing to arms, and we had to remain in harness and ignorance of what was going on till about 12.30. We heard several shots fired on the outpost line. The next day we heard that the Boers had carried away 1,500 head of cattle from a kraal barely a mile from here…The N. Staffords are out on trek so I have not met Arthur Weldon yet. One of the Kilkenny Milwards is here as Ordnance Officer, a very hard worked billet…

Johannesburg, February 14th.

…Marshal is at Elandsfontein now, about 10 miles from here, but we might be 100 miles apart for all the chance I have of seeing him. I am only allowed to let ¼ of myself leave Jo’burg and I cannot divide myself into more than three parts, body, soul and spirit. Several Irregular Corps are being formed in Jo’burg. The most irregular one is called J.M.R., Johannesburg Mounted Rifles, or “Jews, mostly Russian.” The majority of them are certainly not even English Jews…

Johannesburg, February 20th.

…The War seems to be progressing a bit now…Great things are expected of French and Plumer who are now after Botha and De Wet respectively…Marshal is on the move again. I hear his M.I. had a fight the other day, not far from here…

Show Yard, Johannesburg, March 1st.

My dear Otty, I have been living a life of ease and luxury ever since I came to Johannesburg. I have 2 Howitzers, which fire 50 lb Lyddite shells, 60 men, 54 horses, 84 mules and 23 niggers to look after, in which arduous duties I have no other officer to assist me. I have other odd jobs occasionally. For instance, last Sunday I had to mobilize an old gun for B.P. I have frequently to pack off some 15 horses to any Battery that may want them, and draw others from the Remount Establishment to replace them. I have lately been busy fitting out 4 waggons with 10 mules each for anybody that might want them in a hurry.

Johannesburg, March 7th.

My dear Mother…The Johannesburg Races came off last Saturday. There was a fairly big crowd in spite of the war, a much more orderly crowd I expect than is usual in peace time, for the military occupation has cleansed the town of many of its iniquities. A large party of officers from the Show Yard drove down in a light ‘bus drawn by six mules, and the East Lancs. gave a very good lunch. I had, on the whole, a very pleasant day.

On Tuesday I went to the Police Courts. Major O’Brien of the East Lancs. is Chief Judge there. I saw a Dutchman condemned to death for breaking his oath of neutrality. The prisoner did not seem to mind. I suppose he knew that the sentence would never be confirmed, but altered to Penal Servitude for life, and that at the end of the War he would be let out after spending a few peaceful months in gaol…

Show Yard, Johannesburg, April 12th, 1901

…I am now spending most of my days making gun emplacements all round the town, three miles off, and have to go to them morning and afternoon to see that they build them in the right way…

May 3rd.

I have at last been turned out of the Show Yard, and have gone into the Zarps’ Barracks. It is wretched tumble-down sort of place, and I expect the men will have to be in tents. I have gone into an empty house that I found close outside the Barrack’s gate…There are four other officers with me. I am doing the house-keeping and trying to make the place home-like…

May 23rd.

…I really believe now that we will see the end of the War approaching in two months’ time, and that I shall get home in time for the hunting next Autumn. I am rather glad that Marshal has not got into the S.A.C. It is not such a good thing as was at first imagined…

Johannesburg, June 12th.

. …I have started playing polo here. They have great difficulty in getting up enough officers to play, and I thought a bad player was better than none at all…The Rand Rifles have been getting up paper-chases on horse back. They put up jumps, and arrange natural ditches as obstacles. I have been out with them once. I was riding my battery horse and expected to be left behind, but I found that he was about the best jumper out, and soon brought me to the head of the field where I could have remained if I had liked to press the old horse…

June 27th.

The S.A.G.M. Home for soldiers seems to be a thriving concern. They have two or three large marquees near the Camps, where during the day, tea, coffee, buns, newspapers and writing materials are obtainable, and Service held in the evenings. There is one which my men frequent in the Police Barracks. I think it does a lot of good…

Mount Nelson Hotel, Cape Town, August 18th.

I left Johannesburg on Tuesday last to visit the section of my Battery at Springfontein, and came on here afterwards to overhaul the Battery stores at the base. I stayed Tuesday night at Bloemfontein as the mail cannot travel by night in that part of the country. I had to sleep in the train as the hotels were full. I arrived at Springfontein at 3 o’clock on Wednesday. The subaltern in charge of the section has been in the same place alone for over twelve months. He has made himself very comfortable in a mud house and keeps a pack of a dozen greyhounds to amuse himself.

There is a very small garrison consisting mainly of the Irish Fusiliers commanded by Colonel Carleton. I found Major Henshaw there with the Head Quarters of my old Battery (the 7th.)…I saw the only surviving horse of those that came out with the 7th Battery. He was one of my horses – an ugly old horse – called Emerald, that joined the Battery at Dorchester…

I left Springfontein on Friday, and came straight on here without having to stop the night anywhere. The train I travelled in from Bloemfontein was attacked after I left it and heavily fired upon by Boers but not damaged…I have come to Cape Town at a rather unfortunate time for shopping etc., as the Duke and Duchess of York are expected tomorrow. On my arrival here this morning I found the streets blocked and had to walk several miles on an empty stomach. I had no dinner last night, and got no breakfast till 10.30 so that I did not feel in the best of tempers, at having to suffer such hardships in the centre of South African Civilization. The street decorations are very fine. Their Royal Highnesses will get a wrong impression of what Cape Town is really like. All the buildings are disguised with bunting, and arches and pillars are stuck up in the street, which would seriously impede the traffic if they existed at ordinary times. I suppose it is the same with every town they have visited, but it seems hard that they should not be able to see the Colonies as they really are…

There is a block-house for every mile of the railway from Elandsfontein to Nauwpoort, and there are block-houses right down to within three or four miles of Cape Town. Most of them are made of galvanized iron, an inner and outer wall with shingle in between. A garrison of about six men, and an officer to every three. Those near the bridges are more permanent buildings of stone and have larger garrisons. I believe every line is guarded in the same way. The block-houses must take about 12,000 men to garrison them. Every station where supplies are collected and every town that is left standing must have a garrison, so there are not so many troops left to sweep the outlying districts, and collect the 10,000 Boers that are supposed still to be in the field…

Monday. I went to see the Royal Procession this morning. The Duke of York was looking old and bored. The Duchess did all the bowing. This is a hot, sweltering place, very fatiguing after the cold bracing climate of Johannesburg.

Johannesburg, August 29th.

My dear Marion…I have had a tedious journey which took six days. We had to stop four nights on the way as the Boers were firing on the line. At one place there was no Refreshment Room and I had to borrow a kettle, some eggs and a loaf, and cook my food as if I was on the trek again.

At Bloemfontein I went to the theatre and saw a play called “The American Citizen.” The small theatre was packed as full as it could be. The same Company has been there since the British occupation, and give a new play every week or so. I bought a camera in Cape Town and took a lot of photos from the train…

September 5th.

My dear Charlie…There is a lot of roguery going on over the compensation claims. One man who left his house at the outbreak of the War, included in his list of belongings damaged by the military, “one tooth brush part worn,” and “one pot of hair oil.” It is not stated why he had not brought his tooth brush with him. It is not only the so-called British subjects but also the Boers who expect to be compensated. One Dutch woman put in a big claim for two years’ corn she might have grown if the War had not taken place, and for the value of the probable increase in her live stock. It was found that he husband was still fighting against us, was a breaker of oaths, was well known for blowing up railways and cutting telegraph wires…

My dear Mother, We have just had to shift our camp again, our new house is in the suburbs, rather nice with verandah on two sides. We have a small paddock round it in which our chargers disport themselves. There is quite a nice garden with rose trees in full bloom and irises, lilies and violets just coming out. All we want is a cow and some laying hens to complete our comfort. I have been devoting my energies to our soldier cook. We now give very recherché dinner parties twice a week. We can get everything now in Johannesburg, even fresh fish from Durban. Of course everything is expensive, but I believe not more so than before the War. Eggs are 4.s.6d. a dozen and in such demand that you could not get a stale one if you tried. Cabbages cost 1s.6d. a head. We get free rations of meat and bread, but the meat is very poor as only cattle are killed that are too old for work.

September 19th.

…Every day we see how much the Pro-Boers are answerable for the prolongation of the War. The Boers read the accounts of their speeches and naturally expect that we will give them back their independence.

October 11th.

…There seems to have been great activity lately on both sides, with the natural result that there have been heavy casualties. The Boers cannot afford to lose men as well as we can. The winding up of the War must necessarily be slow, in fact the slower it is the better for the final settlement of the country, for all this time the civil administration is gradually coming into force…

November 27th.

…I quite agree with your views about the newspaper articles. I think that every contribution to the papers should be compelled to have published at the end of it the name of writer, his address and business. People would then think twice about writing idiotic letters to the Press and making cowardly attacks on those who are not able to defend themselves publicly, and the public would be able to judge whether the writer was likely to have any knowledge of his subject…

I have been indulging in a little golf and cricket, but I take most of my exercise riding about the country. I see a lot of game, deer and partridges, in the more unfrequented parts, but of course game are out of season now.

Jahannesburg, December 13th

87th Battery, R.F.A. Mounted Rifles. The above is, I believe, our full title, but the old address will find me. They have ordered us to hand in all our Howitzers and to draw out rifles. All the men have to be mounted on the draught horses (a very bad and expensive plan) as we have a very big, valuable lot of horses who would be knocked up by a week’s Mounted Infantry work. We are busy teaching our gunners to ride, and drivers to shoot. We are going to Pretoria to train in a day or two…I see the 8th M.I. are reported as behaving with great dash…

Pretoria, December 21st.

We arrived here the day before yesterday and are being turned into Mounted Rifles. I was busy all yesterday making a rifle range near our Camp. It is lucky the outposts are all in block-houses, otherwise they could hardly escape being hit by the erratic shots of our men. I do not expect they will give us time to train before we are sent out on trek.

Pretoria, December 24th.

…We are complete Mounted Riflemen now, untrained, but otherwise ready for the front. Great things seem to be expected of the R.F.A.M.R. by others than R.A. Officers, but I cannot see how very good results can be got from gunners and drivers with not more than ten days’ musketry and training in the field; gunners and drivers who have never been called upon to act by themselves, and always have had an officer at their elbow. I believe I am going to have a Colt gun to look after and shall have to spend the whole of Christmas studying its inside.

December 25th.

I believe we are moving off tomorrow. It does not feel at all like Christmas for I spent from 6.30 to 10 this morning in perfecting myself in the art of killing with machine gun, and am now busy packing up for the road. It is like starting on a new Campaign, for most of us who have been sitting on the line for the past twelve months.

E. of Spring, December 30th.

I am afraid that my letters will not be so regular now that we have started on the trek. We left Pretoria on Boxing Day, and were met by Lord Kitchener, who came from Johannesburg especially to inspect us. We have since been marching about 8 miles a day, learning our work and practising shooting in the afternoon. Yesterday, however, we made an effort to catch some Boers. My Battery, about 100 strong, made a night march, moving off at 1.30; arrived at a farm at daybreak which we rushed but found vacant. We then turned back, and I was sent with half the Battery to beat the wood. This time 2 Boers broke cover and 28 others were discovered in a Kaffir Kraal a couple of miles away. We had a great gallop after them, but the Boers’ horses were fresh, and our heavy Battery horses had had a long day. The ground was full of holes, and half the Battery was on the ground; I got a toss but was not hurt. Unfortunately my Major got a very bad fall and it was thought at first that he was severely injured…All but 2 of the Boers were dressed in khaki with haversacks…

Frankfort, January 5th., 1902.

We arrived here this morning from Villiersdorp. The crossing of the Vaal afforded some interest and reminded us of the old Tugela days…As soon as the 86th, 61st and 87th Batteries were over, the two former charged a hill supposed to be occupied by Boers. It was a brilliant affair, but it must have been disappointing to find the hill already occupied by two men of my Battery, who had walked up it half an hour before.

There are lots of Boers about but they do not come close. We have collected a considerable number of sheep, cattle and horses…

Nitgedacht, January 8th.

After marching every day since we left Pretoria we halted here and are engaged in “Block-housing” that is guarding the Sappers who are building block-houses. There is one every mile, and they built 1 ½ a day so that our rate of progression will not be fast for some time. Of course we go out on patrol every day and storm kopjes and shoot at biscuit tins, there being no Boers about to practise on…Night work is rather heavy…

Rishton, O.R.C., January 13th.

Since writing last I have been in and out of Frankfort in charge of a convoy. It took 2 days. Frankfort has a melancholy appearance. It consists of about a dozen houses all burnt down; there is a good bridge over the Wilge River, and a small Camp on the top of the hill. We had hardly returned to the Camp and off-saddled when my Battery including the men who had just come in with the Convoy had to gallop off 5 miles to go to the assistance of some of the 37th Battery, who were shut up in a farm and surrounded. The Boers fled at our approach and we gave them the little Colt gun, which cannot have had much effect, the range was too great.

Waalhock, January 20th, 1902.

We have returned here after a week’s trek in the Reitz district. This place is about 3 miles from Frankfort. We have got in touch with De Wet, who is reported to have 2,000 men in this district. As long as we advanced we met with little opposition, but directly we began to retire the Boers began to annoy our flanks and rear. The day before yesterday our Column made a night march of about 20 miles visiting several farms on the way, but failed to capture any Boers, but on rejoining our force next morning we were attacked in the rear and two men were wounded…

The country about here does not seem to have been visited by any Column lately. There are quantities of horses, cattle, sheep, mealies and growing crops and stacks of wheat and oats. It is easy to understand how De Wet’s army are fed. Several of the farms are standing and occupied by the women and children. We passed one farm the other night where the roof had been burnt by our troops and the family were sleeping in the verandah, the only shelter they had from the pouring rain…

Heilbron, February 11th.

We came in here yesterday to rest and re-fit after a very hard week’s work. We were engaged in the last drive, up into the triangle formed by the railways, Kronstad to Wolverhock and Wolverhock to Heilbron. On the 6th the various columns lined up to complete the circle. Rawlinson on the right, Byng (of which we formed part) next, then Rimington with Elliot’s column on the left. On the night of the 6th a chain of sentries about 70 miles long was formed. It was a clear night so nothing could have passed without being seen. My Battery had about ¾ of a mile to guard. In the morning the columns closed in about 20 miles. My Battery was advanced guard during the march, and we captured 4 Boers, the first the Column had succeeded in getting. That night we formed a chain of sentries again. I had more than half my Batttery on outpost. We were in a strong place behind a stream which was difficult enough to ride across in the daylight and the Boers made no attempt although in the morning we found 100 head of cattle in front of us which had not been the day before. The L.L.H. who were on our right got the jumps and began firing at nothing and it was with difficulty that I managed to restrain my men from loosing off too.

Search lights were going along the railway all night and there was an almost continuous rattle of musketry from all parts of the circle. The next day we swept up the circle. Our Column searched along the banks of the Rhenoster river where we found several Boers hiding in holes. Our Column collected 30 Boers of which my Battery was responsible for 10 so we did double our share of work. I suppose Marshal was engaged in the same operations about ten miles on my right, but of course I did not meet him…

On the Vaal, ten miles from Standerton, February 18th.

Just a line by moonlight to catch the mail to say I am all right. We trek all day and don’t get much sleep at night.

Alberta, Nr. Harrismith, February 28th.

I am sending a few hurried lines to catch the post. We arrived here last afternoon after a very hard ten days’ work. Twice we were without rations for men and horses. We had plenty of rain and no tents, marching all day, and half the men on outpost every night. If we had not picked up a lot of Boer Ponies we should have had some difficulty in bringing along all our men as a lot of the Battery horses died.

Vredefort Road Station, March 13th.

We arrived here yesterday after driving the country between here and Harrismith. It was mostly old ground that had been driven before, and I believe the bag was disappointing. At any rate De Wet and Steyn left the covert, as usual, the moment we started and have fled to Griquland.

We left Harrismith on the 5th and every night we slept out in line with a sentry every 100 yards, and latterly in every 50. We did one march of 40 miles followed by one of 30 the next day, and all the horses got to eat was 6 lbs of corn a day. Consequently 19 of our big horses died and barely 30 of the original lot are still alive. The mosquitoes are very bad in some parts. One morning I got up to find my eyelids so swollen that I could scarcely see…I met Marshal at Harrismith. He is doing Adjutant now to his Regiment of M.I. and was looking very well…The Boers don’t like this driving, they are always kept on the move…It is tedious work for us for we never see any Boers by day and have a lot of night work…

Vredefort Road, March 18th.

We left this place last Friday night and arrived at Parys on Saturday morning at dawn expecting to surprise some Boers, but they were not at home. On Sunday we discovered some several miles away off-saddles, and had a long chase after them crossing the Vaal River by a deep drift which nearly drowned the Colt gun. But the Boers recrossed the Vaal and held the drift with their rear guard, which fired heavily upon the Column, wounding three men. My Colt gun was turned upon the bushes and rocks where the Boers were suspected to be and drove them away. There were a lot of bullets flying about, but I did not see a single Boer. We returned here this afternoon and are off again tomorrow without having the opportunity of getting any Remounts or stores. My men are in rags and I cannot get any clothes for them…

Beside the Wilge River, March 26th.

We are now driving the country for the fourth time. There were plenty of Boers in front of us, but I hear that 500 of them have broken through the Block-house line near Vrede. They seem to have discovered that they can get through the Block-house line anywhere more easily than through the Columns driving them. It is rather disappointing to think that all our work is wasted…We have had short marches so far, which is as well as we are very badly off for horses and have a lot of men walking. We have now come to a standstill owing to the Wilge River being flooded and unfordable.

The night before last we made a night march for the purpose of catching the 500 Boers before they attempted the Block-houses. The guide took us wrong and we arrived at 3 a.m. at the Wilge where it was unfordable even for horses. A heavy thunderstorm came on, which as it is beginning to get cold at night, was decidedly unpleasant. At daylight we moved to the proper drift about 15 miles off, only to find it impossible to get any wagons across.

The river has since risen a couple of feet and we are waiting until it goes down again. A day’s rest is much needed, and this is not at all a bad camping ground, although our Convoy is coming to the wrong side of the river, and our supplies have to be ferried across by a pontoon made out of our water carts. The war does not seem any nearer completion now than it ever did…

Bamboc Spruit, March 31st.

We had to wait at the drift until to-day. The Wilge was so flooded that it was impossible to cross. The Liebenberg Vlei behind us was also flooded so we could not move in any direction. The Boers just managed to cross in front of us before the flood, and are now having an easy time resting their horses.

This morning the river had gone down a bit and we started to cross. The drift was about 4 ft. deep, but the current was strong and several got swept down out of their depth. There was only one R.E. officer with any of the Columns here. He looked at the river and said it was impossible to cross it, and went away. However, we rigged up a pontoon from 4 barrels taken from water carts, and the body of a wagon, and by this means managed to get some supplies across, but we were two whole days without rations or forage except what we had saved. However the mealies were just ripe and horses like them, and when properly cooked, make very good food for human consumption too.

5th April.

On Easter Monday we started to cross the river. Our baggage was ferried across by the pontoon, a very slow process as it only held about half a wagon load, and each journey took about half an hour. The empty wagon we then drew across the drift, at first by oxen and afterwards by mules. The oxen are very good swimmers and did well until there was a hitch. A long team of oxen is very unwieldly, especially in deep water, and several got caught up in the trek chain and were drowned. The mules were more successful; they tried their best, and in a team of ten some always had their feet on the ground. One of my mules fell down in the middle of the stream, and I had to dismount and pick her up. Another somehow got upside down in his harness, and was dragged across floating on the water, and was none the worse for it. My Battery got across without losing any animals.

We camped that night on the other side, and had a short march the next day to our position for lining out for the drive, which was being continued to the Natal Border. The three following marches were long ones: on the last day we were approaching Natal and the country got very mountainous. My Battery was on the flank and supposed to keep about ¾ miles to the right of the main body of the Column. We had some enormous hills to climb and were at it about 13 hours. The mountain scenery was a change from the flat veldt.

Towards the end of the March we followed along a deep valley, which brought us much too far south, for when we succeeded in getting out of it we found we were near Muller’s Pass, about 8 miles too far south. We arrived at Botha’s Pass yesterday, and I have just heard that we are marching in an hour’s time.

Botha’s Pass, April 6th, 1902.

My dear Charlie, Your parcel of clothes arrived at a very opportune moment. We finished the last drive yesterday and are now off again on another. They don’t give us a moment’s peace now-a-days. Thanks very much indeed for sending the clothes. In haste, Yr. Affte. Brother, G.V. CLARKE.

Telegram from the War Office, received April 11th, 1902.

Deeply regret to inform you that your son, Captain G.V. Clarke, 87th Battery, R.F.A. is reported to have been killed in action at Uitvlacht on 8th April.

Letter from Lt.- Colonel Dunlop, R.F.A.

Johanna, S. Africa, 9/4/02.

I much regret having to inform you that your son, Captain G.V. Clarke, was killed in action near this place yesterday. The Boers were pressing rather closely on the rear guard and firing heavily when your son saw a man wounded and lying on the ground. Without saying anything to anyone, he went out mounted from our firing line to try and bring the wounded man in. He got up to him safely and lifted the man on to his horse and carried him a short way, when the man fell off. Captain Clarke was trying to lift him up again when the horse was shot and directly afterwards he was seen to fall. When picked up he was found to have been shot right through the head so that death must have been instantaneous. It is a matter of deep regret that in the performance of so gallant an action your son should have lost his life.

We buried him this morning at this place. As there was no Major with the Battery your son had commanded it since we became Artillery Mounted Rifles and had done exceedingly well, but it was not till yesterday that I knew what a gallant soldier he was . I deeply regret his loss.

…Yours truly,

JAMES DUNLOP, Lt.-Col. R.F.A.

Commanding Column

Extract from Letter from Major Morris, 87th Battery, R.F.A.

Your son was a first rate officer and beloved by both his officers and his men, by all of whom he will be greatly missed. He lost his life doing a noble act and I am proud to think that he belonged to my Battery.

Extracts from Letters from F.G. Anderson, Lieut. 87th Battery.

I was commanding a section of 87th Battery under your late son, and was in the same action in which he met his sad but glorious death. I took a photograph of his grave where he lies beside one of my Sergeants who lost his life the same day…Though I was not exactly an eye witness, being in the hands of the Boers at the time, I can answer all your questions about your son’s death. It was not Sergeant Hoskins but a certain Corporal King of 79th Battery whom your son went back to rescue. This man had been hit through the legs and was hard to find owing to the length of the grass. I should say he was probably 800 yards in front of the firing line. The Ambulance came out from camp about ¾ hour after the affair was over, and the Boers had been repulsed by the arrival of a pom-pom from camp.

Letter from Corporal A.H.King, 79th Battery.

Hospital, Woolwich. 8/10/02

Dear Madam,
About 2 p.m. April 8th I was badly hurt by a horse falling, on which a Lieut. and myself were riding. I was rather dazed for a few moments but seeing the enemy almost upon us I tried to get away but found I could scarcely walk. In fact both the Lieut. and myself were captured.

I do not know the Lieut’s name. (Note. It was Lt. Anderson). The Boers after rifling me of everything except my clothes, all left me except one. Before he could take me away he was shot through the breast. I, seeing an opportunity of getting away, made off as well as I could. The Boers seeing me turned their rifles on me at about 200 yards’ range, but none of them hit me. I managed to get along for 50 or 100 yards but was unable to get any further so I lay there for a time, such a time as even now makes me nervous. All at once I was much surprised to see a man which about 2 months after I found to be Captain Clarke 87th Battery, walking along on my right leading his horse coming from the direction of our men. He would be about 100 yards from me and about 400 yards from the enemy who were returning the fire of our men. How he got so far out with his horse is a mystery to me. The Boers caught sight of him as soon as I did and turned their rifles on him. I made across to him as well as I could but he seeing me move came to me. He asked me if I was wounded. I told him I had not been hit but thought my shoulder or ribs were broken.

He got me across his horse and advanced a few paces, but I could not keep on the horse. He then advised me to hold on by the stirrup iron and we got along a dozen paces or so when a bullet struck the pony in the hoof, laming it. He said “That’s done for the pony.” The same instant another struck it in the body. It kicked out and caught me on the hip, knocking me down. I had just time to say “I’m hit” when the pony fell on its side.

Almost as soon as I spoke I heard a bullet crack and the Captain fell. He groaned rather heavy, and I crawled round the pony which was still struggling and kicking, and got to him. He lay on his back inclining a little towards his right side. I took his hand and spoke to him, but I could not distinguish any answer. I had an idea he could tell I spoke to him but he could not answer. I took his hat off to see where he was hit, made a hurried examination of his head but could not see any mark of a bullet or any blood. I then unbuttoned his serge to look at his breast when a couple of bullets passed the side of my head like a hot iron.

As I ducked my head my eyes fell on the pony and I at once thought of a blanket under the saddle which would do to rest his head on and protect him from the hot sun. I got to the saddle and I was undoing the girths, the pony having ceased struggling when I got another bullet along the side of my face and then another which passed through both my thighs. I fell over unable to move. I thought I should bleed to death, as I could feel myself gradually going. I tried to fight against it, but finally went off and I remember no more until I came round when I saw 3 Boers, one of which came to me and began talking in half English, half Dutch asking me where I had put the things which he thought I had taken off the Big Boss as he called the Officer. I told him I had not thought of such a thing, but he searched me.

He left me my clothes after some discussion with the others but they stripped the Officer taking nearly everything. I lay there until the Ambulance came. I just remember shouting to them for water, but next morning I found myself in Hospital. The whole affair from me seeing the Officer first and myself getting shot I don’t think exceeded two minutes. I do not think the Captain suffered any pain at all as he never moved. He groaned a few times and was quiet. The Doctor tells me he was hit by 2 or 3 bullets. If so the Boers must have hit him again after me…When the Captain came to me all the arms he had was a revolver in his hand. When I pointed out where the Boers were, he did not get excited but remained quite cool and calm throughout.