Letter 11


S. Africa

14th Dec. 1900

My dearest Mother

I am so sick of it all, I have not heard from either you or Uncle for over a month now and I cannot understand it; I shall wire you if I don’t hear shortly. Here I am in a little mining village on the Randt, one of a garrison of 12 men & a Sergeant all of the Johannesburg Mounted Police, protecting this place with its stores & its cattle from Boer raiders. We have alarms almost every night and in two minutes are in the trenches round about fully armed waiting for the enemy; besides this we do sentry-go every other night although our day duties are practically nil merely a patrol every other day when we very seldom return without a certain amount of loot of some kind or other from the deserted houses in the district. Clothes, blankets, silver ware in fact everything of every kind except money that is kept in a house by fairly well-to-do people and who left everything just as it stood on the advent of the British. Our work is sometimes extremely disagreeable as for instance yesterday I had to go to a house with another fellow and arrest a Dutchman who had given up his arms and taken the oath of neutrality on the charge of communicating with the enemy; his young wife was in bed with a baby daughter born that morning and his brothers wife was there also; we had to search every nook and cranny of the house the bedrooms included. I felt so sorry but I think I did it as gently as I could, in fact the brother’s wife asked us to sit down & brought us coffee. Other times we have to arrest refractory characters at the point of a bayonet, but altogether it is far better than being on the veldt (pronounced feldt) where one was always filthy and generally hungry. We live in a long shed inside a Kraal where we have beds and have made ourselves generally comfortable – at least we sleep there. We mess in a small house some little distance away and as a matter of fact spend most of the day there. We have tables & chairs good crockery & plate servants (cook and waiter) a kitchen with a splendid range in it and everything nice and comfortable – all commandeered. We have three good meals a day with plenty of fresh milk porridge etc all of which costs us very little owing to the number of us – twelve. Of course we get our rations from the Government bread, meat, tea, coffee, jam, and sugar also salt and pepper. Fresh vegetables are plentiful and altogether we do very well. As I said before this is a gentlemanly way of fighting merely acting on the defensive. Our guards are very wakeful and vigilant at night and it will take a good Boer to pass our defences. I can bathe every day if I care to (!!!) (I am not as particular as I used to be) and there is no necessity to be in this beautiful country & climate – God’s own country; I have a boy to look after my horse make my bed & generally clean & look after my things. Altogether I am fairly well off with 7/- a day coming in 1/6 of which more than covers all my expenses in fact 1/- a day does it servants, messing, washing, everything. Brakpau is an extremely dull little place & would be of absolutely no importance were it not for the fact that the Johannesburg Electric Works, which supply the power for the whole of the Randt – that is the gold-bearing district, are here. We are fifteen miles away from Johannesburg, a three hours comfortable ride on horseback. Johannesburg is a most awful place. Talk about rapid – money simply flies there – I spent £10 in ten days and got very little for it except a good time and a pair of riding breeches.

I hope you are all well and comfortably settled by now and that the girls are getting a little amusement, also the dear little ones. I wonder when I shall hear from you again. I fear my letters have gone to the Corps Headquarters – I mean Lumsden’s Horse. I have signed for 12 months in the Police but I do not doubt that Mr Henry will either promise me a Commission in the Police or else will help me to a Civil Engineering billet & in that case will of course let me go, that is if Dr. B. has written him about me. I would not have joined as a trooper had I had the letter of introduction you spoke of but I had to under the circumstances or loaf about as military rule is still supreme and to be out of khaki is to be placed under all kinds of restrictions and to be kicked about by any body in khaki. As it is I swagger about with my comrades-in-arms booted & spurred and look with contempt on all those who are in sober broadcloth that is those in civilian habiliments. I notice (from a distance) that khaki is in great demand with the fair sex & to be a “khaki” is to be irresistible; needless to say this does not affect me in the slightest. All the other fellows have gone on patrol and I am left behind to write out passes etc required by civilians & natives wishing to go anywhere. My horse is in the sick lines at Boksberg with a sore back and consequently I am at present dismounted. I intend however commandeering a horse so as not to be in this predicament again.

Christmas is about ten days off and I can’t help thinking of last Christmas when we were all together with the exception of Rachel and this year Uncle is in India, I am in S. Africa & you are all at home the best place of all. I intend sending you my photo in a day or two taken with three of my friends Clifford (Jim) Consterdine & Laurie; the two latter are going to call on you when they arrive in London. There are going to be some festivities at Boksburg 5 miles from here on Christmas day but I do not suppose any of us will be able to go as we are so few here and the cattle & stores must be protected. However Christmas is not Christmas away from home and I don’t care a bit if it is my turn for guard on that day. Good-bye.

Love to all.

Your loving son



Trooper J.D.W. Holmes

Late of Lumsden’s Horse

Johannesburg Mounted Police


S. Africa

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