British Soldier's Boer War Letters, 2nd Berkshire Mounted Infantry. Died 1902. For Sale
Thisisan outstanding grouping of twooriginal Boer War British soldier's letters, with outstanding frontline content, written by a mounted infantryman who died in May 1902 as a result of his service in the war.The letters deal primarily with the siege and reliefof Hoopstad, and also a series ofengagements foughtalong the Vet River in January 1901.The content is excellent.
These letters werewritten to a friend in Canada by a British soldier who hadlived inCanada for several years before joining the British regular army in 1895. The soldier who wrote these letters served in numerous battles and skirmishes of the Boer War, from 1899 to 1901, beginning with the December 1899 Battle of Stormberg. He became very ill in 1901 and spent most of that year at the 9th General Hospital at Bloemfontein. He died of disease resulting from his war service in May 1902, only a few weeks before the warended.
*** The letters were written by 4418 Private James G. White,an infantryman serving in the 2nd Mounted Infantry Company, The Berkshire Regiment. Private White wrote these letters to a friend in Stratford, Ontario, Canada, where he had lived from 1890 to 1895 while working for the Grand Trunk Railroad. While living in Canada James White had served in the 28th Perth Regiment of the Canadian militia.
There are two original letters in this grouping. One is a 10 page letter written in January 1901. The other is a 2 page letter written in April 1901. Both have excellent content. TheJanuary letter was written during the 6 month siege of Hoopstad, wherePrivate White's companywas a part of thegarrison. The letter deals with the recent reprovisioning of Hoopstad by a column commanded by General Bruce Hamilton, and with a series of skirmishes along the Vet Riverwhichhad takenplace when General Hamilton led a foraging expedition out of Hoopstad. The two page April letter deals with the relief of Hoopstad by MajorGeneral Lord Errol.
The January 1901 letter is long and very interesting. Private White's mounted infantry companywas part of the besieged Hoopstad garrison, which had just been reached and reprovisioned by a column led by General Bruce Hamilton. General Hamilton's column had fought it's way through to Hoopstad. Along the way General Hamilton's column had rounded up many Boer families and native labourers, all of who hebrought into Hoopstad:
"I am pleased to tell you we have been relieved at last, by General Bruce Hamilton, of which he arrived here with 2000 men and a large convoy of supplies for the garrison on 30th of last month. He had a scrap with the enemy at Peterson's Drift at the Vaal River the morning he came in here, of which the enemy lost a lot. He also brought with him about 100 Boer families and like wise Kaf_irs, and 10,000 bullocks and sheep. He is taking everybody before him, and cattle off of their farms."
White's company then went out of Hoopstad with General Hamilton on New Years Eve as part of a foraging expedition in force. The column wasambushed by Boersatthe Vet River in the early hours of January 1st. Several Boers were killed and captured.
"He stopped here on Sundayand Monday, and on Monday night all the mounted troops (including my company) left at 7 o'clock for four days march. We went in the direction of Bloemoth, along the Vet River. Everything went alright till about 5 minutes to twelve, when we was saying 'Roll on the New Year', and as soon as the New Year had come we was wishing one another a Happy New Year when we had a volley of bullets put into us from the riverbank. Our scouts which was in front opened fire on the enemy, which they could notvery well see owing to the bushes. We dismounted and laid down in the grass, and the firing kept on about 10 minuteswhen the enemy retired. The scouts killed three, wounded two, captured two."
The column moved on and thenhalted to restfor several hours. On the morning of January 1st Private White's company was sent across the river to forage for supplies, andalso to round up and bring back any Boer familes that they found.White's company took what they could find, burned down the Boer houses, thenrejoined the column.
"We started off again and stopped about 1 o'clock till 3 in the morning. We laid down in amongst the horses, but there was not much chance to get a sleep. We started again and found the enemy at daybreak, but they would not face us, so we stopped at 7 for breakfast. At ten o'clock my company had orders to go to some farm houses on the other side of the river and get what we could and bring the Boer families away, so we started with one big gun and a half dozen wagons, and where we did not find anybody in the house we took what we wanted then burnt it down. We arrived back in the afternoon at 5 o'clock with plenty of chickens for ourselves, and 1100 cattle and two families."
The column continuedmarching throughout the day onJanuary 2nd. It continuedearly on the morning ofJanuary 3rd when it was again ambushed by Boers. As the Boers attacked White's company rode hardaround the flank of an advancing Boer force, waited until the enemywere within 100 yards, and opened fire.The Boer force retired, leaving 50 dead and wounded behind:
"I began to feel a bit tired soI had two hours sleep while the dinner was being cooked. I went on guard 6:30 till 4:30 a.m., had breakfast and started at 5 a.m., direction south. Had not got far when the enemy began firing at our rearguard. The column was stopped and the two big guns opened fire on them, of which they retired back. We had orders to go and take up position on a kopje on our right, which we did at the gallop, as the enemy were coming round the other side. We got there first and got into a fine position when we saw the enemy coming up the other side. We let then get within 100 yards when we got our revenge back, which we have been looking for so long. As soon as they found we waswaiting for them they retired, but it was too late for some of them, of which there was 50 of them laid low, either killed or wounded. We then had orders to take up another position, but they would not face us no more."
The column then moved on, linked up with a second column that had come out of Hoopstad with Boer prisoners, and then moved on to link up with the mounted infantry company of the Northumberland Fusiliers:
"The column started again and halted about 2 o'clock for the day. Here we met the other part of the column, which had come out from Hoopstad with the Boer families and prisoners. We had a good feed of chickens for dinner and tea when we had the order to start again at 7 o'clock to go and meet the Northumberland Fusiliers M.I. with the mail and a small convoy from Bultfontein. We travelled till quarter to two the following morning. When we met them we went on to Hoopstad, arriving at 6 a.m. tired out."
When he wrote this letter on January 12th White's company was back in Hoopstad. The main column had left, but the Hoopstadgarrison had been leftwell suppliedby the arrival ofGeneral Hamilton's column and theforaging expedition along the Vet River:
"Since we have been back we have been on full rations, which we wanted bad enough. I don't know when we shall move from here altogether, but I believe we are waiting for the new police which is being formed out here, and I believe as soon as they come we shall retire back, to Brandfort.There is three months mail waiting there, and all our new clothes of which we want bad, but we must make do with what we got for awhile."
White had not seen any enemy in recent days, and he didn't think there were many Boer troopsin the vicinity of Hoopstad at present. Hewas pleased that Lord Kitchener had replaced Lord Roberts in command in South Africa and he believed that the war would soon end:
"Have not seen none of the enemy this last week. I don't think there is many knocking about here now. I don't think it will be very long before it is finished now, now thatLord Kitchener is in command, as he is taking everything before him, what Roberts should have done in the first place."
There was a rumour that White's regiment would be sent to India. He hoped it were true. White believed that conditions in South Africa would be very bad, and very dangerous, even after the war ended:
"There is talk that my regiment is for India soon. I hope it is true, as I want to get away from this place, as the Boers will always be fighting here and there and you will never be safe when peace is claimed. There will be a lot of men shot down on the sly."
Hoopstad seemed very empty since the departureof General Hamilton, who had taken most of the Boer civilians with him:
"This place looks rather empty now, as General Hamilton took most of the poor people which could not keep themselves. There is only four white families now left, which keeps the shops, and they don't get no trade at all so they may as well have went with him, what good they will do here. He should have burnt this place down as it is no good to anyone."
The two page April 1901 letter was written just after the relief of Hoopstad by Major General Lord Errol. Private White was very pleased that he was finally away from Hoopstad. The letter was written at Warrington, Cape Colony,on the 8th of April, 1901:
"Just a few lines to say we have left Hoopstad on the 2nd. General Errol came and fetched us away and left the town altogether, so we arrived here yesterday. Leave tomorrow I think for Bloemfontein to get fresh clothes and horses. We have 600 miles to go by train, which will take over a week."
Outstanding original Boer War letters, written by a soldier who died in early 1902.The two letters are contained in a single cover. I believe they were originally mailed that way, that the long letter written in Hoopstadin Januarycould not mailed until Hoopstad was finally relieved in April.
There is additional interesting content, including a segment praising the performance of Canadian troops.
***The soldier who wrotethese lettersdiedin early 1902as a result of his service in the war. This soldier was in the British regular army. He served in the 2ndMounted Infantry Company of the 2nd Battalion of the Berkshire Regiment.He had been in action in South Africasince the early stages of the war. Hisfirst engagement was the Battle of Stormberg in December 1899, and he had fought in numerous engagements
The letters were written by 4418Pte. James G. White, of the2nd Battalion of theRoyal Berkshire Regiment. Private White enlisted in 1895, andhewas already in South Africawhen the war there broke out in 1899. Hefought in numerous actions, and then in 1901 he became quite ill. An infection spread to his mouth, and most of his teeth fell out. In the summer of 1901 he was admitted to the 9th General Hospital at Bloemfontein. He was there for several months before it wasdetermined that his condition had affected his heart, and it was then decided to ship himhome to England. He arrived in Englandon Christmas Day 1901, after which he spent the next few monthsin hospital, during which time heappeared before variousmedical boards. He was released from hospital in late March 1902, and discharged from the army with a pension. Only a few weeks laterhis heart failed and he was found dead at his place of work. It's a very sad story.Hehad beenplanning to be marriedin October 1902.
(***White lostall of his teethas a result ofan infection.The infectionfollowed a feverthat he had developed during his prolonged service in the field.Hiscondition ultimately weakened his heart, and killed him. The details are quite sad.Private Whitewas forced to remain in hospital in South Africa for several months without receiving proper treatment. Lord Kitchener had issued an order that no man could be sent home because of bad teeth, and the doctors at Bloemfontein chose to apply that order in White's case, even though his loss of teeth was not a dental problem butwas rather an effect of a more serious medical condition.As a result of thisWhite's condition was not properly treated until it was too late, and he diedshortly after arriving in England.)
***The letters werewritten to a friend ofJames Whitein Stratford Ontario, Canada. James White had livedin Stratfordfrom 1889 to 1895, working for the Grand Trunk Railway. He had also servedin the 28th Perth Regiment of the Canadian Militia.He left Canada in 1895andreturnedhome to England, wherehe joinedthearmy.
Where I havequoted fromthe letters in this listing I have made some minor corrections of spelling and grammar.I have taken care not to alter White's meaning in any way.
*** Please note that the newspaper obituary is shown forinformation only. It is not included in the sale.
*** Upon request I will e-mail to the winning buyer scans of 2 additional letters written by Private White during his service in the Boer War.
Buyer pays shipping, $1.50 in Canada, $2.00 to the United States, $3.00 Overseas.Shipping can be combined with my other sales ending in the same week. The winning buyer must contact me within2daysafter the close of the sale. Payment must be received within5 calendar days of the close of the sale. I accept Paypal only. Thank you.
*** At present I am mailing packages only once weekly.
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British Soldier's Boer War Letters, 2nd Berkshire Mounted Infantry. Died 1902.: $151