Letter 16

9th March 1902

Col. Ternan’s Column

About 3 miles N.W.

of Lindley. O.R.C.

My dearest Mother.

It is now a little over a month since I posted a letter to you. The reasons for this delay are many and I shall begin to unfold them. But before I start I may as well tell you I am wiring you in about a week’s time, when we touch the line of communication, that I am quite well and that there is no cause for anxiety & lest at any future time the same thing should occur, no letter for weeks, you must not be alarmed but rather be assured that I am quite well as the war office will wire you almost directly if any thing should occur to me, which is not at all likely being as I am in charge of the Transport. I never incur any danger.

Well my last letter was posted in Vicksburg on the 6th Feb where we were getting supplies. We took out 12 days supplies and as no orders were given us on the 17th about the convoy going in again for supplies we thought that another column must be bringing us out supplies and consequently I did not write as it was no good writing letters when one cannot post them. On the 18th morning we started marching very early in another direction and we did over 30 miles reaching a little place called Bethlehem which happens to be on a blockhouse line and where supplies had been brought out to us. I could have posted a letter here but had none written and it was out of the question writing one, besides which it would have had to go by convoy for days and there was every likelihood of our getting to Vicksburg in a weeks time and a letter posted there would reach quicker than one posted in Bethlehem. For the next five days we took part in a “drive” which means marching all day no tents pitched wet or fine and no lights after sunset. During this “drive” we did two night marches in the Brandwater basin & the Wittenbergen. On the 25th morning we started for Vicksburg, dead tired, having been up two nights running till dawn & marching the whole time, and reached there midday loaded up that night & started out again next morning to take part in another combined movement which however did not come off. We stayed on the veldt in the Winburg district for the next twelve days eating our rations and just changing camp every other day. During this time both myself and the fellow who was with me in a tent were seedy; a cold first then indigestion then fever. I determined not to be ill and although I had a temperature of about 100 I went & had a cold bath took a peg of whisky and went off for a long ride out of camp to a farm just inside our outposts where there were a lot of pretty Dutch girls, went out in the garden with them, kissed them all round & rode home – quite well. The other fellow stayed inside the tent moping – he has now gone into Winburg hospital but he will be away from this Column for about a month, ten days in hospital & the rest of time convalescent at the seaside Durban or Cape Town having a good time generally so perhaps he was wiser after all. On the 6th inst. we started marching & after doing 15 miles at a tremendous pace reached Senekal which is another deserted town; here another column, Col Pilcher’s, had brought out supplies, we loaded up that night & next morning early started on another “drive” ie a combined movement of a large number of columns on to a blockhouse line – a sort of squeezing up of the base of a triangle towards the apex, the columns of course getting closer and closer together so that providing the Boers in the enclosure do not get frightened too soon they are bound to get caught. The last drive between Harrismith & Van Keenen’s Pass into Natal accounted for 600 prisoners 120 killed & eighty odd wounded. It is by this system that the Boers are being caught weekly and at the present rate the war must be over by the middle of winter, July. We are still doing this drive and are at present lining the bank of the Valsh river near Lindley; this drive will last another three or four days & we shall go into Lindley for our next supplies which is being used as a supply depot at present. It is the corner of two blockhouse lines. The town itself is uninhabited as in Bethlehem and every town in the Free State off the Railway line. We are not using tents at present and all lights have to be out at Sundown. Being Transport Officer I am slightly better off than most of the subalterns as I have made a sort of shelter alongside a wagon with a wagon sheet & I am at present putting up another subaltern with me – the Colonel’s galloper – as his squadron is out on the flank. I hope to post this letter at Lindley which is connected with Kroonstadt by the blockhouse line.

I have been having some trouble the last few days with the tooth I had filled last year this time in Jo’burg, the stopping having come out and as it is impossible to get it stopped again out here I am afraid it will have to go. I have drawn no pay for this year at all but when I do which may be this month I intend sending the girls & children what I promised ten pounds, £4 each to the two bigger ones & £1 each to the chota wallahs for them to get some little thing each. I can easily spare it; what annoys me is the difficulty one experiences in getting it.

I am much amused at what you all say about the Service. In spite of it all I intend trying my best to get a civil billet and failing that to remain a soldier & then only as long as I have to. You may think at first glance the pay is good – the lowest rank 2 Lt getting 14/9 a day, rations & tent. But you must remember this is only active service pay in S. Africa. If peace were declared to-morrow and I were sent to England what would I get. First I should lose 2/6 a day field allowance then 3/- a day Colonial allowance that’s 5/6. In lieu of this I should get lodging light & fuel allowance but these would not pay for these things at home. I should probably be able to live but only by myself & that is not my wish. I wish to have the girls out here with me. Do you know my messing alone costs me £5 a month without liquors, then there is my servant and all kind of little items crop up. No 14/9 is not good enough in this country. I intend however putting in my application to be made permanent so as to have a second string to my bow.

In June next I hope to get leave for a short time, a month to run up to Jo’burg & down to Natal. A fortnight’s stay in Natal will be delightful as I have never seen it. I had a letter from my friend Clifford in India telling me that he had received £30 horse compensation, £5 gratuity and his medal so I expect the same are on their way to me minus the gratuity which I do not get till the “general issue” is made as I am still serving and then shall get a 2nd Lieutenant’s share £35 not £5.

Enough about myself – – Where are you and what are you doing? Where are you going to live? not in London I hope. Why not the country? Infinitely better. How are the girls and the children? And has the Pater taken any steps about coming out here. Let him go to the London offices of the different mining companies out here or rather write to them. Being out on column as I am I have absolutely no chance of seeing or hearing anything; I have never been near a railway since Dec. 7th I think it was. I hope to do some good when I go on leave in more ways than one. I have just heard than an officer is going to be sent into Bloemfontein to get his teeth attended to so that perhaps I may be able to go in also. I met the Commdg Officer of my the [sic] Coy A.S.C. I am attached to and he told me he would wire to the A.A.S.T. for permission to have me transferred to his column as he requires a subaltern. It is good to be at headquarters. Good bye now dearest Mother with love to all from

Your loving son