War Diary

          A couple years ago, I received my great-grandfather’s diary from the Boer War when his son, my grandfather, passed away. Between the condition of the document and his penmanship, translating the text proved to be an extremely laborious task. I spent close to a hundred hours translating it word by word. Upon completion I submitted it to the Tenby Museum and it was graciously accepted by curator Kevin Thomas. It was added to their archive and serves as a unique primary source of the day-to-day life of a soldier during the conflict. I did my best to leave the style intact by only amending the spelling of place names and specialized terms as most of the towns and regions were ostensibly spelled by ear. To find the correct names and terms, I spent more hours upon hours pouring over maps of South Africa and searching through other Boer War records, documents and accounts. Not only is this an interesting family artifact but also one with significant historical value. The entries reveal a brutal, harrowing, miserable and often monotonous experience that left him disillusioned with soldiership. Even though he openly dismisses the fallacy of finding glory in war he went on to serve for Canada in the First World War shortly after moving to Canada.

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Albert Veysey Lang’s Diary:

The Second Boer War

 January 1900.

Hearing the Yeomanry were called upon to volunteer for service at the front, The Great Boer War in South Africa. Thinking I might be of some service out there, I volunteered. I volunteered for the Sharp Shooters and had the chance to go out with them.

But as I knew a few fellows in the Pembrokeshire I.Y.[1], I thought I should prefer to go out with that company. I went to Tenby in January, gave my name in and had no difficulty in passing my riding, shooting and medical tests. We had plenty of hard drilling up to the time we left England.

We sailed the 28th of March from Liverpool. We had it very rough going out. We had a large number of horses to attend, to groom, to clean out etc. We were all inoculated going out which was very painful and weakening for about a week. It is an attack of the fever. Two or three died having too much of the liquid inserted.

Things went on much the same each day. The day before we arrived at Cape Horn; it was very foggy. We sighted two liners standing about 100 yards from each other. They had collided during the night. The Meridian was sinking fast. The Mabis took all hands on board. We took a few of the crew on the Montrose. It was rather a sad sight to see, some of the passengers wrapped in a blanket just turned out of their bunks had to leave all their goods and chattels to sink.

We arrived at Sable Bay on April 6th.

Disembarked on April 8th, a Sunday. It was a pouring wet day. We had to lead two horses, each man, and carry all our kit, our wet rifle bandoliers, water bottle, bayonet belt and pins. Haversack which was quite enough to carry 6 miles to Maitland Camp, which I should not care to do again, being so weak after the inoculation and voyage. It was a treat to be land again after so much of the stuffy ships.

Cape Town looked very similar to an English town except for so many Natives and dark faced people.

For two weeks, we had hard work brining up remounts from the docks of the transports, and riding drills, and maneuvering in the field everyday.

April 24th. We marched from Maitland Camp arrived Darban Bge. Had no food that night. The officers thought themselves very generous in allowing us to go into the store by the roadside, the next morning, to buy bread and cheese with our own money.

Our rations were no consideration at all. Many a day we were done out of our allowance through bad management by the Quarter Master. And the officers not looking to their work; looking to their whisky flask instead.

April 26th. Marched. Arrived at Stellenbosch at sunset. We remained there till May 2nd, drilling, rifle practice, etc. Morning till night.

May 2nd. Left Stellenbosch marched to Paarl. We had to keep a sharp look out on our horses. The rebels around this district were no particular about stealing one or two. Plenty of ostrich feathers to be had around this district. Left Paarl, marched to Wellington, May 9th.

31st Company left May 10th. We left by rail 6:45pm, May 13th. Arrived Bloemfontein 12:55, mid-day.

Jolly glad to get out of the cramped position we had to travel in. Some of the fellows must have a ton of treacle, and you get this lovely stuff all about you, and another chaps chewing and spitting against the wind while others get a taste of it. It is not quite like travelling in the (2d tube).

May 16th. Marched from Bloemfontein towards Boshof.

Camped at Abraham’s Krawl[2].

The next morning at sun rise, Lieutenant –and 8 men- were sent out in search of a cart the Royal Fusiliers[3] were bringing in. We found the cart late in the evening stuck fast. We camped there all night and only a biscuit to make supper on. We were all on piquet[4] during the night. It was a fearfully cold night and in the morning we were all about starved. We caught up with the column[5] about 3 p.m. just as they were moving off after a halt. Our horses were about done; still we had to follow on till dark when we camped. I cadged a biscuit off one of the chaps who had been with the coevol[6] and had plenty. I felt just about too hungry to eat. I could have taken some raw eggs better than a dry biscuit.

This was the first time I had really experienced hunger.

The next day we saw a party of about 30 Boers retreating northwards, but showed no fight.

Nothing exciting happened to speak of. The campaign was all new to us or most of us, and we were not used to the hardships now, as we were to the end. The telegraph wires were all repaired to Boshof.

May 23rd. One day we had a false alarm crossing the river by a very steep drift. Some of the wagons got fast in mud, we had a team of oxen and two teams of mules, and about 45 of us pulling at ropes when the alarm was given. Boers were on us. But it turned out to be a patrol of M. Police.

May 23rd. We returned to Bloemfontein starved. The supply of food taken, did not lat out, not for the troopers anyway.

May 24th, Queen’s Birthday. There was a grand inspection, 30,000 men on the field. General Kelly Kenny[7] spoke very highly of the Yeomanry. Riding and smartness, etc.

May 26th. The 30th company left Bloemfontein by rail, about 120 of us.

May 27th. Arrived at (Smithfield) Springfontein in the morning. We were packed 30 in a long coal truck sleeping one across another. The experience better known to those who have been through it. It rained heavy all night, we were like a lot of pigs huddled together out in it. In the morning we disentrained our horses, officers kit etc: baths, softeners, hot water bottles, whisky cases etc.

Saddled our horses and marched on the way to Smithfield. We camped that night in one of the coldest places in the free state, so high above sea level.

My water bottle, which helped to make my pillow, was solid ice in the morning, so you can imagine how cold it was with only a coat and blanket around you on the bare veldt.

The next day on the march we came to a large pond by a farm. We were so hungry we made a raid on a flock of geese belonging to a farmer. The old farmer came out in an awful fury. Then the officers compelled us to give up the birds, much to our fury.

May 29th. Arrived at Smithfield, just at dark. We felt very hungry by the time we had watered and fed and piquited our horses for the night. Then we had two biscuits, turned in for the night. Next day, we moved our camp to the other side of town. We remained there until August 1st.

Patrolling around the districts of Rouxville, Lastrom, Aliwal North and other towns in the district. Taking in arms, saddles, cape carts and horses from all the farms. We saw no fighting Boers in this district at that time.

There were six hundred of the Royal Irish Rifles garrisoned at the Smithfield with us. The I.Y. had to find out piquet every day. Three posts on very high hills 6 miles out of town.

We used to rather enjoy these piquets at first.

I shot many spring buck when my turn came to go on piquet.

The officers used to go shooting every day, and playing polo. When they found we shot spring buck, they soon put an end to it. Threatening us with court martial.

June 2nd. We had a night expedition, left camp 9 p.m. and surrounded a farm where some of the fighting buggers were. They had returned to their farm, come back from the Transvaal[8] with some messages. We closed in on the farm at midnight, blasted the door down. Made them all get into their togs[9] and brought them back as prisoners.

We had some rather decent times while we were at Smithfield. We used to play cricket matches against the town and different companies. The R.Y.R.[10] band used to play in the square every afternoon and we often had a concert.

There was an English lady living in a farm close by the town, used to be very good to we Yeomen. Many a cup of coffee I have enjoyed there. She made me a pair of woolen gloves which did me good service.

August 1st. R.Y.R. and artillery left for Bloemfontein.

30th company I.Y. started with a large convoy of supplies from Powville, Smithfield, etc. The convoy was about 5 miles long.

Aug. 3rd. Camped within a few miles of Wepener.

Aug. 4th. Turned our march to Dewts Dorp[11], arrived there about 6:30 p.m.

Aug. 6th. Left Dewts Dorp arrived Wepener in the evening. We had a snow storm, the cold was intense. About 90 Boer prisoners in Town Hall going back to their farms. There are some tremendous high hills around Wepener, around the Basuto border. Having not much to do one afternoon another trooper and myself climbed to the top of one of the highest, it was very hard work getting to the summit. Once on the top, a grand view, we could see the snow packed mountains in the distance.

Aug. 16th. Left with large convoy, annumition, etc.

Aug. 17th. Left Dewts Dorp.

Aug. 18th. Arrived Bloemfontein, busy getting remounts etc.

Aug. 20th. From now on we had to rough it most.

Left Bloemfontein by rail 11 a.m. Arrived Ventersburg station at midnight. Disentrained horses, wagons, etc in the dark. We were stumbling about in the dark half asleep, swearing and shouting one to the other to come and look after your own D. horse. Little wonder troopers swear, after all they have to put up with, they must give vent to their feelings.

There was an attack in the morning. So we had to prepare.

Aug. 21st. Marched to Ventersburg town and back to camp. Saw a few Boers in the distance watching our movements.

Aug. 23rd. Marched to Ventersburg town and camped outside of the town. I was century go; so enjoyed it.

Aug. 24th. Moved camp into town. Very wet. Billeted[12] in an empty hotel. Free State hotel. Thought ourselves Lords.

Aug. 25th. I was on piquet that night. We were expecting we might be attacked at day break. It was a fearfully cold and wet night. At 8 a.m. the column, Colonel White’s column, 1500 men or more, one of the columns under General Kaan. Colonel White was one of the Jameson Raiders[13]. He was a good fellow, and the men put plenty of confidence in him. They marched towards Dornborg.

We that were on piquet, had to gallop on and catch them up. My poor pony’s back was raw, the saddle I had was too big for it. The horse I had was taken from me for an officer. The Boers were in strong force, but refused to stand and fight. The column was returning to Ventersberg to camp for the night, about 4 p.m. No. 3 troop of 30th I.Y. were ordered to go to to burn a large farm, which was used as a depot for Boers supplies, etc. We had an officer and two (guides Kaffers[14]) our number were about 35. We got within about one thousand yards of the farm, when we detected some soldiers round some Kaffer Krawles on the breast of a kopji[15] on our right.

The officer commanded the first 8 men on the right to advance and see who they were, we advanced in that order untended until we got within a hundred yards of the Krawles, we saw men in khaki we took them to be R.J.R. but before we expected it, there was a volley of rifle fire past us. There were about 30 Boers firing on 8 of us Yeomeners. Imagine how close the bullets would come, it was zing zing all the time past us. How my pony carried me safely out of it is more than I can say, it got a slight bullet wound. I got back to my place with the section[16].

By this time the Boers were surrounding us. About 300 strong. We dismounted and fired into the party of them that were galloping on us, which made them retreat. Their number was far superior to ours. Their command was 1600 and they had good cover on the kopjies around, we were standing in a crossfire, bullets coming from all quarters. All we could do was retreat, for all we were worth, for two miles the bullets were flying around us thick. What made it worse for us was the veldt been on fire, the Boers had set it on fire as we passed over a ridge, seeing we were only a small body of men they though to surround us and take us all prisoners. There was a strong wind blowing and the veldt spread fast, the horses refused to go through the flames. Trooper Hinks[17] succeeded in getting his horse through, but only to get thrown from his seat and dragged in the stirrup while over the hot veldt, his horse was caught, but he was in an awful condition about the face, burnt.

This is the only map that appears in the document. The writing on the adjacent page is a fine example of his handwriting and is consistent with the entirely of the diary.

This is the only map that appears in the document. The writing on the adjacent page is a fine example of his handwriting and is consistent with the entirely of the diary.

Lieutenant Jones and a few of his men of No. 2 Troop came to our help. Farrier Sergeant Williams was shot through the head and died on the spot. He had only said the night before, he did not want to get wounded, he would rather get shot through the head and die at once.

Lieutenant Jones nearby, was wounded twice in arm and his horse was shot.

Trooper Atkinson being near, galloped after Farrier Williams horse and helped Jones onto the saddle and got safely away. Meantime some of us were holding the Boers back. The firing had been reported to the column, which immediately came to our help.

The big guns were opened on them killing and wounding 14 who were concealed behind some Kaffer Krawles.

After the roll call we found there were 6 men missing. We marched back to camp feeling rather sick over the missing Yeomen, and Williams being shot. He was one of the nicest chaps in the company. He was brought back in the ambulance. The missing men had had their horses shot or something. Then some had galloped into the enemy lines in mistake, a thing very easy to do on the veldt.

It is the same as being on the sea; nothing by but the sun. It takes some time to get accustomed to the country.

Aug. 26th. Maneuver against the enemy, my horse been wounded, and have no remounts, I remained in camp, general fag[18] etc. Five of us went down to dig graves, we gave Williams a good burial, and put a rough wooden cross with his name over the grave.

I had not experienced the hard work of digging a grave before. After I went and had a look at old Hinks, he kept me moving then, I had to fetch him all his goods and chattel.

Aug. 27th. Marched to Zand River, Virginia Siding, and entrained. The Boers did a little sniping at us on the flanks. I had the pleasure of walking not having a horse. I got on a wagon for a lift but soon got dislodged by one of the damned officers.

What makes us so mad is to see the blacks punched up. The Jops[19] take no notice of them. I should like to have stuck my bayonet up him, my feet were about raw with walking. We arrived at Zand R. late, done up for the want of food which had not been served out to us properly that day. We had a mess then of coffee and two biscuits and then had to entrain all the horses and officers furniture, little tents, feather beds, baths, whisky cases, society bells with eye glasses, (haw haw)[20] and little cane. Such Jops should remain with the women in London, not come out in the Veldt to make asses of themselves.

We arrived at Winburg, disentrained our horses and were soon in the saddle. We captured Commandant Oliver and a few of his men. They attacked the town but were deceived in our number.

Aug. 29th. Was a pouring wet day, we were camped under a hill on soft ground. Our horse lines would not hold all that night. The horses led the stable guards on a nice dance, being tangled and twisted up in the rope kicking and screaming at each other. I remember waking up one morning and scraping the mud out of my eyes. I had sunk down in the mud and wet to the skin, the water draining into this hallow. The nation gets the glory but the soldier bears the brunt, at this game we used to think. It is the private that has to go through all the roughing it. When he comes home after this he is thought nothing more of. He does not even get the pay due to him.

We marched out that morning in pouring rain, the horses suffering terribly from the cold. We thought we should have had a fight about midday, but the Boers cleared off when we got the guns on the scene. It poured with rain all that night. I could not sleep a wink for the cold and wet.

Aug. 30th. Arrived Small Deal[21], left by rail 7 p.m.

Aug. 31st. Arrived Bloemfontein by rail 6 a.m. Wet to the skin in open trucks. Then marched to the water works.

Sept. 1st. Marched to Thaba Nchu[22] Side. I felt very fit doubled up with rheumatics[23].

Sept. 3rd. Marched From Thaba Nchu.

Sept. 4th. Arrived 12 miles from Ladybrand.

Sept. 5th. Came to the relief of Ladybrand, the garrison had been surrounded three days, and had to retreat from the town into some cliffs near the town. They out gallantly. The Boers looted the town and carried off all they could when they saw the relief forces coming up. The boers kept shelling the British up in the cliffs. The garrison was principally Lockshire I.Y. In the relief we captured a few Boers and a number of wagons. The soldiers got hold of a lot of rum and other spirits in the town. There were a good many rolling about the camp with heavy head that night.

Sept. 6th. Marched to Leeu River town. Shot two Boers going into the town and captured a Boer Doctor.

Sept. 7th. Rest at Leeu River.

Sept. 8th. Left Leeu River 11 a.m. Arrived at Port Thaba Nchu about 6:30.

Sept. 9th. Marched into Thaba Nchu.

Sept. 11th. Marched from Thaba Nchu.

Sept. 15th. Arrived at Vet River.

Sept. 16th. Marched from Vet River 3 a.m. Arrived Small Deal. Dawn Spruit[24], 12 mid day. Virginia Siding 5 p.m.

Sept. 17th. On march picketing on (?) Dornborg.[25]

Sept. 18th. Camped by Zand R.

Sept. 19th. I was on piquet around Kaffer Krawles. The Kaffers brought us some of their beer. Filthy sort of muck it is too. Made out of what they call “out”, their Kaffers corn. Two Boer women came across from their farm about two miles to do some business with the Kaffers and have a look at us and see what they could get out of us. They wanted to know if it was true that the railway was in the possession of the Boers from Brandfort up. Some Boers were there the night before at their farm and made up the yarn.

Sept. 24th. I left our company and column to help escort prisoners and large herds of cattle into Zand River. There was a good plenty of us to escort. But there were no Boers near the road. I and another chap went off after wildebeest. I shot one and we took what meat we wanted. We passed Robinson’s[26] diamond mines all closed up. We rode up to one very fine building. We found it was an English farm. The farmer came out dressed in white. We asked him for a drink of water which he gave up. He said the Boers had taken the few horses he had left. He had a number of tractor engines and steam ploughs around the house. We marched on and got to Zand River by dawn. We were attached to another company or I.Y. We were all 9th Battalion I.Y. that came in. We were there about a month. We were turned out all hours, night and day, on patrol and piquets at farms. We had a great many false alarms there.

There was a new draught of militia just sent up to Zand River. Young fellows, many of them only about sixteen. If any of our horses got astray at night they would often shoot at them. More nervousness than anything else. The alarm would be given to strike tents[27] if more than one shot was fired and then we would have to make for our horses and saddle them and stand in readiness to arms. Many a night we had to go through this for nothing.

One day we sent out to drive off a party of Boers. Two of our men were shot by some Boers hiding in some low bushes by the riverbank. We succeeded in killing those Boers. The next day, six of us were told to dig the graves, which is very fatiguing work in the heat of the sun and none of the graves were under four feet deep. The dysentery[28] in this camp was something killing. The water we drank out of the river was very stagnant and a lot of dead horses lying in the bed of the river and all around our camp. At night the wind would bring up unbearable smells. I did not get the fever so bad myself. There were a great number taken sick there and died. I spent as much time as I could bathing. I happen to be bathing down there one day and washing a shirt which was alive with lice, quite a common thing, just then I heard a gurgling sound and looked across the river and saw the bubbles where a fellow had gone down. I was not long in getting across and fetching him out. He had got the cramps; he was nearly a corpse. There were other fellows not far off, we got him around all right in about an hour.

One Sunday I had taken my horse down to the water, and wandered all down the river for about two miles exploring. When I got back to camp, I found them alive, tents struck and horses saddled. We had orders to entrain at once to Bloemfontein. We were glad to get away from that unhealthy hole. We entrained all our wagons, horses, etc. and arrived at Bloemfontein the next day, there I joined my company that had recovered from sickness Then we got fresh remounts and entrained for Springfontein. About 100 in number, to join our own White’s column. We were travelling gaily down the line when there was an explosion and a zing, zing, pang, ping, and Martin Hewie and Mauser bullets whizzing through the timber of the trucks. We soon returned a lot of fire on the enemy who were galloping past us to get to our rear. They been hiding behind a kopji till we got within 500 yeards of it. They blew the line in the front. They tied to get behind and blow the line also, but we steamed back to Edenburg. Disentrained our horses, saddled them and went out after the Boers. About 300 of us all together with the mounted men in town. The Boers retreated off. Our horses were not very fit being in trucks two days. The line was repaired. It was a near shave the train not being blown up.

Nov. 1st. White’s column arrived at Edenburg. Then I met our company again. A lot less then I left it in number. We got our mails. I had not received letters for two months.

Nov. 2nd. Marched from Edenburg. Marched to 12 midnight, wet weather continuous.

Nov. 3rd. Scouting first thing in the morning. Corporal Base and eight of us started out before daylight. We gained information from the Kaffers where the Boers were. We came in touch with them in the afternoon. The Boers were concealed behind a kopji waiting for us. They fired their pounders[29] on us killing two horses. We soon charged them off the ridges and got our guns in action. We followed them up and captured some of their spare horses. Our company was charging up a ridge the Boers had retreated to. When they opened a terrible fire on us, we had to retreat with a few horses wounded. Then we dismounted and advanced on foot. Jenkins and I were holding eight horses, when our gunners, about two and a half miles behind, took us for Boers coming back over the ridge again. They opened fire on us. Their bullets were very near us. There was a company of R.T.R.[30], taking cover in a farm one mile behind, were just going to open fire on us, we waved our rags and helmets. They saw through their glasses we were British. We had a near squeak. One of my horses was wounded. We captured a Boer wagon and ammunition and a number of horses. The Boers cleared off at night. We burnt some Boer farms and marched to Reddersburg to camp for the night.

Nov. 4th. Rest horses in town. I was on stable guard when I found a money belt with close to £14 in it. I was feeling rather pleased over it, when I saw two fellows looking for something. I guess it must be theirs. I asked them what they wanted in my lines. One said he had lost a belt with money in it. So I gave it up. But the mean bugger only gave my 2p.

Nov. 5th. Big engagement from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m., 30th I.Y. in the thickest of it. Captured large number of cattle and horses and about 18 Boers. Galloped on The Larger[31] captured a lot of wagons. Plenty of loot at farm.

Nov. 6th. On the march all day; little sniping.

Nov. 7th. Camped near Bloemfontein.

Nov. 8th. Marched to Bloemfontein. Wet continually. Slept in wet clothes for weeks. In Bloemfontein for 3 days. Got letters. Went to Mission Hall in evening.

Nov. 11th. Marched from Bloemfontein.

Nov. 13th. Big engagement at Abraham’s Krawl. Lots of our mean wounded. 16 Boer killed. Fought hard for three hours.

Nov. 14th. Engagement. Our company 30th did some gallant charging. Drove the Boers out of their position and outflanked them under heavy rifle fire all the time. Captured about 18 on a kopji. I remembered that day as I lost the only pipe I had galloping across a dried up water pan. In mounting my horse after cutting down a barbed wire fence with an old hatchet I used to carry. As I was mounting the horse, had a bullet through the leg, which made the horse plunge and knock my pipe from my mouth. I dismounted all the same for the pipe. Bullets were flying pretty thick. Some of them within inches of me. Colonel Forbes commanded Captain Cropper to drive the Boers out of a position they were holding on a kopji. We succeeded in driving them out of their position wounding 5 Boers. We had some of our horses wounded. My horse had a bullet across the rump. I remember coming back to camp that night with my thighs raw after riding a fresh remount. It is not very pleasant.

We camped that night by the old Irishman’s store. We spent the little money we had on sugar and coffee. We did not care to die with money on us. I think that most of us had given all hopes of coming out of it alive. For days we had been under fire and sniping all night into our camp. Having to stand to arms all hours of the night for an attack, which never came. When you see so many killed and wounded you begin to think your turn will soon come. You just take things as they come, and don’t worry, and soothe yourself by thinking you can only die once. Life is cheap on active service.

Nov. 15th. Still in same camp.

Nov. 16th. Boers attacked our outpost but got driven off with loss. There was a spy caught in camp that night. Forty of the mounted police were guarding the pass to Abraham’s Krawl. The Boers drove them back to our camp with heavy loss of horses and oxen, wounding nine of them.

Nov. 17th. Fighting hard for 3 hours; no loss on our side. Boers lost three and lots of horses.

Nov. 19th. Boers fought stubbornly from behind rocks on a kopji. After shelling them for some time they retreated. We unearthed (the Boers) by firing 2,000 rounds of rifle ammunition, they could not get away in time.

Nov. 20th – 22nd. Fighting every day.

Nov. 22nd. Some of our company went back as escorts to the convoy to bring out supplies to the column. Major Cropper went back with us. He had promised all the men in our company some time ago that the next time they went to Bloemfontein they could join the Police. The Police were getting 6p to 10p a day, and we 1.5p. When we got to Bloemfontein, 16 men asked if they could remain behind and join the Police. Cropper would not hear of it. So the men went sick and managed to see the doctor and go convalescent. The next morning the men were all hauled out and made prisoners and made to escort the convoy to Aasvogel Kop[32]. The men did not much care for Cropper after that.

Nov. 24th. Marched back to Aasvogel Kop.

Nov. 25th. Arrived at Aasvogel Kop.

Nov. 26th. Engagement. Fought hard all morning.

Nov. 27th. Fighting all day. Sniping every day until Dec. 1st.

Dec. 2nd. Twelve Boers captured.

Dec. 3rd. Two horses wounded.

Dec. 4th. Camped at Bethany. Slept in old shed. Rained all day and night. The heaviest rain I ever saw. Up to our knees in water all about the town.

Dec. 5th. Fighting all morning. Marched to Reddersburg.

Dec. 6th. Arrived at Edenburg about 3 p.m.

Dec. 7th. Left Edenburg by rail 6 p.m.

Dec. 8th. Arrived Bethulie. Left 3 p.m. Marched until 7 p.m. Camped by river.

Dec. 9th. Left camp 1 a.m. Marched until 8 a.m. Marched 3 p.m. Arrived Smithfield 7 p.m.

Dec. 10th. Marched from Smithfield 6 a.m. Camped 7 p.m.

Dec. 11th. Engagement. Charged Kopji. Captured 4 Boers.

Dec. 12th. Marched 4 a.m. Past Reddersburg about midday on left. Camped about 7 p.m.

Dec. 13th. Advance guard shelled Boers on road. 12 killed.

Dec. 14th. On march caught Boers up about 6 p.m. Gallant charge, columns in the paper about the 30th Company. We galloped for close to 12 miles and got right in amongst the enemy and clubbed them with our rifles and captured 32 and a lot of horses.

Dec. 15th. Short march to within about 10 miles of Lha Banches ‘Ncho

Dec 16th. March past Lha Banches ‘Ncho.

Dec. 17th. Revall Revalle 3 a.m.. Marched to river and camped about 4:30 p.m. Zamen Komit.

Dec. 18th & 19th. Same camp; wet. Been wet through now for about 8 days.

Dec. 20th. Marched to Allendale by Lable Kopje.

Dec. 21st. Camped by Prioley Farm.

Dec. 22nd. Engagement by Leeuwkop. Same Camp. Two wounded. Boer losses not known.

Dec. 23rd. Same camp.

Dec. 24th. Nigger shot for rape. Engagement, attacked Boers, lost two in I.Y. Billy Hyde[33] 30th & 29th I.Y. Buried our boys on Kopje by Komonil.

Dec. 25th. X-Mas day. Colonel Farber gave a speech about the I.Y. We had a bit of a sing-song in the evening. We expected to attack on de Wet[34], who was supposed to be surrounded, but he broke up his command during the night.

Dec. 26th. Marched, camped Velderfreden.

Dec. 27th. Engagement. Two I.Y. killed. Camped Hammonia.

Dec. 28th. Marched, camped Loo Kop. Main body engaged Boers 30th rear guard fought desperately till dark. Two wounded.

Dec. 29th. Engagement. Bodyguard advance. Major Cropper volunteered for his Company 30th to drive the Boers out of their position. The Boers were too strong for us. Major C. was wounded in four places. My horse was wounded and many others, but we all got out of it safely. Cropper died later on through the effects of the wounds, in England.

Dec. 31st. Fighting for 5 hours; Boers on each flank. Arrived Linley 5 p.m.

I am[35]

[1] The Imperial Yeomanry was a British volunteer cavalry regiment that mainly saw action during the Second Boer War. Officially created on 24 December 1899, the regiment was based on members of standing Yeomanry regiments, but also contained a large contingent of mid-upper class English volunteers.
[2] Krawl (also spelled craal or kraal) is an Afrikaans and Dutch word (also used in South African English) for an enclosure for cattle or other livestock, located within an African settlement or village surrounded by a palisade, mud wall, or other fencing, roughly circular in form.
[3] The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) was an infantry regiment of the British Army until 1968 when it was amalgamated with other regiments to form The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.
[4] Piquet also spelled picket. A small body of troops or a single soldier sent out to watch for the enemy.
[5] A military column is a formation of soldiers marching together in one or more files in which the file is significantly longer than the width of ranks in the formation. It is also applied to vehicles and naval vessels positioned for tactical reasons, or during road movement.
[6] This word is ambiguous due to blurred handwriting.
[7] General Sir Thomas Kelly-Kenny GCB GCVO (1840–1914) was a British Army general who served in the Second Boer War.
[8] A former province in northeastern South Africa, north of the Vaal River. Resistance to Britain’s annexation of Transvaal in 1877 led to the Boer Wars, after which the Transvaal became a Crown Colony.
[9] Clothes; A swimsuit; clothes for a specific occasion or use.
[10] Royal Yeomanry Regiment.
[11] Dorp: Archaic except in South Africa; a small town or village.
[12] Lodge (soldiers) in a particular place, esp. a civilian’s house or other nonmilitary facility.
[13] The Jameson Raid (29 December 1895 – 2 January 1896) was a botched raid on Paul Kruger’s Transvaal Republic carried out by a British colonial statesman Leander Starr Jameson and his Rhodesian and Bechuanaland policemen over the New Year weekend of 1895–96.
[14] Kaffir, sometimes spelled kaffer or kafir, is an offensive term for a black person, most common in South Africa and other African countries. Generally considered a racial or ethnic slur in modern usage, it was previously a neutral term for black southern African people.
[15] Kopji, also spelled koppie and kopje: a small hill rising up from the African veld.
[16] A specified military unit.
[17] Hinks, J. Private. Died South Africa.
[18] This is an abbreviation of ‘fag-end’; the last part or remnant of anything, after the best has been used.
[19] Jop or J.O.P. possibly stands for Joint Operations and Policy Staff.
[20] Handwriting is illegible.
[21] Dealesville, Free State, South Africa.
[22] Thaba Nchu is a town in Free State, South Africa, located 60 km east of Bloemfontein.
[23]Rheumatism was a major health concern for both sides of the Boer War; it was usually treated with Salicylic Acid and/or Aspirin (colloquially known as rheumatics).
[24] South African; a small tributary stream or watercourse.
[25] In this line he uses the contemporary spelling of “picketing” followed by what looks like a question mark within parenthesis.
[26] Sir Joseph Benjamin Robinson, 1st Baronet (3 August 1840 – 30 October 1929) was a South African mining magnate and Randlord. Born in Cradock, Cape Colony, died Wynberg, Cape Town.
[27] To strike tents; is an order to take down or disassemble a tent(s).
[28] Infection of the intestines resulting in severe diarrhea with the presence of blood and mucus in the feces.
[29] A gun designed to fire a shell weighing a specified number of pounds.
[30] The Royal Tasmania Regiment is a reserve infantry regiment within the Australian Army consisting of a single battalion.
[31] The Larger is clearly printed but the reference remains ambiguous.
[32] Aasvogel Kop, Phillipstown, Northern Cape, South Africa
[33] Hyde, William Charles: 15302, Private 30th Coy., 9th Bn. I.Y. KIA.
[34] Christiaan Rudolf de Wet (7 October 1854 – 3 February 1922) was a Boer General, rebel leader and politician.
[35] The journal ends here with “I am”. No period or punctuation.