5 August 1900
With Dundonald's Brigade,
Clery's Division S. Africa
In camp at Paardet
My dear Mother,
I received your welcome letter of June 16th with one from Vic enclosed, a couple of days ago. I suppose before this reaches you, you will have received my letter to Jim, which I told him to forward. I am writing this on a sheet of paper which has been given to us by the Elder Dempster Co. when we arrived in Cape Town, each of us receiving a portfolio containing a good supply of stationery. When we started on the march for Newcastle, I left mine in my kitbag, as our baggage was limited to a few things we could pack in our blankets. My stock of stationery is consequently getting pretty small, as I only had a little in my pocketbook. I had a good many things in my kit bag which I didn't want to lose, but it is doubtful if I see them again. It is hard to keep things even when I have them along with me, as the usual rule here in case of a man losing anything is for him to say nothing & quietly swipe the first he happens to see in a convenient position.
We have been issued lately with new breeches, tunics and underclothing & have now entirely discarded the duck khaki which we brought with us. It was cold stuff anyhow, and could not compare for comfort with the English tweed britches and wool khaki tunics we have now. We also have heavy peajackets which are fine for riding in the early morning. The only thing we have been badly in need of is gloves, which we have been unable to get. The frosty nights, however, are getting less frequent, & the middle of the day is nearly always warm enough for comfort, & sometimes too much so.
The Boers have about done troubling the line of railway along here which we have been patrolling, most of them having withdrawn further north. Gen. Princklow [?] with 5000 of de Wet's commandoes surrendered a few days ago to Gen. Hunter, so that the opposition in northern Natal is about finished.
We came down here from Luchersbosch, near Heidelberg, to form part of a flying column which was to be joined to march right up through the Ermelo district to Leydenberg, which is the enemy's last stronghold. We hear now, however, that the marching order has been cancelled so we do not know what will be next. We will be called some morning, it may be tomorrow about 6 a.m. & told to be ready to march at 8, or perhaps 8.30, which means tents struck, baggage loaded & men mounted & on parade before that time.
Monday Aug. 6
I was interrupted yesterday by a call for fatigue & had no opportunity to resume. We are still camped at Paardekop, but expect to march tomorrow, as the transport is nearly ready. We do not know exactly where we are going to yet, but the rumour is that we have a hard march of 100 miles ahead of us, which will tax our powers of endurance.
I have no fear of Bert or myself playing out, as we have not had a day of sickness since leaving Cape Town & we have had some pretty rough times. The weather, on the whole, has been splendid so far, & I hope we will be starting for home before the rainy season commences. We have men in hospital all along the line, at Cape Town, Durban, P. Maritzburg, Newcastle, Charleston and Standerton. Most of these are laid off by rheumatism & the other causes not the direct result of the campaign, although of course this work shows up any weak spots in one's constitution.
I am glad to hear the boys are all getting along so well, & was particularly pleased to hear about Jack downing the Saltcoats sports. It is difficult to say when we will be starting home, although my own impression is we will not be in Canada much before Xmas & possibly not then.
We have just had news of the capture of two more divisions of De Wet's Commando, one numbering 3600 and the other 5000 men, with 9 guns & 16 miles of transport. I suppose the last will sound strange to you, so I will explain it a little. The transport wagons here are drawn by strings or teams of oxen, or, in the case of the light transport, mules. Each wagon of heavy transport has from 12 to 20 oxen, most of them having 16, so that a mile means from 30 to 40 wagons. It is astonishing the amount of stores the Imperial Government manage to ship in here. Oats and hay which have come from England or South America are used as freely as if they were grown a few miles away. I am still riding the horse I rode in Ottawa, he being one of the few which have never been laid off. He is a little roan, a dead mate for "Annie Rooney" & though he was thin when I got him & has never got any more flesh on since, he is as tough as whalebone.
Well, I must close now, as an order has just come to strike tents at once, the tents having to go into store here, to be left, so it means sleeping outside on the march. I will try to enclose a few lines to Vic, but he mustn't be disappointed if I can't manage it.