Letter 10

Soldiers’ Institute


Nov. 9. 00

My dear Uncle.

Your last letter received yesterday, the one you wrote on the 19th September. Thank you very much for it and all the kind thoughts expressed in it. You will no doubt be surprised at seeing my writing in ink again but the heading above explains every thing. I wrote you from Heidelburg last telling you about our march from Machadodorp there and telling of the hardships, the wet and the fighting, and promised you another letter directly we arrived in Pretoria. Fate however ordained that we should not be in Pretoria as soon as we expected, as no sooner had we left there than it came on to rain very heavily which made the ground very difficult for the convoy, and as we were protecting the whole of Buller’s Convoy, 10 miles of it, our progress was very slow. We got to Springs and there Lord Roberts inspected the whole of French’s division which meant a delay of two days. On the morning of the inspection I volunteered to go on picquet about a mile or so out of camp, as I hate the waiting about for hours that one always has at inspections, and fortunately was sent out; while there we saw two horsemen detach themselves from a body of about thirty and galop [sic] straight towards us; the body was about 2 miles away and I could see them quite plainly through my glasses. We thought they were Boers but on seeing these two come straight towards us we thought it might be a patrol of our own men. However they came on until they were within a thousand yards when they suddenly dismounted and before we knew where we were bullets were flying over our heads as fast as anything. Of course we at once threw ourselves down behind antheaps and started firing at them; we must have evidently got their range to a nicety as they immediately mounted and started galloping off. We stopped firing (there were four of us altogether) but Consterdine thought he would have one more shot; he did so and to our surprise knocked the man off his horse and the horse ran off. I rode back to Camp for an ambulance but in the meantime the wounded Boer crawled to a Kaffir Kraal and there the other Boer helped him on to his own horse and galloped off with him. I afterwards rode to the Kraal and the Kaffirs told me the man had been shot through the leg.

From Springs to here the march was uneventful enough as far as fighting was concerned but as it rained every day and we had no change of clothing no shelter and wet blankets we were miserable enough; strange to say I felt no evil effects at the time but have been having slight rheumatism the last day or two. A good many others have gone to the hospital here through the wetting we had; we were forty hours wet through with the water running out of our boots at every step, our thighs and our b_t_m’s wet and our saddles sopping. It was godforsaken and I pray I may never have to undergo such an experience again; you will understand that we had nothing to eat the whole time except some sodden biscuits and bully beef.

As regards our future movements nothing is pucca. Disbandment we know is out of the question because Lord Roberts and the authorities have distinctly told us that it the war lasts we must serve our full twelve months. Forty per cent of the Corps however (which now numbers about 130 all told, the rest having died been killed or invalided or have received Commissions in the Army or are in hospital) are going to be permitted to join the Police, (20% the Transvaal Constabulary and 20% the Johannesburg District Police) that is to say about 55 men and any of the remainder who can manage to obtain civil billets under the Government will also be allowed to go. There is also some talk about the rest being drafted into the C. in C’s body guard. They might however make us all go on the march once again before any one leaves and if so we go to Petersburg in the bush veldt a godforsaken country; we went there when on the Rustenburg – Warm baths march.

I have written to Mr Henry for a Commission in the Police but have received no reply yet, and have also put in an application for an Assistant Engineer’s billet on the Railway through the Colonel. Goood.bye [sic] for the present hoping you are keeping cheerful and well. With much love


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