4 April 1902
Dricknel, east of Klerksdorp,
My dear Mother,
I suppose you will have read accounts of the engagement we had with the enemy the other day, but I hope you have not been anxious about us. It seems as if we weren't meant to be shot, as so far none of us have had a scratch. Bert & I were both in the thick of the fight, in fact, everyone in the column was. There was nowhere to get to for cover & we had just to take everything as it came.
We left Klerksdorp last Saturday, the whole division under Gen. Kitchener, with a big convoy. On Monday morning, Easter Monday, our brigade, under Colonel Cookson, moved on ahead of the other troops, which stayed with the heavy transport, & by daylight (we marched at 3 a.m.) our advance guard was in touch with the enemy. About 9 o'clock they had a bit of hard fighting with them, & lost a few men, but our guns going to their assistance, the Boers retired. The rest of the brigade then moved up (except the rearguard, which had to guard our baggage, wagons, etc.) & we formed camp close to a waterhole. We put our horse lines down, watered the horses & the tea was almost ready for our dinner, when the enemy suddenly appeared on the skyline, [?] towards us. Our two 12 pounders opened fire at once, when the Boers at once opened with theirs, & the battle commenced.
As soon as the guns got to work, the Boers just opened out, & in less than half an hour, they were completely around us. Our rearguard was cut off, & what were left had to fight their way in. Delarey, who was in command of the Boers, thought that with the assistance of his guns, he had nothing to do but walk in and take us, as they had 4000 men against our 1500, & both had the same guns, but he struck a snag, & after trying it for three hours, they drew off. Our losses were pretty heavy, but not nearly as heavy as that of the enemy, & considering the exposed position we were in, without the least cover, exposed to fire from all sides of the circle & in a camp not more than 200 yards across at any place, we got off light.
Our troop was the luckiest of all, as we hadn't a man hit, except one or two by spent bullets, & we only had one horse wounded, whereas some of the troops had 8 or 10 horses killed, the regiment losing over 150. The Boers did good work with their pompoms. The man next to me in the line got one, which laid him out, but somehow everything went past me, although I was covered with dust two or three times by shells bursting close to me.
That night we dug trenches & stayed in them, expecting another attack, until about noon, when Gen. Kitchener got in with 2000 men to our relief. At 2 p.m. we started for here, where the column is in camp, but about 8 miles from here we got word that our wagons were stuck 4 miles behind us, & we had to link our horses & wait without blankets or grub, until daylight.
The worst of it was that it rained almost all Monday night, all day Tuesday & a good deal of the night, so we were in a cheerful condition until the sun got up on Wednesday morning & we warmed up a bit. About 11 o'clock we got in here, & have been feeding up & getting rested since, ready for another trek as soon as our convoy gets back from Klerksdorp. Bert wasn't with us in the scrap, as he is attached to Colonel
Cookson's headquarters Staff now, & was left in charge of their wagon with the transport. We are all in good shape & feeling like fighting cocks.
Probably by the time this reaches you, you will have read of other engagements, as we expect to be able to make a final roundup of the Boers about here this time. Delarey, DeWet, Botha & Rusterberg were all with the commands in our last fight. One of our wounded, who was left with the others at a farmhouse when we left, our ambulances being crowded, was asked by Delarey what supplies we had in the convoy, & answered that we had supplies for 15,000 men for 6 months. Then Delarey cursed, & swore he would shoot every one of his men that were with the guns, as he had given orders that they were to charge in on us under the artillery fire, & drive us out, when he would catch us on the other side. If they had managed that, & got our guns, they could have made a pretty good drive at the convoy & that is what they want just now. However, they haven't got it yet & I don't think they will.
What they got from Methven has kept them going for a while, but I think they are getting short again, & are likely to make desperate attempts to capture anything that comes in their way.
Those of the men who have seen Delarey say that you could not tell him from a British General. He even has the crossed swords & crown on his shoulder, some of Methven's clothes, probably. A great many of them are wearing khaki and any man captured with it are promptly court-martialed & shot.
The little mare I rode in Halifax is still in good shape & I hope to ride her right through. I wrote to Hannah from Volksrust & sent her 20 pounds, which I think will give her a comfortable trip out. I expect you will have heard from her, or possibly she will be with you, before this reaches you. We haven't had any letters for some time, but expect some when the convoy gets back. It may be a few days before this gets away, so goodness knows when you will get it.
I wrote Stan from Klerksdorp a week or ten days ago, & I expect he would send the letter on. I had a letter from him a few days before that & set down to answer it at once, when orders came to march that evening & we covered 100 miles by the next evening, & when one gets moving like that & going without sleep almost entirely, one doesn't feel like writing every day, even if there was time. I am out in charge of the herd today, so have managed to scribble this, but goodness knows when I will manage to write any more.
Well, I must close up now, as it is nearly time for the horses to go in & I must ride around & see that they are all O K & none of the herders asleep. Kindest regards to everyone, & love to yourself & the boys.