Published on the Website of the South African Military History Society in the interest of research into military history

Copyright Alan L Putland © December 2000

The personal diary of
“Private Walter Putland”

This is a transcript of the original diary as kept by him during the Boer War in South Africa 1900-1902

"....we are again in retreat. Buller started out full of determination to do or die but his courage soon ebbed and we stood still and watched while one poor wretched brigade was pounded and hammered and we were not allowed to help them. I cannot begin to criticize - for I should never stop. If there were any one to take Bullers place I would cut and slash - but there is no well known General who is as big a man as he is and we must back him for all he is worth - which at this moment is very little.....the horrible part of it all is that Ladysmith will probably fall and all our brave friends be led off to captivity and shame. Thank God we are going to have one more try - if only they will let us attack instead of pulling back - we will make a most desperate effort".
Winston Churchill on the Boer War.

It was my grandfather Private Walter Putland who between the years 1899 - 1902 took on active service with the Middlesex regiment and served in action in South Africa during The Boer War. During this time he kept a form of diary, making a note of all the days events the whole time that he was away and after researching the history of the Boer War I found that the account that he wrote was to be an accurate and true account of the happenings of that time.

He had no notebooks nor had he any form of writing tablet so he used whatever scraps of paper, backs of old labels and pieces of card that he could find and recorded the days events and his thoughts on these, then when it was time for him to return to England he transferred his account of the war to a kharki army exercise book type 134 while waiting at Newcastle South Africa in 1902. The account that he wrote describing the horror, the hope and the glory is the only known record that was written by a non-commissioned officer and the original is now being kept by the National Army Museum in London being donated by his granddaughter Mrs Doris Seacombe to which I am truly grateful for supplying me with a copy of the original diary. Visiting England in 1997 I saw the original book for myself at the National Army Museum and made a check of the original diary to confirm that this transcript is correct.
Alan L.Putland.

The diary that follows and is printed on the following pages is as written by the author and although there are a few variables within the diary it has been copied word for word just as it was written. You will notice that in some places the author has changed the way that he wrote the dates, and in some places the grammar was incorrect but these have been left just as they were originally written.Comments are added in square brackets.

For simplicities sake although the author placed most of the dates within a sentence I have placed these on a new line. Occasionally you will find an asterisk and any comments made are placed further down the text and in italics.
I have included some historical references at the end of the diary which correspond with the authors writings and may be of interest to you.

Comments added by the Website editor are in squiggly brackets, thus{}.


To be fowarded to Miss F Foweraker
20 Ormsbury Street
Pearson Street
Private W Putland
2785 2nd Middlesex Regiment
Field Force
South Africa.

The following was kept by me on pieces of paper etc and copyed in this in Newcastle South Africa 1901

----- DIARY -----

By Private Walter Putland, 2nd Middlesex Regt, South Africa.

Left Woolwich and arrived Southampton
Dec 2nd 1899. Embarked and sailed about on the SS Avondale Castle, Troops in good spirits singing shouting and pleasant farewells by those left on the Quay, seeing us off, Splendid weather, sea like a sheet of glass through the Bay of Biscay, hardly any sickness, Dec 7th reached Las Palmas Canary Islands, little boats come round selling fruit, cigars etc. which was very cheap, I had a fruit tea. started off again after loading up with coal in the early morning of the 8th, I happen to be on Sentry go, on the 10th of Dec we had a Concert on Board and had some good singing and we all enjoyed ourselves very much, but not as good as the London Music Hall. Ordinary ships duties today the 11th, sorry to say one chap fell down the Hatchway and died soon afterwards,

12th Dec Body of the Man that died yesterday was committed to the deep today at 4 pm and a most solemn sight is a burial at sea, boat slackened down to half speed and the ships bell tolled, then the burial service was read by an officer as he finished the Body was rolled from beneath the Union Jack into the sea and all was over, then the boat went on at full speed again.

Nothing occurred till the 19th when we had another Concert and it was better than the last one, Dec 20th and 21st very foggy and rough had to reduce speed and fog horn blowing every two or three seconds this was not very pleasant after it being so fine and smooth.

Dec 22nd Woke up and found the fog had cleared off and was a lovely morning, had a canvas bath put up on Board and water pumped from the sea into it, so we had a treat [a bath]. [Brighton on a small scale]. had a fine breakfast biscuits and tea with no milk, but taking all meals into consideration they are not bad, Dinners consist of soup Meat Potatoes and Pickles but no Beer on the TT since Woolwich

Dec 25 Xmas Day no very pleasant thinking of all at Home etc,

Dec 26th arrive at Cape Town all eager to hear of some news, hoping it to be good, as we have heard of nothing since we left Southampton, and only once seeing land at Las Palmas, Thought the war was over and us to late, but to our surprise we heard of General Bullers reverse at Colinso [Dec 15th]. Received orders to proceed to Natal via Durban, this meaning another sea voyage in the Indian Ocean so we had to tranship to the SS Mongolian and I think the dirtiest boat afloat, Blankets lousy and the smell was awful and packed in like sardines, and making matters worse we had some rough weather rounding the Cape, so I cannot say anything of this voyage, Troops had no heart, this boat was thrown about all over the place and so was I and all the remainder it was so rough, and making matters worse we were almost starved, the 2nd Day we got something served out to us, that had been meat, but today it was something else, so the Troops made a complaint as it was not fit to eat, but we got no satisfaction, so the Troops got long pieces of rope etc. tied the meat on and hung it out over the side of the Ship, but we got nothing else. [I say we disinfected the Indian Ocean]

Dec 30th arrived at Durban and thankful I am, the following is the distance taken from the Ships Charts every Day;



















































CAPE TOWN TO DURBAN ..1100 miles.

TOTAL...7163 miles.

With the exception of the journey from the Cape to Durban, it could not have been better, living etc. was very good and clean

Quite a release to get off that Boat which we did about 10am and then drew out our arms etc and was served out with 200 rounds of ammunition while this was going on Niggers was getting our stores off the ship, and this was an awful hot day, being midsummer in South Africa ordered to proceed up Country at once, after a short lecture as to what we should do in case of emergency, and we were packed into three trains or rather open cattle trucks, there we waited for the order to proceed, and the people of Durban were very good to us giving us tobacco, cigars, bread, etc. and any thing we wanted. I got two loafs and some banana's and some tobacco and a pipe so I have a feed for a time and some were lucky enough to get some tea, and some was not lucky enough I was one of the latter, our collar and cap badges in great demand giving any price for them, and I expect other Regts were the same, then the train started off before I was aware of it, and out I fell on the railway line taking a lump off my leg and bruising my knee, but the train only went a few yards and stopped, or I should have missed the train, then I hobbled up and was dragged in and we proceeded up Country, my train, being the 1st to start and we left Durban amidst shouts and cheers, which brought tears to more than one mans eyes to think that people of a strange Country should treat us the way they did, after we started I took off my puttees* and found a portion of my skin deficient so I bandaged that up, and I had a shaking up, but that’s but a trifle,

* PUTTEES A long strip of cloth wound spirally round the leg from the ankle to the knee as a protection and a support to the leg.

Arrived at Inchanga Station where we found Coffee and bread and butter was waiting to be devoured by us, [provided by the people of that town] and at nearly every Station we stopped at there was tea or Coffee for us "provided as before" started off again this time over some rough Country and a shaky ride it was through and on tops of mountains but the scenery was grand** with Kaffir Kraals in the distance like so many Bee hives, does not seem like war yet although getting so close, and not many miles away, and after proceeding a few miles further on to our surprise the Mail train that left the Station before we did, had overturned and there lay on the metals on its side so consequently we had to stop and stay in the trucks all night and to try to sleep, it was just as easy to fly back Home, it turned awful cold that night and rained slightly, and we felt it after it being so hot all day, morning came at last and glad of it, had a wash from a large pump they fill the Engines with, and felt none the worse for the rough night we spent, by 11am the Niggers had made a temporary line round the train on the metals, and once again proceeded on our journey [lucky for us the Mail train went on first] and we arrived at Pietmaritzburg with out any more mishaps, but here we were to be disappointed again we were order to go further north to a place called Estcourt "providing that we were not attacked before we got there" reaching Estcourt we meet the remainder of our Brigade and detrained and encamped for the night and dead tired we was, this Railway ride was a very shaky one as it curves round so much, and at times the Engine almost comes up with the guards van at the back, thats facts.

** What I assume the author is saying here is that the lush heavily timbered mountains of Eastern South Africa is sheer beauty to the eyes of the average Englishman and to himself and has never been seen before.

Here we remained and was very busy dyeing our straps etc Karki till the 3.1.00 when we had to give in all surplus kit, and had orders to carry 1 shirt, 1 pair of socks and 1 towel only, had my first march over a few Hills and was glad to get back to Camp being rather tired, this continued until the 8th Jan

8th January 1900. 3 am Woke up everyone rushing about and pouring of rain and ordered to strike Camp and march off and we were soon wet through and very uncomfortable, overcoats not allowed to be worn but carried, Middlesex, Dorsets and Somersets under General Talbot Coke march to a place named Frere, and it was an awful march pouring of rain, and marched through Rivers, the water in places about 4 feet deep, guess my feelings water running down my legs and rain down my back, oh it was grand, although this is Summer here its awful cold today, halted halfway to let the Artillery go on and take position, and here we was shivering in our wet things, waiting for the order to proceed on to get warm, ordered to march and arrived at Frere, a bit done up, made some tea and served out with a dram of rum, drank that and laid down soaking wet in a nice muddy place, as there was not a dry place about, but could not sleep,

January 9th 1900 Moved off soon after daybreak in mass with General Buller about 11,000 Men of all arms, arrived at Frere Bridge and found it blown in lying in the water, so we had to cross over a Pontoon bridge, thrown* across by the Royal Engineers [Frere Bridge was wrecked by the Boers]. Very slow and cautious was this move, and we had about 6 miles of Convoy to escort, which made it very difficult, by at night we had only marched about 3 miles, moving on only a few yards halting and so on all day, and the wagons sticking in the mud, it was a trying day for us all. about midnight we had the Boers Search light put on us, while we were crossing a ridge, and we got the order to lay down which was comfortable in the mud, one of our Guns fired a few shells at it and we lost sight of it for that night.

* The author probably used the descriptive word thrown because of the fact that the bridge was of very temporary construction because he mentions that they crossed the bridge very slow and cautiously.

January 10th, Not been allowed to go to sleep all night, Men almost falling down asleep, after a long march we arrived at Springfield and stayed till the 16th Working all day [the 16th] digging trenches and outpost duty all night, expecting attack every night , and one day while we were there I had to go with 4 more men and dig some big holes and bury some horses in and other had to dig graves for two men that had died here. The first of the Boers that I saw at this place, they were prisoners brought into camp. Here the Boers were only a few miles to our front but nothing occurred while we were here. The living and water was very good here, had a tooth out here, or rather part of it, our doctor tried to pull it out but didn't, he broke it in and off I went hopping round the camp worse than before. Another treat I had here, I washed my shirt and socks and had a swim in the Tugila* River.

* Hard to decipher from the original documents.{spelled Thukela in 2000 -Ed.}

Big guns were heard on the afternoon of the 16th Jan and we all manned the trenches and expecting our turn shortly.
January 17th 1900 ordered to pack up and march, which we did and was escort to the Naval Guns we arrived at Spearmans Camp, and here the Guns were soon into action and a splendid sight this was, shelling the Boer positions and them shelling ours, this being our first time under fire, firing continued till about, and a very hot day it was. Guarding the Guns was our billet** at night, and the Sailors turned in, here we remained till the 22nd Jan trying to draw the Enemy with a few feint attacks, but I think that they were up to that move, every night, either outpost or Sentry on the Guns sleeping when we could, 4.30pm of the 22nd we left this position and crossed over the Pontoon Bridge. daybreak the 23rd when we were all across, here we met the Dorset Regt again and they gave us some biscuits and Bully Beef as we had none, moved off again very cautious on to a large Kopje*** and here we stayed till midnight, not allowed to talk, smoke, or light fires to make tea, while we were here, the Division under Sir Charles Warren moved off to other Kopje's etc, we advanced soon after midnight in the dark to another Kopje about a 1,000 yards to our right front, when we reached the top of this it was just breaking day and we opened fire directly at 1,500 yards but the Boers never fired at us here, about

** To assign quarters to [Oxford Universal Dictionary].
*** A small hill. [South African descriptive].

24th January 1900 ordered to move again as fast as possible in single rank and a large interval between each man and for the first time we thought we were in for a rough time of it, and we was after descending this Kopje we ascended a large Mountain or Spion Kop, and it was a most difficult job to climb, it being so steep, and also allowing the wounded to be carried down. General Woodgate I passed going up, he was being carried down on a stretcher, and those who could speak of the wounded, was saying its worse than a Slaughter House up there, that did not improve our feelings, but of course we had to go, I saw several Mules loaded with ammunition, lose their footing and fell to the bottom, when near the top we were greeted by a shower of bullets and a lot of our men fell at once, Cpl Clements was shot aside of me during this shower of lead, after cracking the firing line, we were in for a rough time, they started to use their pom poms or [Buck Up] as Tommy has christened them, and they done a lot of damage, the Boers knew the exact distance and consequently the shells fell all round us, here was the Lancashire Fusiliers were retiring, but after being re-inforced by us they came back again to the firing line, they had lost all their Officers and had no one in charge of them that caused there retreatment, it was a tremendous fire meet us here, and dead wounded and dying was awful and the groaning was sickening, I was lying on the ground firing with the remainder on the extreme right of the firing line, when Capt Muriel told us to go 60 yards to our right front and about 30 of us went, 2 or 3 was hit getting there, and directly we got in position. Col Sergt Morris was talking and telling me where to fire, he was hit through the nose, he was my right hand man, and directly after this a young fellow was shot on my left, soon after this I was ordered to go to the Main Body on our left with a message, as it was not safe to lift your head up off the ground I did not like the job, but I had to do it and there was little time for thinking, so I said a prayer to myself and off I went, and the bullets was like rain round me, it was a terrible time for me, and there was any amount of dead here by this time, and the shouts was fearful while I was doing this, Capt Muriel was shot dead after being fairly riddled with bullets, during the day the Boers held up their white flag or flag of truce, and of course "E" Company of the Middlesex Regmt being in the best position and nearest to were the flag was raised went towards them; as this meant surrender on their part, but this was only their treacherous work, when the Company got within a few yards from them they ordered them to put down their arms which they did, when this was done our fellows were fired on from another party concealed at a few yards distance, and they were mowed down like dogs, here with this party my pal was killed, (shot through the head) Sergt Hudson, we also had some taken prisoner and several got away during the night, we also captured a few, the men that escaped told us that every Rifle Man had 2 or more Rifles and while they were firing one, Boys was reloading the other and they also said their killed and wounded must have been close upon 3 000, firing continued till some time after dark, and this position we held all day and without food or water, and once during the day we were ordered to fix bayonets and charge but had to retire again owing to the fire, after dark the firing ceased and someone gave the order to retire, which was done during the night, and being pitch dark and properly done up from the days events we was falling over boulders or rocks, this days fight was done with all Rifle fire our Artillery being out of range, they opened fire early morning and the shells burst amongst us so they ceased the fire, whilst the Boers had Big Guns, Pompoms, and Rifles, and the pompom is an awful weapon, during the time we was retiring they were also but they found out that we had retired and came back and took up their positions again this news we got from the escaped prisoners, We believe the retirement was ordered by Col Thornycroft who had no right, Col Hill was in Command after General Woodgate fell but Col Hill thought the order came from Sir Charles Warren, after I got a short way down the Hill I heard groans and someone calling for help, a man named Ralton was with me and a Sergt Tilby and all three went to see what it was, crawling down on our hands and knees, we found the man belonging to the Imperial Light Infantry, poor fellow had been shot through both legs and one of his arms and fell over the side of the Hill and lodged against a rock, after picking him up and crossed our Rifles we sat him on them and carried him to the crest of the Kopje which was a difficult job in the darkness and it was very steep just here, and his groans was awful, after getting some water from an Officer and gave him we left him for the Bearer Company to pick him up but I doubt if ever he was as he was almost gone when we left him, he also told us to take his watch and his belt off with his money in, as he knew where he was going, I also passed another man of ours that was groaning with both feet blew away and others besides which I will not write about, Well this was hard to have to retire after fighting as the Troops did but we had to do as ordered, in the darkness and everyone mixed up together Patten and I lost the Regt after getting to the foot of the Hill we laid down to wait for day light but could not sleep, after daybreak we found some dirty muddy water which we was obliged to drink, after this we wandered about and kept on finding other Men looking for their Regts and we came across lots of our own fellows also Major Lemprives after a lot of walking about we found the Regt in the afternoon and there was a bit of handshaking here etc the roll was called that evening as we had orders to move and a bad result it was 108 Men killed and wounded and not including Officers, after having some tea to drink and nothing to eat as we had nothing, we moved off about 4 pm this being the 25th

25th January 1900 to the Hill were we were the night before the Spion Kop fight and lined the crest expecting a fight at daybreak again, served out with a biscuit and half a man and a dram of rum and here we were for the night and told not to sleep but we did we were tired and took it in turns to keep awake.

26 Jan nothing occurred and we were ordered to retire which we did across the Tugela River again unmolested, here we spent an awful night pouring of rain and very cold, Karki wet through, we had no Cloaks they were on the wagons, and I was on Sentry for 18 hours without being relieved and others were the same, here I had to eat my Emergency ration, which was not a good feed, but all we had, We were covering the retirement of other Divisions and I was on Sentry on the Pontoon Bridge by daybreak all the Troops were across and General Buller and staff crossed last, and we all followed behind, after marched a short distance the Boers began to shell us with their Long Tom, but without damage and we were soon out of range, this was done in extended order covering the Country for miles, arrived at a place called Wrights Farm halted for the night and pouring of rain, made tea and got a dram of rum, and I got 8 drams and went to sleep in the mud again and wet through, and I slept well till I was woke the 28th Jan *

* Winston Churchill, who was a war correspondent was given the rank of Lieutenant in the South African Light Horse Regiment in the January of 1900 by General Buller. This rank was not to intrude on his status as a war correspondent and this enabled Churchill to send his constant letters and reports back to his family and to the 'Morning Post'. Churchill spoke of General Buller mentioning in a letter of the 10th January 1900. '...Buller started out full of determination to do or die but his courage soon ebbed and we stood still and watched while one poor wretched brigade was pounded and hammered and we were not allowed to help them. I cannot begin to criticise for I would never stop. If there was anyone to take Bullers place I would cut and slash - but there is no well known General who is as big a man as he is and we must back him for all he is worth - which at this moment is very little....', he went on '...the horrible part of it all is that Ladysmith will probably fall and all our brave friends be led off to captivity and shame. Thank God we are going to have one more try - if they will only let us attack instead of pulling us back - we will make a most desperate effort...'. Winston wrote of the battle on Spion Kop 'The scenes on Spion Kop were among the strangest and most terrible I have ever witnessed. I had five very dangerous days - continually under shell and rifle fire and once the feather on my hat was cut through by a bullet. But in the end I came serenely through'. Towards the end of the battle on Spion Kop he found Colonel Thorneycroft sitting on the ground 'surrounded by the remnants of the regiment he had raised, who had fought for him like lions and followed him like dogs'.

The assault on Spion Kop had cost 300 lives, 1,000 injured and a decision to retreat while the Boers lost 300 men. Buller withdrew all his men back across the Tugela, it was another battle that had been lost and once again Spion Kop was in the hands of General Botha and the Boers.

28th January 1900, drew biscuits and tea and had breakfast (if I'm not calling that meal names)[hard to understand his English here] here our wagons came up and we drew our tents etc including our overcoats but someone else drew mine so I had to go without, pitched Camp first time for 11 days and best part of that time wet through, rested all day and slept well at night, quite at Home in the dry again.

29th January 1900 ordered to parade for General Buller to make a speech which both Brigades did, and a nice day for this, The following is the Generals speech taken down in shorthand by Pte Martin "F" Company Middlesex Regt and begins;

"Officers and Men of the 10th Brigade I wish to speak to you on Parade today that I might thank you for your good behavior during the past 10 days and that I might express to you how much I have admired your conduct nothing could have been better, than your behavior in the firing line, and in other ways with the difficulties and trials you have undergone., I don't want you to think that because we left that position (Spion Kop) that your labours and trials have been thrown away, I believe it is not the case, we have found the key to Ladysmith and shortly to the relief of the beleagued Garrison, and if we have, it is by your gallant and hard work".

"I received a telegram from the Queen this morning, and I am going to read it first to this Brigade and then to the other, I will then ask you all to give three cheers for Her most gracious Majesty the Queen-;

Queen's telegram begins------
I must express my admiration of the conduct of the Troops during the past week especially the Regiments you specified in your telegram and of your hard and trying marches, Telegram Ends".

Continuation of General Bullers speech - begins---
"The Queen mentioned those Regiments I specified, I could not mention all Regiments as I could by letter, and you have done your best and a good best too, now as soon as I have spoken to this other Brigade I will ask you all to give three cheers together for the Queen"
which was well responded to, Ends.

Marched back to Camp and rested for the remainder of the day, dram of rum at night and had a good nights rest,

January 30th 1900 Strike camp and make another advance towards Spearmans Camp without coming in contact with the Enemy, water very bad today, barracked for the night

January 31st 1900 up early and marched off being escort to the Naval Guns again, arriving at a place called Val Krantz call Gun Plateau the Guns got into position on the crest of the Hill at once, and the Regiment went down the foot, and firing started immediately, mostly Artillery and Naval fire, Kings Royal Rifles and Durham Light Infantry take up a fresh position on our left, here it was a fair duel between the Boers and their Long Tom and our Navy and their 4 point 7, but the Boers retired during the day to a Kopje further back and all was quiet for a time, here we remained till the 13th of Feb.

13th February 1900 outpost duty every night and slept during the day when possible, one day while we were here Rixon, White and myself volunteered to go for water to the little Tugila River, and was told to keep under cover all the way which we did and got the water, we had about a dozen water bottles each and 2 biscuit tins, but coming back we took a short cut as we thought and crossed the plain where a dummy supply store was put up, and the Boers must have saw us and opened fire dropping a few shells close to us, we dropped the tins and run but could not run far or fast we were loaded with the Bottles of water strapped round us, but we got back in safety and we were very lucky 4.30pm "F" and "A" Companies warned for outpost duty on the Bank of the River, expecting an attack tonight on account of our retirement the next day, (I think that this should have read previous day), but all was quiet except for a little sniping

February 14th 1900 Ordered to retire again to Chievely halted at Pretorious Farm, and here we went and had a swim, and got in tangle with some geese and they came back to camp with us and was soon cooked and eaten, not very tasty boiled in water only, but there was not much left to tell the owner who took them. Splendid water here from a spring, this was about the first proper wash we have had for about 3 weeks and everybody lousy, and it cannot be helped, Officers are the same. Marched off again and arrived at Chievely, after a long and hot march, lots of Troops had to be brought along on the wagons and by the ambulance during this march. Here we met the Fusilier Brigade and they gave us a good welcome, we also saw the A{r}mour train disaster here in the Station, we got bread and meat here soon after arriving, the first bread for 37 days, a change after Bully Beef and Biscuits and not much of them sometimes only a biscuit and half for the day. I saw several fellows I knew in the Fusiliers and glad to meet them only in the wrong place, we only stopped here during the night and shifted Camp next morning a short distance away and had a days rest.

February 17th 1900 Woke before daybreak and packed up tents etc and advanced in extended order over a large plain, we formed the firing line after proceeding about a 1000 yards, the Naval Guns began firing and we knew we were in for it again, and we were, the Boers were firing shrapnel and was falling where, we were and we were ordered to lay flat down which was soon obeyed, in this position we laid about 4 hours, in the meantime the Regiments that was behind made a flank movement, to turn the Enemy position and draw the fire from us which they did, after dark we advanced closer to the Boers position, the Naval and Artillery Guns getting fresh positions ready for daybreak, went a long way in front on outpost this night, and the Boers keep putting their searchlight on us, so we had to lay flat on our stomachs every time it came near us, which was a very uncomfortable situation, Feb 18th

February 18th 1900 Our big Guns done some fine work today which surprised the Boers they did not think we shifted our position during the night, our shrapnel was dropping right amongst the Boers which made it impossible for them to stay where they was, so they retired and their trenches began to burn, which was a splendid sight for us during the night. wrote a letter to Florie by the moon a fine night too, advanced again early morning very hot day and no water, here the Boers tried night attacks on our outposts, but were soon check as they had no bayonets and our outposts had so they took a bitter view of that sort of thing.

February 19th 1900 Still the big Guns fire into the Boer trenches and they retired on the Main Body on the big Hills overlooking the Tugela River during the night, large fires all over the Country caused by the Lyddite* firing,
* A high explosive composed mainly of picric acid first tested at Lydd in Kent where it takes its name from.

February 20th 1900 this position of the Boers was a splendid fortified place, which our Artillery and Navy shelled all day, the Howitzers Battery got on a Kopje during the night close to the Boer position and started directly at daybreak which surprised the Boers again, this must have been a fearful day for the Boers we could see them rushing about mad from the trenches and those soon caught fire, there was all sorts of Guns firing now and all Lyddite the noise was deafening, during the night those that got away retired across the Tugela leaving this side clear of the Enemy. went on the Tugela Heights, the place the Boers had a few hours before held, on outpost duty and the smell was awful, we saw 2 Kaffir Kraals here the Boers had used for their Hospital and the place was swamped with Blood, the Dorset Regt was sent to take the Boers laager they had left, they came back with some Civilian coats and trousers, umbrellas, women’s clothing, Flour, and plenty of eatables of all kinds and there was tons of ammunition, apparently they left in a hurry.

February 22nd 1900 Here we saw another awful sight there dead Horses, Bullocks, Mules etc laying all over the place, from here we advanced under cover of Tugela Heights, and reaching a big **Donga we marched through this in single file every now and again a shell was being dropped very close upon us. arriving at the other end of the Donga, was the Tugela River and a pontoon bridge made by the Engineers, just here the River was very wide and a large waterfall on the right of the bridge, the Somerset Regiment was the first to cross the bridge rushing across one man at the time, and another would follow a few yards distance and so on, then the Middlesex and Dorsets in the same order, then came the Artillery during the time we were crossing the Boers had been firing at the bridge to stop our advance, but lucky done no damage but was dropping in the water, a few hours before we crossed the pontoon we were served out with rations...Bully Beef and Biscuits, and the meat being in 7 pound tins, which was thrown in the water or either dropped on the bridge while crossing, along with cooking pots etc. which was to heavy to run with after all was acrossed we opened out on a large plain and the Naval and Artillery Guns got into action, here we laid Somersets on the right Middlesex in the centre and Dorsets on our left and the big Guns on a Kopje behind us, the noise from our own Guns and the Boers was awful as we laid in between the two, the Boers shrapnel shots was dropping short and consequently fell amongst us, and another thing we could not fire we was out of Rifle range, the Somersets lost a lot of men here, we only lost 7, .after dark the order was given to retire off the plain, and all went on the different surrounding Kopje's on outpost duty, during the night the Artillery and Navy crossed back over the Pontoon bridge and took up a splendid position along a range of Hills ready for daybreak, no man allowed to sleep this night the Boers kept up their firing all night at the positions we had held during the day, our people never fired once during the night, but was busy making fortifications, during the night we was given a tot of rum and this was badly needed.
** Native word to South Africa meaning a watercourse or ravine flanked by steep sides

February 23rd 1900 Daybreak the big Guns was fired and the Boers must have been surprised to have found them with their changed position, but for all that the Enemy kept up their fire and had a fair duel with our chaps but must have suffered under such terrific fire, Boers retired after dusk onto the Ladysmith Road and here there fortifications was splendidly built up, I had a good view of this days proceedings being on top of this Kopje.

February 24th 1900 Boers opened fire first at daybreak and shell our Hospital, several tents were hit but not much damage done, and some dropped short and fell on this Kopje where we were, our people fired very little during the day. in the evening the Lancashire Brigade found the outpost duty and were attacked and lost heavily.

February 25th 1900 three men of each section allowed to go back, half way to Colenso to buy food, from a Canteen wagon, White, Rixon and myself went for our Section, while we was purchasing, the wagon was shelled by the Boers which shifted us, here we saw the Colinso Bridge that was blown in by the Enemy and laying in the River, also visited Fort Whylie a late Fort held by the Boers on 15th Dec Battle of Colenso, here there were beds, clothes and all many of things under the ground, got back to the Regt had a dram of Rum and went on outpost duty for the night.

February 26th 1900 Daybreak the firing began by the Boers and we was ordered to take a fresh position about a mile and a half away, which we done by running along the Railway line, here I met Pte Hilton coming back wounded he told me the firing was awful, after getting off the line we rushed on a small Kopje, a few men at the time, and got behind small breast works that had been made by the Boers. Pte Hilton was right the firing was thick, and we was ordered not to fire, here we dare not move or look over the Breast work but have to keep perfectly still as we fell in them when we first got there, and we had no food or water or coats and was very cold, the firing continued all through the night, this was a rough days work for us, and very thirsty and hungry.

February 27th 1900 Glad morning has come Artillery firing commences on our side in earnest with shrapnel and the Boers retire again Devons make a Bayonet charge and by dark all was rather quiet, this was done without food etc., retired back a mile or so and got plenty, out again on outpost duty for the night but all was quiet.

February 28th 1900 With the exception of a little sniping which continued from the stragglers of the Enemy left behind, which was afterwards (perhaps) captured, from here the Troops found and marched into Ladysmith, after all the difficulties and trials we have had but nevertheless satisfied to know that we have relieved the besieged Town. my Brigade was left on the surrounding Kopje's of Umbulwana for the night on outpost again.

February 29th 1900 Troops rejoicing over the relief walking about as you like was quite a treat without being fired at, one Section at a time was allowed to visit the late Boer position on the Ladysmith Road, where they just retired from, 3 hours per Section, my Section never went this day, but went to the Tugela River and washed our shirts etc and had a bath first wash for 10 days and a clean shirt, we enjoyed this days operations after being under fire since the 17th of the month, returned to the Hill after waiting for our shirts to dry in the sun, had tea and a dram of rum and part of each Section was allowed to sleep and I was one of these.

February 30th 1900 my Section went to visit the Boer entrenchments, and was gone 6 hours and a 1/2 instead of 3 hours, and got in trouble getting back by the Company officer, but the old tale "lost our way", also told him we had been learning also studying to build fortifications like the Boers had left, and it worked well with the officer Each man was allowed an extra dram of rum this night on account of the Relief, here we remained till the 7-3-00 during which time we received the Queen's present the Chocolate Box and sent it Home, 12 men once a day go down to the River for water drinking and cooking purposes, and they are the only men that wash that day.

7th March 1900 We received orders we were to reinforce Lord Roberts in the Free State via Cape Town, marched off in sections of fours (same like at home) to Colenso Station and the Drums and the Pipes of the Regiment played us down, this was the first time we heard them playing in the Country, all the other Regts of other Brigades formed up on both sides seeing us off and there was some cheering, anyone would think we were going Home, as we entrained the Dublin Fusiliers shouted and sang and gave us a good send off, (this Regiment laid with our Regiment in India and were the best of Friends). Arrived at Pietmaritzburg on the 8-3-00 with hundreds of Troops and Civilians on the Station to welcome us there and I shall never forget how the Civilians shouted and yelled, us being the first Regiment back after the Relief of Ladysmith, here we drew our kits out and changed our old clothes for new and we wanted them we were all lousy and in rags. [I think that should have meant to read "and we wanted them, we all felt lousy and our clothes were in rags"]. This would be a fine picture for our patriotic friends in England, some fellows trousers patched up with bits of sack in fact anything we could get hold of we were not particular to tin for that matter, we had one advantage allowed us that was we always had to sleep in our clothes, if we had taken them off we should never have found the way back into them again, too many vent holes etc. and another thing our lodgers would have bolted with them (the lice), here we were and like toffs had a bath and a new change of everything, also allowed in the Town for 2 hours a few men at a time. had some beer the first since I left England, also plenty of food stuffs here, quite a change after the past 2 months.

9th March 1900 Woke early and very queer all day, packed up and marched to the Station and entrained for Durban and received another good send off, arrived at Durban at 5.30am on Sunday morning, and after marching from one place to another and then back again and so on for about an hour we found our correct place, this seemed as if no Officer knew where to go or what to do, eventually we Embarked on the SS Harwarden Castle, this being done we got all our stores supplies etc. on Board, Sir Charles Warren who was in charge received orders from General Buller to await further orders, which we did, and we stayed in the Harbour on Board.

11th March 1900 Went sick, as I had Dysentery and very queer, Doctor gave me 2 pills (Number 8), this was a fine time for the Regiment having nothing to do, but was not for me.

12th March 1900 General Warren was signaled for from the Quay, and he left with his Staff on a tug, we remained on Board till the 14-3-00 and received orders to disembark at once, but could not, as the Boat was not able to get to the landing stage (water too shallow)

15th March 1900 Boat still unable to get in, so they lowered us down in big baskets on the crane into a tug at the side of the ship, about 6 Men at a time, after getting about 80 Men on board, we was landed and the tug would return till the Regt was all disembarked, here we entrained again, with more shouted etc. by the civilians and arrived at Pietarmaritzburg about 6.30pm and pouring of rain, marched to the Camping ground, and made the best of things for the night (no tents) this was very uncomfortable for me because by this time I was awful sick, we rose early next day and was very hot, after the ground dryed we pitched tents, here we remained till the 22nd 3-00 during which time I went sick again but no use, pills again, got permission to go to the Town and went to see a civilian doctor, and he soon put me right again, Major Limprivee asked me to work in the Officers Mess, which I did, the Troops also had one good night here 17th March, St Patrick’s night, as much Beer as they could drink and an open air Concert till past midnight, duty was easy here.

22nd March 1900 Received orders to pack up and entrain for Ladysmith, went to Town and got 2 Bottles Medicine to take with me, marched to the Station and entrained started about 10.30pm, arrived at Ladysmith about midday 23-3-00 and pitched Camp on Brooks Farm about 2 miles beyond Ladysmith, this was an hard days work getting the Officers things together, began to feel well again, all the Regt had all turned in hours before we did.

24th March 1900 Got a pass signed by the Mifs President to visit any town we should pass for buying things for the Officers etc., went into Ladysmith Town, had tea at a shop (that had been) 2 cups of tea (small) 1 slice Bread & Butter, (very thin) 1s & 3d, which was very dear helping to pay for the damage done by the Boers, bought a few things for the Mess, and went visiting Ladysmith which showed signs of the trials it had been through, returned to Camp disappointed, thought of seeing my Brother Herbert here, feeling almost better again now, here we remain till the 4-4-00.

4th April 1900 5am Marched off for a place called Elandslaagte, very hot day, passed the Fusiliers on the way they were more or less knocked up, we halted at Moddre Ipruit {Modder Spruit} for the night.

5th April 1900 Daybreak moved off again, and have a deal of trouble with the Convoy, owing to the heavy roads etc, unable to get water all day, arrived at Elandslangte and had a lot of trouble with the Officers things, and making a place comfortable for them, and getting them food, I was very busy, had a dram of Rum and retired for the night, very tired, up to the present this job is a failure, having to do just the same as the Regt and work for the Officers every time we halt, we remained here till the 10-4-00 which was better for me in a standing Camp, having no duty to do, the Regt all on outpost duty.

10th April 1900 just as the day was breaking we were all woke up by the Boers shelling our camp, ordered to order the tents to the ground, which was done in grand style, everybody manned the trenches with the exception of a few employed Men, our Artillery and Naval Guns were soon at work, then, Watkins and myself retired back about 300 yards with the Scotch Cart and the Officers Mess stores, cooked breakfast for them, now here me and the Mess Sergeant had a rough job, to take the Officers breakfast round to all the trenches, he took dixie (large pot) full of boiling coffee and I carried a whiskey box full of eatables on my head, same thing occurred at lunch time, while doing this we never had the slightest bit of cover, about 2pm all was quiet, Boers had retired, packed up and the Brigade advanced and took up a fresh position on the right of Elandslaagte Station, out went the outpost on duty directly we halted, consisting of the 1st Rifle Brigade, a patrol of a few Mounted Men went out at dark on patrol for the night during which time they were attacked by the Boers, trying to reach the Station, they lost 3 Men of their patrol, but the enemy suffered a great deal, this place we Camped on is the same place as where the Lancers made a charge,* forbidden to drink the water, about 300 Men got Intiree or Dysentery while we were here, at this place we stayed till the 9-5-00, the principle duty outpost for all Troops having plenty to do myself to look after 22 Officers to get their food sent out to them on there different posts.

9th May 1900 about 5am the whole Brigade marched off, and a rough march too, over large Hills and through Rivers etc it was awful to make things complete for the Sgt and myself, we lost the Regiment, as we could not get over a large Kopji (Hill) having to go a long way round, and could find no water to drink, but we sampled a drop of whiskey from the Cart, eventually we found the Regt, on a small ridge and the Officers were waiting for us like hungry wolves, as they had nothing to eat that day, cooked their food and gave it to them and had our own, we were very hungry also, we could see the Boer Camp quite plain from here, made a Bivouac (shelter) for our Mess store etc had a dram and turned in for the night fairly tired.

10th May 1900 nothing of importance occurred here, we were shifted all over the surrounding Hills, what for is not known, remained like this till the 13-5-00 When the Regt was ordered to take a large Hill (Janas Kopji) with the South African Light Horse, but they (the Boers) retired before we could get up, altered near the foot of the Hill, and made Coffee and a Bully Beef stew for the Officers, while doing this the Regt had moved and took up position on the top of the Hill, and we had to carry all the food up, and was an hard climb, I took a dixie full of boiling Coffee up, but there was not much left when I reached the top, and the others were likewise, after the Officers had their food we were ordered to take another position, on another Hill in continuation with this one, after getting there we had some food ourselves and we wanted it, then we had to shift again, to another part of the Hill as we were exposed to the Enemy by this time it was dark, carrying boxes, cooking utensils, etc., we were falling about all over the place, with the Stones Rocks etc., being in the Officers Mess is not a very good job on the trek (march) as we are were never done work.

14th May 1900 Before daybreak we left that position and advanced covering the Country for miles across, over mountains, small Hills, and through Rivers etc, arrived at Sundays River and Camped for the night after the usual meal for the Officers and ourselves we turned down for the night.

15th May 1900 Just before daybreak all up and have breakfast Biscuits and tea, pack up and move off and marched through (or across) Sundays River, "this being on a Sunday" we had not gone far when the Adjutant came up to us and told the Mess Sergeant that one of us would have to go back and find the wagons and fetch fresh food for the Offices as it was impossible for the wagons to follow the Regt over such a Country, so back I went and the wagons had gone another way, and I had to find them, 8 Men came with me as escort, not to me but to the food when I got it, after marching all over the place we found the Convoy, loaded the Cart with what things I thought we would require and off we went to find the Regiment, which was our second job, after visiting a few farms for Eggs etc., and a lot of marching about we found the Regt about 5 pm on top of a large Kopji, here we could not get up with the Cart, after carrying food up to the top of the Hill, the Regt had just received orders to come down, So we had to fetch the food etc down again and being pitch dark and almost starved, had nothing to eat since about 4am, it was rough on me, got down to the foot of the Hill, gave the Officers their food, had our own and a dram of Rum and turned down for the night, properly tired and fed up with the Officers Mess work.

16th May 1900 4.30am moved off, but we did not go far, fearing we were close upon the Enemy.

17th May 1900 5am off again, and stopped about 9am for breakfast, marched off again and arrived at Waschbank Station that had been blown to the ground by the Boers, and a long, quick, and hot march it was, had Dinner, and turned down for the night.

18th May 1900 Left Waschbank and crossed the line and march to Clincoe Junction, this bringing us on the Clincoe Heights, on the Biggarsboy Mountains which was very hard to climb being so steep, after having some food, marched again for a place named Hatton Spruit Station another dry march, no water, and the weather very hot, arrived Hatton Spruit about 9pm, this day the Colonel told us we marched about 25 miles, got food ready for the Officers and ourselves, and went to sleep knocked up, (everybody is always asleep before we are a long while, everytime we halt there is a meal of some sort to provide and halting for the night, the Officers always want something hot if its only boiled Bully Beef or a Regimental ration, and if a cold night hot whiskey and water and I must say it does me good as well I would not stay in the Mess only its a little extra to eat and drink at times; and thats worth a lot on a job like this,) we could see for miles around from the Biggarsboy being so high.

{Glencoe Junction and Heights and Biggarsberg - Ed}

19th May 1900 off again, Lord Dundonalds Cavalry as Scouts, the retreating Boers have set fire to the grass to stop the advance, which it did, but the Cavalry went through it, after we had gone about 3 miles we were all ordered to retire as it seemed as if the whole Country was on fire, miles upon miles of flaming grass with a good breeze up that kept it alight, we retired back to Hattons Spruit and halted and thence back to Clincoe Junction, this of course tires and feeds a man up marching over the same ground two or three times, here we remained til the 2-5-00 when we moved off and changed direction to a place named Wild Ducks Vlei to the right of Hattons Spruit Station, found some small Bridges blown in by the Enemy which had to be repaired before we could proceed, for the Railway traffic to follow us up, while other Regiments were making roads for our transport etc. we repaired the Bridges with the help of the Engineers, this was completed on the 23-5-00, this was hard for the Troops working like Navvy’s all day and on outpost duty all night.

23rd May 1900 10am Moved off for Dannhausor, all the grass fires out, but still smouldering but we had to go through it, and it just put the finishing touch on us to make us look like Black Men, it's days and days since anyone has had a wash, arrive Dannhausor usual routine for the Officers, turn in.

24th May 1900 Queens Birthday, the Brigade never moved all this day, 12 midday the Troops were formed up and gave 3 cheers for Her Majesty glad of this days rest.

25th May 1900 Daybreak marched off again, the Regt being escort to the wagons, passed a lot of Boer Prisoners, one of them said as they passed in good English, how do you chaps like our Pom Poms, but he was well answered by one of our fellows who told him he was going the wrong way or we would tell him, but I expect he was glad he had finished fighting. Halted for the night, this being another dry hot march.

26th May 1900 6am Had breakfast and moved off and the grass was burning here, but we had to get through it the best way we could which we did and eventually arriving at Ingagani Station, usual feed and went to sleep.

27th May 1900 Left Ingagani and went to a place called Rooi Pynt or Red Point halted for a time and then onto Newcastle, and here this Town had been brought to the ground by the Enemy, there were a few people here and one could see they all had trouble being turned out of their Homes and all their shops ransacked, the inhabitants of this Town all seemed very pleased to see the English Troops here, after finding the Camping ground, made Dinner for the Officers, now I might mention since we left Elandslaagte on the 9th of the month, we have had to make every road for the wagons, no such thing as roads here, also we have had to help to draw them up the Hills etc., the reader can also see how we have had to keep to the Railway as much as possible, and had to help to mend the bridges, besides scouring the Country all over, this has been no easy work, food and water has been bad, and never washing and lousy, here we remained till the 5-6-00, during which time I visited the Town to buy anything I could for the Officers, but not a shop open, went to the Railway Station and bought 2 smalls Hams, come to something like 35 shillings, by this time the Trains was able to get up as far as here bringing foodstuffs etc, but no tents, which we left behind at Elandslaagte after getting fresh supplies on the wagons we moved off again on,

5th June 1900 and soon came within sight of Majuba Hill after a long march we arrived at a place named De Wits Farm and camped there now only a few miles from Laings Nek Tunnel made a bivouack for the Officers, as they told us perhaps we would be here several days, got dinner ready for them and had our own with a dram of rum and retired for the night, about 12 midnight a Mounted Orderly came and woke me and the Sergeant up and said he wanted the Colonel, as the General wanted him at once, we told him and we knew there was something wrong, after the Colonel had been to see the General he came back to us, and told the Mess Sergeant, that the Regiment was going to take up a position and would be back about 4pm that day, (this being about 2am, 6-5-00)* but he was to send something up the Hill about 12 midday for the Officers to eat and drink, after the Regt was all woke up, they marched off in the darkness of the night, taking nothing with them, not even greatcoats, leaving a few men of each Company to look after the Blankets and spare kits, and things of all sorts, such as eatables, which the men was not allowed to take with them, about 10am we packed a few articles of food stuff up for the Officers, with a drop of whiskey which we had very little of, put it in the Scotch Cart, and drove off to find the Regiment, and 6 Mules to take us along, this was an awful ride, going over big lumps of rock and stones, 2 or 3 times the cart nearly turned over then we got out and walked, the Regt had moved from the hill where we were told to find them, and we could find no one to ask if they had seen a spare Regiment about, after going over lots of little Hills we met an Officer from the Generals Staff, (his Brigade Major) we asked him and he told us where the Regt was, but he told us we could not get up to them with the Cart, but our 2 Boys (Zulus) told us they would try and they did after a lot of trouble, the first lot of Troops we came to was (E) Company Middlesex, where Major Saville and Lt Bengough met us and said of course they were hungry etc.,** while they were eating, he Maj Saville told us we could not go no further with the Cart, as just on the next Hill our fellows were fighting at a very short range, soon after this the Adjutant came galloping over the Hill, he told us to put what things we had on the ground and either me or the Sergeant to go back and pack up, load the cart again with provisions for 2 or 3 days, and at the same time to tell the men that were left behind with the spare kits, to pack up and load the wagons and await orders.
* The author mentions the date as the 6.5.00 in the diary but this should read 6th June 1900.
** I think the author was being very polite by not describing the actual language used by the very hungry officers.

well the sergeant went back, and brought up more supplies, the rest of our things he put in the Bullock wagons, during the time the Sergeant was away the Adjutant sat drinking etc. and explained the days operations to me, - Artillery and Cavalry The South African Light Horse and the Middlesex, only went out that day to find the Enemy's strength and their positions on Van Wyh,{Wyk?} but as soon as they got within range the Boers opened a terrific fire, and of course our fellows had to do the same, then the Boers set light to the grass and retired behind the flames, the wind was in the opposite direction and blew the flames away from our Troops, when the Sergeant arrived with the Cart, we put the things I have left on the Cart also and after a struggle we got to where the main body of the Regiment was, by this time it was about midnight, under cover of the Hill we got something, Hot for the Officers, when [The word here I think should have been 'which'.] I am sure they enjoyed, but Major Saville would have nothing he said his Company had none and he would be the same as them, this is not the first time the same occurred to this Officer, he was also wounded in about 7 places on Spion Kop, this night was very cold with no overcoats and the Men had neither water nor food all day and got none that night, I did have some myself but very little, I also got a drop of Whiskey, but I pitied the Regt who had nothing,

this is about the worst night we have witnessed yet, our Casualties was of during this engagement, but the South African Light Horse lost very heavy, as they charged the Boer position, this Cavalry Regiment I should say was the best Mounted Corps in this Country, although the Cavalry made a charge in the morning it was successful, as the Boers pass (this pass separates the Orange Free State from Natal,) about 4am on the 7th

7th June 1900 [the author here mentions that the date was 7.5.00 which I believe he has his months mixed up]. we moved off again, during the night the Dublin Fusileers and the Dorset Regt had reinforced us besides more Cavalry and Infantry, advanced very slowly unmolested, and through the pass as the Boers had retired again, we halted just inside the Free State for 4 hours, for food, here the wagons came up, then from here we started a rapid march through the Free State stopping for food and little rest till we came to a place called Almonds Nek (this Nek separate the Free State from the Transvaal) this bringing us to the

10th June 1900 [the author is still recording the month as 10.5.00]
the Cavalry went out Scouting on the Hills both sides of the Nek but were soon driven back by the Enemy’s shells which came from all directions, by this time of course General Buller knew the Enemy’s position and strength, I might mention here that the Lancashire Brigade held a position, where we left De Witts Farm to stop the Boers breaking back into Natal again, but this the Boers never tryed to do, here was a Farm House flying the flag of truce or white flag, now every Farm is always, and the same with this one, [hard to understand his thoughts here, but I have written it exactly as the author wrote it in the diary.] when the Intelligence Party went in the was told by an Old Woman, not to go in a certain room as her two Daughters was ill in Bed, and was awaiting Medical attendance, then our Regimental Doctor, Lieut Harvey was called in and found for himself that the Girls were not ill at all and was fully dressed in Bed and was ordered to get up which they did, then they found that the Mattress contained 4 Mauser Rifles and full of ammunition, and under the Bed was 3 Boers, they were all taken Prisoner’s and the Farm burnt to the ground, and all the live Stock the Troops took, we took a Pig, as we passed others done the same, after passing through the Nek the Troops opened out on a large plain about 14,000 Infantry, the Artillery and Naval Guns took up position on the Hills, and were soon firing away for all they were worth, we were in between the fire of the Boers and our own big Gunners, and the noise was deafening the Boers shrapnel was dropping short consequently amongst us, and with their Rifles we were having a rough time of it, towards the evening the fire began to cease, and the Dorset Regt and some of the Middlesex was three parts up the Hill where the Boers position was and made a charge with the Bayonet but the Main Body of the Enemy had fled, leaving their dead, wounded and dying in their trenches, I myself with the Scotch Cart could not get up this Hill, so stopped at a Farm House at the foot of it, and started to cook food and Cocoa for the Officers, this was a splendid Farm I have seen as yet hundreds of Fowls, geese, turkeys etc, this place was also flying the white flag, when I stopped to do the cooking was against a small wall, I had not been there more than 10 minutes before a woman came running across and jumped over the wall, and was gone about 5 minutes, when she returned carrying a sack under one arm and a fowl under the other, which Thorn [hard to decipher that last word] my mate asked her for but she tried to make us understand she could not speak English, then Thorn, asked her what she had in the sack, still she could not understand English, just then General Buller and his Staff came up and one of his Police came to where we was and we told him the case, he told us to keep her there, and rode off bringing back with him an Interpreter, and he spoke to her in Dutch asking her what she had in the sack, then she answered him in fairly good English, that a man had hid them there, then he wanted to know hid what there, so we took the sack from her and opened it which was tied at the end, and it contained 1 Mauser Rifle and 1 Sporting Rifle with ammunition for both, then with the Rifles he took her away to investigate the case, a short while after this the Colonel came down, and told us to pack up again as we were going to move about 3 miles over the Hill and we would have to go right round and through another Nek and meant a lot over 3 miles for us, we gave him some Cocoa and told him about this woman, and of course he said we done quite right, but he said a worse thing occurred during the day, while the Troops were crawling up the Hill above the Farm House A Company of ours where being fired at from the rear and could not make out where the shots was coming from so he ordered one Section of men to find out, and they did to their surprise, was a splendid trench dug and another place dug in the trench where they could get under the ground if anybody passed them and of course they were taken, Prisoners, 7 women there was plenty of men on this Farm, then we proceeded to pack our Cart, and had to carry some boiling Cocoa and food which we took in turns to carry, before we left the order was given to the Troops that we could take what we wanted as regards to Fowls, Geese etc, and everybody was chasing about after these, and the row was alright hundreds of Fowls shouting intermixed by the Tommies catching them, and some fancied Pigs and was killing them we took what we wanted,* and started on our journey with our Doctor to show us the way, we had not gone far when we looked back, and saw a fire, and he rode back to see what it was, when he came back he told us the Farm had been ordered to be burnt down, and it was that that was burning, but there was dozens of grass fires besides set on fire by the shelling of positions with Lyddite which looked grand in the dark and this was a very dark and cold night, while we were getting to our destination for the night the Regiment took up their respective positions on outpost duty for the night, when we did eventually arrive gave the Officer the Dinners and turned to sleep for the night, during the night a Boer was brought in from the outpost belonging to the Swaziland Police, that could not get away with the remainder as he had no Horse, and was handed over to our Guard, I went there during the morning to see a mate who was on Guard, and we were talking to this Boer, he told us he was an Englishman but had been all his life in Swaziland and joined there Police years ago, he also said he was glad he was captured, and told us that the way the Infantry advanced across that plain in the order they did was a marvel under such a fire from the Boers, he also said that our Artillery and Navy are splendid Marksmen they done awful damage to the Boer entrenchments, this brings me to the

12th June 1900 We only moved a few miles and halted while our Troops were busy burying the Boers dead numbering 132 but they must have lost a bit more than this, as we advanced we came across four Bodies and burnt to a cinder with the grass fires, the Dorsets lost very heavy we had 1 killed and 10 wounded, now of course we are behind Majuba which the Boers thought we would never get behind, but this move although it has been the hardest for us, owing to the cold and going without, food etc, General Buller is worthy of the highest praise for, moved off again and arrived at a place named Sandspruit, halted and had food, having been on the Orange River Colony, Transvaal, and Natal within the last few days, which is about the record up to time of writing Here we remained for the night, this was an easy day, after the past 10 days.

13th June 1900 Left Sandspruit in sections of 4, same like being in England, and marched and arrived in Volksrust, [this word hard to decipher] and the Drum and Pipe Band played us in, with a good and lively "air" "or tune" we were the first Regiment in this Town, this of course being a Dutch Town in the Transvaal, after marching in the Regiment formed up on the Market Square situated in the centre of the Town, and played one or two selections, while the General and Staff took the keys of the Town, (or other words possession) not a shop or a private House in this Town was touched, of course those people being Dutch, after the General had taken the Town, they hoisted our Flag on the Town Hall, after taking down the Dutch Flag, and the Drummer's etc played the Queen, then we marched off again, from Volksrust, over the border into Natal and went through Charlestown, which was brought to the ground by the Boers, this being an English Town, "This is the last English Town in Natal, and Volksrust is the first Dutch Town in the Transvaal, after passing through, we marched and Camped at the foot of the famous Majuba, (that holds that grieviance against the Boers since 1881) on the Transvaal side, made a Bivouac for the Officers, as we were told we were going to stay a few days for rest and fresh supplies, had Dinners, had a good drink of Rum and went to sleep, and perishing cold.

14th June 1900 Did not wake very early had Breakfast, and the Regt was ordered to parade for General Talbot Coke, to give a speech for General Buller, and a fine speech it was, with regard to mentioning the Regiment, after dismissing the parade, the Regt was hard at work devouring supplies, an so were we, getting sheets of Iron and making a House for the Officers, which we was a nice Kitchen with a good range in it, but the Officers claimed all the Rooms in the House, and we had to find accommodation outside, [This sentence did not make much sense as it was not correct grammar. It has been printed here just as it was written.] got a decent dinner for the Officers something done in our new oven had our own and went to sleep Very cold night, here we remained and the Troops found it very hard for duty always at work at something.

18th June 1900 another Birthday but spending it in the wrong Country, at this place the Regt had to go about three miles away and I had to go with them to look after the Officers food etc, with {which?} was a very unthankful job, on the hills and very cold and my mates round the Kitchen range, but I did not mind, plenty of Boers coming in every day to surrender under a White Flag, but my belief is the{y} come in a give up an old Rifle and still continue to fight, as every night at this place sniping or firing goes on all night, and all day all is quiet, this half of the Regt was called in as the Regiment is off again on the trek, which took place on the

27th June 1900 assisting in the packing up and moved off about 10pm, to the other side of the Railway to wait for day break. The order for the Column was as follows Middlesex Regt, Dublin Fusileers 2 Batteries of Artillery, Naval Guns and 19th Hussars.

28th June 1900 Moved off at Daybreak for another recconnassance in force after Marching over a few small Hills, our Scouts returned and reported Boers in our front the Artillery and Naval Guns were got into action and we could soon see the Boers galloping away, (with the naked eye,) over the Kopje, marched on again, and the Boers fire again to stop our advance, but they were soon driven back again, after dark the firing stopped, and the Regiment went out to the front on outpost, after having food etc with some rum, turned down for the night, Casualties were very few this day.

29th June 1900 Up before daybreak had breakfast and moved off, and the shelling began directly it got light but the Enemy still retire, and we advance again, by this time we just on a place named Amevesfoort {Amersfoort} in the Transvaal, and to this place the Boers were drawing us too, about 4 o'clock in the afternoon, a patrol of the 19th Hussars came back reporting there was hundreds of Boers entrenched with Big Guns etc so we were being drawn into a trap, it was discovered just in time, and the order was given to retire at once, which was done without the slightest noise, to a place named Sanspruit, being now in darkness, I Expect the Enemy were surprised to find that we had gone when morning had broke, We had a few Casualties of the 19th Hussars we remained at Sanspruit,. and. another Brigade went out that was stronger than we were, moved off from here on the 1-7-00 and Retired back to Volkrust, all the time we had been out this time it's been pouring of rain and had little food and wet through, we camped for the night just outside Volkrust and I had a sore throat when I woke the next morning.

1st July 1900 I could not speak, and went to see the Doctor and got some pills, after this we marched into Volkrust again, and went back to the same House again, and half of the Regt went on a Nek, Hoots Nek was the name, and Thorne went out for me to look after the Officers food as I was to queer, on these Hills the Troops principal duty was outpost, Lou the Colonel told the Doctor he was to treat me properly with the same attendance as he would give to him, and I was told by the Colonel that I was to lay up and the Doctor would Visit me when I wanted him which was very good of him, and the Doctor paid me all the attention he could, and the Colonel paid me a few visits.

10th July 1900 An finally feeling a little better I went to the Transvaal race meeting but returned rather worse than I went, still the Doctor treated me till the 18-7-00 when he advised me to go to the Hospital which I did and was admitted in the 10th Brigade Field Hospital and was rather seedy, but they could not treat me here, and on the 20-7-00 I and about 8 more was told we to get ready as were going down Country to Newcastle road down to the Station in a Hospital Van, and was put in the train, started on our journey and arrived at Laings Nek Tunnel, and through this we went very slow, this tunnel is a fine piece of work being through a very high mountain, workmen (Niggers) were still busy clearing the rocks away from both ends where the Boers had tried to blow it in, but failed, after this we passed the Gordon Highlanders going up Country, and eventually we arrived at Newcastle and no one to meet us, and had to carry our kits ourselves to the Hospital, which was rough as we were all sick and knocked up after a struggle we arrived at the 14th General Hospital, and was put to Bed directly, and this was grand for us in spring mattresses and white sheets and feather pillows proper treatment began now, plenty of everything, sent a letter out to Herbert (my Brother) as I heard his Regiment was here, and he came to see me on the

22nd July 1900 and we were glad to meet each other, but at the wrong time as I was sick also at the wrong place in Hospital, after about two hours together we parted again as he had a long way to go to get to his Camp, I got dressed and went as far as the Hospital gates with him, during the time I was gone the nurse found I had got up and got into trouble when I came back for going out, this is facts these Sisters or so called Nurses try to make a Man worse than he really is, they take it in turns to visit the patients during the day, and the remainder played tennis, or go for rides, and walks with the Doctors, instead of attending to the patients as they should do, very few are good nurses in my opinion and other Soldiers are the same as I am, When the Doctor paid his morning Visit in the Ward the 23-7-00 he told me I had better go down Country, to Pinetown Hospital, a few miles from Durban, this meant about 200 miles ride about 5 o'clock we left the Hospital and went to the Railway Station as entrained on an Hospital Train with every convenience for the sick etc, leaving Newcastle about 6.30pm we turned in Bed, and awoke the next morning, and had some breakfast, about 12.30 the train stopped and we had Dinner, these trains have certain places to stop at, to allow other trains to pass as this is only a single line, and the inhabitants of the Town walk along the sides of the metals and bring pipes, tobacco and cigarettes to the sick and wounded and quite a pleasure to see some civilised people again to talk to, and this is very good of them to take such interest in the Soldiers, We arrived at Pinetown Hospital during the evening of the

24th July 1900 and was told off to our different Wards directly we got in, we were told to go to bed, which we did and we were given a basin of Bovril and Bread, these Beds being better than the ones at Newcastle, but I did not go to sleep all night, the bed I think was too easy for me, the next morning I got up and was going out to wash, when the Nurse of the Ward spotted me and ordered me back to Bed again telling me that the water to wash with was brought to us in Bed, by the Orderlies, after this we washed in Bed, and had an ordinary breakfast of Bread and Butter and tea, then the Doctor came his round and a nice fellow he was (a Civilian Doctor) of course he asked us at the time what we would like to eat and drink, and if it agreed with us we could have it, the following he marked on my diet board, porridge, extra pound of Bread, extra ounce of Butter, 2 pints of milk and 2 pint bottles of Stout, and a custard or rice pudding, this was besides our proper diet, so I was well fed here, during the time I was in this Hospital. I spent the August Holiday which was worse than being at the front to me, when I was allowed up and began to get better we was allowed to go for walks, and we did, this is a lovely place here with all kinds of fruit trees etc, this place is called the garden of Natal, I quite believe it to{too?}.

4th August 1900 the Doctor paid his morning Visit and told me that I was to be invalided Home to England, but I told him I did not want to go and would rather get better and go back to the Regiment, by this time I was almost well again, and would much sooner go Home with the Regiment as I came out with them, and the Doctor told me if I wanted to go back to the Regt I could, and would send me up Country the first chance he had, I remained in Hospital till the 14.8.00 during which time there was several nice Concerts, the people from Durban gave them in an empty Ward, which passed several nights away, also bringing us books, cigarettes and tobacco.

On the 14th August 1900 I was discharged from Hospital, but I was not properly fit for duty, although I did not mind, walked to the Pinetown Bridge Station and entrained for Pietermaritzburg, after a arriving here we marched to Camp which was a long march and we were soon tired after resting in Hospital, then we paraded in front of the Sergeant Major, and he told us off to our different tents, which was very uncomfortable to sleep in after the Hospital spring mattresses, and also very cold, here the Soldiering is the same as it would be in the time of peace, Canteen opened at 6pm and could not resist the temptation of testing Pietermaritzburg Beer, and I it was very good and stopped there till closing time 9pm, the following night I went to Visit the Town and a very pretty one it is. There is also a Music Hall here which I went to this night, also had a few Bottles of Bass's Ale, and returned to the Camp, I remained here till the 1.9.00 duty was neither hard or dangerous here, and I must say I had a grand time during my stay at this place.

1st September 1900 received orders I was to get ready by the Evening and proceed with about 200 More to the front, all belonging to Various Regiments, there was only 9 Men of my Regt to go, all day we were rather busy giving in surplus kit and drawing extra ammunition and getting properly fitted out, we marched to the Station and entrained for up Country and we were packed in, some getting out at their different Stations going up, as we all had our orders where to get out at, my destination was Newcastle, (as the Regt had left Volksrust and had come to Newcastle during the time I had been in Hospital) after arriving at this Station we detrained, and marched to a Rest Camp about 2 miles away they told us we were to go to the Regiment in Newcastle somewhere, after a lot of walking about, we found the Regiment, and we was well loaded up each Man having Blankets, kits and equipment etc, like pack Mules told off by the Sergeant Major to our Companies, and had Dinner and a pint of Beer, I had not been back more than 1 hour when the Company had to turn out to dig a trench, this choked me off only just arrived back and had to start digging in the baking Sun, this was also on a Saturday afternoon, the same afternoon while we were digging the Colonel came to see how the Company was getting on, when he saw me and told my Company Officer to tell me that he wanted to speak to me and ask me why I did not go to England. I told him I was not prepared to go, as I had Brothers out here and did not care to be invalided Home, he asked me if I would go back in the Officers Mess again, and told him I would rather stop at my Duty for a time, (I had quite enough of the Mess before,) but I thought afterwards that I should have gone back, as they were in a standing camp, and I had done all the hard work on the trek, the following day.

3rd September 1900 Sunday Morning had a nice Church parade Service on the Veldt, and enjoyed it Very much, (I might mention that this is not our first Service out here but we have had very few owing to our continuous movements) had nothing more to do all day, and during the evening we got the usual issue of Beer 1 quart per Man, on the next day.

4th September 1900 I was sent for by the Adjutant who asked me if I used to be a Signaller in the other Battalion and I told him I had, then he told me to report myself to the Brigade Signalling Officer at once, which I did, and the Regiment received orders to pack up at once not knowing what for, after I reported myself to the Brigade Signalling Officer (Capt Radcliffe of the Life Guards) all the Signallers was told off for different Stations Myself, with a Private Cade and the Brigade Signaling Officer went to a Kopje by name Windsor Castle, where three other Signalers were, [the author mentions this word as 'where'] and got communication with 2 Columns that was operating towards Utrecht (or Utuche), before we were here an hour the Column passed us including my own Regiment, (with them) operating from this side to Utrecht, which Town the Boers held, after remaining here for 2 days, the Column returned, and we was Signaling too from the General to pack up and join the Column as they passed Windsor Castle, which we did on the

6th September 1900 and marched back to Newcastle with the Column arriving here during the evening, here was a scaffolding erected for us to Signal on, which we had to climb by means of a ladder, which we did, and got communication with the surrounding Hills, and was up best part of the night sending messages, about 11am the following morning (Sunday) had orders to pack up and meet the Column again, (as the Boers were trying to take Utrecht again) Moved off about 12 noon, Pte Cade and myself and had orders to meet Sergeant Willcox and Pte Silvoc (or Silroc), and to proceed to a Hill, by name Umbana and open communication with other Columns if possible, 2 Companies of the Middlesex were here, and very busy making fortifications for themselves, we had not been here long before the General arrived with the Brigade Signaling Officer, and asked us if we had got any communication and we told him no, (and we had not as yet,) then he left us and went into Utrecht with the Column without opposition from the Enemy, about an hour before the Sunset there were no less than 5 Heliographs showed up from the different Columns that were in operation, one at the time we told them to wait and the fifth one we started to take his message, which was a report of what their Column had done and was 385 words, we had to finish it after dark with the Signaling Lamp, in an entrenchment through a loop hole, this we continued all night taking messages and early the next morning the Field Telephone was laid on to us and we soon dispatched our messages back into Newcastle, but sending news on the Field Telephone is a very unpleasant occupation, having to lay on the ground to speak into the instrument, about 8 o'clock we had got all our correspondence off, had breakfast, given to us by "H" Company of the Middlesex and took it in turns to sleep, but could not for the heat of the day and flies, and how we stayed very hard at work and had no rations, only what we begged off these two Companies of ours, on the night of the 11th 9.00 we were Signaled too to join the General Staff and we packed up and we came down the Hill and soon lost our way, and we had a good load with us of Signaling equipment, but after a ramble about we found the General and his Staff, and was ordered to send a message, we was going to return the following day, this was about 1030pm and we were told that there was Rum being served out, so off I went to get the Rum for us Signallers, but after arriving there, I was told I was just too late, (now this is the very first time I have ever lost my issue of Rum and it grieved me and also my mates) but I was not going to be done I thought I knew where my Regiment was and off I went to find them and I did, after walking round the Country half the night, then my Pal Pte Shion see me through my troubles gave me a good drink of rum and Coffee and some to bring away and a few other things, (he is still in the Officers Mess) and returned back to where the General was Encamped and turned down to it for the night.

12th September 1900 the General Staff moved off leaving us sending a few messages, after this we marched off and arrived in Newcastle and was very tired, and I had to climb the Signalling Station again, and got communication with the surrounding Signal Stations, had an issue of Beer and two of us, went to sleep leaving the remaining one to look out for Signal lamps for 2 hours, and then wake another and so on for the night, which was a shaky job on this scaffold, not much sleep was got, by the 2 men inside, on the morning.

13th September 1900 got communications by Heliograph by about 6.30am with all Stations and took several reports of the operations of Columns in the surrounding Districts, while the Middlesex Regiment went on outpost duty on the Hills around Newcastle, on the Station I remained till Christmas, and nothing of importance occurred to us, with the exception of never having a proper nights rest, as we were always sending and receiving messages, this is a very rough place for Signalling as it shakes so much and cannot keep the Lamp or Heliograph still, and something aweful in the wind, here we remained till Christmas day, when we had a nice Dinner under the circumstances in the Soldiers Home and enjoyed ourselves very much, also managed 5 Bottles of Irish for myself but shared it with my pals, had a Concert at night and turned dowm to it about 11pm but thinking all day and night of those at Home.

26th December 1900 about 1.30am we were all ordered to stand to, the other Signallers and myself had to stand on top of our Signalling Tower and watch for rockets or Signal Lights, as Utrecht was again threatened by the Enemy, but came to nothing about 9am but all was quiet, still we had correspondence going through for the two days about the same thing, nothing more occurred of any importance till the 4.1.01 when I took up duties of Telephone Operator, which is much harder than Signalling, only this is a separate job, and all by myself and able to keep myself clean, now I must mention that Newcastle is a splendid place of Defence and situated in Northern Natal, on our right is the Transvaal while to our front and to our left is the Orange River Colony, and this place lays in between large Hills all well fortified with big Guns and plenty of Troops and to all these Hills I have communication, about 30 Stations in all, at the present time I am also in communication with several Block Houses on the Biggarsboy {Biggarsberg?} and Slangboy. {Slangberg?}

6th January 1901 Pte Ellicot was drowned in the Buffalo River, nothing more occurred till the 23.1.01 during which time the Middlesex Regt was sent from here to Utrecht a small town in the Transvaal about 35 Miles from here thus placing them on the Lines of Communication.

23rd January 1901 Received the sad news of the Death of our late Queen, which one half the Troops out here, some not even knowing she had been ill, all Flags were lowered to half mast till further orders, we had this message on the Telephone about 9 hours after the Queens Death, on the 26th January 1901. 81 Minute Guns were fired at the back of the Town Hall which is just in front of where we are at present, the reason, 81 Guns was fired we believe 1 for each year of her life, and lots of people come from down Country on this occasion, after this thing quiten down and one would not think there were Boers a few miles from here Officers playing Polo Tennis, with Ladies and plenty of Dinner and Tea parties, there is also plenty of Balls but not for Thomas Atkins, he is still the same Absent Minded Beggar as he was when the War first broke out, and if Officers Wifes still continue to come out from England and stay here, I am thinking the War will never be over, for instance, I have even sent a message of this description to a Station named Konigsboy (which is on the Border of the Orange River Colony) 4 Ladies and 2 Officers will be out this afternoon to tea Kindly have the Country patrolled and clear, T rom [this last word is hard to decipher] etc. that’s our War in South Africa, and plenty of other things I have seen and heard, but would not look well in this Book, anyone wishing to know I'll tell them verbally, on my arrival in the Old Country, here I find plenty of work to do never getting a proper nights rest, and begin to feel a bit seedy, and nothing more of any account, till we arrive on the

11th February 1901 when General Burn Murdoch and the staff leave N'Castle for Elandsboy Nek via Umbana and Ultrecht, and again I and a few more are left behind, myself with the Telephone, and have plenty of work taking messages from the General and his operations, during the time that they have been away it has been one continual pour of rain, and we have been flooded out.

25th March 1901 the Staff etc returned making several captures of stock and several surrenders of Boers but otherwise nothing worth mentioning as the Men said it was a picnic with exception of the rain, after this everything was going wrong in the District, Ingogo Station is close here, and this the Boers played on for about three weeks shelling the Station and doing all the damage they could, and the General here was continually sending Troops there in the morning and bringing them back at night and so this went on, which kept me up night and day, on one occasion during this three weeks I was up for 4 days and nights without sleep, which was more like punishment to me, and I asked to be sent back to my Regiment in Utrecht as this sort of thing was ruining my health, more than it was necessary, then they got me an assistant which was a great help giving me a night in bed now and again, here a strange thing occurred to be on the

22nd April 1901. Brother Herbert came to Newcastle and visited the Soldiers Home which is just in front of here and wrote a letter to me telling me he was in Newcastle as as soon as he posted it was sent to me, and I paid him a visit the following day etc.

23rd April 1901 and took in by surprise as he did not know I was so near the Soldiers Home where he wrote the letter to me, after spending 3 good days and nights together, not forgetting to mention we had plenty of the so called Beer of South Africa his column moved off on the 27-4-01 on route for Volkrust and it was pouring of rain, and I pitied him but that is little help in a case of this description, on the 30-4-01 was my greatest upset since being in the Country, when I got two letters, one saying that Mrs Foweraker was dead and the other saying Mr Ashworth was dead also and was aweful miserable. Have an idea Charlie Cook passed through Newcastle with the Yeomanry, but not since, after this nothing occurred till one Volunteer Company was ordered Home to the Old Country (England), they had a Concert given to them in the Soldiers Home on the Evening of the 8-5-01,and left on the following morning 9-5-01 for Durban to embark for Home, after being just over 12 months in the field with us, and a good Company they have been taking all things into consideration they are not trained Soldiers.

10th May 1901 on the evening of the 10-5-01, a travelling Company came to Newcastle with the Bioscope with all the latest from London, which I went to and enjoyed myself very much the price of admittance was 2 and 4 shillings, I paid 4 shillings and it was over in 1 and a half hours like the remainder of things in this Country, everybody trying and are doing it is to rob Mr Thomas Atkins, after this some more interesting people came here to amuse the Soldiers and take their hard earn't shillings away this was a travelling Circus in a large tent prices 3 shillings to Thomas Atkins, I went twice while they were here and enjoyed myself, but at the same time it was only passing an evening away, and my opinion the same way with other Troops there, during the time these people was here the Boers attack our outposts, and the circus was ordered to be cleared and the Troops had to get back to Camp, and the Cavalry had to march and reinforce the outpost lines, at Muller's pass, and this trouble kept up till about the end of June during which time I spend another unhappy Birthday in South Africa, after this the Troops returned, and all quiet more like peace, with Officers, taking Ladies out for picnics, and Tennis parties, but the Troops are kept (or keep) down more like Dogs than Soldiers.

on the 23rd August 1901 I sent some Feathers home to Flo, 19-9-01,

19th September 1901 9pm went to our exchange office to report a line out of order, and there met our Civilian Linesman Mr Squires, who asked me to go with him to another Telephone Station called Rooi Pynt to repair their Instrument that was out of order, I said yes and we went and saddled up 2 Horses and away we went along the line, we had not started long before it came down to pour of rain, and was soon that black we could not see the Horses ears, after this occurred we lost sight of the Telephone wire, and wandered all over the Country but eventually we arrived at Rooi Pynt and almost got shot by our Sentries there, who challenged us, but we did not hear him owing to the rain and wind, after repairing their Instrument we started on our Homeward journey towards Newcastle but the same thing happened lost our way, when we did find out where we were we found we was about 2 miles beyond the town of Newcastle, and proceeded to the Commercial Hotel, were the Linesman lived, and put our Horses in the Stable for the night, we he told me I could have a bed in this Hotel if I liked, and I liked as I did not care about walking back to our camp as I was tired, had some Bass's Ale etc and a cigar and a good wash and turned into a spring bed which was alright after our night out and was soon making the best use of such a luxery, woke the next morning

20th September 1901 had some Coffee and made tracks to my own Camp and no one knew I was out all night and I was not sorry so far as the Horse ride in the rain to visit Rooi Pynt went, but the following day day I knew all about caught an aweful cold and pains all over me, for several days now the Boers have been concentrating round Newcastle, and everybody has to go about armed, which looks very curious, in the Town, Town Guard turned out and go on outpost duty around N'Castle, this was an Holiday, as they had to leave their employment for the time being, after they had been out for a few days our fellows took over the same trenches which was about 1/2 full of Whiskey Bottles, they evidently had made it their Beanfeast with a few nights out, Brother Herbert passed through Newcastle during the time the Boers were concentrating round here, but I did not see him.

on the 26th October 1901 He took me by surprise again, (he was in rags) he came up from Dundee by Rail in charge of a truck of clothing etc for his Column, when they arrived here in Newcastle, got permission off one of our Officers for him to stay with me till such time as his Column arrived, had a good drink of Beer and went out in town and done likewise at the Head Quarter Camp and returned Home and slept very sound.

27th October 1901 Sunday morning Herbert and I went for a walk and visited the Railway Station to look for his Blankets etc, but did not find them, so he took some (mispelt word, should be someone) elses kit of the 18th Hussars, then we went and got a drink and had a good dinner at the Soldiers Home, and waited for evening and got as much to drink as we could carry without spilling any and arrived at our Camp and turned in for the night, we had a good time during the week we were together and parted from each other on the night of the first.

1st November 1901 Herbert with his Column marched off the following morning,

2nd November 1901 but destination not known, on the 4th and 5th I took several messages of the operations of their Column near Bothas Pass, they engaged C.Mentgies Commando, but as far as I know with no Casualties amongst their Column, with the exception of one of their English Guides was captured and released after the Boers taking all his clothing horse etc, nothing of any importance occurred only my regular telephone work which is rather hard, till Christmas day, and I must say I never spent a worse day, only had our ordinary dinner and could not eat the meal, myself I could not have eat the best of dinners as I was very queer, had to go and see a Doctor on Christmas morning and had a tooth out, and he told me I was seedy as I has something wrong with my liver, and he sold me a bottle of medicine, ( I say he sold me a bottle because in this Country they don't give things away) the Field Force Canteen gave the Troops a Christmas box 1 pound of Xmas pudding 1 pound of tobacco a pipe and a pint of Beer, which the General here said we could not have till the evening as the sun was too hot for men to drink during the day, but I am a witness that they had plenty of Whiskey and sodas, and the people of Natal was also very good to the troops each man got a parcel consisting of a towel either a pipe or a pack of cards ( I got a pipe) 12 packets of cigarettes and a book, well after spending a rough Christmas we arrive on Boxing Day and I done likewise but no matter better one next year, I hope, still queer and arrive at New Years Night but that passed off very quiet, the Band of the Royal Dublin Fusileers played the old year out and the new one in, as the Town Hall clock struck 12 midnight bringing out to the 1-1-02 - on the 6th Jan we got the account of our Mounted Infantry 14th that fell into a trap of the Boers and out of 65 men they had 8 killed 30 wounded and captured 24 only leaving 3 to get away, after the Enemy had stripped the prisoners they let them return to the British Camp, but the Boers were chased after that by reinforcements of General Spenz Column, so probably my Brother Herbert was amongst the reinforcements, I must say now I am feeling quite well again

19th April General Botha and DeWitt {De Wet} passed through Newcastle returning from Pretoria after the Peace conference whom I saw for the first time, General DeWitt's wife was also here to meet her husband on the Railway Station, 21/April Boer Commondants return to their respective commandoes to consult the Burghers in the Field with reference and result of the past Peace Conference, good news in the Local papers today end of the war supposed to be at hand, (dating this back to the 4th March the Newcastle Telephone Exchange was opened, and made Corporal and placed in charge) Nothing more of importance waiting patiently for the Peace result, to the morning of the 1st June when General Lyttleton had a parade of the Town Guard and read a Cablegram from London anouncing Peace the night before and then the yells went up, about 1/2 an hour after the parade was dismissed I received the message from the Brigade Major to send round to all the Forts and different posts around Ncastle and the news soon spread round the Town, there were several scenes Troops almost went mad with excitement, this brings the War to a close after 2 years 7 months.

3rd June 1902 The following is a copy of a telegram received from Dr Adjutant General Natal Addressed to General Officer commanding the Ncastle Sub District begins NAR 722 June 3rd Following wire received from Lord Kitchener begins 2nd June Please communicate the following gracious message which I have received from His Majesty the King and for which I have thanked him in the name of all concerned begins Heartiest congratulations on the termination of hostilities and also congratulate my Brave Troops under your Command for having brought this long and difficult Campaign to so glorious and successful conclusion Message ends Addessed to all Districts Durban and Zululand, this message I also had to send to all the outlying Forts etc,

8th June, General parade for all Troops throughout the Country, Newcastle Garrisons parade 2,500 different Arms, for Thanksgiving parade for Peace and some fine Sermons were preached by different Ministers and hymns were sung, a grand stand was put up for Civilians which was well filled and about 200 Children was also present which made the parade ground look very pretty with many different colours after the National Anthem being played by the Band of the 2nd Royal Munster Fusileers the Troops were dismissed, Field Force Canteen gave 1s-& 6d to all Troops in South Africa, plenty of surrendered Burghers in the Town and all seemed very glad the War is over, some in rags others in clothes made of our Regimental Blankets, we actually saw one Chap with the Broad arrow on the leg of his trousers made from our Blankets, others had our clothing on, all this of course is what they have captured off our Prisoners.

Received orders 28th June 1902 to hold myself in readiness to proceed to England at any moment, (my feeling at this moment I cannot express) had a party given to me by a Civilian of Newcastle Town owing to my leaving South Africa and enjoyed myself first class this was really my first and last time in South Africa ever been in Company of the inhabitants of the Country this Gentleman I made friends with owing to him working for Government, we keep this up till 3am in the morning of the 29th

29th June 1902 which was Sunday when I was woke by an Orderly with a Telephone message to say I was to rejoin the Regiment at once which was about three miles away, this news soon fetched me from my heavy slumber of the previous night and after seeing our Canteen Sargeant and bidding him good morning and testing his Beer I proceeded to pack my things together which did not take long, this being done I went to bid all the Officers adieu on the Newcastle Sub District Staff and shook hands with them all also General Burn Murdock and all wished me a safe voyage Home, then I started off to the Regiment with a Gallon of Beer and my pal Private Wren had a Bottle of Whisky, in a Scotch Cart as they are called, (this is a Cart with no springs but built on the axle and a pole instead of shafts drawn by 2 mules when loaded 6 mules is required) after joining the Regiment and reporting ourselves and signing different papers and of course drinking the remains of our Beer and Whisky we were ordered to fall in on parade 12.30pm to proceed down Country, this we did with the remainder of the Regiment in the rear of us, "I might mention 100 of us were leaving" all talking and making such a noise we could not hear the Officer in charge talking to us, but however a Mounted Orderly came galloping over and handed to Major Dyer a blue Official letter this was a breathless time for all after reading the contents to himself, we were called to attention and he said Men proceeding to England I am very sorry to say, (This was a worse time for breathing for me) that owing to the amount of Troops proceeding down Country the Train you are to board is not due till 4.30pm so don’t go away but fall in on parade, fall out, this we done and after chatting together some going Home to the Old Country and some staying behind we fell in again and after a few words of how the Men have behaved since being in South Africa we were ordered to form fours and right with the Band of the Regiment in the front quick march was the order and the Band played rolling Home to Dear Old England, here there was plenty of handshaking and also plenty of stout hearted fellows tears came to their eyes being left behind to await another Draft being despatched about 20 minutes march brought us to the Railway the Band playing the whole way some tune or other, no Carriages but ordinary coal trucks we all scrambled into and shouting and the Band and noise from different Engines was deafening, then the Engine and driver began to play a game of some description as we were shunted all round Newcastle, when all of a sudden we dashed through the Station of Newcastle at the speed of about 3 miles an hour and our Band was here and everywhere crowded with Troops and they played and sang Rolling Home, and this time we know that we were in the right direction for England this time of the year is very cold June is the coldest month of the year in South Africa, so no good trying to sleep in the trucks, after spending a most miserable night on the Railway we arrive at the capital of Natal named Pietermaritzburg on the afternoon of the 30th.

30th June 1902 after marching into Camp our Officer in charge found he had forgotten to Telegraph to this place to say that we were coming so consequently no rations were drawn for us, I being the Orderly Corporal at the time had top go with the Orderly Sargeant and Officer to see what could be done with regards to food etc after a lot of marching about it was decided to give us Bully beef and Biscuits for the Day with a promise we should have fresh meat and Bread so long as we remained, so off I went to get two or three men to draw the necessary this being done and getting it back to Camp the open Canteen was opening, (open Canteen is one you can get as much Beer as you like by paying for the same) at this moment we let go the Biscuits and Bully Beef and made for the Canteen but not before I made sure of a tin and some Biscuits to day the Beer up (of course the remainder of the rations was left to the mercy of anyone) but after getting down to the drinking fountain the remainder of the fellows followed my example with the Beef and Biscuits after we all blew ourselfs out as tight as we could we returned to our own Camp with our water bottles filled with Beer for a livener for the morning and slept well, awoke and cleaned up the Camp and had nothing to do all day but still waiting for orders to proceed further down Country, here we stayed till Wednesday 2nd July.

2nd July 1902 when we received orders to proceed to Durban to embark, after the usual cleaning up of Camp etc we packed up and fell in, inspected and a few words of advice, we marched of to the Station to entrain this being done we slowly steamed out of the Station amidst shouts and yells from the remaining Troops and after another very cold night in the trucks we arrived at Durban in the early hours of the morning of the 3rd

3rd July 1902 and embarked on a tug that took us to the big ship that was to large to get near the landing stage here we was thrown all over the place the water and weather so rough after a struggle on the part of the little steam tug we got alongside of the Steam Ship "Sicilla" which looked like a large Town to us, we embarked onto this by means of a huge basket drawn up by a crane with about 6 or 7 men at a time this took the whole day to do, about 1500 men women and children embarked in the same way, and we sailed away at dusk, now for the first time we really thought or rather new that it was time we were on route for England, the first night was a very rough one, but I myself the same as the remainder I expect slept fairly well as we were all tired out through coming down Country woke the following morning to find we had lost sight of land and only a world of water with our ship in the centre, and a very rough sea running this was a good start, and lots of fellows bad owing to bad living in the field the day of the 5th July.

5th July 1902 was the worst, (and so the Sailors aboard said the worst sea the ship had been in since she was first launched) for we were first on a large mountain of water and then down in a valley of the same, but at all events the ship done its best and brought us safely through and the next day was calmer and we arrived at Cape Town on the 7th July.

7th July 1902 but anchored in the harbour, from Durban to Cape Town is part of the Indian Ocean and one of the roughest parts of the Sea's, Left Cape Town the 8th July and had a very pleasant journey all the voyage Home arrived at Las Palmas on Wednesday the 23rd-7-02 and left midnight the same date after coaling and finally arrived at Southampton on the 30th July we landed with the Guards first here there was plenty of people to meet the Relations and General Roberts was here to welcome the Troops Home but by all appearance they did not thank him because they yelled out 3 cheers for poor Old Buller and this was well responded to after this we entrained for Hounslow, but stopped at some station I got a drink of Beer at one of Spicers and Ponds Buffets remaining 99 of the draft saw this and all rushed in or as many as could get in and almost everyone got a drink, which was of course against orders but the Officer in charge of us did not mind quite a Gentleman, which I'm sorry to say are scarce in the Army starting off again we arrived at our destination and were met by a lot of our chaps that had been invalided Home also the Staff Band of the Regiment and the Royal Fusileers was there to meet us and play us back to the Barracks, which they did after arriving at the Barracks and a nice Dinner was arranged for us by means of a subcription and plenty of Beer and Lemonade etc, after this we all got a suit of Civilian clothes and changed, then we all had to sign different documents concerning our discharge this being finished we were all paid 5 pound and granted a weeks Furlough pending our final discharge after obtaining mine and 2 or 3 others, left my Comrades to do likewise to get theirs going through a little bidding farewell handshaking etc we left the Barracks, had a few drinks and left to go to London, Mansion House Station, where I was met by my Mother and Miss F Foweraker after drinking my health we all adjourned to the Home I left behind 2 years and 8 months ago, and was very much welcomed by all who knew me.

Dear readers hoping you will believe all that is written herein all is true and kindly excuse any
Mistakes that may have been made thanking God that I am safely back in Dear England again,
So goodbye as this will finish my Diary on the Boer War 1899-1900-1901-1902

God Bless our King and Queen

Lance Corporal Walter John Putland

This document is as taken from the official diary that is now housed in
Archives Reference Number 8107-18
The Personal Diary
Private Walter Putland
2785 2nd Middlesex Regiment
Field Force South Africa
1899 - 1902

This document was copied from the original by Alan L.Putland of Sydney NSW Australia
Transcribed as written by the author with notes

Copyright rests with said Alan L Putland who may be contacted by e-mail at:

South African Military History Society /