Boardman, Thomas – “A Dictionary of the Veterinary Art &c.” (1805)

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‘The Veterinarian’ Vol 28 Issue 5 – May 1855

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‘The Veterinarian’ Vol 29 Issue 4 – April 1856

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‘The Veterinarian’ Vol 41 Issue 8 – August 1868

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“The Quarterly Journal of Veterinary Science in India and Army Animal Management” Vol 6 Issue 22 – January 1888

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1 – Letter to Mary Ann Smith from Frederick Smith, 4 Dec 1899

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[FS/2/2/4/2/1] (1)

‘At Sea Off Natal’

‘4 Dec 1899’

[Salutation Redacted]

My last letter to you was sent ashore at Cape Town to be posted. You would have judged from the hurried concluding lines that our change of destination was unexpected, we got orders to go to Durban which is a sea journey of about 1000 miles & we reach there to morrow[sic] morning. All being well this should be our last day on board ship & I am very glad of it. I take it we are intended for the relief of Ladysmith & we know a big battle is impending which will be fought & over long before you get this. For all we know it may be over before our arrival which would be crushing luck. Of our future movements we know we nothing, not even of our immediate ones, but before I close this

[[2]] letter to morrow[sic] you will know the latter & after that the information from me will be I fear most irregular. I need hardly say I have not had a letter from you yet, so you can imagine how I am looking forward to one. I have been very careful on the voyaje [sic] [5 lines Redacted] I sent you a cablegram by a man I do not know but I hope it reached you safely. I calculated it would be at the Croft on Sunday morning, it left the ship 5p.m. Saturday. I could imagine the excitement of getting news from me is in such a short time [.] What would I give to have news from you, [3 Lines Redacted]
[[3]] To day [sic] we are busy arranging our kits 30lbs for me means the valise[?] without mattress & 1 small waterproof sheet instead of my big one 1 blanket  1 shirt 1 drawers, 1 jacket, 1pair [?] boots [1 word illeg.]. not a very extensive wardrobe[.] oh I forgot towel & soap. (While I am writing this there is a constant jabber going on behind me, about what fellows are taking with them & leaving behind — it is a perfect Babel & I cannot collect my thoughts) I think my plan is to leave everything behind at Natal Durban & then send for them as I require them, but I shall not see much of it until the campaign is over. It would astound you to see the kit carried by some men, beds with brass rods, mosquito curtains [,] long arm chairs Etnas [?], Coffee urns and Lord knows what. I fear my kit is very meagre in comparison, but it is carried much very easily & that is more than can be said for theirs. The talking has become so incessant, some men sitting down & talking to one even when I am writing that I must give this letter up as hopeless for the present [.]

I gave it up &have just tackled it again after dinner [9 lines redacted]

I have put my kit together [.] I cannot take my writing case or your [1 word redacted] F.S. ink bottle & lots of other things besides. It will come to 40lbs weight which is more than we are entitled to so I will probably have to throw my Kettle away.

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[[1]] We have had a great afternoon getting ready for to morrow[sic], you cannot imagine the kits some fellows have, they are incredible enough to stock a shop. In order to get near my weight I have had to throw out my mattrass[sic] (I cannot spell it) pillow, waterproof sheet, Canteen no bag, but I have taken my rubber boots & waterproof. I have not taken my Khaki serje[sic] (I have now put it in) but will leave behind me a bag containing shirt, socks, pair[?] boots, Khaki serje[sic].

The band at special request has had to play the Belle of New York again & just outside my Cabin the yellow hearts[?] of the Regt are dancing up & down the deck over ones kit & rotting[?] generally,  I can remember being once like them, but I suppose it is dispensation of  Providence that one gets quieter as they get older.

On the whole we have had a good

[[2]] passage, though for you she would have rolled too much, there is a big sea on now but it is behind us so it rather helps us on & we do not feel it. I shall be glad to land to get the anxiety of these horses[?] off my mind. I find we have done much better in the way of horses than some other Regts [.] The Royals lost 38, the 10th about 30 & other Regts in proportion. our loss to date is 21troop horses & 1 charjer[sic].

As soon as I land I must look for a horse. I hope I may not have much trouble in this respect — I presume the cheque of the Standard Bank of S.Africa can be negotiated in Cape To[wn] Natal.

I have not mentioned money affairs to you as I know you are provided for in this respect & I am sure you will be careful [2 lines redacted]
[[3]] [3 lines redacted]. It will all be very heavy but with your assistance it will all be met. I am writing [to] the Calcutta Fund to say I am here so there will be an extra charge for this for war risks. I have just written [16 lines redacted]

Your sole letter, the one I got at Liverpool before leaving [words redacted]. I hardly expect to get another for some time [words redacted], but I will write to you (in pencil) at any & every opportunity.

[FS/2/2/4/2/1] (3)

[[1]] You ought soon to be making Enquiries about that house in St Johns’ Park so as to secure the refusal. In fact go to Dyer & Hilton at once & see them about it but do not commit your-self until you see how matters go but secure the refusal, this is important to you. We know very little at present of the war excepting that the Guards got a hammering at the Modder River.

I have said all along that the campaign would be a big business & not a walk over as some thought. I feel for you in your anxiety, but remember you are not the only one so placed, there is a comfort in that, there are hundreds of wives & mothers situated as you are [word redacted]. You must be proud that England is so anxious for us all. It is I who am anxious [2 lines redacted]
[[2]] 5 Dec. We are in Durban but not yet landed we disembark this evening afternoon & go by rail to Maritzburg & from there it is said to Escourt. Buller[1] is at Maritz’bg[sic] & the big fight comes off in 10 days time. The result of it you will know long before this letter reaches you [,] one cannot forecast events [.]

You will have the satisfaction of knowing that Buller will be in command, for we hear rumours of a great demoralization among the Generals or at any rate some of them. They do not appear to know their own minds.

You will have heard of the loss of the Ismore[2] with the 10th Hussars on board. Very bad luck. a battery of RA also appears to be on board. Altogether we do not appear to have had much luck up to date, but our luck will turn. We were glad to hear the fight at Modder River was more of a British success than some of the other victories. All this is fresh news to us though very stale to you I fear.

[[3]] The fighting in Natal has not been conspicuous for its success, but we can last longer than the Dutchman. In my next I will give you an account of my journey up to Pietermaritzbourg[sic] & the preperations for our advance. You will it best to work out all the movements on the map.

We are at present lying in Durban outside the harbour [.] we cannot enter until high tide at 3pm[.] the sea here is always rough, we rolled most uncomfortably this morning after dropping anchor & fancy “fiddles”[?] being on the table of a ship at anchor? I will leave the remainder of this paper to close up with after reaching the shore. By the bye Javis knows the Mackenzies well & has often stayed with them. Mrs is much older than him & was the daughter of a big furniture man, the Maple of some years ago he did tell me the name but I have forgotten it


We are now in & disembarking. Horses go off to night[sic] while we all leave by train to morrow[sic] for Mooi River to a place called Weston 50 miles only from Ladysmith & from here Buller will advance & a battle will take place between Weston & Ladysmith for the relief of the latter place. I shall therefore be right up at the front this time. One cannot predict the result of the fight or whether I shall come out of it safely, but [13 lines redacted]
[No valediction]

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[1] General Sir Redvers Henry Buller (1839-1908), Commander-in-Chief of British forces in South Africa during the early months of the Second Boer War and subsequently commanded the army in Natal until his return to England in November 1900

[2] S.S. Ismore a British ship

2 – Letter to Mary Ann Smith from Frederick Smith, 18 Dec 1899

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[FS/2/2/4/2/2] (1)


Cheveley Camp Close to & South of Colenso

18 Dec. – 1899

[Salutation Redacted]

[[1]] The events leading up to the Battle of Colenso must form the subject of a future letter, in this I will give you an account of the Battle itself which occurred on Friday 16th Dec —

We arrived at Cheveley early the previous day from Frere, as we got in to camp the

Bombarding of the Enemy’s Earth works was going on & lasted all day. I wrote to you that night

[[2]] as soon as I learned that it was decided to fight next day. We bivouacked that night sleeping ready dressed & moved off at 3am. [2 lines redacted] Knew nothing of what was in store for us. I handed all my money over to Morton & wished him good bye[sic] for he was remaining with the baggage. On we went with the first early streak of light, getting off as far as possible to the right under the cover of a hill so as to avoid drawing the enemy’s fire. The arrangement of the ground was simple[,] we were on a long exposed plain[sic], they were in

[[3]] rifle pits backed up by heavy batteries in hills opposite to us between the two positions was the River Tugela, the bridge over which was the object of the attack.

Now everyone knew that a direct attack of the enemy’s front was a hopeless business owing to the extraordinary strength of their position & that the only attack which could succeed would be one from the flank. We were placed opposite to the enemy’s left flank they holding a big hill full of rifle pits & the Kopje[2] (pronounced Koppies) or ditches surrounding it. The general idea of the battle you will have learned from the papers[.] I will tell you what occurred in our

[[4]] part of the Field & any incidents of importance or noteworthy facts in connection with the general engagement.

We had stolen into our position just as the sun was rising, it was a glorious sun rise & I turned to our Adjutant & remarked the words of Napoleon “it is the sun of Austerlitz” but unfortunately it was not, but of that hereafter. Our force consisted of the Cavalry Bgd. under the Earl of Dundonald consisting probably of 1200 horses of which the 13th were their only regulars as we had with us one battery RA. & an immense hill full of the enemy stood to our front towards which we advanced.

The name of the hill is Hlambalma[?].

Taking advantage of a dip in the ground the whole Bgd halted & the order was given to load carbines & ten rounds were put

[FS/2/2/4/2/2] (2)

[[1]] put in & revolvers also loaded.  A few words of advice were given to the men about shooting steadily & only using the point of the sword & we advanced up the rise in the ground into position on the ridge[.] at[sic] that moment the first gun was fired & I looked at my watch it was 5.30 am & I thought of you & the children being fast asleep (2.30am) & unconscious of the game about to be pladed played.

The guns belonging to us soon came into action & in a few minutes the Artillery duel began in earnest we pounded the earth works of the hill in front of us with shell after shell, they all burst beautifully heavy firing against our centre was

[[2]] going on the guns bounding vomiting forth an incessant shower of shell the latter making a peculiar shreak[sic] as they appeared of the most alarming character, then they fall, up goes the earth to the height of 10 feet or more, & bang goes the shell dealing death all around as pieces of iron a pound or two in weight are hurled through the air. One shell exploded quite close to where a group of us were standing & a fragment the size of a racquet ball came buzzing along the ground in a straight line for me, but its velocity had been destroyed. I should have picked it up & sent it home to you but was frightened that another shell would fall at the same place.

[[3]] So with commendable discretion got under cover & lost my shell. Where we were fighting it was all dismounted[?] rifle fire, the bullets came in like hail on our men who all belonged to a local volunteer corps. The 13th being kept under the cover of a hill. This local corps lost 25 men killed in a very short time & I do not know how many wounded. They were about 400 yards in front of us & yet so accurate was the Boer fire that none of their bullets intended for them reached us. One came over with a peculiar whistle just over our heads but immediately in front of us death & destruction was being most liberally dealt out. At last a battery was sent for & the hill shelled[.] This had very little effect on the fire & we had to retire gradually after being in this position for about 3 or 4 hours!

Now the fact that we lost no men gave

[[4]] considerable confidence & one exposed themselves unnecessarily [4 lines redacted]. As a matter of fact the hill & ground in front of us was positively alive with Boers & they could have shot any of us over & over again who stood up to examine the position. I declared there was not a Boer on the hill, I could not see one through my glass (borrowed) no more could anyone else but they were there[,] as the men below us found to their cost, but so perfectly concealed that nothing whatever could be seen of them not even a hat or rifle and as smoke-less powder was used it was impossible to locate a single spot from which their fire proceeded.

While all this was going on the centre & left of our force advanced under fire of our artillery then commenced

[FS/2/2/4/2/2] (3)

[[1]] musketing[?] fire over our devoted artillery & infantry. It was one incessant rattle & roar, above all could be heard the pounding of the big machine guns used by the enemy as shell after shell & a hail of bullets fell among the infantry. In spite of it all you might have thought the men were on parade so steadily & without excitement did they advance. A shell would fall in a battery, (a sickening sight) down would go the gun team & men, loose horses would trot away mangled, the horses were cut loose & the guns taken on. Oh that magnificent man Tommy Atkins[3], I could have taken off my helmet to him, he never budged

[[2]] while passing through this hell fire but followed his officers & went where he was told. He is a splendid magnificent fellow, he was well hammered that day but I never heard one complaint.

Hunt’s division of Artillery got too far forward & were all shot down men & horses & the guns captured — From my hill I could see all this in the valley bellow & saw gun teams galloping about followed by shell the fall of horses & men on its explosion & the subsequent retirement

[[3]] Fellows volunteered to recover the guns but were nearly all shot[,] one man took  17 horses men with him to drag them back he returned with seven. Young Roberts volunteered for the task & got six bullets in him, he was buried close to where I am writing, this last night[.]

The battle began at 5.30 by about 2.30 the firing discontinued[?] & we all returned crest fallen to hear the sad news of the loss of the guns & of the devoted men. Hunt was badly shot & taken prisoner & dozens were killed[.]

There were lots of plucky acts & one man Buller on his own account gave the V.C before he died. I saw some very curious wounds & the Ambulance

[[4]] was a sight no man complained many smoked & were utterly indifferent.

We came back & on the road got some water at the station[,] what a sight! Oh if some painter had only been there to copy the expressions on the men’s faces. It was a fearfully hot day & no water what we got at the station had to be brought by rail we swarmed around the tanks like flies, but there was no shoving or pushing all willing to take our turn while thirst was printed on the face of men & horses. The men’s faces shewed no sign of defeat all were as unconcerned as if it were the end of a field day instead of a severe battle. Oh he’s a grand man!! Our camp was only a mile or two from the battlefield

[FS/2/2/4/2/2] (4)

[[1]] & you can imagine the eagerness with which the whole question was discussed & how for the first time we learned of our heavy losses & what had occurred in other parts of the field. Bear in mind the field of battle was nearly 10 miles in length this will give you a notion of the difficulty of describing the fight. On the extreme left of our force (you will remember we were on the extreme right) the infantry tried to cross the river. The ford was filled with barbed wire, crow’s feet (which are large three legged spikes) & every form of fiendish ingenuity for rendering a passage difficult.

[[2]] here several men were lost by drowning & the others driven back or killed by rifle fire. However we got back having been repulsed & the next morning an armistice until midnight was pro-claimed[sic] to enable the dead & wounded to be collected in the mean time the Boers had removed our ten guns from the Field. During the Armistice I rode towards the fated artillery field to have a nearer look at it accompanied by Jarvis. When about a mile or so beyond our outposts I spied three Boers mounted carrying a white flag.

[[3]] I said to Jarvis we must face this by riding straight up, we have no right here spying about but we can say we have been looking for wounded fortunately we had a name of a man to enquire after. We approached the group three little men riding ponies one with a stick & white handkerchief tied on it. I at once saluted the group & wished them good day which was replied to in perfect English & perfect accent.

The leader of the pack was a Transvaller the two other belonged to the Free State, they were dressed in ordinary civilian clothes & wore a rosette in the hat or button hole. I tacked myself on to the Transvaal Boer who turned out to be the Secretary of General

[[4] Botha commandynding the Boer army at Colenso his name was Steniberg & was most civil & interesting. He had been living in Holland & leaving his wife & children there[,] had come back to the Transval[sic] for the war. In Holland he was Secretary to Reitz or whatever his name is the European representation of the Transval[sic] State. He was most enthusiastic over Kruger[,] described him as a grand old man & that in spite of his years he would rule the Transval[sic] for another 10 years at least.

I avoided discussing any subject which might sound unpleasant, but I sometimes saw a puzzled look pass over his face at some of my questions at which I remarked at once that I should not feel offended if he were unable to give any answer to my question.

[FS/2/2/4/2/2] (5)

[[1]] I ought to have told you that after we met he said he had a letter for Gen’ Buller from Gen’ Botha & I offered to escort him to our outpost fearing all the time that I should get snuff[?] for being where I was. It was on our way that our long conversation took place[,] we discussed Transval[sic] politics, the wide and narrow minded Boer, the British soldier, Kruger, Jameson Rail. With regard to the latter I assured him that I did not think one person in England could be found to support it[,] that it was unjustifiable & we severely condemned it. Respecting the British Soldiers I pointed as we approached our outpost to the ‘man in brown’ & said there is

[[2]] the man you affect to despise, are you satisfied that he is no coward? They all three at once interposed most energetically protesting that Tommy A was a brave man & that they had never held any other view. I drew their attention to the way he had advanced under terrific fire the previous day as quietly as on parade[,] they acknowledged it was very fine. I paid a compliment to the Boer Army, he returned it by paying a compliment to our Artillery fire, we paid a compliment to the Boer Rifle fire, Steinberg’s only reply to that was [“]Oh! We always shoot straight![“]

[[3]] He had a pipe of my tobacco & I was quite sorry to leave him as we reached our outpost. Jarvis & I cordially shook them by the hand, & I could see our men looking on in the most curious & intended manner, also the fellows from the naval Brigade Battery which overlooked where we were standing. Handing them over to the officer on outpost duty we left, but Jarvis secured a snap shot of the group & I have promised him the most severe penalties if he does not print and send me one, it will be an interesting feature in the campaign the delivery of Botha’s letter to Buller after the latter’s defeat!! On return to camp the ominous news of a retrograde

[[4]] movement met me. We had ascertained during the day that the Boers had moved two guns to higher hills so as to shell our camp, Buller determined to move the camp back 4 miles & this could not be done until after 12 o’clock we struck camp at 10pm & slept on the ground until 2[.] I got no sleep whatever gradually the whole force with its 8 miles of Transport guns, carts, bullock & mule wagons were placed in motion we were favoured by a lovely moon up to 2am when suddenly a complete eclipse of the moon occurred & we stumbled on in the dark over stones, into holes took the wrong way some went too far others not far enough it was orderly chaos clothed in a dust as dense as a Novbr. fog & in this way we reached our present camp which is 4 miles beyond the one

[FS/2/2/4/2/2] (6)

[[1]] for which we fought the battle of Colenso. Now what are we going to do here is the question, some say Buller has gone back to the Cape & will attack them through the old Colony everyone agrees that the Boer position is impregnable to Frontal attack but it might be turned this morning however & this is the 19 Dec. a fellow of the naval Bgd tells us Buller is going to have another shot at them & I think it must be so for this fellow went  up to the Naval Batteries, at the top of our camp which very shortly afterwards opened fire on the Boers & has been firing

[[2]] ever since. I expect he will pound them for a week & then attack. In the early morning we can hear the guns at Ladysmith firing[.] They must have some very heavy guns there to hear the report 20 miles away.

The firing was going on this morning but our own firing at the present moment is so heavy that I cannot tell whether it is still going on.

The weather is hot thirst intense, water bad & scarce — we send two miles for it. Last night we had a sharp thunderstorm & such lightening, Crums!![?] you[sic] would have enjoyed it

[[3]] Evening a great change since the morning the weather is cloudy & very cold[.] They say the rains which are very late are approaching.

Last night brought your [1 word redacted] letter of the 17 Novbr the final I have had from you since leaving Liverpool [4 words redacted]. There was also one you sent to Aldershot with enclosing one from old Clery[?]. He no doubt is out here by this time [.]

This afternoon I was going out some distance from camp to see an ox opened & who should I meet but a solitary horseman who turned out to be Bramhill! Isn’t it strange how one meets[.] I reminded him the order was Cairo, Charlton & Cheveley[.] He desired to be remembered & enquired kindly after you.

[[4]] I know his camp now & will look him up — [6 lines redacted]

I am sorry this letter is in pencil[,] I have written it on my pocket book resting on my knee & it has taken some time but I hope you will keep it as the record of a big though unsuccessful battle. God knows how the campaign will turn out. It looks to me as though Lady smith[sic] would fall, this would be a shocking catastrophe & will cost us South Africa.

This place is very dusty we are like niggers, in addition my face is like raw beef from the sun, lips

[FS/2/2/4/2/2] (7)

[[1]] Cracked, Khaki filthy & altogether very unlike the man you know. I have been on the hard ground for days, but there are so many scorpions & centipedes here that I have borrowed a stretcher & placed them on my medicine chests for to night[sic]. This may save a sting.

I have lost weight – the food is fair but I like more bulk. They have asked me to pay £10 contribution to the mess but I have put it off, it only represents two months keep & this is too high for a non drinker, it is the liquor which is so expensive & I dont[sic] see why I should pay for other fellows[.] However we shall see – I had an egg this morning it cost fourpence[sic]!!

[[2]] The country is all hills & rocks grass but no trees, no place where an atom of shade can be obtained [,] no water but the climate is good & the place will be very nice when the war is over. The people are all unfriendly to us, their sympathies are purely Boer. They wont[sic] sell us bread or give us water if they can help it.

I feel I have rather inflicted you with a long letter, but I have placed on record for our own perusal in the future a very important period in my life & that of the history of the country.

Do you remember a young fellow coming home from Egypt with me who I got into

[[3]] the service Bouston[?] by name. Well he is here with the RA & has done very well, he brought back the day after the battle several dead R A officers & has made himself generally useful he told me he brought two of the guns, but I have not heard it confirmed. At any rate he has identified himself with the corps & is no disgrace.

I met yesterday Parsons an old pal of mine when at Lucknow, he was then a subaltern in my battery, he is now a LtCol he was very pleased to see me & introduced me to several of his officers[.] He is very enthusiastic about my Manual of Saddles & made repeated references to it of a complimentary character.

Now this letter must close. I will post it in the morning as we have a camp post office here & there may not be another forward for some time.

[[4]] I hope Crawford sent you my telegram from Pietermaritzburg I wired to him almost immediately after the battle to cable to you & I hope he did it. I will send you a wire after the next battle I may be in, but ever should you not hear do not be alarmed as it may not be possible to cable. I will make my next cable cheaper by sending one word viz “Safe” this will come 4/-[4]

[5 lines redacted]

P.S. Morton is fit & well & doing me admir-ably[sic]. I gave him Kajne’s message.

[4 lines redacted] 

[No Valediction]

(Please note that work on this transcript is ongoing. Users are advised to study the electronic images of this document where possible –

[1] Annotation ‘Keep 29/5/23 Battle of Colenso’

[2] Kopje – South African Dialect, a small hill in a relatively flat area.

[3] Tommy Atkins is a slang term used for a common British soldier.

[4] Abbreviation for monetary shillings

4 – Letter to Mary Ann Smith from Frederick Smith, 30 Dec 1899

Content warning:

Please note, this archive item contains racist language and/or imagery, as written by the document’s author. This has also been preserved in the transcript of the item. Some content is highly offensive, but it is preserved here for the purposes of historical study and reflection.

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[FS/2/2/4/2/4] (1)

In front of Colenso

30 December 1899

[Salutation Redacted]
[[1]] I am not quite sure whether I have missed a mail, all record of time days & weeks are lost here, but I am under the impression that I wrote a week ago, our mails are very erratic so any irregularity you will excuse.

Here we still are looking at the Boers strongly entrenching themselves & making the place an utter impossibility to attack. we[sic] as usual are doing what the celebrated Duke of York did, marched up one a hill & then down again, or rather we do less for we do nothing. Our Generals are incompetent & have the funks[?] on board, while the “gentleman in Khaki” remains as good as ever. However enough of this incompetency & let me tell you my story of the week which is neither full of interest nor I fear entertaining.

You will remember that we have a battery of

[[2]] naval guns here, which fire daily at Colenso & the Boer entrenchments. Well it appeared that in spite of their fire they did not kill many Boers & they were puzzled to account for it. I helped them solve the problem, I found out from one of our fellows who was out on No 3 picket that from his hill outside our camp he could see into the Boer trenches & with his glass watched them dodge our shells by getting into a donga (viz a small valley) it struck me this was [1 word illeg.] important information & I walked up to the Naval Bgd Camp late that night & told Limpus the team[?] and Officers all about it, further I took Jarvis up who had been on this picket. Limpus at once said this is most valuable information & I shall go in the morning & see the place, he did so, altered his angle of fire & yesterday gave the Boers a “gruelling such as they had not had previously. We saw a Lyddite[1] shell fall into a group of about

[[3]] 150 men & burst. How many souls were sent to eternity – – I do not know[.] Poor devils it is rather on my conscience, but all is fair in war & they dont[sic] study us much. The night I paid him a visit words a special treat for the Boers was arranged viz a bombardment, it had been ob-served for days that a particular house was occupied apparently at night  & it was believed that many slept there.

During the day the guns were carefully laid & it was arranged to shell the place at night. It was a grand sight, the mass of flame, the terrific roar & the howling of the shells through the air. Several shots were fired & in the morning the place was seen shattered. “Left gun ready!” at this word of command I remarked to Jarvis, how many souls are about to be lodged into eternity who at this moment are quite unconscious of their fate?

War is a very dreadful thing but it has its humorous aspects. In the morning a gun goes

[[4]] bang & from all parts of the camp go up a howl of delight, There’s their breakfast says one, & in the evening you hear the remark “now there[sic] going to have supper”. The horrors of war make no impression on the soldier, his language is worse than ever, his demeanour one of utter indifference. It is well it should be so.

We signal to Ladysmith by electric light at night, the blinking powerful beam is concentrated on the darkest sky & they read the message by the flashes. The Boers try to intercept the beam by projecting a stream up of electricity — from their lamp & concentrating it on ours, as we shift they shift & so we play the game of hide & seek. Whether they succeed in masking our messages I do not know.

The rains started yesterday afternoon & it rained straight off for 12 hours, the men were washed out, the rain came through

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[[1]] our tents too freely to be pleasant & our dinner was eaten in the open in a perfect deluge. It was most amusing to see us, no light could be kept going owing to the wind & we had boiled muttton for dinner fat & lean were indiscriminately partaken off[sic], the rain made plenty of gravy on the plates we stood in pools of water, boxes for the tables to sit down was impossible, I got a piece of cake cut with a knife with which sardines had previously been eaten & the mixture was foul in spite of it we remained cheery & to keep up the hearts of the men who were huddled up in their tents (16 in a tent!!!) we sang like Trojans all the popular & unpopular airs we could think of winding up with old Lang Syne[2] & God save the Queen altogether it was a great success & a determination to be happy at any cost[.] My waterproof sheet was invaluable, but all ones clothes have to be dried & aired by forming a pillow of them. You

[[2]] never saw such a collection as that pillow is, it is something like our beloved boy’s pockets on a large scale. I am writing this in bed, it is still raining, horses which have broken loose keep pattering around my tent as if they were walking in pea soup, their feet catch in the tent ropes & you think your mansion is coming down by the rain. Still one is on service & therefore all discomforts are taken in the true spirit of philosophy. I get very little sleep at night & none in the day I wish I slept better. The man living with me sleeps through everything thunder storms[,] guns[,] rain & wind. The other night we had a terrific thunderstorm, the lightning was so blinding that I had to cover my eyes with a handkerchief, a mule was struck & killed, but Wise heard nothing.

I have left the doctors tent & now live with Wise the service sub: he is a delightful

[[3]] fellow to live with (at this point I thought I heard my horse break loose, so I had to get out of bed pull on my rubber boots crawl of the tent which we have to keep closed on account of rain & go out in the pouring rain to look for him[.] I found it was my new pony[,] which I picked up to day straying & so commandeered him & he has gone off Goodness knows where. Will have to look for him in the morning as he is for Morton to ride)

Well Wise is a married man[,] a tall very good looking cheery Irishman full of fun & humour & as straight as they are made. He was ADC to Cadogan & knows everyone & everybody. He tells me that the daughter who bolted with that fellow was the last person on earth that he would have suspected of such a thing, further that when she returned she was not the least penitent!! I don’t like to be too curious, but I shall ask him more

[[4]] about it some day. She was tired of her husband. Wise married the sister of Little who commands 9th Lancers in Cape Colony. Wise has no children, in fact has only been married a year, he was on the point of leaving when the war broke out so he withdrew his papers, but he will leave immediately after the war[.]

31st Dec. The last day of the year [2 lines redacted]. We had a very wet night & I was up twice tying up my horses which broke loose. I did not know to day[sic] was Sunday until I heard Church parade. We have not fired at the Boers to day[sic] but I expect they will not be allowed to escape the New Year. Yesterday I met for the first time Larnder A.V.D, I say for the first time as we have been here 3 weeks & he never had the civility to call over. A case of glanders occurring in his charge has brought us together. He is the man who left me the

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[[1]] whole camp to look after, so I dropped a line to Crawford. [1 line redacted]. The Cavalry Bgd here is under the command of The Earl of Dundonald.[3] I knew him as Lord Cochrane 2 Life Guards, he remembered but did not condescend to shake hands. He is a first class idiot & to his care has been committed 2000 Cavalry — He makes as much use of [3 words illeg.] would do if suddenly put in his place. He is a laughing stock  — most incompetent; this is the class of man chosen as Generals in this campaign[.] I hope he may soon be relieved.

We are feeding well, actually get Bread every day[sic] instead of Biscuit . The A.S.C[4] are running this show splendidly not a hitch anywhere.

1 January  A happy new year to you [1 line redacted], such were the first words on my lips as I awoke this morning to the sound of our naval guns shelling Colenso. May the year

[[2]] prove a happy one for all of us [2 lines redacted]. I could fancy I saw you take the children to my portrait & wish me every happiness. I am sure you will never let them forget me, but I left them at such an early age that I fear I will be a mere mist in their childish recollection & the thought of this pains me beyond description [2 lines redacted].

The news today is that we remain here another three weeks, but there may be no truth in the report. As a matter of fact we know far less what is going on than you, all our information even from London is a week old & we get very little of it. There is some idea that [2 words illeg.] will be made from three distinct points in S. Africa simultaneously. We have heard of the concern & amazement of[?] in London of Buller’s defeat & the determination to carry

[[3]] on the war at all risk. This is as it shall be, in the long run we will win but our losses will be very heavy. You will remember how I predict[ed] this would be a big business.

To night[sic] we received a telegram from the Queen wishing us a Happy New Year & concluding with ‘God Bless you all’ the men cheered heartily.

We have also heard that she is sending a box of chocolate to every officer & man with a special seal or impression on it. This will be very valuable in 20 years time — I will send my box back to you to be kept in memory of the campaign.

No mail in yet, how I look forward to your letters, [3 lines redacted].

Plenty of picture papers come to the mess, all the views of the campaign are very faithful, but you cannot see the appearance of the men, some with beards, all in filthy dirty clothes, for they have slept in them ever since we left Durban[.]
[[4]] Think of that, & water at a premium. Every drop I wash in Morton has over two miles to walk for!! imagine what it is for the men. But they all work well & in camp you would think it was simply peace manoeuvres [.] Games going on for those not on outpost duty & it is only the roar of the naval guns & howling of their shells which remind us of the sterner duties we are on.

When the Record contains anything of importance send it on to me. [2 lines redacted]. The following veterinary officers were present at the Battle of Colenso on 15 Dec last viz V-Major Gladstone, F. Smith, V Captain Larnder & V. Lieut Houston. The casualties among the horses was very heavy from mauser bullets & shell fire. The Artillery suffered heavily ” [2 lines redacted] This campaign will last some time & I am already

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[[1]] 2nd January. My news to day[sic] is that the English mail arrives to morro[w]. I am like a child at Xmas time & hardly know how to wait for to morrow[sic] to come [2 lines redacted]. Our stay in this camp have one advantage for me & that is I can write regularly to you, later on when we move north again they will I fear be somewhat irregular[.]

I got a note from Holt to day[sic] which has been travelling about for nearly a month saying that had recd my travelling money from the Paymaster. Tell them please at once when they address me to put on the envelope attch 13 Hussars, that will always find me.  I told you in the early part of this letter what a rotter Dundonald was, here is an example. He organised a show[?] night attack on the Boers a night or two ago[.] Some troops were to fire on our left & then the centre would advance & to give the Boers an idea of how careless the British

[[2]] soldier was he was to appear as if smoking to simulate this he was to go along striking fuses which Dundonald provided, the Boer would then rush out & our Naval guns were to polish them off — did you ever hear anything so childish? The Boer position is 41/2 miles from us, & at that distance they were to see half a dozen fuses & mistake them for lighted pipes!! God help us, this is the class of General we have. I need not say the Boers were not drawn out & the naval gunners retired disgusted.

Our water has been jolly bad for the last day or two & now stinks of rotten eggs. fancy tubbing[sic] in this mixture! My mess bill for Dec’ has come in it is £4-10- & a donation of £10 to the mess gives me a bill of £14-10 for this month — the £10 donation has to be repeated every three months – pleasant prospect!!

This is a pretty country like Devonshire but where there is no grass there are rocks, some of the places we ride over are positively frightful

[[3]] nothing but big boulders. One strange feature is that there are no trees, there is not a place one can get under as shelter from the sun & there are in consequence no birds except vultures. The absence of trees strikes one as very remarkable.

The natives prefer a bit of skin hanging over their posteriors & a few strips of leather in front[.] The majority dress in Europe clothes viz a wide ombre[?] hat, a long feather or quill stuck bang through the ear & a coat made out of a sack with arm holes. The native servants dress in masters[?] clothes but even these have a fashion peculiar to themselves[,] a long strip of black cloth on the inside of both legs or a pair of light coloured legs with a long crescent shaped patch on the seat of the same are common objects, they all love the large hat. A soldiers tunic, gaiters no boots & bare legs are also very fashionable. They are fine men & very black.

A cavalry patrol to day[sic] bagged five

[[4]] Boers which avenges the men we recently lost.

There is a man here with a camera for taking living pictures of the troops & the fighting[.] I spoke to him this morning & he told me they were taken for the ‘Empire’ where they will be exhibited — You must try & see them. He got some views of the battle of Colenso which will be of especial interest to you. Your brother can easily find out where they are on.

The rain has left off the last two days have been very fine — Place still full of scorpions, Morton had one on his shirt yesterday but fortunately was not stung — They make a hole in the ground into this we insert a piece of grass & say “are you there” the scorpion indicates his presence by laying hold of the grass in his claws & we then dig him out. There are thousands, how we escape being stung I do not know.

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[[1]] 3 Jany. Is it not sickening the mail due at 8am to day[sic] has not yet turned up though it is now 5.30pm. [2 lines redacted]. It is now raining & the water is dripping on to my bed, I shall go down to the post office tent & make enquiries. We sent out & looted the farm of a disloyal farmer to day[sic] all his crops were brought for consumption, the men killed his pigs, the irregular cavalry closed on the grand piano, Jarvis got a spring mattress & stool, the former we magnified[?] into a beautiful brass bound double bed. [1 line redacted]. The Colonel got a Kaffir[6] dress of beads & strings in front & strings & beads with tails for behind, they were hanging up in the home & are evidently very good specimens[.]

I must try to get you one this is the first I have seen here but if we ever take Colenso we will do a good deal of looting on our journey through Natal[,] all the disloyal farmers will be looted. Crawford was here this morning for a short time my puggaree[?]  having

[[2]] bleached nearly white with the sun. I have had to leave it off as it rendered me too conspicuous & I might have found a mauser bullet through it, I was asking Crawford to get me a Khaki one at Maritzburg. I have drawn no money yet. I have sent to the branch bank of the Standard at Maritzburg & though some days ago have not recd any reply. I wrote to know whether the Standard Bank of Cape Town had notified to them that a balance of £100 existed in their books to my credit. No reply up to date & that was a fortnight ago. The fact is that everything is paralysed through the war & the country is being rapidly ruined. Men of wealth are serving in the ranks of the local regts men of substance as business men in the Transvaal are serving as conductors in the Transport.  I fancy there is very little real business going on.

As to our future movement I know nothing more than when I last wrote. I know we want more men, many more & we need Generals, however, we shall see. I wish I had a chance of doing something.

[[3]] Here is rather a good story[.] A man lost his rifle at the Battle of Colenso & a Court of Enquiry is held[,] the man gives his evidence as follows “Beg your pardon Sir! it happened that at that there last Field Day we had at Colenso” se se. This shows you what Tommy thinks, when he describes one of the most severe battles of the Century as a Field Day!! The fact is that he is a ripper & after what I saw on that day I’d make everybody take off his hat to him as he passed. I have always been very fond of him & it has not been misplaced. Don’t[sic] forget what Kipling says Its Tommy this & Tommy that etc but its “Thankyou[sic] Mr Atkins when the guns begin to play”.[7]

I have written so much to you during the last three weeks that I have nearly run out of all the paper I brought with me for the whole campaign. There seems to be great difficulty in getting paper, so some of your letters in future may be written on some funny scraps.

[5 lines redacted]

[[4]] What ever[sic] you send me through the post mind you register Tobacco or anything else, remember things are this is a country for “jumping” otherwise known as stealing. (By the bye my commandeered ponies were claimed today). Anything I sent you I will register if possible. Perhaps you sent me a plum pudding for Xmas or a Xmas Card, if so neither have come to hand yet, though of course they may be in the belated mail.

Burberry’s address (the maker of waterproof cloth or rather canvas) is 30 Haymarket, just above the C. S Stores. Of course I do not want that coat yet. [5 words redacted] It must be of stout canvas & on the dark side of Khaki — open like a plain file coat at the neck to give plenty of air but otherwise just like the pattern I brought out with me. If the campaign comes to a sudden conclusion I will not want it, my present one will last me at least six to eight months, but the warm coat I must have soon[,] mind you register it, also insure it to its full value in case of loss. My face is raw, my ears cracked, I am still pealing[sic] like a potato my skin appears to get no tougher.


[No valediction]

(Please note that work on this transcript is on going. Users are advised to study the electronic images of this document where possible –

[1] Lyddite or Picric Acid. First generation of modern “highly explosive” shells used by British forces, that began use in 1896

[2] Auld Lang Syne, poem written by Robert Burns in 1788 later set to a popular tune, song often used for its connotations of farewell and ending

[3] Lieutenant General Douglas Mackinnon Baillie Hamilton Cochrane, 12th Earl of Dundonald, KCB, KCVO (29 October 1852 – 12 April 1935), styled Lord Cochrane between 1860 and 1885, was a Scottish representative peer and a British Army general.

[4] Army Services Corp

[5] Annotated as page 5.

[6] South African dialect, used as an insulting term for a Black African

[7] 1890 Poem by Rudyard Kipling. Reprinted in his 1892 Barrack-Room Ballads, a series of songs and poems surrounding the late-Victorian British Army. Tommy Atkins was a slang term used as a name for ‘common’ British Soldiers.