Topic: BW - Boer War
A letter from Elands River
Town and Country Journal, 1 September 1900
A fully equiped Bushman
[From: the Town and Country Journal, 24 February 1900, p. 21.]
The following is an extract from the Town and Country Journal, 1 September 1900, p. 21.
At Elands River.
Lieutenant R. E. Zouch, “A” Squadron, N.S.W. Bushmen's Contingent, writing from camp at Eland's River, July 15, says:
We are now in garrison, a dreadful place; and it is hard to say how long we may be kept here. I t is very hard that, after having done so much of regimental work, “B” and “C” Squadrons have now gone ahead of us, and have had two scrapes with the enemy - one at Rustenberg, where we had two men killed and several wounded, one of the latter being Captain Machattie. We haves, however, done good work disarming the enemy, and are keeping open the lines of communication between Mafeking and Rustenburg. This is the coldest place I have ever known; we have no fuel, and the men only one blanket, and hardly any clothes; for we lost most of our kit when we were compelled to retreat from Rustenburg. We are now trying to obtain some boots, clothing, etc, from the "powers that be" but I fear we stand a poor chance of success. All the other regiments here are splendidly equipped, especially the Queenslanders, who are now camped with us; they seem to have everything required, even horse-rugs; while our poor ,horses doing heavy work have no rugs, and are now on half rations.
We often wonder what, our numerous friends in New South Wales would say if they could only see our present plight, and how we are treated ; we came here to light, but in stead of that we are "dumped" ,down by the way side, and, I regret to say, are sorely neglected. Our colonel and staff have done on with the two fresh squadrons, while we have to remain behind to "grin and bear" it, so that "A" squadron is not getting a fair show. We have had no letters since we left Australia (nearly six months ago), except those written a few days after we sailed. This 'is the worst hardship of all, and we are quite out of the world so far as news is concerned, and we know very little about the, war, or what has happened elsewhere. It is cruel that we have' not received letters from the dear ones in Australia, written so many months ago, too. A few days ago we got hold of a Melbourne paper, about, three months old, and we all enjoyed reading it. There was a call to arms a day or two ago, at 4 o'clock in the morning, when we had to stand out on the breast works until sunrise, and afterwards work all day until half-past 4, building forts. I went on duty at 6 p.m., was about all night, and had very little to eat, but I am glad to say that I have felt splendid.
This place cannot be made very strong, as there is very little good material for that purpose, the ground being a mass of slaty chips, but it is the general opinion that the enemy will hardly attack us at present. I am writing, this letter on the walls of an old Zulu fort; there are many such about here. This is a poor country in the winter, but evidently a, fine place in summer. The cattle are a very common lot; their horns are the largest part of them; and I really think the animals are made of leather, as the meat is, something awful. We get enough of this so-called beef, but other articles of diet are scarce - often no sugar nor tea - and all of a most inferior quality. Tobacco is a great luxury, and we have been compelled to use the Boer production, which is as coarse and dry as chaff. A message has been forwarded to Mafeking for our mail to be forwarded here. When it arrives it will be a "red letter day” indeed. It is heart-breaking not to hear from, one's relations and friends, and far harder to bear than all we have gone through. I will send this letter by our cyclist, but it may never reach you, perhaps, as one of our postmen was captured yesterday, and this may share the same fate.
1. The letter's author, Lieutenant R. E. Zouch, “A” Squadron, N.S.W. Bushmen's Contingent.
2. Thomas Alfred Machattie.
Further Reading:Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920
Citation: Elands River, Town and Country Journal, 1 September 1900