15 May 1900
Greenpoint Camp, Cape Town
Troop 1, A Squadron,
Strathcona Horse Field Force
My dear Mother,
Since I wrote you last, we have been expecting to start for the front at any time, but have been disappointed week after week, until it seems as if we would be too late to see any fighting. However, we live in hopes that we will be in at the finish. We have been doing a good deal of mounted drill lately & have had a few sham fights out in the country. The scenery here is splendid, mountains on all sides. One day we sere inspected by General Forestier-Walker, who said he would give a favourable report of us, so that we might get away as soon as possible.
At present we are catching a lot of mules in the corrals here, for pack mules, which we are to take in place of our transport horses, so it looks as if we would go over rough country when we do start. There is a rumour just now that we are to go by Beira & into the Transvaal from the east. Yesterday 40 or us, Bert & I among the number, acted as escort to take about 300 Boer prisoners from the camp near here down to the station, on their way to Simon's Town, about 20 minutes from here. Half of us rode ahead of them, and the other half behind, with loaded revolvers, while a line of infantry with fixed bayonets walked on either side, so there wasn't much chance of escaping, if the poor beggars had wanted to do so. They are a tough looking lot on the whole, excepting a few who are evidently merchants, office-holders etc & they certainly don't present a soldierly appearance, being dressed very much like the poorer Germans in your district in their working clothes. Among them are boys of fifteen and old men of sixty and sixty-five.
Most of the heavy transporting here is done by steam traction engines, which run round in all directions, hauling 40 tons at a load. They are used wherever there is no railway & it is astonishing the speed they can make across country. I met a Canadian the other day who was slightly wounded at Modder River, then took enteric fever very bad & was sent home to England where he stayed 3 weeks & is now at the front again.
We are worked pretty hard just now, or rather we are kept very busy, so that we do not have much time to ourselves. A great many of the fellows, however, seem to have time to get into trouble, & every day almost there are 2 or 3 "on the peg" as it is called, usually for drunkenness or something consequent to the same. There are some tough members in the outfit to handle when they get drunk, but of course they have to knuckle under. I think I can safely say we have the best tent in the regiment for behaviour, and out of nine of us, the only one who has been drunk or before the Colonel on any charge is the Sergeant in charge of the tent who is a hard drinker when he gets started, although he never gets noisy or hard to handle.
We all get along together well in our tent, too, keeping a purse for extras, butter, sauce, etc. which helps out the rations considerably. Butter is an expensive article here, Australian packed retailing at 1/8, or 40c per lb.
I have been expecting to hear from some of you every mail, but have been disappointed so far. I had a long letter from Tommy Luccock (you remember him, I suppose). He had seen our names in the Shields papers & wrote at once on the chance of catching me here, his letter arriving the same day as we did. I must close now, but will write again soon, although news will be scarce until we move from here, as Capetown is exhausted.
Remember me to everyone,