WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA
1899

BOUND  for  SOUTH AFRICA:  Writing  to  his  father  from  on  board  the  transport  ship  Zayathla,
Corporal  Barkham,  62nd  Battery  RFA  Says  “We  sail  for  South  Africa  tomorrow,  to  try  to  teach
Kruger some good manners. We left Aldershot last night at 10.30 pm and travelled all night. We had

East Suff Gaz 3 Oct 

a  good  send-off  from  Aldershot,  bands  to  play  us  away,  etc.  We  arrived  here  (Victoria  Wharf,
Birkenhead) this morning about 7.30 and were met at the station by the Volunteer Band. They played
our  inspection march  and “Auld  Lang  Syne” while we watered  our horses  at the station.  We then

mounted,  and  they  took  the  lead  and  played  us  through  Liverpool.  The  route  was  crowded  with
people, and they cheered us the whole way, shouting “Give old Kruger socks!” Others shouted “Keep

a  stout  heart,  my  lads!”  This  is  a  very  good  boat,  though  rather  small  (not  so  large  as  the  old
troopers).  Defects  were  discovered  in  the  ship  soon  after  leaving  port,  and  the  Zayathla  put  into

Queenstown owing to the boilers leaking.. The transport continued her voyage on Friday.
St BENET’S Requiem Mass for the repose of all those brave officers and men who have been slain in

1899
East Suff Gaz 7 Nov 

the war in South Africa.
DOMESTIC SIDE of WAR by an old soldier. The departure of a Battalion beyond the shores of this
country  causes  the  keenest  distress  imaginable  to  women  and  children.  Although  not  expressly

1899
East Suff Gaz 7 Nov 

forbidden,  matrimony,  as  an  institution  for  the  rank  and  file  of  the  army,  is  not  enthusiastically
encouraged by the military powers. The  number  of  officially  recognised  unions  among privates is
severely limited to  four per  cent of the  strength of  a  regiment. To sergeants  and warrant officers,

however, a greater measure of liberality is displayed in the matter, and in either case free quarters are
provided in the barracks, with fuel and light, and various other allowances.
As a result, no provision of quarters or rations is made for the soldier’s “encumbrances” as a wife and

 
 

family are somewhat quaintly described in military parlance if they are “off the strength”. In these
circumstances the husband has to support his household as best he may.
Ex  -Sergt-Major  Barkham,  Fair  Close,  will  put  them  in  communication  so  that  they  can  receive

 
 

assistance.
NEWS from SOUTH AFRICA: Corporal AJ Barkham: We landed at Cape Town last Wednesday and
immediately  commenced  disembarking  our  guns  and  horses  from  the  ship  and  entrained  them  at

1899
East Suff Gaz 21 Nov 

once. We finished about 8 pm & received orders to proceed to De Aar, where we were to encamp. It
was 38 hours ride in the train, and a lot of our infantry and cavalry are stationed. We got a splendid
reception  along the route from Capetown to  our  camp.  We were  cheered  all the way,  and a  lot of

English ladies and gentlemen gave us food, refreshments, tobacco etc.. When we reached De Aar we
were not allowed to dis-entrain, but ordered to go 76 miles further to the front. We are now encamped

beside the Orange River, and across the river is Orange Free State.
The camp is surrounded by the enemy, and the infantry and cavalry were quite delighted when they

 
 

saw our guns. Before we came the only guns they had were two 9-pounder muzzle-loaders. Three of
our guns in action hold the railway and railway bridge across the river. Our others are situated to hold

the surrounding country, and we  have patrols  out for ten to twenty miles  round  our  camp.  We  are
waiting for reinforcements, and also for General Buller, when we advance to the relief of Kimberley.
The railway carriages were very comfortable indeed; there were six beds in each compartment, and as

 
 

we had only six to each compartment we had a bed each. We reached the camp about 5 pm on Friday
27th and immediately pitched our camp and picketed our  horses.  We were very tired when we had
done, so we went to bed about 8 pm. About 9 o’clock we had a very violent thunderstorm; we were

all flooded out of our tents, and the horses broke loose and wandered all over our camp. After it had
finished we laid down in any dry spot we could find, and managed to sleep very well till 11.30 am,
when the assembly sounded, and everyone sprang up, and immediately we were under arms.

 
 

The infantry and cavalry went out to meet the enemy (cavalry dismounted) but all we could do was to
stand to our guns. However the Boers were driven back, and at dawn we started our duties. The sun is
fearfully hot here, and no man is allowed to be out except with his helmet on. The discipline is very

strict;  every  officer  and  man  has  to  sleep  with  his  clothes  and  boots  on  ready  to  turn  out  at  a
moment’s notice. Reveille is sounded every morning at 4.30 am and at 4.35 every man has to be on
p[arade  under  arms,  and  keeps there until the patrols came  in  and  report  all  clear. The  nights  are

fearfully cold and the days very hot.
We are living very well just at present, plenty of fresh meat and bread, and two pints of beer a day,
coffee, tea etc

 
 
1899

LETTER from ORANGE RIVER, South Africa from Corporal FA Barkham, RFA, I have not seen a
bed for nearly two months; but this is an exciting life and there is a certain amount of fun in it when

East Suff Gaz 12 Dec 

one knows that he is sleeping surrounded by danger. Yesterday I was sitting reading, when suddenly I
heard “Boot and saddle” sound. We harnessed up, and were away in twenty minutes to the scene of

action, where we saw a large party of Boers driving our patrols back. We got into action on a hill and
fired a few rounds at them, when they immediately retired. There are only a few troops in camp here,
9th  Lancers, the  Fighting Fifth  (Northumberland  Fusiliers),  and  about  half  a battalion of Munster

Fusiliers, and 200 Mounted Infantry. We expect the New South Wales Lancers here today, and about
13,000 troops from England. When we advance up-country our first place will be Kimberley. There
we shall relieve the garrison, and then march through the Transvaal.

 
 

We were  in the Orange  Free  State yesterday,  in action. During the fight yesterday the  Lieutenant-
Colonel  and  a  Lieutenant  of  the  Mountain  Infantry  were  killed,  and  a  Lieutenant  and  five  men
wounded. We had no casualties. While I am writing this letter the funeral of the two officers is taking

place, and the band is playing.
LETTER from PRIVATE C ALLEN to his wife [he married Annie Gilding  in July  1897  and was  
born  1875, the son  of  FJ Allen, builder]  No  7 Company,  1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards,  Field

1899
East Suff Gaz 12 Dec 

Force, South Africa from Orange River. We left by train from Cape town, Nov 16th and arrived here
on  Saturday at  night. It was  a  long  and tedious  journey. The railway runs  between  mountains.  We

have run up a mountain 4000 feet above the level of the sea. We had four engines to get up. It is the
finest railway in the world.  We  are  now 570 miles from the Cape, we can see the  enemy,  and we

move to attack on Monday, but by the time you get this we shall be well up the country. We stop for
nothing. It will be one rush till we get to the finish. In this camp there are about 15,000 all fighting

men. We  have had  a brush with the  enemy; but they were afraid to face us. Our  artillery fired two
shots  and  captured several prisoners. The Boers  are  giving way.  Some  come  in they want  food.  I
think we are having a fine time. We have thousands of mules and horses, and prepare for a lot more

this week. They are well  horsed, but not for long. As soon  as we  advance we shall stop their wild
career. We relieve Kimberley and Mafeking this week [hopeful!], so you will know who is doing it -
the Guards.

 
 

We had a spree coming up. A Boer got up a telegraph pole to cut the wires. A Cape boy told him to
come down; but he only told him once, the next time he out with his revolver and put a piece of lead
through  him,  which  brought  him  down  with  a  run.  A  statio-master  was  fetched  out  and  tried  for

giving information to the Boers. They decided his lot by putting a rope round his neck and stringing
him up.
We shall be the first to cross the border out of the British Army. Tell Walter Rivett that his brother-

 
 

in-law Joyce is with us, his brother is in my tent, and tell him not to catch the pike, as I shall want
some next winter if I get through this job. You must not worry about me, but keep a good heart, as we
shall not be here long. In less than two months we shall be coming back.

1900
1902

VICTORIES in SOUTH AFRICA celebrated in the Parish Church.
WAR: Beccles  Volunteers who signed for service  in  South Africa  leave Norwich with the  Service
Company.

Diary Dated 4 Mar 
 
Almanack 3 Mar
1902
Almanack 28 May 

WAR: A hearty welcome is  given to volunteers returning  from  active service  in  South Africa. The
members  of the Artillery  Volunteer Band were present [& played “Rule Britannia”], and the  large

crowd lustily cheered as the train approached. The returning men were Privates A. Ingate, W. Rowe,
W. Smith, W. Weavers, and A. Aldred [of the 2nd Norfolk Volunteer Service]

1902

PEACE:  Thanksgiving  service  at  the  Parish  Church  for  the  restoration  of  Peace  in  South  Africa.
Torchlight  procession:  Fire  Brigade,  Trade  Carts  etc,  Cyclists,  Yeomanry,  Artillery  Bands,  Torch

East Suff Gaz 10 Jun 

Bearers, Trumpet Band, Artillery Volunteers, Torch Bearers, Mayor & Corporation, Rifle Volunteers,
Motor Car, Torch Bearer.