July 20th 1900
My dearest Mother, Dad & Sisters
At last I have received news from you and I am so glad about it. We had a mail (the first since the 27th April) and I received all your letters up to the 24th May and a good many papers but not all only the ones up to the 18th May. I can’t understand your only having received two letters from me from Cape Town; you ought to have received the one I wrote from Bloemfontein, Deel’s farm, and Spytfontein where the Corps had its first fight. I hope you have received all by now. I know how anxious you are and you (Mother’s) letters are so full of anxiety that I feel quite wretched about it, especially as there is absolutely no cause for it. I have now been in four big engagements and have come to the conclusion the Boer doesn’t exist who can shoot me. I have had the shells and their bullets round me as thick as hail without exaggeration and not one touched either me or my horse although some came under my horse’s feet (Mauser bullets I mean not shells). So you can see I am as safe as I can possibly be and in the best of general health. In my last letter I wrote from Irene and I think I gave you a pretty good lot of news in that. Well we stayed there about ten days longer and we were just getting ourselves comfortable and were making shelter huts with galvanised iron and planks when we had orders to move again and we were divided into three detachments, one of which went to Kaffontein, another to Zurfontein and the third stayed at Home. I went to Zurfontein and directly we got there Clifford (my friend) & I were sent three miles up the line to a little pumping station to act as despatch riders to an infantry Officer who was there with a small detachment of infantry. We were very comfortable, got hold of a large Boer tent and made ourselves very comfortable, away from all authority, the officers seeing who we were left us entirely alone and gave us hardly any work to do. Consequently we made incursions into the surrounding country one at a time and got eggs poultry bread & milk from the different farms and washed the girls there. Evidently this sort of lazy living did not agree with me as after a week I was laid up with an extremely bad cold and fever and after sticking it three days I came into Johannesburg Hospital and here I am now almost cured and living on chicken jellies, milk & puddings & port and getting quite fit again. The Corps is now divided up into small detachments along the line between Pretoria & Johannesburg. I hear we are mobilising again for the Front. I hope it is true for although the hardships are pretty bad on the march yet the continual excitement & the skirmishes with the Boers give a zest to life. Besides I have not had a single opportunity of distinguishing myself yet & who knows whether I may or may not get a chance if we go on again. I expect we shall be sent against either Botha or De Vet. I hope the latter – to catch this ruffian would cover the Corps with glory & renown. Such a lot of commissions have been given to men from our ranks, all interest, every one of them without exception. I know I can easily get a post after the war on at least £1 a day but everything is so expensive it is worth about 200/- a month in India. I shall take it up anyhow and work for something better. The climate is perfection & the Transvaal a splendid country. It is extremely cold in the mornings ice being one inch thick on water left outside and everything covered with hoar frost. It is quite cold during the day also sometimes in fact generally.
I have a small pile which is giving me a little trouble here in hospital owing to the milk diet & I have told the doctor about it. He says he will soon put it right. We only have about ten of the original horses left now (not counting the officers’) & mine is one of them & he is still going strong. Clifford is looking after it for me. Consterdine is not a bad fellow but instead of his looking after me I think it had been the other way about, he often says so. I am called the President of our mess and I have had letters from all the members imploring me (in fun) to go back as without the President all seemed to be going wrong as there was no master hand to guide the affairs of the mess. I can never be sufficiently thankful I came on this expedition, it has made a man of me. I have seen most wonderful things and can turn my hand to anything now from cook to groom; we have had to dig wells, build fortifications and do all kinds of work of every description. I can cook anything porridge curry stew roast, clean & pluck a fowl, skin a sheep in fact do any mortal thing. It was very funny when I was first brought in here; the nurses thought they had hold of a wild man. I was ragged & patched, my breeches torn and worn out, my coat the same, unshaven long hair and hands simply engrained with dirt. But now what a transformation. I am clean, cleanly clothed and my hands through continual scrubbing have become a reddish brown instead of black as they were before. When I was first put into bed I stayed awake all night trying to realise how warm & comfortable I felt after sleeping on the ground for so long and shivering all night. I could not sleep and did not all that first night. But I am now a little more presentable and the nurses seeing I was always courteous with them are very nice and bring me extras that people send in, much to the jealous anger of my companions who all swear at them for favouring me. I take absolutely no notice. I am so sorry in the last letter to hear about poor Rachel’s fever. I hope the dear girl soon got over it. And you my dear dear mother have been ill, you really must take care of yourself & not be anxious about me; if you only could understand that I am having the best time of my life now, a life of excitement & adventure, free and wild. I am now a splendid horseman as far as sticking on goes although I don’t know much about looks. I think I can ride anything now. My pony has let me fire while on his back a most useful thing. I do feel so homesick at times to see you all especially when I hear so many saying they are going back with the Contingent and that they would not stop in this country for anything. Thank dear little Mona for her letter, also Rachel & Grace for theirs. How true Dad’s letter is when he says in a corps like ours there is not so much chance of distinguishing one’s self as there would in an ordinary corps. It is all interest, everything is worked by a coterie round the Colonel who is an old woman, a non-entity. I am anxiously waiting for more of your letters telling me you have received mine, I do hope they have not gone astray as they are records of what happened to me during the periods between each letter. Goodbye now dear ones what would I not give for a sight of you all. There will be work in Africa for everybody after awhile. Fondest love & kisses to all.
Your loving son
Kiss the little brother for me