8th October 1900
My dearest Mother & Sisters
I was simply thunderstruck to hear you had already left India for England. I got your letter saying you were leaving on the 8th Sept. about four days ago and of course you must have arrived in England by then. The first two letters preparing me for the news did not arrive till after the third. I am very glad for all your sakes but very sorry the pater could not go with you. We have been having an extremely easy time of it lately and living very well – bread, bacon, jam, meat (very little) tea, coffee every day. I am glad to say the end is not far off now as we are all pretty sick of this routine work; while the fighting lasted and we were marching the excitement kept one’s spirits up but it is getting most frightfully monstrous this Garrison work, although of course our patrols come in touch with small parties of Boers now and again, but owing to our superior strength and the utter demoralisation of the enemy we seldom see any fighting.
I wrote you some ten days ago but of course sent the letter to India; I hope Uncle will open it and read it before he sends it on to you. After the last march our headquarters with the Colonel and about fifty men went on with Gen. French to Barberton but the majority of us having no horses had to stay another day in Pretoria to get remounts; we then followed up but after a fortnight’s marching we were stopped and prevented from going any further as the fighting was all supposed to be over and consequently we have been here about three weeks. It is a dirty little place with about half a dozen tin houses but of great strategical importance owing to its position; it was here also that Kruger stayed for so long and preached in the village church. Since writing the last sentence I have been to the stream to water my horse and while I was there Lord Roberts with his aide-de-camp crossed the stream. I also saw Buller this morning for the first time. I have great news for you; we were asked this morning whether we were going to India or to England & the Colonel says or rather said the other day he was going to try and get us disbanded shortly; he is at present in hospital with a broken leg owing to his horse falling with him – the horse broke its neck. I believe a certain percentage of the men are going to be taken home as the “Guests of the nation” to take part in a Grand Review before the Queen; all colonial troops are to be represented; if such is the case I shall go home & see you all. It will be no expense to me and my passage will be paid to England and back again here besides which I shall be fed, clothed and paid while in England and I shall also have a better chance of working some influence or making interest with some one to get me a good Government appointment out here. However nothing is settled and I can assure you that I will throw away no chances of future employment for hopes of present employment in England although I should like to see you all.
I expect you find it rather cold after the Indian hot weather, but it must be delightful to be out of that wretched India again. As regards myself, I do not believe I could be more fit than I am. I am positively stout and weigh about 10 ½ stone now whereas I left India weighing 9 st 10; my face is quite round and as red as Baby’s ever was. You can not imagine the good this campaign has done me. I feel a man now and am always in the highest of spirits. I often wish you could see me. I intend getting photographed in Pretoria with some friends of mine. We hear we are going to Pretoria shortly although nobody knows anything definitely. You in England & India know infinitely more about what has happened during the war than we do. We are ignorant of anything outside our own immediate sphere. Shall you go and see the Hutchins’, Collingwood’s etc. I should the latter not the former. In my last I asked you to send me some tobacco, chocolate etc but if you have not already sent it don’t do so now as the war is practically over & I shall be able to obtain these very necessary comforts whereas before I could not for love or money. I should like a paper now and again with all the news in it. I am writing to Uncle this mail as well telling him where to send my things. For the present you can continue to address my letters as usual. One of our men was taken prisoner yesterday by some stray Boers who took his pony, rifle etc from him and then told him to go to h–l, he walked back to camp as quick as he could looking very silly and frightened and is determined he will not go out by himself again to farms round about the place. This place is simply full of troops, Buller’s, French’s, Mahon’s & other brigades. All Volunteers & Reservists & C.I.V’s are going to Pretoria homeward bound so our turn is sure to be soon. The C.I.V’s are simply hated throughout the Army; the Tommies call them the “Can I Vanish” boys from C.I.V. also the “Chicken in View” chaps; the insinuation being that when the enemy are in sight the first is applicable & the second noting their aptitude for looting farmhouses – a not very heinous offence in my opinion. Well good bye for the present mother, hoping you will soon be comfortably settled in your new surrounding and also that you are not worrying yourself needlessly about me, as I am all right. Also love to the girls & to the little ones. Tell the former to write oftener. They know I have not got the time.
Your loving son