The South African
Military History Society

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging

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

Copyright "Jenny Hardwick" January 2010.

The Letters of Syd Critten, Imperial Yeomanry
From March 1900 to May 1901

No 8226 Trooper Critten
31st Company Imperial Yeomanry
9th Battalion
Field Force
South Africa
Sunday March 17th, 1900

H.M.S. Montrose
(This was received in Southwold April 3rd 1900.)

Dear Dad and Mother,

Am just out of hospital, so will drop you a line as we expect to be at Las Palmas tomorrow night , and I can then post to you. I have not met any pillar boxes on the way or would have written before. We left Liverpool on Tuesday night about 9 o'clock amidst much cheering, which I could not join in on account of being in hospital with a bad attack of influenza, am now much better, came out of hospital Saturday morning feeling very weak. It is getting warmer every day and I am allowed on deck, this voyage will do me any amount of good; I feel much better to-day though I am only on light duty. We live fairly well and get plenty of fruit, the tea is the only nasty thing, it is like taking medicine. We have six stowaways on board, one is a Russian Jew, about 11 years old, he has been helping himself to watches, money etc.

The passage up to the present has been an exceptionally smooth one.

We have seen several steamers in the distance to-day but they are the first since Wednesday; we came 800 miles without seeing a ship of any description, have seen seven or eight today.

I have not been sea-sick up to the present but I may be if we get any rough weather.

We had a service on board this morning under the Captain of the ship. Suppose I shall get a letter from you soon after landing at Capetown, or Durban wherever we go we are bound to go to Capetown first.

Give my love to all and I think you might pass this letter round or copies of it as I don't feel up to writing a lot yet. Will say farewell now as I have no more news for you. I trust you are all well and going along swimmingly.

With heaps of love to you both.

Monday 20.3.00

Very calm all day; feeling alright to-day. Inoculation started to-day, I have not been done up to the present; we are not at Las Palmas yet, shall be in a few hours 7o/c

"Las Palmas" we arrived here at 5o'c Bumboats all round us, fine fun.

Wonderfully pretty scenery.

Gran Canaria

To Miss Mabel Critten
By post card

We are anchored off this place and the scenery is grand. I managed to get this card off one of the numerous boats which crowd alongside, selling cigars, fruit etc.

Fond love, from Syd

(The following letter was received in Southwold 28th April [1900])

Imperial Yeomanry
Thursday 29th March 1900

H M Transport
(Elder Dempster Liner)

Dear Mother, Dad, Sisters and Brother,

Think I might as well start to write you a letter as no doubt my Diary to the present will take a bit of time to copy.

You will see by the paper that the Elder Dempster Company have supplied us with paper and envelopes and a case to keep it in, they have also given us two half pounds of Richmond Gem tobacco, jolly good of them say I.

Well here goes for the diary.

Tuesday 20th: I wrote to you from Las Palmas and sent post card to Pops. We found the natives very wily beggars, but on the whole fairly honest, as when we lowered gold down to them in the baskets to buy things, they sent the correct change and did not try to cheat. One man sent a 5 note down to buy a telescope, the money was returned if not satisfied with telescope, but the boat turned round and made for the shore and did not give the man time to be dissatisfied or ask for the change.

The native boys dive in for coppers and very rarely lose one. Towards evening another troopship arrived from Southampton with the Second Scots Guards on board.

We sailed again at 6p.m. just as sun went down and as we passed down it presented a very pretty sight all the lights being lit.

The darkness comes over very suddenly here.

Wed 21st: Rise at 6 a.m. no land in sight whatever, we are full speed ahead now and it still keeps very calm. I am quite well now only cannot sing a song yet as my voice has not fully returned. Inoculation started in my section to-day. I was not picked for the first batch expect my turn will come in a day or two. There is to be a concert to-night. I am going to sleep on deck to-night owing to the heat.

Thursday 22nd March: Passed last night on deck, slept A1. Not quite so hot to-day. One horse died during the night. Some big fish passing just now, a few sharks, but mostly whales, quite a shoal.

The fellows seem to suffer immensely from this inoculation.

Friday 23rd March : Very hot today. Horses very ill and some of them off their feed, the water they get is quite hot and ours is luke warm.

At last I am on the list for inoculation, and parade for it at 2o'c on the after deck, will tell you about it in the Thursday Diary when I hope to be ready for a long scribble.

Saturday 24th March: In bed or something we call bed. Two horses thrown over to-day.

Sunday 25th March: Getting better and discharged from hospital at 11.30 after Church Service. Put on full duty but too stiff and weak to do it so was let off as lightly as possible by the other fellows.

Monday 26th: Better and return to duty finding the hard work made me feel much better. Nearly every man has double duty owing to others being down with inoculation.

Tuesday 27th March: Greenwich time 10 o/c; Ship's time 9.15. Will now tell you of the inoculation process as my pals and I went through it. Five of us were sent at a time on to the Quarter Deck where our name and number was taken, then we had a small part of the left side washed with carbolic and dried - then the doctor took his little syringe with the lymph in it, and pricked us in the side - of course I must touch his hand as I was ticklish, so he put it in again. I don't think I got a double injection though I got pricked twice - then we had to lie down on the deck like sheep and wait until the blood dried up - after which we were sent aft to lie down in sick lines (under the awning on deck). I could feel nothing out of the common at first, but about 2 hours after the operation I began to shiver and my teeth chattered, then I got very hot and the perspiration rolled off me, had plenty of lemon water to drink. Next morning I was awfully sore on the left side all the way up to my arm pits and could not bear anyone to touch me (felt worse than awful). All the ink has gone out of my pen so must write in pencil, which I hope you will excuse. Well to continue - all through the day was the same, could not eat anything but oranges which I had provided myself with at Las Palmas - gradually got better and was discharged on the Sunday (as mentioned before) I must tell you that some of the poor beggars were lying on a blanket spread on the plain iron deck but I managed to secure a sack and fill it with hay before being operated upon.

I forgot to say we crossed the line on Monday about 2o/c and rare fun for the sailors had tarring and shaving us, some filthy mixture they put together - soft soap, flour mixture, mustard, salt pills etc. and to wind up they pitched us into the tank and turned the hose on - of course we were done one at a time and as we were done we helped to do the others. I am on watch to-day from 8o/c this morning until 8o/c tomorrow morning and have to do stables as well owing to shortness of hands.

Wed 28th March: Stables as usual, exercising horses, washing out stalls and all manner of duties too numerous to mention.

Thursday 29th : Still calm, nothing out of the common everyday work.

Friday 30th: Another 24 hours guard, begin to like it.

Saturday 31st : Full dress parade for inspection by colonel. Another horse died last night, making 9 in all. Have not seen a ship for 3 or 4 days. Plenty of flying fish here - stable guard 2 till 8o/c.

Sunday April 1st, All Fools Day: and don't the fellows keep it up - stables 6 o/c. Parade for Morning Service 9.30; stables 11o/c; Dinner 12 o/c; parade for water bottles and mess tins at 2o/c; Tea 4o/;c Bed 8o/c and that ends another day.

Monday 2nd: A nice breeze blowing and likely to freshen.
Tuesday 3rd: Duties as usual - slight preparation for disembarking.
Wed 4th: I am mess orderly to-day and have to get the meals ready for 14 men - no catch I can assure you.
Thursday 5th April : We fall in with two steamers who have been in collision. One a troop ship, the other a Liner. It appears that during fog the troopship "Winkfield" (with 300 men and 300 horses) ran into the Union liner "Mexican" (3,600 tons) damaging her below the water amidships.

The Mexican's captain abandoned her, and the "Winkfield" took her in tow. The Winkfield's bows were slightly damaged.

When we came up with them (about 10o/c this morning) we found them just taking the last of the passengers off the liner and taking them aboard the Winkfield. Our boat stopped and took the mails from the Liner. It was not until 2o/c that the Winkfield decided to take the Mexican in tow, and our Captain was asked to stand by them, he said he would but I think they refused help - our Captain decided to go on without them.

We came on as usual until 4o/c when a thick fog came over when speed had to be reduced and the fog horn is going every minute. We expect to be at Capetown about 12 o/c to-night but we shall not land until the morning.

No doubt you will find this collision business old news but it has been a little excitement for us to-day.

Friday 6th April: Here we are at "Table Bay", fine view, any amount of shipping - cannot land to-day probably not tomorrow. Must end up at once as I have to give this letter up to the Sergeant. Heaps of love to all and good wishes for Flo's Birthday - Am perfectly happy and would go through twice as much roughing it rather than not have come.

Good bye until the next mail.

Yours affectionately, Syd 8226

(The following letters were received in Southwold Saturday May 12th [1900])

Maitland Camp
10 April 1900

Dear Dad & Mother,

Many thanks for letters which I received on Tuesday 9th - we did not disembark until Sunday morning as there was not room for us in the Docks. We are camped about 5 miles outside Capetown. I should just like to see you dropped here by magic it is a wonderful sight and would fairly open your eyes to life in a S African Camp. There must be somewhere about 7 or 8000 men in this camp besides others at "Green Point" and other Camps near us.

We have "Table Mountain" towering over us on the one side, the sea on the other and the veldt with a long chain of mountains surrounds the rest of us - I cannot explain or picture to you what it is like, but it seems marvellous after flat Suffolk. We have any amount of traction engines, bringing stores up from the Transports, also the kaffirs with their mule wagons, it is all buzzy like a beehive. We had some Basuto and Australian horses told off to us to-day, and of course your humble has to help break them in - When I asked if I was to lose my own horse the Captain said no we are only putting the best riders on to try them. I asked him if he wanted to kill his best men first? And not to flatter us too much or he might be disappointed in us, as we are almost bound to be pitched off several times.

We get a lb loaf of bread a day, no butter, bread and coffee for breakfast, stewed meat or bully for dinner, and bread and tea at 5p.m. Any amount of work, and fairly enjoy it, 14 in a tent which is pretty close.

I am writing this in the Soldier's Home on my knee. Thank Lil for letter, will write her next mail. Had 4 letters one from you - Lil, Bill Wing and one from Mip Richards - have not received the one Ada wrote yet. Must close at once - Fred Carpenter thanked me for photos.

Good bye, Love to all, Yours ever, Syd
Will write more next mail with Diary.


Dear Lil, Jack and all the others

I wrote Dad a letter on the 10th and missed the mail with it, so am enclosing one to you which of course they will see - Think I had better copy my diary for you that will be the quickest way of writing.

Friday 6th April: Arrive in Table Bay in the early hours of the morning and find that the "Winkfield" has arrived without the "Mexican" which we conclude has sunk. We get a fine view of Table Mountain and the harbour. The quantity of shipping is enormous. We have to remain all day in the Bay as there is no room in the Docks.

Saturday 17th April: Go into docks but do not disembark.

Sunday 8th : Advance Party leave the ship at 7o/c with tents etc. Troopers are told off to unload the ship which they do with a will. The Colonel congratulated us with the quickness with which order was carried our. I left the ship with the horses at 12o/c and glad we were to set foot on land again. We reached Maitland Camp about 2o/c. Maitland Camp is about 5 miles from Capetown and is situated (as I told you in Dad's letter). The evening was spent in picketing the horses and putting the kits in order in the tents.

Monday 9th: Reveille 5o/c; stables 5.30 - General fatigue work for the rest of the day and plenty of it.

Tuesday 10th: Much the same as Monday - meet one or two old friends which Charlie will remember Clifford Banger Day, and Bill Radford (Alias Tricky).

Wed 11th : Mounted Drill - horses getting stronger and used to the land again. Foot drill in the afternoon, plenty of work considering the heat and inconvenience of the camp. Food, bread and coffee for breakfast, stewed meat and potatoes for dinner. Bread and tea at 5o/c.

Thursday 12th: Mounted parade full marching order i.e. with coat and blankets rolled and waterproof sheet etc. Am told off to try remounts from America and Australia, some of them fair beggars, they buck and kick enough to break your braces. I managed to get hold of a couple of fairly quiet ones and after an hour with them brought them back alright.

Good Friday 13th April: No hot cross buns - Plenty of drill, the weather still remains fine.

Saturday 14t: Am told off with a party of 20 men to guard a bridge 12 miles away, which the Cape Dutch have been trying to blow up.

We start at 7.30 and arrive there at 10o/c. Rather slow marching for horses you will say, but please remember we have packed saddles and do not march more than 30 or 40 miles a day.

It was a grand change after the camp which is all work. The officer sent a nigger from the village with some bread and butter, cheese, tea, jam and milk, and we had a fair picknic - Sentries were placed on and under the Bridge, with loaded rifles with strict orders to allow no one to pass without a permit, and if not answered after being challenged 3 times to shoot them , well we had several people to stop and they did not give us much trouble, they do not like bayonets close to them. I thought of you during the night when on Sentry go, wondered what you were all doing on Easter eve. It came on to rain about 5o/c Sunday morning and we had to march back in all the rain and got wet through - It was lovely. Sunday night went to Service in the Soldier's Home where I am writing this letter. It is a grand institution.

Monday 6th April: No Bank Holiday for us - another fellow and myself had to parade in full marching order to represent our section for inspection. We are getting more horses in to-day, we are going to lead a few extra ones for fear of loses.

I had a letter from Clifford Goodwin, he is on the line of communication and in the look for me.

Had another letter from Dad, one from Lil, Flo & Jack. Give my love to everybody and tell them I am A1 and wholly a soldier. Don't think I am all self praise, but I know you like to know my goings on.

Rumours today: 1st Mafeking Relief
2nly 10,000 Boers surrounded
3rdly All Yeomanry Regiments not sailed and disbanded
4thly Roberts says he will be in Pretoria in 6 weeks.
5th we leave here this week
All rumours - not confirmed.
Good bye, heaps of love and good wishes for any birthdays etc to all. Yours lovingly Syd.

P.S. excuse all errors in spelling and grammar, cannot read this through before sending, and do not forget I am not a scholar - but a soldier
That's all right old chap.
Trust you have received letters from "Las Palmas" and Capetown, one from each place.

(The following letters were received in Southwold Saturday May 12th [1900])

8226 Lce Cpl Critten
31st Co Imp Yeomanry
9th Battalion
Field Force

Dear all,

What do you think of the new title - I have been asked to take it on again so did not refuse this time as I think I am now capable of carrying the duties out properly. Ever so many thanks for papers and letters from Dad & Ada received last week. We are on the move on Wednesday and have been packing our wallets to-day, the kit bags have been stored away in the stores and I do not suppose we shall see them again until the end of the war, and perhaps then we shall find somebody else has taken them. It seems a pity we are not allowed to carry all of those nice things, which undoubtedly will be useful at the front. We are allowed to carry only what we can get into the wallets of our saddles; and this is a list as near as I can tell you that I have put in - one vest, two socks, holdall, one shirt, one sleeping cap, housewife, stable kit, four handkerchiefs, one pair putties, rifle cleaners. Strapped on saddle - overcoat, riding breeches, boots in front - 1 blanket under saddle and waterproof sheet- tunic, cornsack, biltup rope and picketing peg behind. Then with my little self on the top it makes a good load for the 'oss - Oh! I forgot the rifle, which is no mean weight. We are going fairly well out here, not at all unhappy. I do not want to damp the ardour of any loyal fellows who are joining the Yeomanry or army, but I should advise them to think well before they took this job on, it is alright whilst they are at home with a good meal at hand - to talk of it but the actual thing is a bit rough and I wouldn't advise them unless they really wanted to come. That is advice from experience, I daily hear fellows say that they wish they had not joined, and once they fulfilled their year they will take the first boat home, I do not at all mind the life myself, in fact I rather like it, but it is hard to hear others complain.

Nothing has happened since my last letter, to enter in my Diary, so this will be a bit dull after the others. We go to Stellenbosch on Wednesday so thought I had better write at once. Give my love to everybody I know, not forgetting Mother Smith whose cigarettes I am now smoking.

Good bye to all, fond love from Syd.

Received in Southwold May 19 [1900]

Stellenbosch Camp

Dear All,

Here we are Sunday night 8.30. I wonder what you are doing tonight? It is just about church time for you I suppose. We left "Maitland Camp" on Wednesday, and marched to Durban road Bridge where we bivouacked for the night; We had one blanket and a waterproof sheet which just kept us warm and that is all. Of course it must start to rain about 5o/c and we had to saddle up and pack our kits in the dark and rain, it was lovely. It rained for the first hour on the march and then got fine. We dismounted rolled our coats and strapped them on the saddle and rode on again for another hour and then it poured down again and go through the same performance of putting on overcoats etc it is a nice easy job I can tell you.

We arrived here about 3o/c on Thursday looking more like drowned soldiers. At night we were as lively as could be again and had entirely forgotten our ducking. This is a fine camp, much more healthy than Maitland, any amount of mountains around us, and the sunsets are magnificent.

We had a sham fight on Saturday, and attacked targets which were fairly riddled with bullets by the time we had finished with them.

To-day I have been for a ride on my own into Stellenbosch village, it is the most picturesque and cleanest in the cape, all bungalows nearly.

Many thanks for letters received yesterday; had one from Charlie, Ada, Mip Richards and Dad's and Mothers posted April 5th.

Sorry to hear of the death of Moss (one of Shoolbred's fellows).

Do not think you bore me with letters - send all the stalest news - it is all fresh to me and your letters are devoured with interest.

Cannot write more now, as it has gone "Lights Out".

Love to you all, yours affectionately, Syd

Stellenbosch Camp

May 1st 1900

Dear Helen,

Many happy returns of your Birthday - I guess this letter will reach you about 24th. We leave this camp tomorrow or next day and make our way up country to the fighting line. We've had six stray ostriches round here frightening our horses and causing a stampede. Should like you to have a look out here, it is grand country - mountains everywhere. It is too hot to climb them. Remember me to Uncle Dick and Mrs Bailey. No news particular.

Good bye, good wishes, yours Syd.

Received here May 25th Friday p.m.

Wellington Camp
May 6th 1900

Dear Dad & Mother,

Here we are moved again. But not near enough to the front for me. We hope to make a bigger move next week about the 9th , so as to help in the Relief of Mafeking, but for the sake of those at Mafeking I should like to hear of its relief long before we reach there, as if what I hear is correct we have to march all the way, which I believe is nearly a thousand miles and will take us quite a month (of course it is only a rumour about the marching and I hope it is not true).

I received your letters on the 4th of May they were written Good Friday and didn't I just gloat over them. The papers received on Saturday 6th and have not had a full chance of reading them, as we are kept going from Reveille to Lights Out with very little time to ourselves. Do you know I have had to cast Connie because she had bad feet and walked lame after a day's march; one of the Sergeants called me out of my tent unexpectedly the other morning and said I had to take her to be shot. It so took me back that I had to ask one of the other fellows to take her - I couldn't have done it for anything at the time. Of course the fellows laughed and thought it a fine joke, but it was no joke to me because I had grown so fond of the old mare, and could do almost what I liked with her, but it turned out to be a mistake, I only had to leave her behind as she will be no more use for marching - I got a nice grey colonial horse in exchange for her from the remount stables and as he was not up to carrying my weight I let the officer of my section have him as he had taken a violent fancy to him - He is a very showy animal and should make a good horse for a light man such as my officer is.

I might say that he has offered me his extra horse in exchange. It is a mare, so what name would you like please? Connie seems rather unlucky. Think I will call her Popsie, or Dot (as she will have to carry one). I think that is enough about horses for one letter so will take jottings from my Diary. Believe I told you in my last letter about our wet march from Durban Road Bridge to Stellenbosch. We left Stellenbosch Camp on Thursday May 3rd. The 49th and 30th company having gone the day before. The march was a very long one and dreadfully hot, I went to sleep two or three times in the saddle. We encamped just outside "Paarle" for the night and started next morning at 9.15 for Wellington where we reached at 12.30. Paarle is a good sized town boasting of two or three banks a good sized post office and Town House. The name Paarle is Dutch for pearl, and the town was considered the pearl of South Africa or Cape Colony. It was nice and shady coming through the town until we got through Ladygrey which adjoins Paarle. The land here is cultivated and looked fine. We dismounted and walked our horses for about a mile on account of the heat which is very trying and this is winter here. At Paarle Camp 30 of us had tea in a native's hut, and we looked with longing eyes at a bed that was in the room, with its nice white quilt and pillows.

Eight of the men had to walk from Paarle to Wellington, for being absent from camp without leave overnight, and a very rough time they had of it with rifle and kit in the broiling sun.

Saturday 5th May: We had a bathing parade at 11o/c it was jolly fine fun, water only about 2, 3 and 4 feet deep- but sandy bottom and swift current. After dinner we had saddlery inspection. Then I had to drill some defaulters after that - that's the worst of being a soldier with a stripe, you have to stay and see that the defaulters do their punishments.

We have a fine place which the towns people have turned into a Soldier's Home so am writing my letter here, they give us tea, bread and butter free of charge and are altogether very kind to us.

Sunday 6th May: Had church service in camp and I went in the choir. We had 3 hymn sheets between 18 men. After church we went for a bathe and did some washing in our shallow river. In the afternoon we went to sleep until 4o/c and after tea we went into the town of Wellington and tried to get into the English church, but it was full up. It only holds about 100. Another fellow and myself went down a bye road and fell in with some natives who had an autoharp, we had singing and coffee etc. the party consisted of about 5 black fellows and 14 women and girls and we two Yeomanry - Oh how I should like to have our photos taken - it would have been an A1 group. We arrived back in camp about 10o/c.

Today Monday we have had a field inspection and feel rather tired. The heat is so intense in the day and at night it is just the opposite - well I must wind up now. Trusting you are all well and getting warmer weather.

Your loving son, Syd

(The following letter was received in Southwold 8p.m. Saturday 2nd June [1900]).

Cape Government Railway
11 May 1900
9.30 a.m.

Dear All,

We are travelling by rail from Wellington up country - may be to Bloemfontein but I really do not know up to the present. Will give you a little extract from my Diary.

Wednesday May 9th: Mounted drill in the morning, afternoon 2o/c get notice to be ready to entrain within the hour as we are to proceed at once to the Front (loud cheers). Entraining the horses takes some time, and we did not leave the station at Wellington until about 7o/c p.m. We have eight men in each compartment , there are six sleeping bunks for which we draw lots and the other two sleep on the floor, I gave my bunk up to another fellow as he had tooth-ache. I tried the floor which was not half bad, slept from 9p.m. to 5 a.m. without a break, found we were then at Matjesfontein about 200 miles from the Cape.

Thursday May 10th: Stopped the train at Prince Albert Road about 10.30 to water and feed the horses there, we also had tea, biscuits and bully beef served out. Started again at 11.30 a.m. The trains go very slowly, average about 15 miles per hour. The country is not very interesting just here, nothing but low hills and waste land. We had come round some sharp curves in the hills, the train sometimes forming the shape of an S. Some of the stations have very funny names, one of them "Uitkyk", another "Zetjesboch" and several others too long to take down were very amusing.

We stopped at "Beaufort West" to water and feed, a train load of Boer prisoners pass us here en route for "St Helena", via Capetown. We also draw a week's pay here - 10/- which we wanted badly, all of us being spent out.

It was at Beaufort West where Clifford Goodwin was, but on enquiry I find that he has gone to "Springfontein", so I may not see him for sometime as we are travelling in a different direction now. At 9.30 p.m. we reached "Victoria West" where we watered and fed, and had tea etc. We left about 10.30 and at 12.30 I was awakened by hearing some shouting and the train being stopped, we found one of our section was missing (named Carpenter, from Maple & Cos next door to Charlie's place) He had walked out of the train in his sleep, we waited for about 20 minutes and as he did not turn up we went on our way wondering what had happened to him, we wired along the line so that some train could pick him up. We reached "De Aar" about 40/c in the morning of Friday 11th where we stopped until 8.30 a.m. Just as we were about to start who should come up but Carpenter, our missing man, he had managed to get to "De Aar" on three different trains, he had no boots on but was otherwise fully dressed, as luck would have it he escaped with a few bruises and felt very stiff. The officers and men all congratulated him on his wonderful escape. We expect to be at "Noasport" (I think that is the way to spell it) [probably Noupoort as spelled by 2010! - Ed] in an hour, so we are very near the front and I expect before you get this letter I shall have been in one or two skirmishes.

Good Bye for the present will write first opportunity - Love to you all, trusting you are all well.

I am yours lovingly, Syd.

Naauwepoort 2o/c
Largest tent hospital station - have to change - farewell.

Received here July 2nd [1900] Monday morning

Dewtsdorp [DeWetsdorp] May 29th 1900

My dear Father and Mother,

Hope you have not worried about me these last two weeks. I have not been able to write as we have been on the march every day. We were at Bloemfontein 3 days and then went on a 7 days march through Aluival North, Abraham's Kraal, over Modder River and on to Boshoff near Kimberley. I need hardly tell you that up to the present I have not seen a bit of fighting, everywhere in the Free State (or as it was proclaimed here today, the Orange River Colony) the people have thrown down their arms and sworn allegiance and seem generally glad it is all over.

Am well and hope you are.
Love from Syd - in haste.


Received here (in Southwold) Sunday morning

July 8th 00

Dear Father & Mother,

I am still at above place, it is very quiet and slow here and we are all very much disappointed at not having any fighting. We daily expect a party of Boers along this way who have broken through our lines, and though we often see lights of camps and at night, we have not yet come across them. Our chief duty here is to escort convoys and foot regiments through to Bloemfontein, Edinburgh and Wepner. I expect to be on the road in charge of a convoy to Wepner tomorrow, when I shall call at "Fraser's Stores" and see if there is anything worth staying our here for. H Bonning of Yarmouth used to be out here (before old Biddlecomb left him and his brother the business). It is something to do with the Frazers of Ipswich. I have been speaking to people out here, and they seem to think there is plenty of money to be made, only you must be a man with capital or else a rogue.

Anyhow, if I can rake enough money together to get down to Johannesburg I'll try my luck somewhere either in the mines, or at an hotel or store. If I cannot get to Johannesburg, then I'll come home with the troops, as it is no use trying for anything in the Free State - or Orange River Colony it is now.

I have got some Kruger coins - but I doubt if I shall be able to keep them as pay days are so few and far between, and extra bread and butter etc is very expensive. We pay a shilling for a loaf of bread that you would have to pay 2d for in England, and butter is 2/- and 2/6 per lb. Of course you may think these are unnecessary luxuries, but they are not I can tell you, as if one does not keep oneself up to the mark down one goes with dysentery or enteric which is very prevalent here. I believe I am just getting acclimatised as up to a few days back I have always been ailing and felt no good, but now I feel stronger and better in health than at any time since we landed. Several of our fellows have been in hospital, some with enteric, others with dysentery. One of the Suffolk Yeomanry is to be buried here today, he died of enteric yesterday. It may interest you to know that we have had frost here several nights, and last night there was ice an inch thick in a pail of water we left out.

The convoy work is done by oxen, and they travel from 3o/c in the morning until 9o/c and from 4 at noon until 10 or 11o/c. So you can bet it is sometimes very cold saddling up, and no joke going at the oxen's pace of about 2 or 3 miles per hour. I will give you extracts from Diary at some future date as I am always pressed for time here, we being rather short handed. I have not received a letter from you since the 24th May at Bloemfontein as we are away from Railways. I was then surprised to hear you had not had a letter from me from Capetown as I have written pretty regularly up till lately and could not write just when I would on account of their being no postal communications or you should have had a letter every week. Now you must get them when I have time as I am often away from Camp 4 and 8 days at a time with a party of 4 or 6 men for escort duty. Lil asked me how Mrs Newman's jersey was wearing and I found it very useful. She might write to Mrs Newman and tell her the only answer I can give and that is that I could not have done without it and find it most useful these cold nights, and as for wanting another well this is still in good condition but I would not like to refuse so good an offer and please make a collar to the next one as this leaves my neck bare.

I am on guard and I can see in the distance a squadron of artillery coming this way from Wepner and we shall have to find an escort for them to go to Bloemfontein - our men act as scouts to the main body.

Well I must wind up now as this letter goes with a convoy at dawn tomorrow.

Trusting you are all well and having warmer weather.

Love to all, from you loving son, Syd.


26th 1900

Dear All,

Here is letter No 2 which I will enclose with No 1 which was written in hospital. Since coming out of hospital I have received your Queen's birthday letters and will take this opportunity of answering and thanking you for the, I have to thank Jack for 3, all by same mail, Dad for one and two papers, Lil and Pops for enclosures and Ada for letter and two handkerchiefs. Also a paper from Mip Richards (Wales) a letter from Gus, Charlie. How I should have liked to have been at home for the celebrations of Relief of Mafeking and Queen's Birthday, it must have been grand according to your accounts. When we heard the Relief of Mafeking we were on a flying column to repair telegraph wires and collect rifles and ammunition from Free Staters, we connected a wire and instrument to the telegraph wire and got the news from Kimberley. I see by a paper (one of our fellows received) that the flying column of ours was cracked up tremendously, to tell you the truth it was our or should I say my section of 31st Co that took the greater part of those 300 rifles and 3000 rounds of ammunition, also captured 2 field cornets and a commandant, but we thought nothing of it, simply because there was no resistance.

You will be surprised and no doubt disappointed to hear, that my Co is not with Rundell, and that up to the present I have not seen a bit of fighting, but as far as complaining goes I think we have seen as much as the rest, as we rarely have a tent over our heads and you may guess we not not feel warm when we wake up in the morning and find the ground covered with white frost.

Should not be surprised at any time to hear we are to be disbanded or ordered home as the news is at a stand still and we expect peace to be declared daily.

Oh! News came in last night that 200 Boers under Oliver were hanging about 12 miles from here - I have been out in charge of a patrol all day to try and spot them, but no sign of them in the direction I went.

That scouting book is very useful at times (the one you gave me) as our work is nearly all scouting and I am always in charge of from 4 to 8 men when we go on scouting expeditions. I have a fine big black horse now. I call him "Inky" because he is black ha, ha. Don't worry about money I mentioned it was only temporary and before you can send any I am paid again. We were without pay for over a month so I hadn't enough to stamp all those post cards.

Lights out, good night, Bugle sounds.

Here we are awake again 5 a.m.

Just a few lines before stables - I have not received the tobacco and socks you spoke of, but expect they are going the rounds of the colony and will reach me sooner or later.

I was speaking to a fellow yesterday who is in a store, he says he will see what he can do for me after the war, but I may not be near him then.

Don't speculate too much about my stopping here as I am not at all struck with the Orange River Colony, and there seems little chance of getting into the Transvaal at present. Besides the climate does not exactly agree with me. Well I doubt if I have much more to write about.

I hope you are all keeping well and having a nice commencement to the summer.

Good bye, love to all. Yours affectionately, Syd G Critten.


Received here August 11th [1900]


Dear All,

I think that is the best way of heading this letter as I have received letters from everyone of you this week - I must tell you that while we were taking guns and prisoners at Abraham's Kraal etc our mails went astray and we did not get them until last Thursday when I brought them in on a convoy which I had charge of. There were 9 bags of mails, out of which I got 31 letters, papers and parcels. Some of them dating back to the beginning of May.

I had better tell you what parcels I received so that you will know what is up to the present lost to me, they may turn up later. I sincerely hope so as I am running short of bacy. I received 2 pipes from Charlie, 1/4" tin of tobacco, half crown from Dad, a pair of socks and meat lozenges from Lil, and 2 handkerchiefs twice from Ada which make the 1/2 doz she was sending me, and you might tell her that 2 she sent off last I received a fortnight before the others.

I shall not be able to give you a very newsy letter this week as we are still stationed at Dewetsdorp in the hope that De Wet will run this way then we shall see some fun.

I have had a couple of nice little trips on my own this last week and came very close to the enemy once; one of our officers was sent to Capetown for clothes etc for us and as we were 45 miles from Bloemfontein and the Railway he had to ride there on horseback. I had to escort him and his servant, we took 2 days to go there and 2 to come back. We started from here last Wednesday week and arrived at Bloemfontein next day at 1o/c. Whilst there I visited the 9th General Hospital and Serg Baily from Shoolbred's set me up with a new shirt some socks, handkerchiefs, trousers and drawers and a drop of rum. (Charlie knows him). I also met 8 or 9 fellows out of M & S who belong to the hospital staff - so had a jolly time.

Started back Friday morning and had a beastly time with the pack horse - there was only the officer's servant and myself and we had a nice easy time coming back - we put up in a chicken house at a farm and started next morning, Saturday. We just missed a party of De Wets men who were taken about 21/2 miles from here. We put up for the night, luckily they did not spot us (or I might not have been spinning this yarn). As soon as I reached camp I was warned to take charge of a picket on one of the hills around here for 12 hours, came off that at 5 on the Sunday night and an hour after that I got orders to take 6 men to Reddisburgh, 30 miles away to bring back a convoy - off we went at 6.30, did half the journey by moonlight same night and arrived at Reddisburgh 11 o/c Monday morning XX.

Had to stop writing) to continue - started from Reddisburg at 4o/c Monday afternoon with 33 ox wagons (the largest convoy that has been along that road since the main body passed through), and trekked for 4 hours, started again 4o/c Tuesday morning and out spanned at 7.30 hours and so on. Bullocks always travel for 3 or 4 hours after sunset and 3 or 4 hours before sunrise, and graze all day.

We arrived at Dewetsdorp at 8o/c on Wednesday night and went into camp next morning. I started to write this letter on Thursday or Friday night and had to leave it then and on Sunday I had to escort 10 wagons to get wood about 15 miles away (wood is very scarce and cow dung is used as fuel). We lost 7 mules from one of the wagons, they ran away somewhere, so we left the natives to look for them - arrived back from wood escort on Tuesday afternoon 4o/c; 24 hours late, they thought we were captured.

I have had today in camp and now I am ordered to take charge of a picket again tomorrow at 5o/c. So you can see I am kept pretty busy. I am going to join the Police out here - I put my name down for the Pretoria Police at 10/- a day for 3 months , and option of further 3, 6 or 12 months, and also put my name down for the Kimberley Police, sign in for 3 years at 7/- a day- can buy out at 15 first year. 10 second. In the former case have to find forage and rations - in the latter forage is found and barracks - only food to find.

Well it has gone "lights out" so must conclude - Had a letter from Will Edwards at Wellington, Cape Colony.

My love to all . Don't look upon me as an ordinary copper (cos I a'int).

Good bye, love to all yours Syd, 8226.


Received in Southwold Saturday August 25th 00


Dear All,

It seems an age since last I wrote you and for a matter of fact it seems a long time since I heard from you for we have not received a mail for a fortnight. We are anxiously looking forward to one expected today.

The last mail I received about 6 letters, and 1 parcel containing tooth brush, soap, socks, tobacco etc. According to your letters there must be more baccy on the road for me which I shall be very glad to receive.

It is a treat to get a bit of English baccy. I smoke this Boer stuff and this black cake called "Courage", when short of English.

I have not much news for you this week, have not been in camp for more than a day at a time for this last fortnight. Last week I had a convoy for Reddisburgh which took me 7 days - During our stay there the General Knox came up and I was the only military N.C.O. in the town, so had to go before him; first he says "send 2 men to water my horses" - well one fool I sent got thrown and lost the horse, which was not caught again for 2 hours (ructions). On our way back I had turned my 7 horses out to graze and 4 of them bolted - I lost them for 24 hours and they caused me a great deal of anxiety as I should have been court martialled and probably have had 2 or 3 years in the digger.

I was out all night after them and slept on the veldt with only one blanket and my overcoat. I caught the wagons up again in the morning about 7o'clock and went to a farm to borrow another horse to go in search (as mine was knocked up). When to my surprise, there were the 4 horses peacefully eating the branches off the farmers fruit trees. They had travelled 14 miles on their own.

Of course I kept it quiet and the officers did not know that anything unusual had occurred.

Yesterday, I was our on patrol from 4o'c in the afternoon - 12 horses in the saddle and did not see a blessed Boer.

Ah! Ah! As I expected here is the mail, but no letters - only papers. Southwold Chronicle from Dad, dated July 6th . Three Telegraphs and a Sphere from Ada same date, and a Liverpool Courier from Mip Richards (the Welsh girl comic).

Give my love to all and I hope you are well, suppose by this time you are having it warm and some of you getting your holidays.

Well now I must say good night.
Love from Syd.


Sunday 12.8.00

Dear All,

Here we are again in a new camp (Thabanchu)(pronounced Ta ban shu) and isn't it just cold? I can hardly believe it is August 12th , expect you have been sitting on the beach this morning as it must be too hot to go to church.

We left Dewetsdorp on Wednesday night the 8th August, the main body left @ 8o'c p.m. Myself with four men started at 6o/c with a bullock wagon; it was not a very adventurous journey, so you must not expect a spicy letter. We trekked about 3 miles the first night as we were not sure of the road; In the morning we went another 6 miles and outspanned for the day. After we had breakfast we saddled our horses and rode to a farm about 3 miles from the wagons and had some coffee with a Boer farmer and his wife and two daughters. We talked to them for some time, then somebody suggested music so we went inside and had a tune upon the American organ. The girls could not play much as they were self taught and the songs we had were just a bit old "Home Sweet Home", "Sweet Marie", "Gipsey's Warning" and "Gipsey Countess" duet by Mip Vantonder and your humble - we left there about 2o/c and one of the horses managed to knock the barbed wire down and unseat his rider going through the gate.

We inspanned about 4p.m. and trekked about 6 miles again. Next morning we were off again at 6o/c and after trekking for 2 miles we stuck in a drift and had to borrow 10 bullocks and managed to get out about 12 o/c. We trekked until 2.30 and knocked up two bullocks then outspanned for the night and did not trek again until 2o/c Saturday afternoon, on account of the dust which was worse than a blinding snow storm and bitterly cold. We arrived here at 4 o/c Saturday afternoon. Of course I was called over the coals for being a day late. Did I tell you of my midnight ride to Dewetsdorp to Kelly's farm, a distance of 15 miles. I had just got nicely asleep one night when about 10o/c someone shouts in the tent for me. The major ordered me to ride to Kelly's Farm to bring wagons up at daybreak. Off I went and arrived there at 1 o/c knocked Kelly up and gave him the order for the wagons and then I asked him for a bed which was A1. About 7o/c next morning the black girl brought me in some coffee, I got up about 7.30 and had a good breakfast and started back for Dewetsdorp about 9o/c and fell in with a convoy where the kaffirs refused to work so I climbed up with the escort and we loaded our guns and told the interpreter to tell the boys to inspan the bullocks, or be shot, what ho! They very soon got to work and in half an hour the wagons were on the move. We had to pull down all the defences before we left Dewetsdorp - it was fair navy's work.

Received letters from you last week which I believe I acknowledged. I have received some of the parcels you sent, but not all. No doubt I shall get them some time. 16th august letters from Dad & Ada and parcel sent on July 20 containing socks, baccy, meat lozenges etc. mail just off. Stamps for Pops.

Love from Syd
P.S. Just off to Bloomfontein, or somewhere.


Received here Sept 17th (Monday 7.30 a.m. ).

Sunday 18.8.00

Dear Dad,

Arrived from Thabanchu last night - ordered on flying column tomorrow (Monday) to capture or follow up Theron (A Boer Commandant) who has 500 or more men with him.

We have 3 companies of Yeomanry 29th, 30th and 31st. The 18th Battery Artillery and the Irish Rifles Infantry. Hope to have a scrimmage this time. Don't be surprised if you don't hear from me for a fortnight or 3 weeks.

Received letters from Dad, Ada and Jack today dated July 27th. Many thanks. Also paper from Dad just this minute arrived. Give my love to everybody. Hope Jack succeeds in her new venture.

Good adverts of Thompsons.
Love from Syd
P.S. Many happy returns to Charlie and Jack (passed).


Received here Sat 24th (Monday 10a.m.)

Friday 31st Aug 1900.

Dear all,

Here we are just 5 minutes to drop you a line before we go on again.

The last time I wrote we were at Thabanchu. Oh! I dropped you a line from Bloemfontein. I doubt if you received it , we were then going on a flying column - as we marched from camp we had the order cancelled and had to entrain for Ventersburgh Road Station, we were in the train all night (in coal trucks) and arrived about 10o/c a.m. at 12 o/c we had the order to saddle up and our 3 companies of Yeomanry patrolled for about 10 miles and saw small parties of the enemy who at seeing us quickly fled. We were out again and more of the enemy were reported in the direction of Ventersburgh Village.

The next day, I think, I don't quite remember which day it was, as it is hard to keep account, it may have been Sunday. The Column consisting of Royal Irish Rifles, 29th, 30th and 31st Yeomanry and a battery of field artillery marched on the village, but the Boers had gone further on Monday and we could not follow them on account of heavy rain. We were wet through - no tents, only one blanket and waterproof sheet.

Tuesday we located a Boer Laager and marched part of the way to it, but the enemy were in strong force and we had to retire on the town. We had almost reached the town when some of the enemy began to be troublesome so we turned about and went for them, they kept too far off for rifles, but a few shells from the artillery scattered them. The 30th had one sergeant killed and an officer wounded and 5 or 6 men missing. Next day we were out again and shelled two farm houses where parties of Boers were see[n]. Those artillery chaps can shoot.

We left Ventersburgh and marched to Zand River where we entrained for Smalldeel. On arrival there we were sent to Wimburgh and arrived there the day they caught Oliver and his three sons. I was out on patrol the same day and saw about 800 Boers trekking away for Thabanchu thereabouts. Had a very bad night, rain, thunder and lightening was fearful. I was in about 2 inches of water wet through to the skin, had to saddle up in the morning in all the rain and march with the Column to Smalldeel again; could not do the journey in one day on account of the wet. I was with the advanced Guard scouting, and saw a party of 20 Boers on the left of the column, while another party of about 50 was reported on the right. We halted for the night near a farm and my Section was told off for one of the Pickets.

It was raining all night and we had not a bit of shelter and our blankets were wet through, and so were we. The worst night of the whole campaign up to the present. We reached Smalldeel about 2p.m. yesterday and entrained at 12 o/c at night for Bloemfontein, arriving there about 8o/c in the morning. It is fearful travelling in these trucks as we are packed so close we cannot possibly lay down. We are at the I Y Rest Camp and march this afternoon for the water works about 18 miles away and thence to Thabanchu again, as the Boers have retaken it. It is a fine day and there are 3 bags of mails waiting for us, so our spirits are raised again.

Just received 6 letters and 2 papers. Thanks very much, shall not be able to read them until we arrive at water works.

Love from Syd

Received in Southwold Saturday Oct 6th 7.30 a.m.


Dear All,

Here we are again the Fighting 31st - What ho!

The last time I wrote we were at Bloemfontein, we remained there 3 hours and then trekked to the water works (Sannahs Post) - arrived there about 12.30 midnight - next morning. Saturday September 1st we marched to Thabanchu arriving there about 4o/c stayed there all the next day and had a bit of Home Sweet Home in the farm church.

Monday morning off on the track of the Boers, we were advanced guard and had to do the scouting, saw several small parties, who fled upon seeing us.

We encamped about 2 miles from Leeuw River. On Tuesday started for Ladybrand. The Wilts Yeomanry in advance; on arrival at Leeuw River, a party of Boers 14 strong were hidden behind a wall, the Wilts Scouts did not see them and advanced to within 20 yards of the wall when they were met by a volley, which killed two of their number and wounded a third. The Wilts promptly dismounted and not one of the Boers escaped without a wound - six were killed and three wounded captured. The others escaped. We did not get much further that day as the scouts had to go very carefully.

Wednesday we were advanced guard again and you bet we had our eyes well skinned after the previous days experience and we found it very ticklish work getting round the farms, we passed quite under a kopje within 300 yards and had got half a mile on when bang, bang-crack went the rifles, then boom goes the artillery and we find that the kopje is full of Boers, after about 1/2 hours shelling they had all scooted like rabbits and were no where to be seen. We proceeded our way and had to ride up a very narrow- pass between the hills, only room for one wagon at a time. The advanced guard had fallen behind a bit owing to a sudden turn in the road, so we trotted up the pass expecting to hear bullets whistling round us every minute, but luckily we were disappointed.

At the top of the pass a runner met us with a dispatch, to the effect that Ladybrand was holding out, so we went rather carefully at first but soon found the way was clear. When in sight of the troops in Z(which consisted of a Company of Wilts Yeomanry and a Company of Worcester Infantry about 140 in all ) they set up a cheer, and we went down the hill and up the other side at full gallop. It was fine - the fellows came up and thanked our officer for the Relief and caught hold of our hands and one or two were fairly crying. They had been besieged by about 3000 Boers since Sunday and on that day (Sunday) had no less than 165 shells fired at them, they had no big guns and had to rely on rifles only. There were only two wounded although some of the townspeople had been shot. We evacuated Ladybrand and arrived back at Thabanchu yesterday at midday.

There are a lot of troops collecting here and we expect to make a big move in a day or two which I trust will wipe our the main portion of the Boers.

I hope you are all well and expect by the time you get this I shall be complaining of the heat and you of the cold.

Heaps of love to all, From yours lovingly Syd
In haste.

Received in Southwold, Saturday, Oct 20th 7.30 a.m.

Royal Army medical Corps
Industrial Home Hospital

Dear All,

Here we are on the sick list again, not much the matter seemly - came up here from Zand River last Friday where I had to leave the Column on account of having strained myself pulling a horse out of the quicksand.

It happened that the strain did not turn out a bad one, but the doctor advised a little rest as it inconvenienced my riding. Have been feeding upon milk, sago, custard, beef tea etc, So have not done so badly. I am down to be discharged from hospital tomorrow, shall be sent to Convalescent Camp for a few days , then drafted to my company again. The C.I.V.'s are mobilising for home, and go to the Cape on Monday next.

I believe I told you of the relief of Ladybrand in my last letter written from Thabanchu.

We left Thabanchu one night (I don't remember the day or date) about 7.30 and started on a march for Eensgvonden and arrived there 2 or 3 days later, nothing in particular happening, burnt the farms of all Boers on Commando. From Eensgvonden we marched to Riet River thence to Smaldeel and Zand River (Virginia Siding). From there we formed part of the circle that was to surround a large Boer force supposed to be in the Dornberg Hills. The attacking forces were under Junter, Hamilton, McDonald, Rundle, Tegallais, Campbell, Knox and Col. White ( I was with the latter), all different columns and I think Rundle got about 25 wagons anyway they did not get the Boers - it was a sell we came back from the Dornberg Hills to Zand River and I went on the sick list.

We have had plenty of running about this last six or eight weeks and if it were not for having to stand to arms at 4.30 every morning it would not have been so bad.

It is getting much warmer at night now and we do not wake up chilled to the bone as we used to. I received the Peter's chocolate, tobacco etc, also letters for which I thank you all very much. It is a very doubtful question if I stay out here, farming is out of the question but I might try the mines or a store.

Well I must say good bye - sorry I have no more news. My love to everybody. Trusting you are all well.

Yours affectionately, Lance Corporal Syd.

Received in Southwold Saturday Nov 3rd [1900] 7.30 a.m.

Convalescent Camp,

Dear Dad,

Just received letters from you, Jack, Mother, Ada, Flo and Gus, dated 24th and 31st of August. Funny thing just written a letter to Mr Pemberton and had not sealed it when your letter and his arrived. I cannot see all these opening yet and I do not want to try police, if I can help it. I believe our Battalion mobilizes to come home this month and think they sail from Cape Town 27th Oct it may be only a report but I think there is truth in it. If nothing turns up between now and then shall most likely come home and get my bounty money etc. which should be 30 or so, perhaps less. I have not troubled Mr P for money as we have been paid pretty regularly.

Have really no news to tell you my Company is still having a run after De Wet.

Those photos of Flo and Gus are not very flattering I must say.

Give my love to all, I am in as good condition as ever - except teeth.

Please excuse these bits of paper they are the best I can find.

Much love, from yours Syd.

P.S. Don't think I have given up S Africa as a bad job as if I do come home I shall undoubtedly return here - I believe there is money in it only things are unsettled and at starvation prices.

Received in Southwold Saturday No[v] 10th 1900

Bloemfontein Camp
17.10.00 Convalescent Camp

To Home Sweet Home
Dear All,

I leave this camp tomorrow or next day to return to my Company. They are still hunting the pigs and have covered a good bit of ground since I left them; I think they are somewhere out Wepener way again . Hold tight there! What ho! Here comes a sand-storm - Oh! Oh ! up goes the tent - down goes the marquee - one man's head split and another man's arm broken. Mauser bullets are not in it. We have had sand storms nearly every other day here, some lasting more than a day but none so sudden or so quickly over as this one.

It does not seem quite so promising as when I last wrote as regards coming home. I think we are going to make another move up country. I wrote to Mr Pemberton last week but have not received an answer yet.

I had a letter from Dad yesterday and a paper, also a tin of tobacco and telegraphs from Ada. I was sitting in my tent after dinner holding my pipe in my hand not caring to cadge tobacco off the other fellows and wondering how I could get some - when an orderly came to the tent and asked for me and gave me the baccy - you can imagine what a smoke I had then.

Oh the Regatta Committee and the Yawl Race I say Southwold is looking up with its water polo. How do they do it? Good luck to 'em.

I went to the theatre here the other night "The Pirate Secretary" - Do you know "I don't like London"? "I have nothing to eat but a bath bun and an acidulated drop".

Had a bit of bully cor - it was rare fun. Well I can't find much to tell you just now but no doubt I shall have more news if I have time to write next week. Will try to send you some photos I commandeered from a farm we burned.

I hope you are all well and have had a good season and holidays.

Love to all - many thanks for all your letters glad to see the Lady Palmist is palming some money.

Yours affectionately, Syd

P.S. The 72nd Rough riders are in Pretoria I cannot get any news of Will Edwards though I know some of the fellows in his company.

Received here Saturday 10.30 a.,17 Nov 1900


Dear All,

We left Bloemfontein on Wednesday night 12o/c arriving at Edinburgh [Edenburg]by train about 10o/c Thursday morning. After leaving Edinburgh we reached a siding about 10.30 and waited for the up train, whilst waiting - about 200 Boers came on the scene and began firing on us, we replied with a few volleys but they tried to surround us and so the train had to be backed for Edinburgh, we keeping up the heavy fire all the time. There were only about 50 of us all told and as we had a lot of horses it was thoroughly unwise to stop and try to fight them. The train was stopped half way to Edinburgh and volunteers were called for to reinforce an outpost. I was among the number and we had a rather restless night. About 10p.m. twelve reports were heard and half an hour after seven more, so we concluded the line was blown up. We sent a message into Edinburgh by trolley at 4o/c. The armoured train came out and found 19 rails blown up and the telegraph wires cut. I went with the officer to see the damage, then a train with some Australians came up who were on their way home and with them we went and burned a rebel farm.

After the line was cleared our train came up and we came on here, and now we have to go back to Edinburgh [Edenburg] and march to Reddisburgh [Reddersburg] which is in the hands of the Boers.

Expect to have a good fight on Sunday about dinner time so you can think of me. I am alright in health but do not expect to arrive home this side of Xmas. Our Column has seen some good skirmishes since I left them and several have been wounded.

Give my love to all - trusting you are all well.

From yours lovingly, Syd.

P.S. I have had my belt stolen with watch etc. Also lost my diary.

Received in Southwold Mon 3p.m. Dec 3rd 1900

10 Nov 1900

Dear All,

Still alive and kicking thank God. We have had two very severe engagements since I wrote to you from Springfontein, and I can fancy the fiz-ping of the bullets even now. I rejoined my company at Edinburgh and marched from there the same night in the direction of Reddisburgh and managed to get round the Boer Laager so as to drive the Boers to Reddisburgh, where the remainder of the Column was to meet them. We stood to arms at 3o/c on Saturday 3 November and marched at daylight in circles until we saw a few make away from a farm.

The guide went out of his way after these, and as luck would have it it led us right into the thick of it, we were in time fairly extended when the bullets came whizzing round like hail, our Sergeant's horse went down at the first volley and things looked very thick for a few minutes, until we dismounted then we opened fire and crept up to them taking cover as we went behind the ant hills and took the hill they were occupying, they got away with their convoy and - - I can't finish as it is 12o/c midnight and these fellows keep talking and singing.

We march at 7o/c so have not much time to waste.

We met the enemy on the 5th Nov and had a long day with them, chasing them for miles, they had made one stand which lasted over 3 hours and during that time they lost 7 men killed. Our officer got reprimanded for leading us into too thick a fire (but we did not lose a man, only one hit on the tip of the nose)

Received your letter, dated Oct 19th, last night at 11o'clock - also a parcel from Mr Newman with writing paper and tobacco, it was indeed a good addition to my slender stock of necessities.

I am sorry I cannot write and thank them for parcel now as you see I am off in an hour or two. Had a letter from Pemberton yesterday which I enclose, and I shall follow his advice, and not join the police.

There is still a faint hope that we shall eat our Xmas dinner at home.

Love to all, yours lovingly, Syd.


Enclosed from Mr Pemberton

Brandfoot [Brandfort?] O.R.C.

Dear Sydney,

I am very pleased to get a letter from the son of my dear old friend - Just a week ago I was in Bloemfontein - little did I think you were so close or certainly I should have looked you up I had to get a permit from Pretoria and had to wait 3 days in Bloemfontein kicking my heels in every military office there.

I have just been appointed by the Military Governor, Head Master to Brandfoot School which is a great improvement on my late job. I am here alone at present, my family follow soon.

My eldest son (18) is at Oliphant River in Nesbitts House, he has seen a lot of fighting of one sort or another but has come out of it all without a scratch thank the Lord. Now as regards yourself it is only natural that your Mother and Dad are longing to see you and I think I would certainly go home first and give them a good cuddle. I don't think much time will be lost or that you will lose many chances by doing so. For this reason it will take a long time for things to properly settle and for the mines and businesses to get into full swing again and I think for a little time things will go hard with those on the spot but afterwards things will develop in an amazing manner and the trip will be nothing to you especially if you get an appointment through a first class London house to a Johannesburg firm. Of course I am speaking as a Father and know my own feelings regarding my own boy. I have just written to him telling him to accept nothing until he has had a long rest with his Mother and Dad and then we will think

Yours sincerely, F W Pemberton

Received here in Southwold, Dec 15th 7.30 a.m.

The Veldt - SA

Dear All,

You can consider yourselves very lucky indeed if you get this letter I am about to write - First because the mail may be captured going into Bloemfontein; secondly we are on half rations (i.e. two biscuits and any fresh meat we may catch). 3rdly we are three miles from drinking water, which by the way I am dying for, so I don't feel in a letter writing mood. I wrote to the Newman's on Sunday, so they will get their letter the same time as you although this is Wednesday. It was jolly good of them to send me that parcel.

Well for the news:-
We left Bloemfontein on Sunday week last and took two short marches of about eight miles (or ten) each - on Sunday and Monday respectively.
Tuesday morning we were up at 1.30 and marched at 2.30 to surround a strong Boer outpost - we failed to surround them, but had a very severe engagement with them, losing one killed and five wounded, whilst several horses were put out of mess.

Wednesday, we fought a severe rearguard action and retired to a Store (forget the name).
Thursday, was out on patrol and managed to put a few shots into a Boer Patrol.
Friday, we were about surrounded, could not get a thousand yards from camp without getting a volley. Spent all day on a kopje in pouring rain.
Saturday, Relieved a company of police at Abrahams Kraal which we left on Tuesday. They suffered rather severely having five men killed and four taken prisoners, and thirty horses, several mules and oxen killed. We had a lot of fighting that day but had only one wounded.

Sunday, was a day of rest.
Monday we had a pretty thick time and drove the Boers from the position we are now holding. We found several rounds of ammunition besides some luddite shells buried. They fairly marked me whilst trying to cut barbed wire which I had to leave and gallop our of range - talk about hail stones (they did wholly fall).

Am afraid I shall not be home for Christmas, as after today we hope to fall in with General Settle from Kimberley and attack their stronghold of Petersburgh. I shall not join the police, but if spared, come home for a short time as Mr Pemberton says, and then come out again.

My advice to fellows at home is - Beware of the Police - as the danger is far greater than the pay.

Love to everybody, trusting you are all well.

I am yours lovingly, Syd

Sent to Mr Newman "Pine Hill", Hastings. Received there on December 15th[1900]).

The Veldt S.A.
Sunday 18.11.1900

Dear Mr & Mrs Newman,

Our Colonel has given us a days rest so am taking advantage of it to write and thank you for the sweater, tobacco and note paper, which you so kindly sent me. I received them between ten and twelve o/c last Saturday week night when at Bloemfontein and though lights out had been sounded two hours before, the news that a mail was to be distributed, kept us from our blankets, and we must have sat up well into the small hours of the morning, reading letters, papers etc. There were two or three week's mails.

No doubt you have been told most of my goings on from my home letters as they tell me nearly everybody reads them.

Well here's a little that home people don't know yet.

We left Bloemfontein on Sunday last to attack a Boer Laager about 30 miles to the West of B. On Tuesday evening Reveille was at 1 a.m. and at 2.30 a.m. we marched to surround a Boer outpost, but which we failed to do. My company was advanced guard (or as we call it ground bait), and had to do all the scouting and draw the fire. About 5o/c just at daybreak, our right flankers came within range and before they were aware of it they were quite on the top of the Boers, who called on them to surrender, but, instead of surrendering they got their answer in a smart volley which was quickly returned, an officer being wounded at the outset and then two or three horses went down and we did not get away from the place until one man had been killed and three wounded beside the officer who was wounded in three places. As soon as the pom-pom came up and the two fifteen pounders, the Boers fled and then it was a hopeless chase and a one sided game. The artful beggars ride away until they can get behind a ridge or rise in the ground, then hide themselves and as we gallop up after them they blaze away at us, and by the time we have dismounted and commenced to fire they have got out of range. We managed to take nine prisoners that day and a kaffir told us they had three killed on the Boer side. We were in the saddle fifteen hours that day and both horses and men were thoroughly tired out. We left a company of Orange River Colony Police at Abraham's Kraal and next day the Boers came back and they, the Colony Police, had a very warm time of it. Their casualties were five killed and four prisoners - thirty horses, four mules, and sixteen bullocks killed.

On Wednesday we retired on "Looi Ply" fighting a rearguard action all the while and managed to reach here without any losses though the enemy must have suffered heavily from our big gun fire.

On Thursday I was on patrol at 4a.m. with an officer and twenty men and managed to get a few shots into a Boer Patrol.
Friday we were surrounded, we had not got a thousand yards from camp when they commenced firing on us - our big guns drove them off and we returned to camp only to be sent in another direction and hold a kopje in the pouring rain all day.
Saturday we marched again to Abraham's Kraal to relieve the Police and had a hard days fighting. As usual we were ground bait and came in for more than our share of bullets - yet strange to say less losses than other companies. We only had two horses wounded whilst other companies had four and five which in most cases had to be shot, and the only man wounded was a man who got separated from his company and was riding next to me at the time of being shot. My Company have been most fortunate we have only lost one man wounded and one prisoner, (who escaped half an hour after his capture), since we have been out here. Well it wont do to brag as our turn may come tomorrow and it is jolly hard to see the poor chaps sewed up in their blankets and half an hour after forgotten about.

I hope to be able to get this letter into Bloemfontein in a day or so as the wagons will have to go for provisions soon.

Please thank Ernie for his letter which I was very pleased to receive and if his last year of apprenticeship will only pass as quickly as this twelve months have with me, he wont have much to grumble about.

AM glad to hear Stan is getting on alright at M&S am afraid I shall not be able to settle down at that game again for some time.

Please remember me to Evelyn and Tiddie, though I have not seen them for years, and the other children I don't remember at all scarcely. Trusting all are well and wishing you a happy Christmas (which by the way is rather previous).

I am yours affectionately, Syd G Critten - 8226

Received here in Southwold Saturday Dec 22nd 1900 10 a.m.


Dear All,

Here's wishing you a Happy & Merry Xmas with plenty to eat and drink and no cares to trouble you.

We out here may not be able to feast as at home, but expect we shall be making as much fuss over our extra tot of rum as you will over your wines etc.

I received a letter from Ada last week (about Nov 22nd) wishing me many happy returns (rather previous) but many thanks. The mail is pretty good now, these last three mails have been delivered well within the monthly posting. All you letters come pretty regular now and the Mail leaves Bloemfontein generally on a Thursday then the Army Service Corps bring them out to us when they come with rations and forage for the column.

We have been put on full rations again and we need it as we are fighting nearly every day, and that means busy marches from and back to Camp (Laager).

We had a rather severe engagement on Tuesday November 27th. We had just shifted into a new camping pound, and were having a rest, when the order came to saddle up; this was about 3p.m. Off we go down to the Modder, which is about 6 miles from here, to attack a party of 400 Boers that have taken up a position in the bed of the river - We jolly soon found them and for about an hour the Mausers and soft nose and Martinis were dropping round us like hail (talk about "duck your nut") it was a merry 'ol time - We had three wounded in 29th Co. The vet from our Company and one of the gunners on the pom pom wounded. I got hold of a Boer chap we shot and found some soft nose bullets on him; He was not dead, but unconscious, having been shot clean through the head, a very good shot whoever did it.

Well we drove them from the river and returned to Camp about 9p.m. I cannot go into details of all our Skirmishes, one is much the same as the other.

We shot the Commander of one lot on Monday (so the Col told us) we were very pleased to hear it. I drank our Rum wishing him a speedy entry into the happy hunting grounds. We reckon that every Boer shot makes us one step nearer home.

Mr Pemberton has got a Government appointment at Brandfort, I may possibly be able to see him before I leave South Africa as B is not far from Bloemfontein.

We have lost over 30 horses this week, from wounds and over riding. I think no less than 20 were hit on Tuesday though some of the wounds were not very serious, and it was not necessary to shoot many of them.

Have not come across Chris Goodwin yet, fancy he's up north. This war has only just started the Boers have begun to dig up their guns again and I can see us stopping out here for two or three years at this rate.

Will you give my love to everybody and wish all friends a Merry Xmas and I hope you will get another letter from me before the New Year - "The War", will soon be 1899 - 90 & 91. I trust I shall soon have the chance of being sea sick?

Much love from yours Syd.

P.S. Tell Jack I know Turner, he went sick with me at Zand River and we were in same hospital at Bloemfontein. He was still in convalescent camp when we were at Bloemfontein 3 weeks since. He had something wrong with his throat, and when that got better he had a bad attack of dysentery, he is better now but I think a change of locality would do him good. Bloemfontein is a bad place for convalescents, one long dust storm day in and day out - cruel. Yours Syd.

From Lance Corporal Sydney G Critten 31st Co I.Y. 9th Batt.
Received here in Southwold, Saturday Dec. 29th 1900 - 10.20a.m.

Edenburgh Station S.A.

Dear All,

Here we are back at Edenburgh, and as I have a minute or two to spare whilst waiting for the train, will take the opportunity to write to you.

Since writing last, we have had a terrible wet time, three days pouring rain, and yesterday it was quite a sight to see all the wagons crossing Riet River which was very much swollen . The infantry had to wade through and it was up to their waists. I did pity the poor beggars. The Yeomanry managed to get across fairly dry on their horses.

I believe I told you the fight we had last week in which we had five or six wounded. We find the Boers lost very heavily that day losing 30 killed, and about 30 severely wounded. The Boers are still as big fools as ever, the Commander goes into a village and calls at farms and tells the people they have killed another 1300 English, and the people believe them, and not a few join the ranks again and forthwith start fighting. I believe our Column (Col White's) is going to join some Brigade and we are going down the country and march right up again. There seems no possibility of going home for at least two months.

I suppose C.I.V.'s (Chamberlain's Innocent Victims) deserved all the praise they got - though we are sick of hearing about them. You have sent me papers full of C.I.V.'s doings, and out of respect for the other fellow's feelings, I have had to tear that part out and burn it. There is a lot of jealousy and ill feeling amongst the Regulars and Yeomanry at the way these men have been cracked up; and they have not done one half as much as other troops, and have left the hardest part to be done; yet mind this - I don't blame the men, it is not their fault, it's the rotten press, which is causing all this ill feeling. When you see a picture with a chap laughing there is a heading (A C.I.V. sees something funny) and another a C.I.V. transport wagon ; well their wagons are not made of gold, they are just the same as ours, but perhaps they are full of same.

The C.I.V.'s are known as the "I am Wallers" amongst the regulars, and nearly every fellow you meet will ask "Have you seen our I am cart"? What they were sent home first for, I don't know surely their situations were of no more value than those of the Yeomanry or Volunteers.

I have just seen a cutting from the "Cape Times" in which the Welsh Yeomanry, under Col Forbes, behaved with great dash and gallantry on Monday week last - suppose that was when we had those poor beggars wounded; have just heard that one of them had to lose his leg.

Well I suppose by the time you receive this I can wish you a Happy New year. I don't suppose I shall have again such an eventful year as this has been. Everybody is in the best of spirits and anxiously looking forward for the time when they can return home.

I received your present to me last night, for which I thank you very much, this will of course be very useful, but I do not wear flannel just now for reasons best known to myself and comrades. You do not know of all the little pests we have to put up with. I received Ada's present of baccy so am well set up for a fortnight or so.

Am sorry to hear Jack has had to go from Brighton. Well I cannot stay to write more now. Love to everybody.
Yours lovingly Syd

Received here in Southwold, January 12th 1901 10.20 a.m. post.

The Veldt, South Africa
15th December 1900

Dear All,

We are chasing De Wet, "don't you know" and we have been playing the very old Harry with him, but as per usual we have lost him, but I hope not for long, as we have spent many sleepless nights trying to gain on him.

Well, I may as well tell you our movements (as far as I can trust my memory) since last writing - we entrained at Edenburgh and arrived at Bethuli next day (not much sleep in cattle trucks). Marched at 2p.m. for Smithfield, made a halt of 3 hours at 9p.m. and marched again at 12p.m., by the light of the moon. Halted again at 7o'clock in the morning for a few hours, and reached Smithfield at 8p.m. How's that for marching?

Well to continue, left Smithfield next morning at 3.30 and joined General Knox's column same evening at 7o'clock. Wet through. Next morning marched at 2.30 with Knox's column, and managed to put a shell or two into the Boers, at the same time being under a heavy rifle fire from them, passed by Alveccia and near Riddisburgh, where the Boers were only 4 miles in front of us, we were joined by Col Lang's and Col William's Column as also Col Barkers, so you may guess we were pretty strong. We camped at Dassport [Daspoort?], just outside Wevetsdorp [Dewetsdorp?], the Boers being only one hour in front of us, but darkness prevented us following, and we are thoroughly done up. We learned that De Wet had with him Steyn Haslebrook and Faurie in all about 2000 men, and some guns. Next day which was yesterday, Friday, we broke up into 3 different parties, Col White and Lang on the left; Barker with the General, Centre and Col Williams, right wing. They kicked off from centre, about 4p.m. and about 3 hours from then, came in touch with the Ball and drove it slowly towards our left. We took it very quietly all day remaining in about 3 miles an hour, with various 20 minute halts. About 5o'clock we heard the Ball was trying to slip right past us on the Left Wing, so we had to gallop 5 miles straight off, and try and cut it off; well we partly succeeded for we galloped right into the middle of them, and had a terrific cross fire laid on us by their half backs.

The Col (i.e. Forbes) thought it was Rugby, for he galloped ahead and caught a Boer by the scruff of his neck and threw him to the ground off his horse; Forbes also got his horse shot; our only sorrow was that we had neither swords nor knobkerries. We could have played the very D......... with them. I got my man and marched him into camp - we took 20 prisoners and left a good many wounded and dead Boers on the field. We had to give in on account of the darkness, another hours light, we could have bagged their convoy, and a lot more men. As it was, we had to be satisfied. We joined Knox this morning at 10o'clock and learned that he had taken a lot of prisoners - Williams had also taken several, whilst the Thabanchu Troops made a heavy fire on them as they tried to escape through two hills. Two guns were captured, also several wagons, and also their ambulance wagons in all about 120 prisoners.

We are about 5 miles outside Thabanchu and march at 4.30 tomorrow in the direction of Ladybrand, where the Ball has gone. (I think our team will win the Cup, and may be we shall get a medal each). On Friday 3 prisoners were taken early in the day, one dressed in khaki (there has been a proclamation stating that all Boers wearing the Queen's uniform will be shot) he was tried and shot within half an hour of trial. The royal Irish Rifles formed the firing party (in all 20 men) so he had his share of bullets. Our casualties were 2 Lancers wounded and one officer, and 2 men of the camp missing.

Many thanks for letters received and birthday wishes, the presents I think I thanked you for in my last letter.

Ten days to Christmas! I wonder what it will be like? Oh well! I suppose we shall survive it. It wont hurt us to do without turkey for once, and you say the pudding is coming, and as for the etc's well peaches, apricots and grapes will be ripe in a month.

Give my love to everybody, and if we catch "De Wet" ere shall be home in a month.

Yours lovingly Syd.

Received here in Southwold 7.30 a.m. February 4th 01.


Dear All,

A happy and prosperous New Year to you. We are starting it by having a days rest which we have been very much in need of. I took Holy Communion this morning in the little church in the town, there was a special service given for the benefit of our Column, as we were unable to partake on Christmas Day, there were about 20 of us and I enjoyed the service very much. We had 3 hymns viz: "Come all ye Faithful", "Hark the Herald Angels Sing", and "Christmas Awake". The Regimental Mission Curate took the service, and wished us a happy and prosperous New Year, but beyond that I don't think another person has had the heart to wish anybody.

I have not been able to write this last two mails, as we have not been near a town, and most likely this letter will be delayed some time as Lindley is a long way from any Railway and it is very difficult to get a Convoy through as the Boers are very thick in this neighbourhood. Christmas Day with us was very tame. I killed and dressed two nice lambs on Xmas Eve (quite a Butcher), and had liver for Christmas breakfast, with half rations of biscuits. For dinner we had roast lamb, which was a nice treat.

(Oh Reveille was at 3o'clock and we had to stand to Arms until 5 o'clock. I couldn't hear any church bells ringing in the Xmas morning and no Waits.

In the evening we had a ration and a half of rum, which is about 1 tablespoonful and a half, with which we drank to you all at Home, and wished you were having a better fare than ourselves. We also had a concert around a huge bonfire, just to let the Boers know we were enjoying ourselves despite their sniping. The Col gave us a few words and said he was expecting orders in which "De Wet" would have to go halves. Since leaving Thabanchu, from which place my last letter was sent, we have been following De Wet and other men.

It is a fair marvel, more of us have not been shot, bullets seem to be around us at times like hail storms and we have had very few casualties. My Sergeant was shot three days ago in the side and has been invalided into Senekal. Major Kropper of the 30th Co , with us got no less than four bullets into him and is still alive. One of the 30th was killed a few days ago and one of the 29th I Y died of his wounds two days back. We have several wounded, and I am glad to say all doing well. The Boers must have lost very severely at times, though they are very careful to pick up their dead and wounded before returning.

The evening rain is just starting so must hurry up and finish this. Lately we have had very wet nights and hot days.

I don't see much chance of us getting home for a few months as it would be madness to leave the country in the state it is. We want at least 25,000 more mounted troops to carry on the work of putting down these bands, which are about 400 strong, four or five commandos join at one spot and make a stand of two hours or so, but the moment we try to surround them they split up and meet again at some other spot. Unless something happens within the next week or so our Commanders will go off their heads, for with all their skill and tactics, they are unable to catch this "De Wet".

A farmer told me that De Wet had called at his house and told him that he was never nearer being caught that at Thabanchu, when we had him hemmed in. Hasbrook got him through by attacking another part of Thabanchu, and calling the Thabanchu Garrison from the neck, through which De Wet escaped.

I have not had a letter for 3 weeks, and see no likelihood of getting any for sometime; have just had to pay two bob for a two ounce stick of tobacco, and I daresay there is plenty waiting for me at headquarters from you. I received the birthday baccy from you which I believed I thanked you for.

Well good night and good luck to you all trusting you are all well as you will be pleased to know I am.

Yours lovingly, Syd


This was received the same post as the above
7.30 a.m. 4 Feb 1901.

Saturday January 12 1901

Dear All,

We arrived here on Wednesday noon from Lindley Way having fought a rear guard action all the way. The Boers have been hanging on the convoy for this last 10 days, and we cannot catch the slippery snipers.

We received the mails on Thursday 10th 35 bags for the 3 companies. You cannot imagine the excitement which prevailed when I brought up this wagon load of mails. Cheers were not in it. Plum Puddings, tobacco etc etc. I had better just tell you what I received and thank you very much for them.
No. 1 was the plum pudding with tea, saccharine Charterhouse etc..
No. 2 Tin of tobacco from Charlie
No. 3 Ditto from Ada
No. 4 cake from Emmie
No. 5 Box of Werners chocolates from Jack
No. 6 Thirst quenchers and cocoa genuine from Home
No. 7 A Mrs Becker's fund for the Welsh Yeomanry bought us a pipe , 1/4 lb tobacco, 1/4 lb tea, pencil, paper and envelopes etc and cigarettes.
No. 8 Young Fund 1/4 lb tobacco and cigarettes
No. 9 Pint of beer per man.

Papers galore and letters from all of you. I had a mail bag to myself.

Do please thank Mother Smith for the mince pies, it is jolly good of her and they went down alright. She always was a thoughtful Beggar, and not an A.M.B.

We are staying here until 14th don't know where we are going. I believe the column is being broken up and we shall join another. Suppose you heard of the serious reverse the Body-Guard got outside Lindley - they were attached to our column, and were advanced guard that day. We marched from 4 o'clock in the morning till about 12 o'clock and the Body-guard were sent out further to locate a Boer Laager. It appears they made a halt and got surrounded, and were shot down at point blank range. We were sent out to relieve them, but they surrendered before we could get to them. We lost 2 men wounded. The Body-guard lost 16 killed and other 19 died of wounds next day, also a Lancer was killed the following day, and 2 Lancers wounded. Casualties for that camp 52 killed and wounded, it was a most fearful sight, nearly all had been shot with explosive bullets.

Between the Columns under General Knox we can account for several Boers during last week. Three wagon loads of dead were captured (not much catch). It was read out in orders on Thursday night that we were to receive 5/- a day from date of attestation. After 1st 12 months were up , so mine begins, or began on 6th this inst. I would like to see this thing through but at the same time I would rather get away Home as it looks like lasting another 12 months. You need have no fear for me as Jack told my hand before I left England and said I should not be shot in this war, and I believe it.

Good bye, heaps of love and good wishes. From Syd.

Received here Sunday 7.30 a.m. February 17th 1901.

The Veldt, S.A.
Monday 21st Jan 1901.

Dear All,

Here we are again out on the green and dreary veldt.

Hard luck just warmed for piquet, fall in at once, so cannot write.

Am quite well and trust you are the same. These mails are going in by convoy tomorrow and must be given in to night.

Love to all Yours Syd.
P.S. Thanks for box of Dandy Fifth Cigarettes, received. Syd.

Received here Monday evening February 25th 01.

B'Fontein Station
4.30 p.m.

Dear All,

Just arrived from Winburg by train off to Sannahs Post tonight 6.30. No sleep for three nights, getting too thick.

I got out of the train last night as we were so cramped up in trucks and went to sleep by the side of the track, and the train went on without me - I walked three miles and caught it up at Smallhead. Heavy fighting between Knox and De Wet last night, we are trying to head De Wet off.

Enquired for Mr Pemberton at Brandfort Station coming through , left message with Station Master who knows him well. Please excuse scrawl and dirty paper as the perspiration is rolling off me on the letter. All well.


Received here Monday 10a.m. March 4th from Lce Cpl S G Critten.

Goed Kop Kop

Dear All,

I think you must have been looking for a letter from me, for sometime, in vain, but you will quite understand when I tell you that for six successive nights, we only had 2 hours sleep, as Bruce Hamilton, whom we are with for the present, has been giving us 2 marches per 24 hours, and knocked us all up.

We are holding a position down by the Orange River ( Bethultz [Bethuli?] Way) waiting for Knox to drive De Wet on to us. We made a reconnaissance in force the other day , and started at 3a.m. My troop chased six Boers, all of whom had led horses, they had about a mile start so we had no earthly chance, but we got near enough to wound their horses, and caused them to loose the lead horses, 3 of whom we caught .

I have still faint hopes of returning home before Xmas 1901. (Possibly Easter 1901?).

An order came by last nights mail for our commander to send in the names of any officer or N.C.O. to head quarters, whom he could recommend for Commissions in the Yeomanry, being formed now at home, who are willing to serve on. I would not take it on for a Generals berth.

I trust Flo's eyes are better - Many thanks for baccy - Flo received last week at Sannahs Post.

We have a tobacconist from Brighton in my troop, Masterson is his name and I chipped him about the good baccy his rival sold. I think I told you I had received Mr Newman's baccy and Sax, am very much afraid that the Boers have caught them though, as the train our wagons came on from Winburg is reported captured, if so Saxs and baccy and several other things have gone; but I trust it is not our train that is captured, as there were some 40 trains following one behind the other from Winburg way. If possible will see Pemberton before I come home. I came through Brandfort last week, did not stay five minutes at the station or would have sent him a note.

Received letters from Dad, Pops, Lilie, Helen, Ada & Jack last night dated Jan 11th for which thanks. Glad to hear Mother and Lil are having a holiday. Give my love to all kind friends. I am yours lovingly, Syd.

P.S. We heard of death of Queen at Kroonstaad 2 weeks back. Please excuse scrawl as my index finger is in a bandage.

Received here Tuesday March 12th 8p.m.


My dear all,

Here I am having a rest for a few days - six good fellows who had been away from the column for sometime turned up here as the column was passing through and took our horses from us and left us for a rest, which we needed greatly. De Wet has been playing the very D lately, and has got through into the Colony according to report.

We have got a permit from the Commandant to have beer every day so long as we are in the Town. We have not come much in touch with the Boers this last week or so, chased six the other day and caught three of their lead horses. We are kept constantly on the alert in this little place, as the Boers have threatened to come in so many times. Last night we were told at 11 o/c to be ready to turn out at any minute - but nothing came of it.

We are all looking forward to an early return home and certainly things look more promising than they did a month back. These new Yeomen are likely to relieve us, and not reinforce us as expected.

We shall of course be very sorry to leave the country before the war is quite settled, but everybody is fed up and as they cannot give the men a rest they must get fresh stuff out to finish the work for them.

Many thanks for letters received a few days ago - as you say - we are always glad to receive them.

Give my love to everybody - Trusting all are well. Yours Syd.


Letter received by T Newman Esq, Pine Hill, St Helen's, Hastings from Sydney on March 12th 1901.


Dear All,

Dear Mr & Mrs Newman,

At last I have a chance to write and thank you for the nice parcel of Socks and tobacco which I received from you whilst at Kronstaad. [Kroonstad] When I tell you that from that time up till now we have been putting in two marches a day with only about 2 hours sleep between, you will quite understand the reason for my not writing before.

I am now left with six others from my Company for a short rest, as there were six men joined the column here who had been away from the Company some time, and brought no horses with them, so we handed our horses over to them and remained at Bethulie O.R.C.

Last night we expected an attack on the town, as Hasbrook has broken through with 500 men. We number about 50 all told, including the town guard which is fifteen strong and made up of civilians. We were alarmed once and turned out but it proved to be a militia man firing at a bullock, which refused to give the countersign. Since writing to you last we have had plenty of fighting, losing but few men.

Westside Lindley a party of Colonials called the "Body guard" and attached to our Column, had a fair smashing up - They were sent out on reconnaissance and the Boers got between them and our camp, killed 16 and wounded 23 others, 16 of whom died from their wounds during the night. We had four or five wounded trying to relieve them.

Next day we had one of 16th Lancers killed and several more wounded, the casualties for that Camp being 52; Col Laing and 5 officers amongst the killed.

We entrained from Winburgh [Winburg] last week and came down to Bloemfontein, detrained at 6.30p.m. and marched at 9p.m. for Sannahs Post 25 miles, arrived at Bushman's Kop - 14 miles at 12p.m. Marched again at 3.30 a.m. and arrived at Sannahs Post 6.30 a.m. Left Sannahs Post same day at 4.30p.m.and returned into Bloemfontein 1a.m. entrained again at 3.30p.m. and as there was no chance for sleep in the train, you may guess our share of rest is very limited. I must say that our fellows stick to this work wonderfully without grumbling considering the number of disappointments they have had to put up with in not catching De Wet.


I had to leave this letter yesterday, to go into Cape Colony which is 4 miles from here, I went to see if my kit was alright, as our wagons were reported captured and burned whilst coming by train from Winburgh - The wagons belonging to 29th and 30th Cos were burned as also was our water barrel and ammunition cart, but the remainder of our wagons were on another train which was stopped in time so the Sax and tobacco which you sent me are still safe, and not burned as reported to Dad.

We heard of the death of the Queen* at Kroonstaad about 3 weeks back. (*21 January 1901).

Last Sunday I sang "God Save the King" for the first time in Berthulie Church - I trust Stanley is still getting on alright at Mr De S's, expect I shall be able to see him about the end of April, as I don't believe we shall be kept out here , after the new Yeomanry have been formed.

Give my kind remembrances to all I know in and out of your household and thanking you again for your thoughtful present.

I am yours affectionately, Sydney G Critten

8226 31st I Y 9th Battalion Field Force S.A.

Received here Sunday morning March 17th 1901

De Aar

Dear All,

We do move about don't we? Who would have thought about us having to fight down in the C Colony?

We left Bethulie on the 21st to join the Column down here, but on arrival here we find it is gone. Well we are not sorry as we don't mind prolonging the rest.

Coming down we passed a train that had been turned off the line by the Boers pulling up a rail; one of our Battalion, an Officer's Sergeant was killed and another seriously injured. I hear twenty Boers were caught in connection with it and are to be tried for murder. I hope they will be shot - the lot - and I should like to be one of the firing party.

News seems a little better just now, and De Wet is being handled rather roughly. He lost a large part of his convoy this week, which of course you must have seen in your papers.

I see by latest cables 672 Yeomanry have embarked for S.A. and 9,000 have enlisted. Trust it is to relieve us and not reinforce. We are awaiting orders here, shall try and get up to Johannesburg or Kimberley, but am afraid we shall have to wait here for the Column to send for us.

I trust you are all keeping well and not having it too cold. It is just nice here now, rather hotter than your summers days, but not so hot as it has been, and I begin to like it warm.

I am in a perfect state up to the present and I see no reason why I should not be Home for the Summer - am afraid Easter is out of the question.

There is a fellow in our Column named "Snorden", brother of the oil merchant at Southwold. He knows Jno Driver, they were together in R.A.M.C. at Gibralter.

Give my love to all the people in Southwold, Thank Tom Denny for remembrances and ask him if he is getting married yet?

Well good day to you and a longer letter next time.

From, yours lovingly, Syd. "The Wanderer"

Copy of letter received by Emmie / Mrs Wheeler at Donovan, N Finchley on Saturday evening March23rd 1901

De Aar

Dear Emmie,

Here at last I have a chance of writing to thank you for that lovely birthday, Xmas & New Year cake; did not receive it until about January 6th for the simple reason we had not been in a town for over 6 weeks, and nowhere near the railway, but when we got our letters there were 30 mail bags for us, and I had to go down to the station with the Scotch Carts to bring them up to Camp. When they were sorted it was found I had nearly a bagful to myself, and my mail and myself got into our Bivouac/ which we make by fixing up the blankets on our rifles like this (insert drawing) and it is astonishing what a lot of wet they keep out, and then we began looking through our letters, parcels etc. And we did have a feast.

Cor Lummy you ought to have seen us, we felt ill for 2 or 3 days, and we had some beer, a pint per man, which was full of hops, but it was good, as we had not had any since April. After the Xmas feast we had to march and relieve Lindley Garrison and we were knocking about the veldt again for a week or two and the work was cruel, the days were hot and the nights wet. Just as it has been here for a week now, everyday hot, and every night about 7o'cloc until 1 o'clock having storms. We were left at Bethulie, that is six of us for a rest, and then they wished for us to come down to De Aar to join the Column, we came too late, and lucky for us- Col Parry left Bethulie where he had been having a rest with his three servants, and we were to have gone with him, but we didn't and came on two days later than he. On arrival here we find that the Boers had caused a Railway smash as Fabasch and Col Parry's servants were in this train, one was killed outright and the other had his leg and arm crushed, and died two days later, the third had his head split open right across the forehead, from ear to ear and is still alive and doing well. I say we were lucky not to have gone with them.

We are now trying to join the Column which is near Kimberley, and I hear from one who has kept count, that we have been in 87 engagements of one sort or another. Some very small and others great since August, so I have had my waistcoat full of fighting, I would be glad of a return home.

Give my love to all, trusting you are well and Guy will soon be in trousers.

I am your loving Brother, Syd

P.S. I hope you will not think I have neglected you in not writing before, but it is impossible for me to write individual letters, except on very rare occasions, like the present, where I have a 1st Class Dutch Railway compartment all to myself for an hour and in which I slept last night, much to the disgust of a native whom I had to kick out and use my bayonet upon.

Received here March 31st (Sunday morning 7.30)

De Aar
March 11th 01

Dear All,

As I baint very well you must not expect a long letter this week, as you see my above address I am still here, not being able to join the Column yet, we have been chasing it up and down the line, but we no sooner get to the place ordered than we find it gone. We went to Potfontein last week, but it was gone and had left several fellows behind as the hard marching had killed all their horses. I think 150 men were left here without horses.

I have not had a letter for over a month, that is one of the drawbacks of being off the Column. I should not be surprised if we were shifted to Deilfontein in a few days. De Wet has crossed the river and gone North - expect you know more of his movements than we do. News is only scarce here.

The new Yeomanry seem to be arriving here daily, wish I could hear of something definite as to when we are going home. This Plague seems to be a dreadful thing at Capetown - all communication is stopped between here and there, and everything has to go to East London. We can get plenty of fruit out here just now chiefly grapes and peaches, how is that for making your mouth water? We eat peaches like apples.

I wrote to Emmie last week, am sorry I cannot write you all individual letter. I have not been able to keep any curios as we are not allowed to keep anything. Well I hope you are all well and have got over the death of dear old Queen Victoria.

Give my love to everybody. Yours lovingly, Syd.

P.S. --- the flies!

Received here Saturday morning 7.0 (Easter), 6.4.01

De Aar

Dear All,

I have just received a letter from Ada dated February 22nd, also Daily Telegraph dated February 5th and 6th .

I received last Tuesday letters from Jack, Ada, Lil, Dad, Pops and Helen dated January 18th and February 8th, sent on to me from the Column. I see by them that you have sent me some tobacco, but I have not received it yet, but hope to within the day or so.

Was very pleased to get the letters as I had not received one for nearly a month. Have not much news to tell you as I am in a Garrisoned town and events are few and far between. It is not like being on the Column, where you are on fresh ground every day and the day seems then very monotonous unless there is the familiar sound of ping pong from the mausers, which means an order to chase them off, then is the time I can write you a letter, but just now it is hard to find something to say.

Oh! The other day a native had to be buried from the hospital, the coffin was brought up and they placed by the corpse, the natives then had a very solemn funeral and there was plenty of weeping and gnashing of teeth at the grave. Next day the corpse was found still lying in the mortuary and the coffin had been buried empty. Amen.

I saw two Boers in the hospital charged with wrecking the train at Tabosch where two of the 29th Impl Yeomanry were killed. One was taken rather bad and began to pray like one o'clock! They are awful cowards and when sick lie down and give way fearfully.

We hear great rumours of Kitchener having a parley vous with De Wet, Steyne and Botha re surrendering and the house being called together to consider terms - but suppose it's only a yarn.

Expect the snow that you now complain of will be forgotten by you ere this letter reaches you. Am sorry to hear poor old Cliff has got enteric, do not doubt for a minute that he will easily pull through it with his constitution, and being such a steady temperate fellow - enteric is not nearly so bad as you must think it to be, considering the number of cases there are. I think it is the fatal cases are very small- It is a fever that nearly every person who stays in this country has to have, and with care such as they get now and taken in time there is not much danger. This slow continuous fever that is so common, is put down by the fellows in general as enteric but it is far from it and not dangerous, although it leaves one in a very weak state. Suppose by this time Tom Denny is married, give him my congratulations, and I trust his married life will be more settled than his former period.

I don't know if anybody's seen our cat? I lost it last night, a Mer Cat very much like a ferret, which was getting quite tame and would fed out of my hand.

Re the paper slip you sent about the charge at Thabanchu written by a 16th Lancer, I am not at all surprised as the regulars don't care much for the Yeomanry, now we are getting 5/- a day and there is a lot of jealousy; no doubt Mr 16th Lancer will write an say he led the charge, and did all himself, when I tell you that the whole lot were mixed up in the Boers so much (Viz: Lancers, body-guard and Yeomanry) that our own pom pom wounded three of the body-guard, you will see how much truth there is in the 16th letters.

As for M -- coming out, let him come it will do him the world of good, as what I know of him, he is rather a spoiled kid, and it means one more to relieve us - mean isn't it?

Will leave this letter until tomorrow, and see if any more news or letters arrive.

February 18th
No more news, everything being done for the best, and hope to be home for August Bank Holiday.

Give my love to everybody - trusting you are all in perfect health.

Yours lovingly, Syd.

P.S. Have you been to Bulawayo old fellah?

Received here Sunday morning April 14th 1901.

De Aar
25 March, 1901

Dear All,

Am still in this large junction, and am having a good rest and keeping out of the wet and De Wet. The rainy season is nearly over and it has been a very long one.

I have just heard that the Yeomanry are going home in May. Oh! That I could put faith in this report. But hope for the best and look for the worst and I shall not be very disappointed.

I had the pleasure of seeing three Boers shot for wrecking a train at Thabosch, for murder, for high treason and for robbery, one had all three charges against him, and the other two the first two offences.

It was a very solemn affair indeed - all the troops belonging to the garrison were lined up and the firing parties were marched to form 22 rifles for each prisoner, then an ambulance wagon brought up the three condemned men, and one of them did look bad, he was like a walking corpse. They were conducted to a chair which stood beside each of the three graves, and tied down, and their eyes bandaged. Then the General and his staff rode up and the sentences were read "Troops to attention" "Volley Firing ready" " at the centre of the breast of the man in front" "present fire" bang over went the chairs and all. The doctor examined the men and found all dead, and they were put into their graves- and we went back to camp so a 29th man and myself had seen our comrades avenged. Two of our fellows if you remember were killed by the wrecking of that train. Well if it was not for this little incident I should have nothing to tell you this week as one day is much like another.

I wrote to Mr Pemberton last week, as I have run short of money. I asked him to send me 2, have not received it yet, but expect it tomorrow or the next day, as it is two days journey by rail to Brandfort.

I have about 15 due to me up to date, but doubt if they will pay us so much as that until we arrive home, expect they will pay the 1.5.0. per day out here and the balance of the 5/- when we get home.

Don't know if you had better let me settle with Mr Pemberton, think perhaps you had as it will save complications, and risk in postage.

Well I trust you are all Do and So am I. So long for a week.

Yours lovingly, Syd G. Critten

Received here Tuesday 7.15 a.m. 23.4.01

De Aar

Dear All,

Here is another week gone and I am still here. The Column is working somewhere in the Dewtsdorp district and cutting up Fourie's Commando.

Was very pleased to hear of Helen going to M & S. What department is she in? Expect V.I.C.s.

I received 2 from Mr Pemberton which I wrote for on 21 of last month, it took 7 days to get here. I will enclose his letter.

Col Bonham had the 76th Co Rough Riders, on our Column last November, he was in section with us on Nov 3rd and Nov 5th at Reddisburgh and district.

I received letters from you viz Dad, Mother & Ada on March 29th , dated March 8th. I have not yet received baccy you sent, nor letters from Feb 14th and 27th. The letters of 21st from you came by Norham Castle & Tongar, I have to wait until the Column can send them. I have no news to tell you this week - Pemberton's letter may interest you.

Love to all in haste. Yours lovingly, Syd


Government School

My Dear Sydney,

I was very pleased to get a letter from you. I began to think, as I received no news of you that something had happened - I am glad you are alright.

I have sent you a cheque for what you asked, you are very modest in your request for which I like you all the better; a Colonist would have opened his mouth as wide as a barn door.

I can't send the money any other way as we are simply dished up as regards postal arrangements. We are almost in a state of siege, Boers all round jumped at directly you put your nose over the fence. My 2nd lad who is just 15 is in the mounted police, last week about 40 of them had a little battle all to themselves about 5 miles from here - my boy got a bullet between his legs and he is as proud as punch for it. Ralph, my big son, has been transferred on Nesbitt's horse to Johan. Mtd Police, he gets5/- a day all found. He seems very content.

I am in the Town Guard of Brandfort, so you see we are pretty well represented in H.M. Army.

I shall be very pleased to see you, if you only can get here, it would be a nice change for you, and Brandfort is a high healthy place and the change would do you good I am sure.

I have a very good billet here, being employed by the Litery Gov, so am half soldier - my wife and daughter are my 1st and 2nd assistants with very good salaries. So the lot of us manage to make a very good thing of it. We got no news here being almost isolated from the rest of the world. We receive very few letters and don't know if ours ever reach their destinations. All we receive are opened by the military. We are all served alike so we can't grumble.

I don't know how your Dad & Mother would like it, but we seem to have got used to it, and are ready at any minute to take to the trenches which surround the whole place. The women and children have to make for the church.

We had the Bushmen here last week, they are the wildest lot of scamps I ever saw, but awfully jolly and grand fighters. The poor beggars were all in rags, but didn't seem to care a d____. I think I am pretty well known in De Aar - say Pemberton late of Alicedale - I have a good balance in the Grahamstown Standard Bank, as I have not had any reason to draw on it for the last six months.

If there should be any difficulty call on Mr McIvor and ask him if he would kindly pass it through for you.

Hoping to see you soon, I am yours very sincerely,
Mr Pemberton

Received here (Souhwold) Wednesday May 1st 1901 3p.m.

De Aar
April 8th 1901

Dear All,

Still here, I am going to do duty in the remount camp tomorrow, there are about 3,000 horses to look after, am to take charge of about 100 niggers to start with and every horse has to be ridden before sending to a Column, so shall have plenty of riding, and if I am not a rough rider before I come home, it won't be my fault.

I hear that the Yeomanry & Volunteers who have served 12 months out here, are to be home by May 31st - let's hope its true.

I have just received some back letters from you, and papers, dated January 18th, Feb 1st and 15th, they have been to Kroonstad, Bloemfontein, Springfontein, Bethulie, Aliwal North & De Aar and at last I have got them.

Your letters of March 15th arrived here April 5th, having been to the Column and then sent here - pretty quick work only 21 days.

In your letter of Feb 1st you mention Carpenter as being known to Mr Boniwell. Do you remember in our journey up country, I told you of a fellow falling out of the train in his sleep, that was the same chap.

There are some sports here today, Easter Monday, I am going off to see them - there is to be wrestling, mounted on mules, tug of war, mule races for natives, bicycle race for ladies etc. I am going to try and enter the mule race for white men bare backed.

Expect you are all at home now having rare times. With a bit of luck I will join you at Whitsun.

Tell old Flo I received her letter; I don't look for letters from her now and I hope she won't risk writing again on my account, thanks very much for it. Remember me to all old friends at home, trusting you are all well.

I remain yours lovingly, Syd.

P.S. Heard from Pemberton. Cheque 2 which I believe I told you of in my last.

Received here / Southwold, Saturday morning 7.15 a.m. May 4th 1901.

De Aar Remount Camp

Many thanks for letters received by last mail, quite a lot of them, and today received the parcel of socks and tobacco, and tobacco from Ada, surely I shall be well off for tobacco for at least a fortnight, I smoke an awful lot out here, always have my pipe in my mouth.

I returned from Rosmead at 4 o'clock this morning having taken 200 horses there by rail from the dismount camp.

On my journey there I met one of our Sergeants, who has been made a Lieut in the 10th Co. I. Y., he was a jolly good leader with us and ought to make a name for himself.

Three horses jumped out of the train going, and galloped of across the Veldt, apparently unhurt, of course they were lost.

Was very wild to see some of my letters had got into the paper, I feel sure they went in without your knowledge, and I am doubly sorry that the C.I.V.s should have had anything published about them from me, especially as I know many of them, and they are jolly decent fellows. What I wrote was only fun the Regulars made of them, and as for them being home so long before us, well it's not their fault, but the Governments and I don't blame them for going home at all.

I met the Norfolk Volunteers here this morning, among them were some old friends of mine whom I knew when in their ranks at Yarmouth, they had a pretty rough time of it in their march up country, but have not been doing much since.

I wonder how the New Pier withstood the gales - alright I expect, as the company would not put up a cheap structure on that part of the knowing what heavy seas we get there.

I believe the Yeomanry are mobilising at Springfontein, but whether to go home or only on to the Veldt again I don't know. I am going to remain here until something definite is known. The plague at Capetown is a great nuisance, as it stops the time expired men from getting home.

Everything and everybody is being sent from Port Elizabeth and East London, and the Capetown line is in very little use.

We are bordering on a strike with the natives here this afternoon, they want their pay, and want to break from their engagements. I have got a good sjambok ready also my gun, so if it comes to driving, I'll do my share and look out for my skin at the same time.

Am glad Helen likes her new berth expect she get on alright with these girls there, this summer, plenty of amusements on Saturday afternoon, and everybody willing to teach her tennis. No doubt young Gus and her get on well together.

Did I tell you I went to church here on Sunday, I mean Easter Day? The church was packed. I took the sacrament at 7a.m. and I thought you would all be at home. There were only 15 people in all, chiefly garrison officers.

Well this is not a very newsy letter, but better luck next time, much love from, Syd.

Received here, Southwold, Saturday 7.20 a.m. 11.5.01.

Remount Depot>br> De Aar

Dear All,

Another week gone but with better prospects of a return home; an order came out last week "that all Yeomanry unfit for further service in the field, and doing garrison duty should be sent home at once.

Well I don't say I am unfit for further service but doing Garrison duty, and am going to have a shot at getting home under that order. I have seen and done my share and don't feel that I am in any way shirking in trying to get out of it.


Dear All,

Great News, just pinch yourselves and don't get excited, I am coming home, and shall probably be on my way before this letter reaches you, so don't write anymore.

We five Yeomen at the Remounts were sent to hospital to be examined, to see if fit for further service, needless to say, the doctor found us all unfit and said we were to be sent home under a new order from Lord Kitchener.

Don't think for a minute that I am ill, or any such thing, I have just got a hollow tooth or two, and got marked "defective teeth" unfit to eat biscuits.

I have been disappointed in not receiving your letters this mail, hope to get them today or soon.

I went for a good ride yesterday, about 12 miles across the Veldt, I did not see any Boers. I am afraid news is at a premium so you must wait until I come home for anything that may occur.

Oh! I went to church and sat next to General Little last night, what an honour. People must have taken me for his Aide de Camp (or groom).

Well I trust you are all well and will be fit for bathing when I come home.

Love to all, yours Syd.

P.S. Just received several letters dated back as far as February 14th , March 1st and from Jack, Ada, Lil, Mother, Helen, Pops,Dad and Chas for which many thanks.

Copy of Syd's letter received here, Southwold 7.15 a.m. 25.5.01

S.S. Mongolian
The Docks,

Dear All,

Just a line to let you know I'm on the way home, shall be with you soon after this letter, about a week after I expect, as this is a very slow boat. Have not time to write more.

Love to all, yours Syd.

Received here 5.46 p.m. Saturday June 8th 1901.


TO: Critten Chemist, Southwold
Syd. Quite well writing further particulars. Dad, Charlie, Syd.

To Mr R P Critten, "Waverly Hotel, Gt Portland Street,

Fort Brockhurst
June 10th 1901.

Dear Dad,

Only 21 documents have arrived. Mine not amongst them, cannot possibly get away until mine arrives.

Have spoken to Sgt Mjr Dunbar again, but he cannot let me know anything up to the present, says I may have to stop a week, but that does not often occur - There is some hitch in the sending of documents. If I don't hear of arrival of documents before 12 o/c tomorrow (Tuesday) will wire you. I have been kicking up a rare about this treatment, but all to no purpose. Am awfully sorry Ada and Flo had to be disappointed and also for the expense it must have rummed them to.

I went down to Gosport on Sunday night saw the old "Victory" and the "St Vincent" am going to Southsea and Portsmouth tonight. Cannot leave Barracks until 4o'clock week days and 2 o'clock on Sundays.

I wish you had been here on Sunday it is grand country round here, and the shipping is fine.

I think I had better manage to see Flo at Brighton when I get off, if it is going to take sometime, and also spend some few hours at Ipswich with Ada. Then of course I am keeping Mother, Lil and Pops waiting at home, but after waiting eighteen months, a day or two must not put them far wrong, and they will have me for three months. I wonder how long you can stay away from home? You don't know how disappointed I am, but I am used to them. The whole voyage home was one mass of them, and I learn to grumble and soldier on. Hope you will drop Mother a line as to how events stand. I am too unsettled to write.

I received your wire and replied, also wired to Waterloo and Charlie again.

Love to Helen, Gus, Jack , Emmie and everybody.

Yrs, Syd.

Copy of Telegram received from Charlie Thursday afternoon June 13th 1901.

"Syd arrives Waterloo".

On ship board. Just out of ship's hospital where I have been with jaundice since May 8th.

Left De Aar on Friday May 3rd, arrived at Capetown Sunday morning 5th May -
Monday 6th - saw dentist had tooth stopped. Met Wannel Trickey (alias Radford).
Tuesday 7th - embarked on S.S. Mongolian feeling very seedy.
Wednesday - 8th go into hospital, exit on May 14th.

Ship very crowded and no room for the large number of men on deck. About 850 in all . Weather calm. Making good headway for an old tub.
Friday 17th May - Something wrong with the engines two boilers uselss, stopped altogether, after going half day at about four knots per hour.
Saturday 18th May - Going about 5 knots per hour. One of 46 Co. IY died of enteric in the evening.
Sunday 19th May - Bury the Belfast man - still going very slow, boiler mended twice and bust again. Engineer severely burned.
Monday 20th - Boat stopped altogether at 10a.m. - Some of Belfast Yeomanry helping mend boilers, hope to start within 36 hours.

Officers caught a shark today about 6 feet long. Several round the boat but wont take the hook.
Two Red Lights at Masthead tonight.
Another I Y died this evening - Derby
Tuesday May 21st - Buried the Yeoman today 7.30 a.m.
Another shark caught this morning larger than the one caught yesterday - Engines still stopped 10.30 a.m. Laying all day stripped to the waist under a burning sun - water turned off all over the ship.
Wednesday May 22nd - Hurrah we are off at last, and making 12 knots an hour(?) and a nice cool breeze.
Friday 24th -Staffordshire Yeoman dead, buried 8.15 p.m.
Saturday 25th Concert.
Thursday 30th May - Manchester Yeoman died - arrive Las Palmas. Quarantined - no fruit to be bought.
Another Yeoman died, 3rd Battalion, Yorkshire Hussars.
June 1st (Saturday) - Another Derby Yeoman died making six deaths in all.
June 4th - Another man dead 4th Battalion Yeoman Regt Sgt Major - bad meat - devil of a row.

Two very old photos found in the family collection.

I believe the X marks Syd

A photo in the family collection.

South African Military History Society /