Letter from South Africa

December 1900

Mexborough and Swinton Times, December 28.

Interesting Letters from South Africa.

Letter from a Denaby Soldier.

Krugersdorp, South Africa

To the editor of “Mexborough and Swinton Times”

Sir – I hope you will allow me a small space in your weekly paper, which I sometimes lucky to receive out here.

Me and my Mexborough and Denaby friends in the Regiment are always pleased to be able to get them as reading is about a thing of the past with us. I read a small account in your issue of 14 October Sgt J.Beale, of Denaby Main, who readily volunteered his services for the South African Campaign, with the St John ambulance Corps.

I am pleased to see that so small a place as Denaby Main is not ” backward in coming forward.” In case of emergency.

Sgt Beale, writes from Natal, and says what a beautiful country. Africa is. I myself, for one, only 30 months now on the campaign, they safely say it is the prettiest place I have ever seen, the scenery is magnificent, and it cannot be beaten.

I have trekked a good deal and seeing all the principal place, both on the veldt and in towns.

My Regiment (second K.O.Yorks, L.I.) commenced operations at the beginning of the campaign and has done pretty fair both in trekking and fighting. Up to now in October, they were guarding Nitral´s Nek, and on 6 October, we felt there for Commando Nek to join the tours brigade under general Clements, who was going up the valley a reconnaissance (boer hunt).

We left Commando Nek 12 October four places unknown to us. We had skirmishes with the boers every March we were on, and we went on driving and skirmishing with them all to Klip Spruit, 90 miles from Commando Nek, and after 19 there we had to make forced marches onto Krugersdorp at which place we were still staying.

We landed in here on 13 November ready for a little rest. 20 miles in field order is no joke and a hard biscuit and pint of tea or coffee.

Of the 15th we had to parade for inspection by field Marshall Lord Roberts, and he made the remark when he came to our four companies that we did not look so well as when he saw was in Medder river; but you may guess that is easily explained. After all the marching and for tea, and short rations. We had to endure on the campaign.

Sgt Beal said in his letter that there are good openings in this country for young men, and I say the same, but the young men must bear in mind that is not just a matter of going out this month, and picking up a fortune, returning home two months later a rich man. He must be steady, and put with the rough life of the country.

I may say that from my experience that £1 at home is equal to £5 in this country. I believe one of our Denaby lads as got a tidy birth as ganger on the railway at £20 a month for a start.

I read an interesting account in one of your papers some time ago’s about the fine sights of the island of Mauritius – it was Mr Alexander Barron, of Mexborough, who was the narrator. I happened to be on the island at the time I saw the account in your paper. I had a stay of about nine months on the island, and visited all the principal places, including Port Louis, Mayburg and Curepipe, which is the headquarters of troops stationed there.

We arrived in Port Louis on February 20, 1899, and was kept on quarter time five days, during which time it poured down with rain. We disembarked the 25th and then entrained for Curepipe. For the first three days. It kept on raining. Mauritius is noted for its hurricane’s and cyclones , and also its great sugar plantations. The population of the island are chiefly Crealls, Maylays, Chinamen and French. The climate is damp and very unhealthy. For Europeans. It is no good at all. Malarial fever is our worst enemy here.

As regards amusement there is very little. There is only what you make yourself in barracks, and I may tell you that 36 hours was the longest time we had of fine weather at once. We took advantage and had our regimental sports at the Governors grounds at Redwit. It is not a suitable place for our Tommy´s to soldier at.

I was very pleased to hear that the Denaby Main Church was finished and was open.

I would like your readers to know what we are paying for things at the present time out here. I will give you a rough list, such as groceries. They are as follows.

Bread (below), one shilling, bacon (per pound tin) two shillings, Quaker Oats (two pound box). One shillings, sugar (1 lb) one shilling, condensed milk (tin) 1s., Worcester sauce (bottle) 1s 9d , matches (per dozen) 1s., sunlight, soap (per pound) 9d, newspapers (nothing but proclamations and advertising) 3d each.

We regard the above articles, which we chiefly require, cheap to what we have paid on the campaign.

The war still hangs on, and we all hope the early 1901 we will see the end,

hoping I have not been intruding in sending this.

I’ll will wish you, and all your readers in many experts and a bright and happy New Year.

Yours gratefully.

One of Denaby’s absent-minded beggars

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