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Letter from the front

Private Dicky Morris (Richard Morris) writing home to his sister Miss Nellie Morris, Union street, and his father, gives some very interesting particulars of his doings in South Africa. In the course of the letter dated 11th September, from Potchefstroom, he says:

“I thought our trekking was over, but you will see that it isn’t. On the 22nd August we joined General Hart’s brigade and went on the march, burning farms, taking their forage in fact, clearing the district from Krugersdorp to Potchefstroom.

“The first night it was terrible, thundering, lightning, and hailstones as big as dandies’ eggs. Sleep was impossible. We walked about all night with a wet blanket over us. Next day on the march no chance to dry our blankets. We had a tent given us, but we couldn’t sleep, blankets all wet for three nights.

“August 31st: We had a fight with the Boers, but our naval gun named “Lille Bobs,” soon shifted them. Marched until 8 pm that night.

“September 1st: Marched until 5 pm over kopjes to Wonderfontein. Sunday in camp. Perry and I had a bath, it was a treat.

“September 3: In camp until 9 at night, when we started on the march until 4 in the morning. Lay down for a couple of hours, then off again without any breakfast until 1 o’clock. Stayed at Orange Grove for the rest of the day, Boers close by and had an artillery duel with them until dusk, five casualties.

“September 5: The borderers had to clear the right flank, scaling kopjes of tremendous height, crawling over massive rocks, which, coupled with our equipment, blanket on our back, two days’ rations an 50 rounds extra, made it very hard indeed We scoured the kopjes for about 14 miles, had no dinner and slept in a wood. I am glad to say we were complimented by the General who said we had done splendid work. He was very pleased indeed.

“September 6: Rested all day and had just lain down to sleep at night when the order to pack up was given. Marched until day break and then we were only allowed to sleep for two hours, although we were in camp all day. Off again at 9pm until 1, when we lay down until 5am. Off again for three hours when we came to a village called Doorn Poort. On outpost duty that night.

“September 9: In camp until 6 pm, we were having our tea when the order came to pack up at once. We marched all night and next day until 12 o’clock – 18 hours march and never rested for food. We covered 42 miles, a record march in South Africa; the officers and men were clean done up. My legs and feet were awfully painful. The General then ordered extra rations. The General said ‘I thought the Dublin’s could march, but the Welshmen are the best.’ Potchefstroom is a lovely little place…

“Not one of our company fell out. The Major who is a nice officer gave one or two of them a lift on his horse. Perry stuck it grandly, his feet keeping grandly. I was as strong as ever, and felt well in myself, but my legs felt like as if someone was running a knife in them. I believe it is rheumatism. I am in good health and spirits.

“September 12: At 11 pm we had orders to pack up. So we marched until one, and lay down till dawn. Then off again about eight o’clock. Our naval gun fired half-a-dozen shells searching the kopjes, but the enemy was not to be found. Off again till 11, had breakfast – one biscuit and some coffee with no sugar. Rested till two, and marched till six pm, when we arrived at Frederickstad. The object was to clear the kopjes round the railway.”

In another letter to his father Mr Morris says that there is talk of their coming home early. He believed they would be home about Christmas. The Boers were roaming about in bands of 100 or 200. In one engagement the bullets were dropping around them.

(Montgomery County Times and Shropshire and Mid-Wales Advertiser, 03-11-1900) - Transcribed by Kjell Hanssen

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