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Title: A Yeoman's Letters - Third Edition
Author: Ross, P. T.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Yeoman's Letters - Third Edition" ***

Transcriber's note:

      Obvious printer's errors have been corrected. All other
      inconsistencies are as in the original. The author's
      spelling has been retained.

      Text enclosed by equal signs was in bold face in the

      The original book did not have a Table of Contents, and
      one has been created for the convenience of the reader.




       *       *       *       *       *


=_DAILY TELEGRAPH._=--'... Nothing better of this kind has yet appeared
than "A Yeoman's Letters," by P. T. Ross.... Bright, breezy, and vivid
are the stories of his adventures.... Corporal Ross not only writes
lively prose, but really capital verse. His "Ballad of the Bayonet" is
particularly smart. He is also a clever draughtsman, and his rough but
effective caricatures form not the least attractive feature of a very
pleasant book.'

=_STANDARD._=--'In "A Yeoman's Letters," Mr. P. T. Ross has written the
liveliest book about the War which has yet appeared. Whatever amusement
can be extracted from a tragic theme will be found in his vivacious
"Letters." He seems one of those high-spirited and versatile young men
who notice the humorous side of everything, and can add to the jollity
of a company by a story, a song, an "impromptu" poem, or a pencilled

=_SCOTSMAN._=--'The war literature now includes books of all sorts; but
there is nothing in it more racy or readable than this collection of
letters, what may be called familiar letters to the general public....
In spite of its subject, there is more fun than anything else in the
book.... But a deeper interest is not lacking to the book, either in its
animated descriptions of serious affairs or in the substantial gravity
which a discerning reader will see between the lines of voluble and
entertaining talk.'

=_CHRONICLE.=_--'Our Yeoman is a droll fellow, a facetious dog, whether
with pen or sketching pencil, and we laughed heartily at many of his
japes and roughly-drawn sketches.'

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: CORPL. P. T. ROSS.]




(_Late Corporal 69th Sussex Company I.Y._)

Illustrated by the Author.

                     "And you, good Yeomen,
  Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
  The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
  That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not."


Third Edition.

Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton,
Kent & Co., Limited.

Printed by Burfield & Pennells,


      The Sussex Yeomanry.

   PART 1.
      On the Trek.

      The Occupation of Johannesburg.
      Pretoria Taken.
      Diamond Hill and After.
      Back to Pretoria.
      Entertaining a Guest.
      The Mails Arrive.
      The Nitral's Nek Disaster.

      A General Advance to Balmoral and Back.
      To Rustenburg.
      Heavy Work for the Recording Angel.
      Relief of Eland's River Garrison. Join in the great De Wet hunt.
      After De Wet.
      The Yeoman, the Argentine and the Farrier-Sergeant.
      Commandeering by Order.

      Cattle Lifting.
      Delarey gives us a Field Day.
      Burnt to Death.
      The Infection of Spring again.
      Death of Lieutenant Stanley.
      His Burial.
      Promoted to Full Corporal.
      Petty Annoyances--The Nigger.
      A Wet Night.
      The Great Egg Trick.
      Our Friend "Nobby."
      "The Roughs" leave us for Pretoria.
      The breaking up of the Composite Squadron.
      Life on a Kopje.
      Death and Burial of Captain Hodge.
      Camp Life at Krugersdorp.
      Lady Snipers at Work.
      Treatment of the Sick.
      Veldt Church Service.

      The Story of Nooitgedacht.
      Two Field Hospitals--A Contrast.
      Christmas in Hospital.
      The Career of an Untruth.
      The Sisters' Albums.
      "Long live the King!"
      The Irish Fusilier's Ambition.
      "War without End."
      Invitations--and a Concert.
      Our Orderly's Blighted Heart.
      Southward Ho!
      R.A.M.C. Experiences and Impressions.
      The Mythical and Real Officer.
      The R.A.M.C. Sergeant-Major, and other annoyances.
      At the Base.
      Another Album!!


  "A Hot Time!"                                             2
  "A Camp Sing-Song"                                        7
  "The Great Small Game Quest(ion)"                         9
  "The Mealie and Oat Fatigue"                             23
  "Stable Guard"                                           31
  "A Terrible Reckoning"                                   44
  "Some of the Pomp and Circumstance of Glorious War"      52
  "A New Rig-out"                                          58
  "Oliver Twist on the Veldt"                              65
  "Hate"                                                   68
  "Mails Up"                                               87
  "I'kona"                                                 89
  "Nobby"                                                  94
  "Consolation"                                           112
  "On Pass"                                               114
  "A Peep at Our Domestic Life"                           118
  "Hymns and their Singers"                               129
  "A Friendly Boer Family"                                141
  "Well, it's the best Oi can do for yez"                 144
  "Sick" and "Who said C.I.V.'s?"                         148
  "Got His Ticket"                                        153
  "The Thoughtless Sister"                                156
  "God Save the King"                                     159
  "Tommy's Spittoon"                                      171


"More khaki," sniffed a bored but charming lady, as she glanced at a
picture of the poor Yeomanry at Lindley, and then hastily turned away to
something of greater interest. I overheard the foregoing at the Royal
Academy, soon after my return from South Africa, last May, and thanked
the Fates that I was in mufti. It was to a certain extent indicative of
the jaded interest with which the War is now being followed by a large
proportion of the public at home, the majority of whom, I presume, have
no near or dear ones concerned in the affair; a public which cheered
itself hoarse and generally made "a hass" of itself many months ago in
welcoming certain warriors whose period of active service had been
somewhat short. I wonder how the veterans of the Natal campaign, the
gallant Irish Brigade, and others, will be received when they return?
"Come back from the War! What War?"

And yet in spite of this apathy, "War Books" keep appearing, and here is
a simple Yeoman thrusting yet another on the British Public. Still
'twere worse than folly to apologise, for _qui s'excuse, s'accuse_.

The present unpretentious volume is composed of letters written to a
friend from South Africa, during the past twelve months, with a few
necessary omissions and additions; the illustrations which have been
introduced, are reproductions in pen and ink of pencil sketches done on
the veldt or in hospital. The sole aim throughout has been to represent
a true picture of the every-day life of a trooper in the Imperial
Yeomanry. In many cases the "grousing" of the ranker may strike the
reader as objectionable, and had this record been penned in a
comfortable study, arm-chair philosophy might have caused many a passage
to be omitted. But the true campaigning atmosphere would have been

As the Sussex Squadron of Imperial Yeomanry was, in popular parlance,
"on its own" till the end of May, the letters dealing with that period
have been excluded. However, a brief account of the doings of the
Squadron up to that time is necessary to give continuity to the story,
so here it is:


The Yeomanry is a Volunteer Force, and as is generally known, was
embodied in Great Britain during the wars of the French Revolution.
History records that at the period named, the County of Sussex
possessed one of the finest Corps in England. _Autres temps, autres
moeurs_, and so from apathy and disuse the Sussex Yeomanry gradually
dwindled in numbers and importance, until it eventually became
extinct. Then came the dark days of November and December, in the
year eighteen-hundred-and-ninety-nine. Who will ever forget them?
And who does not remember with pride the great outburst of
patriotism, which, like a volcanic eruption, swept every obstacle
before it, banishing Party rancour and class prejudice, thus welding
the British race in one gigantic whole, ready to do and die for the
honour of the Old Flag, and in defence of the Empire which has been
built up by the blood and brains of its noblest sons. The call for
Volunteers for Active Service was answered in a manner which left no
doubt as to the issue. From North, South, East, and West, came
offers of units, then tens, then hundreds, and finally, thousands,
the flower of the Nation, were in arms ready for action. The Hon. T.
A. Brassey, a Sussex man, holding a commission in the West Kent
Yeomanry, applied for permission and undertook, early in February,
1900, to form a squadron of Yeomanry from Sussex. The enlistment was
principally done at Eastbourne, as were also the preliminary drills.
We went into quarters at Shorncliffe where we trained until the last
week in March, when early, very early, one dark cold morning, a
wailing sleepy drum and fife band played us down to the Shorncliffe
Station, where we entrained for the Albert Docks, London. There the
transport "Delphic" received us, together with a squadron of Paget's
Horse (the 73rd I.Y.), and soon after noon the officers and troopers
were being borne down the river, and with mixed feelings, were
beginning to realise they were actually off at last. Many, alas,
were destined never to return.

It is more amusing than ever, now, to recall the remarks of cheerful,
chaffing friends, who indulged in sly digs at the poor Yeomen previous
to their departure. At that time, as now, "the end was in sight" only we
had not got used to it. It was a common experience to be greeted with,
"Ha, going out to South Africa! Why it'll be all over before you get
there," or "Well, it'll be a pleasant little trip there and back, for I
don't suppose they'll land you." Subsequent experience of troopships has
dispelled even "the pleasant trip" illusion. Another favourite phrase,
was "Well, if they do use you, they'll put you on the lines of
communications." Sometimes a generous friend would confidentially ask,
"Do you think they'll let you start?" And one, a lady, anxious on
account of gew-gaws, observed, "Oh, I hope they'll give you a medal."

Eventually the slow but sure S.S. "Delphic," having stopped at St.
Helena to land bullocks for Cronje, Schiel and their friends, disgorged
us at Cape Town. Our anxiety as to whether the war was over was soon
allayed, and we gaily marched, a perspiring company, to Maitland Camp.
Here amid sand and flies we began to conceive what the real thing would
be like. An extract or two from letters written while at that salubrious
spot may serve to give an idea of the life there:

     "This place is a perfect New Jerusalem as regards Sheenies, every
     civilian about the camp appearing to be a German Jew refugee.
     They have stalls and sell soap, buns, braces, belts, &c., and so
     forth. Every now and again a big Semitic proboscis appears at our
     tent door, and the question 'Does anypody vant to puy a vatch' is

Hungarian horses were drawn and quartered by our lines, and saddlery
served out. By-the-way, I have always flattered myself there was at
least one good thing about the 69th Squadron I.Y., they had excellent
saddles. The first time we turned out in full marching order was a
terrible affair, and the following may help to convey an idea of the
_tout ensemble_ of an erstwhile peaceful citizen:

     "Please imagine me as an average Yeoman in full marching order.
     Dangling on each side of the saddle are apparently two small
     hay-ricks in nets; then wallets full, and over them a rolled
     overcoat and an extra pair of boots. Behind, rolled
     waterproof-sheet and army blanket, with iron picketing-peg and
     rope, and mess-tin on top. Elsewhere the close observer mentally
     notes a half-filled nosebag. So much for the horse, and then,
     loaded with the implements of war, bristling with cartridges,
     water-bottle, field-glass, haversack, bayonet and so on, we
     behold the Yeoman. With great dexterity (not always) he fits
     himself into the already apparently superfluously-decorated
     saddle, and once there, though he may wobble about, takes some

     "I really must remark on the marvellous head for figures that we
     Yeomen are expected to have. Read this. Comment from myself will
     be superfluous.

     "My Company number is 51.

     "My regimental number is 16,484.

     "My rifle and bayonet, 2,502.

     "The breech-block and barrel of the rifle are numbered 4,870.

     "My horse's number is 1,388.

     "There may be a few more numbers attached to me; if so, I have
     overlooked them."

_En passant_, I must mention we were with our proper battalion, the
14th, commanded by Colonel Brookfield, M.P., at Maitland. Eventually,
thanks to the fact of his Grace the Duke of Norfolk being attached to
our squadron, when we got the order to go up country we left the rest of
the battalion behind at Bloemfontein, cursing, and proceeded by rail as
far as Smaldeel, where we detrained with our horses and commenced
treking after the immortal "Bobs."

His Grace's servant, rather an old fellow, did not seem to particularly
care for campaigning, and, often, dolefully regarding his khaki
garments, would sorrowfully remark, "To think as 'ow I've served 'im all
these years, and now 'e should bring me hout 'ere. It does seem 'ard." I
think a pilgrimage would have been more to his liking.

Our first experience of "watering horses" on the trek was both
interesting and exciting, it occurred at Smaldeel.

     "The horses we proceeded to water at once; I had the pleasure of
     taking two and of proving the proverb, _re_ leading horses to the
     water. _En route_ were dead horses to the right and dead horses
     to the left; in the water, which was black, one was dying in an
     apparently contented manner, while another lay within a few
     yards of it doing the same thing in a don't-care-a-bit sort of
     way. Regarded from five hours later, I fancy my performances with
     the two noble steeds in my charge must have been distinctly
     amusing to view, had anyone been unoccupied enough to watch me.
     Vainly did I try to induce them to drink of the
     printer's-ink-like fluid, water and mud, already stirred up by
     hundreds of other horses. When they did go in, they went for a
     splash, a paddle, and a roll, not to imbibe, and I had to go with
     them a little way, nearly up to my knees, in the mud. I have
     arrived at the conclusion that the noble quadruped is not an
     altogether pleasant beast. Still, I suppose he has an opinion of
     us poor mortals. In death he is also far from pleasant, as was
     conclusively proved when night came on, and a dead one near us
     began to assert his presence with unnecessary emphasis. Phew!
     It's all very well saying that a live donkey is better than a
     dead lion, but judging from my experience of dead horses, which
     is just commencing, I should say that the dead lion would prove
     mightily offensive."

The water in the Free State, as a rule, was most unsatisfactory.
Marching in the wake of an army of about 50,000 men, however, one would
scarcely expect water to remain unstirred or unpolluted. I always found
my tea or coffee more enjoyable when the water for it was drawn by
somebody else. Even though that comrade would jestingly call it
"Bovril," and unnecessarily explain that the pool it came from contained
two dead horses and an ox.

One more extract and I have done.

     "Yesterday (Friday, May 25th) we got as far as Leeum Spruit. So
     far they had succeeded in getting the railway in working order,
     but there the scene was one of utter destruction, three or four
     bridges being blown up, and the rails all twisted and sticking up
     in the air. Hundreds of Kaffirs were at work getting things
     straight, which to any ordinary person would seem impossible.

     "It is a marvellous sight to see the convoys toiling in the track
     of Roberts' army, the blown-up bridges and rails, and the
     deserted farms. Of course, some are still inhabited. It may
     interest linguists and admirers of Laurence Sterne to know that
     the language of the British Army in South Africa is the same as
     it was with our army in Flanders in Uncle Toby's days--of course,
     allowing for an up-to-date vocabulary.

     "Sunday, May 27th.--Up with the unfortunate early worm, as usual.
     Our _reveillé_ generally consists of a shout and a kick, as our
     bugle is not used. It seems hard to realise that to-day is
     Sunday, and while the church bells at home are ringing, or the
     service is in progress, we dirty, unshaven beings, who once had
     part in the far-away life, are either riding or leading our
     horses across the flat and, in many places, charred veldt, past
     blown-up bridges, torn-up rails, convoys leisurely drawn by
     languid oxen, demolished houses, bleached bones of oxen, horses
     and mules, as well as the so-often-alluded-to dead beasts known
     by Tommy as 'Roberts' Milestones,' and all that goes to
     war--glorious war. We are making a fairly long march to-day, as
     we hope to catch Roberts at last. Anyhow, to-night should see us
     at the frontier--the Vaal River."





                                        ORANGE GROVE,
                                          NEAR JOHANNESBURG.
                                            _Saturday, June 2nd, 1900._

On Monday, May 28th, at mid-day, we reached the Vaal River, where we
stopped and took all our superfluous kit off the horses, which left us
with one blanket per man; were provided with four biscuits each, rations
for two days, and so with light hearts and saddles, we forded Viljoen's
Drift; into the Transvaal--at last! We had a long march to catch
Roberts, but this country provides one with heaps of things to break any
monotony that might otherwise exist, for it is ever "'Ware wire," "'Ware
hole," "'Ware rock," or "'Ware ant hill," and now and again in the
thick, blinding cloud of reddish dust a man and horse go down, and
another a-top of them. Soon after dark, nearly the whole of the veldt
around us became illuminated, reminding me of a colossal Brock's Benefit
or the Jubilee Fleet Illuminations. As a matter of fact, the veldt was
a-fire. The effect was really wonderful. At about ten o'clock we reached
the main body, and being informed that Roberts was about four miles
ahead with the 11th Division, our captain decided to bivouac for the
night, and catch him up in the morning. After ringing our horses, we
wandered round in the dark, and finding a convenient cart in a barn,
soon after had a good enough fire to cook some meat we managed to
secure, and then, dead fagged, turn in to sleep. [Here I would fain
mutter an aside. When I was at home, a certain jingo song was much sung,
perhaps is still; it was entitled, "A hot time in the Transvaal
to-night." I want to find the man who wrote that song, and get him to
bivouac with us for a night, at this time of the year, with an overcoat
and one blanket.] We awoke well covered with frost, and the stars have
seldom twinkled on a more miserable set of shivering devils than we of
the 69th Company I.Y. A nibble at a biscuit, no coffee, and we were
after Roberts. We caught him up after about an hour's riding; the 11th
Division was moving out as we came up. The Guards' Brigade was going
forward on our right, and Artillery rolling forward on our left, with
ambulance waggons, carts, and general camp equipment joining in the
procession. We moved smartly on, trotting past the Guards' Brigade,
soldiers straggling on who had fallen out for one reason or another, or
sitting by the wayside attending to sore feet, till we came up with the
Staff. Our captain reported himself, and _pro tem._ we were attached to
Lord Roberts' bodyguard.

[Illustration: "_A hot time!_"]

After a halt for our mid-day grub (we had none, having devoured our
biscuits and emergency rations about three hours before, for which we
were severely reprimanded by our captain, the Hon. T. A. B.), we
proceeded again. At last we reached a ridge, and halting there, we
beheld the Rand, and about six miles to our left, Johannesburg. A
railway station having been captured, with about a dozen engines and
rolling stock, the Army bivouacked for the night. We were in a field by
a farmhouse, where we bought some meat very cheaply, and had a good
supper, which would have been all the better had we had bread or even
the once but now no more despised biscuits to eat with it. The next day
we received orders to join the 7th Battalion I.Y., so saddled up, and
passing through Elsburg and the Rose Dip, Primrose, and other mines,
joined our new Battalion at Germiston. The 7th I.Y. Battalion is a West
Country one, being composed of the Devon, Dorset, and Somerset Yeomanry
and has seen some stiff service at Dewetsdorp. In the afternoon I had
the misfortune to go out with our troop officer and another man to find
our 4th troop, which had been left behind as baggage guard. Us did he
lose (oh, the Yeomanry officer!) and when it was dark, we set out to
find our company in the great camp the other side of Elsburg. What I
said about that officer as I stumbled over rocks, ant hills, and holes,
in these, my cooler moments, it would not become my dignity to record.
The next day, Thursday (my birthday) promised to be an eventful one, and
was. Johannesburg was to be attacked if it did not surrender by ten
o'clock. With well-cleaned rifles and tightly-girthed horses, we moved
out with our Battalion at nine o'clock to take up our position. Our duty
was to attack the waterworks, if there was any resistance. However, as
you know, the place capitulated; news was brought to us that the fort
had surrendered, and we at once rapidly trotted up to it to take
possession. Arrived outside, we were dismounted and marched into it, and
drawn up in line facing the flagstaff on the fort wall. Suddenly a
little ball was run up to the truck, a jerk and the Flag of England, the
dear old Union Jack, was flying on the walls of the Johannesburg Fort.
Then we cheered for our Queen, and again, when from somewhere a chromo
of Her Gracious Majesty was produced and held aloft. Roberts' Raid had
been successful. The Boer garrison seemed more relieved than depressed.
Indeed, the commandant's servant gave us all the cold roast beef and
bread that he had. Guards having been told off, and the horses picketed
in the Police Barracks Yard, some of us had leave to go into the town. I
was one of the fortunates. The enthusiasm of the inhabitants and their
generous treatment of the men in khaki will be long remembered. The
coloured population all showed great, gleaming rows of teeth, and
ejaculated what I took to be meant for British cheers. Bread was given
away, cigars and cigarettes forced (?) upon us, and meals stood right
and left. A German girl, at a florist's, decorated about half-a-dozen of
us with red, white and blue buttonholes. We were dirty and unshaven, but
it mattered not, we were monarchs (_Væ Victis!_) and was it not my
birthday? Into the shops we went. All were closed, but we persuaded some
to open, and the good German Jew merchants let us commandeer within
reason. Haversacks and pockets were filled. The actual prices of things
were fairly high: sugar 1/6 per lb., condensed milk 2/-, golden syrup
4/- a small tin, and so on. One of our fellows, after being well fed,
was sent back to us loaded with boxes of briar pipes to distribute,
another with socks and vests; others were given Kruger pennies, as
souvenirs. And all the day, and all the night, through the streets
marched our troops, rolled and rattled our guns, our carts and waggons.
And the night, oh, what a night! For seven miles I struggled on in
charge of our ammunition cart, in search of our company, picking my way
out of a mass of bullock waggons, carts, mules, and every imaginable
vehicle; men asking for this brigade and that division on every hand;
transport officers cursing, conductors exhorting, and niggers yelling
and cracking whips.


                                        WITHIN SIGHT OF EERSTIE FABRIKEN,
                                          E. OF PRETORIA.
                                            _June 10th, 1900._

Fortunately for you in my last I left off rather abruptly in order to
catch the post, or I should have bored you with a long account of my
search with our ammunition cart for the company along the road to
Pretoria from Johannesburg. For seven miles we--a comrade, myself, the
blank Kaffir driver and mules--struggled and stumbled between long halts
after our crowd, past waggons, carts, dhoolies, and chaises of all
descriptions, the drivers of most of which were all inquiring for
various divisions, brigades, battalions, companies, and such like. At
last, at about one o'clock, having come up with the 11th Division, we
halted and outspanned near the Guards' Brigade. At the first sign of
daybreak I arose, and going forward about a quarter of a mile or less,
came up with our company. The captain told me to get the mules inspanned
and follow on. Owing to the infernal slowness of Tom, the driver, we got
off late and had another terrible search, this time by daylight, to find
the 7th Battalion I.Y., which at last we found camped at Orange Grove,
about two miles from where we had bivouacked the preceding night. The
next day (Sunday) we were looking to spending in a restful way, but this
was not to be. We suddenly got the order to "saddle up," and forward to
Pretoria we went. At about two in the afternoon we halted and picketed
our horses not far from a farm. There rather a curious, though perhaps
trivial, thing happened. Amongst the hundred-and-one little
_contretemps_ to which the Imperial Yeoman on active service is heir to,
I had lost my nosebag on our night march from Johannesburg. This
contained, besides the horse's feed, a tin of honey--of which I am as
fond as any bear--and a pot of bloater paste, obtained (good word) at
the Golden City from a "Sherman Shoe." Well, wandering in the direction
of the farm, I came near a duck-pond and a clump of small trees, from
which smoke was arising. My curiosity being aroused, I approached, and
found that some Australians and Cape Boys were smoking out some bees. I
arrived in the nick of time, and got a helmet-full of the most delicious
honey in the comb I have tasted for many a day. On Monday, June 4th, we
started for what we understood was to be our last march to Pretoria. We
had the good fortune to be in the advance party. Soon after starting the
Duke of Norfolk's horse fell in a hole and put his thigh out, so he lost
the fun, for it was not long before, from the hills ahead of us, came
rap, rap, and then the rat-tat-tat-tat of a machine gun. We dismounted,
advanced extended, and opened fire. I aimed at the hills, so I know I
hit something. The Boers retiring, we (that is the battalion) occupied
one kopje and then another, the dust flicking up in front of us. Then
boom! whish-sh-sh! a cloud of red dust shot up, and crack! and their
artillery had come into action. One shell burst directly over our heads,
then we were told to retire to our led horses, which necessitated
crossing a road on which their fire was directed. Needless to say this
was not an altogether uninteresting proceeding. And so the game went on,
our guns coming into action in grand style. We got in for rather a warm
rifle fire once; we galloped up, dismounted, and advanced to the top of
a kopje which was covered with rather long grass. Buzz-buzz-buzz went
the busy bullets seeking unwilling billets. They came very close there,
snipping the grass tops close beside us. Here there were casualties in
several of the other companies. One of our fellows was shot through the
leg, and Mr. Ashby was knocked on the waist-belt by a spent bullet or
piece of shell and rendered unconscious for some time. Later, in
galloping across an exposed space to occupy another kopje, the captain's
horse was shot under him, as well as several others. I think that is
more than enough of the affair; I have no doubt you know better what
really was done than we. No waggons coming up that night, we had no
rations nor breakfast next day, so you see we do the thing in style, for
we had started the day at four and only had a pannikin of coffee and a
biscuit for breakfast. The next day we heard that the Pretoria Forts had
surrendered and the Boer Forces withdrawn, and the whole army advanced
at last on its final march to Pretoria, and this humble _Ego_, who
months ago at home had thought and talked of this great event, and not
for a moment anticipated participation in the same, formed a modest unit
of the victorious horde. However, that day we (the 7th I.Y.) did not go
into the capital, but camped outside of it. Not to be done, after we had
picketed our horses, I made my way into a Kaffir suburb near us, and did
well at a couple of stores, kept by German Jews, coming back with a sack
of tinned edibles and some Kruger pennies. The next day a friend and I
were lucky, and got leave into Pretoria. We returned to a grateful and
enthusiastic troop, laden with quite a score-and-a-half of loaves, at
six in the evening, and concluded a pleasant day with a high tea (very
high) and a camp-fire sing-song. "Chorus, gentlemen!":

  It's 'ard to sye good-bye to yer own native land,
  It's 'ard to give the farewell kiss, and parting grip of the 'and,
  It's 'ard to leave yer sweetheart, in foreign lands to roam;
  But it's 'arder still to sye good-bye to the ole folks at 'ome.

[Illustration: _A Camp Sing Song._ "_They call me the Jewel of Asia._"]

That night we entertained several ex-British soldier prisoners from

My horse (late of the R.H.A.), picked up at Kroonstad, is going very
strong. He is very useful to me as a means of locomotion, but otherwise
no good feeling exists between us, for he is the most senseless, clumsy
brute that I have ever come across in the animal kingdom. He is always
treading on me and doing other idiotic and annoying acts. A few days ago
he got entangled in the picketing ropes, and on my going to his
assistance promptly fell forward upon me (he is the biggest horse I have
seen in any Yeomanry Company) and nearly broke my instep. I have lately
re-christened him "Juggernaut," which I think is not an inappropriate
name. I had not much time to spare when we went into Pretoria, but could
not help stopping to watch a couple of regiments go through--the Derbies
with their band and the Camerons with their pipers. It was a grand sight
to see those dirty, ragged, khaki-clad fellows tramping past the
Volksraad, over which the Flag was flying, and note the tired but grim
smile of satisfaction with which they regarded it. Quite two out of
every four infantrymen I saw limped along with feet sore from marching
over all sorts of roads and "where there was never a road." Some were
getting along with the aid of sticks--most, if not all, of the officers
march with sticks.

On Thursday, June 7th, we were still in camp outside of Pretoria, with a
hospital, containing interesting cases of leprosy, small-pox and fever
behind us; and about 200 yards to our left front hundreds of dead horses
and a few vultures. At mid-day the usual unexpected thing happened, and
it was "saddle up," and off we rode through the captured capital,
passing Kruger's house, with the two lions outside the entrance,
presented to him by Barney Barnato, and a group of typical old Boers
seated at a table on the stoep. We bivouacked about six or eight miles
east of the town, and the next morning caught up the army and took our
place in advance again. At mid-day we halted within sight of Eerstie
Fabriken.[1] Some of us were having a _siesta_ and others eating
biscuits and bully beef, or smoking the pipe of peace (peace, when there
is no peace!), when--Boom! whish-sh! over our heads, and about 100 yards
behind us a group of horses was lost in a cloud of brown earth and dust.
Then another and another came, and we got the order to take cover to our
right, which was promptly obeyed. Our guns came into action, and later
an armistice was arranged, for the convenience of Brother Boer, I
presume, which to-day (Sunday) still continues.

         [Footnote 1: Otherwise known as the "Hatherly Distillery,"
         owned by a chameleon millionaire German-Jew, named Sammy
         Marks. Oh, that fine old Scotch whisky! The labels announcing
         this un-fact are, I understand, obtained from the Old Country
         and gummed on the bottles at Hatherly.]

[Illustration: _The Great Small Game Quest(ion)._]

This morning (Sunday, the 10th) we had the first Church Parade we have
had for a long time. The sermon was good, and from it I gathered that it
was Trinity Sunday. Yesterday it was a curious sight to see us
employing our leisured ease in stripping ourselves, scratching our
bodies, and carefully examining our shirts and underwear. A brutal
lice(ntious) soldiery! Most of us have had quite large families of
_these_ dependent upon us; a more euphonious term for them is "Roberts'
Scouts." Men to whom the existence of such insects was once merely a
vaguely-accepted fact, and who would have brought libel actions against
any persons insinuating that they possessed such things, after having
been disillusioned of the idea that they were troubled with the "prickly
itch," were calmly, naked and unashamed, searching diligently for their
tormentors in their clothes as to the manner born. Being fortunate
enough to find an officer's servant with a bottle of Jeyes', I finally
washed both myself and clothes in a solution of it, so once again I am a
free man, but the cry goes up "How long?" and echo repeats it. I have
been told that the best way to get rid of these undesirable insects is
to keep turning one's shirt inside out; by this means _their hearts are
eventually broken_.


         [Footnote 2: That we played a small part in the extensive
         operations, culminating in what is known as the Battle of
         Diamond Hill, was only known to most of us four or five
         months later.]

                                          _Friday, June 15th, (?) 1900._

_Dolce far niente._ I am not certain about the spelling, or quite
positive about its interpretation, but it means something comfortable, I
am sure. And that is just what I am at present. I have lost the scanty
notes on which I try to base my periodical literary outbursts, and which
assist me to retain some hazy notion of the date and day of the week, so
both you at home and I out here ought to feel "for this relief much
thanks!" And the reason for all this contentment and satisfaction is
this. We were shifted from our last camping ground yesterday afternoon,
and have arrived here. We are here for two or three days at the least.
That is as far as we can gather, and we "just do" hear a lot. This means
a bit of rest from the everlasting early _reveillé_, saddling up,
packing up kit, and so forth. So behold me on the veldt, leaning against
my saddle in my shirt sleeves, taking things easy, after having dined
well on a loaf of bread well covered with tinned butter obtained at a
store some miles back owing to my having to fall out of the ranks on
account of a broken girth (hem!) on our march hither. The bread a Scotch
farmer, and tenant of Sammy Marks, gave me yesterday. Of course you must
have noted how the principal topic with us is grub, and probably felt
contempt for us, still I assure you it is the great Army question. When
you meet a man out here, usually the first question is "What sort of
grub are you having?" Then, after another remark or so, "Seen much
fighting?" Or, again, on asking a man what sort of a general Buller is,
for instance, the reply comes pat, "A grand man--he looks after your
rations. Feeds you well!" Still, it must be admitted it looks rather
amusing to see a big, bearded man expectantly awaiting his share of
condensed milk or sugar to spread on a piece of biscuit. As regards
fighting, we have been shelled over a bit lately. I think it was last
Monday I had to go and see if there was anybody in a small house some
distance opposite a range of kopjes occupied by the enemy. I had to kick
in the door, and hitch my horse to a tree. Nobody was in the house; but
the firing got very warm while I was making my visit. On Tuesday one of
our patrols was ambushed, and only one man returned with the news. Later
the officer in command of the troop came in with a corporal, and we
heard that one fellow had been severely wounded and several horses lost.
The rest eventually straggled in. All had tales of marvellous escapes to
tell, some had laid low in a river up to their necks in water for many
hours, others in the long grass. Yesterday we heard that the Boers
confessed to three killed and three or four wounded, and as our man is
progressing favourably I don't think their ambush was a great success,
especially as they opened fire at a hundred yards or less, a fact which
does not speak highly for their marksmanship.

Referring to grass, it is truly wonderful how inconspicuous our khaki is
amidst rocks or grass. Riding along on Monday last I almost rode slap
over some Guardsmen who were halted and lying or sitting in the grass. I
only became aware of their presence when about ten yards from them. And
they all want to get home again--

  "'Ome, and friends so dear, Jennie,
     'Anging round the yard,
    All the way from Fratton,
      Down to Portsmouth 'Ard."

Nearly every other sentence one hears out here begins with "When I get
home----." Had one of the Guardsmen been inclined to assist me with a
rhyme to the tune of "Mandalay," he might have sinned thuswise:

  I'm learnin' 'ere in Afriky wot the bloomin' poet tells,
  If you've 'eard the song of "'Ome, sweet 'Ome," you won't 'eed nothin'
          No, you won't 'eed nothin' else
          But the English hills and dells,
  And the cosy house or cottage where the lovin' family dwells.
          On the road to London Town,
          Home of great and small renown,
  Where the bright lights gleam and glitter on the rich and on the poor.
          Oh! the lights of London Town,
          And the strollin' up and down,
  Where the fog rolls over everything and the mighty city's roar.
  Ship me home towards that city, where the best live with the worst,
  Where there are "Blue Ribbon" Armies, but a man _can_ quench a thirst.

This, by the way, might allude to Lord Roberts' order, by which all the
bars are closed wherever the troops go. When I went into Pretoria not a
bar was open.

  "'E's rather down on drink
    Is Father Bobs."

It is quite on the cards that we may be disbanded soon. The war is
generally regarded as almost over, and candidates for the Military
Police Force, which is being organised for the Transvaal and Orange Free
State, are being sought for amongst the various Yeomanry Companies out
here, the conditions being an optional three months' service, ten
shillings a day pay and all found. About fifty of our company have
volunteered, and may go into Pretoria any day now. These fifty have been
supplied with the best horses we have amongst us, and we have not many
now, my horse "Juggernaut," being one of the horses which had to be
handed to the future _slops_, as the candidates are now being
disrespectfully termed. This being the case, my future movements will be
in the manner called "a foot slog" behind the ox-waggons.


                                   NEAR THE RACECOURSE, PRETORIA.
                                     (A Return Visit.)
                                        _Wednesday, June 20th, 1900._

"Here we are again" at Pretoria, that is, all that is left of us, for
about fifty have joined the Military Police, others are wounded, sick,
or missing, and the horses now in our lines number about two dozen
moderately sound ones. All of this suggests, to minds capable of the
wildest imaginings, a near return to England, home, and beauty. Some
experts have actually fixed the date, which varies from within the week
to within the next two months.

Last Saturday (June 16th) we left Pienaarspoort in the morning, and
marched for about five miles in an easterly direction, many of us doing
"a foot slog," having, as I have already mentioned, surrendered our
mounts to the policemen; the mounted men had only just unsaddled for the
mid-day halt, and collected wood to cook coffee and in some cases ducks
obtained from inhospitable farmers flying the white flag, an emblem of
which the Boer has made the best use for himself times innumerable, when
the order was heliographed from a distant kopje for the 7th Battalion
I.V., attached to the 4th M.I., to march back to Pretoria. Then, in my
opinion, a great event happened. We footsloggers determined to detach
ourselves from our particular convoy and march into Pretoria, a distance
of twenty miles or more, in addition to the four we had already tramped.
I believe it was in my brain that this memorable (to us) march
originated. We were certain that the mounted men would not reach the
capital that night, as of course they had to keep in touch with the
ox-waggons, and as we had to tramp, we determined to tramp to some
purpose. Our goal was no cold bivouac on the hard earth outside
Pretoria, with the usual weary waiting for the ox-waggons stuck in a
spruit about four miles astern, but Pretoria itself, where bread and
stores were to be obtained, a square meal at a table, and, oh! ye
gentlemen of England, who live at home at ease, _a bed_. Imbued with
this idea, with sloped rifle we gaily commenced our return march. Soon
we came upon miles upon miles of convoys with straggling Colonials,
Highlanders, Guardsmen, C.I.V.'s, indeed, representatives of all
branches of the service, and all parts of the Empire, one and all
toiling in the direction of Pretoria. We started at about mid-day, and
reached our destination, tired and famished, at seven. After the first
ten miles, behold a string of four men, tramping with never a halt, over
rocks and grass, through spruits, past unutterably aromatic defunct
representatives of the equine race, and through dust ankle deep, towards
the city of their desire. Darkness came on swiftly, as it does out here,
and past hundreds of camp fires they limped, footsore but as determined
as ever, though in no good temper, for this is the order of some of
their questions and answers towards the end of their march:

"How far off is Pretoria?"--"Three-and-a-half miles."

"How far off is Pretoria?"--"Seven miles."

"How far off is Pretoria?"--"Nine miles."

"How far off is Pretoria?"--"Three miles."

"Have you a Kruger penny?"--"No."

After tramping another two miles:

"How far off is Pretoria?"--"Three or four miles."

At last we beheld lights, not camp lights, but electric lights, and
cheered by these, we quickened our pace. Alas! they seemed to play us a
sorry game, and mocking, Will-o'-the-Wisp-like, retreated as we
advanced. Then, too, we cursed those once blessed electric lights.
Finally we reached the outskirts of the town, and seeing a closed store,
with rifle butts and threatening tones persuaded the German dealer to
open unto us. Here, speaking personally, I disposed of over half a tin
of biscuits and two tins of jam. _Note by the Way_: These South African
fresh fruit jams are, I am convinced, made of the numberless pumpkins
and similar vegetables that one sees in nearly every field, and then
indiscriminately labelled (I nearly wrote _libelled_) "peach,"
"apricot," "greengage," and--so help me, Roberts!--"marmalade." One of
the manufacturers even has the audacity to boldly proclaim his preserves
"stoneless plum and apricot";--as a matter of fact, pumpkins do not
usually have stones.

Finally we entered the town, where every shop was closed, but, thanks to
the guidance of a kindly German, after about half-a-dozen unsuccessful
efforts we at length obtained food and shelter at a house called "The
Albion." Oh, the pleasure of sleeping in a bed and under a roof after
_æons_ (to me) on the hard earth beneath the stars and dew! The next
morning (Sunday) as we were breakfasting, we beheld unseen, the 7th
Battalion ride past, and later, after purchasing a few stores, joined
them where they were camped near the now historic Racecourse. I omitted
to mention above that as we lay in our comfortable beds that eventful
Saturday night, we heard the rain pouring in torrents upon the
galvanised iron roof above our heads, and grimly smiled as we thought of
the other less fortunate officers, non-commissioned officers and men of
the I.Y., lying out in the open, vainly trying to get shelter and
protection under narrow waterproof sheets. Alas, we only had the laugh
of them that night--I am writing on Friday, June 22nd--for since then we
have had rain every night, and a fair amount in the daytime as well, and
when it rains out here there is no compromise about it. Without tents we
have had a "dooce" of a time. Of course, we have to improvise shelters
with our blankets. Our place is known as "The Moated Grange,"--a trench
having been dug round it for reasons not wholly connected with _Jupiter
Pluvius_. Others are, or would be, known to the postman, did he but come
our way ("he cometh not") as "No. 1 Park Mansions," "The Manor House,"
"Balmoral," "Belle Vue," "Buckingham Palace," and "The Lodge." _Apropos_
of something which concerns a lot of A.M.B.'s, the following may not be
devoid of interest:

_Scene_: Any chemist's shop in Pretoria. Enter gentleman in khaki
shrugging himself. With a scratch at his chest and side.

"Er--have you any--er--Keating's powder?"

_Chemist_: "No, zaar, de Englis' soldiers haf bought it all. It is
finish." (Exit gentleman in khaki, scratching himself desperately.)

Our numbers are now considerably reduced, over half of the Battalion
have joined the Military Police, others having taken over civil
employment in the Post Office and Government buildings. Many who were
not desirous of joining the Police have finally done so, thanks to the
innumerable fatigues, pickets on the surrounding kopjes, and the
crowning discomforts of the rainy nights (now over, I am happy to say,
Sunday, June, 24th). At present our particular, or unparticular,
company, numbers twenty-one men, with five troop horses and some
officers' chargers, all that is left of the hundred and twenty mounted
men that left Maitland Camp in May. Does this sound Utopian? Those men
who are anxious to obtain civil employment are allowed (or persuaded) to
join the Police, while the authorities are exerting themselves to obtain
berths for them at salaries ranging from £300 to £500 or more per annum.
While nominally with the Police these men do no duties, but draw ten
shillings a day, besides having the advantage, when it rains, of
possessing a roof over their heads, and the pleasurable knowledge that
their pig-headed comrades who have joined as Yeomen and elect to remain
so to the end, are in the diminished lines about two miles out of the
town, doing fatigues and guards innumerable, and drawing therefor the
munificent sum of 1s. 5d. per _diem_. Every day for the last week the
captain and officers have been asking the men if they wish to join the
Police or would like to have civil employment found them; and the
company has been more like a registry office than anything else I can
think of. To-day (Sunday) we--nine of us and a sergeant--went to church
with other detachments of the 7th I.Y. It was no open-air church parade,
where one has to stand all through the service, but a genuine church
with pews that we went to. It is called St. Alban's Cathedral, and is
evidently the chief English Church in Pretoria. It was the first time we
had been in a church since leaving Shorncliffe; the service was very
reminiscent of a home one and exceedingly restful. The illusion was
complete when, at the conclusion of the service, _a collection was
taken_. Now that the rain is all over, we have had tents served out to
us. The battalion sergeant-major came round a few days ago with "Now,
then, you fellows, down with those _rabbit hutches_ ("The Grange") and
put these tents up." They are Boer tents, small and oblong in shape.
Ours is very rotten, and has a big hole burnt in the top as well as a
large rent at one end. These we have, however, patched up to our
satisfaction and comfort. As we are here for the deuce knows how long,
the beloved army red tape and routine is coming into vogue again.


                                   HOREN'S NEK,
                                     (About 10 miles W. of Pretoria).
                                       _Thursday, July 5th, 1900._

Here goes for another letter, so pull yourself together. I am here with
twenty others of the 7th I.Y. on outlying picket, and although the
affair began rather joylessly, we are getting on very well now. By way
of parenthesis, it is more than passing strange that whenever I try to
write a letter somebody always starts singing. At present, a man of the
Dorsets is lifting his voice in anguish and promising to "Take Kathleen
home again." He has just followed on with that mournful ballad, entitled
"The Gipsy's Warning:"

  "Do not 'eed 'im, gentle strynger."

I cannot help heeding him, but I dare not remonstrate, as he is the cook
of our party, and in the Army, as elsewhere, _Monsieur le Chef_, be he
ever so humble, is a power. So I will desist for the present, and resume
this to-morrow on the top of a kopje.


Every night we do guard on two of the near kopjes, and every other day I
have to go up with a guard, to another kopje, used as an observation
post, and look with a telescope and the nude optic, Sister Anne like,
for "staggerers of humanity." On Sunday, the 1st, we went to church
again. The preparations the young British Yeoman makes for church going
out here vary considerably, like most other things, from those he is
accustomed to make at home. Having shaved himself with the aid of the
only piece of looking-glass possessed by the company, and a razor, which
in days gone by would have been a valuable acquisition to the
Inquisitorial torture chambers, washed in a bucket and brushed his
clothes with an old horse brush, technically known as "a dandy," he
looks like a fairly respectable tramp, and is ready to fall in with his
comrades for the two or three miles tramp to Divine service. I had the
pleasure of entertaining a guest at breakfast before going to kirk. He
rode up to our cook-house fire (one always _says_ cook-house and
guard-room) to get a light for his pipe. The broad-brimmed hat with the
bronze badge of maple leaves and the word "_Canada_," proclaimed whence
he hailed. After a few minutes' conversation, I invited him to partake
of our breakfast, and, after no little persuasion--he at first refused
on the grounds that he would be depriving us of our full share--he
accepted, and came and joined us. He seemed very reluctant to take much
at first, and all through the meal, which consisted of mealie porridge
and sugar, _café sans lait_, bread and jam, expressed his appreciation
of our scant hospitality. He had joined the Military Police for three
months, and was on patrol.

"Where did he hail from?"

"The North-West Frontier."

"Had he ever been to England?"

"No; but would like to, I guess."

Here was a man who had never seen England, roughing it and fighting for
her out here, side by side with us, the home-born; and he only one of

"Hang it, have some more jam, old chap?"

He told us all about the life (cow-boy) he led at home, and wished he
could have our company at a "rounding-up," it was rare fun.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Now, then, turn out, and get everything packed on the waggons at once,
and fall in in marching order!" How would you like to be awakened out of
a comfortable sleep at 3 a.m. in the above manner? Still, we are pretty
well accustomed to that sort of thing by now. Having fulfilled the above
injunctions, we stood to arms for about three hours and were then
dismissed. Some of us, I being one, were told off for the outlying
picket we are now doing. _Just_ as dinner was served up, we had to fall
in and march off, so, despite a ravenous appetite, I had to throw the
contents of my pannikin, which I had just filled, away, and with
smothered curses on the usual "messing about" which the Imperial Yeoman
always has to suffer, fell in and marched away. When we reached this
place at about five o'clock, we found that, owing to the usual somebody
blundering, sufficient rations had not been put on the waggons for us.
The men we relieved seemed very unhappy and were delighted to hear they
were to go back. They had had one or two alarms, and had to retire on a
fort one night. Almost immediately we were sent off to our kopjes, where
we spend our nights. The kopjes round here are really horrible things:
to ascend and descend them one requires legs of flexible iron, and the
amiability and patience of Job. At night one has to pick and choose a
little, before getting a satisfactory "doss." To arrange your couch you
must, of course, remove all the movable stones, and as regards the
fixtures it is strange how in a short time one's body seems
instinctively to accommodate itself to the undulations of the chosen
sleeping ground. It is strange also how a rock with a few handfuls of
grass makes a fairly decent pillow.

Near here there are numerous orange groves lying in the shelter of the
kopjes. Yesterday I had charge of a Dutchman who wanted to go through
the Nek on business, and on the off chance I went provided with a
nosebag. I came across a magnificent orange grove, owned, as it proved,
by an Englishman who had been, he told me, out here for twenty-five
years. This Englishman sent one of his sons off to fill my bag with the
best oranges, and another to fill my red handkerchief with mealie meal
to make porridge with. The red-handkerchief-with-white-spots alluded to
above is the last "wipe" I have left me out of a large number, and has
been invaluable to me on numerous occasions for carrying various
articles, usually edible. On the whole, the time I have spent on this
outpost has been rather enjoyable. Having only one officer with us, and
being a reasonable distance from headquarters, we have been spared a
great deal of the "messing about" which seems to be the special fate of
the Imperial Yeomen. When you get your British Yeomen home again, many a
tale of incompetent officers and needless hardships will be retailed,
unless I am much in error. Here is apparently a small fact, which may
help to show _why_ the Yeoman has often fared worse than his regular
brother. The quartermaster-sergeant of a certain I.Y. company I know of,
is, like most others, a man absolutely unaccustomed to and unqualified
for the job. Added to this, the disposition of the man is of such a
nervous nature that he is afraid to try and work on his own initiative,
and consequently when requisitioning for his company's rations, he not
only fails to do what his regular brother non.-com. would do, viz.: get
as much as he can for his company, but fails often to requisition or
obtain their bare allowance. Once I met and asked this man if he had
drawn any jam for his company's tea, and his sleepily-drawled reply was,
"No-o, we were entitled to it, but I forgot to draw it." He forgot, and
a hundred hungry men were dependent on the energy of such a man. Compare
this amateur quartermaster-sergeant to the professional one, and you can
plainly see one way in which Thomas Atkins scores over his Yeoman
brother. Again, the two cooks of the same company were admittedly the
slackest and dirtiest men of the lot (the only qualification necessary
for a Yeomanry cook is the capability to boil water, and some seldom
achieve records even in doing that). Thanks to their dirtiness, the
thirsty troopers more often than not, had their tea or coffee spoilt
owing to the greasy state of the dixies (cooking pots), which had not
been cleaned after boiling the trek ox stew in them.

I am almost baking on the top of this kopje, as I sit with my back
against a rock and indite these little records. It seems hard to imagine
that early every morning muffled-up, shivering forms wait anxiously for
King Sol to stick his dear, red, blushing face above yonder range of
kopjes to warm us with his genial presence. Yesterday we had some of
Plumer's men in our little camp. They were rattling good fellows, and
had had a very hot time. They assured us that when they entered
Mafeking, so tired and gaunt were they, owing to their living on short
commons for so long, that any stranger might well have mistaken them for
the relieved garrison, and the garrison for the relieving force. They
also said the fellows there did not look half so bad as one would have
imagined, though they had eaten nearly every horse and mule in the
place. The idea which seemed general, that Plumer had a big force with
him, was very amusing to them, considering they actually only numbered a
few hundreds, and had, I think they said, two old muzzle-loading guns
only with them. Having been enlisted a month before the war, they are
the oldest Volunteer Force out here.


                                        NEAR THE RACECOURSE,
                                           _Sunday, July 8th._

Back at the Racecourse, Pretoria. The excitement of Friday has not worn
away yet. I hardly know how to describe it, especially as I must be
brief, having such a lot of correspondence to get through. The men who
relieved us on Friday afternoon said they had good news, and then gave
it to us in these magic words: "_The mails are in!_" "_Thirteen bags!_"
At first I could hardly believe or grasp it. The mails were in! I never
expected to see a letter again. The other companies had been receiving
their's for the last fortnight or more, but our whereabouts seemed
unknown to the postal authorities. At last, however, we had got them. We
had not had a word from our other world for over two months. It seemed
over two years. The men who relieved us had come away without their's,
but before we left for camp an officer, Mr. Cory, with bulging
saddle-bags rode up, and they had them. We went back in the mule-waggon,
and did not half exhort the nigger drivers to hurry, you can be sure.
"Hi, hi! Hi-yah!! Tah!!! Nurr! _Crack-crack!!_ Hamba!! Hi-yah!!!" &c. At
last the ten miles were covered and our camp reached. Out of the waggon
we leaped, and "Where are my letters" was the cry. Oh, the thrilling
excitement of seeing the sergeant diving his hand into a sack and
producing letters, papers and parcels galore. "Trooper Wilson--Wilson,
Corporal Finnigan, Lance-Corporal Ross," and a big, dirty paw pounces on
an envelope addressed by a well-known hand. Then another, and once again
a familiar hand is recognised, then another and another. In all I had
over a score of letters and about a dozen or more papers, so you can
guess I have my work before me in answering them. Of course, some have
been lost, especially the papers. The earliest date was April 21st, and
the latest June 8th. Absolute peace and goodwill toward men reigned in
our camp that night. We have all been like so many children at
Christmas-time, asking one another "How many did you get?" And then on
hearing the reply, probably boastfully saying, "Oh! I got more than
you," and so on. It seems so pleasant to be in touch with one's world
again. All the next day the fellows were poring over their letters and
ever and anon, unable to suppress themselves one would be annoyed by
"Ha! ha!! I say, just hear what my young sister says," or "my kiddie
brother," or some such being, then an uninteresting (to other men)
extract would follow.


                                        HOREN'S NEK,
                                          NEAR PRETORIA.
                                           _Wednesday, July 11th, 1900._

  (More _kopje?_)

Here I am again on the outlying picket racket, and renewing my studies
of kopjes. I am now up on them every day as well as night. When we
arrived here last night, the party we relieved told us that a Russian
doctor's house, about five miles out, had been raided and sacked by
Boers, and no waggons were being allowed through the Nek, as the enemy
were evidently waiting to catch any they could, and take them on to
their commandos. Since daybreak a big action has been in progress. From
the west heavy guns have been banging, and the fainter sound of volleys
and pom-poming have reached our ears as we lay drowsily smoking,
writing, reading and (one of us) watching on this, our observation post.
In the middle of a letter to a friend a short while ago, a machine gun,
apparently very close, rapped out its angry message, rat-tat-tat-tat!
which startled us immensely. The whish-sh-sh of the bullets also was
undoubtedly near, but as smokeless powder has usurped the place of
villainous saltpetre, we failed to locate the gun, which has fired
several times since.

The distant firing still continues, and as Baden-Powell is (or was) in
that direction, I should imagine he is in action. It seems curious that
though we are here and may at any minute be involved in the affair, yet
you at home will know all about it, and we here little or nothing. But
so it is. Huge vultures, loathsome black and white birds, keep flying
past us from the west. Now and again, some of them pause and circle
slowly over us, as if to ascertain whether we are dead or not. A small
piece of the kopje jerked at them by the most energetic member of our
party, usually assures them of the negative, and with a few flaps of
their wings they go whirring on. Ugh! I forgot to mention for the
edification of any of our lady friends that at night rats emerge from
beneath the various rocks and sportively run over one's recumbent form.
So, for guarding kopjes, no Amazons need apply.

[Illustration: The Mealie + Bad Fatigue (What the Patriot did not
altogether take into his reckoning.)]

Here, as "I laye a thynkynge" (to quote dear old Ingoldsby), it occurs
to me that we of the Imperial Yeomanry are, in many respects, far wiser,
I don't say better, men than we were six months, or even less, ago. To
commence with, we know Mr. Thomas Atkins far better than we did. Now we
know, and can tell our world on the best authority (_our own_) that he
is the best of comrades, many of us having experienced his hospitality
when in sore straits. That he will do anything and go anywhere we are
certain. As regards ourselves, we have learnt to appreciate a piece of
bread and a drink of water at its true worth, a thing probably none or
few of us had done before--"bread and water" being usually regarded as a
refreshment for the worst of gaolbirds only. And, finally, to sum our
acquirements up roughly, we have learnt to shift for ourselves under any
circumstances. We are hewers of wood, drawers of water, cooks (though,
may be, not very good ones, our resources having been limited), beasts
of burden (fatigues), and exponents of many other hitherto unknown
accomplishments. Allusion to fatigues reminds me of that known as "wood
fatigue." It has been a usual jest of those in command to halt and
bivouac us for the night at some place where there is no wood
procurable, and then send us out _to get it_. Another of their little
jokes has been to serve each man with his raw meat for him to cook when
wood has been unobtainable. One really great result of this war already
is the dearth of wood wherever the troops have been. All along the line
of march, and especially where there have been halts, the wooden posts
used in the construction of the various wire fencings have been chopped
down or pulled up bodily and taken away, deserted houses have been
denuded of all the woodwork they contained--the tin buildings collapsing
in consequence. It was only a short time ago that an elderly
non-combatant complained to me when I asked if he had any wood, "No,
they haf take my garten fence, my best trees, and yestertay dey haf go
into my Kaffir's house and commence to pull down der wood in der roof!"
I am sure it is a fortunate thing that the telegraph posts are of iron.
Were they wooden ones I fear stress of circumstances would have been
responsible for innumerable suspensions in the telegraphic service. A
scout has just been in down below with the information that we shall be
attacked to-night or early to-morrow morning. The machine gun which was
fired a short while ago, was one of our Colt guns at the entrance to the
Nek, getting the range of a kopje opposite. These scouts (I refer to the
few attached to us) are really wonderful (the battalion sergeant-major
invariably alludes to them as "those d----d scouts"). Their information
is always startling and mostly unreliable--still it is interesting and
usually affords us vast entertainment. The scouts referred to are
Afrikanders, and really chosen because they know Dutch and Kaffir. The
fellows will call them interpreters, and they don't like it. On Monday I
went into Pretoria to take the man of ours, who was so nearly done for
in an ambush near Hatherly last month, his kit. He is now well enough to
go home. He is a curious, good-natured old fellow, and in his account of
the affair amused me not a little. After he had been hit and lain on the
ground some time, the Boers cautiously advanced from their cover, and
standing on a bank near where he laid, fired a few shots in the
direction of his long-since departed comrades and then called out to
him, "Hands up!" His reply, as he told me, struck me as quaint and
natural, "'Ow can I 'old my 'ands up?" And seeing the reasonableness of
his remark, they took his water bottle and left him where our surgeon
found him. From Pretoria I have acquired quite a number of books,
including half-a-dozen of Stevenson's. At present I am re-reading his
"Inland Voyage."

                                        _Thursday, July 12th._

We were not attacked last night, although expectation ran high. We had
about a thousand rounds of ammunition between the six of us, and at two
o'clock in the morning had the various posts strengthened by a party of
Burma Mounted Infantry (a composite corps from Burma, of Durham, Essex
and West Riding Tommies). Fifteen of these were added to our small
number, and between us occupied four sangars at the most suitable parts
of the kopje. Had we been attacked, we ought to have given a good
account of ourselves, as it was a lovely moonlight night. Poor Tommy
Atkins! You should have heard some of our reinforcements express
themselves on the social, military, political and geographical phases of
the situation. They had been rushed up from Kroonstad, and, after
various vicissitudes, had been despatched to us--without rations, of
course. This one wished that the By'r Lady war was over By'r Lady soon;
and his next cold, hungry, tired comrade agreed with him emphatically,
and consigned the whole By'r Lady country to a sort of perpetual
Brock's Benefit; also the By'r Lady army, and their By'r Lady military
pastors and masters, and so on. After Burma they found this country
cold, especially the nights, and with them the British soldier's wish to
get back to Mandalay, as expressed in the song, was a veritable fact. As
usual, their experiences were worth listening to. Amongst other things,
coming up from Kroonstad, they had found the burnt remains of the mails
destroyed by some of De Wet's minions a little while ago (some of mine
were there, I know), and had amused themselves by reading the various
scraps. Some of these, they told me, were very pathetic. In one, for
instance, a poor old woman had apparently sent her son a packet of
chocolate, bought with her last shilling, (she was just going into the
Workhouse), and she hoped that it would taste as sweet as if she had
paid a sovereign for it. Had they had any mails? No, not since they had
been here. They thought all their people must be dead, and "it does
cheer one up to get a letter." In Burma they always give a cheer when
the English mail comes in. I gave four of them some pieces of stale
bread, a handful of moist sugar, and four oranges; while another of ours
gave the others some bread and the remains of a tin of potted bloater.
The latest news, which I believe is quite authentic, is that the
remnants of the Dorset, Somerset, Devon and Sussex Yeomanry, about
seventy in number, are to be remounted and attached to the 18th Hussars.
This looks like more marching. I have bought, and intend bringing home
with me, a few sets of the surcharged Transvaal stamps. I am doing this
in a self-defensive way; my reason being that among my friends and
acquaintances in the dear homeland I number certain strange beings
commonly known in earlier and ruder days as stamp collectors, but now
politely known and mysteriously designated _philatelists_. Now I know
for a fact that these persons will, on first meeting me, demand at once,
"Have you brought any sets of surcharged Transvaal stamps back?" and if
I answer "Nay," what will they think of me? All the vicissitudes of the
past few months, my travellings by land and water, my fastings and
various little privations and experiences, will have been stupidly borne
for naught in their opinion. And why? Because I have not returned laden
with Transvaal stamps.

                                          _Friday, July 13th._

Back in camp again. At sunset, yesterday, when we came down from the
observation post to get a little tea, preparatory to occupying the kopje
we had been guarding at night, we found everybody on the move, and were
ordered to mount and clear at once. This meant rushing up to the kopje,
getting our blankets and other impedimenta, and down again, flinging
them on the first horse (already saddled), and dashing away, orders
having been given to abandon the post, as the Boers were in strong
numbers, and between us and the town sniping. A staff-officer had told
our captain that he was in charge of the valley, and wanted it to be a
happy valley. We being a source of anxiety, he requested us to withdraw.
I fear it had not proved a happy valley for the Lincolns and Greys, who
were at Nitral's Nek, some eight miles to westward of us, and had been
attacked and suffered badly in the morning. (The explanation of the
heavy firing already alluded to.) Near the town we came on a broken-down
ambulance waggon in a donga, out of which the wounded were being
assisted as well as the circumstances permitted. Close by, on the
ground, was something under a blanket, which we nearly rode over. A man
close by, lighting his pipe, revealed it to us. It was one poor fellow
who had died on the way. Further on, we came on numerous pickets and
bivouacked troops, and men of the Lincolns and Greys at frequent
intervals, asking anxiously where the ambulance waggons were, and if any
of their fellows were in them. On arriving here we found our horse lines
full of remounts, which looked like business. We join Mahon's Brigade on
Sunday, so we are very busy looking out and cleaning up saddlery and
such like.

Well, I do not feel in a letter-writing mood this morning, so shall as
far as possible arrange my kit and possessions for the next move on the
board, on which this poor Yeoman is a humble pawn. I have just finished
the "Inland Voyage," which you may remember concludes thus, in the final
chapter, "Back to the World":--

"Now we were to return like the voyager in the play, and see what
re-arrangements fortune had perfected the while in our surroundings;
what surprises stood ready made for us at home; and whither and how far
the world had voyaged in our absence. You may paddle all day long; but
it is when you come back at nightfall, and look in at the familiar room,
that you find Love or Death awaiting you beside the stove; and the most
beautiful adventures are not those we go to seek."

Good, isn't it?



                                          OUTSIDE PRETORIA.
                                           _Tuesday, July 31st._

"Good morning! Have you used Pears' soap?" No, nor any other for about a
fortnight, but in a few minutes I am going to have a most luxurious
shave and bath in a tin teacup. As you can see by the above, we are all
back at this historic town again after a very warm fortnight of marching
and fighting under General Mahon. We marched through the town past
Roberts yesterday, and are now camped awaiting remounts, in order to
proceed with the game in some other and unknown direction. I have not
much time for correspondence, but will do my best to give a little
sketch of some of our doings. To begin with, on Saturday, July 14th, the
remnants of the Dorset, Devon, Somerset and Sussex Yeomanry were formed
into a composite squadron[3] of three troops under Captain Sir Elliot
Lees, M.P., and served with fresh mounts--Argentines. Of course, I got a
lovely beast, a black horse, which would not permit anyone to place a
bit in his mouth under any circumstances. It generally takes our
sergeant-major, farrier-sergeant, an officer's groom, a corporal and
myself about an hour to get the aforesaid bit properly fixed. When I try
to fix it myself with the assistance of a comrade, the performance
usually concludes by tying him to a wheel of our ox waggon, and then,
after many struggles, I manage to achieve my object all sublime (though
there is not much sublimity about it). Not wanting opprobrious epithets,
my steed remained nameless for the first week. I casually thought of
calling him "Black Bess," but "he" is not a mare, and I thought it
would be inappropriate. At length I struck what I consider a good name.
_Bête Noire_, my _bête noire_, and so I called him, and as he is by no
means averse to eating through his head rope when picketed, I find that
the curtailment to "gnaw" is satisfactory enough as far as names go. Now
you know something about my friend the horse, so to proceed. We moved
out of our old camp on the Saturday afternoon in question, through
Pretoria to another on the other side, where we joined General Mahon's
crowd, amongst whom was the Imperial Light Horse, Australians, Lumsden's
Horse, New Zealanders, "M" Battery R.H.A., and a squadron or so of the
18th Hussars, sometimes known as "Kruger's Own," being the captured
warriors of Elandslaagte. On Sunday we had some good luck in the ration
line, the 72nd and 79th Squadrons of I.Y., the Roughriders, had just
come up and joined us, and had been served with innumerable delicacies,
with which they did not know what to do, as they had orders that they
could only take a certain quantity with them. No sooner did we hear of
their embarrassment than, as the wolf swept down on the fold, we swept
down upon them, and most sympathetically relieved them of tins of
condensed milk, jams, and such like, and what we could not eat we
managed to carry away with us for another day. On Monday our general
advance commenced. It was a grand sight, after marching a few miles, to
come on French's camp and see the lancers, mounted infantry and guns
moving out in the early morning. A few miles on and our friend the enemy
opened fire on us, or, rather, on a kopje on which we had just placed a
4.7. They sent a beautiful shot from their "Long Tom," which pitched
within a few yards of where the gun had just been placed and close by
Generals French and Mahon. We Mounted Infantry remained behind the kopje
and dozed and lunched while desultory shells now and again whizzed over
us. Beyond this, nothing occurred worth mentioning. On Tuesday morning
we went out a few miles and took up a position to prevent the Boers
retreating in our direction. We had to collect stones and form miniature
sangars. We waited there nearly all day, during which I perused "In
Memoriam," and posed for a libellous sketch done by our troop officer,
entitled "An Alert Vedette." The laughter which this occasioned caused
me to arise out of curiosity and ask to see the pictorial effort. The
subject represented was a tramp-like being asleep behind three or four
little stones. We returned in the evening to our camp and I had charge
of the stable guard, an every three or four night occurrence. The next
day--Wednesday, the 18th--we proceeded some miles further on, getting
well into the bush country. I do not know the name of the place we
halted at for the night; it was very picturesque but had far too many
kopjes (which required picketing). The next day we were off again
through the bush. _Apropos_ of the bush, it appears to me that every
tree and shrub in this land of promise produces thorns. On Friday, the
20th, we came in touch with the enemy. We were advancing in extended
order towards an innocent-looking kopje, had got close up to it, and
had just dismounted, when--rap! went a Mauser. Then another, and rap,
rap, rap, rap, rap, rap, and the whole show started. As there was
absolutely no cover to hand, we got the order to mount and clear, which
order was very promptly executed by all save one. The reports of the
Mausers and the whistling buzz of the bullets startled my noble steed,
_Bête Noire_, and after several ineffectual efforts to mount the brute,
he broke away from me, and I, tripping over a mound as the reins slipped
out of my hands, fell sprawling on my face. This, I believe, caused some
of our fellows to think I was hit. Of course, after hurling a choice
malediction after my horse, I was quickly on my feet and doubling after
the rest of the "Boys of the Bulldog Breed." An officer of the Dorsets,
Captain Kinderslie, seeing my plight, rode up amid the whistling bullets
and insisted on my holding his hand and running by the side of his
horse, till we came to Sergeant-Major Hunt, who had caught and was
holding _Bête Noire_. Naturally, the reins were entangled in his
forelegs, but I soon got them clear and mounted. Away flew my beautiful
Argentine, away like the wind, every whistling, buzzing bullet seeming
to help increase his bounds. At last we all got out of range, re-formed,
dismounted, and advanced to attack. Soon the order was changed, and we
mounted again and rode to flank the Boers, who had apparently left their
first position. We reached a neighbouring kopje and halted at the base.
An officer rode up, and I overheard him say that it would be advisable
to send a few men in such and such a direction to find out, _with as
small a loss as possible_, the position and strength of the enemy. Here
it may not be out of place to mention that acting as scouts and advance
parties, and drawing the fire of the enemy, has been the vocation of the
Imperial Yeomanry, also of the Colonial Mounted Troops. Then four of us
were ordered to ride slowly up the kopje, which was a wooded and very
rocky one, and find out if any of the enemy were there. This we did. It
is a peculiar feeling, not devoid of excitement, doing this sort of
thing, for our horses made much noise and very slow progress over the
boulders and rocks, and the possibility of a Brother Boer being behind
any of the stones in front of one with a gun, of course made one
reflect on the utter impossibility of shooting him or his friends, or of
beating a retreat. Still, the knowledge that the report of his Mauser
would warn one's comrades below was eminently satisfactory. There were
no Boers there, or I should hardly be inditing this letter. They had
built sangars and left them. We were posted on this kopje for the rest
of the day, and at night upon another.

         [Footnote 3: From the first the mixture of cavalry and
         infantry terms used in connection with the I.Y. has been most
         amusing. As our officers from this date invariably referred
         to us in cavalry terms, the words "squadron," "troop," etc.,
         will be used to the end of the volume.]

[Illustration: "Stable Guard! There's a horse loose!"]

Our artillery had shelled them during the afternoon, and they did not
trouble us again. That night we were not allowed to have any fires and
our position being inaccessible to the waggons, we had no hot coffee or
tea, which by the way, is one, if not the greatest, of our treats--our
milkless and occasionally sugarless evening and morning coffee or tea.

On Saturday we advanced with the main body through a good deal of bush
country. Sunday was one of the hardest days we had during our little
fortnight's outing. We started early as advance to Ian Hamilton's
Division, and during the day covered a terrific amount of ground, got
well peppered on several occasions, once, during the afternoon, pushing
on rather too close to the enemy, the retreating Boers gave us some warm
rifle fire and then opened on us with a couple of field guns, and we had
to clear. The firing was excellent. A few of us got into a bunch, and a
shell whirred over our heads and struck the ground only a few yards away
on our right. That day several men were killed and wounded, but none of
our crowd, though one got a bullet in his rear pack, another had his
bandolier struck, and another his hand grazed. The annoying part of our
work was that we were repeatedly sniped at, but never had a chance to
retaliate, even when we saw the enemy, as we did on several occasions.
Certainly once we prepared a pretty little surprise for them in the way
of an ambush formed of our troop dismounted, but they did not come.
However, two or three of our fellows saw somebody by a Kaffir kraal, and
thinking it was a Boer, opened fire, and whoever it was dropped. It
proved only Kaffirs were there, and two men in our troop are still
quarrelling as to which bagged the inoffensive nigger, if bagged he was.

Monday, the eighth day out, the entire force rested, which means in
plain English that they washed, mended their clothes and performed
other domestic duties. Like the man in "The Mikado," I am a thing of
shreds and patches, though there is not much dreamy lullaby for me,
or any of us. The next day we marched on without opposition to
Bronkhorst Spruit, of fateful memory. We reached there at mid-day,
and camped, as we had to wait for our convoy to come up. As soon as
we had got our lines down we went to get wood--we like to have our
own fires when we can. Corrugated iron buildings there were, but
untenanted. Bronkhorst Spruit, of hated memory, was a deserted
village. Smash!--bang!--crash!--crack! "Far flashed the red
artillery," aye? No, it is merely Mr. Thomas Atkins and his brethren
of the Colonies and Imperial Yeomanry, who are overcoming
difficulties in the wood fatigue line. Considering that the average
Transvaal house is constructed with wood and corrugated iron, it can
be easily understood that neither its erection or demolition takes
much time. "So mind yer eye, there--crash!--bang! That door belongs
to the Sussex! Smash! Look out, the roof's coming down," etc.

The convoy came in during the night, so we were up and off at an early
hour, bound for Balmoral, the next station on the line towards
Middelburg. The country we had to traverse was very rough, and on our
left were ranges of suspicious-looking kopjes. Soon after we started my
horse funked a narrow dyke at about half-a-dozen places, and finally, on
my insisting and exhorting him with my one remaining spur, plunged
sideways in at the deepest part. He came out first, soaked. I followed
promptly, wet to the waist (nice black water and mud); his oats and my
day's biscuits, which were in his nosebag, were spoilt; and my feelings
towards him none of the best. Balmoral was reached at about noon. There,
I regret to state, we did not have Queen's weather. Soon after we
arrived clouds began to gather, and thoughtful men commenced carrying up
sheets of corrugated iron, of which there was a great quantity near the
station, and hastily constructing temporary shelters. Ours was a poor
concern, and as I had to wander about in the rain some time before I
turned in, I was sopping wet, and of course passed the night so. Our
waggon got stuck in a drift, as usual, and so we went coffee-less that
night. The next day we heard that during the night an officer and three
men of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders had died from exposure to
the severe weather. On that march from Bronkhorst Spruit to Balmoral we
lost hundreds of mules, oxen and horses. They simply strewed the
roadsides all the way. On Friday, the 27th, we returned to Bronkhorst
Spruit, _en route_ for Pretoria. Leaving Bronkhorst Spruit for
Pienaarspoort the next morning, we passed the graves of the massacred
94th (Connaught Rangers). First we passed three walled-in enclosures,
which the officers rode up to and looked over. They were the graves of
the rear guard. Then we came to a larger one, which contained the main
body. The Connaughts were marching with us; whatever their feelings
were, they must have felt a grim satisfaction in the knowledge that
"they came again." Yesterday (Monday, July 30th,) we marched into
Pretoria, past Lord Roberts, and on through the town to our present
camp, which we leave at four to-morrow morning with fresh horses. We
heard as we went through that one of our Sussex fellows, who was down
with enteric when we left, had since succumbed. Poor fellow! It may be
merely sentiment, but I must say the idea of being buried out here is
somewhat repugnant to me. His bereaved relatives and friends cannot have
the comforting feelings of Tennyson, expressed "In Memoriam."

  "'Tis well; 'tis something; we may stand
      Where he in English earth is laid,
      And from his ashes may be made
   The violet of his native land.
   'Tis little; but it looks in truth
      As if the quiet bones were blest
      Among familiar names to rest,
   And in the places of his youth."


                                          TWO MARCHES WEST OF PRETORIA.
                                           _Wednesday, August 8th, 1900._

  "Oh, darkies, how de heart grows weary,
   Far from de ole folks at home."

There goes somebody again! It is always occurring, either vocally or
instrumentally; but to start now, when I want to pull myself together
and give a further account of the doings of the remnants of what was
once the Sussex (69th) Squadron of Imperial Yeomanry, and their comrades
of the West Countrie, is annoying beyond all expression. To commence, I
must really trace out for you our bewildering descent, or ascent, to our
present state, and then you will thoroughly understand why, in all
probability, the papers have been silent as to the doings and
whereabouts of the 69th Squadron of Imperial Yeomanry. At Maitland we
belonged to the 14th Battalion of Yeomanry, under Colonel Brookfield,
M.P. Leaving that salubrious but sandy locality, we travelled on our
very own, by rail and road, till we joined Roberts at the Klip River,
and for a few days were his bodyguard. At Johannesburg we joined the 7th
Battalion of Yeomanry, under Colonel Helyar, of whose murder, in July,
at a Boer's house not far from Pretoria, you must have read. Later on,
men from this battalion having entered the Police and civil berths,
those of us who were left were banded together and formed into one
squadron under Sir Elliot Lees, M.P. This was composed of three weak
troops--Dorset, Devon and Sussex, the latter troop containing
half-a-dozen Somerset men. As such we left Pretoria, and went east as
far as Balmoral. On our return to Pretoria, our weak horses and sick men
being weeded out, we went west nearly as far as Rustenburg, as one
_troop_, composed of Sussex, Devon, and Dorset men, and attached to the
Fife Light Horse.[4] As I write, we are returning in the direction of
Pretoria. And now, if you have skipped the foregoing I will proceed to
give you as brief an account as possible of our adventures since leaving
Pretoria a week ago (Wednesday, August 1st).

         [Footnote 4: This fine squadron of Yeomanry, under Captain
         Hodge, had also joined Mahon, at Pretoria, on July 16th.]

On that day, forming No. 3 Troop of the Fife Light Horse, we marched out
of Dasspoort and proceeding due west, parallel with the Magaliesberg,
quickly got in touch with the enemy, under Delarey, whom we slowly drove
before us. Soon we came upon Horen's Nek, and the commencement of farms
and orange groves. As we passed the first grove, with the glowing
oranges tantalising us in a most aggravating manner, we cast longing
eyes at them, but hastened on after the unfraternal Boer. The oranges
were not for us--then. A little further on the fighting became warm, and
we galloped up; then, "Halt! for dismounted service!" and the reins of
three horses are thrown at me, or thrust into my hands by their riders,
who double out to the left and proceed to participate in the fun of the
firing line. Considering that I had only once (at Shorncliffe) acted as
No. 3, you can picture to yourself the sort of entertainment which
followed. The intelligent Argentines manoeuvred round me like performing
horses doing the quadrilles or an Old English Maypole dance, while with
the reins we made cat's-cradles, and Gordian knots. That idiot, Mark
Tapley, would indeed have envied my lot, and have been welcome to it.
The row made by the firing was terrific, for pom-poms and artillery were
joining in, and a fair amount of bullets came by us with the led horses.
Suddenly our fellows came doubling back, and with a sigh of relief I
surrendered their horses to them. Then our troop-officer, Captain
Kinderslie, gave us the order, "Fours, right--Gallop!" and off we went
to turn their right flank. Our course lay right across the open, and as
soon as the enemy saw our move they poured their fire in as hot as they
could. Round to their right we flew, with the bullets whistling by, and
striking the earth before and behind us, but divil a man did they hit,
though the air seemed thick with them. At last our exhilarating gallop
was finished, and as our small party advanced to the attack, all they
saw was the last few Boers scuttling off for dear life. Colonel Pilcher,
who was with Mahon, sent round and thanked our little troop for this

After this we returned to an orange grove, near which our force was
encamped. _That night we had oranges._

The next day we were rear guard and, passing through a fat land,
abounding with oranges, tangerines, citrons, lemons, tobacco and good
water, not to forget porkers, fowls, ducks, and the like, "did ourselves
proud," to resort to the vernacular. That night we had a huge veldt
fire, and the whole camp had to turn out with blankets to fight it.
Fortunately a well-beaten track separated the blazing veldt from us, and
the wind blew it beyond, or we could hardly have made a successful stand
against the flames, some being quite a dozen feet in height. Allusion to
veldt fires reminds me that the last time I had to turn out to fight
one was near Johannesburg, and the man who displayed most energy in
smiting the flames with his blanket, and who came away from the charred
veldt with blackened face and hands, was our second in command, the Duke
of Norfolk.

On Friday we continued our advance, and crossed the Crocodile River.
This day we saw nothing of the enemy. Our horses have done well in the
way of forage lately. Sometimes we get bundles of oat hay out of the
barns we visit _en route_, and strap them, with armfuls of green oats
pulled from the fields, fore and aft of our saddles, till we look like
fonts at harvest festivals. Thus equipped, we would form good subjects
for a picture called "The Harvest Home." Yet, in spite of all the
feeding they have been getting, our horses are all nearly done up.

Our present troop officer is great on the _commandeer_, and very
popular. However, the other day he gave us a severe address on parade
about looting, which he wound up as follows:--"Of course, I don't object
to your taking the necessaries of life, such as oranges, fowls, ducks,
mealie flour, or the like, but (sternly) any indiscriminate looting I
shall regard as a crime."


On Sunday (August 5th), while the folks at home were preparing for the
Bank Holiday, we Yeomen of Sussex, Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Fife,
with our friends "The Roughs," were continuing to advance west in the
direction of Rustenburg. This day we passed through some of the best
wooded country I have seen out here. The trees being quite large and at
a distance very much like small oaks. At about mid-day we halted in
front of Olifant's Nek, and our signallers tried to get into
heliographic communication with the great "B.-P.," who was supposed to
be in possession. At last, after several fruitless efforts, a dazzling
dot in the pass appeared and commenced twinkling in response to ours.

  "Twinkle, twinkle, helio,
   What a lot of things you know."

Soon we received the order to advance. Then we were halted, "files
about," and galloping about a mile to the rear, were drawn up, and
informed that a Boer laager had been reported under a small kopje of
the Magaliesberg some distance east from the Nek, and we were to go and
investigate the matter. The first three groups of our troop were sent
out to locate it, I being in the centre one. We had some wretched ground
to go over, and finally, without any signs of opposition, reached the
small farms lying at the foot of the range of hills. There the left and
centre group were stopped for some considerable time by a large barbed
wire fence and, as none of us possessed any wire nippers, we finally had
to go out of our way some distance in order to avoid it. I mention this
trivial incident as illustrative of how some Yeomanry matters of
equipment have been neglected. From my own knowledge, based on enquiry,
I find that none of the non-commissioned officers or men of our squadron
were provided with these very necessary implements--one or two happened
to have private ones, and that is all. So much for that grumble. Now to
resume. Having overcome the barb-wire difficulty, we continued our
progress in the direction where we understood the laager was situated,
convinced in our minds that of Boers there were none. _En route_ we
called at the few houses in the neighbourhood and made slight
investigations, with always the same result. There were women and heaps
of children, but of men none. Of course, you know the game. The
chivalrous Boer, having deposited his arms in Pretoria and taken the
oath of neutrality, has rested himself, and is now out again on the war
path, either from choice or through being commandeered. At last one of
our scouts rode up and told us that our right-hand group had found the
laager which had been evacuated. Riding through the trees, it was rather
thickly wooded, we soon came across wandering cows, calves and oxen, and
at length the laager at the foot of a small kopje. In it were the four
men of our right group, cattle, horses, a few donkeys, and a couple of
uneasy-looking niggers, who had evidently been left behind and in charge
by the Boers. It was a fine position for a laager, and well hidden away.
Several of us dismounted here and lighted our pipes while we watched the
fine cattle we had got, and those with bad horses haggled as to who
should possess the best of the Boer mounts, which were being held by the
uncomfortable-looking Kaffirs. Presently through a donga on the left of
the laager came the leading groups of the Fife Light Horse and soon the
laager contained the first troop. I remounted my horse and--_rap!_ went
a shot and over rolled a horse and rider (a Sussex sergeant) on my
right; then into us rapped and cracked the rifles from the near kopje.
There was only one thing to do, and that was to clear. Men and horses
appeared to be tumbling over on all sides, _Bête Noire_ swerved and I
fell off at the commencement of the fusillade. Arising, I doubled after
the sergeant whose horse had been knocked over by the first shot. After
going about a score of yards, I saw him dash into some bushes and
brambles, and following, slipped and rolled down the side of a gully
till I found myself scratched and torn sitting in a small rivulet at the
bottom with my pipe still in my mouth and my rifle, the barrel of which
was half choked with mud, in my hand. Looking round I saw two of our
fellows who had led their horses down from the other side. The place
could not have been improved on for cover, and the others falling in
with my _j'y suis, j'y reste_ remark, we sat down on the moist earth and
rocks and awaited developments, while the bullets whistled and buzzed
through the trees over our heads. Soon a volley whizzed over us from our
fellows who had succeeded in retiring and rallying behind a knoll some
distance back. This went on for a time, and at length the firing ceased.
A Fife man came up from lower down the gully; he had lost both horse and
rifle. However, crawling higher up, he found the latter in some bushes.
Presently a strange figure appeared, clad in khaki, with a dark blue
handkerchief tied over his head, a stick in his hand and leading a
horse. This proved to be another canny Scot. He had assumed this sort of
disguise and managed to secure a horse from near the laager. He was
rather apprehensive lest our own people should fire on him if they
spotted him. As he told us, on our enquiring, that there were two more
horses in the laager, though he advised us not to go out for them then,
the Fife man and I emerged from the donga and with a wary eye on the
treacherous kopjes entered the laager, which was only a score of yards
from our place of concealment, and to my great delight, of the two
horses quietly eating the forage there I recognised _Bête Noire_ as one.
Having now obtained horses, we leisurely proceeded to camp, calling on
the way at a few of the farmhouses and an orange grove we had passed on
our advance to the laager. The Boers had evidently cleared, or they
would have fired on us as we rode to the farms in full view of the
kopjes all the way. I cannot say that the simple Boer women seemed
pleased to see us when we rode up with smiling faces and helped
ourselves (with their permission) to oranges and tangerines, while one
good lady gave me a couple of eggs, which I enjoyed later for tea. Then
gaily bidding them _Auf Wiedersehen_ we retraced our way and came to
where the camp had been established. Arrived there, the stories we heard
concerning the affair were, as you can imagine, marvellous. And, after
all, what do you think the wily Boer bagged as the result of such a
lovely death trap? Not a man. Half-a-dozen horses were shot, and I
daresay some cattle. My rolled overcoat also had a rip suspiciously like
a bullet mark. Once again Boer wiliness had been rendered ineffectual
owing to execrable marksmanship. It seems like ingratitude to thus
criticise their shooting, but it cannot go without comment.

On Monday, the August Bank Holiday, we did not shift camp, and had the
luxury of a late _reveillé_ (6 a.m.), and opportunities for very
necessary washes and shaves, and such domestic duties as repairing rents
in our breeches and tunics, and a little laundry work. Some of your
"gentlemen rovers abroad" are finding that sewing the tears in one's
tunic is a far different and more difficult matter than sowing one's
wild oats at home. Owing to having baked the back of one of my boots in
drying it at a fire, after my fourth immersion in a bog, I have had
rather a bad heel, but am easier in that vulnerable part now, having cut
out the back of the boot.

On Tuesday, B-P. very unwillingly evacuated Rustenburg, and we marched
back in the direction of Pretoria.

I don't think, in spite of my verbosity, I have made any particular or
direct allusion to our friend, the mule, so here I will make slight
amends. Alas, he lost the little reputation he possessed at Nicholson's
Nek, but to give the mule his due he is a hard worker--he has to be--he
is born in bondage and dies in bondage (there is no room out here for
the R.S.P.C.A.), and the golden autumn of a hard-lived life is not for
the likes of him. He does not appear to get much to eat, though he will
eat anything, as I found to my cost one night when in charge of the
stable guard. A friend had lent me two _Graphics_, which I left on my
blanket for a few minutes while I went the rounds. On my return I found
a mule contentedly eating one of them--I only just managed to save half
of it. When in camp, the Cape Boys, in whose charge they are, usually
tie some of them to the wheels of the waggons, ammunition and water
carts, the remainder being left to wander tied together in threes and
fours, reminding one for all the world of Bank Holiday festivallers
arm-in-arm on the so-called joyous razzle dazzle.

Out here we wandering humble builders of the Empire have no idea how the
war is progressing, if progressing it is. Our noses are flat against the
picture, so to speak, and, consequently, we practically see and know
nothing; it is you good folks at home who have the panoramic view. Our
cheerful pessimist expressed himself to this effect a few days ago.
About forty or fifty years hence, travellers in this part of the world
will come across bands of white-haired and silver-bearded men in strange
garbs of ox and mule skin patches, and armed with obsolete weapons,
wandering about in pursuit of phantasmal beings to be known in future
legends as land Flying Dutchmen. Anyhow, give Private Thomas Atkins a
good camp fire at night when the Army halts, round which he can
comfortably sit and grumble about his rations, while he partakes of a
well-cooked looted porker or fowl, and afterwards fills his pipe with
the tobacco of the country, which he lights with an ember plucked from
the burning, and talks of home, and the prospects, optimistic or
pessimistic, of getting there some day, and at least, he is content. Oh,
England, what have we not given up for thee this year, Cowes, Henley,
the Derby, Ascot, Goodwood, the Royal Academy, the Paris Exhibition, the
latest books and plays, all these and more--much more. And if we hadn't,
what would we have done? Kicked ourselves, of course.

  "Then here's to the Sons of the Widow,
   Whenever, however they roam;
   And all they desire, and if they require,
   A speedy return to the home.
   Poor beggars, they'll never see home!"


                                          _Sunday, August 12th, 1900._

I believe this place is called Vaalbank, though really I am by no means
certain. Anyhow, it looks respectable to have some sort of address, so I
will let it stand.

Yesterday, at Commando Nek, we were rejoined by the rest of the
Composite Squadron, and remounts were brought up from Pretoria (about
300); on account of the latter I am glad that I did not commence this
letter the same evening, for we Yeomanry had to lead them. The brutes
were Hungarians and Argentines. Niggers had brought them from Pretoria,
and then we had to take them on, while the men in need of horses toiled
along on foot. Why they were not allotted on the day they were received
is only accounted for by the fact of our forming part of a British Army.
During the "telling-off" of our fellows to the various groups of sorry
nags, a comrade known as "Ed'ard" and I loafed in rear of the squadron
in hopes of coming last and finding no horses left. We did come last,
but there being eleven horses over, poor Ed'ard had six and I five
Argentines to lead, and the Recording Angel had a big job on.
Half-a-dozen rapid type-writers on his staff would have failed to cope
with the entries entailed by that day's work and discomfort. Some people
boast that they can be led, but not driven. The boast of my Argentines
was that they could be driven but not led. For about three hours I led,
or tried to lead them, at the end of which time my right, or leading
arm, was about four inches longer than my left, and once or twice quite
six. This was when a ditch or some such obstacle had to be overcome. My
own steed, having nobly negotiated it, two of the others would follow
his excellent example, and then the remaining three would pause on the
bank, irresolutely at first, and then quite determined not to "follow my
lead," in fact to never "follow me," would pull back a bit. Then a
lovely scramble would result, in which I would be hauled half-way back,
horse and all, and my rifle, instead of remaining properly slung, would
become excitable, and manage to hang round my neck or waist. Finally a
fairy godmother, in the form of a dirty, unshaven Tommy Atkins of the
line, would come to my assistance, and with a wave of his wand--I mean
rifle--and a thrust with the butt, my troubles for the moment would be
overcome. At last, with my right hand cut and sore, and a temper which
would have set the Thames a-fire, I let go the leathern thong by which I
had been endeavouring to lead them, and started driving them. Other
fellows also commenced to do the same, and after the brutes we raced,
inhaling dust, expectorating mud, and cursed by every transport officer.
Happy men, without horses to look after, were looting fowls and porkers,
for the district was a good one; but such was not for us luckless
Yeomen. Even when we got into camp we had to stand for nearly two hours
in the dark, looking after the brutes till some more Yeomanry, the
Roughs, relieved us, I cannot help it--it's the twelfth, and I must

[Illustration: A terrible reckoning! Binks (who has just had a row with
a burly Sergeant and got an extra stable guard, and is also 'forit'):
"By Heavens! Wait till I get home and meet him in civvies and he has no
stripes to protect him!"]

Listen to this! When at home in barracks, and on the transport, the
orderly officer always went through the army routine of going round at
meals and asking "Any complaints?" Now that we are campaigning, divil an
officer asks if we have any complaints to make, or is in any way
solicitous as to our welfare or wants. And the consequence is this: we
are at the mercy of our quartermaster-sergeants, who are sometimes
fools, and more often the other thing as far as we are concerned, and
beings known by us as "the waggon crowd," _i.e._: the cooks, and divers
other non-combatants. What they don't want, or dare not withhold, is
given to the poor Yeoman, who has to march, fight, and do pickets and
guards. The man who marches and fights is the worst paid and worst
treated out here. This, it appears, is a way they have in the army. It
is, however, distinctly amusing to hear the _common_ troopers
proclaiming how they will get equal with their officers, especially the
non-coms., when they meet them in the sweet by-and-bye as civilians.

The night we stopped outside Pretoria before coming out this way, our
curiosity was aroused by suddenly hearing three hearty British cheers
from some lines not far from ours. On making an enquiry as to the cause
of this outburst of feeling, we were informed that the battalion had
just received the news that their adjutant, who was absent on leave, had
been made a prisoner by the Boers. Of course, some officers, especially
the Regular ones who have seen previous service, are decidedly popular,
our present General--"Mickey" Mahon--being an instance. There is no gold
lace or cocked hat about him. He is, in attire, probably the strangest
figure in the campaign. Picture to yourself a square-built man of middle
age, wearing an ordinary brown cap (not a service one), a khaki coat
with an odd sleeve, breeches, and box-cloth gaiters, carrying a hooked
cherrywood stick, and smoking a briar, and you have General Mahon.

And now listen to this little story about him. A few days ago a Tommy
was chasing a chicken near a farm on the line of march. Suddenly the
cackling, fluttering, feathered one dashed in the direction of a
plainly-dressed stranger. "Go it, mate; you've got 'un!" yelled the
excited Tommy. Then, to his horror, he recognised the general, and,
confused, tried to apologise. "Not at all," said the chief, and helped
him to kill the bird. Then telling him if he liked he could take it to
his colonel and say the general had helped him to kill it, he sauntered

His favourite corps is the I.L.H., and he seems quite pained when they
miss an opportunity of obtaining good loot, which, once or twice they
have done, owing to a stringent order from someone else against it.

Routine and red tape, though probably not so bad as "once upon a time,"
are still rampant, and we Yeomanry get our full share of them, the
Colonials being more exempt. When we are on the march it is always
"dress up there" or back as the case may be, and the following extract
from a comrade's diary can be regarded as absolutely veracious.

"August 6th. On advance party again. Tried to look for Boers and lost my
'dressing.' Severely reprimanded."

It appears to me that our way for locating the enemy is absurdly simple.
We advance in approved extended order, so many horses' lengths, not more
nor less, if any Boers are about, and we get too close to them, they pot
at us. Then we take cover, if not bowled over; and it is generally known
that there are Boers about.

This (Sunday) morning, I am writing a few lines during a halt--we passed
various farms on our way, which is in the direction of Krugersdorp. We
are in hopes of rounding up De Wet (don't laugh!) At one of these farms,
as we passed, a regular old Rip Van Winkle Dopper Boer was seated by his
door scowling at us, and a trooper who had evidently been sent to ask
for arms presently received, and rode away with _a sword_. It was really
most amusing, probably the dear old man had three Mausers under his
floor boards, and perhaps a bathchair was to be found somewhere on the
premises, in which he could be conveyed to the top of a kopje now and
again, to enjoy the pleasure of sniping the _verdommte Rooineks_, or
their convoy as it passed along.

Monday, August 13th. On this day we made a reconnaissance in force, but
had no fighting. In the evening we had to do an outlying picket on a
near kopje, some long range and ineffective sniping going on as we took
up our position at sunset. The waggon having been left behind (no
unusual occurrence), we went tea-less to our night duty.

Tuesday, August 14th. Off, without any coffee, on advance guard. As we
moved out of camp, revolvers and rifles were banging in all directions.
However, it was not sniping, but merely the usual killing of sick horses
and mules. Along the road the defunct quadrupeds hummed dreadfully (if
any tune, "The place where the old horse died").


Wednesday, August 15th (in the vicinity of Eland's River). Another day
without tea or coffee, and in a district lacking in wood and water. At
about mid-day we came upon Kitchener, Methuen, and others with their
respective forces. Colonel Hore's gallant Australians and Rhodesians had
just been relieved. The various columns halted and camped here. That
afternoon a couple of commandeered sheep were served out to our troop; I
dressed one, and obtained the butcher's perquisites, viz.: the heart,
liver and kidneys. On these, with the addition of a chop from a pig, at
whose dying moments I was present, and a portion of an unfortunate duck,
I made an excellent meal. That night was rather an uneasy one for me,
for I had Eugene-Aram-like dreams in which relentless sheep chased me
round farmhouses and barns into the arms of fierce ducks and avenging
porkers. But _reveillé_, and then daylight came at last, and peace for
my burdened mind and chest.

Thursday, August 16th. Off in the direction of Olifant's Nek. At noon we
came in contact with the scouts of the enemy who were holding the Nek.
After being under a heavy rifle fire, we retired to camp and waited for
the morrow. Ian Hamilton arrived in the evening with his infantry and

Friday, August 17th. We moved out early in anticipation of a big day,
for amongst the various rumours was one to the effect that De Wet's
laager was on the other side of the Nek, and Baden-Powell and Methuen
were going to attack him from that quarter. Oh, the rumours about this
slim individual, they are legion! Here are some of the hardy perennial

  1. De Wet is captured at last.
  2. De Wet is surrounded and cannot escape. (The modification brand.)
  3. De Wet has escaped with eleven men.
  4. De Wet has 4,000 men with him.
  5. De Wet has only 300 men with him.
  6. De Wet has heaps of stores and ammunition.
  7. De Wet has no stores, etc.

This is supposed to be the dry season, but it appears to me to be De
Wet, and our "Little British Army which goes such a very long way"
(quite true especially here) seems like the British Police, who always
have a clue, and expect shortly to make an important arrest, but don't.
We took up a position on a kopje opposite to the right of the Nek, and
for a few hours had a rare easy time. Divesting ourselves of our tunics,
belts, bandoliers and other top hamper, we lounged about in our
shirt-sleeves, smoking and dozing, only rousing ourselves a bit later
when the double-rapping reports of the Mausers over the way told us that
our scouts were being fired on. Soon the R.H.A. came into action, and
were quickly followed by the banging of the cow-guns. It was most
interesting to see where the shells struck, and how soon the kopjes and
Nek opposite became blackened, smoking rock and earth, and the spiteful
Mausers ceased from troubling. Meanwhile, the infantry, Berks and A. and
S. Highlanders, advanced and the Nek was ours, and the Boers, De Wet's
rearguard--vamoosed. Then we all marched through the Nek, which was a
wonderful position, and possible of being held after the manner of
Thermopolæ. Our Sussex farrier-sergeant was shot in the arm. Going
through the Nek we passed three graves by the roadside--graves of Royal
Fusiliers who had died of wounds and enteric during B.-P.'s occupation
of the place a short time previous. A soldier's grave out here is a
simple matter, a rude cross of wood made from a biscuit case, with a
roughly-carved name, or perhaps merely a little pile of stones, and
that is all, save that far away one heart at least is aching dully and
finds but empty solace in the _pro patria_ sentiment. When one passes
these silent reminders of the possibilities of war, it is impossible to
suppress the thought "It might have been me!" But more often than not
any such morbid reflections are effaced by the sight of a house and the
chances of loot. Which reminds me that we ravaged with fire and sword a
good deal in the vicinity of Rustenburg, numerous houses being set
a-fire by authority--in most cases the reason being because the owner of
the domicile had broken his oath of allegiance and was out again
fighting us. We reached Rustenburg at about six o'clock, and had to go
on outlying picket on a terribly-high kopje, known as Flag Staff Hill,
at once. So just as it became dark--tired and tea-less, with overcoats
and bundles of blankets--a little band of wearied, cussing Empire
builders set out on their solitary vigil, with none of your
"Won't-come-home-till-morning" jollity about them. Oh, that thrice, nay
seventy-times-seven, execrated hill! Up it we stumbled with a compulsory
Excelsior motto, staggering, perspiring profusely, with wrenched ankles,
cut and sore feet, cussing when breath permitted, dropping exhausted,
and resting now and again. Thus we ascended Flag Staff Hill. On the top
we found strong sangars with shell-proof shelters, which had been built
by the indefatigable Baden-Powell during his occupation of Rustenburg.
That night passed at last.


Saturday, 18th August. We set off again in the direction of Pretoria,
and unsaddled and formed our lines at about four, and were
congratulating ourselves on getting camped so soon when the faint but
unmistakable cry of "saddle up" was heard afar off, then nearer and
nearer, till we got it. De Wet (thrice magic name) was not very far off,
and we were to push on at once after him. So off we set on a forced
night march, on which no lights were allowed, and mysterious halts
occurred, when we flung ourselves down at our horses' feet on the dusty
road and took snatches of sleep. Then a rumbling would be heard, and
down the column would come the whisper "The guns are up"--probably some
obstacle such as a drift or donga had delayed them--then forward. We
halted at twelve and were up again at four. The day being Sunday we, as
usual out here, rested not, but proceeded on the warpath. A few miles
down the road a scout passed with a Boer prisoner (Hurrah! one Boer
less!). Leaving the Pretoria road soon after daybreak, we made for some
low-lying ranges of hills, known as the Zwart Kopjes, and after going
forward a couple of miles our guns, M Battery, trotted smartly forward
in line, halted, then like wasps cut off at the waists, the fore parts
flew away leaving the stings behind. In plain military words, the R.H.A.
unlimbered, busy gunners laid their pets, others ran back for
ammunition, an officer gave directions, then a roll of smoke, a flash, a
cracking bang, a gun runs back, and intently-watching eyes presently see
a small cloud of smoke over the top of a distant kopje, and a faint,
far-away crack announces that the well-timed shrapnel is searching the
rocky ridges; then bang, bang! bang, bang! and the rest quickly follow,
firing in turn and now and again in twos or threes. Then it's "limber
up" and forward, and their attention is paid to another little range
further on. Soon, having cleared several kopjes, we, the Fife Light
Horse, New Zealanders, our Composite Squadron, and others, crossed a
drift and leisurely advanced, passing on our way a deserted Boer waggon
loaded with corn, mealies and other stuff. At a farmhouse we naturally
managed to halt, and tried to secure edibles. Colonel Pilcher, however,
came and ordered us to form up in a field further on, and as we
proceeded to obey this order, Mausers began rapping out at us from a
range of hills which we had supposed (usual fallacy!) were unoccupied,
our guns having shelled them well. Thereupon the colonel immediately
told us to retire behind the farmhouse and outbuildings with the horses.
I soon found myself lying behind a low bank with Lieutenant Stanley, of
the Somerset Yeomanry, on one side of me and a New Zealander the other,
blazing away in response to B'rer Boer opposite. My Colonial neighbour's
carbine got jammed somehow or other, and his disgust was expressed in
true military style, for the keenness of the New Zealander is wonderful.
One of our pom-poms and M Battery joining in, after a time the firing
slackened, and chancing to look round at the side of the farmhouse, I
beheld two of our fellows helping themselves to some chicken from a
three-legged iron pot over a smouldering fire. Thereupon, I promptly
quitted the firing line, and joined in the unexpected meal. It was
awfully good, I assure you. While finishing the fowl, a New Zealander,
pale-faced, with a wound in his throat and another in his hand, was
brought in by two comrades, and a horse, which had been shot, died
within a few yards of us. I am sorry to say that in this little affair
we lost an officer and a trooper killed, and several wounded, not to
mention a considerable amount of killed and wounded horses.

The next day we advanced under a heavy fire from our guns, but met with
no opposition. Our objective this time was the Zoutpan District, which
is principally composed of bush veldt.

Here I must pause, and give a veracious account of a certain not
uninteresting episode, which happened during our march after De Wet in
the Zoutpan District, and which I will call


On Tuesday, August the 22nd, we were advance guard through the bush
veldt, and shortly after starting, _Bête Noire_, who had gradually been
failing, gave out, so behold me, alone to all intents and purposes,
bushed. Of course I immediately took careful bearings, and assuming that
we should not be changing direction, slowly marched straight ahead.
After going a considerable distance I got on to a small track, and
finally, what might be termed by courtesy, a road, and was carefully
studying it when one of our sergeants and a staff officer rode up. I
told the latter that my horse was done, and the noble steed bore out my
statement by collapsing under me as I spoke. The officer advised me to
wait for the main body and lead my horse on after them, which I did,
dragging him along for about a dozen weary miles, till I reached the
camp at dark, just in time to participate in a lovely outlying picket.
The next morning, having reported the case to the sergeant-major, he
told me to lead the horse from the camp with the convoy, and instructed
the farrier-sergeant to shoot him a little way out. So, having put my
saddle on our waggon and asked the farrier if he had been told about the
shooting, I proceeded to drag the poor beggar along. After toiling
forward some considerable distance, I looked around for the man whose
duty it was to shoot him, but could see him nowhere. So on I pushed,
inquiring of everybody, "Where is the Farrier-Sergeant?" I lagged behind
for him, and then toiled, perspiring and ankle deep in dust, ahead for
him, but found him not. Even during the mid-day halt I could not find
him, and as the beast had fallen once, I was getting sick of it.
Everybody I accosted advised me to shoot the brute myself, the same as
other fellows did in most of the Colonial corps, so at length, to cut
this part of the story short, giving up all hope of being relieved of my
burden by the farrier-sergeant, who somewhere was ambling along
comfortably on a good horse--having again had the sorry steed fall--I
led him aside from the track of the convoy and ended his South African
career with my revolver. Alas, _Bête Noire!_ Had we but understood one
another better the parting would have been a sad one. The case being
otherwise, I felt, it must be admitted, no regret whatever. And now the
interesting part of the episode begins. Hearing my shots (I am sorry to
say I fired more than once in accomplishing my fell deed) the
farrier-sergeant galloped up. "Who gave you permission to shoot this
horse?" "Nobody; I couldn't find you, and couldn't lug the brute any
further." "I shall report you." "I don't care." Then followed high
words, involving bitter personalities and we parted. After tramping a
good dozen miles further, I arrived at our camp in the dark, and had the
luck to find our lines soon. To an interested and sympathetic group of
comrades I related in full my adventures. Our sergeant-major, who is a
very good sort, was telling me that it would be all right, when the
regimental sergeant-major came up and told me that he must put me under
arrest for shooting my horse without permission, destroying Government
property (Article 301754, Par. 703, or something like that). There was
none of the pomp about the affair which I should have liked to see--no
chains, no fixed bayonets, or loaded rifles. Our sergeant-major, without
even removing his pipe, said "Ross, you are a prisoner," and I replied
"Righto," and proceeded to inquire when the autocrats of the cook-house
would have tea ready. A few days later, I was brought before the
beak--the officer in command of our squadron. "Quick march. Halt, left
turn. Salute." This being done, the case was stated. The
farrier-sergeant told the requisite number of lies. I denied them, but
of course admitted shooting the beggar. Dirty, unwashed, unkempt,
unshaven, ragged wretch that I looked, I daresay on a charge of
double-murder, bigamy and suicide, I should have fared ill. The captain
gave me what I suppose was a severe reprimand, told me that probably in
Pretoria I should have to pay something, and said he would have to take
away my stripe, so down it went, "reduced to the ranks." "Salute! Right
turn," etc. Thus, did your humble servant lose the Field Marshal's bâton
which he had so long been carrying in his haversack. Alas, how are the
mighty fallen! Tell it in Hastings and whisper it in St. Leonards if you
will, like that dear old reprobate Mulvaney, "I was a corp'ril wanst,
but aftherwards I was rejooced," _Vive l'Armée! Vive la Yeomanrie!_ All
the fellows were intensely sympathetic, and indeed, one or two
particular friends seemed far more aggrieved than myself. I ripped off
my stripe at once, and tossed it in our bivouac fire, and joined the
small legion of ex-lance corporals of the Sussex Squadron (five in

[Illustration: Some of "the pomp & circumstance of Glorious War."]

  "Or ever the blooming war was done,
      Or I had ceased to roam;
   I was a slave in Africa,
      And you were a toff at home."

Hullo! When it comes to poetry it is time to conclude.

P.S.--My costume is holier than ever. Still, I find every cloud has a
silver lining (though my garments possess none of any kind,
unfortunately). The great advantage of the present state of one's
clothes is this, if you want to scratch yourself--and out here on the
warpath one occasionally does--say it's your arm, you need not trouble
to take your tunic off; you simply put your hand through the nearest
hole or rent, and there you are; if it's your leg you do the same, and
thus a lot of trouble is saved.


                                        NEAR THE RACECOURSE,
                                            _Friday, August 31st, 1900._

We arrived here on Tuesday last (28th), and since then have been camped
almost on the very spot where we were in June, and are expecting every
moment to receive further marching orders. These we should undoubtedly
have got long ere now, if we had only obtained remounts, which are very
scarce. General Mahon has gone on to Balmoral with the I.L.H., Lumsden's
Horse, and other corps with horses, and this morning Colonel Pilcher
paraded us, New Zealanders, Queenslanders and I.Y., and bade us
good-bye. He has been connected with the Colonials from the beginning of
the campaign, and took the Zealanders into their first fight. I am
feeling awfully fagged to-day, so hope you will, in reading this letter,
make allowance for extenuating circumstances. If you only knew, I think
you do, what these letters mean, the self-denied slumbers and washes,
_fatigues shirked_, books and papers unread, and other little treats
which comrades have indulged in when the rare and short opportunities
have occurred--you would forgive much. On Tuesday (August 21st) we had
five Sussex men and three Somerset in the ranks of our troop of the
Composite Squadron of Yeomanry, the rest being either in the ambulances
or leading done (not "dun") horses with the waggons. In this district we
came across numerous Kaffir villages, from which we drew mealies and
handed in acknowledgments for the same payable in Pretoria. Reference to
these papers reminds me that some of the Colonials in commandeering
horses from peaceful Boer farmers have given them extraordinary
documents to hand in to the authorities at Pretoria. For instance, one
paper would contain the statement that Major Nevercomeback had obtained
a roan mare from Mr. Viljoen Botha, for which he agreed to pay him £20,
others of which I have heard and since forgotten were intensely amusing.
On Wednesday (the 22nd) I had to do a footslog, owing to my horse giving
out. Later I shot him, but I have made a special reference to this
tragic event and its sequence already. That day we did about 25 miles
through the bush veldt bearing about N.W. On the line of march not a
drop of water was to be got. Though thirst is by no means a new
experience, it is always a disagreeable one. On we trudged with dry,
parched mouths and lips sticking together as though gummed, the dust
adhering to our perspiring faces and filling our nostrils and ears. It
is quaint to note how little on the march men converse with one another.
On they stolidly tramp or ride hour after hour, side by side, and often
exchange never a word. On they go, thinking, thinking, thinking. It is
not hard to guess each other's thoughts, because we know our own. They
are of home, home, home, nine times out of ten. At dark we reached our
camp, and from the water-cart, for which we all, as usual, rushed, we
filled our pannikins and bottles with water, thick, soapy-looking water,
but to us, cool, refreshing nectar.

Thursday (the 23rd). There was a rumour (there always is) that we were
to return to Pretoria. But the direction we took on marching belied it.
Of course, I was "footslogging," but this day, having no horse to drag
after me, was able to wander more at leisure. A few miles on the way a
comrade and myself found a lovely flowing stream of the thick water
before alluded to. Here we had a grand wash, and refilling our water
bottles set on our journey refreshed. Some miles further on we came upon
a freshly-deserted Boer store and farmhouse. Near the house we found
some clips of explosive Mauser cartridges which had been buried by some
bushes, and probably unearthed by some of the wandering porkers in the
neighbourhood. Said I to a Tommy of Hamilton's column, as I took a
handful of cartridges, "These will do as curios." Quoth Thomas
scornfully, "Curios be blowed, put 'em in the beggars!" Of course, you
can guess he did not exactly use those identical words, but they will
do. Then having joined in the destruction of a monster hog, and obtained
my share of his inanimate form, I, triumphant and perspiring, continued
to follow the convoy.

Friday (the 24th). This day we expected a big fight, but, as usual,
because it was expected, it did not come off. Baden-Powell the day
before had hustled them pretty considerably. We were so close on the
Boers, that we got half of their ambulances, one being a French
presentation affair, and driven by a woman, also some waggons. This day
we did not go very far, our objective being a place known, I believe, as
Warm Baths (the Harrogate or Sanatorium of the Transvaal). It lies due
north of Pretoria, and about 40 miles from Pietersburg. Of course, here
we struck the railway. After picketing the horses, a sick sergeant's
horse was handed over to me. Most of us got permission to go and get a
wash. The place was empty--save for some of Baden-Powell's men, who had
got in at the enemy the day before--a desolate, wind-swept, sandy plain
on the edge of the bush veldt and at the base of a range of kopjes,
comprised of about thirty large corrugated iron bath houses (each
containing two bath rooms), a fairly large hotel and small station--such
is Warm Baths. The baths were well patronised. Some of our fellows,
prisoners the Boers had been obliged to leave behind in their
flight--the rogues had taken the linchpins out of some of the Boer
waggon wheels to impede them as much as possible--were using them as
sleeping apartments. As about a score of men were after each bath and
the doors had no bolts, a bath, though luxurious, was not an altogether
private affair, the person bathing having continually to answer the
question of a string of "the great unwashed," "How long shall you be?"
and having the uneasy knowledge that about half-a-dozen impatient beings
were waiting, sitting on the door-step and exhorting him "to buck up!" A
couple of us managed to secure a fine bath, which we enjoyed without
interruption worthy of mention. The water, which is naturally hot, was
grand, and so hot that we had to use a lot of the cold, which was also
laid on.

The next day, Saturday (25th), we rested at Warm Baths, and I think we
deserved it. If "early to bed and early to rise, make a man healthy,
wealthy and wise," excepting occasionally the first clause "early to
bed," I consider we ought all to live the health and longevity of
Methuselah or Old Parr, the wealth of Croesus or Vanderbilt, and the
wisdom of Solomon, blended with the guile of the Serpent. Mention of the
guile reminds me of a simple little incident which occurred to-day, and
which, months ago, we simple Yeomen would never have perpetrated. A
terrible thing happened during the night; the sergeant-major's horse had
got loose from our lines and was missing. Down came that indignant
officer and sent the whole troop out to find it. Months ago I should
have gone and searched diligently, and then been cussed for not finding
the animal. But now, what does the fully-fledged Imperial Yeoman do?
Grumbling and scowling (you must always do this, as it shows how
successful the powers have been in delegating a distasteful task to you,
and pleases them accordingly) with razor, soap and shaving brush in my
pocket, and a growling, sullen comrade with a towel and sponge in his,
we two set out in search of the noble steed. However, once out of sight,
we hied us down to some running water, where we shaved and washed, then,
filling our pipes, we sat down for an hour and chatted. Finally, we
returned disconsolate and horseless, only to find that the great man had
found it himself.

[Illustration: The Government has yet to strike the happy medium in the
sizes of the uniforms etc. which it provides for its troops.]

Sunday (26th). We got definite orders to march to Pretoria, the sick and
horseless men having left by rail the previous day in trucks drawn by
bullocks, till they could get on a more unbroken line. We paraded at 3
o'clock, and very shortly after starting my new horse became bad and I
had to again join the convoy. To-day we marched to Pienaars River, the
bridge here representing a badly-made switchback railway, and those
marvels of energy, the Engineers, working away merrily at it, with the
assistance of Kaffirs.

On Monday (27th) our _reveillé_ was at five, and we marched to Waterval,
where we saw the fine, large aviary in which the Boers kept the British
prisoners till June, and the next day (Tuesday) we were up at 2.30, and
marched into Pretoria and camped on the Racecourse at 11 o'clock. No
sooner had I dragged my horse in and picketed him in our lines, than I
managed to obtain town leave, and, having hastily washed, I boarded a
mule waggon and was soon jolted into Pretoria. There I got Mails galore,
found my kit bag had come up from Cape Town, and met dozens of old
comrades in the Police, who insisted on making me have tea with them
(with _condensed milk_ in it, oh, ye gods!) and jam on real _bread_, and
generally made a fuss of me, and listened with amused attention to a
truthful account of the death of _Bête Noire_ and my subsequent
Dreyfus-like degradation. Rattling good fellows they were to me, and
under their benign influence the petty trials and inconveniences of the
past seven or eight weeks faded away like a dissolving view. The
authorities have also served us out with clothes. I have received a
lovely khaki tunic with beautiful brass buttons stamped with Lion and
Unicorn, "_Dieu et mon Droit_," and a' that. And the fit is a wonderful
fit; it is truly marvellous how they can turn out such a well-fitting
coat for--a big boy of twelve. And I have boots! A grand fit for a
policeman. Only I am neither a boy of twelve nor a policeman.


                                          _September 5th, 1900._

  We've stood to our nags (confound them!)
    We've thought of our native land;
  We have cussed our English brother,
    (For he does not understand.)
  We've cussed the whole of creation,
    And the cross swings low for the morn,
  Last straw (and by stern obligation)
    To the Empire's load we've borne.

Monday, September 3rd. _Reveillé_ at three o'clock, and coming after a
few days of welcome rest in the camp by the Pretoria Racecourse, a camp
resembling a vast rubbish field with the addition of open latrines, we
naturally felt more annoyed than when on the march, hence these idle
rhymes. On Sunday, after a short Divine Service, at which our major
presided, we had to fall in and draw remounts. Hence "Reveillé," "Saddle
up and stand to your horses!" I chose rather a good mount in the horse
corral, but as the sergeants had the privilege of choosing from those we
drew, I lost it, and so abandoned any intentions of trying to secure
another good one. There is no attempt on these occasions to see that the
right man has the right horse: it's "Hobson's choice." Even at Maitland
camp, where I drew my first mount, no such attempt was made, the
consequence being that I, scaling about 13-st. or more with my kit on,
and heaven only knows what with my loaded saddle, drew when my turn came
a weak little mare, which I had to stick to, to our mutual disadvantage,
while lighter men drew bigger and stronger horses. Only a few days ago I
received amongst my mails a letter from my sister, who inquired, "How is
your horse?" Which one? "Stumbles" is not, "Ponto" is not, "Juggernaut"
is not, "Diamond Jubilee" is not, "Bête Noire" is not. My present one,
which I have not named, _is_, and I sometimes wish he wasn't. When I
drew him at a venture, I vainly hoped he was not like other horses,
especially that Argentine. Well, apart from stumbling and reverentially
kneeling on most inopportune occasions, I have not much fault to find
with him. To-day is our first day on this fresh jaunt (we are to join
Clements), and already more than half the horses dished out to us seem
played out. You see they have all passed through the Sick Horse Farm,
and I presume are really convalescents. They dragged us along at the
commencement of the day, and we had to drag them along at the end, which
may sound like an equal division of labour, but which, in my opinion, it
is not. However, to be very serious, our lives might have to depend upon
these brutes at any moment, apart from the fact of our necks being
perpetually in danger on account of their stumbling propensities. Still
apart from the inconvenience of having to bury one, I fancy there would
not be much concern on that count. We have halted at Rietfontein which
is a mile or so from Commando Nek. Here is a large A.S.C. depôt, from
which columns working in the district can draw supplies. It has been
quite a treat to have tea by daylight.

Tuesday, September 4th. 'Nother three o'clock _reveillé_! Passing by
Commando Nek we were surprised at the difference since we were here
about a month ago. Then the trees were bare, nearly all the veldt burnt
and black, and the oat fields trodden down. Now the trees are wearing o'
the green, and the once blackened veldt has assumed a verdant and
youthful appearance, while the oat fields remind one of home, almost.
For this is the Krugersdorp District, which we like so well, though,
alas, the orange groves are on the other side (north) of the
Magaliesberg. A strange thing happened after passing our old camping
ground (of about a month ago) at Commando Nek. Instead of recognising
familiar landmarks and houses, everything seemed strange and new to me.
Said the man on my left in the ranks, "There's the farm where those
Tommies got the porkers." To which I remarked vacantly, "Oh!" Then,
further on, "Haven't the oats come on in that field?" Again, I
helplessly "Er--yes." Then, "I wonder if they've got any fowls left in
that shanty over there?" I, dissembling knowledge no longer, at last
observed, "Really I don't understand it. I can't remember this place a
bit." To which my neighbour replied, "Don't you remember coming this way
when we were leading those Argentine remounts?"

_Those Argentine remounts!_ All was explained at last. Of course, I saw
and remembered naught save those awful brutes.

We caught Clements up at ten o'clock--encamped to our joy--so here we
are with "piled arms," "saddles off," and "horses picketed." As we came
into camp we heard once again the Mausers of the snipers afar off. We
have rigged up a sun shelter and have just dined, our "scoff" (Kaffir
for "grub") being bread and bully beef.


     _First Yeoman_: "I say, is this bully beef American?"

     _Second Yeoman_: "No, _'Orse_-tralian, I believe."

Wednesday, September 5th.

  "The peaches are a-blooming,
   And the guns are a-booming,
   And I want you, my honey,
        _Yus, I do_."

We had _reveillé_ at a more Christian-like time this morning (4.30), and
moved out as supports to our other troop (Devons), who were advance
party. We number eighteen Sussex men, all told, in our ranks, and are
led by Mr. Stanley, a Somerset I.Y. officer, who on our last trip was in
charge of the Ross Gun Section, which consisted of two quick-firing Colt
guns. After bare trees, dry veldt and dusty tracks, it is a real treat
for one's eyes to see this fine district assuming its spring garb.
Through the bright green patches of oats and barley we rode, past peach
trees and bushes in full bloom, sometimes through a hedge of them, the
pink blooms brushing against one's cheek. Then we came to a bend of the
Crocodile River, with its rugged banks covered with trees and
undergrowth, and the water rushing swiftly along between and over the
huge rocks in its bed. This we forded at the nearest drift, the water
reaching up to the horses' bellies. The general idea was for us mounted
troops to clear the valley, and the infantry the ridges of kopjes. We
were soon being sniped at from the right and the left, by, I presume,
numerous small parties of Boers, and after riding about a mile were
dismounted behind a farmhouse, and took up a position on the banks of
the Crocodile. The scene was truly idyllic. Below us the river in this
particular place was placidly flowing, the various trees on its banks
were bursting out in their spring foliage, and birds were twittering
amongst them: indeed, one cheeky little feathered thing came and perched
on a peach tree covered in pink blossom close by and piped a matin to
me, and there was I, lounging luxuriously in the deep grass, a pipe in
my mouth, a Lee-Enfield across my knees, and a keen eye on the range of
kopjes opposite. Truly, the spring poet's opportunity, but alas, beyond
the few lines with which I have dared to head to-day's notes, I could do
naught in that line. Soon our artillery began throwing shrapnel on the
top of the objectionable height, and, later, the Mausers began to speak
a little further on, and that has been the day's game. I don't know our
losses yet, but we have undoubtedly had some. Our crowd had a horse
killed, of course. We had a good deal of visiting to do, calling at this
farm and that, and inquiring if the "good man" was at home. This is the
usual scene:

Farmhouse of a humble order. A few timid Kaffirs loitering around, also
a few fowls and slack-looking mongrels. Gentleman in Khaki rides up, and
in the door appear two or more round-faced women wearing headgear of the
baby-bonnet mode, dirty-faced children in background.

     _G. in K._: "Where is your husband?"

     _Women_: "Niet verstand."

     _G. in K._: "Where is your brother?"

     _Women_: "Niet verstand."

     _G. in K._: "Is he on those kopjes, potting at us?"

     _Women_: "Niet verstand."

     _G. in K._: "Have many Boers been past here?"

     _Women_: "Niet verstand."

     _G, in K._ (After more interrogatories and more "Niet
     verstands"): "Oh, hang it, good-bye."

     _Women_ (in distance): "Niet verstand."

Verily, the "niet verstand" or "no savvee" game is a great one out here.

(_Later._) Our casualties were three Northumberland Fusiliers killed and
eight wounded, one of our Fife comrades shot in the chest, also three
Roughriders hit, and a fair percentage of horses knocked.

Thursday, September 6th.--_Reveillé_ at four o'clock, and off at
daybreak. We soon came into action, some of our fellows on the right
flank getting it particularly hot. Our little lot wheeled and dismounted
behind a farmhouse, and, wading through a field of waving green barley,
under fire, took up a position amongst the growth on the near bank of
the river, from which we let off at some sangars on the top of a kopje
in front. After a while we returned to our horses, mounted, rode away to
our right, crossed the river, dismounted behind a rise in the ground,
and proceeded to occupy some kopjes nearer the enemy, who had retired.
Some fine sangars were on the hill we occupied, and so we were saved the
trouble of building any. The one I found myself in was a very
comfortable and secure affair as regards rifle fire. As, of course, Mr.
Boer does not show himself over much, we had not much to pot at,
therefore I made myself as comfortable as possible on the shady side of
the sangar, and pulled out one of my numerous pocket editions of
Tennyson (recently acquired in Pretoria) and indulged in a good, though
occasionally interrupted, read. To a stranger at the game, I should
imagine that my behaviour at times would have appeared incongruous, for
while perusing the "Lotos-Eaters" and "Choric Song," the man on my right
would now and again interrupt me with, "There are some, have a shot at
'em!" Whereupon I would arise and fire a round or so at the distant
dots, and then sink down again and resume the sweet poesy, ignoring as
much as possible the constant bangings of villainous cordite in my ears,
right and left. Soon we moved on to another position, the
Northumberlands taking up our old one. The next one was in a stone
enclosure, which contained a large number of goats and kids. This was
not so pleasant, as the sun was high, and the place odoriferous.

At about three we were relieved by a Northumberland picket, and returned
under a sniping fire to where the camp had been pitched. Then the fun
commenced. A rather distant bang, _whis-sh!_ over our heads; and from
amongst the infantry blanket shelters a cloud of earth spouted up, and a
small batch of men cleared off from the vicinity of the explosion. It
was amusing to see the niggers throw themselves into trenches by the
roads and fields. Then came another and yet another shell, without any
more effect than making a hole in a tent, and the men of No. 8 Battery
Field Artillery (and No. 8 is a deuced smart Battery, by'r leave) dashed
out from their lines, pushing and dragging their guns, while the "4.7
gentleman" began moving his long beak in the air as though sniffing for
the foe. "Give 'em hell, boys!" we cried to the busy gunners, as they
dashed by us, working at the wheels and drag-ropes, but the Naval man
spoke first, "Snap--Bang!" and back the gun jumped in a cloud of smoke;
and presently, far away, from the crest of the kopje under suspicion, a
cloud of brown arose, and later came the crack of the explosion.
Meanwhile the Boers went on pitching shells into our camp, and we got
the order to retire behind a kopje with our horses till it was decided
what to do with us. Having done this, the shelling soon ceased, and
later we were taken back to camp, where we off-saddled, picketed our
horses, and settled down to tea. And then _bang! whish! crack!!_ bang!
whish! towards us the enemy's shells came again. They had got two guns
in position, and were working them hard. We were getting some of our own
back, for the shells we picked up were 15-pounder ones, of British make.
Our Naval gun barked back viciously at them, and so did the field guns,
but the enemy were firing with the red and dazzling setting sun, behind
them, and shining directly in our fellows' eyes, who were blazing
apparently at poor old Sol, and cussing him and the wily Boer in a
manner by no means ambiguous. I know not whether we did them any harm or
not; certainly they shifted their positions once or twice. As regards
ourselves, it seems beyond belief, no damage was done. The enemy could
not even boast of the bag which the Americans achieved at Santiago--that
famous mule.

[Illustration: Oliver Twist on the Veldt.

_Pember, of the Sussex, asking for an extra allowance of tea, at the
cook-house, while the camp is being shelled by the Boers, at Hekpoort._

(_Persuasively_) "It may be your last chance, Cookie!"]


                                         _Saturday, September 8th, 1900._

I fancy I stopped in my last near the end of a rather long-winded
account of the shelling we experienced at the hands of Brother Boer, on
Thursday evening last. To conclude that day's events, we finally shifted
our horse lines a bit and turned in, spending a night undisturbed by the
distant booming of the Boer guns or the ear-splitting cracking of our
4.7. The next day we returned to our old lines, and settled down for a
good day's rest, as we heard that Clements was waiting for Ridley to
come up.

I had hardly unsaddled, however, when the sergeant-major came round and
told half-a-dozen of us to saddle up and go out with the two guides
(civilians, British farmers, who are with this column and know the
locality). So we flung on our saddles, and slipping on our bandoliers,
mounted and set out in our shirt sleeves (mark that!) with our guides in
their civilian togs (mark that!). From these individuals we gathered we
were off cattle-lifting, the Boers having left some in a kloof about a
couple of miles south of the camp. With jocular allusions to our last
quest of a similar nature (the laager near Rustenburg) we smoked and
trotted along, comfortable in our shirt sleeves after so much of the
usual marching order. Following, came four "boys" to drive the cattle
home. We soon reached our objective. The "boys" were sent into the
kloof, while we dismounted a little way up the stone-covered kopje on
the right, and leaving a couple to look after the gees, the guides and
the remainder of us started to climb the heights and cover the "boys" if
necessary. Soon a rifle report was heard, and then another. The guides
said it was a picket of ours firing on us in mistake from the kopje on
the left, and suggested that one of us should work round and let them
know who we were. Most of us argued that the report was a Mauser one.
However, the guides prevailed, and I was deputed for the job, when the
"boys" came running in breathless and told us pantingly that Boers had
been sniping them. So seeing that it would be impossible under the
circumstances to lift the cattle, we retired on our horses, mounted and
moved off. And then the beggars, who had evidently moved up closer, gave
it to us fairly warm, and we had to open out and break into a gallop in
the direction of the camp. We were about clear of the Mausers and riding
through some bush, when, suddenly above a stone wall not a hundred yards
in front of us, helmets and heads appeared, also glistening rifle
barrels, which pointed, oh no, not on the kopje behind, but on us. [This
is where the civilian clothes and shirt sleeves came in.] An officer
shouted "Don't fire! Don't fire!!! Down with those rifles." This order
was obeyed reluctantly, then "Who are you?" "Friends! Yeomanry!" "What
Yeomanry?" "Sussex." "All right." They proved to be a picket of the
Northumberland Fusiliers. Then we crossed a drift, our horses nearly
having to swim, and finally reached camp. This morning (Saturday,
September 8th) our squadron and the Fifes had to go back about
half-a-dozen miles to meet Ridley. Our troop acted as advance party. It
was rather an interesting sight to see the two parties meet; the advance
of Ridley's force was Kitchener's Horse. When we met, we halted and
chatted, waiting for orders. As we did so, the merry snipers started a
desultory fire, which gradually became more rapid. Several suspected
houses in the vicinity, whose owners had, as usual, taken the oath of
neutrality and broken it--_Punica Fides_ will have to give way to a new
phrase, Boer Faith--were then burnt down. War is not altogether a game,
it has its stern aspect. The women and children were loud in their
lamentations as the red flames blazed and the dense smoke rolled away on
the fresh breeze which was blowing. They cursed us and wept idle tears,
but they had their own dear friends, husbands and sons, to thank after
all, as nearly all the sniping in this lovely valley is being done by
the farmers who live in it. We brought about 25 Boers in camp with us,
either suspected or to save them from temptation. To see them, with
their roll of blankets, saying good-bye to their weeping families would
have touched anything but the hardened, homesick heart of a "Gentleman
in Khaki," for he knows full well that the simple peasant in this, as in
other localities, usually combines business with pleasure by sniping you
in the morning and selling you eggs in the afternoon, as our troop
leader puts it.

[Illustration: Hate.]

Sunday, September 9th. A late _reveillé_ (6 o'clock). A lovely, lazy day
in camp, during which I have been stewing fruit, smoking, and, alas, my
bad habits still cling to me, perpetrated for my own amusement a little
rough-and-ready rhyme, which I have the temerity to enclose. We had a
short service, at which our O.C. Major Percy Browne, a real good man,
presided. Ridley, who works with Clements, the same as Mahon did with
Ian Hamilton, has with him Roberts' Horse, Kitchener's Horse, some
Australians, the 2nd and 6th M.I., some artillery and two pom-poms. We
advance to-morrow.


    Into our camp, from far away,
    Somebody's darling came one day--
    Somebody's darling, full of grace,
    Wearing yet on his youthful face,
    Soon to be hid by a stubbly growth,
    The fatted look of a life of sloth.
    Thus to our camp, from far away,
    Somebody's darling came one day.

    Parted and oiled were the locks of gold,
    Kissing the brow of patrician mould,
    And pale as the Himalayan snows;
    Spotlessly clean were his khaki clothes.
    It was a cert', beyond any doubt,
    Somebody's darling had just come out.

    Wond'rous changes were quickly wrought.
    Somebody's darling marched and fought.
    Somebody's darling learned to shoot,
    Somebody's darling loved to loot;
    Somebody's darling learned to swear,
    And neglected to part his hair.

    After riding and marching weary leagues,
    Somebody's darling was set on fatigues--
    Set on fatigues for dreary hours,
    Thinking of home, its fruits and flowers.
    Somebody's darling's ideals were quashed;
    Somebody's darling went unwashed.

    Somebody's darling cussed sergeants big,
    Somebody's darling killed a young pig:
    Then dressed and trimmed it ready to eat,
    First of many a butcherly feat;
    Somebody's dear caring naught for looks,
    Joined the army of amateur cooks.

    Somebody's darling drank water muddy;
    Somebody's darling saw men all bloody;
    Somebody's darling heard bullets fly;
    Somebody's darling saw comrades die;
    Somebody's darling was playing the game,--
    Thousands and thousands were doing the same.

    Somebody's darling rose long before morn;
    Somebody's darling went tattered and torn;
    Somebody's darling longed for a bite,
    Half-baked by day and frozen by night.
    Somebody's darling received Mails sometimes,
    And his joy was beyond my idle rhymes.

    Somebody's darling was sniped one fierce day,
    An ambulance jolted him far away;
    Somebody's darling had got it bad,
    Somebody at home would soon be sad.
    Somebody's darling grew worse--then died.
    And--that was the end of Somebody's Pride.


                                        _Monday, September 10th, 1900._

We had _reveillé_ at 3.30, and moved off as advance party before dawn.
It was not long before we got into action. In less than a mile from our
camp we found _frère_ Boer, who made his presence known to us in the
usual way, that is, with his Mauser, Express, Martini-Henry, or elephant
gun; of course, the first is his usual weapon. Not to be too
long-winded, we carried ridge after ridge of kopje for several miles. On
one occasion the enemy and ourselves rushed for the top of two different
kopjes, wherefrom to pepper one another. We only just had time to take
cover in a sangar as they opened fire from the opposite hill. Their
bullets buzzed and whistled over us, bringing down twigs from a tree
just by me, and striking the stones with a nasty sound. Later, the
infantry (Worcesters), advancing from behind, began firing over us at
the enemy; indeed, for a little time, we were very uncertain whether
they were not mistaking us for t'others. Anyhow, their bullets came most
infernally close, and necessitated our taking careful cover from the
missiles in rear as well as those in front. At last we came to the
enemy's main position, which was a fine natural one, and our artillery
came into play--we resting for a bit, and the infantry forming up to
advance under their fire. Then hell got loose. Bang, bang, bang went our
field guns; boom went the 4.7; pom-pom-pom-pom-pom went the
Vickers-Maxims; rap-rap-rap-rap-rap-rap went the Maxims; bang, bang went
their field guns; up-um, up-um, up-um went their Mausers; crack, crack
went our rifles. Imagine the above weapons and a few others, please, all
firing, not so much to make themselves heard at the same time (they did
that), but to destroy, kill and maim, and you can guess it was hard for
a poor tired beggar to sleep. I was fagged out, and when we rested while
our gunner friends had their innings, laid down in the blazing noon-day
sun, and, with a stone for a pillow, half-dozed for an hour or so. I was
roused by a comrade to look in front of me, it was a wonderful sight.
About a mile-and-a-half of the Boer position was a blackened line
fringed with flame and smoke, but they were still determinedly trying to
stop our infantry from occupying a long kopje in front of them, and
answering our guns with theirs. That night was almost a sleepless one,
for though dead fagged, we all had to do pickets on the ground we had
won. The next morning Delarey had disappeared, but we know we shall meet
him again.

It is a fine sight to see British infantry advance. With rolled
blanket, and mess-tin a-top, filled haversack, the accursed
"hundred-and-fifty"[5] pulling at his stomach, pipe in mouth, and
rifle sloped (butt up as a rule), Mr. Thomas Atkins of the Line goes
leisurely forward. I do not know yet what the casualties were. Of
the Worcesters who passed us, one poor fellow was shot through the
head, and about ten wounded; we had none, save a nag shot by
Roberts' Horse in mistake.

         [Footnote 5: The hundred-and-fifty rounds of ammunition which
         always have to be carried by Thomas Atkins.]


                                         _Thursday, Sept. 13th, 1900._

We returned to this, our old camp, yesterday, and are resting here for a
day or more, one never knows for certain how long these rests will last
when out on the war path. Yesterday (the 12th) we had a fairly late
_reveillé_, and then, acting as advance guard, returned hither by way of
a valley running parallel with this, and through which Ridley advanced
when we had our little scrap with Delarey at Boschfontein, on Monday
last. By-the-bye, I was yarning, while washing at a stream near here
this morning, with some Worcesters, who told me they had five killed and
fifteen wounded on that day. Two poor fellows were found burned out of
all recognition on the charred veldt the next day. They had been left
wounded and had been unable to crawl away from the blazing grass. The
valley we passed through yesterday was, in parts, more charming than
this. One little village, called Zeekooe, was a particularly pleasant
spot, the houses being half-hidden by the white pear blossoms, the pink
peach, and the various green foliages of the trees, for this is Spring,
when "the young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love," and here
am I ----, well, well!! Even my old foe, the two-inch thorn bush, has
assumed a light-green muslin bridal veil. All this bursting into leaf is
most refreshing, to me at least, and I doubt not no less welcome to the
noble Boer sniper, who now gets more cover than was possible a month
ago. As we left camp, he was sniping away merrily, and about as
ineffectively as usual. When we crossed the kopjes to get to this valley
we came by way of a fine mountain road. Sheer down below us rushed the
river Magaliz, crystal clear, splashing and bubbling over the big rocks
in its bed, with weeping willows dipping down from amidst the thick
undergrowth on its banks, while now and again a garden from a farm near
ran to its edge, with vivid patches of young oats and lemon trees. On
arrival in camp, we heard that some Boers had been discovered in some
undergrowth, by a stream on our left flank, so we set off, and beating
it got six armed.

The barbed-wire curse is great in this Eden-like valley, and when you
consider that the advance mounted parties have to go straight ahead
through fields and back gardens, the garden walls of which are
invariably represented by barbed-wire fencing, you can comprehend that
our work is more often than not, no easy matter, especially as
wire-nippers are as rare as brandies and sodas, and even when possessed
are not much assistance in surmounting the wide and deep irrigation
cutting, which is often on the other side of the fence. Again, bogs are
not infrequently come across--_across_, by the way, is hardly the word
to use. Only a few days ago I was riding towards what I deemed to be a
passable ford, when I met a Rough Rider (72nd I.Y.) coming back from it.
I casually asked him if it was all right, to which he replied that it
was a bit boggy, and then incidentally added, "We've just shot one of
our fellows' horses that got stuck and we couldn't get out." Whereupon I
took a more circuitous route, a proceeding which I did not regret, when
later, I saw the poor, horseless Rough toiling in the broiling sun, his
huge saddle covering his head and shoulders, after the tail of the
convoy, in hopes of catching it and depositing his burden on a waggon.


I must apologise for the enclosed doggerel. Last night, round one of our
fires, we were alluding to the various uses we have made of that deadly
weapon, the bayonet, and it was suggested that I, as a Spring Poet,
should record them in verse, hence the enclosed:--


  (Sussex Yeoman _loq._)

  Did I ever use the bay'nit, sir?
  In the far off Transvaal War,
  Where I fought for Queen and country, sir,
  Against the wily Boer.
  Aye, many a time and oft, sir,
  I've bared the trusty blade,
  And blessed the dear old Homeland, sir,
  Where it was carefully made.


    _Then here's to the British bay'nit
    Made of Sheffield steel,
    And here's to the men who bore it--
    Stalwart men and leal._

  You notice the dents on the edge, sir,
  At Bronkhurst Spruit they were done;
  I was getting a door for a fire,
  For out of wood we had run.
  I was smiting hard at the door, sir,
  Or rafter, I'm not sure which,
  When I struck on an iron screw, sir,
  And the bay'nit got this niche.

  'Tis my mighty Excalibur, sir,
  I've used it in joy and grief,
  For digging up many a tater,
  Or opening bully beef.
  I have used it for breaking wire,
  Making tents 'gainst rain and sun;
  I have used it as a hoof-pick,
  In a hundred ways and one.

  Oh, how did the point get blunted, sir?
  I was driving it home
  As a picketing peg for my horse,
  So that he should not roam.
  I drove it in a little, sir,
  And then in my haste, alas,
  I stubbed the point on a rock, sir,
  Some inches below the grass.

  You ask if it e'er took a life, sir?
  Aye, I mind the time full well;
  I had spotted him by a farm, sir,
  And went for him with a yell.
  He tried to escape me hard, sir,
  But I plunged it in his side,
  And there by his own backyard, sir,
  A healthy porker died.

  But did I draw it in action?
  You ask me roughly now.
  Yes, we were taking a kopje,
  The foe were on the brow.
  We drew and fixed our bay'nits,
  The sun shone on the steel;
  Death to the sniping beggars
  We were about to deal.

  Then, sweating and a-puffing,
  We scaled the rocky height,
  But when we reached the top, sir.
  The foe was out of sight.

  Has it e'er drawn human blood?
  Yes, once, I grieve to say;
  It was not in a battle,
  Or any bloody fray;
  'Twas just outside Pretoria.
  The deed was never meant,
  I slipped and fell on the point, sir,
  'Twas quite by accident.


    _Then here's to the British bay'nit,
    Made of Sheffield steel,
    And here's to the men who bore it,
    Stalwart men and leal.
    And here's to the Millenium,
    The time of peaceful peace,
    When neighbours shall love each other,
    And wicked wars shall cease._


Monday, September 17th. There is a funeral to-day--an officer's--and we
(the Composite Squadron) are stopping in camp for it, as it concerns us.
So I will tell you all about it. Yesterday was Sunday, seldom a day of
rest out here. We, the three squadrons of Yeomanry attached to Clements'
force, were sent out early on a reconnaissance. Without any opposition
we advanced in a westerly direction towards Boschfontein, almost the
same way as on Monday last, for about four miles, the Devon and Dorset
troops of our squadron being on the right, our Sussex troop on the left,
the Roughriders (72nd I.Y.) in reserve, and the Fife Light Horse
scouting ahead. The Fifes had reached the foot of a high grass-covered
kopje, and were about to ascend it, when the enemy opened a hot fire on
them, causing them to scoot for their lives, which they managed to do
successfully. We then galloped up, dismounted, and opened fire on the
hill-top, the Devons and Dorsets doing the same on our right, and the
Fifes falling back on our left. Where the Roughs were we never knew,
probably their officers did. Taking into account the absence of the Nos.
3, with the led horses, and one group of our troop being sent some
distance to the left, we only numbered six and our officer, Mr.
Stanley, well-known in the cricket world as a Somerset county man. Our
led horses were in a donga in the rear. The position we occupied, I
should mention, was at the base of a kopje opposite to that held by the
Boers. We were sighting at 2,000, when our captain, Sir Elliot Lees,
rode up and said he could not make out where the Devons and Dorsets who
should have been on our right, were. As a matter of fact they had
retired unknown to us. This the wily Boers had seen and quickly taken
advantage of, for Sergeant-Major Cave, of the Dorsets, rushing up to us
crouching down, told us to fire to our right front, where some trees
were about three or four hundred yards away, and from which a heavy fire
was being directed at us. Sir Elliot Lees then came up again from our
left. Mr. Stanley, seeing the hot corner we were in, retired us about a
dozen yards back to the deepest part of the donga, where our led horses
were, and ordered the fellows with the horses to retire, and later, gave
the command for us to do the same in rushes by threes. Meanwhile our
bandoliers were nearly empty, and the Boers were creeping round to our
right, which would enable them to enfilade our position. The first three
retired, and we were blazing away to cover them, with our heads just
showing as we fired over the top of the donga, when the man on my right
said, "Mr. Stanley is hit," and looking at him, for he was close to me
on my left, I saw he was shot through the head, the blood pouring down
his face. Sir Elliot, the other man, and myself were the only ones left
in the donga then, so the captain, taking hold of poor Stanley by his
shoulders, and I his legs, we started to carry him off. As we picked him
up, he insisted, in a voice like that of a drunken man, on somebody
bringing his carbine and hat. "Where's my rifle an' hat? Rifle an' hat!"
The third man took them and gat--I heard this later. You have no idea
what a weight a mortally-wounded man is, and the poor fellow was in
reality rather lightly built. On we went, stumbling over stones, a
ditch, and into little chasms in the earth. Once or twice he mumbled,
"Not so fast, not so fast!" The bullets buzzed, whistled, and hummed by
us, missing us by yards, feet, and inches, knocking up the dust and
hitting the stones and thorn bushes we staggered through. We, of course,
presented a big mark for the Boers, and were not under any covering
fire so far as I am aware. The captain, who is grit all through, soon
found it impossible to carry the poor fellow by the shoulders, the
weight being too much for him, so I offered, and we changed places, Sir
Elliot taking his legs and on we went, pausing, exhausted, perspiring
and breathless, now and again, for a rest. At last, turning to our left,
we reached a little bit of cover, thanks to a friendly rise in the
ground, and falling into a kind of deep rut with Stanley's body on top
of me, I waited while the captain went to see if he could get any
assistance. Presently he returned with a Somerset man; and a minute or
so later a Fife fellow, a medical student, came up. The former and I
then got him on a little farther. After a few minutes' deliberation, the
captain said, reluctantly, "we must leave him." We all three asked
permission to stay. To which Sir Elliot replied, "I don't want to lose
an officer and three men. Come away, men!" We then moved the poor fellow
into a cutting about two feet deep and three feet wide, and arranged a
haversack under his head. As we loitered, each unwilling to leave him
first, Sir Elliot thundered at us to come on, saying, "I don't know why
it is, but a Yeoman never will obey an order till you've sworn at him."
Then reluctantly we set off in single file, working our way back by the
bank of a stream, and still under cover of the rise in the ground, a
little way up which we found one of our Sussex men, with his horse
bogged to the neck. Further on we paused a moment, and the Fife man,
saying that he thought the wound was not mortal, suggested that it would
be well for somebody to be with Stanley so as to prevent him from
rolling on it, and then asked permission to return. My Fife friend had
not seen what I had. He had only seen where the bullet went in, not
where it came out. Seeing that the captain was about to give him
permission, I said "Mr. Stanley is my officer, sir, and I have the right
to go," and he let me. I gave one my almost-empty bandolier, and another
my haversack, telling him it contained three letters for the post,
and--if necessary, to post them. My rifle I had already thrown into a
ditch at Sir Elliot's command. Then I worked my way back, hoping that I
should not be shot before reaching him. I got there all right, and
evidently unseen; lying down by him, I arranged my hat so as to keep
the sun off his face, and cutting off part of my left shirt-sleeve,
with the water from my bottle, used half of it to bathe his temples and
wipe his bubbling, half-open mouth. The other I moistened, and laid over
the wound. He was quite unconscious, of course, and his case hopeless.
Once I thought he was gone, but was mistaken. The second time, however,
there was no mistake.

I waited by the brave man--who had been our troop leader for the last
fortnight, and who had, I am sure, never known fear--for some time
deliberating what to do. Shots were still being fired from somewhere in
my vicinity, while our firing I had gloomily noted had receded, and
finally ceased. By-and-bye, all was silent, then a bird came and chirped
near me and a butterfly flitted by. At length, as it appeared to me
useless to wait by a dead man, I determined to get back to camp, if
possible, instead of waiting to be either shot in cold blood, or made a
prisoner. After carefully going through all his pockets, from which I
took his purse, watch, whistle, pipe, pouch, and notebook, and,
attaching his glasses to my belt, having arranged him a little and laid
my bloody handkerchief over his face, I got up, and worked my way along
by the river bank till compelled to go into the open. I trusted to a
great extent to my khaki on the dry grass, and daresay it saved me from
making much of a mark; but spotted I was, and from the right and left
the bullets came very thick and unpleasantly close. For about a mile I
was hunted on the right and left like a rabbit. At first I ran a little,
but was done, and soon dropped into a staggering walk. After a while I
came on Dr. Welford and his orderly behind some rocks, just coming out,
but when he heard my news he turned back, and, as I refused to use his
horse, which he offered me, at my request rode off, and got potted at a
good deal. Further on, he waited for me. He is a brick, our doctor; and
when he learnt I was thirsty, and he saw my tired condition (the sun on
my bare head had been most unpleasant) he offered me a drop of whisky
and water, adding, "You'd better have it when we get round the bend of
the kopje ahead." I thanked him, and said I thought it would be more
enjoyable _there_. Enjoy it I did. Finally I reached the camp and told
the captain the sad news, at the same time handing in the gallant
officer's belongings. His watch was at 12.5 when I left him. Sir Elliot
was most kind to me, and said I had acted gallantly, and he had told the
major (commanding us). Then Major Browne came up, and he was also very
complimentary. Of course, there was nothing in what I had done that any
other man would not have done, and I told them so, especially as the
example set by the captain made it impossible for a man to be other than
cool. Lieutenant Stanley, who took command of us when we left Pretoria a
fortnight ago, had soon become very popular, for he was a thorough
sportsman, keen as mustard, quite unaffected and absolutely fearless. I
feel pleased with myself for taking everything off the poor fellow
before I left him; for when, late last night, the ambulance came in with
him, the doctor's orderly told me that they found him stripped of his
boots, gaiters, and spurs--which was all that were left worth taking.


  "And far and wide,
   They have done and died,
      By donga, and veldt, and kloof,
   And the lonely grave
   Of the honored brave,
      Is a proof--if we need a proof."
                                 _E. Wallace._

Tuesday, September 18th. We buried Lieut. Stanley yesterday at mid-day,
the sergeants acting as bearers, we Sussex men (of the dozen of us, two
were with him at Eton and one at Oxford) composed the firing party,
while the whole squadron, officers and men followed. About
three-quarters of a mile from our present camp, in the garden of a
Scotchman, named Jennings, by a murmuring, running stream, and beneath
some willows, we laid him. By the side of the grave was a bush of
Transvaal may, covered in white blossom, at the end were roses to come,
and away back and front were the white-covered pear trees and
pink-covered peach, perfuming the clear, fresh air, while on the sides
of the babbling stream were ferns and a species of white iris. Sewn up
in his rough, brown, military blanket, he was lowered to his last
resting-place, the major reading the Burial Service.

  "---- Is cut down like a flower."

He could not have been more than twenty-five. Then, "Fire three volleys
of blank ammunition in the air. Ready! Present! Fire!" Again and again,
and the obsequies of a brave officer and true English gentleman and
sportsman were over.

I am sorry to say that we have a Sussex sergeant missing--killed or
prisoner. We are most anxious to know his fate, poor fellow. So, out of
the seven of us in that hot corner, one is dead, one is not, and Heaven
only knows how the others escaped, myself in particular.

Wednesday, September 19th. This morning we advanced about half-a-dozen
miles, and pitched our camp here--Doornkloof is the name of the place, I

Thursday, September 20th. Ridley's column has gone back in the direction
of Pretoria to Rietfontein, as escort to a convoy, principally composed
of waggons loaded with oat hay. I hear, and hope it is true, that he has
our letters.

Friday, September 21st. Had to do a picket on an outlying kopje. The
stable guard, who should have _reveilléed_ us at three forgot to do so,
and later, when we were aroused, we had to saddle up and clear off at
once. I had to go off _sans café_ (which is breakfast), and worse still
in my hurry _sans_ pipe. Oh, how that worried me, my pipe which I have
kept and smoked through all till now. Somebody might tread on it and
break it, or find it and not return it. On the kopje a friend lent me
his emergency pipe, over which a lot of quinine powder had been upset,
so I had a few smokes, in which the flavour of quinine prevailed
unpleasantly. Still, I have no doubt it was healthy. But, oh, where was
my pipe, should I ever see it again? "There is a Boer outpost over
there." "Yes, but I wonder what the deuce has become of my pipe," and
then I bored my vigilant fellow sentinel with the history of that pipe.
With the sun pouring down on us without shelter, without any grub, and
not a drop of water (my bottle I left by Stanley), we were stuck up on
that kopje till past sunset. Where was my pipe, should I get it all
right? At last we got back to camp, and, overjoyed, I received from a
friend my pipe, which he had picked up in the lines. Then, having
partaken of tea, I found myself in for a sleepless night as stable
picket. But it didn't matter, I had got my pipe.

Saturday, September 22nd.

  "There is a foe who deals hard knocks,
      In a combat scarce Homeric:
   It's _not_ the Boer, who snipes from rocks,
      But fever known as Enteric."

The idea I have partly expressed in the above lines, is as you know,
correct. The Boer from behind his rock snipes you at a distance, but
Sister Enteric, though unseen, as Brother Boer, is nearer to us. She is
with us in our camps, when we eat and when we drink--often parched,
recklessly drink--and close, unseen and unheard, deals her blows. And
when they are dealt, the nervous ones amongst us _think_. For common
report hath it that the illness takes roughly about three weeks to
develop, and the nervous man thinks back what did he drink three weeks
ago, or thinking of what he ate or drank the day before, dreads the
developments three weeks may bring. When we came in last night we heard
that a poor fellow of our squadron had succumbed to it, and was to be
buried the next morning at 5.30. We bury soon out here. So once again
this week, I formed a unit of the firing party, and did the slow march
with reversed arms. We clicked the three volleys at the grave. Later, we
had two more funerals, the result of Brother Boer's handiwork. They were
two men of Kitchener's Horse, who had dropped behind Ridley's force at
Hekpoort, and had ridden to Mrs. Jennings' farm to buy some bread. These
two were shot by over half-a-dozen concealed Boers at about twenty yards
range. No attempt was made to make them prisoners, and they were
practically unarmed, having revolvers only. Their bodies were riddled.

Sunday, September 23rd.

  "Oh, happy man in study quiet,
      On data and statistics,
  Making copy of our diet,
      Please soften our biscuits!"

This afternoon having borrowed a magazine from a Rough, in exchange for
an old one I picked up in the Fife lines, I have in common with the
sharer of my blanket shelter derived infinite entertainment from an
article therein contained, entitled "Feeding the Fighting Man." Of
course, it is illustrated with photographs, the first one depicting a
sleek and stiff Yeomanic-looking, khaki-clad being standing by the side
of a swagger little drawing-table covered with a fringed tablecloth, and
obviously groaning under what we learn are the gentleman's daily
rations. Apart from the article, this picture alone is calculated to
make one's mouth water. The article opens with an extract from that
great book, "The Soldier's Pocket Book." Here it is, "It may be taken as
an accepted fact that the better the men are fed the more you will get
out of them, the better will be their health and strength, the more
contented will they be, and the better will be their discipline," all of
which is gospel truth. The article, as I have already remarked, is very
entertaining. Here is a little extract--"fresh meat and bread have been
issued daily, almost without a single exception, to troops at the
front." We know the fresh meat, good old trek ox! Always delightfully
fresh--and tough. And the bread, yes, the bread, well-er-the bread, yes,
the bread! If I had read this article at home, being somewhat of a
gourmand, I should certainly have rushed off and enlisted directly after
reading as far as the middle, where we learn that every soldier is
allowed daily--oh, the list is too long to give you. There is one little
thing the scribe overlooked, and that is the waggon crowd, the
quartermaster-sergeant and his satellites. It may also be of interest to
you to know that certain non-coms. and men of the A.S.C. have made large
sums of money out here. I have heard of one who made three or four
hundred pounds in a few months, hem! Of course, they are exceptions in a
corps which has, as everyone knows, done grand work. Our running
commentaries as I read the article through, would have made excellent
marginal reading, if such notes could have been added for a future

Yesterday, a fresh epidemic visited our camp--football. Some person,
evilly disposed I presume, produced a football which after a "good blow
out" (oh, happy football) was kicked in the midst of a crowd of wild
enthusiasts. We soon had a casualty, a sergeant stubbing his big toe
badly on a boulder; now he can hardly walk. I believe there were a few
other minor casualties. Thirty enteric cases were taken into Pretoria
with the last convoy. I am slowly but surely learning to spread jam very
thinly on biscuit, one of the most difficult accomplishments I have had
to learn out here. My jam spreading having hitherto been at once the
scandal and horror of my messmates.

On Monday morning one of Bethune's Horse came into our camp, he had been
a Boer prisoner, and had escaped from Rustenburg, which they are at
present occupying (I think it is their turn this month). He had been
wandering for fourteen days, or rather nights, for it was then he
travelled--a native chief had supplied him with a guide, who piloted him
about, and kept him going on berries and such like. He said to me, "I
was glad to see English faces again," and I, who in a small way know
what it is to be hunted, believed him, you bet.


Tuesday, September 25th. Yesterday we moved out to meet and escort
Ridley in with the convoy from Pretoria. About a couple of miles out we
heard guns, and I thought probably we should have a bit of scrapping,
but we did not beyond some half-hearted sniping. To my surprise and
delight Ridley brought mails, my portion being eleven letters. Some had
the home post mark of May 25th, and the others August 7th. I must leave
off for a space here, as I have to carve an epitaph for the poor fellow
who died a few days ago. You see one's occupations out here are many and


Yesterday evening the orderly sergeant came down to my wigwam, and asked
for my regimental number, which I gave him without asking the reason
why. Soon he returned and congratulated me, saying I had been promoted
to full corporal over poor Stanley's affair. My many comrades also have
warmly congratulated me on my return to my former state, or rather above
it, for it is a case of wearing two stripes now.

Wednesday, September 26th. On this day we advanced. Our column did not
come in for the usual amount of attention from our friend the enemy, the
reason being that a gentleman friend of ours, General Broadwood, was
pounding away at them from one side, and Ridley from another. All the
same we had a very busy day, scouting and occupying kopjes. Our guns
fired at some Boer waggons, causing their escort to clear, and leave
them for us. Our infantry got them and had a good time. They are fine
fellows, are our infantry, and deserve all they can get in the loot
line. Late in the afternoon we surrounded a suspicious-looking kloof,
full of thick undergrowth, and captured a couple of the peaceful
peasants of the Arcadian dorp (fontein, kloof or spruit) we were then
occupying. A man in quest of loot found them, to his great surprise.
They were of the _genus snipa_. One had an elephant gun and the other a
Martini. We had had _reveillé_ at 2.30, and breakfast a little later.
From then till about six in the evening I had only a few bits of
biscuit, and once a drop of water, but felt none the worse for my little

Thursday, September 27th. We got us up at 3.30. On going to saddle up I
found that my horse was gone. However, after a careful search, I found
him, though he had changed colour and size. When in the Yeomanry, do as
the Yeomen do. So having got a mount I was soon on parade. We then
ascended a big kopje and were placed at various observation posts till
such time as the convoy should move off. On the top of this kopje were
numerous tree-locusts, these are far more swagger in appearance than
their khaki-clad brethren, being green and yellow, with a crimson and
purple lining to their wings; but their whole appearance is so
artificial, that my first impression on seeing one was that it had flown
out of a Liberty Shop. From the various uncomplimentary remarks one
hears passed on the locust, I imagine the name must be derived from the
expression "low cuss." At 3.30 the tail of the beastly but necessary
convoy had succeeded in negotiating the usual non-progressive drift, and
we left our kopje to form its rear guard. My horse and I went a lovely
howler soon after starting--my first spill. I got up feeling all the
better for the experience, and soon had another. In this my rifle got

Friday, September 28th. We arrived at Olifant's Nek with the convoy at
3.30 a.m. a bit tired, found lukewarmed-up tea, bully and biscuits
awaiting us, and then turned in, and just and unjust slumbered soundly
till a late _reveillé_, 6 o'clock, bundled us out to feed our horses. My
latest acquisition I found had vamoosed or been vamoosed. In searching
for it, I found my old one. Then, having foraged around at our waggon
and secured a Lee-Metford, I was once again fully equipped. At about 10,
we advanced through the bush veldt as far as our present camping ground,
which is called Doornlaagte, I believe.

Saturday, September 29th. As we are resting here to-day I will continue
my diary-like letter.


My fell intentions of writing this morning were knocked on the head, as
we had to go out on a patrol. Our latest _rôles_ being that of
resurrectionists, or grave desecrators. The reason was that certain
tombs had been regarded with grave suspicion (I beg your pardon) our
"intelligence" people imagining them to contain buried arms, ammunition,
or treasure. However, on our arrival at the spot, a close inspection
made it evident that they were _bonâ-fide_ affairs, not Mauser-leums,
and by no means new as reported, so we left the rude forefathers of the
hamlet undisturbed.

Sunday, September 30th. We have just marched back from Doornlaagte
through Olifant's Nek, and are camped here, a mile beyond. To-day is a
regular Sunday-at-Home day. It has been quite a record day, especially
for a Sabbath, for we have not heard a single Mauser go off.

Monday, October 1st. Another month! Actually a year ago this month the
war commenced, and there are still corners on the slate unwiped, and we,
the poor wipers, are industriously wiping, and certainly cannot complain
of a lack of rags. We moved out from the Nek through Krondaal and camped
at Sterkstrom. Amongst the latest reports, false and true, we heard in
the evening that the C.I.V.'s were off--homeward bound.

Tuesday, October 2nd. The previous night we heard that the camp would
not be shifted, nor was it. But we, of the Yeomanry, were. At 3.30,
therefore, we had to arise and go out with the guns to co-operate with
Ridley and Broadwood. After manoeuvring about, we were finally posted on
what at first appeared a kopje of no importance (in height and
composition), but kopjes were deceivers ever, and when we had got
half-way up, those that had sufficient breath and energy left to express
their opinions on kopjes in general, and this one in particular, did so.
However, once up aloft, we were left undisturbed for the remainder of
the day. On return to camp we found our missing sergeant (of September
16th, at Hekpoort). He had been a prisoner in Rustenburg and had got his
liberty when Broadwood occupied or rather re-occupied the town. Whenever
we go out one way the Boers come in the other, and _vice versa_. Though
we had not played an active part in the day's operations, the others
had, and the outing was rather a success, Ridley's men capturing
fourteen waggons with ammunition and other stuff and a few prisoners.

Thursday, October 4th. Once again our fond hopes of a day's loaf were
crushed, for it was "up in the morning early," and hie for Bethanie.
This little native town we reached and surrounded, and then destroyed a
mill. On the way there we came on a recently-deserted waggon (a pot of
coffee was boiling over a small fire). This and its contents we
destroyed; and back, which was by a different road, we came upon and
destroyed four or five waggons by burning them.

       *       *       *       *       *

The effect of Army, or rather Yeomanry life, its fatigues and worries,
big and small, on men hitherto unaccustomed to such things, has been
marvellous, and productive of a topsy-turvy dom of character, after Mr.
W. S. Gilbert's own heart. To commence with, it is curious to note that
in many cases men who claim to have roughed it in various parts of the
world have been amongst the worst to stand the roughing here, and while
weak-looking striplings have developed into fine hardy men; brawny,
massive-looking fellows have shrunk to thin and useless beings. As
regards character, after about four to six months out here one seems to
see his fellows in all the nakedness of truth. I have seen the genial
man turn irritable, the generous man mean, the good-tempered man
quarrelsome, the smart and particular man slovenly, the witty man dull,
the bow-and-arrow ideal (looking) _sabreur_ anything but dashing in
action, the old-womanly man indifferent to danger, and the objectionable
man the best of comrades. These and other changes have I noted, and
often fearfully thought how have I changed, how has it affected me, but

  "There is no grace the giftie to gie me,
   To see mysel' as ithers see me."

and perhaps it is as well.


[Illustration: "Mails up for the Devons, Dorset & Fifes! None for the
Sussex!!!" (Please observe the Sussex men on the right.)]

Friday, October 5th. We marched into Commando Nek this morning, and are
now camped here (when I use the word "camped," I hope you do not think I
mean tents and such-like luxurious paraphernalia, because I don't). Our
lines have by no means fallen in a pleasant place, being on dusty ground
by the side of the road which goes through the Nek, along which for the
last two hours about half-a dozen miles of convoy has been proceeding
_en route_ for Rustenburg, and what with the yelling of the black man
and (a hundred-times-removed) brother--I allude to the blooming
niggers--the lowing of the oxen, and the dust--well, "it ain't all
lavender," neither is it conducive to letter-writing or good temper. But
to own up, the above would not trouble us a bit, if we had only received
our mails, which we have not. I had been looking forward to a fine batch
and relying on getting them with a faith which would have removed
kopjes, and now I am disappointed. The bitterness of the whole thing is
that some one has blundered, for the Fifes in front have theirs, and the
Rough Riders behind have theirs, but we, the Composite Squadron, are
without ours. _Donnerwetter und Potztausand!_ There, I had intended
writing and telling you how much I am really enjoying myself, of the
beauties of the veldt, its pretty little flowers, the multi-coloured
butterflies and insects, the glorious open-air life we are leading and
a' that; and here I am like a bear with a sore head, grumbling,
grumbling, grumbling. And now the companion of my shelter and sharer of
my mealie pap--I call him _Coeur de Lion_ (I don't mind him having the
heart of a lion, but I object to him having its appetite)--is growling,
and wanting to know "when the Yeomanry are going home. We came out for a
crisis, and if the authorities call this a crisis may he be--" etc.,
etc., as he certainly will. I have tried to pacify him with the
following offering of the muse--but failed:--

  "Great Bugs of State. Imperial Bugs,
  The time grows heavy on our hands;
  Are the recruiting sergeants dead?
  Does khaki fail, or martial bands?
  Oh, teach the vagrant how to ride,
  The orphan boy to meet the foe;
  May Heaven melt your stony hearts,
  To let the foolish Yeoman go."

[Illustration: I'kona.]

Being under the impression that I have not made any direct reference to
the nigger, of whom, of course, one sees a great deal, I will here give
you my condensed opinion of this being. Left in his true state, he is, I
believe, unobjectionable, but we have spoilt him. Our fellows have been
too familiar with him in camp and on the march, and you know what
familiarity breeds. He has sat or stood idle and watched with
indifference we white men in khaki doing work he should have been set to
do (I have borne huge sacks and other burdens, and cursed the officers,
who have not made use of the niggers standing idly by). He has had the
satisfaction of knowing that while he is earning three or four shillings
a day, Thomas Atkins is earning thirteen pence. The general result is
that he has become deucedly independent and occasionally confoundedly
cheeky. As a remedy, I would suggest at the conclusion of this war--that
is, assuming it does conclude--97 per cent. of the niggers employed by
the British Government be jolly well kicked and then set in bondage for
half-a-dozen years, more if their case requires it.

Our horses are nearly all done. Mine is very lame in its hind legs. As
far as horseflesh goes, he is the least objectionable brute I have had,
though his ignorance and lack of appreciation of kindness is appalling.
We have drawn horseshoes for five weeks, so it does not look like
returning to Pretoria just yet. If we had drawn horses it would have
been more to the purpose. We are having tea now, and have just drawn our
biscuits for the next 24 hours. They number four thinnish ones, and
represent three-quarter rations. Even as regards biscuits, one learns a
good deal out here. I myself know four kinds of biscuits, all as like as
any of Spratt's gold medal ones in appearance, but varying greatly in
taste, and consequently, popularity.


                                        COMMANDO NEK,
                                         _Sunday, October 7th, 1900._

As you can see by the above, we are still here, but expect to move

Yesterday was hot and windy, but, beyond one incident, uneventful. Late
in the day indigo, watery-looking clouds in the west caused some of us
to erect blanket shelters for the coming night, and when the evening
having come, a flash of lightning and a distant peal of thunder,
followed by a few spatters of rain, heralded what was to come, we wise
virgins (pardon the simile) huddled in our booby hutches (unfortunately
_without_ lamps) and congratulated ourselves on our astuteness. Soon it
came, the lightning flashing, the thunder crashing, the rain pouring,
and lastly the wind blowing a perfect tornado. The various jerry-built
domiciles stood it well for some time, then the hutch behind us was
blown down, and we in ours roared with glee; then another went, and
finally the wind, not being able to get at us by a frontal attack, took
us on the flank, and up blew one blanket, and the rifles at the ends
wavered. Then, with cries of "Close the water-tight compartments," "Man
the pumps," "Launch the lifeboat," "Where's the rocket apparatus?" and
such-like remarks, as used by those in peril on the sea, we came out and
joined in the fun. The horses, seeing us all about, thought it must be
_reveillé_, and started neighing and pawing the ground, expecting their
grub. We were soon inside again under jury-rigging, and went off to
sleep to the shouts of "Stable guard, here's a horse loose!" "Stable
guard, here are three horses walking over us!" and the reply, "All
right, I'm coming round in the captain's dinghy," or some such
rejoinder. I could not help smiling when one of our fellows, in response
to a cry of "Buck up, boys of the bull-dog breed!" remarked, "Hang it,
they don't even give us kennels." In the small hours of the morning our
hutch collapsed again, and with the blanket on my side supported mainly
on my nose, I heedlessly slumbered on. At _reveillé_ the greeting we
gave one another was "Oh, what a night!" The Roughs were in a
particularly happy frame of mind, though they had slept in the open, for
their officers' tent had come down, also their sergeants', and the
remarks of the former, "Aw, Frisby, have you got that wope?" "Where's
that beastly peg?" "Heah, give me the hammah," "Isn't it awful?" had
been most soothing to them. Although I did my best to protect my few
remaining envelopes, I have just discovered three of them to be well
gummed down. One thing must be said to the credit of the rain, _it has
laid the dust_, and that is no small matter.

Monday, October 8th. Having had no mails, we sallied forth with Mr.
Clements in the direction of Krugersdorp, with four days' rations. My
last charger being done, _I've got another 'oss_, and he seems rather a
good one, though not up to my weight. Last night it came to my ears that
the Border Regiment had got their dry canteen up from Pretoria, and it
would be open for an hour or so, and that chocolate, jam, cocoa paste,
tobacco and other coveted commodities would be on sale. So I was soon
mingling with the crowd of would-be purchasers; several of our fellows
also joined the crowd, but when it came to their turn to buy were turned
away because they belonged not to the Border Regiment. I, however, had
not my hat or tunic on, and as there was nothing about my shirt or
general appearance to distinguish me from Mr. Thomas Atkins of the
Border Regiment, I succeeded in buying four packets of chocolate and
several tins of potted meats and jams; then, handing my purchases over
to a friend, I again took up my position at the end of the queue and
bought some more stuff. The prices were what is commonly known as
popular prices, being extraordinarily low for this benighted land. As
our four days' rations simply consist of four of the least popular brand
of biscuits imaginable per diem and horrible stewed trek ox, these
little purchases are coming in very handy. We camped early in the
afternoon on the high veldt. The night was bitterly cold.


                                        Wednesday, October 10th.

  "When scouting and you must not tarry,
    Of things you can borrow or beg,
  The best, but the worst you can carry,
    Is the excellent, succulent _egg_."
                    _Extract from contemplated "Loot Lyrics."_

To-day we have returned to Commando Nek, at least within a mile or so of
it. (A cart has just come in from Rietfontein, and they say there are
four bags of mails for the Composites, so we poor Sussex de'ils ought to
have a look in.) We were advance party to-day, and a friend and I had
the good luck to get a fine lot of eggs, of which I have not had any for
a long time. As you may imagine, eggs are not very easily carried by the
uninitiated, especially when he happens to be a horseman. The first time
I managed to get some I got a couple from a farm down the next valley,
and was debating how I should carry them, when the officer of our troop,
who was just ahead, turned round and sternly told me to mount and get
forward, and as he stopped for me to do so, I was rather awkwardly
situated, my rifle being in one hand and the two eggs in the other.
However, I seized the reins somehow or other, and did the great egg
trick successfully. Missing other feats in which I have never once
broken or cracked even one, to-day I eclipsed all previous
accomplishments, inasmuch as I carried in the only two tunic pockets I
have without holes, THREE DOZEN EGGS loose, and despite having to
dismount and mount twice, brought them into camp without breaking or
cracking one. Once or twice, when we had to do a trot, our
sergeant-major asked why I was riding so curiously, and I told him I was
feeling rather queer, but thought it would wear off when I reached
camp--it did. A friend and I got these eggs in rather an amusing manner.
We spotted a Kaffir village and riding to it, enquired at every kraal
for eggs, "Eggs for the general--for Lord Roberts!" but, alas, they had
none, "I'kona," signifying the negative. One enterprising youth,
however, called to me as I was riding off and brought me four, for which
I paid him sixpence. Then once again as we were going away, he called to
us--evidently the pay, pay, pay of the absent-minded foreign devil has
touched his savage heart--for lo and behold his neighbours had some for
sale, and came forward with a dozen in a tin, then their neighbours came
to the front with about a score, and yet another lot appeared with
more--in all, we got fifty eggs, of which I pocketed three dozen, and
carried the remainder in a handkerchief and surrendered them to our
major, saying I had got them for him (he was in want of some), and thus
appeased him. Had I carried them all in my _mouchoir_ I might have lost
the lot, but we simple Yeomen "know a thing or three," as the ancient
ballad goes.

We have just drawn rations for fourteen days and been joined by some
more M.I., so it looks as if

      "Troops may come and troops may go,
           But we go on for ever."

"Go hon!" seems to be our call and counter cry.

                            COMMANDO NEK, _Friday, October 12th, 1900_.
                               _Excerpt from proposed Christmas Panto._
                 Place--The Transvaal. Period--Victorian.

_Officers' Tent._

First Officer: "I heah the men are gwousing about their gwub."

Second Officer: "Er--I think they get their wations wegularly."

Third Officer: "Oh, dem! They're alwight. Anyhow, what do they want with
gwub? A little more turkey and peas, and--er pass the whisky, Fwed."

_The Waggon._

Quartermaster-Sergeant (to kindred spirit): "Look 'ere; twelve tins of
bacon, sixteen of jam, biscuits, and a jar of rum. Lemme see; there's
twelve of us, and twenty of them. 'Umph, that's eight tins of bacon and
eleven of jam for us, and four of bacon and five of jam for them. Let
'em 'ave four biscuits a man; save the best for us--don't forget--"

Kindred Spirit: "And the rum?"

Quartermaster-Sergeant: "Confound it; I nearly forgot that.
Oh--er--er--take 'em a cupful, and--er--say we're on half rations."

  _Chorus from minor waggonites from round cook-house fire._

  "We don't want to fight,
    And, by Jingo, if--we--do,
   We've got the rum, we've got the tea,
    And we've got the sugar, too."

_The Yeomen's Lines. Men just in from patrol._

Man with bullet hole in hat: "Is tea up?"

Enter orderly corporal with rations: "I say, you fellows, it's 'damall'
again to day."

Chorus: "!!!???***"

Of course it is evident to you that the above extracts are from a
burlesque written by a man in the ranks. Alas! there is a perpetual feud
existent between "the brave, silent men at the back," and ditto those at
the front, consequently any joke at the expense of the "waggon crowd" is
always appreciated beyond its value. Sergeant-Major Hunt, who had been
acting as quartermaster-sergeant for several weeks, did us remarkably
well; but, alas, he has been invalided into Pretoria, and another has
reigned in his stead, who has done evil in (or rather out of) our sight;
being either incompetent or too clever. By the foregoing, you can see
that I have not got much news to record. We expect some of the
time-expired Police to join us on Sunday or Monday, and so, I fancy, we
shall not move till they come up.


[Illustration: 'Nobby'.]

We often get some of the Border men in our lines, and, like all of the
Regulars, they are most entertaining, though their statements usually
require a few grains of salt before swallowing. One of these bold Border
men, known to us as "Nobby," is awfully disgusted at my bad habit of
letter writing. As a rule I am scribbling when he strolls up, and get
greeted with the jeering remark, "At it again." Some days back, after
reflectively expectorating, he delivered himself thus on letter writing:
"I don't often write. When I do, I sez 'I'm all right; 'ow's yerself?' A
soldier's got too much to do to write blooming letters." Then he
retailed terrible stories of Spion Kop, Pieter's Hill, and other
affairs. Amongst his loot stories I know the following to be a fact; its
hero has since been court-martialled. One of the men in Clements' Force,
being _en route_, visited a house, and, producing his emergency rations
(these are contained in a curious little tin case), threatened to blow
the house and its occupants to kingdom-come unless they complied with
his request for eggs, bread, coffee, etc. They complied, but,
unfortunately for the man in question, a nigger belonging to the place
followed him into camp, and reported the case. Mr. Thomas Atkins of the
Line has curious notions about the distances he marches. Of course, he
is a grand marcher, and has done remarkable distances and times in this
campaign; still, occasionally he makes one smile, when it is a known
fact that the Force has just covered ten miles, by emphatically swearing
that his battalion has done twenty. For cheeriness, the fellows I have
met would take a lot of beating, and their pride in their own particular
regiments is a very pleasing trait, though frequently it leads them to
be rough on other by no means unworthy corps.

From the dry canteen of the Border Regiment I was fortunate enough
yesterday to procure two dozen boxes of matches, a packet of six
candles, a quarter-of-a-pound of Navy Cut, notepaper and envelopes. The
latter I got none too soon, as my last gumless envelope I stuck down
with jam. Candles are a luxury I have been without for many months, and
matches have been worth sixpence a box. I bought them at a penny, and
the candles at 1/6 the packet. We have the Yorkshire Light Infantry with
us now in place of the Worcesters.

Saturday, October 13th.

  The law which sways our generals' ways,
     Is mystery to me;
  Though we of course, both foot and horse
     Fulfil each strange decree.

This morning we had _reveillé_ at five and moved off up the valley at
about seven, the Infantry going on the Magaliesberg. This being the
case, of course our progress was slow, and the distance covered at the
most six miles. We are going to be joined in a few days' time by
detachments of our Police, who are coming out from the flesh pots of
Pretoria. Two Sussex officers are coming with them and we expect about
fifty men. To-day I had to go into a barn and pry about for arms and
ammunition on the off chance. I did not find anything in that line, but
got covered with fleas, a hundred or so--so I have been well occupied
since I have been in camp. We rode through some grand crops of oats,
wheat and barley; in one field the wheat was so high as to reach to our
horses' ears. Where I got my fleas, or rather they got me, there was a
grand garden with orange trees (no fruit), peaches coming on, figs also,
and pomegranates in blossom. In a corner of this deserted garden I came
across a real, old-fashioned English rose, of the kind usually and
irreverently called "cabbage." The occasion seemed to call for an
effort, so here it is:

  An old-fashioned English rose
    In the far-off Transvaal land;
  Smelt by an English nose,
    And plucked by an English hand.

This evening we had tents served out to us. Last night we had a deal of
thunder and lightning, but no rain. It was very close, and most of us
slept, or tried to sleep, in our shirt-sleeves. About four days before,
on the high veldt, we had frost on our blankets in the morning.

Monday, October 15th. Yesterday we only marched a few miles, and to-day
we have done even less. The Infantry marching along the Magaliesberg
searching the kloofs, farms at the base, and such-like, rendering
progress, of necessity, slow. Behind us, every day now, we leave burning
houses and waggons. Colonel Legge, who has taken over Ridley's command,
is doing the same a little ahead of us on our left front, and Broadwood
likewise on the other side of the Magaliesberg. Since leaving Commando
Nek our column has found and destroyed nearly three dozen good waggons
and numerous deserted farms. It seems rather rough, but leniency has
proved the stumbling block of the campaign, and now we are doing what
any other than a British Army would have done months ago. Our camp is
near a deserted farm. The house is, of course, now gutted out, but
around it are fields of bearded barley, golden wheat and oats, a lovely
grove of limes, and rows of ripening figs, peaches and red blossoming
pomegranates. This morning I had a fine bathe in a pool near by, and was
washing my one and only shirt, when I heard that honey was being got
near the lime grove, so jumped into my breeks and boots, and tying my
wet shirt round my neck, rushed up to have a look in. A lot of silly,
laughing niggers were the principal _personæ_ in the little comedy.
There were two or three hives, and after a little smoking I went and
helped myself; at the next hive I did pretty well, but at the next,
after I had inserted my hand into it and taken several pieces of comb,
the bees went for us in style. I had put on my shirt by that time,
fortunately for me; as it was, I had them buzzing all round my head, and
got fairly well stung; two got into one of my boots and jobbed their
tails, which were hot, into my bare ankle, several stung my hands, arms
and forehead, and one got me exactly on the tip of my nose. However, I
have felt no inconvenience from any of the stings, in spite of being
without the blue-bag. Our reinforcements of ex-Police have not turned up
yet; we are looking forward to seeing them, because they are sure to
bring our mails. My horse has developed a bad off hock, now. Like the

  "I never had a decent horse,
  Which was a treat to ride,
  But came the usual thing, of course,
  It sickened or it died."

Tuesday, October 16th. The animal referred to above went a lovely purler
with me this morning, turning a somersault and finishing by laying
across my right leg. It was some time before I could get help, and then
only a man came and sat on the brute's head to keep him down. I was
grasping his two hind hoofs, which were within a few inches of my face,
and preventing them from "pushing it in." At length, the doctor and his
orderly galloped up, and the latter, dismounting, grasped the horse's
tail, and pulled him off far enough for me to free my leg. Apart from
rather a bad back, I am all serene.

Our friend, "Nobby of the Borders," visited us last night. I don't think
that is his real name, and am not anxious to know. To us he is, and
always will be, "Nobby." He was tired, having been on the kopjes for the
best part of the day, but interesting as ever.

  "Art thou weary, art thou langwidge?"

he quoted after a reflective expectoration, which just missed my right
foot. "That's a hymn, ain't it?" he queried with the air of a man of
knowledge. We replied in the affirmative, and then, curious to hear his
religious convictions, asked him about them. "Yes, I believe in
religion," said Nobby, "I was confirmed and converted or whatever it is,
some time ago. And I tell you, since I've been out 'ere in this war I've
felt certain about Gawd. Spion Kop and Pieter's 'Ill made yer think, I
can tell yer." And then waxing wrath about certain of his comrades, he
inveighed thus: "And yet there's some ---- ---- fellers in the reg'ment
'oo will ---- ---- say there ain't a Gawd. But those ---- ---- ----
beggars are always ---- ---- arguing about every ---- thing." If Mr.
Burdett-Coutts wants any corroboration in respect to his exposure of the
inner working of certain military hospitals, let him apply to Private
"Nobby" of the Borderers. He was an enteric patient at No. 1 Field
Hospital, Modderspruit, and the tales he tells of his own uncared-for
sufferings, and the even worse ones of comrades, show, alas, that the
hospital can, and does often contain, as well as kind, self-sacrificing,
skilful doctors, doctors and medical orderlies who are brutal, selfish,
and absolutely callous. He speaks well of the nurses, I am glad to say.


                                          (A little beyond Hekpoort).

Wednesday, October 17th, 1900. Late last night our friends the Roughs
(72nd I.Y.) received the order to return to Pretoria at once. So they
left us this morning. And here are we, the Silly Sussex, still sticking
to it, like flies on treacled paper. As Nobby says, "Grouse all day and
you're happy. That's the way in the Army." He is quite right, and I am
sure most of us Yeomen, myself unexcepted, have the true military
spirit. For we really ought to be very good and contented in this
charming valley, where, "if it were not for the kopjes and the snipers
in between," we might lead a perfect Arcadian life. I shall miss our
Roughs. Some of them are rare good fellows, and always cheery. To see a
Rough come into camp after a good day's scouting on the farmhouse side
of the valley, was a sight never to be forgotten. Across his saddle, _à
la_ open scissors, would be two large pieces of wood, usually fence
posts; oranges dropping from his nosebag; on one side of his saddle a
fowl and a duck on the other; a small porker from his haversack; the
ends of onions or such like vegetables would be protruding, and his
broad-brimmed hat or bashed-in helmet would be garlanded with peach
blossoms, resembling a joyous Bacchanalian, and the unshaven, dirty face
underneath wreathed in smiles. We have destroyed a lot more waggons and
houses, and lifted several hundred of cattle, besides getting some
prisoners. How the women must hate us! Their faces are invariably
concealed by the large sunbonnets which they wear, year in and year out.
These articles of headgear have huge flapping sides, which their wearers
apparently always use for wiping their eyes or noses with. This custom
or fashion saves them a deal of time and trouble in fumbling for the
usual inaccessible pocket. I daresay you have often read that the veldt
is burnt by the Boers, to make our khaki visible on the black ground.
More often than not a veldt fire is caused by accident, not design, a
carelessly-dropped match doing the trick. As regards showing up our
khaki, it is bad for dismounted fellows, but for the mounted men
preferable to the sun-dried grass, for as nearly all our horses are
bays, roans, chestnuts or blacks, they show up terribly on unburnt stuff
and are almost invisible on the burnt.

Thursday, October 18th. We are very up-to-date out here, as the
following will show you:

  'Twas uttered in vast London city
  By _lion comiques_ without pity,
  Provincial towns were not belated,
  But showed they, too, were educated;
  In many a rustic, quiet retreat,
  Bucolics, too, would not be beat;
  At last _It_ crossed the mighty main,
  Did Britain's latest great inane,
  And we out here in deep despair,
  Have been informed that _There is 'air_.

I am pleased to record that the beauty of this epoch-making remark and
the evident subtle charm underlying it, has not yet dawned upon any of
the troops with which I have come in contact, and so, apart from being
aware of its existence, it has molested me in no degree. Even the
Transvaal has its compensations. Look at the moral and intellectual
damages one escapes--occasionally. Whiteing managed to get some rather
good books at an untenanted house a few days ago. Byron's Complete
Works, two Art Journal Christmas numbers (Burne-Jones and Holman Hunt),
"Henry Esmond," and others. He gave me Henry George on "Progress and
Poverty," and two or three works of a devotional nature. The latter I
gave Nobby last night in the dark. Our conversations in the ranks are
very diversified. A few days back we were arguing as to which is the
better--a treacle pudding or a plain suet pudding with treacle. We were
interrupted in the middle by a few snipers potting at us. This morning
we stopped in the midst of a most interesting discussion on Aubrey
Beardsley as a decorative artist and the influence of Burne-Jones and
Japanese art on his earlier work, to kill fowls and loot eggs. Our bag
was eight cacklers and six eggs--which have just proved to be, as I
feared, addled. Lately we have had a really lazy time of it, the poor
Infantry scouring the hills and we leisurely riding a few miles along
the plain as advance or rearguard, and then camping by about mid-day.


Friday, October 19th. Yesterday evening the Devons and Dorsets were
rejoined by their ex-policemen, over a hundred in number. They looked
very fit, and appeared pleased to get on the column again. The Devons
have their popular officer, Captain Bolitho, with them again. The Sussex
did not turn up. However, they and the Somersets are expected to-morrow.
As regards mails, we were not wholly disappointed. I got one batch of
letters, bearing the home postmark of September 14th, also some
newspapers. In one of the latter was a very florid four-column account
by a famous "War Special," of the doings of Rundle's Starving Eighth. It
included a picturesque description of one of those common occurrences,
a veldt fire. "And now the flames roll onward with their
beautifully-rounded curves sweeping gracefully into the unknown, like
the rich, ripe lips of a wanton woman in the pride of her shameless
beauty," and so on, at much length. I read Nobby portions of this
article, but, alas! the hardy Parnassian mountaineer was too much for
him. "Wot's it all about?" he queried, "I can't rumble to the bloke." I
explained to a certain extent, for Nobby had been with the force in
question. "Well, 'e can sling the bat," observed my Border friend, and
we discussed and criticised various officers and the Army in general.
The freshly-joined men brought with them nice new iron picketing pegs,
which we who had long since lost or broken ours, eyed with covetous
optics, and determined to possess later, if possible. Their lines were
laid in a mealie field, and pulled-up pegs might well be expected. At
midnight a clanking noise near my recumbent form, strongly reminiscent
of our ancestral ghost, the dark Sir Jasper, dragging his clanking chain
after him at that hour, as is his wont, aroused me. Of course, it was a
horse which had pulled up his picketing peg and was searching for fresh
fields or fodder new. I quickly grasped the situation and the peg, and
now have no trouble when the pleasant words "'Smount. Pile arms. Off
saddle. _Picket_ and feed!" greet my ear.

Saturday, October 20th. Yesterday we returned towards Hekpoort, and the
order for the day was "The Force will halt." Now this is one of the
finest of life's little ironies which the Imperial Yeomen experience out
here. "The Force will halt"--every time this cheerful intelligence is
conveyed to us, we know we are in for something extra in the way of
"moving on." To-day's "halt" has been a ten-mile halt, we having been
ordered to proceed down the valley and guard a small bridle path across
the Magaliesberg Range; Steyn, De Wet, or Delarey, being expected to try
and get through at this particular point. The last time the Force
halted, our halt was a 20 or 30 mile one to Bethanie. The time before a
big patrol; and another halt consisted of a ride out several miles to
open sundry graves which were suspected of being Mauser-leums, but were


                                   BLOK KLOOF,
                                     (About half-way between Hekpoort
                                            and Commando Nek).
                                        _Sunday, October 21st, 1900._

Can it be the Sabbath? Last night I was in charge of one of the pickets
on top of the already referred to kopje. The ascent of that kopje, oh
dear! This morning I was sent on to another kopje directly in front of
the one we had occupied during the night, to find out if an infantry
picket was holding it. The going was too awful. As usual, the distance
was greater than it looked, and only having had half-a-messtinful of
coffee and a biscuit for breakfast on the preceding day, and a mouthful
of half-boiled trek ox, which had to be gulped down before ascending the
iniquitous hill in the evening, minus tea and water, I did not half
appreciate the lovely sunrise and view which were to be seen gratis from
the various summits. It was a long time before I got back to our little
encampment (I slipped down on the rocks several times from sheer
exhaustion), and found to my delight that coffee had been kept for me. I
wolfed it all, the grounds not excepted, and, bar stiffness and,
paradoxical to remark, a general feeling of slackness, was soon myself
again. Our Sussex ex-Police, about fifty in number, are at another nek
about a mile off, under Messrs. McLean and Wynne. Of course, they have
not brought our mails; they managed to call for them when the office was
closed. I was sorry to hear that a friend in the Devons (Trooper
Middleton), who went into hospital the last time we were at Pretoria,
has since died of enteric.

Monday, October 22nd. It really seems absurd giving days names out here!
To-day, we Sussex men, who number about half-a-dozen, are being exempted
from duty, as we expect to join our fellows who are at the other little
pass. Once the various companies are re-formed, we shall be under a sort
of new old _régime_. We are wondering anxiously what our fresh cooks
will be like. The ones we have at present are not bad fellows; indeed, I
call them Sid and 'Arry, which means an extra half-pannikin of tea or
coffee. Yesterday afternoon we had a gorgeous thunderstorm, the
lightning being incessant. I laid under some trees with a blanket and
overcoat covering me, smoking, and with one hand slightly protruding,
holding a _Tit-Bits_ paper, which I read till it became too pulpy. A
couple of our Sussex fellows have just ridden in; their lot strike camp
and return as far as Rietfontein this evening, and so this letter goes
with them.

Tuesday, October 23rd. Still at the same place. Yesterday, at about the
identical hour as on the preceding day, a big thunderstorm came on us,
but the comparison was as that of a curtain-raiser to a five-act drama,
for yesterday's storm lasted well into the night, and drenched most of
us thoroughly. When a few days ago we were ordered here, we were told to
take only one blanket, and I, like most other fellows, stupidly obeyed
and took a thin one, through which the rain comes as through a sieve. We
were under the impression that our kit waggon would be sent after us,
but oh dear no, that is eight miles back in Mr. Clements' camp. For
kopje work Thomas A. gets extra rations and a daily rum allowance; we
have been drawing less rations, and as for rum, ne'er a sniff o't. My
overcoat is simply invaluable, and keeps me drier than some of the
fellows. When you get wet out here, there is no one to come and worry
you to be sure and change all your clothes, especially your socks. It
would not do if there were, because, like the London cabbies, we never
have any change!

       *       *       *       *       *

Now the sun is shining, and our blankets and various raiment are drying,
but it's 10 to 1 that about four we shall have a repetition of
yesterday. Our present home is a veritable insect kingdom. Over, under
and around us and our meagre belongings, crawl ants small, medium and
big; bugs and beetles of all sects and denominations; all sorts and
conditions of flies from the small pest to the tsezee view us with
interest; as do also caterpillars and other centipedian and millipedian
crawlers; wood lice and the domestic shirt ones, which, like the poor,
we have always with us; spiders of all sizes, including tarantulas; and,
in addition, lizards and rats, while on the kopje, baboons walk about
chattering all sorts of unintelligible witticisms about us.

Wednesday, October 24th. As predicted, we got our thunderstorm all right
yesterday evening. For about half-an-hour the lightning never seemed to
cease flickering about and jagging through the clouds, but the rain was
not so bad. This morning the Fifes are sending into Rietfontein for
mails. I hope we shall get some. I am handing this in for the post. As
we only came here for twenty-four hours, we are not well off for
literature or writing paper, though I brought some of the latter in my
haversack: hence these lines. We shall soon have been here a week. The
last time we went out for three days we remained out six weeks. I am a
wonderful scavenger now. You should see me pitch like a hawk upon a
dirty and torn ancient paper or book. As a result of a morning's work in
that line, I am luxuriously reclining on my overcoat and reading a
_Spectator_, after which I shall regale myself on the lighter and less
solid contents of _Tit-Bits;_ later, I shall go round and swap them for
other papers or magazines. A lot of us are dreadfully afraid of doing
strange things when we get back to civilised life, such as asking for
the "---- ---- salt" at dinner, diving our hands or knives into the
dishes _immediately_ on their appearance and securing the best pieces
after the manner of the Israelite priests with the hooks in the
flesh-pots, commandeering fruit, fowls, eggs, or vegetables from our
neighbours' gardens, wiping our knives and hands on our breeches or
putties after a course, or a hundred other habits which have become so
natural to us now. My greatest fear is that in a moment of
absent-mindedness I shall, if tired, throw myself down on some cab rank
where the horses are standing still and with my head pillowed on my arm
and a foot twisted in a rein take a forty winks, so accustomed have I
become to the close proximity of 'osses, waking and sleeping.

Thursday, October 25th. This time two months hence it will be Christmas,
and it looks as if, after all, I shall be spending it out here "far from
home," cheerfully grumbling like a true British soldier, while the
waggon crowd and sergeants' mess are enjoying most of _our share_ of the
Christmas tucker and other luxuries which are sure to be sent out. And
you away in dear old Merrie England in be-hollyed and be-mistletoe'd
homes enjoying your turkeys, puddings, and all that goes to make
Christmas the festive season of goodwill, when families and friends
re-unite for a short while, and eat, drink, and gossip generally, will,
I am sure, amidst the festival, pause now and again to think of the
wanderers on the veldt, and more than likely toast them in champagne,
port, sherry, elder, or orange wine. That is if we are not home. If we
are, we shall show ourselves thoroughly capable of doing the above
ourselves; and as for gossip, heaven help ye, gentles! I suppose the
Christmas numbers are out already, with the usual richly-coloured
supplements of the cheerful order, such as a blood-stained khaki wreck
saying good-bye to his pard, or the troop Christmas pudding (I s'pose I
ought to say duff) dropped on the ground. But a truce to all such
thoughts, perhaps we shall get home after all, and again p'r'aps not.

Eleven thirty a.m. Have just had an awful shock to my nervous system. A
sergeant has been up and served us out with the first Yeomanry comforts
we have ever seen, much less had. Each of us has received a 1/4-lb. tin
of Sextant Navy Cut tobacco. For the present, I cannot write more, I am
too overcome.


I feel more composed now. We have just been told that two cases of
"comforts" were sent out to us, but have been rifled of their best
contents; so farewell to condensed milk, sardines, jam, etc.

Last night I was on the kopje again. Paget or somebody else being
reported as driving the Boers towards this range of hills (Magaliesberg)
we were told to be specially vigilant. The night was as dark as Erebus,
and my turn to post the relief came on at eleven, the post being about
forty yards away from where we were sleeping, and the intervening ground
a perfect rockery, the task of getting there was no particular fun. As I
relieved the post every hour-and-a-half, I had four or five stumbling,
ankle-twisting, shin-barking journeys. At about two we had the usual
storm, and the accompanying lightning was most useful in illuminating me
on my weary way. The descent of the kopje this morning was, I think,
more fagging than the previous evening's ascent, though quicker as you
can imagine. Then came the cause of my wrath. The Fifes, who went after
mails, had returned, and there were none for us--of course. However,

     "Hope springs eternal in the Yeoman's breast."

Some more fellows have gone into Rietfontein to-day, and there is just
the chance.

An hour ago I had a most necessary shave and wash. All the pieces of
looking-glass in the possession of the squadron having long since been
lost or reduced to the smallest of atoms, this operation has to be
performed without a mirror, though now and again Narcissus-like, I catch
a glimpse of my features in the soapy, dirty water.

Friday, October 26th. It rained all last night, and has hardly left off
yet. I have not a dry rag to my name. Even my martial cloak is sopping,
though the lining is what, considering all things, I might call dry. So
sitting on my upturned saddle beneath a weeping (not willow) tree, on
the branches of which my wet blanket is spread above my head, I am going
to amuse myself by writing letters. We have a few tents here, but as it
is fifteen to a tent, and asphyxiation is not a death we devoted band of
five Sussex men have an inclination for, we are continuing our out-door
life. Consequently, we are now sitting on our saturated haunches
awaiting sunshine above, smoking our pipes, and wondering when the war
will come to a genuine end. What a number of officers have gone home
sick--of it! Our friends the Fifes are awfully good fellows, and the
best managed Yeomanry Squadron I have seen out here. Yesterday evening
we were guests at a little sing-song round their fire, and partakers of
their hospitality in the way of hot cocoa. Alas, the rain speedily
brought what promised to be an enjoyable evening to an end, and it was
every man to his own tent, booby hutch, or cloak and blanket. I was
actually the recipient of two letters and a parcel yesterday evening,
thanks undoubtedly to a mistake somewhere or other. The making of a
correct declaration of the contents of a parcel and their approximate
value, as required by the postal authorities, and the sticking of the
same on the parcel which is to gladden the heart of the man in khaki far
away, is, I fear, a dangerous thing to do. Take, for example, a package,
the contents of which are veraciously announced on the affixed slip as
"Tobacco, cigarettes, chocolate, pipe, and shirt; value £1 10s."--your
friend's chances of getting it are about 50 to 1 against; but the same
parcel with the brief announcement "Shirt and socks; value 5s." would
probably reach him some day. A Fife friend tells me he now and again
gets a large medicine bottle of--well, what would it be for a Scotchman?
well-corked and marked "Developing Solution."

Saturday, October 27th. Still at the above address. Nothing of note to
record. Flies an awful nuisance on us and everything. Fellows would not
believe that the jam ration has been so reduced in bulk by flies. Some
people won't believe anything--fortunately I had my share first, and
perhaps I did take a _leetle_ too much. No news of possibility of
getting home by Christmas or the New Year. I feel vicious, and somebody
must suffer, so here goes.

N.B.--I hold the late Alfred Lord Tennyson partly responsible.


     (Dedicated to the Fife, Dorset, Devon, Somerset, and Sussex
     Imperial Yeomanry Squadrons.)

     "The War has grown flat, stale, and unprofitable as a topic for
     conversation."--_Extract from Editorial Notes in "Black and
     White," September 20th._

  We came from many a town and shire,
    From road, and street, and alley,
  And, filled with patriotic fire,
    Around the flag did rally.

  For many thousand miles we sailed,
    Till reached was Afric's strand;
  At Cape Town for some weeks we stayed,
    Not yet on foeman's land.

  At last we got the word to move,
    To join the fighting army;
  And so we left our peaceful groove,
    With fighting lust half balmy.

  Away we marched o'er dusty ways,
    Through spruit and blooming donga,
  For chilly nights and burning days,
    With feelings ever stronger.

  We passed Milishy on the road,
    And heard their imprecations
  Because they bore the Empire's load
    Upon communications.

  At last we joined Lord Roberts' force,
    And later we did sever,
  And got attached to bold Mahon's Horse,
    For we go on for ever.

  With Hamilton and Mahon we went
    Due east to wet Balmoral;
  Where oh! an awful night we spent.
    What ho! the victor's laurel!

  Then west we rode to catch De Wet--
    We thought 'twas now or never;
  But he, in his particular way,
    And we, go on for ever.

  To Rustenburg we went with Mahon
    The wily Boers to scatter;
  Burnt many a farm and useful barn,
    And got--our clothes a-tatter.

  Then later, we did join Clements,
    From him to part, oh, never!
  For wars may cease, and wars commence,
    But we go on for ever.

  We grumble, grumble, as we roam
    Beside the hills or river,
  For troops we hear are going home,
    But we go on for ever.

  We steal (we call it loot out here)
    The foeman's fowls and tucker,
  And now and then we come off well,
    And now and then a mucker.

  We've marched by night to catch the foe,
    Yet spite each bold endeavour,
  Crises may come and crises go,
    But _this_ goes on for ever.

  At home, first China, then elections,
    Have claimed their keen attention;
  Now football, crimes, and other things--
    The War they seldom mention.

  Soon our nearest and our dearest
    Won't think our generals clever,
  If we and this confounded War
    Keep going on for ever.

Sunday, October 28th. Last night we ascended Avernus again, and did the
usual guard on the summit. Of course, we had some rain and its
concomitants. Apart from that, and the circumstance of the
sergeant-major of the Dorsets, who is 6-ft. 3-ins., and scales 15 stone,
treading on my head in the dark in mistake for a rock, nothing of note
occurred. As regards the incident alluded to, it lends significance to
my being occasionally referred to as "Peter," thanks to my suggestive
initials, P.T.R. Hence it seems natural for me to be mistaken for a
rock. Still, I trust these mistakes will not often happen.

On Monday (October 29th), Captain McLean, of rowing fame, and Lieutenant
Wynne marched up to Blok Kloof with the ex-Policemen of the Sussex
Squadron, and we, having first been paraded before Sir Elliot--who in a
few kind words severed his connection with us, to our regret, as
captain--rejoined our former comrades. The other squadron of the 7th
Battalion of West Somerset Yeomanry, under Captain Harris, was left for
duty at Rietfontein.

Colonel Browne (we were all pleased to hear of his promotion this month)
having received orders to withdraw from the Kloof and rejoin Clements at
Hekpoort, gave the order for us to be ready to march off at dusk. Soon
after sunset, rain, which had been threatening all day, commenced to
fall, and we had a rather uncomfortable night march to Hekpoort. We
reached there at midnight, turned-in on the wet veldt for a few hours
and were up again at four. That day we were rearguard and going in a
south-westerly direction marched through Hartley's Nek (in the
Witwatersberg) and encamped the other side.


On October the 31st we were right flank to Cyperfontein, and came in for
the inevitable sniping. Mushrooms, which were very abundant on the veldt
we were traversing, were collected by many of us, and on our arrival in
camp cooked in a stew or fried in Maconochie bacon fat. We also came
upon two Boer waggons under some trees, from which we obtained a huge
loaf of mealie bread and some useful enamelled tin ware--likewise a
basin of excellent custard. Several women thereupon came up from a house
not far off and protested against our pillaging the waggons, as they
only contained their property. "And their men?" we queried. They had
none, knew nothing about any. A cock crowed in the neighbourhood, was
located and promptly commandeered, and at the same moment, Boleno (not
his real name) triumphantly emerged from one of the waggons with a fine
pair of spurs and a quantity of tobacco; the simple Boer women had to
accept us as unbelievers.

Further afield and unknown to us, the Fifes were having a warm time. It
was only when we got into camp that we heard from our old friend,
Sergeant Pullar, that their gallant and popular Captain (Chapell-Hodge
of the 12th Lancers) had been severely wounded in retiring his men from
a kopje to which they had advanced in scouting. He died the following
night at Vlakfontein,[6] and was buried the next (Friday) morning.

         [Footnote 6: It was this Vlakfontein which was destined to
         become notorious in the later history of the war. On the 29th
         of last May (1901), the 7th Battalion I.Y. lost heavily in a
         desperate fight at this place. Of the many gallant officers
         and men killed, all the members of the Battalion, past and
         present, must specially deplore the death of Surgeon-Captain
         Welford, one of the kindest and most self-sacrificing of men.
         Also Captain Armstrong, who joined the Battalion from
         Strathcona's Horse, as lieutenant, in November last.
         Lieutenant Pullar, writing to me in reference to the above,
         recently remarked: "It is the same Vlakfontein where the poor
         7th Battalion lost so heavily in May, and I fear there must
         be many other graves there now."]

As my horse had gone a bit lame, I was riding with the convoy that day,
and so was able to wait and attend the funeral. I doubt the Fifes will
ever forget that day.

With _reveillé_ rain began to pour in torrents. The advance and flanking
parties moved out of camp, the Fifes had been told off for rearguard, on
account of the funeral. Presently the convoy began to get under way with
a lowing of oxen and cracking of whips, mingled with the bleating of
captured flocks of sheep and goats. Standing under a tree beside my
horse I waited; through the blinding rain I could see the ox teams by
our Yeomanry lines swinging round in response to the niggers' shouts and
whips, and with a gurring and creaking the waggons one by one took their
place in the lengthy procession, disappearing in the dense atmosphere.
One tent had been left standing, right and left of its entrance were
drawn up the firing party and the rest of the squadron; leaving my horse
I fell in with them. The sergeants presently emerged bearing on a
stretcher, sewn up in the ordinary brown military blanket, the mortal
remains of their captain. Then through the never-ceasing rain, splashing
through pools of muddy water sometimes ankle deep, we slowly made our
way to the back of a farm some fifty yards away, where at the feet of
some huge blue gum trees, a grave had been dug. Several of the firing
party who had no cloaks had their waterproof sheets over their
shoulders, I noticed one man with a corn sack. Colonel Browne read the
Service, the rain splashing on his little Prayer Book. The body was
reverently lowered by means of a couple of ammunition belts from a
machine gun, and the three rounds cracked strangely in the rain-laden
air, the water dripping from the rifles. After the firing, one of the
party, a dour-looking Scot, void of all sentiment I should have thought
(God forgive me!) stooped, and picking some objects out of the mud,
thrust them into a handy pocket. They were his three empty cartridge
cases. Then the Fifes sorrowfully marched away, leaving their beloved
captain behind them. Happy Fifes to have possessed so good an officer!
Unhappy Fifes to have lost him!

       *       *       *       *       *

Returning to where my poor saturated horse was miserably standing, I
mounted and slowly rode along with the convoy. After going some miles, I
was pleased to see the waggons turning off the slippery track on to the
veldt and outspanning. Seeing close by the road, lying on the site of a
former camp, sheets of corrugated iron from the roofs and other parts of
a few wrecked and deserted houses in the neighbourhood, I dismounted and
secured two large bent ones (these placed on the ground like an inverted
V form excellent shelters for tentless men), and proceeded to carry them
and drag my steed towards the camp. It was a long way and an awful fag.
At length through the pelting rain, there bore down upon the Sussex
Yeomanry lines two large bent sheets of galvanised iron, cursing
horribly and followed by a dripping horse. Suddenly the sheets fell
clattering to the wet ground and his comrades beheld the writer of these
immortal letters. Whiteing, Boleno, and the rest of our special clique
or mess, who had arrived before me had already commenced constructing
Mealie Villas (being the name given to our family residence wherever we
are). The ground was, of course, saturated by the rain, which continued
unceasing all day. Huddled together in the cribbed, cabined and confined
space of our "home, sweet home," half-naked, but fairly cheerful, we
passed the time in everlastingly patching up the leaks and defects in
the construction of the Villas. The next morning we had _reveillé_ at
six, and turned out promptly to feed the wretched horses; the poor,
woe-begone looking creatures, hardly one of which was properly picketed,
were standing expectantly amid a perfect cobweb of muddy, tangled
picketing ropes in the quagmire, which represented their lines. One of
the fellows, who had passed the night under our ox waggon, on lifting
his rain-sodden blanket, found to his surprise and disgust a fine
iguana, about four feet long, nestling against his body. The sun began
to smile upon us, and we advanced to a better camping ground a few miles
further on at Leeuwfontein. Here we outspanned and soon had our wet
blankets, clothes, and other articles spread out on the veldt drying.
The Force remained halted on Sunday, though we Yeomanry were sent out on
a foraging patrol and returned with ducks and oranges galore. Late in
the day, "Nobby," sallow, and with a week's beard on him, paid us a
visit. He told us he had been bad and was dying, but bucked up at the
sight of our rifles, which he pronounced as being in a disgustingly
dirty state. "I'd like to be yer sergeant-major. I'd make yer sit up,"
quoth he indignantly, and then proceeded to give us the history of his
own gun, and the godliness of its cleanliness. He also related to us
portions of the history of the Border Regiment. "We're the Unknown
Regiment," remarked Nobby, half bitterly, "but they ought ter know us
now, we was with ole 'Art's Irish Brigade in Natal," and then came
anecdotes of Pieter's Hill, and other places. Of course, he told us of
their great marching feats, and wound up thus: "The other day Clements
said to our ole man, 'Give the Borders a new pair of boots an' a ration
of rum, an' they'll march to h----." Then after a pause, "Of course,
that's a bit o' bunkum to keep us goin';" but his manner showed he was
proud to repeat it nevertheless. On the 5th, we advanced to Doornkom,
getting a fine herd of cattle from a kloof on our way, and having sundry
necessary bonfires, principally of oat hay.

[Illustration: CONSOLATION.

SUSSEX YEOMAN: "_It don't look like clearing off._"

FIFE YEOMAN (_with chattering teeth_): "_I dinna care. It's juist the
same or waur for them_ (the Boers). _I hope they'll a' dee o'

On Sunday (November 11th) we had some lively scrapping at the
commencement of our march, which was towards Krugersdorp. During the
day some of our Sussex fellows came upon an untenanted shanty,
containing scores of packets of magnificent candles. They brought away
all they possibly could, and were very generous to the rest of us with
them. That evening Mealie Villas was brilliantly illuminated, and later
I had the pleasure of presenting Dr. Welford and Captain Cory with a
packet of these unobtainable articles. Another man who had been on a
ration fatigue at the A.S.C. waggons in the afternoon managed to take
away a box of four dozen tins of apricot jam, _not_ down on our
requisition. To "do" the A.S.C. is a virtuous deed. So we have dined
well lately, though at the present time of writing I am rather tired of
apricot preserve.

[Illustration: On Pass.

This depicts three of ours just going into the town--and the beauty &
sadness of the whole thing is--they are got up to kill.]

This day, Monday (November 12th), the column marched into Krugersdorp.
We were rearguard and just as we left the site of the camp, which had
been in a most picturesque spot, got bullets whistling by us and
knocking up the dust round our horses. Two of our men out of four, who
had relieved an infantry picket at _reveillé_ are missing. The snipers
followed us about half the distance to the dorp and we had quite a warm
little rearguard action. I am just off to post this in the town.


                                          _Saturday, Nov. 17th, 1900._

We are still camped within about three miles of this town, and expect to
remain here till Hart's Column returns. It went out yesterday after
having had a five weeks' rest. Amongst the mounted men were the Wilts,
Bucks, Yorks, and Suffolk Squadrons of Yeomanry. I think I told you in
my last we arrived here on Monday after a lively time as rearguard, the
Boers opening fire on us as soon as we had started to leave the place we
had camped at. That is the worst of pitching upon picturesque spots for
camps. We lost two men, who, however, eventually turned up safe and
sound, although some of their captors had shown a strong inclination to
shoot them, but, thanks to Delarey's brother, the bloody-minded minority
were disappointed. The snipers hung persistently on to our tail,
occupying each ridge and kopje as we retired from them. As soon as I had
picketed and fed my horse, I obtained leave and went into Krugersdorp,
passing on the way mines all the worse for want of wear, and the "Dubs"
and others under canvas. In the town I dined at what I should imagine
was a Bier Halle in the piping days of peace, but which in the sniping
days of war is an underground eating room run by Germans, who charge a
great deal for a very little, and find it far more profitable than

I procured some tins of condensed milk, golden syrup, and jam for our
larder, and volumes by Ruskin, Meredith, Thackeray, and Kipling, for my
own somewhat small library. With these I proudly staggered back to camp,
aware of the royal and well-merited reception which awaited me, and
which I got. Whiteing was quite overcome at the sight of Ruskin and
Thackeray, while another friend implored permission to have a dip in
"The Seven Seas" (which seems a big request, I doubt not, to the

I forgot to mention that on my return to camp I found mails awaiting me.
Thus passed a pleasant day. Tuesday I spent in camp, writing replies to
my kind correspondents, reading and re-reading my letters and papers. We
hear the C.I.V.'s are home, good luck to 'em, and though I have not read
the papers I can imagine to a slight extent the enthusiastic welcome
they were accorded. The knowledge that we have done our duty will be
enough for us; never mind the brazen bands, the free drinks, the
dyspeptical dinners, the cheers and jingo songs. Suffice it for us if
you will let us quietly alight from the train and get us home, to our
ain firesides. I fear I am rather bitter to-day; but, Christmas is
coming, and the date of our return no man knoweth! On Thursday we all
had to turn out to be inspected by "Bobs." If the turn out was to give
him an idea of our strength as a fighting force the whole thing was
"tommy-rot" for we paraded as strong as possible in numbers. The halt,
sick and the blind, so to speak, were in the ranks, every available
horse being used to mount them. Thus we turned out, our officers
anxiously making the centre guides prove, and issuing special orders to
us not to crowd when marching past in column of squadrons and all that
sort of thing. Then we marched to the parade ground, cow gun, field
guns, pom-poms, Infantry, Yeomanry, and Colonial mounted troops. After a
short wait a group of mounted beings appeared in the distance and
approached the force. We carried arms, and the infantry presented them.
The great little man and his staff passed along the front of the force,
and then cantered away, and the show was over, after having in all
occupied about five minutes. In the way of guards and pickets we are not
over-worked, the regiment having to supply a picket of one officer and
twenty men every night, which means each squadron comes on every fourth
night. The job is, also, what Tommy would call a distinctly "cushey"

On Friday I went into the town and succeeded in securing a fine stock of
things for our larder, including a slab of Genoa cake, which I purchased
at the Field Force canteen, which has just been opened. In the evening
we entertained Sergeant Pullar, of the Fifes, at tea. This, though I
should be modest over it, was really a grand, indeed sumptuous repast.
Many a time has this gentleman given us biscuits on the veldt in our
hours of need, papers also to read, and so we meant to do the thing
well, and we did. In the morning a special invitation was sent from the
corporals of the Sussex Squadron residing at Nos. 1, 2 and 3, Mealie
Villas, requesting the pleasure of Sergeant Pullar's company to
afternoon tea, parade order optional. We formed a table of biscuit
boxes, which we covered with two recently-washed towels, and then I
managed to obtain a fine effect in the way of table decoration by taking
the spotted red handkerchief from my neck and laying it starwise as a
centre-piece. Then, having begged, borrowed and otherwise obtained all
the available tin plates, we covered the table with sardines, tinned
tongues, pickles, condensed milk, jams, butter, and cake. Sergeant
Pullar having arrived with his plate, knife, fork and spoon in a
haversack, we sat down on S.A.A. Cordite Mark IV. boxes, to a rattling
good feed, which guest and hosts did full justice to. Then it rained,
and we had to rig up our blanket hutches in record time, while our guest
sped to his tent. Thus ended an auspicious evening. The next morning we
had the deluge, for it poured in torrents, our wretched blanket shelters
proving far from rain-tight. But the real trouble was when we found we
were being swamped, the water flowing in and sopping us and our
belongings, the latter being by far the most important. Upon this I
turned out and found the whole camp was a swamp, and all the shovels
being used for digging trenches. Not to be done, I collared a meat
chopper from the Dorset cook-house, and started constructing trenches
for all I was worth, specially draining my part of the villa where the
library was in great danger. The rain ceasing after a while, the other
fellows emerged like so many slugs, and soon under my supervision (was I
not articled to an architect once?) an elaborate system of drainage,
consisting of trenches and dams, was constructed around the villas. We
had a bit of a row with our neighbours, who complained that we had
drained all our water on to them. A lot of unnecessary damming was
indulged in. However, from our point of view the thing was a great
success. Later the sun came out, and we dried all our possessions. Great
institution the sun! The next day being the Sabbath, of course, we had
to have a scrap, or at least try to have one. So we had a _reveillé_ at
2 a.m., in order to surround a house where about forty Boers had been
reported by some wretched being. On turning out, several of us found our
horses had disappeared during the night, mine being among the number. So
as not to be out of the fun, I took the first wandering brute I found,
and fell in. All this took place in the dark, and later, when it became
lighter, it was most amusing to see what some of us had secured. Mine
proved to be an officer's charger, but no goer. When I got back to the
lines, I found an infuriated officer's servant marking time in front of
me till we were dismissed, when he approached and wrathfully spoke to
me, stating that the horse had a sore back and was lame in three legs.
As he gave me no chance to offer an apology or explanation, we slanged
and abused one another for about ten minutes, to the delight of the
squadron, and then parted so as not to miss other similar rows. The
result of the morning's work was, I hear, two Boers captured. For this
we all laid on the wet ground behind anthills and other cover for about
two hours, waiting for them to come our way; while Legge's crowd
pom-pommed and field-gunned them for about an hour. The Boers also used
a good deal of ammunition, doing us no damage, but getting away through
the usual missing link in the chain. This afternoon (Monday, 19th) we
received mails, my share being three letters, and some papers.

[Illustration: A Peep at our Domestic Life.

Tomkyns de Vere B.A. 'bucking up' the fire, Boleno Soles triumphantly
approaching with more fuel, the district being a woodless one. White
with a soul above cooking, his not eating, reading Marcus Aurelius in
No. 1 Mealie Villas.]

Tuesday, Nov. 20th. I have just heard that we are off for a ten weeks'
trek to-morrow, so I must bring this to a conclusion, and get into town
to post it, and also to procure some more stores. It may or may not
interest you to know that of all the jams we have had out here (and we
have been served out with at least a score of different brands) the very
best, made from the most genuine fruit, were the conserves of two
Australian firms. These two firms are head and shoulders above all other
makers bar none. "Advance, Australia" is right.

Well, here we are, and here we are going to remain, for how long the
Fates only know. Sometimes in my most optimistic moments I cheerfully
look forward to spending the golden autumn of my life in the land of my
birth. As I write this evening by candlelight, in our rude substitute
for a tent, I can hear the chorus of "The miner's (why not a yeoman's?)
dream of home," which comes wafted to us from the Fife lines. As you
will, I hope, receive this by Christmas, I take the opportunity to wish
you and all kind friends a right merrie Christmas and a prosperous new
year. For us no holly will prick nor mistletoe hang. If Santa Claus
comes it will probably be with a Mauser, and for some, alas! obituary
cards will take the place of the coloured productions of Bavarian firms.
But come weal, come woe, where'er we be on that day, I can guarantee you
our sentiments will be easily summed up by the following:

  "Our heart's where they rocked our cradle,
    Our love where we spent our toil;
  And our faith and our hope and our honour,
    We pledge to our native soil!"


                                   KRUGERSDORP (again),
                                     _Wednesday, November 28th, 1900._

We returned here on Monday, after having been out for about a week's
cruise on the troubled veldt, and, in spite of the rumour that we were
to be treking again this morning, we are still here. I will endeavour to
give you the usual veracious account of our doings. I say "veracious"
advisedly, as oftentimes, after having seen something extra strong in
the Ananias-Sapphira-Munchausen-Gulliver-de-Rougemont epistolary line
from some gentleman in khaki to the old folks at home, in a London or
provincial paper, I feel that I must give up letter writing altogether,
as by now those at home must have discovered that such effusions are
often seven-eighths lies, and the remaining one-eighth truth, simply
because the scribe's powers of invention have failed him, owing to the
great strain. Only yesterday I saw in a certain local paper such an
epistle from one of our fellows, who, owing to various circumstances,
only joined us in September last, and has now joined the estimable
waggon crowd. From it I gathered that we had fought incessantly for
several days, on one occasion being without food or water for
thirty-nine hours, etc., and afterwards for our magnificent behaviour
had been called up to the general's tent, warmly congratulated by him,
and _presented with a pot of jam each_. So my diffidence about writing
will be easily understood, I am sure. And now for the celestial truth.

On Wednesday last (November 21st) we had an unexpected _reveillé_ at
1.30 a.m., and set out with four days' supplies for Somewherefontein
(where, we did not know). A "revally" at such an hour is, as you may
imagine, by no means devoid of interest; I don't know whether you have
ever experienced one; if you have you know all about it; if not you have
a great experience lacking. There was I, collecting and packing our
larder in an oat sack, my miniature Bodleian and other various
possessions in another, dismantling our blanket shelter, and a hundred
other things, including feeding and saddling up my Rosinante, and
then--"Stan' to your 'osses!" We paraded smartly, and after a short
wait, moved off as right flank. A few hours after dawn there was
fighting in front of the column, but not our way, Legge's crowd working
on a parallel road and some way ahead of us. At about mid-day we reached
a wonderfully fertile village (Sterkfontein), and, imagining it to be
unoccupied, our Provost-Marshal and his satellites rode forward to
select a site for our camp, and got well sniped from some of the houses.
Thereupon Number Eight came up, and at comparatively speaking short
range, opened fire and 15-poundered them. To us, who were watching the
show, the sight was a most interesting one. Crash through a house would
go one shell, another would account for something else, and flames and
smoke soon announced burning thatches and oat-hay stacks. The Mausers
soon ceased from troubling, and eventually we entered the fontein. To
our surprise no snipers were captured, and it was asserted that the
firing had been done by the ladies, who, with children, were the only
persons found there. However, as no firearms or signs of their having
done so, were found, the matter, like most things where the wily Boer is
concerned, remains a mystery. It is a fact that lady snipers do exist.
For some time the Borders had in their guard-room, during our last trip,
amongst the various prisoners, a lady sniper they had bagged while doing
the Magaliesberg. There was not much of the Jeanne d'Arc about her. I
saw her once or twice. She was a regular barge, and of great beam; her
face was concealed by the usual kindly sun-bonnet.

     (_Note._--Our Regimental Sergeant-Major has just gone by, with
     white canvas shoes and slacks on. This is most reassuring as
     regards not moving off to-day).

Well, we camped near the village, which lay in a sort of saucer, being
surrounded by kopjes. On one of these our cow gun, yclept "Wearie
Willie," was hauled; it took fifty-six oxen to get him up there. The
Boers, whom we had surprised, were very sick at our unexpected visit,
and, had they only known, would undoubtedly have attempted to hold the
place a bit. As it was, they hung about far off. It rained a perfect
deluge that night, and my blanket roof collapsing I went to sleep with
it over me as it fell, lullabyed by the soft cursings of my neighbours
of 1 and 2 Mealie Villas, who were in like plight. The next morning we
were to have had _reveillé_ at 5.30 and proceed to Rietfontein 12. (They
have to number these places out here. You probably have noticed the
innumerable Blandsfonteins, Hartebeestefonteins, Rietfonteins,
Bethanies, etc., in the Transvaal and Orange River Colony.) But Brother
Boer willed it otherwise, and about an hour before the fixed time I was
"revallyed" by the banging of guns distant and near. I arose to my feet
and the fact that Mr. Delarey was trying to shell us, as a not far
distant crack of an exploding shell testified. Near me, from under a
rain-soaked blanket a sun-bronzed face appeared and a sleepy voice
inquired "are the _burchers_ (burghers) shelling us?" The seeker after
knowledge was informed they were. We soon got the order to turn out,
saddle up and escort the guns. This we quickly did. As we moved out a
few shells skimmed over the kopjes and lobbed themselves where our lines
had been. By this time our field guns and cow gun were well at it, and
the Boers were shifting a bit. We dismounted, lined the kopje we had
ridden up to, and watched the work of our gunners. Presently from half
up the hill in front of us, I saw a flickering white flash and
pom-pom-pom-pom-pom-pom went Delarey's gun of that name, followed by a
whistling over our heads and half-a-dozen cracks behind, where, looking
round, I saw the same number of puffs of smoke and earth arise from the
ground. This went on for a while, they were trying to get on our led
horses, I believe. I afterwards heard some went fairly close, also that
the general had one very near. _Apropos_ of this pom-poming, our
colonel, who had had their missiles all round him and had quite ignored
them, as is his invariable custom, strolled up to one of our officers
and the conversation turning on to pom-poms, languidly remarked: "Ye-es,
I don't think they do much weel destwuction--er-er--it is pwincipally
their demowalising effect." The demoralising effect on himself having
been so very non-evident, this remark struck me as being distinctly
good. Our "Wearie Willie" snapped out a remark now and again, and
apparently always to the point. Later, Legge's men occupied the ridge
opposite and chivvied the enemy for several miles; we, returning to
camp, watered our horses and, twenty minutes later, set out on a
reconnaissance with the guns in hopes of finding some snipers in the
vicinity of Hekpoort. We returned bagless. That night it rained, as
usual, and as we had not had time to rig up any shelters, or even dry
our blankets, we came in for another good wetting. At two o'clock the
next (Saturday) morning we had to turn out and stand to our horses.
"Steady, boys, steady, we always are ready"--_afterwards_; you know our
good old British style. But Frater Boer had had a belly full the
preceding day, his losses in killed and wounded being considerable, I
hear. Legge's men swear to have buried eight, and Clements said one of
our shells hit a gun of their's. That night we had the fashionable and
seasonable rain again. (Please, in future, remember we have this every
night, and so I will refrain from too many references to it). On Sunday
we moved off for Rietfontein, No. 1001. We formed the rearguard and
expected a bit of harassing, the country being most favourable for such
operations on the part of the enemy. But they left us alone, though they
were undoubtedly about unseen. As several waggons broke down, and had to
be mended or burned, we had to grill on the kopjes for hour upon hour,
cursing the convoy with all our might. Presently the inevitable question
"What's the date?" elicited the fact that it was the 25th. (You can
imagine the chorus "A month to Christmas!" and Sunday.) Sunday, and you
probably in your frock coat and patent boots, luxuriously reclining in
an upholstered pew, listening to promises of peace and rest, or standing
up half thinking of the good meal to follow, and singing

  "I came to Jesus as I was,
     Weary, and worn, and sad;
   I found in Him a resting place,
     And He hath made me glad."

And I, there on those hard rocks, with a perpendicular sun above me,
mechanically watching the distant hills, but seeing with strong mental
eyes a church porch with roses and creeper over it and noting the
Sabbath silence which presently would be broken softly by the voices of
the worshippers within:

  "Come unto Me, ye weary,
   And I will give you rest."

I think to stand outside a church and hear the worshippers within is to
get one of the most pleasant impressions possible; somehow it always
strikes me that one imagines the people within to be so much holier,
indeed more spiritual, than they really are. But all this looks either
like preaching or scoffing, and it is neither. It is really the result
of a desire to push myself into the home life you good people are still
leading, somehow or other. An excusable offence after all, my Masters!
Having re-cursed the tail of the convoy, it at last moved forward, and
we, having allowed it so much grace, did the same. At the outskirts of
the village, which the column had moved through, the last waggon--an
overloaded one--collapsed, and once again we manned the heights. I was
sent out with a couple of men to a post a little in advance of the rest
of our troop, and, after an hour, about a mile off saw four Boers
nonchalantly riding toward the other side of the dorp. These were
followed by two more. I sent in and reported this, and shortly after we
moved off, unsniped. Undoubtedly these beggars had been waiting for the
column to pass, so that they could return and have a Sunday dinner and a
quiet evening, having had rather a rough week, and it was only owing to
the above-mentioned waggon breaking down that we had a glimpse into the
ways of our enemy. Our camp was not far off, and we go there at about
six; some of the column were in by eleven in the morning. The amount of
burning done _en route_ was almost appalling. The next day we marched
into Krugersdorp once again, passing several marshy spots where arum
lilies were blooming in rich profusion. We reached here at noon; the
Dorsets and Devons who formed the rearguard had a bit of scrapping, and,
thanks to a straggling convoy, did not get into camp till close on
midnight, and so, of course, got a rare soaking from the usual rain.
Here I have received a few belated mails, and live in hopes of getting
the latest. I have also read in some of the papers of the welcome home
of the C.I.V.'s.

  "You've welcomed back the C.I.V.'s,
  Back from their toil to home and ease;
  The war is going pretty strong,
  _We've_ bade adieu to 'sha'n't be long';
  And you at home across the seas,
  Don't quite forget _us_, if you please."

The following poetic outburst requires a little explanation. We have had
the khaki this and the khaki that, and it has just occurred to me a
khaki Omar Khayyam would not be out of place, for of a truth one needs a
_soupçon_ of philosophy out here occasionally. With this idea in my
head, and having a little leisured ease, I have set out to minister a
long-felt want. Not, however, having my Persian "Fitzgerald" by me, I
must ask your indulgence for any grave discrepancies in the text.


  (_For the use of British Soldiers on the Veldt._)

  The night has gone, the golden sun has riz,
  The khaki men have all begun to friz,
    Cleared is the mushroom camp of yesterday,
  And forth they go upon the Empire's biz.

  Oh! hopes of home that with each morning rise,
  Oh! wondrous legends which wild minds devise;
    One thing is certain, and the rest is lies,
  The Yeoman, once enlisted, often sighs.

  Oh! fool to cry "The Boer is on the run,"
  He is, we know, and _ain't forgot his gun_;
    And often from the rocky kopje side
  He stops and pots--your mess is minus one.

  I sometimes think that nought whiffs on the wind
  As strong as where some dying steed reclined;
    That any casual stranger passing by
  The place, if asked, again could eas'ly find.

  Alas! that Mausers are not turned to hoes,
  That Christmas comes, and with the pudding goes;
    And we stick here for ever and a day,
  When we return (or _if_) _who knows_--WHO KNOWS?

  Oh! Pard, could thou and I with Holmes conspire
  To round De Wet up with his force entire;
    Would we not smash it all to bits--and then
  Get somewhere nearer to our heart's desire.

  A pipe o' baccy 'neath a leafy tree,
  A recent mail from far across the sea,
    No one to worry for an hour or two,
  And veldt, indeed, were Paradise to me.

  And, lo, 'tis vain the generals to blame,
  Keep boldly sticking at the ancient game;
    And if to-day you are upon the veldt,
  To-morrow it will also be the same.

  Each morn's _reveillé_ comes like some nightmare,
  Sleepy you rise and pack your kit, and swear;
    Then mount your saddled steed with gun in hand,
  And hasten off, you know not why or where.

  Some in the fighting let their hearts rejoice,
  For some the waggons are the patriot's choice:
    Oh! loot the farm, don't let the chickens go,
  Nor heed the roaring of the sergeant's voice!

  They say the gentlemen in khaki keep
  The courts where Kruger once did plot so deep;
    That great Oom Paul across the sea has trekked,
  Before the Courts of Europe now to weep.

  We are but pawns, first front, then flank, then rear,
  Moved by the Master Players there and here
    Upon the veldt and kopje (that's the board),
  _Sans_ tents, _sans_ beds, _sans_ pudding and _sans_ BEER.

  Yon broiling sun which smiles and is our bane,
  Yon thunder-cloud which means a soaking rain,
    Will both some day look down upon this veldt
  For us, and let us hope 'twill be in vain.

The above extract will, I am sure, suffice to show the general tone of
the khaki Rubaiyat, and be more than enough to damn my poor but honest


                                         _December 5th, 1900._

As the English mail leaves this benighted place to-morrow at mid-day, I
am dropping you a few lines, though I feel in anything but a scribbling
humour. Clements moved out on Monday for about a week's jaunt, and left
us, the Sussex Squadron and sick men, behind in charge of about a
hundred remounts, mostly Argentines; and with the pleasant task of doing
pickets and such like, about two miles out from the town. As I write I
am very wet, it having been raining for the last two days. This morning
the other four occupants of Mealie Villas had to clear off at 3 o'clock
to do a picket, and so, as they naturally withdrew the support of their
rifles from their blankets, there was not much shelter for me. I wonder
what your opinion was on the statements of Mr. Burdett-Coutts, M.P., as
regards certain hospitals out here, and also what you think of the Army
doctor? It was my duty to parade the sick men before one of these august
beings this morning. I received the order at a quarter past nine from
our Squadron Sergeant-Major to parade before the doctor's tent, in the
lines of Marshall's Horse, at 9.30. So at that time, behold me with
fourteen sick men in the driving, drenching rain waiting in puddles of
water outside the well-closed tent of the disciple of Esculapius. There
we waited till at last an officer entering the tent, in response to my
inquiry, as to whether I was at the right place or not, replied in the
affirmative and informed an unseen being that there was a sick parade
outside. Apparently without even rising, the great unseen was heard to
remark shortly, "Sick parade is at seven o'clock every morning," the
tent was again closed, and the men with fever, dysentery, colds and
sores wended their ways through the rain and mud, back to the damp
interiors of their leaking blanket hovels. They were men of the Fife,
Devon, Dorset, and Sussex Yeomanry Squadrons, and that is how some of
your dear patriotic volunteers get treated occasionally by certain
doctors out here. Our Battalion doctor (the 7th) is a very good sort,
and if you are bad will see you at almost any time.

On Wednesday (November 29th) a friend and I went into the 'Dorp and got
a few stores (alas! the Field Force canteen is almost empty and the
prospects of its being replenished are drear). Afterwards we strolled up
to the station to see if there were any mails, and to see a train again.
The Johannesburg train came in while we were there, and a sergeant-major
of Kitchener's Horse shot an officer of the same corps soon after
alighting from the train. The officer had put him under arrest for
misbehaviour in Johannesburg. I had my choice of a dozen yarns as to the
real cause of the tragedy. The officer was buried the next day. The fate
of the sergeant-major I have not heard yet, though it is not difficult
to guess. Mr. Wynne, our troop leader left us this day for England,
having applied for leave on business. A statement of the losses among
our officers may not be uninteresting. All of the following, save the
last, are home or on their way: The Duke of Norfolk, injured thigh; the
Hon. T. A. Brassey, elections; Mr. Ashby, reasons unknown, but
undoubtedly excellent; Mr. Williams-Wynne, business reasons; Mr. Cory,
still out here but working with the transport--hard.

Which leaves us Mr. McLean, of rowing fame, as our captain and only

Saturday, apart from lifting us into December, was I believe,


On Sunday we had a Brigade Church Service--we had not had one for a long
time. We also had a real padre, who wore a surplice, cassock, and
helmet, and who preached an indifferent sermon. I don't suppose we
deserve a real good man.

[Illustration: Hymns & their Singers (At an I.Y. Veldt Church Service).
"I was not even thus" Lead kindly Light.]

The great event of Tuesday was the fate of my Christmas pudding, which I
had received from my _Mater_. Having handled and examined it carefully
for some time, I thought I could detect signs of decomposition about it.
I communicated my fears to my comrades, who shared them, and said they
didn't think it would last till Christmas. It didn't; for we ate it that
evening. It was good, and I suppose we ought to feel ashamed of
ourselves for eating it out of season, but really our excuses are many,
principal among them being it is not wise trying to keep edibles, as
they have a way of getting lost, and if the pudding managed to last to
Christmas it is just on the cards we might not.

To show you how civilised we are at the 'Dorp, we, when in standing
camp, occasionally have a chance of getting a drink of beer. This
afternoon a barrel was brought into our camp, and to-night we shall be
able to buy pots of it at sixpence a pint. You should see those pints!
We may be Imperial Yeomanry, but they don't give us Imperial Pints.
Teetotallers will be interested and pleased to hear that out of our
princely stipend of 1s. 3d. per diem (unpaid since July) we don't buy
much of the beverage.

I have drawn a fresh horse from the remounts we are in charge of; my
last gee-gee I called "Barkis," because he was willing, this brute I
shall have to dub "Smith," because he certainly is not--Willing.

N.B.--Our mounts are always known as "troop horses," those belonging to
the officers though, however Rosinante-like, are invariably, politely
and with dignity alluded to as "chargers."

Thursday morning. We had to turn out and stand to arms this morning at
three, an attack being expected on the railway. I, happening to have the
stable picket, had the pleasure of arousing the recumbent forms of the
sleepers with the joyous Christmas carol of "Christians, awake! come,
salute the happy morn." You ought to have seen the "Christians" awake;
to have heard them would have been too awful.

So from three till six we stood to arms, a thick fog enveloping us,
making it impossible to see more than fifty yards to our front or rear.
But they did not come. I understand that we may have "the stand to arms"
wheeze every morning now, so we have something to look forward to.


                                     _Wednesday, December 12th, 1900._

As we are under orders to leave here and join Clements to-morrow, I am
writing so as to catch the mail which goes out on Thursday.

On Sunday we had a Church Service, and in the afternoon had a visit from
Nobby--the Border Regiment has been resting at Krugersdorp for a few
weeks--who entertained us till, what out here we should term a late
hour, about nine.

On Monday I heard that another of our Sussex fellows had died of enteric
at Pretoria.

Nobby has just looked in again, he is rather a swell, wearing one of our
new war hats we had served out, and which I gave him, preferring to keep
my old one; in his words, he looks as if he belonged to the "Yeomandry."
It is wonderful how all our fellows get on with our professional
brethren. Take for instance one of our men, a 'Varsity man, hight
Pember, he is a dry, self-contained beggar, and lives his own life. Into
this life has come a man of the Northumberland Fusiliers. They both hail
from the same county. After the day's march, when the Infantry not on
picket are in camp, a dark figure often slouches up our lines, and a
voice inquires, "Is Pem 'ere?" and Pember of ours, late of Trinity Hall,
calls out from the darkness, "Here you are, mate," and forthwith the man
of the Fighting Fifth and the Imperial Yeoman sit down together and chat
of Heaven knows what, and the latter gives the former half of his prized
hard tack ration (he wouldn't give me a biscuit for his soul's
salvation), for the Northumberlands do not fare well at their
quartermaster's hands, at least they did not the last time we were on
the trek. Then, at about the same time Nobby is leaving us, the Fusilier
also arises and disappears with a "Good night, chummy," into the

The dry canteen, for the troops, in the town, is now quite empty.
Fortunately, we still have some of the Great Candle Loot left, otherwise
we should be very much in the dark after sunset. To save our candles
from draughts and get a good light, we always burn them in biscuit
tins, a practice I can recommended highly if ever you go out campaigning
and lack a lantern. A convoy going to Rustenburg from Pretoria was
attacked and part captured a few days ago by Delarey's crowd. I had
expected that to happen soon, the length of the convoy and insufficiency
of its guard, having frequently struck me as very tempting for Brother

Well, I must conclude, as I have nothing of note to narrate, and must
begin to pack my possessions in a manner to circumvent our
quartermaster-sergeant when packing our kits on the waggon.


                                  IMPERIAL YEOMANRY HOSPITAL,
                                     _Tuesday, December 18th, 1900._

_Dulce et decorum_ 'tis to bleed for one's country, especially to a
small extent, and that is my case. So here I am taking my ease with a
slightly stiff leg, caused by a flesh wound acquired during a lively
rearguard action we had on the 14th, and my hand tied up in a manner to
render writing rather a slow and fumbling ceremony. I always find it
easier to write of the present than the past, so will get through the
events of last week as quickly as possible. On Thursday last we left
Krugersdorp for Rietfontein to join Clements, with the Borders, some
mounted details and useless remounts. Half of our fellows were leading
the latter. We, the remainder, formed the rearguard, and a long,
wearisome job it was. Oh, how those waggons broke down and stuck in
dongas and spruits! At last we got into camp, to my infinite relief, for
the sun had, for once, given me a vile head. All through the day we
heard guns firing, first near us and then distant. The next day we were
again rearguard, and had a rare harassing. The end of that beastly
convoy seemed to lag even more than on the preceding day! And we of the
rearguard, on the kopjes and ridges, watched the enemy galloping round
and up to the favourable positions, potting at them when we had a decent
chance. But they knew the lay of the land, of course, and the closer
they got the more invisible they became. They don't require khaki to
make them indiscernible. Then a single shot would inform us as it hummed
above our heads that one gentleman had got into position, and was
getting the range, then others, and we knew his friends were with him,
and hard at it. Once a few of us happened to be lying in front of a
ridge we were holding, and _at which_ the Boers were potting from
another about 800 yards off. We got the order to retire over the crest
and get better cover and had a warm time doing it. One at a time we
crawled, then, crouching low, rushed back a few yards and dropped behind
a rock for breath and cover. Then back again we dragged ourselves till
the cover was better. Their firing was distinctly good, and several
fellows were hit. On one occasion I dropped behind a small piece of
rock, ostrich-like, covering my head, and almost simultaneously with my
action a bullet struck the side of the rock a few inches from my face
with a nasty _phutt_. That is what it is like on such occasions. That's
the sort of game we played all day, cursing Clements for not sending out
to meet us and give us a hand. We did not know what had happened in the
valley the preceding day. Later we got into an ambush, some of the enemy
being within a hundred yards of us; and had several horses killed. We
thought that the show was over, as Rietfontein was close handy, and the
last time we were there the locality was clear. It was almost dark when
we entered Clements' camp. But where were the tents, the men and horses
that used to be? Presently a figure with a face rendered unrecognisable
by bandages, came up to us. It was Sergeant Pullar of the Fifes, and
from him we had the story of the previous day's disaster. Over half the
Fifes are missing, most of the Devons also, so-and-so killed, and
so-and-so, and so-and-so. Kits lost, and tents burnt. From various
reliable sources I have compiled the best account I can make of the
affair, which we missed by the merest fluke, what men call chance, and
here it is.


Clements' camp was at Nooitgedacht, between Hekpoort and Olifant's Nek,
where he had been for three days. Nooitgedacht is at the base of the
Magaliesberg range of hills (the name means "Ne'er Forgotten"). We had
camped there about a couple of months back. It lies near a large kloof.
A little to the west of Clements were Colonel Legge's mounted troops,
composed of Kitchener's and Roberts' Horse, "P" Battery R.H.A., and two
companies of M.I., the whole force numbering, at the most, 1,400 men.
Knowing that Delarey was in the vicinity with a strong force, the
general had helio'ed for reinforcements, which, unfortunately, were not
forthcoming, so apparently he was sitting tight, with doubled pickets,
on the Magaliesberg and kopjes in the valley. Then came the eventful
Thursday (the 13th). During the night Beyers' Commando made a wonderful
trek from the north to reinforce and co-operate with Clements' old foe,
Delarey, and just before dawn the enemy, who had crept up unseen or
heard in the dark, rushed Legge's pickets on the west of the camp,
shooting the sentries and many of the men as they lay asleep in their
blankets, soon afterwards getting into the gallant Colonel's camp. Poor
Legge, who ran out in the direction of the pickets as soon as he heard
the firing, was one of the first killed. Then Clements' pickets on the
Magaliesberg, which were composed of four-and-a-half companies of
Northumberland Fusiliers, suddenly became aware of the close proximity
of the enemy, who were in great force, about 3,000, and had, undetected,
crept up the gradual sloping northern side of the range. The
Northumberlands soon exhausted their ammunition, volunteers of the
Yorkshire Light Infantry tried to take them a fresh supply, but were
allowed to toil up the steep hillside with their heavy loads, only to be
dropped, when near their goal, by their exultant foes. Probably never
before have the Boers fought with such boldness, standing up and firing
regardless of exposing themselves. Meanwhile, the Yeomanry, who had been
standing to their horses in the camp, received the order to reinforce
the Northumberlands on the Magaliesberg above them, and, with the Fifes
leading and Devons following, commenced to ascend the precipitous
hillside. Alas, the Boers were in possession of the summit, the
Fusiliers having surrendered, and the Yeomanry got it hot. Of the Fifes,
Lieutenant Campbell, who had only joined them a fortnight ago at
Krugersdorp, was the first to fall, struck by an explosive bullet in the
head. Out of less than fifty, fourteen were killed, and almost all the
survivors wounded more or less seriously. At last, without a ray of
hope, they were compelled to surrender, too. Many a good comrade's fate
is known to me, so far, by that direly comprehensive word, _missing_. I
have heard that the Boers threw many of the wounded over the precipitous
southern side of the Magaliesberg, but do not believe it. Then they
turned their full attention to the camp below; every officer of the
staff was hit, the brigade-major was killed, having many wounds.
Clements himself went unscathed; wherever there was a hot corner the
general was to be seen coolly giving orders and apparently unconcerned
amid a hail of bullets. "I'll be d----d if they shall have the cow-gun,"
he remarked, and, by gad, they didn't. With drag ropes it was moved down
the hill for some distance, and then an attempt was made to inspan the
oxen. As fast as one was inspanned it was shot, and quickly another and
another would share its fate. At last, by sheer desperate perseverance,
some sort of a team was inspanned and the gun moved forward, leaving
dead and wounded men and considerably over half of the ox-team behind,
but with the aid of the field artillery, who shelled the kopjes, was at
length got on to a comparatively safe road. Of a truth, were I another
Virgil and a scribe of verse, not unheroic prose, I might well have
started this little account with

  "I sing of arms and of heroes."

The getting away of the transport was a desperate affair; the niggers
scooted, and amid the roar of the field guns, pom-poms, maxims and
rifles, which between the hills was terrific, the mules stampeded.
Officers, conductors and troopers rode after the runaways, and, under
threats of shooting if they didn't, compelled the niggers to return with
the mules. Chief amongst the Yeomanry who distinguished themselves that
day, was Sergeant Pullar, who rode after the retiring convoy, called
for, and returned with volunteers to the camp and helped with the guns
and ammunition, and in various other ways. At last the Boers swarmed
into the camp and our guns, turning on it, shelled it, containing as it
did, friend and foe alike, a regrettable but absolutely necessary
measure. Then our force retiring down the valley to Rietfontein fought a
fierce rearguard action, the Dorset Yeomanry under Sir Elliot Lees and
the remnants of the Fifes and Devons forming the rear screen, supported
by Kitchener's and Roberts' Horse, mostly dismounted, and the guns.
During this retirement, which I have heard wrongly ascribed to the M.I.,
Sir Elliot and his orderly, Ingram, of the Dorsets, on one occasion
finding that two dismounted Yeomen had been left behind on a recently
abandoned kopje, gallantly rode back and bore them away on their horses
into comparative safety.[7] The artillery were grand, as ever, and in
spite of killed and wounded gunners and great losses in the teams, saved
their guns and used them to effect. At six o'clock on Friday morning the
rearguard entered camp at Rietfontein. Our casualties--killed, wounded
and missing, are 640, while it is stated and believed that the enemy's
losses were even more severe. It seems a strange coincidence that
exactly this time a year ago at home in dear old England we were going
through the black Stormberg and Colenso week, and Christmastide was
coming to many a sorrowing home.

         [Footnote 7: For his share in this gallant deed, Ingram was
         promoted by the C.-in-C. to Corporal. Several of the Devons
         and Fifes were subsequently mentioned in despatches. Sergeant
         Pullar was persuaded to accept a commission, as also were
         Sergeant-Majors Gordon and Cave. All three being excellent
         soldiers and popular with the men. A Yeoman told me lately,
         "It was simply splendid the cool way in which Colonel Browne
         and Sir Elliot Lees superintended the waggons being moved
         from camp."]

Since writing the above, I have heard vague tales that a good many of
the missing have turned up at Rustenburg, being either men who got
through or released prisoners. This I rather anticipated and hope to be
true. About the Yeomanry I have not heard any reassuring news yet; one
thing is certain--they had many casualties and fought desperately.


  _Thursday, December 13th, 1900._

  Comrades of Fife and of Devon,
     Dying as brave men die,
  Under God's smiling blue heaven,
     Now you peacefully lie
  On the hills you died defending,
     Or veldt where you nobly fell,
  Your foemen before you sending;
     Good comrades, fare thee well.

  O comrades of Devon and Fife,
     Memories flood me o'er;
  Fierce mem'ries of many a strife
     In days that are no more;
  Full many a fast have we shared,
     Of many treks could I tell;
  Brave men who have done and dared,
     Comrades of mine--farewell.


  And when in the great Valhalla
    All of us meet again;
  Norsemen in skins and armour
    And men in khaki plain;
  With a smile to erstwhile foemen
    Who 'gainst us fought and fell,
  I'll haste to my fellow Yeomen,
    Till then, dear chums--farewell!


On Friday I went before our Battalion doctor, who had lost everything,
save what he stood in. However, he fixed up my leg and hand and exempted
me from duty. On going before him the next day he said my leg wanted
resting, and in spite of protests sent me to the R.A.M.C. field
hospital. A word aside here. I suppose you have heard of this great
institution of the British Army--the d----d R.A.M.C. (I seldom, if ever,
have heard it alluded to without the big, big D's.) My experience of it,
I am pleased to say, has been, so far, severely limited, but, slight as
it is, I can quite understand why it is lacking in popularity. With
three other Yeomen and my kit, I accompanied the doctor's orderly to the
Brigade Hospital. The order for our admission was given in, and we were
told we should be attended to at nine. The sun was hot, shade there was
none, and outside the doctor's tent we waited. Nine came and went, a
doctor also rode up, chatted with someone inside, and rode away. The sun
was scorching, and we dare not go away to get in any friendly shade.
Three of us had game legs and one dysentery, but, of course, we grumbled
not, for the R.A.M.C. are all honourable men. Various squads of sick
Artillery, M.I. and other regiments marched up, and finally an R.A.M.C.
sergeant came to the entrance of the tent and began calling them up
before the doctor. Eleven o'clock came, and in the hot sun we waited
still, in spite of being half-determined to return to our lines, as it
was getting rather wearisome and confoundedly hot; but the R.A.M.C. are
all honourable men. A Canadian helped a chum down to the group of
impatient patients, and after a few words left him with the terribly
audible remark, "So long, ole man. I'd sooner blanked-well die on the
veldt than go there." Which showed how he failed to appreciate the
R.A.M.C., and also his bad taste, for those inside must have heard him.
But there, they know that they, the R.A.M.C., are all honourable men.
"Driver Neads!" calls the spic and span little dark-moustached sergeant,
reading from a list of names. A ragged dirty-looking Artilleryman limps
painfully up, _two pills_ are given to him, he gazes curiously at them,
then at the back of the donor, who has turned away, and then realising
that nothing further is to be done for him, limps heavily back, making
room for the next patient. Once in the background, he heels a small hole
in the earth, turns the contents of his hand into it, methodically fills
the hole up, and hobbles back with his squad. They were, of course, the
celebrated "Number Nines," the great panacea out here as, of course, you
know. They (are supposed to) cure all diseases, from dysentery and brain
fever to broken legs and heads.

And still we, who were first, waited in the blazing sun, to be last.
Finally the smart sergeant smilingly recognised us, and cheerily told us
that there was an Imperial Yeomanry Field Hospital somewhere in the
vicinity, and we were to go there, and with that returned us our
admittance form. I pressed him for more accurate information, and had
the supposed direction given me, which proved correct. So off we
crawled, I, with my Bunyan's Pilgrim-like load, holding the position of
a scratch man in a race. I could not have done the distance had I not
procured the services of a nigger, who relieved me of my kit for a
shilling. So we shook the dust of the R.A.M.C. Field Hospital from our
boots, but let not an abusive word be levelled at them, for are they not
all honourable men?

The Imperial Yeomanry Field Hospital was about a mile off, and on
reaching it we were treated with every kindness. They had only come in
the previous night, and we were the first patients. Every consideration
was shown to us, and in a few minutes we were lying down in a fine tent
of the marquee brand and drinking excellent _café au lait_ and eating
bully and biscuit. "The best we can do for you at present," as they
apologetically remarked to us. Fomentations were applied to our wounds,
and luxuriously reclining on my back, smoking a Turkish cigarette one of
the orderlies had just given me, I fervently swore that the grandest
institution in South Africa was the I.Y. Field Hospital. In the
afternoon some sick Inniskilling Fusiliers were admitted, and for some
time seemed dazed at the kind treatment they were receiving, and
appeared half under the impression they were in Heaven. "What's this
chummy?" queried one. "Imperial Yeomanry Hospital" was the reply. "Thank
Gawd 'taint the R.A.M.C." grunted the Tommy, turning over on his side
with a sigh of relief. At about ten that night we had to make room in
our tent for a dozen wounded men from Thursday's fight. Ninety were
being brought into Rietfontein and the I.Y. people were taking half.
Soon an ambulance was halted by our tent, and wounded men hobbled or
were carried in, heads, arms and legs tied up, with here and there blood
showing through the bandages. They were M.I., Kitchener's Horse,
Northumberlands and K.O.Y.L.I. (King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry).
"Man," started a Yorkshire man before he had been in the tent a minute,
"they (the Boers) treated us real well." "Ay, they was all right,"
chimed in a M.I. man, "they gave us to eat as much as they 'ad." "One
bloke arsked my permission to take the boots orf one of our dead chaps,"
said a Northumberland Fusilier. And at it they went hammer and tongue,
especially the latter. To follow the various speakers one needed a dozen
pairs of ears at least. Several related that the Boers came up to them
and told them they had made a grand fight of it. They were quickly
supplied with beef tea and biscuits, and some of the necessary cases
were dressed again. "See that that man has a ground sheet down there,"
ordered Major Stonham, "he is on the bare earth." "I've laid on it for
three nights out there, sir," cheerfully vouchsafed the patient under

At last I got to sleep, awaking at four, and having had a small bowl of
porridge and milk, arose with the other fellows who had come in with me
and the sick Inniskillings, and getting our kits, got into an ambulance
waggon for the first time. The I.Y. people sent in two ambulances and
the R.A.M.C. three open mule waggons filled with sick soldiers. We
reached Pretoria at three, and we four Yeomen were sent to the Imperial
Yeomanry Hospital, where, after once again giving in our names,
regimental numbers, ranks, regiments, service, ailments, religion, and
a hundred other items of general information, I was allotted a ward,
bed, and suit of pyjamas, and after having had a bath, got into bed and
awaited the next person desirous for my name, number, time of service,
&c. It was not long before the sister in charge of our ward appeared;
she is Irish (Sister Strohan), and naturally very kind. Our tent holds
six men, and we were all new arrivals that evening. She asked if we had
had anything to eat, and we said we had had nothing beyond a little
porridge at four in the morning. Then she commanded the orderlies to
get "these _poor_ men" bread, marmalade, cocoa, beef tea, pillows and
all sorts of things. And we "poor men" laid comfortably in our beds and
grinned at one another. She ordered us later to go to sleep, but we
could not. For myself, I had not been in a bed for so long that I
positively felt restless, and almost rolled out of bed so as to have a
comfortable "doss" on the ground (it seemed like a case of the pig
returning to its wallowing). At last I fell asleep, and once in that
state took a good deal of arousing--for night nurses and orderlies tread
more lightly than stable guards, and loose horses grazing round one's

[Illustration: A friendly Boer family watching a British ambulance
waggon, full of sick & wounded, going into Pretoria.]

Thursday, December 20th. A friend, of the Fife Yeomanry, came in here
wounded last night. He went up with twenty other men of his crowd to
reinforce the Northumberlands on the hill. Out of these, six were killed
and nine wounded. I have already told you many of the dead and wounded
were left on the kopjes for several days. He tells me it was horrible to
see some of the poor fellows; the flies had got on their wounds. One
fellow with a wounded jaw had maggots inside as well as out, and they
were taken out of his mouth with little bits of stick. Another with a
wounded side was quite a heaving, moving mass of them where he had been


                                     IMPERIAL YEOMANRY HOSPITAL,
                                         _Monday, December 24th, 1900._

  Here's to the doc's an' the nusses,
  The bloomin' ord'lies too,
  Who tend to us poor worn cusses,
  All of 'em good and true.
  Fightin' with death unceasin',
  With ne'er a word of brag,
  Sorrow an' anguish easin',
  Under the Red Cross flag.

          _Extract from forthcoming "Orspital Odes."_

Christmas Eve! Forsooth! And it falls on a homesick British Army in
South Africa, home-yearning and longing for a sight of the sea (our
sea!) like the famous Grecian host of old. If you ask a British
soldier, "How goes it?" he promptly growls, "Feddup." I wonder what the
Grecian warrior's equivalent for "fed up" was. He had one I am sure.

Christmas Eve, forsooth! Where is the prickly, red-berried holly? Where,
too, the mistletoe with its pearly berries? And where, most of all,
queries your enforced member of a Blue Ribbon Army--where is the Wassail

The weather is fine, and under our tents we don't feel the heat of the
sun. After the monotony of khaki here, there and everywhere, to which
one gets accustomed on the veldt, the colours one sees here are quite
enlivening. To begin with, _place aux dames_ the nurses are arrayed in
grey, white and red, and the patients who arrive in torn, worn, dirty or
bloody khaki, surrender all their warlike habiliments to an orderly,
have a bath and then "blossom in purple and red"--pyjamas, or in pinks,
stripes or spots.

The food is very good here, and, as Tommy says, there is _bags_ of it.
"Bags" is the great Army word for abundance. It is used apparently
without discrimination, and so one hears of bags of jam, bags of beer,
bags of bags, bags of fun, or anything else in or out of reason.

For a student of dialect this hospital opens a large field. It is a
regular Babel at times, our Sister speaking a superior Irish and the
orderly an inferior brogue. In our tent are a Scotch, two Welsh, a
Dorset and a Sussex Yeoman. In the next tent are some regulars of the
Northumberland Fusiliers and Yorkshire Light Infantry, and a true-bred
cockney Hussar, and their speech requires careful attention if the
listener wishes to understand it, I can assure you. A few Kaffirs
talking a bastard Dutch and an old Harrovian, who stutters like an
excited soda water syphon, completes the Babel in my immediate

The Irish orderly, Mick, by the way, is one of the most wonderful and
plausible fellows I have met out here. To say he could talk a donkey's
hind leg off would be a mild way of describing his excessive
volubility--he would chatter a centipede's legs off. Often when he comes
in, with another orderly's broom, to make a pretence of sweeping the
tent out, and leaning on the stick, starts retailing stories of
mystery and imagination, I lay down the book I am trying to read, and
closing my eyes, drift into the land of true romance.

[Illustration: _Owing to the great wear and tear on the Hospital
garments and the large influx of fresh patients--pyjama suits are very
rare in a perfect state or satisfactory size. Slippers also are
excessively scarce. The above is a common scene._

ORDERLY (to complaining new patient): "_Well, it's the best Oi can do
for yez._"]

It is a land uninhabited by ladyes fayre in the general way, for the
_dramatis personæ_ usually comprise "th' ortherly corp'ril"; "th'
sargint of th' gyard"; "th' qua'thermasther, an' a low blaygyard he
waz"; "th' gin'ril o' th' disthrict"; "a lif'tint in 'H' Company"; and
other military personages, with "th' ortherly room" or a "disthrict
coort-martial" thrown in. If I had only had a phonograph I would
preserve them, and when I get home, have them set up in type, tastily
bound, and announced as "Tales from the Ill, by R--. K--.," and then
live a life of opulent ease on the proceeds thereof.

"Th' sisther," as he calls her, says he is a dreadful man, and from her
point of view I don't think she is far away from the truth. He argues
about everything, and is always blaming his fellow orderlies. Still, it
is the dreadful men who are invariably so entertaining.

I have just heard that a friend, Trooper Bewes, a cheery fellow of the
Devons, has succumbed to his wound. Christmas Eve, forsooth! His chum
was shot through the stomach, and died on the veldt. Poor fellow, he
(the chum) was always swallowing with avidity any rumour about our going
home--perhaps he was too keen, and ironical fate stepped in. It's a hard
Christmas Box for his poor people, is it not?

We are debating whether to hang our socks up or not. If I do, and get
something inside, it will probably be a scorpion. I found one in my boot
a few days ago. The latest from our cheerful town pessimist, is "Don't
be surprised if you are out another twelve months." Our Harrovian friend
has summed up our feelings very aptly by stuttering, "If I had a bigger
handkerchief I'd weep."

A couple of orderlies have just passed our tent, bearing an inanimate
blanket-covered form on a stretcher--the last of my poor Devon friend,
beyond a doubt. Another was carried by about two hours ago, while we
were having tea. Christmas Eve, forsooth! Well, I will resume this
to-morrow, or on Boxing Day.

                                        _Christmas Day._

There are not many people who would do any letter-writing on the
afternoon of this day. But out here one does marvellous deeds, which one
would never dream of attempting at home. So here I am, my dinner
finished, adding a few lines to this letter, commenced yesterday.

Last night, in lieu of the festive carol singers, our waits (pickets)
entertained us nearly all the night with volleys and independent firing.
Whether the foe was real or imaginary I have not yet heard, but I
believe the former. At four this morning I was awakened to have a
fomentation on my leg, and drowsily realised it was Christmas Day. Then
I fell asleep again, and dreamed of horrible adventures with Brother
Boer. When we all awakened, we tried hard to convince one another it was
indeed Christmas Day; one man actually going to the length of looking in
his sock with a sneer, and all through the day "this time last year"
anecdotes have been going strong amongst us of the I.Y.

  "And a sorrow's crown of sorrows
   Is remembering happier things."

After breakfast I strolled up to the post-office tent on a forlorn hope
for letters. There were none for me, but one and a fine Scotch
shortbread for the wounded Fife man in the bed next to mine. The cake,
the beauty of which we quickly marred, was tastefully decorated with
sugared devices, and the inscription, "Ye'll a' be welcome hame!"

Another fomentation, a visit from the doctor, who put us all on stout,
and dinner was up. This consisted of the roast beef of Old--oh, no, it
didn't, it was roast old trek ox, and I was unable to damage it with my
well-worn teeth, so left it. The "duff" was not bad, and the quantity
being augmented by a cold tinned one, which our Harrovian friend
produced from his haversack, we fared very well, finishing up the repast
with shortbread and a small bottle of stout each, with a diminutive
pineapple for dessert.

Everybody I meet seems agreed on one point, and that is there has been
no Christmas this year. Well, let us hope we shall have a real
old-fashioned one next year.

                                        _New Year's Eve._
  "The year is dying, _let him die_."

Them's my sentiments--"let him die." Despite the _nil nisi bonum_
sentiment, I can't find it in my heart to say (at this present time and
in my present humour) a good word for the dying year, his last days
having been ones to be remembered with--er--oblivion only, so to speak.
Since writing last, I have been flying high--that is to say, my
temperature has--having registered 104.4 (don't omit the point) for a
couple of days. I was rather proud of this, for, as you know, I didn't
swagger in here with a fever or anything like that. No, I simply and
quietly waited about a week, and then let them see what I could do
without any real effort. And that is the right way to do things.

Look at Kitchener. People out here have been saying: "Wait till
Kitchener is in command," and "Kitchener will do this and that." I
sincerely hope he will. Mick, our day orderly, has just told me that "to
hear people spake, ye'd think he cud brake eggs wid a hard
stick,"--which I believe is his sarcastic way of summing up hero
worship. I suggested most men could do that; whereupon Mick retorted:
"Ye don't know, they might miss 'em." You never catch Mick napping. I
only wish I could record the story of how he chucked the kits of "the
Hon. Goschen and a nephew of the Juke of Portland's" out of one of the
tents in 22 Ward, because they didn't choose the things which they
wanted kept out, and let him take the rest away to the store tent.
Needless to say, he was unaware at the time that he was entertaining

Kitchener visited the Hospital some time ago but I missed seeing him. I
was sleeping at the time, and was awakened by his voice inquiring how we
were, and turned round just in time to see a khaki mackintosh disappear
through the door. Of course, I had met him before. He turned me out of a
house at which the C.-in-C. and staff had luncheon the day we were
marching on Johannesburg. My luncheon on that occasion consisted of a
nibble at a small, raw potato.

[Illustration: Sick.

"Who said 'C.I.V.s'?"

(With apologies to the talented painter of "Who said 'Rah'?")]

  PARODY 9800134.

  (Only one verse.)

  When you've said "the war is over," and "the end is now in sight,"
    And you've welcomed home your valiant C.I.V.'s,
  There are other absent beggars in the everlasting fight,
    And not the least of these your Yeoman, please.
  He's a casual sort of Johnnie, and his casualties are great,
    And on the veldt and kopjes you will find him,
  For he's still on active service, eating things without a plate,
    And thinking of the things he's left behind him.

I'll spare you the chorus.

The accompanying sketch, perhaps, needs a little explanation. To be
brief, the British Army feels aggrieved at the praise bestowed on the
C.I.V. Regiment, and its early return to England. To hear a discussion
on our poor unoffending and former comrades is to have a sad exhibition
of envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness.

Any amount of fellows have got bad teeth, and when one considers the
trek-ox and the army biscuit, one cannot be surprised. A lance-corporal
of ours went before the doctor last week on this score; he had
practically no teeth, and has been _sent into Pretoria on a month's
furlough_. It is generally circulated in the squadron that the
authorities expect fresh ones to grow in that time.

                                        _Tuesday, January 1st, 1901._

I saw the New Year in--in bed. There is little or no news, when we do
get some it is usually unsatisfactory. I suppose you know we have no
paper in Pretoria; the best they can do for us is to let us buy for a
tikkie the _Bloemfontein Post_, always four days old, and its contents!
The same brief, ancient and censored war news, the inspired leading
article, a column on a cricket match between two scratch Bloemfontein
teams, a treason trial, advertisements for I.L.H. and other recruits,
and that is about all. Well, here's "A Happy New Year to us all."

There are some terrible dunder-headed beings in this world of ours. I
saw one the day I came through Pretoria to this hospital. We were
acquaintances in London, and with the eye of a hawk he picked me out of
a load of dirty, khaki-clad wretches, and pounced on me with "What on
earth did you come out here for?" I told him "to play knuckle bones."

In the tent next to this is a quiet man with a gun-shot wound in his
knee. He is Vicary, V.C., of the Dorset Regiment. You may remember he
won it in the Tirah campaign for a deed immeasurably superior to that of
Findlater's; he saved an officer's life by killing five Afridis,
shooting two and bayoneting and butt-ending the rest--a messy job. He is
a small, quiet man, and wild horses could not induce him to talk of the
winning of his V.C. He won't say a "blooming" word on the subject to
anyone, not even an orderly.

We have a small library in the hospital (Mrs. Dick Chamberlain's). I got
Max O'Rell's "John Bull and Co." from it a few days ago. It concludes
with the author's reply to a question asked him the day before he left
South Africa.

"Well, after all these long travels what are you going to do now?"

"What am I going to do?" he replied; "I am going to Europe to look at an
old wall with a bit of ivy on it."

And, by the Lord Harry, that's just what I want to do myself.

       *       *       *       *       *

I'm getting rather tired of my prolonged loaf in Arcadia, for that is
the name of this part of Pretoria, and although it is really not my
fault, still I feel ashamed of myself for not being with the company.
Still, even if I were out of the hospital, I should merely be able to
join a number of details of Sussex, Devon, Dorset, Fife, and other
Yeomen who are waiting in Pretoria an indefinite time for remounts and
fresh equipment. I daresay my last letter, if it arrived at all arrived
later than usual, as the day the mails left here there was a biggish
fight a few miles down the line at the first station (Irene), and the
train had to return. It is also rumoured that the home mails due were
held up and collared, a hardy perennial this.

All last Friday we could hear big guns pounding away, and we heard on
Saturday that the enemy had pulled up a good deal of the line, but the
fort, or forts, at Irene had held their own. In addition to this, rumour
hath it that Delarey and eight hundred (or 500, or 1,000) have been
killed or captured, also that Clements has been killed. But all this,
as usual, needs confirmation. So inaccurate or vague is actual news when
we do get it, that a big fight might take place in the nearest
back-garden, and we should be absolutely ignorant of the real details of
the combat.

I have just heard that the news that General Clements is dead is
correct. He died of a wound received some days ago I am told. If it is
true, we have lost another good officer and brave man.

We certainly have made every use of our privilege as Englishmen to
grumble since we have been out here. A certain Bill Fletcher, erstwhile
a Cockney pot boy, now of Kitchener's Horse, has just taken a bed in our
tent, and has announced that he is tired of the "blooming" country,
where the "blooming" flowers don't smell, the "blooming" birds don't
sing, and the "blooming" fruit don't taste (this latter charge is not
quite correct), and he wants to get back to the "blooming" fog and smoke
of London; all this, and he has only been at it five months.


Clements is not dead, and Delarey and his friends are not captured.

I am telling you the latest rumours and anti-rumours, as this letter

And yet the man I had the first version from had had it from an R.A.M.C.
Sergeant, who had it on the most reliable authority of the commandant's
orderly, who had heard the commandant tell it to the P.M.O. He had also
been corroborated by a man who had seen the man who took it down from
the heliograph. Also one of the hospital runners had heard Dr. ---- tell
Dr. ----, and a friend of his had a friend who knew a man on the
officers' mess, who had seen it up in orders, distinctly.

A Tommy came in just now and said "Hullo, Corporal!" I shook his flipper
weakly and tried the dodge of pretending to recognise him. But I had to
give it up, and admit I could not for the moment recognise him, and
thought he had made a mistake. To which he replied he had not, and
didn't I remember the soap. I did.

About two months or more ago, having halted at mid-day at some fontein
or other _en route_ for Rustenburg, Whiteing and I went down to the
nearest stream to have the usual wash. There we found heaps of fellows
washing; but, alas! there was a great dearth of soap. A Northumberland
man asked me if I could sell him some, and I gave him a small chunk. The
demand was great, and there was practically no supply. When we got back
to our lines, Whiteing, ever forgetful, discovered he had left his
precious brown Windsor behind. It was too late to go back to try and
find it, so he gave up all hopes of ever seeing it again. The next day,
as we were riding through the infantry advance guard of the Border
Regiment, one of the fellows shouted to me, asking if I had lost any
soap the day before. I replied "No," and then recollected Whiteing's
loss added that a friend of mine had. My infantry friend thereupon
promised to bring it round in the evening, which he did. In this manner
we became acquainted with him. I mention this incident just to show what
a really good sportsman the true Thomas is. Here was soap in great
request: we were strangers to him, having merely chatted with him and
the others as we washed in the mud and water, and yet, without our even
making enquiries for the precious lump, he went out of his way to return

I asked him why he had come into the hospital, and he told me he and
several others had been sent in as unfit for the veldt, and so were
to act as hospital orderlies. When I inquired how he liked the idea,
he said it was all right, as he was clear of the horrible
"hundred-and-fifty," and he laid his hands significantly where the
pouches are wont to decorate the waist of the poor infantryman.

     [_Note._--I suppose you know the infantryman's cross is the hated
     150 rounds in the two pouches, which after many miles marching
     become most irksome, especially for the muscles of the stomach.]

I, of course, inquired after Nobby, but he could not tell me anything
about him, as Nobby is in "H" Company and his was "B."

To-day (the 16th) a large number of fellows are leaving here for the
base and, the rumour is--_home_.

[Illustration: Got his ticket.

  "See that fellow?"
  "He's 'marked for home.'"
  "Lucky Beggar!"]

The P.M.O. asked a Yeomanry friend yesterday if he would like to go home
or join his squadron, and the Yeoman's reply was he would like to rejoin
his squadron--at home. In explanation, he smilingly stated that all of
his squadron's officers, bar one, had gone home, and nearly all the
squadron, having been invalided or discharged. Well, I think this is
long enough for a letter written by a man who can hardly claim to be "on
active service" just at present.


                                   _Sunday, January 26th, 1901._

Still at the above address, but going strong, and almost losing the
Spartan habits engendered by my recent life on the veldt!

News is very scarce with us, and to dare to write you a long letter
would be the height of impudence, so I will let you off with a
moderately short one this week.

Last week an original burlesque (perhaps I ought to politely designate
it a musical comedy) was produced in a large marquee here, which is
called "the theatre." I don't know what the name of the piece was but it
dealt with a Hospital Commission, and the _dramatis personæ_ consisted
of a Boer spy, posing as the Commissioner, the real Commissioner, as a
new nurse, nurses, orderlies, Kaffirs and doctors, amongst the latter
being a Scotch Doctor, who drank a deal of "whuskey" and whose diagnoses
were most entertaining. It was quite pathetic to watch the keen interest
with which the audience followed the diversions of "Dr. Sandy" with the

I have been concerned in "doing something" in our day nurse's album
lately (I think I have already alluded to the presence of the album evil
out here). I have willingly volunteered to contribute to these volumes,
hoping to see their contents, but, alas, in most cases I have had to
start the tome; however, in the present case the album has been well
started by various patients. Most of the efforts are strikingly original
and all in verse, so I determined to do something for the honour of the
county of my birth, and, securing a pen and ink, perpetrated some
Michael Angelic-like sketches of "the-ministering-angel-thou," order.
Then, hearing that a poem (scratch a Tommy and you'll find a poet) was
expected, valiantly started off with something like this:

  "She wore a cape of scarlet,
  The eve when first we met;
  A gown of grey was on her form
  (I wore some flannelette!):
  She was a sister to us all,
  And yet no relation;
  She stuck upon my dexter leg,
  A hot fomentation."

But appearing suggestive of something else, I crossed it out and finally
produced the following ambitious ode:--


  Poets from time of yore have sung
  In every clime and every tongue,
  Of beauty and the pow'r of love,
  Of things on earth and things above.

  Sonnets to ladyes' eyes indited,
  And for such stuff been killed or knighted.
  They've raved on this and raved on that,
  The dog or the domestic cat.

  On blessëd peace and glorious war,
  On deeds of daring dashed with gore,
  And scores of other wondrous deeds,
  Which History or Tradition heeds.

  But I would humbly sing to praise
  Something unhonoured in those lays--
  The cure for broken legs and arms,
  For suff'rers of rheumatic qualms.

  For wounds by bullet or the knife,
  Obtained in peace or deadly strife;
  For broken heads or sprainëd toes,
  And myriad other sorts of woes,
  For that incurable disease
  "Fed up" or "tired of C.I.V.'s."

  For pom-pom fever, Mauseritis,
  The toothache or the loafertitis.
  For broken heart or broken nose,
  For every sickness science knows.

  All these and ev'ry other ill,
  Are cured by that well-known Pill;
  'Tis made on earth with pow'rs divine,
  I sing in praise of _Number Nine_.

To expatiate further upon the famous "No. 9 Pill" would be absurd, as it
is as great an institution of the British Army out here as the 4.7 or

[Illustration: Thoughtless Sister (persuasively): "Now I want you to do
something very nice in my Album."]

We are still suffering (worse than ever) from a paucity of news and a
superabundance of rumours; indeed the supply of the latter far exceeds
the demand, and budding fictionists eclipse themselves daily. Had the
Psalmist lived in these days, I feel sure he would hardly have
contented himself with the gentle statement that "all men are liars,"
but have indulged in language far more emphatic. Still as far as we are
concerned, the Boers can beat the most brilliant efforts of our own
fellows any day.

We have a lot of Regulars in this hospital, and it is amusing at times,
and at others rather irritating, to hear some of their criticisms of the
Yeomanry. I recently heard some of them (good fellows) chaffing merrily
over certain Yeomanry (a very small number), who were concerned in an
unfortunate affair some time ago, totally ignoring the fact that a
_large_ number of Regular Infantry and Mounted Infantry were also
equally involved. Again the Cavalry may make a mistake, and they have
made a few, but we don't hear much about their incapacity, but let the
Yeomanry commit a similar error, and we hear about it, I can tell you. I
venture these few remarks in common fairness to the Yeomanry, my
temperature being quite normal, as I fancy they have often been used as
a butt where others would have done as well.

The explanation, it appears, is this. A corps of new Yeomanry is being
formed, who are to receive five shillings a day; we also, of the
original Yeomanry, are to receive the same at the expiration of a year's
service, having up till then been paid the regular cavalry pay, for
which we enlisted. Naturally, Thomas A. feels exceedingly wroth at
"blooming ammychewers" receiving such remuneration, and to use his own
metaphor, "chews the fat" accordingly. His position and feelings remind
me very strongly of the poor soldier in "The Tin Gee-Gee!"

  Then that little tin soldier he sobbed and sighed,
    So I patted his little tin head,
  "What vexes your little tin soul?" said I,
    And this is what he said:
  "I've been on this stall a very long time,
    And I'm marked '1/3' as you see,
  While just above my head he's marked '5 bob,'
    Is a bloke in the Yeoman-ree.
  Now he hasn't any service and he hasn't got no drill,
    And I'm better far than he,
  Then why mark us at fifteen pence,
    And five bob the Yeoman-ree?"
        etc.       etc.       etc.

I am very sorry for poor friend Thomas.

On Wednesday (the 23rd) we heard the sad news that our Queen was dead.
It came as quite a blow to us, and even now seems hardly credible; we
had only heard the previous day of her serious condition. All through
the Hospital everyone seems to be experiencing a personal bereavement. I
overheard a Tommy remark, in a subdued tone full of respect, when he was
told the news, "Well she done her jewty." And I am sure it summed up his
and our feelings very accurately. A man has also told me of the death of
Captain McLean, at Krugersdorp, which is very sad; he always looked so
fit. Mr. Cory is now captain of our squadron and the only Sussex
Yeomanry officer in South Africa.


                                        _January 30th, 1901._

You will soon begin to think that I am a permanent boarder at this
place; indeed, I almost feel so myself now; though as a matter of fact I
am expecting to be marked out any hour--the sooner the better, for the
enforced inactivity is by no means free from monotony, not to mention
headaches, toothaches, and sleepless nights, from which one seldom
suffers on the veldt. I have found out a dodge for obtaining a better
night's sleep than is one's usual lot, and that is a good pitched pillow
fight before turning in. Of course, it is advisable not to be caught by
the night sister.

Last night we had a terrific storm, and had to stand by the poles and
tent walls for a long time. The wind, hail and rain were tremendous, and
in spite of our tents all being on sloping ground, with trenches a foot
deep around them, we got a bit of moisture in as it was.

On Monday, His Majesty King Edward VII., was proclaimed in Pretoria, a
salute of guns fired from the Artillery barracks, and all flags
temporarily mast-headed, and back to you good folks at home we sent
echoing our loyal sentiment, "God save the King."

On Saturday, Whiteing waltzed gaily up and paid me a visit, having got
leave into Pretoria from Rietfontein, where he had been left with other
men, all minus noble quadrupeds, and on Sunday another old comrade, the
Great Boleno, darkened the door of our tent and brightened me with the
light of his presence. He had been one of Clements' orderlies for the
last two months, and had accompanied the general into Pretoria, and
succeeded in securing a good civil berth in the town.

[Illustration: "God save the King!" January 1901.]

From these I learnt the fortunes of the battalion up to date. Briefly,
after I left them they were some time at Rietfontein; then at
Buffalspoort, where they did delightful guards, pickets, and early
morning standing to horses; after which those possessed of horses went
on to Rustenburg, I believe, where they now are, the horseless ones
going back into Rietfontein.

So now the Seventh Battalion of Imperial Yeomanry, like many others, is
spread well over the face of the land.[8] Some of the fellows are home;
some on their way thither; some in this hospital, some in others; some
are in the police; some in civil employment; some with sick horses at
Rietfontein; some in a detail camp at Elandsfontein (near Johannesburg);
some with the battalion, at Rustenburg; and some, alas, are not.

         [Footnote 8: The subsequent adventures of the battalion under
         General Cunningham and later Dixon and Benson I am, of
         course, unable to record.]

Whiteing gave me a vivid description of his journey into Pretoria on one
of the steam-sappers running between that town and Rietfontein; they are
known as the Pretoria-Rietfontein expresses. As he put it, they stop for
nothing, over rocks, through spruits and dongas, squelch over one of
French's milestones here and there, the ponderous iron horse snorted on
its wild career till its destination was reached.


Though I am well off for literature of all sorts (my locker is a
scandal), I don't seem to be able to settle down to anything like a
quiet, enjoyable read at all. Tommy Atkins _never_ seems to realise that
one cannot carry on a conversation and read a book simultaneously, or
write a letter.

        "Oh for a booke and a shadie nooke,
           Eyther indoore or out;
  With the grene leaves whysperynge overheade,
           Or the streete cryes all about.
         Where I maie reade all at mine ease,
            Both of the newe and olde;
  For a jollie goode booke whereon to looke,
            Is better to me than golde."

Thus the olde songe. And the kopjes are gazing stonily at me through the
tent door; a man two beds off is squirming and ejaculating under the
massage treatment of a powerful khaki _masseur_; doctors, sisters,
orderlies, and runners come and go; a triangular duel between three
patients on the usual subject--the superior merits of their respective
regiments--is in full swing; and the realisation of the foregoing rhyme
seems afar off.

I, however, am not the only man with yearnings for a different state of
affairs. Private Patrick McLaughlan, of the Inniskilling Fusiliers,
occupying the bed on my right, has his. He often tells us his ideal of
happiness, a "pub" corner with half-a-dozen pint pots containing
ambrosial "four 'arf" before him, and a well-seasoned old clay three
inches long filled with black Irish twist.

The other day I ventured to Omarise his ideal of the earthly paradise

  A pipe of blackish hue for smoking fit,
  Some good ould Irish twist to put in it;
    Six pints of beer in a hostel snug,
  And there, a king in Paradise, I'd sit.

His only comment was a vast expectoration.

By-the-way, my friend, Patrick, relates a good loot tale which befell
his regiment in the Free State. They camped one day within easy distance
of a store, kept by the usual gentleman of Hebrew extraction. Pat and
his comrades made a rush for the place and collared all of the condensed
milk, for which the merchant charged (or attempted to) a shilling per
tin. About five men, early arrivals, paid; then in the scramble which
ensued the rest omitted to do likewise. On returning to camp and opening
the tins the milk appeared peculiar, and the regimental Æsculapius
hearing of it, inspected the tins, pronounced them bad, and told the men
to take them back to the store and get _their money_ refunded, which
they did. Of course, the gentle Hebrew protested vehemently, but Tommy,
with the medical officer's word behind him, soon persuaded him to do
what he was told. Patrick was six shillings to the good over this
transaction. And I daresay the wily Israelite regretted having had such
a large stock of milk, though presumably he had hoped to rob the
Philistines, not, as the case proved, to be doubly done by them.



He came up to me and handed me a photograph. I took it, and beheld a
being clad in a new khaki uniform and obviously conscious of the fact.
An empty bandolier crossed his extended chest diagonally. His slouch
hat was well tilted to the right, with the chin strap arranged just
under the lower lip. The putties were immaculately entwined around his
legs--in short the _tout ensemble_ was decidedly smart and soldier-like.
His right hand rested lightly on a Sheraton table; in the immediate
background was a portion of a low ornamental garden wall, in the
distance was a ruin principally composed of Ionic columns in various
positions--presumably the devastating work of the warrior in the
foreground, "Look on that," he said bitterly, and as I returned it, "and
on this, the _backbone_ of the British Army," smiting his manly breast.
I looked, and in the bronzed, unshaven face and raggedly-apparelled
figure before me, recognised a certain semblance to him of the
photograph. I smiled sympathetically. "As it was," quoth he, "now and
ever shall be, war without end." I turned to go, but was not fated to
escape so easily. He held me with his bloodshot eyes, and perforce I
stayed. With upraised voice he declaimed thus:


  (_Being what the Yeoman said to the Psalmist._)

  Tell me not in ceaseless rumours
    That we soon are going home,
  Just to cure our bitter humours,
    While upon the veldt we roam.

  War is real, and war is earnest,
    And Pretoria warn't the goal,
  Out thou cam'st, but when returnest
    Is not known to any soul.

  Forward, fighting, smoking, chewing,
    With a heart for any fate,
  Still achieving, still pursuing,
    And arriving--_just too late_.

I fled.


                                    _Wednesday, February 6th, 1901._

Another week has rolled away; a week's march nearer home anyway, and
like the great MacMahon, I am here and here I sticks. The most thrilling
event of the past seven days has been the sudden and unexpected
reception of mails, after having abandoned all hope, and a parcel which
arrived in Pretoria for me during the first week in September.

I was interested to read in an enclosed note that my aunt hoped I should
be home to spend Christmas with her. By-the-bye, people have been
awfully good in sending me invitations to weddings, funerals, and
christenings. In August last I was the recipient of a dainty invitation
to the wedding of a friend. The sad event was to take place in June. I
didn't go. The latest was a cream-laid affair, from another quarter, on
which I was requested in letters of gold to honour certain near and dear
relatives with my presence at the christening of their firstborn. As the
affair was to take place in December, and I received the pressing
invitation at the end of January--I was again unable to be present at
another interesting ceremony. I have also received several invitations
to Terpsichorean revels. My R.S.V.P. has been curtly to the effect that
"Mr. P.T.R. is not dancing this season."

As regards deaths and funerals, I have seen and attended more than
enough of them out here. At this present moment a friend, a New
Zealander, is in parlous plight. He was shot in the right shoulder, the
wound soon healed, but the arm was almost useless, so the massage fiend
here used to come and give him terrible gip. Then doctor No. 3 came
along, said he had been treated wrongly, that the artery was severed,
etc., and operated on him. The operation itself was successful, but as
regards other matters, it is touch and go with him, his arm is black up
to a little above the elbow, in places it is ebony, and, I understand,
amputation, if the worse comes to the worst, is almost out of the
question. So, with others, I go in to keep him cheered up, and chaff him
over the champagne and other luxuries he is on, suggesting what a lovely
black eye his ebony right mawler might give a fellow, and feeling all
the time a strong inclination to do a sob. He is such a rattling fine
fellow, indeed, all the Colonials I have met are.[9]

         [Footnote 9: Since my return I have heard from "Scotty," as
         we used to call him. He wrote from his home in New Zealand,
         his right arm had been successfully amputated, and he was
         getting accustomed to its loss.]

Last night we had an open-air concert; the best part of it, as is often
the case at such affairs, appeared to be the refreshments which were
provided for the officers and artists. The talent was really not of a
high order, being supplied from Pretoria.

The chairman, who introduced the performers and announced the items,
affording us most entertainment, usually, unconsciously, he being a
long-winded individual, and invariably commencing his remarks with
"Er-hem! Ladies and gentleman, a great Greek philosopher once said"--or
"There is an old proverb." He essayed to give us "The dear Homeland,"
but being interrupted in one of his most ambitious vocal flights by a
giddy young officer (and a gentleman) throwing a bundle of music and a
bunch of vegetables at him, hastily finished his song, and in a
dignified voice requested us to conclude the proceedings by singing "God
Save the Quing." This was the first time I had sung the National Anthem,
since the death of our Queen, and I felt, as no doubt everybody has
experienced, a most peculiar feeling on singing the words, "God Save the

Then to bed, but not to sleep, for that is a difficult matter here--so I
laid and chatted with a trooper of Roberts' Horse, the latest occupant
of the next bed to me. He is, or rather was, a schoolmaster, wears
spectacles and is grey-headed; what induced him to join in this little
game heaven, and he, only know. In the midst of a discussion on the
Afrikander Bond and the South African League, the night sister came in
and imperiously bade us be silent and go to sleep. So the grey-headed
schoolmaster and my humble self, like guilty children, became silent,
and serenaded by the ubiquitous mosquito wooed sweet Morpheus.

Thursday, February 7th. Last night it rained steadily nearly all night;
and it has just recommenced. It is quite an agreeable change to see a
leaden sky and hear the rain softly pattering on the tent roof, after
many days of sweltering, dazzling heat, _when one is in a comfortable
tent_. But it makes me think of and wish for a comfortable room at home,
a good book, pipe, and an easy chair, the prospect outside beautifully
dreary and rainy, a fire in front of me and my slippered feet on the
library mantelpiece.

A rather amusing incident occurred just now. One of the Devon Yeomanry
who went up to the tent which is our post-office, on the off-chance of
getting a letter, to his great astonishment got one. He came back eyeing
the address suspiciously, and remarking, "It's tracts, I'm thinkin." His
conjecture turned out correct. It appears that a certain thoughtful and
religious society at home looks down the lists of the wounded and, now
and again, sends some of the worst cases tracts. The title of one of the
pamphlets was, "I've got my ticket," which amused us immensely, for to
get one's ticket means to be booked for home. Another title was "The
finger of God"--this to a man who has had an explosive bullet through
his forearm seems rather rough.

I fear my letters are becoming dreadfully reminiscent and anecdotal, but
adventures and wanderings are not for the man who loafs in hospital.

Wednesday, February 13th. I am all _kiff_ (military for "right"). This
morning we had a mild joke with a new night orderly. As you may be
aware, it is this gentleman's duty to wash all the bad bed patients.
When he came in soon after _reveillé_ and asked if there were any bed
patients to be washed, we all feebly replied, "Yes, all of us," and he
had ablutionised three before he discovered the deception, when he
anathematised us all.

News is more rigorously suppressed than ever, and undoubtedly it is the
right thing to do. Everybody is of this opinion, for the _friendly_
Dutch in Pretoria and elsewhere used to know far too much.


Friday. Yesterday was unfortunately the day of Valentine the Saint. I
say "unfortunately" for this reason: I was just about to continue this
letter, when our day orderly came in, and taking advantage of my
sympathetic and credulous nature, after boldly reminding me that it was
St. Valentine's Day, told me that he had only loved once and never would

In this respect he differs considerably from the majority of orderlies.
He then comfortably arranged himself on a vacant bed, and unsolicited,
with a smiling face, told me the romantic story of his blighted
affection. As it may interest you, I will give you a condensed version
of the same. Would to Heaven he had so dealt with me. But I was born to
suffer, and was I not in hospital? As a coster lad he went with a young
woman who loved him. He also loved her. Her name was Olivia. She went
upon the "styge," and loved him still. Then an old nobleman (Sir ----)
fell in love with her, followed her persistently, and wooed her through
her parents. He was rich but honest, and it was a case of December and
April, for she was all showers--of tears. At last, against her heart's
dictates, she married him and became an old man's pet--nuisance, I
should imagine, and my orderly friend became a soldier. Alas for the
trio, she could not forget her old, I mean young, love, and eventually
blew her brains out in Paris. They spattered the ceiling and ruined the
carpet--I forgot the rest, (there was a lovely account of it in the
_People_), for over-taxed nature could stand no more, and I fell asleep
dreaming of reporters wading ankle-deep in blood in a Louis Quatorze
drawing-room, taking notes of a terrible tragedy in high life, and was
horrified to hear a loud report, followed by a gurgling sound, and,
opening my eyes, beheld--Mr. Orderly holding one of my bottles of stout
upside down to his lips, and in his other hand my corkscrew with a cork
on the end of it.

Private McLaughlan, of the Inniskillings, having heard of this, informed
me that he "jined th' Army" because his father would not let him keep
five racehorses; and Private Hewitt, of the 12th M.I., gave his reason
as being his refusal to marry a _h_eiress. After this our orderly ceased
from troubling--for a time.

Amongst the many sad cases I have come across, here is one which strikes
me as being particularly pitiable. A poor fellow of the 2nd Lincolns is
the patient I am thinking about. He is deaf, deaf as a stone wall, is
sickening for enteric, cannot read, and is at times delirious. The tent
the poor fellow is in is not a very good one, and he seems quite
friendless. There he lies in his bed, never uttering a word or hearing
one, and as helpless as a child. Some mornings back I saw him eating his
porridge with his fingers, the man who had handed it to him having
forgotten to give him a spoon. His utter loneliness seems too awful. I
wonder what his poor mind thinks about. When told that he would
probably be sent home, he said he did not want to go. Surely somewhere
in God's sweet world there is somebody who cares for and thinks about
him. I cannot half express to you the sadness of his solitude.


                                        NO. 2 HOSPITAL TRAIN,
                                         _Monday, February 18th._

On Friday I had my sheet marked with those magic words "For base,"
paraded on Saturday morning before the P.M.O., and a few hours later was
told to go to the pack store, draw my kit, and be ready to entrain at
five. So I had to rush about.

It was soon time to parade for the station, and I had to rush through as
many leave-takings as possible. Good-bye to Sister Douglas, Sister
Mavius, Sister O'Connor; to an Australian Bushman friend with injured
toes, who hobbles about on his heels; to poor old Scotty, the New
Zealander, as game as they make them, who is to have his right arm off
on Monday (to-day); to a big, good-natured gunner of No. 10 Mountain
Battery, whose acquaintance I had only just made; to a Piccadilly
Yeoman; to our day orderly, and dozens of other good fellows, and I had
said farewell, or perhaps only _au revoir_, to the I.Y. Hospital
Arcadia, with the doctor of our ward, Dr. Douglas, one of the cleverest
and best, the Sisters with their albums, and all its tragedies and
comedies. Perjuring my soul beyond redemption by cordial promises to
write to all and sundry, so I left them.

       *       *       *       *       *

Once aboard the lugger, I should say train, our berths were allotted to
us, and we soon settled down. The whole thing is very much like being on
shipboard, save that there the authorities are all for turning you out
of your hammocks ("turn out o' them 'ammicks!"), and here they are all
for keeping you in your bunk, the space being so limited. On each man's
bed was a well-filled white canvas bag, being a present from the Good
Hope and British Red Cross Societies. These were opened with no little
curiosity. Strange to say one of the first things an old toothless
Yorkshireman drew out was--a toothbrush. This caused general amusement.
There was nothing shoddy about the contents of these bags; they
contained a suit of pyjamas, shoes, a shirt, socks, towel, sponge bag
with sponge, soap, and toothbrush in it, a hairbrush, and handkerchief.
So could you but see me now, as I write, you would behold a being clad
in a swagger suit of Cambridge blue pyjamas.

Before daybreak a terrific bang aroused us to the fact that the engine
which was to bear us southward had come into action, and soon we were
under way. At Elandsfontein we beheld the mail train _with our mails_
going up. Farewell to mails! Kroonstad was reached at half-past two, and
we were shunted into a siding till this morning, when we resumed our
journey, passing _through_ Bloemfontein, to our joy, and arriving at
Springfontein soon after dark.

What a gigantic affair this war has been, and is. To travel through
these countries, the Transvaal, Orange River Colony, and the Cape Colony
(Tuesday morning, we are now in the latter) by rail alone is to feel all
criticism silenced.

Already we have passed hundreds of miles of flat veldt, with now and
again big kopjes in the background. At every station, bridge, and small
culvert are bodies of regulars, militia, and volunteers, or colonial and
other mounted troops. And when one considers that the bigger towns are
being strongly held, also various posts all over these countries, and
columns are operating in various districts, the whole affair fills one
with wonder and admiration. We expect to reach Deelfontein this evening.
An R.A.M.C. man has just been discussing that ghastly failure,
inoculation, with another man. Said he: "Inoculation is bally
tommy-rot!" Quoth the other, "That be hanged for a yarn. Tommy rot,
indeed, it nearly killed me!" It's a fact, the unnecessary suffering
which was endured by the poor beggars who allowed this experiment to be
performed upon them, with the hope of spoofing the fever fiend, has been
great. And strange to say, in many cases they (the inoculated) have been
the first victims.

Once again we are amongst our old enemies, the kopjes, which, south of
the Orange River Colony, begin to assert themselves again. There has
been any amount of rain down this way, and muddy water is flowing like
the milk and honey of the promised land. From wet tents and saturated
blanket kennels bronzed ragamuffins appear at every halting spot, and
simultaneously they and we ask each other the old, old question, "Any

Sometimes they break the monotony of the negative by telling us that "De
Wet is mortally wounded," or "has got away again," and we tell them that
"Botha is surrounded." Some of the sanguine spirits aboard this train
are buoying themselves up with the idea of getting home. Alas! there's
many a slip 'twixt the land and the ship, as I fear they will find to
their bitter disappointment.

It is now Tuesday evening. We have just reached Naauwpoort, where we are
spending the night. The Cape mail train has been detained here all day,
the line ahead having been blown up, or some such thing, a train
derailed and fired on, a Yeoman and several niggers killed, and other
fellows injured. Brother Boer seems more in evidence down here than in
any other place we have passed between Pretoria and this place.

                                         IMPERIAL YEOMANRY HOSPITAL,

We arrived here on Thursday, February 21st. Between Naauwpoort and De
Aar we passed the derailed train. Mr. Boer had done his work well--from
his point of view. The engine (575) was lying on its side quite smashed,
as were also several broken and splintered trucks, while a few graves
completed the picture. But the line was intact once again. An officer of
Engineers and some men were standing by their completed task as we
slowly came up and passed the spot.

  Line Clear: o'er blood and sweat, and pain, and sorrow's road I ran,
  And every sleeper was a wound, and every rail a man.

The first person I beheld from the carriage window on arriving here was
one of our Sussex fellows. He seemed very pleased to see me, and I
certainly was to see him. He has been here a week or more, and in that
time had acquainted himself with the ropes. Having been given
accommodation in the emergency tent for the night, he took me by divers
ways to a bell tent in which I found two or three men of Paget's Horse,
acquaintances of the "Delphic" days, another Sussex man, and a large
washing basin containing beer--obtained no matter how. Into the basin a
broken cup and a tin mug were being constantly dipped. With this,
cigarettes, and chatter, the evening passed very agreeably. Of course
this is early to criticise the Hospital and its working, but the general
impression of we ex-Arcadians is that the Pretoria shop is far superior.

As regards reaching Cape Town, one cannot say much. A good many of our
fellows have been sent back to Elandsfontein, which has been styled as
"the home for lost Yeomanry." In the station, a few hundred yards off,
is a fine khaki armoured train, with a pom-pom named "Edward VII."
mounted on the centre truck.


                                        WYNBERG HOSPITAL,
                                          CAPE COLONY.
                                          _Monday, February 25th, 1901._

The above address may appear to you like a day's march nearer home, but
it is more than likely nothing of the sort. Having once got the
convalescent gentlemen in khaki down south as far as Cape Town, and
raised the home yearning hearts of the aforementioned to an altitude
beyond the loftiest peak of the Himalayas--the medical officers here
return them as shuttlecocks from a battledore up country, and it's a
case of "gentlemen in khaki ordered North."

We arrived here this morning early, having left Deelfontein at daybreak
yesterday (Sunday). Ambulance carts conveyed us to the Wynberg Hospital,
where I now am.

Tuesday, 26th. Wherever I go I seem to fall fairly well on my feet and
meet old friends. In the next room (each ward is divided into rooms,
these are barracks in time of peace) are two fellows who were in my tent
at Pretoria; one was half-blinded by lightning. They are rattling good
fellows. My bed chum, the man next to me, is a man of the Rifle Brigade,
who has lost an eye, and, again, is a ripping fine chap. This is an
R.A.M.C. show, and everything is regimental, dem'd regimental. We have
the regulation barrack-room cots, which have to be limbered up and
dressed with the familiar brown blankets and sheets in apple-pie or,
rather, Swiss roll, order. Also, the locker has to be kept very neat and
symmetrical. To drop a piece of paper in the room would be almost
courting a court-martial. So, whenever I have a small piece of paper to
throw away, I roam about like a criminal anxious to conceal a corpse,
and am often nearly driven to chewing and swallowing it, after the
well-known method of famous heroes and criminals.

[Illustration: Tommy's Spittoon.

In Hospital the bed-patients whose principal pleasure in smoking seems
to be the spitting, have recourse to the above.]

I have already referred to the confounded regimentality of this place.
The very red cross on our virgin white R.A.M.C. banner is made of red
tape, not bunting, I am positive. It almost goes without saying that we
have to don, and never leave off, in the daytime, the cobalt blue
uniform and huge red tie so dear to the controllers of these
establishments. The blue trousers are terrible things, being lined with
some thick material and kept up by a tape at the waist. A friend of mine
in Paget's Horse will not have them called trousers, but always alludes
to them as leg casings.

I am not quite so particular about my food as formerly, but the Imperial
Yeomanry Hospital at Pretoria must have spoiled me. Then, again, there
was the Deelfontein one, so I must set aside my own opinion and give you
that of others. The food (in our ward) is little and poor; being one
pound of bread and an ounce of butter per day for men on _full_ rations,
accompanied at morn and eventide by a purply fluid called "tea." At
mid-day a tin of tough meat with a potato or two is served up, for which
we are truly thankful. Amen! As regards recreation we get plenty of
that--airing bedding, scrubbing lockers and floors, cleaning windows,
whitewashing, washing our plates and other tinware after our sumptuous
repasts, general tidying up, having rows with the sergeant-major, and a
myriad other little pastimes help to while the hours away. In full view
of our ward is the slate-coloured gun carriage which is used for
conveying the unfittest to their last long rest. It is kept outside of a
barn-like building, and its contemplation affords us much food (extra
ration) for reflection. It is often used.


         [Footnote 10: An officer, for whom I have the highest esteem,
         whilst kindly conveying to me his very favourable opinion of
         these "Letters," regretted the inclusion of the following
         "grouse" in these words: "When I think of many cheery, dirty,
         ragged, half-starved youngsters I met out there, weighted
         into an unaccustomed responsibility for men's lives and the
         safety of their columns, and no more their own masters than
         you were, bravely trying to do a duty which many of them
         really loathed, I feel it is hard that a minority of
         'rotters' should blacken the good name of the majority."]

As I pause, and ponder what else I can tell you in this letter, it
occurs to me that I have not yet told you of the one great disillusion
of this campaign for me and _all_ other former civilians--I mean "The
British Officer." The few remarks which I am now going to make are
founded on the universal opinion of all the Regular soldiers and
Colonial and home-bred Volunteers I have met out here. I have hesitated
to give this verdict before, because it seemed like rank heresy or a
kind of sacrilege; but having asked every man I have come across,
especially the Regular soldier, his estimate of this person, and always
receiving the same emphatic reply, I feel I can now make my few remarks
without being regarded as too hasty or ill-informed.

There are officers who are real good fellows, and of these I will tell
presently; but there are others--_heaps of others_. These latter are
selfish, and frequently incompetent beings, without the slightest
consideration for their men, and with a terrible amount for their dear
selves. Talk about their roughing it! Most of these individuals have the
best of camp beds to rest on, servants to wait on them, good stuff to
eat, and, more often than not, whisky, or brandy to drink. And, oh, my
sisters, oh, my brothers, when _they_ have to commence roughing it, it
is hard indeed for poor Tommy. Many a tale have I heard of thirsty tired
Tommies being refused their water cart in camp, as the officers required
the water out of it for their baths.

The beautiful stories, on the other hand, of the officer being troubled
because his men were in bad case, and sharing the contents of his
haversack or water bottle with a poor "done-up" Tommy, are generally
pure fiction. To hear of Tommy sharing with a chum or a stranger is
common enough. Out here one learns to appreciate the ranker more, and
the commissioned man less. And when one comes across a good officer, how
he is appreciated! Often when I have asked a regular what sort of
officers he had, and received the invariable emphatic reply, he has
stopped, and in quite a different voice, with a smile on his face, said,
"But there was Mr. ----; now he was a _real_ gentleman." And then he has
waxed eloquent in this popular officer's praises, relating how "he used
to be like one of ourselves," insisted on taking his relief at digging
trenches, came and chatted to them round their fires at night, and in
scores of ways endeared himself to their hearts.

My Rifle friend has just been telling me of such an officer, a young one
they had, named Wilson (how he eulogised Mr. Wilson! "He was a good 'un,
he was. A _real_ gentleman"). He died, poor fellow, up Lydenburg way.
Then he told me of another, a Mr. Baker-Carr; of him he said, "And there
isn't a man of us to-day who, if he was in danger, wouldn't die for

As for the opinion of the Colonials of our officers, you surely know
that. This little anecdote expresses pretty well how they stand one with
the other:


     New Zealander, just in from trek, passing, pipe in mouth, by a
     young officer just out.

     _Officer_ (stopping New Zealander): "Do you know who I am?"

     _N.Z._ (removing pipe): "No."

     _Officer_: "I am an officer!"

     _N.Z._: "Oh."

     _Officer_: "I--am--an--officer!"

     _N.Z._: "Well, take an old soldier's advice and don't get drunk
     and lose your commission."

     _Officer_: "D---- you. Don't you salute an officer when you see

     _N.Z._ (very calmly): "D---- and dot you! It's seldom we salute
     our own officers, so it isn't likely we'd salute you."

     _Officer_: "Confound it. If you couldn't stand discipline, what
     did you come out here for?"

     _N.Z._: "To fight."

     _Officer_ (moving on): "I suppose you are one of those damned


That very great, august and omnipotent being, the Sergeant-Major of this
establishment, has just been round. His motto is, I fancy, "_Veni, vidi,
vici_." To him nothing is ever perfect, save himself. He entered,
"Shun!" and we stood at attention by our cots. A trembling sergeant and
orderly followed in his train. Upon us, one by one, he pounced, this
"brave, silent (?) man" at the back. My blue fal-de-lal jacket he
unbuttoned and revealed, horror of horrors, very crime of crimes, the
fact that I was not wearing the monstrous red scarf which, according to
the laws of the R.A.M.C., which alter not, must always be worn by all
patients at all times, in life, or even in death, I presume. And
further, a most perspiring bare chest revealed the heinous fact that I
had omitted to put on the _thick_ flannel shirt which has to be worn
under the coarse white cotton one. Why wasn't I wearing this article? I
explained that I was too hot already. That did not matter a Continental.
Where was it? I produced it from under a bed near by and managed to
avoid putting it on in his presence, as that would have still further
revealed that I was wearing a belt containing money, which is contrary
to Rule No. something or other, in which it is emphatically laid down
that all jewels, money, and valuables are to be given in to the
staff-sergeant in charge of the pack store, who will give a receipt for
the same, &c., and so forth. Verily the backbone of the Army is the
non-commissioned man, but I must confess to frequently wishing to break,
or at least dislocate, that backbone.

The mosquitoes here seem rather more troublesome than their Pretoria
relatives. There are twenty men in the next room, and only three of us
here; and we three get a frightful lot of attention from these
_skeeturs_. They seem vicious as well as hungry. We fancy this is to be
explained by the fact that they had been marked down from up country for
the base and England, and are enraged at being kept here with the
prospect of being returned whence they came; their hunger in this
R.A.M.C. Hospital we can understand, and would sympathise with more if
they did not treat us as rations. Other patients have a theory that they
are the lost and much damned spirits of R.A.M.C. officers,
non-commissioned officers, and men, who have gone before and come back
to their old earthly billet. But of course these are all mere surmises,
and hardly to be regarded seriously. On Thursday I am to be sent to
Rondebosch, Tommy's oft and ever-repeated cry, "Roll on, dear old
Blighty" (England), seems vainer than ever as time spins out its endless


                                        MCKENZIE'S FARM,
                                          MAITLAND (once again).
                                            _Sunday, March 3rd, 1901._

Of late my addresses have been many and varied. The above is the latest.
I have filtered through into Maitland, which has changed considerably
since last April. On Thursday last I left Wynberg for the convalescent
camp at Rondebosch without any regret, for, as a matter of fact, I was
getting hungry. On the afternoon of that day I found myself one of a
very unselect-looking band of khaki men, parading before the terrible
R.A.M.C. Sergt.-Major of the Wynberg Hospital.

Just before parading, I saw the gun carriage, alluded to in my last,
being used; going past our ward, in slow time, with reversed arms, went
the perspiring and, let us hope not, but I fear 'twas so, the angry
Tommies told off as the escort. Then came the gun carriage with its
flag-covered burden. Only another enteric, only another broken heart or
so at home, another vacant chair to look at and sigh, and the small but
strictly regimental and unsympathetic procession had passed; and the
half-interrupted conversation in the ward went gaily on. Having paraded
and answered to our names, a doctor strolled down the ranks questioning
us, "Are you all right?" All those who answered said "Yes." The question
was supposed to be put individually, but by the time he got to where I
was, the worthy man was slurring over about three or four at a time. I
didn't trouble to reply, it being obviously unnecessary. About
half-an-hour later, the ambulance carts came up, which were to bear us
to Rondebosch, and we were ordered to carry our kits down and get in. So
the halt and the broken picked up their kits--some of them were very
heavy--and staggered with them to the carts, a distance of about fifty

In particular, I noticed one poor fellow, a gunner of the 37th Battery,
R.F.A. A water cart had gone over him at Mafeking, and fractured three
ribs and affected his spine. The poor, emaciated, bent figure of what
had once been a smart soldier lifted a rather heavy kit and tottered
towards the carts. I felt disgusted at seeing such unnecessary labour
thrust on a man, who never should have left the hospital save to go
home. But he had been turned out by the powers which be, and--I was
going to say shouldn't, but the R.A.M.C. are all honourable men--when I
saw a sprightly, well-fed R.A.M.C. Lance-Corporal walking smartly after
him, and in a relieved voice I remarked to the man on my left: "The
Corporal is going to carry it for him," to which my neighbour remarked:
"He can't, he's got a stripe." And, begad, he didn't! He passed him,
apparently not having noticed him. I shall have a little more to tell
you of the gunner presently.

The drive to Rondebosch, through Wynberg, Kenilworth and Claremont, was
lovely beyond words. I had a box seat, and as we drove through the
avenues of trees, down the roads, with the gardens of the
comfortable-looking bungalows a mass of green foliage and tropical
blooms on either side of us, I felt like a gaol-bird escaped from his
cage. You may laugh at me if you like, but there I sat with dilating
nostrils and eyes, absorbing all I could. Often we passed English girls
in white costumes, and pretty, clean-looking children. It was a real
treat. Of course, they took no notice of us. We were a common and not
altogether pleasing looking lot, many among us being

     "Poor fighting men, broke in her wars."

At last the pleasant drive came to its end, and we entered the
Rondebosch camp. I was told off with 25 others to a hut, drew bedding
and blankets--which included bugs--had some tea at a coffee bar, looked
about, and turned in for the night. Alas! that night and others.
Rondebosch boasts of a dry canteen and _another_, where Tommy can obtain
beer, oftentimes called "Glorious Beer," even as we allude to "Glorious
War." Over the sale of this to men, fresh from the hospitals recovering
from enteric, wounds, and so forth, there is no restriction. The result
needs no imagination--copious libations, songs, rows, and vomitings.

The next day I was put on as Orderly Sergeant. Now, if I was
Sergeant-Major and had among my subordinate "non-coms." a man I wished
to get into trouble, I should make him an Orderly Sergeant at
Rondebosch. About every half-hour the bugles went "Orderly Sergeants,"
and up I doubled. In all, I attended about a score of these summonses,
and even then omitted to report a man who had been absent since

This last sin of omission came about in this way. I was anxious to turn
in early and get a little sleep if possible, but could not do so, as I
had to report "all present and correct" at tattoo. Anyhow, I strolled
down to our hut at nine o'clock and found that the poor gunner alluded
to already was in great pain, writhing about and groaning horribly. One
of his chums who was with him told me he could not find a doctor, and
the chaplain, who had looked in, had said that he could not get him even
a drop of hot water.

The poor fellow was really bad, and thought he was going out, and I
should not have been surprised if he had. Soon a few more chums came in,
somewhat beery, and commenced to buck him up. The great method
apparently on such occasions is to grip the sufferer's hand very
tightly, pull him about a good deal, punch him now and again, and tell
him to bear up. "Stick it, mate! * * * it, you ain't going to * * * well
die! Stick it, mate!" And there he lay, with his pals, fresh from the
canteen, exhorting him to stick it, a poor broken Reserve man, with a
wife and children across the seas. At last I went and, after no little
bother, discovered an R.A.M.C. Sergeant, who found his Sergeant-Major,
and the two came with me to our hut. The result was a mustard leaf,
which was sent down to me to place on the sufferer. With this on the
left side of his stomach, bugs biting, mosquitoes worrying, and comrades
lurching in, singing and rowing, and beds collapsing, the night passed.
The next day the doctor saw him, and he was returned to Wynberg.[11]

         [Footnote 11: I met him again looking much better and in the
         best of spirits on the _Aurania_, being invalided home.]

In the afternoon we paraded and came on here. In the evening I slipped
off to Cape Town and met a friend, with whom I dined at the "Grand."
Having a decent dinner and amongst decently dressed people made me feel
quite a Christian, though as a matter of fact, most of the diners
appeared to be Jews. The sheenie man refugee is still very much in
evidence, and though he sells things at ruinous prices (for himself, he
says) seems to do well.

Tuesday, March 6th. After being kept outside the doctor's bureau from 9
till 12.30, the great man, the controller of fates, the donor of
tickets, the Maitland medicine man, has seen me, and, whatever he has
done, has not marked me for home.


                                        _March 9th._

To weary you with a further continuation of the experiences of a forlorn
Yeoman, who, having drifted from Pretoria, now finds himself on the
sands of Maitland, with a distant and tantalising view of the sea and
its ships, seems an unworthy thing to do. But, alas! I have acquired a
terrible habit of letter-writing. News or no news, given the
opportunity, I religiously once a week contribute to the English mail
bag; so here goes for a really short letter.

On Thursday, having endured as much toothache as I deemed expedient
without complaint, and goaded on by a sleepless night, I paraded before
the doctor, and having borne with him moderately and half satisfied his
credulity, obtained from him a note to a Cape Town dentist for the
following day. I am now in that being's hands, he has considerately
assured me that no man is a hero to his own dentist.

In Cape Town there are two topics--the town guard and the plague, known
as bubonic; owing to the latter, great is the stink of disinfectants.

I have already made allusions to the "Sisters' Albums" and the
contributions which they levied. Here at McKenzie's Farm, I have struck
another style of book. This is run by Sergeant-Major Fownes (10th
Hussars) who is in charge of all of the Yeomanry at the base. It is a
"Confession Book," containing reasons "Why I joined the Imperial
Yeomanry" and "Why I left." It has been contributed to by members of
nearly every I.Y. squadron in South Africa. Thanks to the courtesy of
its owner, I am able to give you a selection from its contents, omitting
the names and squadrons of the contributors only.


   1. To escape my creditors.

   2. Patriotism.

   3. Because I was sick of England.

   4. Could always ride, could always shoot,
     Thought of duty, thought of loot.

   5. "England Expects ----" (you know the rest).

   6. To injure the Boers.

   7. (All Excuses used up.)

   8. I considered it was the right thing for an Englishman
      to do.

   9. Because I thought it was my duty.

  10. A broken heart.

  11. Anxiety to get to South Africa.

  12. For the sake of a little excitement, which I can't get at
      home and didn't get out here.

  13. Patriotic Fever!!!

  14. I did it during the Patriotic Mania, 1899-1900. Under
      like circumstances believe I'd do it again.

  15. Sudden splash of Patriotism upon visiting a Music Hall.

  16. Poetry.

  17. "Married in haste."

  18. Because I did not bring my aged and respected father
      up properly.

  19. To kill Time and Boers.

  20. Because I am Irish and wanted to fight.

  21. Love of War.

  22. For Sport.

  23. My Country's call my ardour fired.

  24. Because I was tired of the Old Country.

  25. Old England's Honour, Glory, Fame,
      Such thoughts were in my mind.
      To die the last but not disgraced,
      A V.C. perhaps to find.
      To sound the charge, to meet the foe,
      To win or wounded lie,
      My firstborn son and I should fight
      And, if the needs be, die.

  26. Hungry for a fight.

  27. Drink and Drink.

  28. Vanity.

  29. Because I thought:

      1 'Twas a glorious life on the veldt,
        So unrestrained and free. (_Note. Read opposite page._)

      2 'Twas grand to lie 'neath the star-lit sky
        In a blanket warm and nice.

      3 'Twas exciting to gallop over the plains
        To the music of the Mausers.

      4 Bully beef and biscuits are all very well,
        And so, for a time, is jam.

  30. To have a lively time.

  31. Wanted to see a little of South Africa.

  32. Came out on Chance.

  33. To escape the Police at home.

  34. Had always preached Patriotism and thought it was the
      time to put theory into practice.

  35. Because I had nothing to do at home
      Bar drinking whiskies and sodas alone,
      And shooting pheasants which is beastly slow,
      So I thought I'd give the Bo-ahs a show.

  36. Thought I would get the V.C.

  37. A soldier's son and a volunteer
      Heaps of glory, bags of beer.

  38. To become acquainted with Colonials before settling.

  39. For adventure.

  40. Northumbria's reply, "Duty."


   1. The old man stumped up and I am in no danger of
      receiving a blue paper.

   2. Captured at Lindley. Too much mealie porridge and rice.

   3. Because I have changed my mind.

   4. Gammy leg, couldn't ride,
      Sent to Cape Town, had to slide.

   5. "Go not too often into thy neighbour's house, lest he be
      weary of thee!"


      1. Imperial Yeomanry Field. 2. Johannesburg Civil.
      3. No. 6 General. 4. No. 9 General. 5. No. 8 General.
      6. Deelfontein. 7. Maitland.

   6. Because they injured me.

   7. Love of my native land (England).

   8. I did not get enough fighting, but too much messing

   9. "FED UP!!!"

  10. A broken leg (more serious and imperative).

  11. Anxiety to get away from it.

  12. Joined B.P.'s Police Force to still search for the

  13. Enteric Fever!!!

  14. Ill health.

  15. Bathing one day, found varicose veins much to my
      delight. Invalided.

  16. Prose.

  17. "Repented at leisure."

  18. To see if he has improved.

  19. Because Time and Boers wait for no man.

  20. Because I want to do more fighting and am joining the

  21. Love of Peace.

  22. Time for close season.

  23. The "Crisis" o'er, I've now retired.

  24. Because I was sick of the New.

  25. Alas, no Glory have I earned,
      No Trumpet's Requiem found,
      Altho' I've laid upon the veldt,
      With scanty comfort round.
      My son has seen more fights than I,
      Tho' he is scarce fifteen,
      Whilst I must sound my trumpet at
      The Yeoman's Base-fontein.
                        SERGT.-TRUMPETER (McKenzie's Farm).

  26. Appetite appeased.

  27. Drink and Drink.

  28. Vexation of Spirit.

  29. But I found:

      1 That after twelve months of the same I felt
        It was not the life for me.

      2 That when you wanted to go to sleep,
        You're scratching and hunting for l--ce.

      3 That 'twas very unpleasant to ride all day
        When you'd lost the seat of your trousers.

      4 That to get nothing else for more than six months,
        Would make any fellow say "D----!"

  30. What with Mausers by day and crawlers by night. I
      had it.

  31. Have seen enough.

  32. Going home to a Certainty.

  33. Same reason here.

  34. The Patriotic Fever has run its natural course.

  35. Because the Bo-ahs shot me instead,
      And the papers (confound them) reported me "dead,"
      That sort of game is rather too bad,
      So the prodigal now returns to his dad.

  36. Got C.B. instead!

  37. Bags of biscuits hard as rocks,
      Smashed my teeth and gave me sox!

  38. To join the Bodyguard for same reason and--_better pay_.

  39. To go back to a hum-drum life, which is better than a
      Dum-Dum death.

  40. Novelty somewhat worn off, and military discipline not
      being at all adapted to my temperament.

In a few days all the men marked for home will be leaving, and to those
they will be leaving behind them the yearning to be on the sea once
again, seems stronger than ever,

  "Can you hear the crash on her bows, dear lass,
  And the drum of the racing screw.
  As she ships it green on the old trail, our own trail, the home trail,
  As she lifts and 'scends on the long trail--the trail that is always


                                         _April 22nd, 1901._

  "We're goin' 'ome, we're goin' 'ome,
    Our ship is at the shore,
  An' you must pack your 'aversack,
    _For we won't come back no more_."

So from going up to Elandsfontein, which is by Johannesburg, it came to
the above cheerful sentiment. And this is how it happened. An order came
from somewhere to our doctor, who had of late so hardened his heart, to
"invalid convalescents freely," and, to be brief, within a few days
nearly every man at Maitland was marked for home, wore a smiling face,
and drew warm clothes for the voyage.

The next burning questions were "What boat will it be and when does she
sail?" Needless to say, these interrogatories were answered at least
thrice a day, and were always wide of the mark. Still, we were booked
for home, and could afford to wait cheerfully. Our hut (No. 1),
inhabited by the thirty best men in the camp (any man of that hut will
tell you this assertion is correct), thereupon blossomed forth as the
publishing and editorial offices of a camp newspaper known as the


In this journal shipping intelligence was a speciality, and topical
cartoons a great feature. We claimed the largest circulation in the
camp. The various articles, stop-press news, and cartoons, were stuck on
the walls of the hut and afforded much entertainment. Of course, B.P.
was very unpopular in Cape Town and with us, and had to be dealt with
severely. (Note.--Not the Mafeking man or the "worth a guinea a box"
lot, but the Bubonic Plague).

A few days before sailing I caught sight of a well-known name in the
dread casualty list: "69th Co. I.Y., 16,424, Trooper R. Blake, (severely
wounded, since dead). Hartebeestefontein." "Poor Blake!" He used to sing
at our concerts on the boat coming out, at our bivouac fire when we
indulged in an impromptu sing-song, and at Pretoria, when in the police,
he often appeared at the various musical entertainments held in the town
or hospitals. His mimicry of a growling or barking dog, big or small,
was marvellous and notorious. I remember once how a fellow on one
occasion, accustomed to Master Blake's games, on hearing a persistent
yapping at his heels, at length said "Oh, shut up, young Blake!" and
turned round to see a live terrier there. A verse in the last issue of
our paper, expressed, in a humble way, every man's feelings on such

  We are leaving them behind us,
    'Neath the veldt and by the town,
  The men who joined and fought with us,
    Who shared each up and down.
  We are going home without them,
    But our thoughts will on them dwell,
  We shall often talk about them,
    Good comrades all, farewell!

The day before we left, the sketches and other matter were sold by
auction, it having been previously decided to devote the proceeds of the
sale to the last No. 1 Hut annual ball. By way of explanation, it must
be noted that the hut had an annual ball _once a week_, "dancing
strictly prohibited." To be explicit, the annual ball was a weekly
dinner. The auction was a great success, a real auctioneer presiding,
well over £10 being realised.

The farewell dinner was a grand affair and very convivial. To my
surprise I was presented with a handsome silver cigarette case by the
so-called staff of the "L.D. News" as a token of good will and their
appreciation of my humble efforts to relieve the monotony of camp life.

The next day, Friday, March 29th, we embarked on the transport
"Aurania," and, as the sun was setting, bade a sarcastic good-bye to
Table Mountain.

As regards the voyage home, which was accomplished in three weeks, much
might be said, but probably little of particular interest. A transport
is not a very luxurious affair for the common soldier, though the
accommodation for the officers amply atones for what may be lacking for
the ninety-and-nine, as it were. But what on earth, or sea, did it
matter, we were going home.

Good Friday was not a success, an officer committed suicide, a sergeant
in the Royal Sussex died of dysentery, the engines broke down, and we
had no buns. At St. Vincent we stopped two-and-a-half days to coal, and
flew the yellow flag at the fore, being in quarantine on account of the
Bubonic outbreak at Cape Town. In the Bay of Biscay a Yeoman comrade
died of enteric, and was buried two days from home. Friday, the 18th, on
a lovely spring morning, the sea being as smooth as glass, we sighted
the cliffs of England once again.

  "England, my England."

Then we commenced passing shipping; a man at the tiller of a Cornish
fishing boat waving his cap to us made it clear that we were getting
back to our real ain folk once more. At eight in the evening we were
lying off Netley Hospital, and taking in the proffered advice of a large
board in a field by the waterside to eat Quaker Oats, and by twelve
o'clock the following night I was home once again.

The treking, the fighting, the guards and pickets, the hospitals are
done with now. My small part in the game has been played, and, with a
slight and permissible alteration, the concluding lines of a favourite
poem must end these simple records.

  "But to-day I leave the Army, shall I curse its service then?
  God be thanked, whate'er comes after, I have lived and toiled with men!"


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