Twenty Two Years of Soldiering in Peace and War

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Front Cover

Cover

or

"A Subaltern in Three Reigns"
(i.e. Queen Victoria, King Edward VII, and King George V).

by

Major J. F. de F. Shaw link
R.A. (retired)

1932
VOL. I

(For Private Circulation only)

Forward

by John Shaw, Grandson of the Author

This is an account of one soldier's "war stories" about his life while in British military service from September 1899 to January 1902. It is not a tale of great adventure and fortune, but instead a tale of an everyday solider slogging it out as a private and later as a low ranking officer (Subaltern). Still, while employing a simple unassuming nature, it is clear the author had a gift for summing up the essence of each turn of events, and I found myself at times excited as he described the run up to, and unfolding of, the battles he participated in, laughing at the humorous anecdotes he remarks on, and even shed a tear at a somber moment he experiences in a hospital.

The work was handwritten in a journal I inherited when my father passed in 2012. I found it hard to read, as cursive handwriting has largely become a thing of the past, and so decided to transcribe it to a text file to make it easier to digest and share with other members of the family. My hope is that by publishing it here, the legacy of my Grandfather can be discovered and enjoyed by his offspring for years to come.

Having never known my Grandfather, prior to this work, the only stories I had of his existence was the bits of information my father leaked out from time to time. Of course my father didn't get a chance to know him all that well himself, as he died when when my father was thirteen years old. Among these bits were that he met and married an English woman (May Kenward) in Jamaica. They moved to Monte Carlo (Monaco) together. There they cashed in, or sold, half of his officers pension to open a tea shop. They had a son, my father (Jocelyn), then about four years later his wife died. Sometime after this he took his son and moved to Rouen France. It would have been there that he wrote this work at age 59. Two or three years later he died, possibly of tuberculosis.

It's not much to know about a man. Yet it is more typical than not that this kind of scarce information is all that remains a generation or so after ones death.

So as I was going through the transcription, I was delighted to meet this person, and to really get a sense of the kind of character he was. Although there are a few words (I count two) that in todays usage would be considered derogatory, it seems he was quite an open minded thinker and displayed a noted lack of prejudice for the times. The work reveals a person who is honest, worldly, intelligent and who keeps a keen eye on finances, no doubt owing to his low military pay.

This last trait makes for especially interesting reading as he includes many wages and prices of the time. In most cases I have included the conversion from shillings/pence to the decimal equivalent in pounds to make it easier to understand the values being quoted. These notes, and any other notes I added, are in italics. High quality images of the handwritten pages of the journal appear to the right, roughly lining up with the corresponding text.

I hope all who read this find it as interesting and as enjoyable as I have.

Inisde Front Cover Title Page

Title Page

Catalog of Activities

Services, Promotions etc.

2nd Lieut. (from rank S. African Forces) R.F.A. May 1900
Lieut. - R.F.A. Jan 1902
Lieut. - R.G.A. (by exchange) Sept 1902
Capt. R.G.A. May 1913
Major R.G.A Dec 1915
to retired pay (and Major Reserve of Officers) Dec 1921
to Retired Officers list Feb 1924

Appointments etc.

Served with g.o. Dept Oct 1908 - Aug 1910
Chairman of Parish Council, Port Royal, Jamaica and Justice of the Peace for Kingston Ja. 1919-20
Courts Martial Officer, Belfast, Nov 1920 - Oct 1921.
(during the Irish Rebellion).

Page 1

Page 1

Recapitulation of Stations, Movements, etc. 1899 - 1921

VOLS I to V

Year & Month, Station
1899 Sept,, S. Africa - Johannesburg
1899 Oct., Pietermaritzburg
1899 Oct., Durban
1899 Nov., Pietermaritzburg
1899 Dec., ?Lentcourt?
1900 Jan., Pretoria
1900 June, Klip River
1900 July, Vereeniging
1900 Aug., Kroonstadt
1900 Oct., Cape Town
1900 Nov., ?Ingayani?
1901 Jan., De Jagers Drift
1901 Oct., Fort York
1901 Oct., Zululand
1901 Nov., Seychelles Inlands
1901 Nov., Bombay
1901 Dec., Multan
1902 Feb., Bombay
1902 April, England(leave)
1902 Oct., Fort Attock
1902 Oct., Judia
1903 Feb., Aden
1903 Sept., ?Gitrea? (leave)
1903 Oct., Aden
1904 May, ?Vranlunes? (leave)
1904 Sept., Dthala (Aden)
1905 Jan., Aden
1905 Feb., Gibraltar
1905 April, England (leave
1905 July, Gibraltar
1906 Aug., ?Randa?, Spain (leave)

Year & Month Station
1907 Sept., Gibraltar
1907 April, Malta
1907 Aug., Neruet (Pyrenes) leave
1907 Sept., England leave
1907 Nov., Malta
1908 Aug., ?Muricle? (leave)
1908 Oct., Malta
1908 Oct., ?Fereyepore?
1909 July, Kashmir (leave)
1909 Sept., ?Ferozgsore?
1910 July, Quetta
1910 Dec., ?Peuabroke? Dock
1911 Sept., ?Worluiek?
1912 Jan., P. Dock
1912 April, ?Tarsatle?
1912 Nov., Singapore
1913 June, ?Faro Peking" (leave)
1914 Jan., ?Taying?
1914 April, Singapore
1915 Oct., Japan (leave)
1915 Nov., Singapore
1917 Feb., ?Horsham?
1917 March, Harwick
1917 April, Lydd
1917 June, Harwick
1917 Dec., Jamaica
1920 June, England (leave)
1920 Oct., Plymouth
1920 Nov., Belfast
1921 Oct., Hastings (leave)
1821 Dec., To retired pay

Page 2

Page 2

Record of Sea Voyages

1901 Nov. - Durban to Bombay
1902 Mar. - Bombay to Southampton
1902 Sept. - London to Bombay
1903 Feb. - Bombay to Aden
1903 Mar. - Aden to Bombay
1903 Apr. - Bombay to Aden
1905 Feb. - Aden to Gibraltar
1905 Apr. - Gib. to London
1905 July. - London to Gibraltar
1907 Mar. - Gib. to Malta
1907 Aug. - Malta to Marseille
1907 Sept. - Bordeaux to London
1907 Oct. - Liverpool to Malta
1908 Aug. - Malta to ?Taieste?
1908 Sept. - ?Trieste? to Malta
1908 Sept. - Malta to Bombay CP. T. O

Page 3

Page 3

1910 Dec. - ?Vraracki? to Southhampton.
1912 Oct. - Southhampton to Singapore
1915 Sept. - Singapore to Kobe (Japan)
1915 Oct. - Kobe to Singapore
1917 Jan. - Singapore to London
1917 Nov. - Liverpool to Kingston (Jamaica)
1920 June - Kingston to ?Avonmouth?

Contents, Pages

Ch I - S. African War, 1899 - 1901 - Vol 1 - 4 - 85
Ch II - India 1901 - 03 (Vol I - 86 - 102)
(Vol II - 1 - 11)
Ch III - Aden 1903 - 05 Vol II - 12 - 63
Ch IV - Gibraltar 1905 - 07 Vol II - 64- 95
Ch V - Court Martial Procedures (Vol II - 95 - 99)
(Vol III - 1 - 11)
Ch VI - Fresh Quarters Vol III - 12 - 33
Ch VII - Courts of Inquiry and Boards Vol III - 34 - 41
Ch VIII - India - 1908 - 10 Vol III - 42 - 81
Ch IX - Home Service 1910 - 12 Vol III - 82 - 98
Ch X - Singapore 1912 - 16 Vol IV - 1 - 9
Ch XI - The Kings Birthday Vol IV - 10 - 17
Ch XII - Singapore (Contd) Vol IV - 18 - 53
Ch XIII - Japan Vol IV - 54 - 74
Ch XIV - Singapore (Contd.) Vol IV - 75 - 80
Ch XV - England 1917 Vol IV - 80 - 88
Ch XVI - Jamaica 1917 - 20 Vol V - 1 -
Ch XVII - Ireland L Envoie (A) & (B)

Writings

1911 - A Try to the Italian Colony of ?Eritua? (R. a. ?s?)
1914 - The Italian ?Virtue" at ?Aderva? (R. M. S. ?o?.)
1919 - Jamaica for the Retired Officer (M. S.Mag.)
1928 - Services of R. A in Boer War 1880 - 1 (R.d.g.)

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Page 4

Chapter I
The South African War, 1899-1901

In the matter of September 1899, I held a position in the Cyanide Works of a gold mining company in Johannesburg, South Africa. At this period, war with the South African Republic was regarded as a certainty. The Bloemfontein Conference had ended in a deadlock. The British government, having allowed itself to be unduly influenced by a gang of jew and american financiers serving their own ends had expected it's determination to be "firm", as far as affairs in the Transvaal were concerned. Meanwhile the burghers of both the South African Republic, and the Orange Free State, Continued with their military preparations. The British regular troops in S. Africa had recently been strengthened and irregular corps were even being secretly raised on the Rand, from the Utilander population.

If, however these warlike preparations were regarded with favor by the capitalists they were received with very different feelings by the working community. The main excuses for bringing about a state of war were firstly, the excessive taxation and high cost of living and production which affected the mining industry and secondly, the alleged lowering of British prestige, by the insults offered to British subjects by the Boer government.

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Page 5

No. 32 Transvaal Residential Johannesburg.

No 31 Transvaal: A Gold Mine, Johannesburg.
Text: Storage Battery, Cyanide Tanks. (handwritten) Cyanide works.

But we of the working community had little to complain of under the burgher rule! Wages were high and compared favorably with other countries. Taking my case, I was getting from £20-0-0 {20 pounds, 0 shillings, 0 pence} a month as a minimum to £25-0-0 as a maximum, as a young man 24 in the Cyanide works of a gold mine which was quite three time as much as I could have earned in a London office. Also I received free quarters. For messing {eating}, I paid £8-0-0 a month, so I was living well within my income. and other trades were paid in similar proportion. Stonemasons & carpenters earned s30/0 {30 shillings = £1.50} a day, fitters s20/0 {20 shillings = £1}; whilst two miners, working under ground in partnership (on day and night shifts), could easily make £70-0-0 a month each! and again we found, that so long as we kept the law, and behaved ourselves as good citizens should, we suffered no insults or inconveniences, from the Boers. In addition, we fully realized that a restoration of the Transvaal to British rule would be entirely for the benefit of the capitalist and a general all around reduction of wages would most certainly result. So it is scarcely to be wondered at if we were not very enthusiastic over the prospects of a campaign! (*1)

(*) 1. These were the whites views in 1899. But since this date their ideas on the subject have entirely altered! For the importance of incorporating in the empire the most productive goldfields in the world cannot be overrated!

Meanwhile the military preparations continued on both sides and by the last week in September, many mining properties had closed down, and hundreds of Uitlanders (*2) had left the country.

(*) 2 Note Uitlanders the Dutch term for a foreigner.

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Page 6
1899 Sept.

Map
Picture of South Africa with hand marked red lines under the following towns: Pretoria, Johannesburg, Lourenco Marques, Kroomstad, P.Maritzburg, Durban, and Cape Town. Dotted lines drawn in the ocean between Lourenco Marques and Durban and Durban and Cape Town.

References-
Johannesburg Sept 1899.
Delagva Bay Oct. 1899.
Durban Oct. 1899.
P. M. Burg Oct. 1899.
Pretoria Jan 1900.
Kroomstadt Aug. 1900.
Cape Town Oct. 1900.
Durban Nov 1900.
De Jagers Drift Oct 1901.
Durban Nov 1901.

The mine on which I worked suspended operations a day or two before the end of the month, and on the following evening I took the train for Lourenco Marques (Delaga Bay), this being the only line left open to us at the date, the Boers having seized all the other ones. We traveled packed in cattle trucks - all railway carriages having been commandeered to take the burghers to the front. The journey took about 27 hours and was uncomfortably warm, especially the latter part which was through sub-tropical country. However a good nights rest at the hotel soon restored us. A steamer (the "Arundel Castle") was waiting in the harbour to convey the refugees to Durban. We had a few hours, however, to look around the place before embarking. Lourenco Marques we found to be a picturesque town; with a ridge of heights at the back, dotted with red roofed villas peeping out of the green trees. The harbour is one of the finest in the world.

I have no idea of how many of us were accommodated on the "Arundel Castle", but I should judge at least ten times the authorized number of passengers! All we got in the way of accommodations was a place on the deck to lie down and couple of ships blankets. For meals we had to go down in batches, The first day at lunch I must have struck the last batch, for all I could get was a plate of curry and rice. The stewards were in a state bordering on mutiny, at having so many people to look after!

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Page 7
1899 Oct.

Natal - 1899

Fortunately, the weather was fair, and in the evening of the second day we made Durban. There in the harbor we found four or five transports, just arrived from Bombay with various infantry and cavalry regiments. The groups were being disembarked as quietly as possible, and pushed up to Northern Natal as rapidly as possible by rail.

Next morning, after recovering my baggage from the ship, I took the train for Pietermaritzburg, the capital of Natal, and about five hours journey, War was by now officially taken place in the Natal-Transvaal frontier. Having established myself at a boarding house, I proceeded to study the situation, and to decide what was best to be done.

Pietermaritzburg was naturally crammed with people from the Rand(*), and it was amusing to listen to the various predictions as to the length of the war. Meanwhile as the days dragged on, the news from the front dribbled down to us, and was none too amazing. The engagement at Dundee, the retreat to Ladysmith, the fight at Elandslaagte and the final investment of Ladysmith, all clearly showed that we had failed to realize the magnitude of the job England had taken on!

(*) the Rand a short interpellation of the Witwatersrand or main gold reef.

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Page 8
1899 Nov.

No. 18. NATAL: PIETERMARITZBURG.
Picture showing classical stone buildings labeled: No. 18. NATAL: PIETERMARITZBURG.

I spend a month at Pietermaritzburg, and then seeing no prospects of an early termination of the war, I decided to "join up." The corps I selected was the Imperial Light Infantry, which was just then being raised at Durban and also at the capital. Having successfully passed the doctor, I, with others, was allotted a railway warrant to Durban, where the battalion was to be trained as first. Whilst waiting for the train, I proceeded to take stock of my future comrades-in-arms, with the view of seeing what sort of "cannon fodder" we would be likely to make. They appeared to comprise all grades of society but the majority were of the working clans. Here and there, a medal ribbon denoted the old soldier. Before entering the train, the role was called by an official from the enlistment bureau.

On reaching Dunbar, we found the adjutant awaiting us on the platform. We were very soon formed into fours, and conducted to the camps, where the commanding officer made a brief inspection. The role was then called again apparently to see if anybody had deserted en route. This done, the Quartermaster told us off to companies and we were dismissed to our tents!

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Page 9
1899 Nov.

The Imperial Light Infantry consisted of eight companies on the lines of a regular infantry battalion, with a strength of over 1000 of all ranks. With the exception of the C. O. & adjutant, who were regulars, the officers were for the most part without military experience. Amoungst the "other ranks", however thee was a fair sprinkling of men who had soldiered in some form or other previously. For my part I had held a subaltern commission in the Militia at home for these years, and others had served in the Volunteers, or in colonial corps in S. Africa, and a few had even been in the ranks of the regular army.

I found myself posted to "C" company, and having discerned my tent, proceeded to help the others to settle down! 15 men were allotted to a bell tent, which was rather a square. Each man lay at night with his feet to the pole using his kit as a pillow. The rifles (when issued later) were strapped to the tent pole. Fortunately, all the men in my tent (with on exception) were clean, sober, and respectable fellows, and contributed to make things as comfortable as possible. As regards the one exception, he showed a decided tendency to return to the tent at the hour appointed for "lights out" in that condition best known in the military parlance as "Unfit to go on guard" at the same time experiencing a desire to fight everybody in the tent.

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Page 10
1899 Nov.

However, certain decidedly firm, not to say drastic, measures taken, prevailed and a day or two later our friend found it expedient to apply for a transfer to another company, which was granted. From this time onwards, we were quite a happy family!

As regards bedding, each man was issued with 2 army blankets and a waterproof sheet. The latter about 6ft by 3 ft was intended to lie on at night, and no doubt saved many lives from the effects of exposure to damp. This however, was all the equipment we received so far.

Reveille next morning sounded sharp at 6.0 am, and we hastily rose, for there was not a moment to lose! Parade was to 6:30, and we had to wash, shave, dress, square up our bedding, and be out on parade in half an hour. The washing arrangements in camp were as yet primitive and consisted of a pond at the top of the field where the camp was pitched. At 6.30, the battalion fell in by companies on the parade ground, and now for the first time we made the acquaintance of our company officers. This first parade was devoted to selecting suitable "Non-Cons" from the ranks. We of "C" company were fortunate in this respect, and secured an excellent colour sergeant, in addition to some good sergeants and corporals.

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Page 11
1899 Nov.

At 7.30, the parade was dismissed, and at 8.0 breakfasts were served. This meal consisted of a pint of coffee per man with as much of the days bread ration as he cared to consume. As regards the daily ration there in the field amounted to 1 lb of bread, 1 lb of fresh or tinned meat and 1 lb of potatoes or preserved vegetables. In addition, a grocery ration of small quantities of coffee, tea, sugar, salt and pepper, was issued. As the war progressed , however, the field rations were considerably improved and much luxuries as bacon, jam and cheese were included. For the moment, there was a "dry" canteen in camp, where milk, butter, eggs, sardines etc. could be bought at very moderate prices. As we of the I. L. I. drew pay at 4/6 {4 shillings 6 pence = £0.36} a day, or against the 1/0 {1 shilling = £0.08}of the regular soldier, we could well afford to supplement our ration in this respect and lived on the whole very well. Also we were allowed to buy beer at the "wet" canteen to the extent of a 2 pints a day, one at 12.00 noon and the other in the evening (6.0 pm to 9.0 pm.)

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Page 12
1899 Nov.

Breakfasts over, we were summoned by bugle to the second parade at 9.0 AM. All that is to say except the tent orderly, who remained behind. This duty was taken daily in turn by all privates. The duties kept him pretty busy. Having tidied up the tent, he was hurried off to the cookhouse, to peel the 15 lbs of potatoes drawn by the mess. Then he had to clean out the large oval camp kettle in which the breakfast coffee had been made, and fill it with clean water for the dinner meal. At 12.45 pm he fetched the dinner from the cookhouse, and divided them out to the 15 men. After dinner, he had the washing up to do, and clean out the kettle and again fill it with fresh water for the tea meal, which was served at 4.0 pm. He was also held responsible for the tidying of the ground in the immediate vicinity of the tent, and had to take their meals to any men of the tent who might be confined in the guard room. In fact, he generally went to bed at night with the comforting reflection that he had earned his pay!

At 10.0 am, after an hours elementary drill, we were dismissed for an hours respite. From 11.0 to 12.0 another hours drill as above. Then "beer parade." Dinners were served at 12.45, and consisted as a rule of a meat stew, with potatoes or vegetables. For the first day or two, we were rather restricted in the way of knives, forks, plates etc. The "free kit" as issued to the regular soldier, and which we had been provided, did not arrive for many months. But more of this later! So we judged it expedient to make ourselves comfortable in this respect by the expenditure of a little money, and more wise in are decisions. The fourth and last parade of the day was from 2.0 to 3.0 pm after which our time was our own for the rest of the day, except for men on guard or other duty. After tea *, any well educated man could always get a pass to go into the town until 10.0 pm. At 10.15, "Lights out" sounded and the camp settled down to slumber.

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1899 Nov.

NO. 14. BATHING ENCLOSURE DURBAN.
Picture with caption: NO. 14. BATHING ENCLOSURE DURBAN.

On the third day after arrival at Durban, the battalion paraded for the ceremony of "swearing in". Up-to-date we had only been provisionally enlisted, and were bound by no oath of allegiance! The ceremony was performed by a magistrate, who took us by sections, & we duly took oath "to serve H. M. The Queen for 18 months, or for much longer period as might be required of us." This latter rather vague phrase, however, was regarded with suspicion by many, who seemed to consider that they had bound themselves down for the term of their natural lives!

Our daily parades, as described above, continued with monotonous regularity. The only variation being a bathing parade in the sea, three times a week. Up-to-date, having received no uniform, we had to preform all drills & duties in plain clothes. After a fortnight sojourn at Durban, however, an issue of kit was announced. But our hopes in this respect so long defunct, were destined to be dashed to the ground!

(*) Footnote - The tea meal comprised a pint of tea per man, with the remainder of the bread ration.

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Page 14
1899 Nov.

For in place of the complete field kit and equipment as issued to the regular soldier, and also to all the other irregular corps already raised (much as the Imperial Light Horse, Thornycrofts Mounted Infantry, Bethune Mounted Infantry, etc. etc.) all we got was - 2 suits of khaki drill (civilian pattern and of a quality usually worn by Kafirs) a pair of blue puttees, a soft hat (colonial pattern), a pair of ?arckle? boots, and a military great coat. The only articles included in this trousseau which were any good at all were the boots, which were of the pattern issued to the regular soldier. No shirts, socks, or underclothing, were issued at all, and in this respect we had to put our hands in our pockets and purchase what was necessary. The great coats were all "condemned" by the ordinance Dept. as "unserviceable" and mostly bore dates of issue of many years back. The one I got for instance, was dated 1872! In addition, many of these coats were verminous and had to be fumigated. It was disgraceful that we should have been treated like this in the way of kit, especially as it transpired later, that a complete equipment had been sent out from England for the battalion, but there had been some "dirty work" somewhere, and some other unit got the stuff instead of us.


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1899 Nov.

A day or two after the first issue of kit, we were moved up by rail to Pietermaritzburg, where we lay under canvas at fort Naquir, the military headquarters. There, for the first time since our formation, we found ourselves encamped alongside regular troops. A battalion of the 60th Rifles occupied the adjourning lines, and the barracks of the peace garrison were also full up. In addition, fresh units were daily arriving, and being pushed up to the front. The day after our arrival, we were issued with some further equipment in the form of a full waist belt and ammunition pouch, a haversack, water bottle, and a leather bandolier for ammunition. And two days later, rifles and bayonets were given out. Obsolete Martini-Henris (as to be expected) but brand new Lee-Enfields of the latest army pattern! It really looked as if the authorities had made a mistake! In addition, an issue of a second pair of boots, a jersey, and a woollen cap, was made. This, however, was intended to complete our field equipment for the present.

The drills now became more interesting, since we paraded daily under arms, also, a preliminary musketry course had to be undergone, followed by a shooting test at the range. This latter, however, merely consisted of firing a few rounds at 200 and 300 yards range respectively. The standard of passing out was not high, and very few failed to qualify.


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1899 Dec.

After these weeks at Pietermaritzburg the battalion was inspected by the G.O.C. at that station and pronounced as fit for duty on the line of communication. So a week later, we were moved up the line to Estcourt, as we now entered the war zone, every N.C.O. and man was issued out with 70 rounds of ball ammunition which had to be carefully guarded, and checked daily on parade.

Before leaving Pietermaritzburg I approached an old soldier of "C" company, late of "The Bulls" who had fought in the Zulu War of 1879, on the subject of the move. His reply, however, was not exactly encouraging.

"Wait till you get there" he said "and you will be sorry you were ever born! What you have gone through here will be child's play compared with what to come!"

And so it turned out! For in addition to our battalion training, we had to perform our share of the outpost and similar duties which fall upon troops, more specifically the infantry within the theater of war. Also, we found ourselves for the first time brigaded with regular troops, and so took part two or three times a week in brigade field days. And again, there was a considerable amount of trench digging to be done, for the authorities seemed to fear another invasion of Natal by the Boers. Added to all this numerous garrison fatigues, which mostly took the form of loading and unloading stores at the army ordinance and army service corps deports, and it will be clear that our time was well occupied. However, it kept us as hard as nails, which was the main thing.

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1899 Nov.

Magazine clipping with the following hand written caption:

Article text:

From "The Gunner Magazine" May 1933.
COLONEL CHARLES JAMES LONG, late R.H.A., whose death is recorded on this page, will always be remembered in connection with the battle of Colenso, on 15th December, Barton's Fusilier Brigade Colonel Long brought the 1st Brigade Division (14th and 66th Batteries) into action at about 1,000 yards from the enemy's position on the north bank, where, in spite of heavy shrapnel and rifle fire, they did excellent work until their ammunition was exhausted. Long was shot through the body, but would accept no attention till his wounded men had been seen to.
Had the infantry advanced under cover of his bombardment the battle might have ended differently. As it was, the only possible course was taken; the personnel retired, carrying their wounded. Seven V.C.'s were earned by parties attempting subsequently to withdraw the guns, but on the retirement of our whole force in the afternoon the Boers, who were commanded by General Louis Botha, captured them. Botha stated that Long saved the British army from walking into a trap by drawing the Boers' fire on his guns and so giving their position away.
Colonel Long had previously served in the Afghan War of 1879-80 and had commanded the Egyptian artillery in the campaigns ending with the battle of Omdurman, where their steadiness in action broke the dervish attacks and earned their commander the thanks of both Houses of Parliament and the brevet of Colonel.
Three old brother officers of the "Broken Wheel" Battery, Major-General Sir Arthur Money, Brigadier-General Cosmo Stewart and Lt.-Col. J. D. Anderson, turned out to salute their old C.O. at the funeral. Colonel Long commanded the battery, then N/2 at Weedon and Allahabad, from 1884 to 1891.
He was a keen sportsman, a wonderful horsemaster, the staunchest of friends, and a grand upholder of all the best traditions of the Royal Regiment. R.I.P.

Coleuso 10th Dec. 1899

While we were at Estcourt, the disastrous battle of Colenso was fought (December 15th). A few days later, some of the infantry battalions which had been severely knocked about in the engagement, were sent down to Estcourt for rest. The men freely wandered into our lives and fraternized with us. They seemed very bitter against their officers, and probably with good reason, from their point of view. Still, even if the officers showed, as they undoubtably did on many occasions, a lack of aptitude for leading men in the field, the fault was not so much due to want of ability, as to the defective system of military training, which had prevailed for many years past. And again, it must be borne in mind that our generals in 1899, with a very few notable exceptions, had little if andy practical experience of handling large formations of troops in the field. Such experience is only to be acquired (a) by active service (b) by peace maneuvers of a large scale; in addition to the study of military history, and the strategy of great commanders. But England had not been involved in a war of any magnitude for 40 years, whilst maneuvers of any size were seldom held. Nor do any generals appear to have given much attention to the study of strategy. Had they did so, the battle of Colenso would probably never have been fought!

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1899 Dec.
1900 Jan.

Now that we were in the war zone, discipline became very strict, and military offenses with relation to the enemy, much as that of a sentry sleeping on his post, were almost invariably punished by the death penalty.

Xmas passed off quietly enough, though we managed to get a good dinner including roast foul and plum pudding. With the advent of 1900 the regular troops at extcourt were all pushed up to the front, & by the middle of January we were the only battalion left. Being as yet only half trained, we could hardly expect to be taken into the fighting line as yet (if ever), still, we entertained hopes of at least advancing as the first line progressed.

However, at midnight on the night 21/21 Jan. we were awakened to learn that a wire had just came through ordering the battalion up at once to the front. There was a good deal to be done. To begin with every mans blankets had to be marked with his initials, since the blankets were all to be rolled up in bundles of 15 for each tent. Then the battalion transport wagons had to be assembled and loaded up with bedding, waterproof sheets, ammunition, rations, camp kettle etc. Such luxuries as tents were for now to be dispensed with and the camp was left standing, for some new unit to occupy.

About 2.0 pm on the 22nd, we paraded in full marching order, and headed by the band of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, marched to the railway station. We only took with us in the way of clothing and equipment what could actually be carried at the person. Every man, however, was supposed to carry a spare pair of socks in his havesack, and in the pockets of the great coat, the woollen jersey and cap comforter.

A train of open trucks was standing in the station, and in a few minutes we were all aboard. We had scarcely settled down, however, before the bugle sounded the "Fall in," and we were bundled out onto the platform again. We had, it transpired, been put into the wrong train, a brilliant piece of work, and typical of the staff! The slight error rectified, we were soon under way. A short run of seven miles brought us to Frere, where we disembarked; thence, a march of the same length landed us at Springfields, where we were to bivouac for the night.

Next morning (the 23rd) we paraded before daybreak, being warned to expect a long march of 16 or 17 miles. This being the case it might have reasonably been expected that at least a cup of coffee and a biscuit would have been served out before morning off. But we got neither bite nor cup until the end of the march! Also the day was intensely hot. Still, out hard condition stood us well, and very few fell out.

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Page 20
1900 Jan.

We halted on the near bank of the broad river spanned by a bridge, and as soon as dismissed the majority went down to bathe while the dinners were being prepared. After a satisfying meal, the rest of the day was mostly given up to sleep. Before starting off next morning, an additional 50 rounds of ball ammunition per man was issued. This was carried, partly in the bandolier, the remainder in the haversack.

The next days (and last) march was about ten miles. The country, which so far had been flat and open, now became undulating, with low hills and ravines. We were now entering the lower slopes of the Drakensberg Mts. about 4.0 pm, the ?Tugela? River was reached which was crossed by a pontoon bridge. From here, a staff officer conducted us to our bivouac, which lay at the foot of a steep and rocky ridge. Occasional artillery firing could be heard, and a good many wounded were being brought down the fill. We gathered from the Tommies we spoke to, that demltory fighting had been going on for some days, but without any definite results on either side.

We now learnt that we formed part of the 10th Infantry Bergade, of the 5th Division. Major General Yalbot Coke was Brigade Commander, with General Sir Charles Warren as Divisional Commander. It was also gathered, that the formidable looking position held by the Boers in our immediate front was known as Spion Kop or Spitz Kop, & that it was intended to assault it that night. Orders now arrived for the battalion to parade at midnight, and to support the attack.

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Page 21
1900 Jan.

Spion Kop

After a meal we lost no time in turning in so as to get as much rest as possible. The night was dark, with a slight frizzle of rain, and generally favourable for night operations. At the appointed hour, we were roused and after having been warned to observe strict silence, with no lights or smoking, we slowly filed off by companies. Native guides led the column up the hill by a steep and rocky path, rendering progress very slow. After some hours of climbing, we gained a small plateau where we were told that the battalion would halt until daybreak.

The rain had ceased by the time it was light and it became possible to appreciate the situation. The plateau on which we rested was merely and underfrature of the main hill in our front, steep & rocky like our climb of the previous night. On our right, the ground gradually rose, in conformity with the main features; on the left was a wide valley. Very soon rifle firing broke out from the Boers holding the summit of the ridge.

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Page 22
1900 Jan.

Action at Spion Kop 25 Jan 1900

Some infantry battalions now came into view, advancing in extended order up the valley, and several field batteries were brought into action on the heights to the rear & on the far bank of the river, and soon proceeded to shell the enemy position.

And whilst on the subject of artillery, it must be noted as a regrettable fact that so little attention was paid to the gunnery training in our service prior to 1899. "?Turnout?" and "Spit and Polish" were everything, and a battery commander who bought (out of his own pocket) Brunswick Black to stain his horse collar (a fact which frequently occurred) was though more of than a man who was careless of such matters, but a sound and reliable gunner! And so it is an unpleasant fact to have to admit but is at the same time gospel truth, that at the battle of Spion Kop our gunners, by the inaccuracy of their fire did far more damage to our front line of infantry than to the Boers!

But to resume. As the day advanced, the Boer line increased, and wounded began to be brought down in alarming numbers. The Imperial Bearer Corps (or "the catch em alivors" as they were termed) a formation raised out of Uitlanders unsuitable for the combatant arms, were doing splendid work in this respect and largely reinforcing the greatly overworked R.A.M.C.

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Page 23
1900 Jan.

It must have been about 11:0 AM that a stall officer suddenly appeared in out front, as we stood awaiting orders. He had lost his helmet, and was bleeding from a slight wound in the head. In his hand he held a slip of paper, and called for our C.O. at this moment, there were only three companies of us present, the other five companies under the colonel having been detached somewhere a short time before. So the captain of "C" company, as the senior officer present, stepped forward.

"The orders are" went on the officer, as he handed Captain X - the paper "that the Imperial Light Infantry are to reinforce the Dorsets" and he proceeded to indicate the general direction of advance adding that we should find the Dorset battalion in position at the summit of the hills on the right. Now this movement (as subsequently transpired) was about the very worst that could have been ordered under the circumstances! However, in obedience to orders, we commenced the laborious assent of the mountain, which took a considerable time, owing to the steepness and the constant necessity for halting to take cover behind a huge bolder from the heavy fire. However, the top was gained at last, and here, a most deplorable situation came to light.

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Page 24
1900 Jan.

Five British battalions were wedged into a small and narrow plateau, of a frontage and depth barely big enough to hold one battalion! And again, the position held by the forming line was not even the actual summit (as supposed), since the ground sloped gently upwards for about 60 yards in our front terminating in a line of boulders, which was held by the Boer front line and greatly to their advantage, being quite concealed from view, or fire, or our firing line!

In addition to the heavy and effective rifle firing from the front, at short range our position was being successfully shelled by the Boers guns, posted on both flanks, which maintained a heavy and murderous arms & enfilade fire, and also, a howitzer in position on the lower slopes of the enemy side of the hill, was making excellent practice. Meanwhile, our own artillery, as already explained, were adding to the troubles by bursting their shells mostly over us in preference to the enemy. The arrival of still more reinforcements, in the form of the other five companies G.LG, & of Thorney crofts Mountain Infantry (on foot), only tended to still further swell the congestion at the already overcrowded plateau. The men lay in the hastily improvised so called trenches literally packed like sardines in a box. For my part, all I could do was to lie down flat as possible clear behind the firing line, and hope for the best. Personally, I never once fired my rifle firstly because I could not see anything to fire at, and secondly, because to have done so would have bee dangerous to our men in my immediate front.

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Page 25
1900 Jan.

After what seemed to me to be an interminable time some Tommy in the trenches (I believe it was a Lancashire Fusilier) fixed a white towel on to the barrel of his rifle & stuck it up in token of surrender. There were one or two shouts of "Put it down"! but it remained up, and a minute or two later, firing ceased automatically on both sides in my immediate vicinity. Then suddenly a number of Boers emerged from their concealed positions, and uttering loud shouts of joy dashed forward, speedily relieved us of our rifles, bayonets, and equipment and ammunition, and ordered us to descend the hill on their side. We lost no time in obeying, to escape from the heavy firing. The decent on the Boer side was every bit as steep and difficult as the ascent had been, but about halfway down the mountain we struck a spring of water where we were able to get a much needed drink. Continuing on, we passed close to the Boer howitzer already mentioned which from its concealed position was delivering a steady high-angle fire against out unfortunate infantry, with stifling effect.

Transvaal

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Page 26
1900 Jan.

On gaining the foot of the hill, we were mustered, and told to fall in by units. There were in all about 170 prisoners of which the Imperial Light Infantry totaled 28. There was only one officer included in this capture Captain F----, of the Lancashire Fusiliers, who was wounded in both arms.

We were now assembled on what appeared to be a main road, close to a small farm. After waiting for about two hours the light began to fail, and as soon as darkness set in the firing on the hill, which had been of late gradually slowing down, ceased entirely on both sides. A supper of "biltong" (a sort of dried meat greatly patronized by the Boers) and biscuit was served out, after which we were told to "doss down" where we could for the night.

Next morning, we were aroused at daybreak, and after a breakfast of coffee & bread, we formed upon the road and marched off. Our escort at first comprised about 20 mounted Boers. They were all highly jubilant, and assured us that the war would soon be over, and that they would retain their independence, and all the rest of it. During the march, the escort was augmented from time to time by Boers from other commands, all eager to learn that latest news.

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Page 27
1900 Jan.

About 10.0 AM, we halted at a river where we were able to indulge in a greatly needed wash. Again at midday, a second halt, where a meal of Biltorg and biscuit was again issued. There as again until dusk, where we were halted, and bivouacked in the open as before.

Next days march was practically a repetition of yesterday. About 4.0 PM we arrived at a railway siding, where we found a train drawn up to receive us. But before boarding it we had to run the gauntlet of the Boer "Irish Brigade", those traitorous Irishmen who had elected to fight for the Boers against England, under their "green flag". Their exultation at the situation was immense, and their insulting remarks far exceeded anything of the kind we had at any time to put up with from the Boers, who, with very few exceptions where kind, human, & even courteous.

The train consisted of cattle trucks, and no time was lost in embarking us, a supply of rations for the journey having been issued. The railway journey to Pretoria (our destination) occupied two nights and one day, and needless to say was none too comfortable. The capital being at last reached, we found that we were finally bound for Waterval camp, 10 miles further on, on the Pietersburg line.

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Page 28
1900 Jan.

Waterval Camp

Jan-June 1900

The railway siding at Waterval Camp adjoined the encampment, and as we disembarked, and entered, we found ourselves surrounded by a surging crowd of Tommies, both regular and colonials, all eager to learn the latest news from the front. However, we could tell them very little, except as regards our own particular show. Our names and numbers having been registered by a Boer official, we were told to seek accommodation where we could find it, and that accomplished, to report at the office to draw stores etc.

The camp comprised 2 double rows of corrugated iron shelters, with a broad ?ehaunee? separating them. These buildings were open to the front and so only afforded overhead cover from weather. Wooden stretcher beds, and 2 blankets per man, were served out, and also a small supply of cooking utensils for each man. Beyond the rows of shelters, on the N. side was a large field for recreation. At the foot of this ran a stream, in which a dam had been made to from a swimming pool. And the whole camp was circumvented by a broad high wire entanglement, guarded by Boer sentries at short intervals.

The tents for the guards, and the officers and quarters of the stall, were just outside the entrance gate. Light was affected by electric street lamps at intervals down the center street.

Having drawn our camp equipment and bedding, we were not long in finding an unoccupied quarter.

Waterval POW camp 1900
Rough Plan of Waterval Camp Feb 1900


Page 29 Left Side Page 29

Page 29
1900 Jan.

Scarcely had we settled in when we were summoned to the store to draw rations. These, as it turned out, amounted to-

Daily

  • 1 Lb Bread
  • 1 Lb Potatoes

Bi-weekly

  • 1/2 Lb fresh meat

Weekly

  • a small quantity of mealie meal, rice, sugar, salt & flour

No tea or coffee was ever issued. As a matter of fact the above scale of rations would have sufficed had they been of good quality, for we were not doing hard work. But the bread was sour and execrable, & only possible in the form of toast. The same as regards the mealie meal, which was consumed as porridge. The result of the bad feeding was much sickness in camp. The Boer government were greatly blamed at the time for it all, but as looking back it must be realized, that in Waterval Camp alone there were at one time over 4000 mouths to feed, and also a large number at Nooitgedacht, and again, that they had not too much for themselves.

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Page 30
1900 Feb.

A portion of plates, cups, cutlery etc, was also issued to each man. Wood for firing was drawn weekly, and in their respect the authorities showed surprising liberality, and we could take as much as we cared to carry to our quarters. However, their generosity proved false policy in the end, for towards the end of our sojourn the supply became alarmingly low, and in fact for the last week before release ceased altogether, so that many units were reduced to burning their wooden bed steads, to provide the wherewithal to cook their food.

We improvised a fireplace out of mud, which was allowed to dry until quite hard, and later on made an oven out of biscuit tin, and baked some bread with our allowance of flour, using "sour dough" in place of baking power. There was a dry canteen in the camp, where fresh milk, tea, jam, tinned fish etc. could be bought. However, the greater majority of the men came in with no money, so it wasn't much use to them! Fortunately I had some money (about £6-0-0) which the Boer did not take off me.

As we came in with just the clothes we stood up in, a modest issue of clothing was made on the day following our arrival. My share amounted to a pair of trousers 2 shirts & 2 pairs of socks. Not much, but still it all helped!

The guards comprised some 100 burghers, men either too old or too young, for service in the field. They were friendly enough and used to converse freely with us through the wire fence. They all seemed very "fed up" with the whole business and kept asking us when the war would be over.

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Page 31
1900 Feb.

Unfortunately, we were unable to enlighten them. The prison staff consisted of a Commandant, Assistant Commandant, Storekeeper, and Medical Officer with hospital staff. The Commandant was an excellent fellow, with a cheery word for everyone as he made his daily round of the camp. But we were less fortunate in the doctor. He was a german & seemed to know nothing whatever of his job, He did not last long, however, but was replaced by a Hollander, a much better man, who did his level best to improve matters and reduce sickness.

The sanitary arrangements left much to be desired. All refuse was deposited on to heaps which were periodically removed by sanitary carts and buried, but the stench at times was awful! All water had to be boiled before drinking. There was a good deal of dysentery and fever in camp, & funerals were of almost daily occurrence. And as for the hospital! well, it was a place to keep out of if you possibly could!

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Page 32
1900 Feb.

For recreation, football was played in the big field, and camp concerts were organized from time to time in the evenings. There were a few books sets of ?draughlets? & chessmen etc. to be had. We were allowed to receive letters and newspapers, and dispatch letters, all of course strictly subject to censor. The spiritual needs of the prisoners were attended to by ministers of the ?uasian? denomination from Pretoria. All church services, however, were attended by an English speaking Boer, to ensure that no official information was imparted.

The Roman Catholic Presbyterian and Wesleyan padris did their work regularly and conscientiously, but the same cannot be said of the Church of England man, who only very rarely showed up. In the official Blue Book subsequently issued on the campaign, this individual was reported as having "regarded his personal safety to a greater extent than his duties as a clergyman" a remark not exactly tending to add to the credit of the church!

The weather was hot when we came in at the end of January, but as winter approached bitter cold winds started (it must be recollected that the altitude exceeded 5000 ft.) so er occupied ourselves in building mud walls on the outside of the shelters, to keep the night winds out.

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1900 Feb.

The damp dragged on, and nearly every day a fresh batch of prisoners would arrive, either large or small. We learnt of the relief of Ladysmith, of Roberts slow but steady progress up-country, and of the various battles fought, won, or lost, as the case might be. As regards the chances of the Boers making a final stand at Pretoria, there was much difference of opinion in the camp. The Transvaal Government, however, had for years past been constructing forts on the heights encircling the town, and now had no less than six of these works all heavily armed with the pattern of gun from Krupp. So a siege would amount to a formidable undertaking, to which the War office were well aware, and had included in the expeditionary force a mighty siege train, equipped with all the latest guns and appliances - all to be wasted however, as the Boers vacated the capital without even half an hours opposition!

Some few attempts at escape were made during our sojourn at Waterval, but none of them bore fruit. It was a comparatively easy matter to wriggle through the wire entanglement by night, between two sentry posts, as the sentries nearly always went to sleep, and there appeared to be no system of visiting them to test their alertness. But to cross the border into Natal (the nearest British Colony) was a different proposition altogether! The country was far too carefully patrolled to admit of this, and in every case the fugitives were brought back within a few days. The punishment was 24 hours internment in a cell, on bread and water.

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Page 34
1900 Feb.-March

About the middle of march, certain prisoners conceived the idea of constructing a tunnel under the outer wire fence, by which escape could be affected. The work commenced inside on of the shelters, by sinfling a vertical shaft for a certain depth, thence a horizontal tunnel, to be shored up with timber, and continued for some distance beyond the fence, where a second shaft would afford accent to the open veldt. The work was carried out with the greatest secrecy by night, all traces being carefully covered up by day. The scheme, however, was doomed to failure, for somehow or other the staff got wind of it. The result being, that the Boers placed a machine gun 200 yds. outside the camp, & commanding it.

Easter came in due corse, bringing a rumor of an issue of a hot cross bun on good Friday to all hands. However it turned out to apply to sergeants & higher ranks only! As we only saw to one sergeant in our party, we all sat around him and watched him eat it. I thought he looked uncomfortable about it all, however!

Once or twice someone would continue to smuggle in a copy of the Boer newspaper (I forget the name) published at Pretoria. The accounts of the British successes were highly amusing! For example, our great victory at Paardeberg, resulting in Cronjé's defeat with thousands of Boer casualties in the way of killed, wounded and prisoners, was described as an almost total annihilation of the British force, with Boer losses amounting to 3 burghers and 1 mule slightly wounded!

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Page 35
1900 March

It is astonishing how easily some people are duped! Here we had the Boers, of both the Orange Free State and South African Republic, a race of patriarchal, god-fearing, farmers, content to live on their land and earn a modest competence "by the sweat of their brow", and at the head of the state, Paul Kruger, with his gang of advisers and ministers, renegade Germans, Dutchmen, Swedes, Austrians and even Irishmen, probably the biggest scoundrels unhung in the whole globe! And all with unprecedented cunning breathing poison into the ears of the simple minded burghers, and promising them their share of the vast mineral wealth of the two countries, if only they would hang on and eject the British invader, which was bound to come about soon, since the British resources were nearly exhausted!

It is significant, however, of these same Boers, that as soon as the war was over and we took over the two states the and the British continued to live together in peace and harmony, and later, in the great war, the became out staunch allies in S. Africa, and were of the greatest assistance in the various expeditions against German aggression.

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Page 36
1900 April-May

And in this manner, affairs drifted on until the end of May, when at last we began to realize that the end was not far off. The next thing we learnt was that Roberts had crossed the Vaal river, with the enemy in full retreat, and now for the first time, the Boer guards began to show signs of uneasiness. The climax came a day or two later, when we were roused from our beds at midnight, by the arrival of a number of British officers who had been interned at "The Birdcage" at Pretoria. Amongst these was Lord Rosslyn, who had come out from England as a newspaper correspondent, and whose book "Twice Captured" made a great sensation a few years later. These officers now informed us that our release was merely a question of a few days, but that we would be well advised to keep quite and allow events to work their natural course. These same officers had been obviously sent by the Boers, who, realizing that the game was up, desired to avoid any emente on the part of the 400 prisoners in Waterval. And so, excited as we were at the prospect of release,we remained calm enough, until a few mornings later when we were rewarded by the sight of a line of British Cavalry scouts, advancing on the camp. And no sooner had they appeared, than the Boer guards disappeared to a man.

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Page 37
1900 June

With the withdrawal of the sentries, the wire fence was trampled down, and there was a general rush to greet the new comers. And they had much news to impart. Johannesburg had been occupied without opposition, likewise the Boers had evacuated Pretoria, and dispersed to the country, to carry on (as subsequently transpired) a protracted "guerrilla" warfare.

Very soon, the remainder of the Cavalry brigade arrived. But truly a sadly depleted brigade! For each of the three regiments which had originally left Cape Town 500 strong, now barely averaged 150, owing to the wastage, in horseflesh, from disease and privation.

Meanwhile, everybody fraternized freely with the new arrivals, all eager to learn the latest. But no orders about moving from the camp were issued. At midday, we proceeded to cook and discuss our dinner, as usual. Then just as we were about to wash up, one of our men came running in screaming "There's a fight going on outside" and sure enough, the unmistakable "whizz" of a shell passing overhead, confirmed his statement! In fact, the Boers were shelling the camp!


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Page 38
1900 June

To the best of my belief (though I may be wrong) there is no similar experience in Military History of unarmed prisoners-of-war being subjected to such treatment! But with all due justice to the burghers, it must be borne in mind that the personnel of the Transvaal State Artillery were European to a man. German, Austrian, Dutchmen, Swedes, Russian etc. were all accepted for this service, but none of Boer or even Africander birth. The reason being, that being a highly trained & scientific corps, a high standard of education was required.

It did not take us long to pack up our few belongings, or rather as many of them as we could carry, and swarm out across the veldt, there being now nothing to stop our progress. The Boer battery kept up the shelling, but the shooting was poor, the shells bursting far ahead of us, with out any casualties. Also, a British Horse artillery battery soon came into action in reply to the Boer guns, and speedily silenced the latter.

After we had proceeded some half mile or so across the veldt, a Cavalry Officer appeared and assumed charge of us, changing our general direction to the left after another mile. Very soon we struck the railway line, where a train was waiting to take us to Pretoria. However, as there were 400 of us, we naturally had to wait our turn, the train returning empty each time after having dropped its cargo.

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Page 39
1900 June

The journey to the capital did not take more than half an hour. On arrival, we found ourselves relegated to the race course where we were to bivouac for the night!

At first light, it was a distinct relief to have gained our freedom. But it speedily became clear that we were only "out of the frying pan into the fire." It was now mid-winter in the Transvaal, and although the days were bright and sunny, the nights were bitter, with a keen wind. many of the prisoners had not even brought one blankey with them in their haste to escape from Waterval under artillery fire, and very few had brought two. (Personally I had brought one blanket, being as much as I considered I could carry, in addition to the rest of my kit). There was no scarcity of firewood, and so huge camp fires were kept going all night. But even with this aid, the cold was indescribably intense, and I, with others, spent the best part of each night in pacing up-and-down to endeavor to keep warm, making up for it all by sleeping in the daytime. Also, the rations were extremely scanty.

Next morning, we witnessed the entry into Victoria of the British Expeditionary Force under Lord Roberts. The Boers had now all cleared off to guerrilla warfare, so the entry was unopposed. The troops, considering the hardships they had undergone, looked fit and well, and marched sturdily, more especially the Brigade of Guards.

Page 40 Left Side Page 40 Right Side

Page 40
1900 June

Page 40 Left Side
No.29 TRANSVAAL: CHURCH SQUARE PRETORIA

Page 40 Left Side
Field Marshal Lord Roberts
Born at Cawnpore, September 30th 1832.
Died in France, November 14th 1914.

Page 40 Left Side
"Can't you see I'm busy?"
A picture famous with our fathers in 1900. When the British entered Johannesburg on May 21st, Lord Roberts' Headquarters were at an inn called "The Orange Grove." A staff officer found him there teaching the inn-keeper's daughter the alphabet. Lord Roberts looked up with a smile and said, "Don't come now. Can't you see I'm busy?"

Pretoria June-1

The following morning, the whole of the returned prisoners-of-war were paraded for inspection by Lord Roberts. The Commander-in-chief did not keep us long on parade, and the only remark I overheard him make, as he rode down the line, was to the effect that we did not look up to much in the way of work.

The same day, the court of inquiry on all returned prisoners of war, as required by the Queens regulations, opened at Pretoria. We were al marched down by batches to be questioned as to the circumstances attending the capture. However, for obvious reasons, the surrender at Spion Kop was not too closely inquired into. Only one man of the I.L.I. party was called in before the court to give evidence, and he was the old soldier, formerly in The Bluffs, and whome I have already alluded to and he was only asked one question.

"Do you consider" asked the President of the Court "that the circumstances justified a surrender to the enemy of your party?"

"Yes, Sir" was the reply "There was no other alternative, owing to the enemy fire being so heavy"

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Page 41
1900 June

And so the point at issue, as to whether we should, or should not draw pay for the period of our long internment, was settled once and for all, and satisfactorily. Also our surrender was judged as quite justified, under the circumstances. We spent five miserable days, and still more miserable nights, at the Racecourse, during which period the majority of the regular ex-prisoners-of-war were drafted off to their regiments. On the sixth day, those left of us were transferred to "The Birdcage" which had been used as a prison camp of officers, up to the date of Roberts entry into the capital. Here at least, we were warm at night, being housed in wooden buildings. The rations however, were still scanty, but then it must be recollected that there was but a single line of railway communicating with the base at Cape Town, and that supply trains were daily being captured by the enemy. So with so many thousands of mouths to feed, the supply problem became a difficult one.

After a few days at "The Birdcage", candidates were called for for the newly formed Pretoria "Foot Police" from the Colonial returned prisoners of war. Most of the I.L.I. responded, and were accepted. I personally did not, however, as I considered it important to rejoin my regiment as soon as possible, take my discharge, and get back to my job in Johannesburg as soon as possible. To enter on a fresh engagement, and thus bind myself down for a further term of service, might have been fatal.

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1900 June

Kip River, 1900 June - July

We Colonial details were now very much reduced in number, and of the I.L.I. there were only five of us left. However, the authorities did not seem to be in any great hurry to dispose of us. But one Sunday afternoon about a week later, the "fall in" was suddenly sounded, rifles, bayonets and ammunition, were issued, and we were warned to parade at 6:0 pm to depart for an "unknown destination". At the appointed hour we fell in, and to the number of some 200, marched to the railway station and were packed into a train of open trucks, which we found awaiting us.

No time was lost getting under way. After some four hours or so of the traveling, with frequent checks, we arrived at a station where we were ordered to disembark. Here we were allotted to certain trenches, being briefly told that an attack was expected at daybreak and that we must be prepared to meet it!

We waited expectantly through the night, and well into dawn, but nothing happened. At 8:0 am, the order "Stand down" was passed around. Having drawn rations, we occupied ourselves first in preparing breakfast, and that meal consumed, in ascertaining the situation. The station turned out to be Klip River, some few miles south of Johannesburg, on the Cape railway. At this time it was an advanced supply depot and garrisoned by one company of the Royal Irish Rifles.

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Page 43
1900 June

During the day, the whole of the colonial details were paraded, and all except us five of the Imperial Light Infantry, packed off down country by the first train, the reason being, that they all belonged to mounted corps, and were required for mounted infantry work. We, however, were given to understand that we were to remain where we were for the present, until arrangements could be made to send us back to our regiment, which was then in Northern Natal, somewhere in the Newcastle district.

A "dug-out" cut out of the side of a bank of sand, was allotted to us as quarters, and here we continued to make ourselves fairly snug, though much worried at first by a colony of rats, who not only ran over us at night but made furious inroads on our scanty rations as well. So at last having procured some picks and shovels, we proceeded to dig up the sandbank, and in due course exterminated the whole family, both young and old. After which, we were no longer troubled.

The work and duties were exceptionally heavy at Klip River at this period. The Boers had now adopted the tactics of "guerrilla warfare", and were making constant attacks on the single line of railway, Cape Town to Pretoria, raiding supply trains and supply depots almost daily. All this entailed constant vigilance, both by day and night, in the form of guards and outposts.

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Page 44
1900 June

Then again, there was a good deal of trench digging to be done, to render the post defensible. And then again, a nightly patrolling of the railway line from Kip River to Meyerton, the first station down the line, and 12 miles distant, had to be carried out. One's turn for this duty came round about every ten days. The patrol rested at Meyerton all next day, and returned to Klip River the next night. It was on one of these occasions that I ?scraped? acquaintance with a detachment of the Cambridge University Volunteers, who were doing duty at Meyerton. They gave me a good meal, and we exchanged reminiscences of the war.

About a fortnight after our arrival at Klip River, a fresh consignment of clothing and equipment arrived for issue to the detachment of the Royal Irish Rifles. And since a few extra sets were sent, and with, due regard to the fact that we were practically in rags, the commanding officer consented to include us in the issue.

What we each received amounted actually to a khaki serge jacket and trousers, a great coat, pair of ?puttees?, helmet, woollen jersey, woollen cap, a pair of boots, a haversack, water bottle, men tin, 2 flannel shirts, 2 pairs of worsted socks, 2 towels, 2 pairs of drawers, and a complete set of slade-wallace equipment, comprising a buff waist-belt with 2 alluminum pouches, and a complete set of bluff straps. In fact, the outfit we should have received in our corps when it was first formed.

Page 45

Page 45
1900 June-July

One of the most useful articles of equipment which was included in this haul was without doubt the mens tin, of which a description will be given. The infantry mens tin is of aluminum, oval in shape, and designed to hold one pint of liquid. It is used in the field for holding tea, coffee, soup, beer, or even food, as occasion my demand. It is provided with an aluminum cover, designed to fit over the top, and about one inch in depth, which is intended also to be used as a frying pan in the field, for cooking bacon, eggs, etc. One side of the tin is flattened, and provided with rings to admit of it being strapped to the back of the waistbelt on the line of march. Also a cover of canvas is provided, to protect it from dirt and weather, when not actually in use.

It was after about five weeks sojourn at Klip River, that I began to feel unwell. The heavy duties, on short rations, following on the long period of internment in Waterval, were beginning to tell on me. So one morning I duly "reported sick". This entailed giving your name to the orderly corporal, who entered it on a "Sick Report" together with your age, length of service, and religious denomination! Why the latter, goodness only knows! Still it was the regulation, so had to be complied with.

Page 46

Page 46
1900 July

So at 9.0 am, I duly paraded with one or tow others, before the medical officer. And in this respect, I may mention, we were singularly unfortunate! The doctor was a French-Canadian, a volunteer from Canada, and a more hopeless exponent of his art it would be hard to beat. When it came to my turn, he asked what my symptoms were, I explained that I suffered from loss of appetite, headaches, insomnia, and general debility. He merely shrugged his shoulders, prescribed an aperient pill, and marked the report "Medicine and duty".

Now this meant that I had to perform all duties such as trench digging, guards outposts, and patrols, just as before, when it must have been obvious to the ?meauest? capacity, that I was quite unfit for such duties! So tow or three days later, feeling much worse, I again reported sick. But all the intelligent medicer did was to change the treatment, and prescribe a dose of salts, but was graciously pleased to excuse me from night duty.

Another three days passed, during which I proceeded to go from bad to worse. I could swallow no solid food, neither could I sleep, and even suffered from delirium at intervals! So on the earnest representations of my comrades, who approached the Colour Sergeant of the detachment of the R.I. Rifles on the subject, and who indeed backed them up I was persuaded to "report sick" for the third time. So next morning, after a miserable night of fever, I duly again paraded with the sick before the doctor. And it really seemed that the color sergeant had strongly represented the case! For after feeling my pulse, it suddenly occurred to the fool to take my temperature! And after reading the thermometer, his face grew grave.

Page 47

Page 47
1900 July

"Hospital for you my man," he said "and at once." So a couple of hours later, I found myself embarked in a "down country" train in charge of a Lance Corporal of the Royal Irish Rifles, bound for Vereeniging, on the Vaal River, which place marked the border line between the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony. There, we had a walk of a mile to the field hospital.

On arrival, my temperature was again taken and I was ordered to bed in a large ward! It was certainly a comfort to get between clean sheets again, after ten months of roughing it in blankets. Presently the R.A.M.C. doctor came along, and proceeded to examine the card suspended from a nail at the head of my cot, which had just been marked up by the hospital orderly.

"Keep him on milk" he nodded, and passed on out of the ward.

"Whats the matter with me" I enquired of the orderly.

"Fever of sorts, but N.Y.D. so far was the reply. (N.Y.D. in military hospital language means "Not yet diagnosed").

Page 48

Page 48
1900 July

As soon as the orderly had passed out of the ward, I proceeded to lok about me. It was a long, low building, in point of fact the hospital of the adjacent Vereeniging Coal Mine, with 2 rows of cots, about 20 in each row, and a passage down the middle. Not more than half the beds were occupied. At the far end of the ward, away from the entrance, was a notice "Wash House."

At 7.0 pm, the orderly returned bearing a large tray containing various dishes which he duly deposited on the table. And when he had served the other patients, he approached me with a quart bottle of fresh milk in his hand.

"Theres your super, my lad" he remarked.

And most certainly I did not feel inclined for anything more solid, even had it been allowed. Fortunately, the supply of fresh milk was ample, being guaranteed by the English manager of the coal mine who kept his own cows.

After my supper, I was given some medicine, and soon after, dropped off to sleep - in fact, the first decent sleep I had had for weeks.

Next morning I received another bottle of milk for my breakfast. And as soon as consumed, the orderly approached me again.

"Think you are equal to going as far as the wash house" he queried.

Page 49

Page 49
1900 July

I reflected. There were perhaps 18 or 20 patients in the ward, with only the one orderly to do everything. So I answered yes, I thought I could manage all right.

"Well, you know the way", he said.

Having performed my ablutions, I returned to bed about 10.0 am, the doctor made his morning vint. When it came to my turn, he felt my pulse, glanced at the temperature chart at the head of the bed, which was written up by the orderly every morning, made one or two entries and passed on.

As soon as the medico had left the ward, I sat up and scanned the card. My temperature, which was shown as high on the previous day, had dropped slightly. The space under the heading "Disease", however had now been filled in and read "Enteric Fever." {note: Enteric is another name for Typhoid Fever}

As I sank back on my pillow, the orderly reentered the ward. He had noticed my movement, and approached my cot with a reassuring nod.

"Keep a stout heart" he said, "and we will pull you through all right. It's not a very bad case."

And he was as good as his word! For the next three weeks my diet was three quarts of milk daily, with medicine. And every day I felt an improvement. The danger period in Enteric last for 21 days. So on the 22nd day, having passed successfully through the ordeal, I was promoted to a custard pudding. I remember the occasion well! For days past I had been ravenously hungry! As I consumed the pudding the orderly watched me with admiration.

Page 50

Page 50
1900 August

"Well," he remarked as I finished the last morsel "you're left us the dish, as all events!"

A few days later, I was put on to full rations, and left the hospital ward for a tent outside. And after a week of this, I was gratified by the news that I was to proceed "down country" next day. About a dozen of us constituted the party, all belonging to different corps, and I gathered that our immediate destination was No. 3 general Hospital, Kroonstadt, in the Orange River Colony (formerly the Orange Free State).

The N.C.O. in charge of our party was a sergeant in that highly overrated corps "The City of London Imperial Volunteers" and a poor specimen at that! In private life, so we gathered, he was a member of the London Stock Exchange, and as such, put on more "side" than a young subaltern of the guards would have assumed! on this occasion he distinguished himself by allowing us to pass through Kroonstadt in the night, and to travel a good 200 miles South of that station, before the error was discovered. Then we were bundled out of the train, to await the first up-train back to Kroonstadt. The net result of it all being, that the journey from Vereeniging occupied four days, in place of two, or it should have done.

Page 51

Page 51
1900 August

Orange River Colony, 1900 Kroonstadt

However, about 1.30 am on the morning of the fifth day, we reached our destination, to find that No. 3 General Hospital adjoined the station. Owing to the lateness of the hour, we were conducted to a large marquee set aside for the reception of late arrivals. After a bowl of hot soup, which was served out all round, we lost no time in turning in, and needless to say, after four days in cattle trucks, a comfortable bed was fully appreciated!

Next morning, about 9.0 am, we were aroused by a hospital orderly, and after breakfast, were paraded, and allotted to our respective wards. These consisted of marquees, each intended to accommodate 16 beds. Being now a convalescent patient, I was naturally put in a convalescent ward. The first thing required of us was to proceed to the store, and there to draw the conventional hospital clothing, of blue flannel jacket and trousers, with red necktie, and at the same time to hand in our arms, equipment, and clothing.

No 3 General Hospital, being in the lines of communication, had an establishment of 600 beds, with a sufficient proportion of offices, N.C.O.'s & men, and army sisters.

Page 52 Left Page 52 Right

Page 52
1900 August

Page 52 Left
A postcard of a river or lake scene looking from water to shore with caption:
No. 25. ORANGE FREE STATE: SCENE AT KROONSTAD

Each ward was supervised by a "wardmaster" who was either an N.C.O of N.A.M.C. or else one of a combatant corps, a convalescent patient specially selected for the job. Also, an army sister was allotted to each group of two or three wards.

And as regards these ladies, a few words may be appended. At the date of which I write, the service was known as the Army Nursing Service, but after the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, and the ascenion the the Throne of King Edward, it became to be styled "Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service." They rank as officers, i.e. the most junior grade of Sister or Staff Nurse ranks with a Lieutenant, whilst a Matron-in-Chief ranks with a Colonel. Consequently, the rank and file are required to treat them as such, and to salute them when they pass them. Their devotion to duty, and their unselfish care of their patients, is proverbial. Many of them are officers daughters.

But as regards those amateur nurses, who swarmed out in crowds to supplement the regular nursing staff during the South African War, the same cannot be said! Doubtless their intentions were of the best, but being without hospital or technical training, they were of little or no use. There used to be told a story of a certain hospital at Pretoria, where a fair young amateur of this category approached a patient, and sweetly inquired: "Would you like your face washed by any chance!"

Page 53

Page 53
1900 August

"Just as you please, Miss" replied the patient, feebly, "But as a matter of fact, I've had it washed fourteen times since dinner!"

Again the following "Limerick" was current in hospital circles.

There was a young lady of Berwick
Whose conduct was somewhat hysteric
She followed the guns
and administered buns
To the troops who were down with Enteric!

Of the general treatment in No 3, and in fact in all the other hospitals in which it was my fate to find myself, I have nothing but praise! The food was excellent, and there was no lack of "medical comforts." For instance, as a convalescent enteric patient, I was ordered in addition to the liberal diet, a generous allowance of port wine, and a bottle of stout, daily.

Page 54

Page 54
1900 Sept

The medical officer in charge of the ward to which I found myself conjoined, was not a R.A.M.C. man, but a civil surgeon who, with many others, had volunteered for service. In this respect we were fortunate, since Doctor X - (as I shall term him) took a great interest in his work, and in each individual case in his charge. The average R.A.M.C. officer was none too popular at this period, and with good reason. The medical qualifications of the army doctor were generally of the lowest. On the other hand, the were often keen soldiers(*). In fact, there was generally too much of the soldier, and too little of the medical man about them. No doubt, the poor pay had a lot to do with it. As a result of the war, the authorities became alice to this, and a substantial increase in emoluments was made. with inducements in specialise. The result was, that a distinctly better type of medical man was attracted to the corps.

Every Saturday morning, the Senior Medical Officer (a Colonel of R.A.M.C.) visited each ward in turn. This was an occasion for an extra amount of "Spit and Polish" for the great man was inclined to be exacting. So directly after breakfast everybody buckled to. Bed cots were adjusted with mathematical accuracy, until they each stood at the prescribed distance of 6 inches from the wall! Rations tins were polished until you could see to shave in them! A few minutes before the Colonel's arrival, the Wardmaster would look in and cast an eye round, to see if each patient took post at the head of his bed, until a sonorous "?Sknn?" from the Sergeant Major announced the Colonel's arrival. Accompanied by the adjutant, Quartermaster, Nursing Sister & Wardmaster, he would stalk majestically through the ward, glaring round in search of some slight irregularity, such as a patient whose hair was too long, or a bed cot not quite square, or something of the kind. However, as he seldom stayed more than a minute (if so long) it was soon over!

(*)Note - The R.A.M.C. have the proud distinction of having gained more Victoria Crosses than any individual corps in the army.

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Page 55
1900 Sept-Oct

The daily routine at No 3, General Hospital was as under. Reveille at 6.30 am, and after breakfast, each patient had to make up his bed, and clean out that portion of the ward immediately adjacent. At 9:30, the sister came in to take each patients temperature, the same being duly entered up on the progress card. At 10.0, the doctor paid his morning vint. At 11.30, those ordered such comforts as port wine, or extra eggs, received them. Dinner were served at 12:30, and after we had "washed up," a rest until tea time (4.0 pm) was the general rule, followed by a stroll round the camp, and a smoke, in the cool of the evening. On Sundays, we usually had to go to church, and sometimes a concert would be got up.

After some six week in No. 3, I was pronounced well enough to be discharged to the "Convalescent Camp" adjoining the hospital. There we ceased to be hospital patients wore ordinary uniform, and wee available for "light duty." This of course did not include guard, or outpost, duty, or heavy fatigues. As a matter of fact, all I remember having to do was an occasional job, such as peeling potatoes at the cookhouse, or something similar.

Page 56

Page 56
1900 Sept-Oct

From the convalescent camp, "passes" to go down to the town could be had. Not that there was very much to do when you got there, still, it was a change. My first act was to retrieve from the local bank, the sum of £5-0-0, which my father had sent me many months earlier, when I first became a prisoner-of-war, through the American Consul at Pretoria, and which same sum had been following me all over the place, finally landing at Kroonstadt. My second act was to visit a barber, and get relieved of a beard, as well as of a magnificent crop of whiskers, which I had worn for many months, being without a razor. Which accomplished, I returned to camp. There was a Garrison Recreation room in the camp, where light refreshments could be had; also, newspapers and magazines were provided, with facilities for writing letters, etc.

My chief aim now, however, was to rejoin my regiment, via Cape Town, & thence by sea, to Natal. However, I gathered from certain conversation I overheard in my tent, that an early move "down country" was only possible by "greasing the palm" of the Camp Sergeant Major to the tune of s10/0 {10 shillings, 0 pence = 0.50 pounds}. Failing this, men had been known to wait many months, before being shifted.

However, I had a strong objection, on principle, to such a proceeding, so resolved to "sit tight" where I was, and await events. And in due course, my patience was rewarded. Every morning, we were paraded for medical inspection. And one of fine morning, after being about three weeks in the camp, the doctor, after regarding me fixedly for a moment, remarked that he had seemed to have seen my face for some time past. Certain inquiries followed, and as my state of health was pronounced satisfactory, a peremptory order was issued for my immediate transfer to Cape Town, by the first "ordinary train." So I had distinctly "scored off" the Sergeant Major, and saved my s10/0 as well!

Page 57 Left Page 57 Right

Page 57
1900 Oct

Page 57 Left
Postcard showing a intersection structure with dome and columns, captioned:
No. 24. ORANGE FREE STATE: BLOEMFONTEIN

The first "ordinary train" which came along bound for "down country," occurred the following morning. And whilst on the subject of trains, it should be stated, that since the military occupation of the country, and the consequent handing over of the railways to the military authorities, "trains" were divided into two categories only. First and foremost, "Troop Trains" of open or closed trucks, as the case might be for the conveyance of troops to any threatened locality. Secondly, "Ordinary Trains," merely goods trains, laden with every conceivable type of store, from coal to preserved meat, for the accommodation of small parties, and details.

There were half a dozen of us in the party. One particular train was laden with coal, so it was on the top of this that we established ourselves. However, from our elevated position, we were afforded an admirable view of the scenery! Bloemfontein was reached at 6.0 pm, and as the train did not proceed further, we were graciously permitted by the Railway Staff Officer, to "dose down" on the railway platform for the night. He also showed us a pump in the garden yard by, where we could wash in the morning.

Page 58 Left Page 58 Right

Page 58
1900 Oct

Page 58 Left
Post card of mountains behind crop fields with bushels of a crop arranged in bundles captioned:
No. 6 CAPE PROVINCE: HEX RIVER VALLEY.

Page 58 Left
Clipping of picture with ornate entrance and gatehouse captioned:
Entrance to the Castle, Cape Town.

Cape Town 1900 Oct

Next day, we continued out journey. This time, however, we were more fortunate, being put into 3rd class carriages, convertible into sleeping berths at night. This, however, was due to the fact that we were now our of the war zone, so to speak.

Cape Town was reached at 4.0 pm on the second day after leaving Bloemfontein. There at the station we were met by an ambulance, and taken, rather to our surprise, to No. 5 General Hospital, on the sea shore. My surprise was at 4.30 pm increased upon being promptly ordered to bed by the Sister-in-charge of the ward to which I was allotted! However, it seems that by some error our cases had been marked "Enteric" in place of "Convalescent" on the documents accompanying us, and so I was sent to hospital with the rest of the party, instead of to Maitland Convalescent Depot, where we should have gone to.

I was permitted to get up again an hour or two later, when the doctor had seen me & the mistake explained, but it took me nearly a week to get out of that hospital! and to get a transfer to Maitland.

The camp at Maitland was pleasantly situated on high ground at the back of the town. We were comfortably housed in huts, and there was a garrison Institute in the camp, where reading rooms billiard rooms & supper bar, were all to be found. Maitland was the final discharge depot for men sent "down country" from hospital,whence they were either sent back in due course to their units, or else invalided to England. The duties in camp were light, and passes to go to Cape Town from 4.0 pm to 10.0 pm, freely given. There, on most evenings, a military band performed in the public gardens.

Page 59

Page 59
1900 Nov

Now once again, I had to approach the "powers that be" about getting round to Durban by sea. The main difficulty seemed to be a steamer, however. However, after some weeks of waiting the arrival of the P. & O.S.S. "?Sirnla?" from Southhampton, en route to Natal, was announced. She was fitted up as a hospital ship, and was now returning empty, except for the crew and hospital staff, to fill up again at Durban. So passage in this ship were taken for myself, and four others also found for Natal. At the appointed hour we were all five paraded by a Lance Corporal, whose duty it was to "embark" us.

And here again, is an instance of the folly of "dry nursing" the soldier! He is, apparently, considered quite incapable of putting himself into a train or onto a steamer, but must be "embarked" by a N.C.O., as if he were a child! Small wonder that employees fight shy of taking on ex-soldiers on return to civil life! For with a few exceptions, they are devoid of all initiative, but are always "waiting for orders' or for someone to hold their hand! And to show them how to do it!

Page 60

Page 60
1900 Nov

This particular corporal who conducted us belonged to the regular cavalry, and carried out his duties with a studied precision. having found the S.S. "Sirnla", he took us on board, found out where we were to sleep, showed us where to stow away our kits, where to draw hammocks & how to sling them when drawn, and where to obtain the necessary crockery etc. for our meals. All this done and our "documents" having been entrusted to an N.C.O. of the R.A.M.C. the corporal was preparing to depart, when one of the party, a burly private of South Africa Horse, called him back.

"I say, Corporal" he inquired facetiously "aren't you going to stop to tuck us up in bed?

The corporal stared for an instant, and then departed hastily! Apparently, this was the first case of this nature he had struck!

We were most comfortable on the "Sirnla", there was plenty of room, and the messing excellent. as there was no canteen on board, we were allowed to buy beer from the officers mess. Also, we were fortunate in a fair passage, not always the case in these seas.

Durban was made on the evening of the fourth dat. And it was after we had fallen in on deck, with our belongings that a sergeant of R.A.M.C. approached us with a sheet of paper in his hand, and demanded the sum of s1/6 {1 shilling 6 pence = 0.075 pounds} for each man for "Ship's damages".

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Page 61
1900 Nov

"But we haven't done any damage on board!" we protested. "Can't help that" was the cool reply "It's in the regulations, and you must pay it."

As soon as the N.C.O., had departed, I asked the South African (who was middle aged whilst the rest of us were only youngsters, as we rather looked up to him) what he proposed to do about it.

"Not to pay on penny," he replied "and don't you fellows either. They will only think you a d----d fool if you do! It's a rank imposition, and that's all about it."

And neither did we pay up! For the sergeant doubtless appreciated our attitude, and judged it wisest to "let well alone."

On disembarkation, we were duly ordered to report to the Disembarkation Staff Officer, whose office we were not long in finding. But it seemed that the unexpected arrival of five details, requiring accommodation for the night was too much for this individual! Had a sudden invasion by a foreign power occurred he could hardly have been more perturbed! At first, he seemed at his wits ends as how to dispose of us! But suddenly, a brilliant idea occurred to him! He led us along the dock until we came to an enormous shed, sheltering a vast pile of coal, about 20 feet high. "There" he said "you fellows can make yourselves as comfortable as you can for the night. Report to me again at my office to--morrow morning at 8.0 am!" With which instructions he withdrew.

Page 62

Page 62
1900 Nov


Upon entering the "Hotel de Luxe" to which we had been relegated, we were confronted with nigger gentleman, who appeared to be in charge. And having explained the situation to him, he strongly advised us to make our beds on top of the coal stack, in order to avoid being devoured by rats if we slept on the ground, as the place swarmed with these vermin.

So we consented, and our black friend having procured a ladder we climbed to the top of the coal (somehow or other I seem to have been associated with this very essential commodity for months past), and having spread out our blankets, settled down to slumber.

"Thank God that England's got a Navy!" mummered the South African, sleepily, before dropping off to slumber.

And the colonial was perfectly right! But actually, the Disembarkation Staff Officer was merely a typical specimen of the British regular officer of the period (with, of course, certain exceptions). In a large and important town such as Durban, containing barracks, a "rest camp", Soldiers Institute, etc. it is ridiculous to suggest that decent accommodation for one night for five soldiers was not to be had!

Page 63

Page 63
1900 Nov

But to secure this, demanded certain amount of initiative, and in this respect the officer was generally as deficient as the soldier! And when you come to think of it, what had been his early bringing up? A Public School, where games had always been the predominant factor, and all learning reduced to a minimum! Next, Sandhurst, where he at least learnt to wash himself, and how to use his knife and fork at table, but where he acquired about as much practical knowledge, military or otherwise, as might be placed on a sixpenny bit! And next, his regiment! After undergoing a "recruit officers" course of barrack square drill, gymnastics, etc. he is relegated to regimental duty. And how does he spend his time! In barrack square drill, as before, (an exercise of not the smallest value in war). In purely routine duties in barracks, such as mounting and visiting guards, inspecting cook houses, counting greasy coppers in the canteen, inspecting barrack rooms and kits, and checking socks and flannel shirts in the Quartermaster's store! And these so called "duties" occupied nine months of each year! For the remaining three months, "Field Training" (so designated) was carried out, on a progressive scale, commencing, in the infantry, with company training, and terminating with Divisional training. But again, these courses were of but slight practical value. To commence with, the number of working days allotted was too short, and the interdiction afforded was hampered by strict adherence to the principles laid down in the training manuals, which same manuals, as the South African War, clearly showed, were almost invariably wrong!

Page 64

Page 64
1900 Nov

Natal 1900

And so it came about that England paid dearly for the South African War, and in the main, due to the defective training, for both officers and men! But it was undoubtedly for the best! For the lessons of the war struck home, and a revised system of military organization, training, and administration, was introduced, such as raised the British Army a standard of efficiency, to which it had not attained for many generations! If ever!

Next morning, after a badly needed wash at a public bath establishment hard by,and a breakfast at the Soldiers Institute, we duly presented ourselves to our benefactor of the day before (i.e. The Disembarkation Staff Officer) who hard by now so far recovered from the shock of our arrival of the previous evening, as to be capable, (with the assistance of his clerk), of issuing us with railway warrants as far as Pietermaritzburg. So to the capital we duly proceeded. On arrival, we were relegated to the Show Ground, where we found various other Colonial details also awaiting despatch to their corps. And here again, "red tape" and general lack of organization, prevailed, and it was at least a week before I was finally dispatched "up country", to join the Imperial Light Infantry, which corps I now ascertained, was stationed at Ingagané, between Dundee and Newcastle, in Northern Natal, & on the main line off railway.

Page 65

Page 65
1900 Nov

"C" company were very much surprised to see me again in the land of the living, since rumors of my death in hospital at Vereeniging, after being taken there from Klip River, had filtered through. I found a packet of mail letters awaiting me, including one from my father, who had been writing all over the place to tell me that as commissions in the army were being freely granted from the ranks of Colonial corps, he had duly applied for one for me, and that through the representations of a cousin of the family, namely, Sir Walter Hely-Hutichinson, Governor of Natal, who as a Colonial Governor, had the power of nominating candidates for commissions within his control, I had been granted a commission as Second Lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery. This was certainly good news, but needed a little reflection before coming to a final decision. To begin with, I should have to live as my pay, that was certain! My fathers circumstances were such, that he could not possibly make me an allowance. Then again, I should be joining the army at a great disadvantage as regards to age, as I was now 26, and the average subaltern joined at 19, from "The Shop(*)." Still in spite of all this, I resolved to hope for the best, and in deference to the wishes of my parents, to accept the offer.

Having been away from the regiment for ten months, I had nearly £70-0-0 {70 pounds, 0 shillings, 0 pence} of back pay to draw. Having secured this, it occurred to me that a month's leave to Durban would do me no harm.

(*) Note: The Royal Military Academy, Woolwich.

Page 66 Left Side Page 66 Right Side

Page 66
1900 Dec


No. 10 NATAL: SOUTH COAST.
Country water mouth to ocean scene captioned:
"No. 10 NATAL: SOUTH COAST."

No. 13. NATAL: WEST STREET DURBAN
City scene captioned:
"No. 13. NATAL: WEST STREET DURBAN"

On application, however, I found that this was quite easy to get. We were well out of the war zone, and the work was light in consequence.

On arrival at the seaport, my first act was to retrieve from the Uitlander Relief Committee, my baggage, containing amongst thing my plain clothing, which they had been keeping for me during the period of active service. I then took up my residence at a boarding house. Durban was at this date teeming with men from The Rand, either on leave, or discharged from their Corps, and I met many old acquaintances.

Whilst at Durban, The Duke and Duchess of York(*), who were touring the Colonies, visited the town, and were greeted with great enthusiasm by the population.

A few days before the expiration of my leave, I received a notice from the battalion "Return at once." On arrival at Ingagané, I was instructed to proceed next day to Newcastle, for the purpose of being medically examined as to my physical fitness for a commission on the army.

(*)Footnote - afterwards > King George and Queen Mary.

Page 67

Page 67
1900 Dec


So next morning, I duly took the train to Newcastle, some 20 miles distant, and at the appointed hour presented myself at the military hospital. There, I was ushered into a marquee marked "Waiting Room." But it was quite an hour and a half later, before I was summoned to the ordeal, in an adjoining marquee! And here, seated at a table, with various blue army forms in front of them, I found myself confronted with three of the most martial looking individuals I had ever met in my whole existence! They were in fact, a Lieut. Colonel and two Majors of the Royal Army Medical Corps, and each was attired, in addition to the regulation Khaki uniform, in a "Sam Browne" belt, sword, revolver, ammunition pouch, and jack spurs!

Being ordered by the President of the board to strip to the skin, one of the members (having first of all diverted himself of the impedimenta of war) proceeded to examine me. My heart and lungs were first tended, I was thumped, measured, weighed, made to hop on each leg in turn, and to bend over and touch the ground with my hands. I was next submitted to a rather service eyesight test, and my hearing was tested. All this having been accomplished, apparently to the satisfaction of the board, I was ordered to dress, and return to my station. As I eventually emerged from the "Waiting Room" where I had gone to collect my arms & ammunition, I was highly amused at the sight of the three medicos mounting three prancing chargers, held by soldier grooms, and proceeding at a furious gallop to the officers mess for lunch. A distance of 200 yards at the outside! As already remarked, the officers of the R.A.M.C. were none too popular with Mr Thomas Atkins {slang for a common solider in the British army, root of the term 'Tommy'}, who had various nicknames for the corps, such for example. "The Castor Oil Dragoons" or "The Linseed Lancers" for the officer, and "The Poultice Wallaks" for the lower ranks.

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1900 Dec

As the proceedings of the medical board had to be transmitted home to The War Office, before anything more could be done, I had several weeks of service with the Imperial Light Infantry still before me. However now that they all knew that I had been promoted to a commission, I was let down very lightly in the way of duty, and in fact, had no work of an unpleasant nature to perform.

1901 Jan Another Xmas passed, and as usual was kept quietly. About the middle of January, I was sent for by the adjutant, who told me that my commission was confirmed and that I had been posted to the 69th Battery R.F.A. then stationed at De Jagers Drift near Dundee, Natal, on the Tugela River.

I was taken on to see the Colonel, who shook hands with me and congratulated me, and asked me to dine with the officers that evening. He also suggested that I should wire to my Battery Commander for ten days leave to go down to Pietermaritzburg and get at least enough in the way of kit and uniform to start on.

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1901 Jan

The reply confirming the leave arriving next day. I left for the capital. The question of uniform, however, was by no means an easy one. The few military tailors in the town were up to their ears in work, and could promise nothing under three weeks. However, the Army Ordnance Dept. came to the rescue, and I was able to purchase from the local Ordnance Depot some ready made khaki clothing and riding breeches, a helmet, cloak, revolver, and Sam Browne belt & underclothing, socks etc. Boots and gaiters I was able to get from an outfitter. Also, on the recommendation of my battery commander, I invested in a "Wolseley Valise" or waterproof sleeping bag designed to hold ones bedding as well as ones kit, on the line of march, and also a little light camp furniture.

As I had been appointed to a commission from the ranks, I was entitled, under the Royal Warrant for Pay and Promotion to an outfit allowance of £100-0-0 {100 pounds}. So whilst at Pietermaritzburg I took the opportunity of calling on the Command Paymaster on the subject. But I found this ?woestley? (a fiery colonel) inclined to be rather sticky on the subject. In fact he told me bluntly that this allowance was only intended to apply to regular soldiers, and not to us of the Colonial Forces, since we were generally of superior social status to the regular Tommy, so should be able to pay for the outfit, or at least, our people could do so.

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1901 Jan

Queen Victoria
Single clipping of a photograph portrait captioned: QUEEN VICTORIA

Natal & Transvaal 1901

However, I did not fall in with this view by any means. I considered that I was entitled to the allowance, and really did not see why I should not have it. Also, my Father's circumstances were none too good, and for I to have bought an outfit would have absorbed the whole of my savings, if not more. So I represented this, and was coldly told that nothing could be done locally, and that I had better write to Cox & Co. about it. This I did, and after a considerable delay, received the money.

A few days after my arrival in the capital, the news of the death of Queen Victoria arrived. A day of universal morning followed, and 82 minute guns were fired from fort Napier by the R.F.A.

Having obtained my kit, I in due course proceeded to Dundee, and thence or by an A.S.C wagon which happened to be going that way, to De Jagers Drift, about 15 miles further on. The battery was under canvas or rather 2 sections of it (each of 2 guns) were at H.Q. the third section being detached to 'Nqutn, in Zululand. The 69th Battery had fought at Talaua Hill, at Elandslaagte, and had undergone the privations of the siege of Ladysmith. The officers serving with the battery were Major F.V. Wing, B.C. Capt Olivier, and Leiuts H.T. Belcher and Chenevix-Trench. The latter officer, however, was away in Zululand, with the 3rd Section of the other three, Capt. Oliver was promoted Major in the summer of 1901, and retired as soon as peace was proclaimed. Major Wing and Lieut. Belcher were both eventually killed in the European War, in the ranks of Brigadier General, and Major, respectively, as also was Chenevix-Trench (in the rank of Captain).

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1901 Jan

Officers with 69th Batty R.F.A. Jan. 1901

Major F.V.D Wing Capt. Olivier Lient. H. T. Belcher, D.S.O. Lient. Chenevix-Trench 2nd Lient. J. F. de F. Shaw

I found I had plenty to learn on joining the battery. First of all, I had to undergo a preliminary course of riding. this was done under the superindence of the Battery Sergeant Major, in the in the absence of a Riding Master. The drill was conducted in an open ?manege?. The "riding without stirrups" and the barebacked, so necessary to cultivate the necessary muscles, was most painful, but the Battery Sergeant Major was not too exacting, and never kept one too long at the game at a stretch. Also, I had to "learn how to fall off" as very necessary. I was also, as a recruit officer, relegated to a course of "gun drill." The Field Artillery gun of the period was the 15 Pdr. B.L., an obsolete weapon, and hopelessly outranged by the Boer artillery, equipped with the very latest "Krupp" patterns. It was eventually to be replaced by the 18 Pdr. Q.I. a far superior weapon in every sense of the term.

For recreation, I may state, there was plenty of riding, fishing and shooting, for the officers, and the men played football, cricket, and quorts.

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1901 Jan

My daily routine, as a recruit officer, was somewhat as follows. Rise at 6.0 am, for early morning "Stables", for the grooming, watering, and feeding, of the 80 or so horses. From 9.0 to 10.0 am riding drill. Then again at 12.00 noon, midday stables. At 2.0 pm, an hours gun drill in the gun park. At 5.0 pm evening stables. As regards the stable duties, the early morning and evening ones were taken by the Battery Orderly Officer, who was detailed weekly from the roll of subalterns. The midday "Stables" was a much more pretentious affair, and was attended by all officers. The Battery Commander personally inspected each horse, before ordering a "turn out." However, I was for the present required to attend early morning, midday, and evening stables, for instructional purposes. Also, since Lieut. Belcher was the only subaltern present with the battery besides myself, I had to take my turn at Battery Orderly Officer. These duties entailed, amongst others, mounting the quarter guard, and visiting the sentries by day and night, visiting the cook house, latrines, etc. taking the horses to water in the river three times daily, and once a week, riding into Dundee to draw pay from the bank, for the weekly payment of the battery.

In the matter of pay, I may state, I drew, as a Second Lieut. the proverbial s5/7 {5 shillings 7 six pence = £0.27} a day , with, an addition, a Colonial allowance of s3/0 {£0.15} and s2/6 {£0.125} Field Allowance, daily {total £0.545 daily}. Also, being on active service, officers were entitled to draw free rations. There being nothing at De Jagers to spend any money on, we lived very cheaply, & I had no difficulty in managing on my allowances, my pay mounting up month by month at the bank.

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1901 Feb

After a month or so at De Jagers, my drills were suddenly interrupted by the battery being put on to convoy work. A series of convoys was being organized between Dundee and Vryheid, one of our posts in the Eastern Tranvaal, and four days march from Dundee, the route passing through De Jagers Drift! The two sections of the 69th Battery and two sections from the 67th Battery at Dundee, used to constitute the escort, with various cavalry and infantry added. After a day at Vryheid, we returned with the empty wagons, which went on to Dundee to load up again. The work lasted about 6 weeks. Occasionally a small party of Boers would be spotted in the far distance, and we would let off a round or two, but they proved slippery customers and always got away. It was during this period that we learnt that the 1st Brigade Division R.F.A. comprising the 13th, 67th and 69th batteries, were under orders to move to India in the autumn. This most certainly appeared good news so far as I was concerned, as had the battery been ordered home, I could most certainly not have afforded to remain in it, on s5/7 {£0.27} a day, which was all one drew at home!

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1901 March-April

On the other hand, I had been led to believe, that in India, a subaltern could live on his pay. Of this, however, more hereafter!

The convoy work completed, we settled down once more to the normal routine of camp life, and I, more over, to resume my riding and gun drills. Major Wing now left us to command a mobile column, and Lieut. Chenevix-Trench was appointed a D.C. to the G.O.C. Natal District.

A few weeks later, I was "dismissed drill" but only temporarily. The reason being, that it was inconvenient to carry out training and instruction in the field. However, I had still quite a lot to learn, and it all portended to be renewed with vigor under peace conditions, more especially as all the training manuals were under revision.

About this date, reports began to come in that certain Dutch farmers in the neighborhood, who had been known to have assisted the Boers during the early invasion of Northern Natal in October 1899, were now harboring arms and ammunition, in defiance of the regulations forbidding this practice. As a result, we used to make raids from time to time, often with success. When the battery was detailed for this duty, it usually turned out a party of mounted drivers, armed with carbines, under a subaltern, who continued as a rule to put in a little shooting at the same time.

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1901 April

On one particulat occasion, however, the party was commanded by the Battery Sergeant Major, and made a suprise visit to a certain farm hard by, the owner of which was suspected of treachery. A knock at the door produced an old woman, who explained that her old man was out. So the party proceeded to search the house (being an active service, "search warrants" needless to say being dispensed with). First, the living rooms, but nothing wrong there! Next, the Sergeant Major turned the handle of a bedroom door, but found it locked. On demanding the key, the woman told him that he couldn't go in, as her daughter was ill in the bed there. However, the Sergeant Major being firm, the woman, with many protests, gave up the key. On entering the room, the girl was found there in bed right enough. Still a rigid search of the room availed nothing! However, the Sergeant Major was suddenly struck with an idea! For seizing hold of the bedclothes he turned them down to the fullest extent, amidst screams of protest from both woman and lo ' and behold! The bed was full of rifles, lying alongside the girl on either side! The Sergeant Major now turned to the old woman, who, it may be mentioned, was of ample proportions, and after having regarded her critically for a moment, he went on. "Now, old lady" he said "Let us have a squint into your bed! For I recon we shall find a Four Point Seven gun there, at the very least!"

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1901 Sept

Early in September, rumors reached us off a projected raid into Natal by Louis Botha, who was said to be manning forces for this purpose on the Transvaal - Natal border. As a result, the 69th Battery was ordered to send a section of 2 guns up to Vryheid, to strengthen our forces there. Capt. Tapp, of the 67th Battery, was now in temporary command of us, and Lieut. C.H. Clarke had succeeded Lieut. Belcher, posted temporarily to the depot at Pietermaritzburg. Captain Olivier had been by now been promoted to Major, and posted to another battery. Again, one Lieut. Hebert had succeeded Lieut Chenevix-Trench in the command of the detached section in Zululand.

Captain Tapp decided to send Lieut. Charles section to Vryheid, and to accompany it himself, with the requisite battery staff, leaving me in command of the section at De Jagers. A few days after their departure, on the 15th September, Major T- of the Kings Own Royal Lancaster Regt. Commanding the Troops, warned me to be prepared to move out with my section on the 17th. On the afternoon of the following day, we were reinforced by the arrival of Gough's Mounted Infantry, comprising three companies of regular Mounted Infantry, taken from the 60th Rifles, the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), and Royal Irish Fusiliers respectively. The unit was commanded by one Major Gough, of The 16th Lancers, a scion of a house which claimed many generations of distinguished soldiers, and who himself in addition, earned the reputation of a dashing cavalry leader in the field.

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1901 Sept

I dined that evening with the Mounted Infantry, having previously been warned to be ready to move out at daybreak next morning. During the evening, I gathered that we were intended to function as a punitive mobile column, to penetrate into the Schurveberg Mountains to the west of Vryheid, with the object of breaking up the efforts of the Boer general Louis Botha in that district, where he was said to be concentrating his forces for an invasion of Northern Natal. Further, I learnt that we might be expected to be out for three weeks at least.

Next morning at the appointed hour, the column started off. I took with me the two guns, one ammunition wagon, and one baggage wagon, the latter carrying rations, blankets, waterproof sheets, etc. Such luxuries as tents were of course left behind, as we were intended to bivouac each night in the open. Total about 26 horses, and some 30 N.C.O.s and men.

Our first line of advance lay practically due North. The pace was rapid, alternately walking and trotting, but with a decided tendency towards the latter pace. About midday, a halt was called, to rest and water the horses. When we moved off again, we changed our direction to the Westward, proceeding at a continuous trot, by order of the Column Commander. This rate of progress may have been all very well for light Mounted Infantry Cols butt quite impossible to maintain for any length of time by field artillery draught horses, with the weight of a lumber and gun behind the teams.

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1901 Sept

After and hour or so of this, a fresh halt was ordered. And now Gough for the first time proceeded to explain his plan to me.

He had had information from native spies, it so appeared, that a small force of the enemy lay concentrated in the Blood River Poort, a valley penetrating into a low outlying spur of the Schurveberg Mountains and some 8 miles to the N.E. of our present position. And so his scheme was to advance, take them by surprise and (as he sanguinely put it) "Bag the lot."

So off we started, again, at the trot, but changing direction to the North East. Our route now lay over a grassy plain, with indications off low hill in the distance, and to our left. After half an hour or so of this, my horses began to show signs of exhaustion, but we had to push on.

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1901 Sept

Action at Blood River, 17th Sept. 1901

Another 30 minutes brought us abreast of a low ridge of hills, to our left, and about 1400 yards distant. There Gough, who was riding with me, indicated the entrance to the Poort, about a mile ahead.

He had hardly done so, when rifle firing broke out suddenly upon us from the rocky ridge on our left. I was ordered to bring the guns onto action at once, but had to do so at first with only one gun, the other one having dropped behind some 200 yards, owing to the exhaustion of the horses. We opened fire on the rocks on the summit of the ridge and were I imagined the enemy to be, though as usual, not a sign of a Boer was to be seen. Meanwhile the Mounted Infantry, (less one section left as escort to the guns) were working their way up the Poort. Hough, however, remaining close to the guns.

The rifle firing from the ridge continued but the bullets were all going high, and we suffered no casualties so far. After about 10 or 15 minutes by which time the M.I. Companies must have been well into the Poort, a large and scattered body of horsemen suddenly emerged from the mouth of the Poort at full gallop, spreading out as they came along towards my two guns. The subaltern in command of the M.I. escort indicated these to Gough, and suggested that

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1901 Sept

Map showing the battle.
Sketch map to illustrate the action at Blood River Poort, 17th Sept, 1901.
Text as it appears in the map:

  • Lower spur of the Schurveberg Mountains, Farm, Poort
  • Boer Attack M.I. Spruit
  • Boer marksmen
  • M.I Escort to Guns
  • 2 guns R.F.A. in action
  • R.F.A Wagon captured here
  • our line of approach
  • Sketch map to illustrate the action at Blood River Poort, 17th Sept, 1901.
  • British - 300 - 2 guns
  • Boers estimated at from 2000 to 2500 - no guns {these numbers are reported on wikipedia to be 750 British and 1000 Boers}
  • Scale 5" = 1 mile.

They were Boers. But the Major only responded - "No they are our men returning" But a minute later, as it became perfectly plain that they were Boers, so Gough shouted to me to retire the guns 1000 yards, and then to bring them into action again. So I mounted my horse, and ordered in quick succession: "Cease firing, prepare to retire, rear lumber up, gallop" and off we started, the I had not gone more than 50 yards or so before on looking round, I saw the section was not following, being in serious difficulties and unable to move, many of the horses being hit by the Boers who were firing from the saddle as they advanced. By the time I had regained the guns, the Boers were tight on top of us, and a regular melee was in progress. I was dragged off my horse, relieved of my revolver, ammunition, and accoutrements, and so stripped of my boots, gaiters breeches jacket and helmet. As also were all the other officers. In the section, we had more half the horses killed or wounded, one gunner killed and two drivers wounded. Sergeant Dorly the "No1" of one of the guns, successfully disabled the breech mechanism of his gun, before capture, thus rendering it useless to the enemy! The Mounted Infantry suffered severely with 14 killed and 25 wounded. The Boers were commanded by General Louis Botha in presence, and their numbers have been variously estimated at from 2000 to 2500, but judging from the numbers I saw in their camp next day, I should say that the latter figure was nearer to mark.

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1901 Sept

When the Boers charged the guns, Lieut. Price-Davies, of the 60th Rifles, when ordered to surrender, responded by putting a round of the best into the body of the Boer who gave the order. He was promptly shot in the arm, and off his horse. For this act, Lieut Price-Davies was awarded a V.C. {Victoria's Cross Medal}

All unmounted artillery riding or draught horses, were not harnessed to the buns, which were taken off by the Boers. Also, our ammunition and baggage wagons, were in addition captured, with all stores, baggage, etc.

We were then mustered, and ordered up the Poort to a farm. But before marching off General Louis Botha made a brief inspection, and professed, or pretended to profess, the greatest indignation at the way in which we officers had been treated, in being striped of our clothing etc. However, all this availed nothing, since the "officers" did not appear to exercise the slightest influence over the burghers, who did just as they pleased. Personally, I did not want sympathy. All I needed was my trousers back! On the way up to the farm, I walked alongside a mounted Boer, who told me that we would in all probability not be detained longer than a day or two, since the Boers did not look forward to feeding so many extra mouths having, in fact not too much food for themselves.

On reaching the farm, the wounded were made as comfortable as circumstances admitted, by both the British and Boer medical services, each of whom had administered First aid, so far as possible, before leaving the field of action. Here, an old Boer gave me an overcoat, for I was clad in only pants, shirt, and socks. Fortunately, the weather was warm. On arrival at the we were relegated to the farm buildings for the night. There, we were given a little food. Gough, however, contrived to evade his guards, and to escape on the way up to the farm. Having been stripped like the other officers, he eventually got back, footsore and weary, to De Jagers Drift next day.

We were kept where we were all next day, the main feature of which was considerable activity on the part of the Boers, who were continually mustering in parties of from 50 to 100, and riding away.

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1901 Sept

Next morning, about 10.0 am, a convoy of British Ambulances arrived, under a flag of truce, from Vryheid, and the dead and wounded having been placed in them, the rest of us were told that we could get into Vryheid (about 15 miles distant) as best we could. As I personally had to do it all in my stockinged feet, it was fortunate that the "going was good" and nearly all over grassland. As it was, I was considerable sore, by the time we reached Vryheid!

At Vryheid, I found H.Q. and the other Section of battery, which had left De Jagers some days before we moved out with Gough. Next day, the dead, to the number of 17, were all buried in one grave, in the presence of representatives of each unit in garrison. A day or tow later, Captain Dick of the Royal Irish Fusiliers, also succumbed to his wounds.

On the 23rd September, we proceeded to return to De Jagers. We had lost 26 horses, 2 guns, 1 ammunition wagon, in addition to all stores and baggage. Gough, of course, had been entirely decived by false information regarding the enemy movements and dispositions. Doubtless, the native spies whom he employed were in 'Boer pay as well.' However, this was a case of frequent occurrence inn the South African War.

After a fortnight at De Jagers, I was suddenly ordered to Pietermaritzburg on "special duty." On arrival, I discovered that this duty amounted to proceeding to Fort York, an isolated outpost on the Natal-Zululand border to take over command there, as apparently an invasion by the Boers was now threatened in that quarter.

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1901 Oct.

Zululand 1901

So to Fort York I duly proceeded, first by rail to Greytown, thence by horse to my destination. On arrival, I found the post to consist of a small blockhouse at the head of a steep and thickly wooded valley, with a garrison of 15 men and a machine gun. There I was detained for five days, and was by no means sorry to be ordered back on the 6th day to Ladysmith to rejoin the 69th Battery, due to embark for India at once.

During my short stay at the blockhouse, I received a visit from an old Zulu Chief. He was most anxious to get hold of a silk top hat, to complete his costume "ál' Anglais." He already, it seemed, possessed the conventional black moruning coat and vest, and cashmere trousers, but no hat! Much to his chagrin, I was unable to oblige him! All I had to offer him was a loaf of stale bread left over from our rations of the day before, which he gratefully accepted, however.

The Zulus, and in fact all the Kafir tribes of South Africa, have a mania for European clothes, and especially for discarded military uniforms, and lose no opportunity of buying up the latter. I will remember one day in Durban, running up against a colonial gentleman clad in an old full dress Dragoon scarlet tunic, and a pair of Army Service Corps trousers, and obviously "Fancying himself" ?bungely?!

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1901 Oct.

I reached Ladysmith on the third day after leaving Fort York, where I found the guns and horses of the battery had been handed over to 50 Battery, R.F.A. and the "personnel" concentrated to embark of India.

That same afternoon, we took the train for Durban. On arrival at that port, we embarked in the Hired Transport "Armenian" together with the "personnel" of the 67th Battery, and one section of the 13th Battery. The whole was under command of Lieut. Col. E.A. Lambart. R.F.A. also, we constituted an escort for 1200 Boer prisoners of war, all destined for various internment camps in India. In addition, various details of officers were on board.


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1901 Oct.

Chapter II
India 1901 - 1903

The "Armenian" sailed that same evening for Bombay. And now for the first time I became acquainted with the duties of a subaltern officer on board a transport. To begin with, three officers were detailed for "watch" duty every 24 hours. Each officer did 4 hours on and 8 hours off, in two successive periods, that is to say, the same watches as observed by the Navy & Mercantile Marine. Whilst on watch the officer was required to remain on deck, and to visit all sentries every 2 hours, both by day and night, to ascertain that all was correct. In a big ship like the "Armenian," with so many prisoners to guard, the sentries were of necessity numerous, and amounted to at least 20, if not more. The operation of visiting the mens quarters in the middle of the night, in a tropical sea, and crawling under hammocks to get at the sentry, was not altogether a pleasant one, as can be well imagined. Still it was all in the days work, so had to be done!

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1901 Oct.


In addition to the three subalterns on watch, and "orderly officer" was detailed daily. His duties commenced at "Reveille," when he had to descend to the bowels of the ship to superintend the stowage of hammocks. He also had to supervise the issue of rations, and to visit the various messes, not only of the escort but of the Boer prisoners, at the breakfast and dinner hours, to ascertain if there were any complaints. At 10.0 am he accompanied morning "Rounds", a rather formidable procession comprising the Officer Commanding the Troops, the Chief Officer of the Ship, the ships adjutant, quartermaster, and a host of menials too numerous to name. The whole being headed by a R.A. trumpeter, blowing frequent "g's" on his instrument, as the party progressed, to announce their approach. Every corner of the ship was visited and subjected to a rigid inspection. The officers salon, and cabins, the mens quarters, the prisoners quarters, the hospital, bath rooms, wash houses. the sergeants quarters and men, all received attention. Finally the procession ascended to the deck, where the whole of the R.F.A. escort (except those on sentry or other duties) were drawn up on parade. After a brief inspection by the O.C.Troops, the "Dismiss" was sounded, and everybody dispersed.

At 12:00 noon, the orderly officer had to superintend the issue of beer to the troops. This was still strictly limited to one pint per man daily, in the morning only, however, as there was a shortage of this luxury on board, so no evening issue could be considered. At 9.0 pm evening "Rounds" had to be attended. However, this was a much less pretentious affair than that of the morning, being conducted by the Field Officer of the week, a ships officer, and the orderly officer. It only a occupied a few minutes, at the conclusion of which the orderly officer (or "Orderly Dog" as he is more commonly known in military parlance) found his duties for the day completed.

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1901 Oct.

Seychelles Isles. Oct 1901

Taking it all round, however, the work was comparatively light, as compared with that on shore, and in fact gave one something to do on board, and helped to while away the tedium of a dull voyage, as voyages on transports are apt to be.

The weather, though distinctly hot, was glorious. A few days out form Durban, however, the skipper found it necessary to replenish his stock of coal, as the Natal coal with which he had been furnished had turned out to be so inferior as to seriously delay progress. So he decided to put in at The Seychelles Islands, some 300 miles to the N.E. of Madagascar, where he knew he would find a good supply of Welsh coal, as Port Victoria, the capital and port, was a recognized fueling station for the Royal Navy.

So Port Victoria was duly made, and here the "Armenian" anchored and lay off the shore for three days, whilst talking in coal. The Seychelles group consisted of about 50 islands, mostly very small and uninhabited, except by sea fowl. Mahé the principal island, on which is situated Port Victoria, is about 3 miles in length by 1 mile in breath at the center. It is a coral reef, and the wonderful clearness of the water is remarkable. Also the island scenery is very beautiful. Thick tropical jungle, with trees extending to the sea shore on all sides, covered the island. In the center, the ground rose to a considerable altitude. The only variation in the jungle were occasional vanilla plantations, this being the main industry.


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1901 Oct.

During our short stay, shore leave was freely given to officers off duty, and I availed myself of this twice. The local British settlers offered us generous hospitality, and did their best to make our stay enjoyable. Before leaving, I with others, paid a visit to the deposed King Prempeh, of Asante, who had been deported to Mahé as a state prisoner after the Asante war. We found him in very comfortable circumstances, surrounded by wives innumerable, and be received us with great cordiality. All conversation naturally, had to be conducted through an interpreter. His dusky Majesty was most anxious to learn, however, when he was going to be allowed to return to his native land! Unfortunately, this was a point of which we had no information.

Of the remainder of the voyage to Bombay, there is little to relate. The Boer prisoners gave a little trouble to the first few days out, refusing to perform the duties of cleaning up that portion of the ship allotted them. However, as judicious cutting of their food speedily brought them round, and after this, there was no more trouble. We had the usual ships sports, i.e. tugs-of war, boxing, deck quoits {a game like horseshoes}, etc. etc, and one of two evening concerts were got up. The weather continued fine, with the sea like a millpond, but intensely hot. So we were not sorry to make Bombay, just a month after leaving Durban, With hopes of migration to a cooler climate

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1901 Nov.

Bombay is undoubtedly a beautiful city, and the approach to it from the sea, just before sunset on a fine day (such as that of our arrival) needs to pen of a Kipling to aptly describe! The "Armenian" duly anchored in the stream, and shortly afterwards the Health and Customs Officers, and one or two Staff Officers, arrived on board, and satisfied the customs that we had nothing to declare as subject to duty, they all departed. There was, it appeared, no hurry to disembark us! But then India, as the same illustrious Kipling has remarked in the past "is a slack country."

Having ascertained that there was not the remotest chance of disembarkation before late on the following day, I gladly accepted the invitation of Major Manifold, (commanding the 67th Battery), who was returning to India after many years of absence from that country, to accompany him for a run on shore for an hour or so before dinner, and have a look round. Two other subalterns also made up the party, and we duly chartered one of the many roving boats which swarmed round. The ship, all clamoring for customers. We landed at the Apollo Bunder, the chief landing place for boats. There, on mounting the steps, we found ourselves in the midst of a surging crowd of most disreputable looking natives, mostly touts, and servants desiring engagement, the latter all armed with bundles of dirty letters, which they persistently kept on shoving in our faces. But Major Manifold made short work of these and having dispersed them with a few expletives in the vernacular, beckoned to the driver of a vehicle which lay close by.

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1901 Nov.

"The scum of the earth" said the Major indicating the crowd with his hand. "They are all looking for jobs as servants to you young fellows, on the strength of a bundle of so called '?ckits?', or references, which they have bought for sixpense in the local bazaar, & 'faked' by some native 'writer'. They would rob you of all you posses in a week, and then clear off and never be heard of again! So I strongly recommend you to wait until you get to your stations, before taking on a servant. But as the time is getting on, I suggest that we take this cab, if we wish to see the sights to any extent."

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1901 Nov.

So the cab (or "gharry" as it is termed in the vernacular) was duly chartered, and the evening being oppressively warm, as it is at all seasons in Bombay, it turned out to be much the best way of seeing the city. First we drove along the sea front, post the stately pike of the University, then up Malabar Hill, the European residential quarter, returning via the native city. At this hour, the streets were crowed with every variety and caste of native, mostly taking the air in the cool of the evening. Stately parsee, fiery looking Mohammedans, insolent looking Thindor students, Arab Sikhs etc. All jostled one another on the pavement. On nearing the Apollo Bunder, we came to a point where several streets converged, and here a splendidly attired horseman, whom I took to be a sowar of Indian Cavalry, was controlling the traffic. On inquiry, however, it appeared that he was only a mounted policeman! His horse, in the face of such traffic, was very restive and gave him a lot of trouble. , but he sat it superbly.

We spent the night on board, and next morning were visited by a succession of staff officers, who gazed at us as if we were the latest importations from the Zoo and then went away without comment! Later on, a real live general rolled up! He, again, had nothing to say, and I verily believe all he wanted was an iced "peg"*. Bombay is a thirsty place!

We discussed lunch (or "Giffin" as it is termed in the East) and were beginning to wonder if we were destined to end our days on the "Armenian," when about 2.0 pm, a feverish order arrived for us to land at once! This is so like the gilded staff- they ignore you altogether for a week, then they ought to act at once, and then suddenly spring upon you to do in minutes, what would in the ordinary course take you several hours! However, by 5.0 pm, we had handed the Boer prisoners over for conveyance to various prison camps, and had got all baggage and stores on shore. We now discovered that the 13th Battery was destined to proceed to Jhansi, the 67th to Jullundur, and the 69th to Multan, in the Punjab. We were now commanded by Captain H. J. Belcher, D.S.U. recently promoted.

  • Footnote - "Peg" is the Indian term for a whiskey & soda.

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1901 Nov.

Having dined at the railway station, we duly embarked on the troop train provided for us, on our first stage up country. Captain Belcher now commanded us, in the D.S.O. absence of a Major. Our first halt was at Deolali, a sort of depot camp through which every unit arriving at, or departing from Bombay, is passed. This was reached at 6.0 pm next day, and here we vegetated for four days, for no apparent reason. Here, as at Bombay, we were pestered by a horde of obviously undeniable "servants." However, we had arranged to retain our soldier servants until reaching Multan, a wise precaution, if not strictly in accordance with regulations, since the use of soldier servants in the tropics is forbidden.

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1901 Nov.

But whilst on the subject of Deolali, an amusing story is told. A very young subaltern, fresh from Sandhurst, duly landed at Bombay to join his regiment, and according to custom, was condemned to Deolali for several days before proceeding on. Being quite new to the country, and without anyone to advise him, the boy soon fell a victim to the overtures of a typical Deolali servant, and so engaged him in the capacity of bearer (of body servant). Next day, the wily native deferentially approached his new master. "Would master like to go shooting?- good skikar (sport) here! I make good bundobust (arrangements)!" Now the boy was itching to let off his newly acquired 12 bore gun, so readily agreed. So later on in the day, a small procession sallied forth from the camp. First, the subaltern, next the trusty servant, then a Shikari (huntsman), and finally an army of beaters! All of course, engaged at a highly exorbitant rate! And as the sun was setting, the procession returned! In front, the young officer, proud as a peacock! next, the servant, holding out at arms length a fine specimen of the Indian Carrion Crow. (known as a "stork") and at the same time pressing a handkerchief to his nose against the appalling smell from the carcass of the filthy bird! And lastly, the grinning beaters! And after setting up the demands (at about five times the proper rate) the youth gaily sits down and writes to his people at home that he has been out shooting, and has already bagged a fine specimen of the Indian Eagle - (a bird to which, it must be admitted the "stork" bears a strong resemblance, both as regards to size and appearance).


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1901 Dec.

On leaving Deolali, we traveled at first by night only, lying up all day in "rent camps", on account of the heat. These rent camps were well equipped with barracks, officers and Sergeants messes, bath rooms, wash houses, etc. As the rail journey did not recommence before 8.0 pm one could always get a walk in the cool of the evening before dinner. It was on one of these walks in company with Captain Belcher, that the latter rather surprised me by asking me if I would like to go on leave for six months to England. As I was the junior subaltern in the battery, it would certainly not appear that I was entitled to long leave before the others. But on my representing this, Belcher proceeded to point out that first of all, I had been nearly five years away from home very recently, also, that neither of them required leave as yet, and with the hot weather coming on, there would be very little work doing. So I gladly fell in with his suggestion, more especially as I had saved money during the war, so was prepared to pay the cost of a return passage to England (if necessary).

Multan Dec 1901

On arrival at Lahore Contonment, in the Southern Punjab, the weather being distinctly colder, we travelled continuously night and day, finally reaching Multan on the 10th day out from Deolali.

On arrival, the battery was relegated to quarters in the old fort, pending the issue of guns and horses. Multan was a typical small Indian military station, garrisoned by a British infantry battalion (The Bedfords). An Indian infantry battalion, and Indian cavalry regiment, a Field Battery, R.F.A. and a Heavy Battery R.G.A. (bullock ?deaion?). The gunner mess was very comfortable, and I was allotted a quarter in a bungalow close by. Also, there was a good Station club close at hand, with lawn tennis courts, etc.

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1901 Dec.

NATIVE STREET SCENE N.W. INDIA
A single clipping of a color illustration captioned:
NATIVE STREET SCENE N.W. INDIA

My first step, after arrival, was to submit my application for six months leave. As however, this had to go up to the General Officer Commanding the Northern Army (The forces in India at this date were divided into two armies, the Northern and Southern), some weeks were bound to ensue before a reply could be expected.

My next step was to obtain some uniform, and plain clothing, since I possessed nothing but Khaki uniform. In the haste of our departure from South Africa, my base stores, comprising a portmanteau containing sundry clothing, such as a dress suit, etc. etc. had been left behind, and I did not receive it for several weeks to come. As blue cloth uniform was worn in the cold weather in the Punjab, I had to pay a visit to Lahore, where there were European tailors and boot makers, and order both uniform and ?multi? clothing. Also, I had to send on urgent order to the army & Navy Stores at Bombay, for a sword, gold belts & full dress black enameled pouch belt etc. which articles were not procurable in the Punjab.

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1901 Dec.

The mens dress of this period was still that which had prevailed in the Regiment of many years. It comprised a blue shell jacket with gold lace facings, and hooked up at the top, a scarlet lace cloth waistcoat, with bran buttons all down the front, and a false collar. Also, blue overalls with gold lace stripes, and gilt spurs. Unfortunately, at this period, certain changes in uniform were being made at home. But I really consider it the irony of fate, that on the evening when I donned my new mens kit for the first time, and, feeling rather self conscious, entered the ante-room of the mess, I picked up the London "Times" just arrived by the mail, only to read an extract from an Army Order, canceling the existing mens dress favor of a simple and less expensive pattern! However, there was a rider to the effect that officers in possession of the old dress were allowed four years grace in which to wear it out, which was some slight consolation to me.

Young officers of the Field Artillery being expected to play polo, I had to buy a pony on arrival at Multan, as also had the other two subalterns. Captain Belcher, however, arranged all this, and obtained an animal for me for the modest price of Rs.300-00 (£20-0-0). It was by no means in its first youth, still, it had played the game, and was judged to be a good pony for a beginner. Station polo was played three days a week at Multan. On the "off" days, we novices were taken down to the polo ground every afternoon, and coached in the elements of the game by the Captain of the Heavy Battery. I also had to provide myself with a horse for parade purposes, but this I arranged to temporarily obtain from the R.A. Ammunition Column.

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1901 Dec.

A NATIVE PORTER
A NATIVE PORTER


A NATIVE MUSICIAN PESHAWAR
A NATIVE MUSICIAN PESHAWAR

I had now to go very carefully into the question of accounts and expenses generally. My pay as a Second Lieut. of R.F.A., at Indian rates, amounted to Rupees 215-00 monthly (about £14-0-0). Mess bills, in which were included club and Gymkhana bills, could hardly be kept below Rupees 150-00 per season! Then there were your servants to consider, and a host of these too! For since, by reason of questions of caste, each servant was only allowed to perform one duty, and unfortunate subaltern, no matter how impecunious, was compelled to keep ( in the Field Artillery) 10, or even 12! These comprised, first and foremost, the bearer or body servant, who looked after your clothes, acted as head servant, and had the ordering of the others. If he happened to be a Mohammedan, he could also act as your "Khitmatghar" or waiter, who attended to your wants at the mess table, but if a Hindoo, he was strictly forbidden by his religion from coming into contact with your food! So in such a case, an additional servant as Khitmatghar was needed. Next, came the "Bheestie" or water carrier, who daily brought you your supply of water in a "goatskin bag" (actually a relic of the Biblical age). For water in the country districts of India is only obtainable from wells. Then, the sweeper, who attended to all the cleaning of the bungalow, sanitation, and so forth. The "dhobie" or washerman, who would guarantee you a "boiled shirt" or anything else you cared to ask for, at a few hours notice! The "chankidar" or night watchman, who patrolled round your bungalow all noght with a lantern, with the view of protecting you against burglars! And again for each horse, or pony, you kept, a Syce(groom) was required, since there menials would not consent to look after more than one animal each. And as grass formed part of the horses ration of forage in India, each Syce required the services of an assistant, termed a "grasscutter", whose exclusive duty was to sally forth into the jungle and bring in a supply of this commodity each day! And finally, there was a "Mali" or gardner, who tended your garden, and guaranteed you a bunch of fresh flowers everyday.

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1901 Dec.

Certainly the majority of these menials received very low wages. The highest paid was as a matter of course, the bearer. If he also acted as your "Khitmatghar" *as was actually the case with mine), he drew Rs. 25-00 monthly. Each Syce received Rs. 10-00, & a grasscutter Rs6-00. The "Dhobie" (washerman) also got Rs6-00. The remaining servants were shared by the occupants of a bungalow (in my case three), and it worked out to about Rs4-00 each for the "Bheestie" sweeper, Mali, and Chankidar.

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1901 Dec.

In my particular case, my sevants wages bill worked out to Rs75-00 a month (or £5-0-0). In South Africa, of in England, I would have got off with £1-0-0 (i.e. s10/0 {10 shillings = half a pound} a month each to my servant and groom). In addition, I had to pay a monthly rent for my share of the bungalow which I occupied, and shared with three other officers. I forget the actual amount I had to pay at Multan, but am under the impression that it worked out to Rupees 30-00 per season at least. if not more. (£2-0-0 in English money). Out of India, a regimental officer either received free quarters, or else an allowance to provide for the same. But in India, ones pay was what was known as "consolidated" sums and intended to cover all expenses. In some stations however, Government quarters were provided for unmarried officers at a purely nominal rate, commencing at Rs10-00 a month (s13/4) {13 shillings, 4 pence = 2/3 of a pound} for a subaltern. This, however, was not the case in Multan, where one had to shift for oneself in this respect. But before departing from the subject of Indian servants mentions must be made of the "Chankidar" or night watchmen. As a matter of fact, they are simply members of a race of theves, who enjoy the monopoly of guarding you in the night time. And on the old principle of "honor amongst theves", this section of the community guarantee you immunity from robbery, on condition that you employ them! But should you object to these terms, and fail to employ a Chankidar, you are most certain to be "cleaned out" one find night! In other words, it is a system of blackmail of the first degree!

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Officers serving with the 69th Battery - R.F.A. Captain H.T. Belcher D.S.O. cond. Lieut. C.H. Clarke Lieut. C. Herbert. 2nd Lieut. J.F. de F. Shaw

A few days after arrival at Multan, the 69th battery was inspected by the Officer Commanding the Troops. We were led to believe, however, that the issue of guns and horses would not be made before the end of the hot weather, still many months ahead. Soon after the New Year, the Heavy Battery R.G.A. was ordered to go into camp for the annual gun practice. The locality selected was Sakhr Savor, five days march from Multan, across the Indus River. Captain Belcher and myself were detailed to attend the camp in the capacity of assistant Umpires. Lieut. Clark was left in command of the battery, the third subaltern (Lieut. Herbert) being laid up in hospital with a broken leg acquired in a football match.

The march to the practice camp was most enjoyable. Parading early, we reached the next camping ground daily early in the afternoon, so had plenty of time to go shooting, as opportunity offered. The route abounded with favorable places where both duck and black partridge were abundant, so we had some good sport.

On arrival at Sakhr Savor - all ranks were accommodated in tents, the officers messing in the "dak bungalow" (rest house). One colonel Dawkins R.A. had now arrived to assume the duties of Camp Commandant and Chief Umpire. Targets were put out, and the battery carried out firing practice with live shell every morning for five days. As assistant umpires, out duties were to stand behind the guns when in action and note and record the mistakes in drill, undue noise, confusion, etc, and report the same to the chief Umpire. For such mistakes etc. as described, the battery was liable to be deducted marks towards its Figure of Merit, by The School of Gunnery.

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1902 Jan.

The firing concluded, we all returned to Multan. On arrival, I learnt from the Brigade Major that my six months leave had been granted, and that I might clear out at once. So after having fortunately managed to dispose of my pony to a brother subaltern at the same price I had given for it, I hastened to pack my kit with a view of getting down to Bombay as early as possible.

Bombay 1902 Feb.

Before leaving, however, I found myself confronted with my last months mess bill. This I may add, by reason of the numerous expenses falling on subalterns which I have named, amounted to roughly 50% more than a months pay! So it seemed very essential that I should effect an exchange to a cheaper corps! The R.G.A. afforded advances in this respect, and so my first step on reaching Bombay, was to advertise for an exchange accordingly.

(To be continued)
{I wish it was but this is the only volume that I know of. So this is the end after all.}

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Page 103 Inside Back Cover

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