[Date: 6th to 14th April 1900]
Outskirts of Bloemfontein
Dearest Mother, Father, Sisters & Baby
I am afraid I have not been able to write you for some time now, that is about ten or twelve days but these days have been full of events. We are now at Bloemfontein right up at the Front. You will be surprised to see the above heading but an epidemic of mumps has broken out amongst us and I am down with them; they are extremely painful and I can’t eat anything but slops. I think it is owing to the bad water we have had to drink. We expect to go further out in a week or so. We send out patrols every day to see if the enemy are about. There are about thirty thousand Boers within fifteen miles of us with Kruger himself in command. Lord Roberts himself came & inspected us the other day and told us we should have plenty of fighting. We are waiting the arrival of “B” Company. I used to think it pretty hard in the Calcutta Camp & then on board ship, but it is the real thing now. Water is scanty and I have not had a wash of any kind for over a week. Each man has to cook his own food & I am quite an adept at it now, and we are not allowed to take our boots off at night, also each man has to have his rifle and a hundred rounds of ammunition near him so that he can lay his hand on both any time of the night in case of alarm. Of course we have sentries round the camp. I was on guard the other night. We had a terrible time of it coming up here in the train. There was no room to lie down at night & we hardly had any sleep and all we had to eat was corned beef & biscuit & water. The journey lasted three days and three nights and on the last day & night we had to stand to arms as the Boers were attempting to cut the line. Bloemfontein is a pretty little place but not many big buildings in the place. You would never think it was the capital of a large state. There have been two or three engagements a few miles from here since we have been here as we have heard the guns and seen the dead and wounded brought in. Roberts is going to have a General Advance and attack in a weeks time or so. He hopes Buller is coming towards us in which case Kruger will be caught in a trap as Cronjé was.
We hear nothing here at the front; we heard more at Cape Town and you in India know everything, so I daresay you know where I am & what we are doing. Don’t be anxious about me as I can assure you with ordinary common sense one need nothing. I don’t think the war will last more than a month or so now and all we shall have to do will be to march to Pretoria and then disarm the people.
How are all the Asansol people? Remember me to them.
Good bye for the present. Will write again shortly.
Your loving son