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|Trooper Malcolm Stewart (Haynes)|
309 Trooper Malcolm Stewart Haynes New South Wales Imperial Bushmen
From Randwick, May 1900 to Klerksdorp, May 1901
Trooper Haynes dropped his surname to enlist as Malcolm Stewart. His family must have been aware because the letters found their way home. Later he advised he had "got his Name back". Within his family and close circle of friends he was also known as "Mac".;
These letters were given by the Haynes family to the Royal United Services Institute, New South Wales Branch in 1996 for safe keeping and the information of members.
One of Trooper Haynes’ nephews was Colonel John Haynes OAM psc, jssc, joined the Royal Australian Armoured Corps as a Trooper in 1948, was a Vietnam Veteran and in the 1990s was a member of the RUSI Council.
Value conversion is based on the rate of pay for a trooper in 1900 vs that of a trooper in the Australian Army in 2013. Please note that the attitudes are those of an Australian in 1900 not one in 2013. The buttons above take you to the letters written on the dates indicated.
Mrs A Haynes
CURRA via PARKES NEW SOUTH WALES
Dear Dad and Mum,
I got here safe and sound on Wednesday morning, found my way to Randwick but was too late for any show whatever for the Bushman’s so I volunteered for the third contingent, passed the doctor this morning and got into camp.
Young Selborne has passed as far as I for the third, he had no show for the Bushman’s’. They are all decent fellows in camp but a few sharks. Milligan & McPhee have left camp – I have never met them, all I ever know here are the two Lourings and Selborne. I feel pretty sure of passing the riding and shooting is nothing.
I saw Angie Robertson and Mac Draffon this afternoon but they did not see me, we were drilling and I had no time to hunt them up afterwards. The corporals are fine fellows, they shout themselves hoarse. I don’t know how they keep their tempers some men are the most awkward squanders ever walked. it is good fun to watch them. I will write again about a horse. They are as fine a lot as ever you seen in the Bushman’s. This is all the news I can think of so I close with best love to all.
Your sincere old boy
Mac S Haynes
Remember me to old friends.
May 13th 1900
Just a few lines to let you know how things are going. We have had a splendid trip – all fine weather since we left Albany, sea as smooth as glass. You can hardly feel the ship roll. Everyone seems to be thoroughly enjoying it though most of us have colds. It is very warm, most of us sleep on deck.
The horses are doing splendidly they are in splendid condition. We have lost about eight or nine and have been having saddle inspections these last few days.
I am a few things short. I find the flannels and drawers very acceptable, will be sending home for more when they are worn out. We passed Madagascar Island this morning, passed another little island after dinner. I have taken on orderly for Lieut Robinson. I just took it on in time as they were looking for me this morning to put me on the transport wagons. I have a bit more work but get 5/- [approx $(AU)500 in 2013 terms] a week extra, besides tips.
We expect to disembark on Thursday. We have 36 hours on the train to Fort Salisbury in the centre of Rhodesia. I can’t think of anything to write, only that we saw some flying fish yesterday. I don’t think I told you that Albany is a very desolate looking place, nothing but sandstone rock with some stunted scrub. We stopped about five hours, were anchored in the stream, never saw any of the town.
Well Mum, I must shut up for want of news. Put off 36 stowaways at Albany and then some dodged them – there are a few on now. Expect you got my last note long ago. Write as often as you like, I will get them sometime.
Hoping this finds you all as well as it leaves me, with best love to all and xxx for Kitty. I remain,
Your sincere son
Tell the girls not to be mushing those Bogan Boys. Hoping they are having a good time. Expect the crop is all in and safe now. Tell Dad I made my Will again. Will and account book all in one, saves a lot of trouble, but it won’t be wanted. Have been having lime juice since we left Albany.
Private M Stewart
309 A Squadron
Rhodesia via South Africa
May 31st 1900
Just a few words to let you know I am all right. I just heard that they are closing the mail bag in a few minutes.
We got into the Beira Harbour on the 17th – were on board till Saturday. We came off in squadrons. Beira is a small place with about two hundred whites and 2,000 blacks.
They are closing the bag so I must close but you will get a sheaf some of these days.
Hoping this finds you all as well as it leaves me. With love to all.
July 21st 1900
Dear Father and Mother,
We arrived here on the 19th and got your letters soon after. I am glad you are all well. You must be having a splendid season over there – you will make a nice bit this year. I wish I was home again, or if I got leave home I would be satisfied. I only got your letter, I expected some from Jess and the boys by this mail.
We had a splendid trip from Mariandellas where I arrived after being a week in the hospital at Umtali with the fever. I got the fever in Beira the day I wrote you my last letter and I was dashed sorry afterwards that I posted it. You will have to excuse the pencil, too much trouble and time to use ink.
I left the next day for Bamboo Creek, a terrible, rotten place for fever. I was there three days. A one horse place, one pub, a store and railway station where we got onto the railway gauge. We thought we would be put on in quick time from Bamboo Creek, but to our mistake we would go two or three miles [3 or 6 km] and have to stop to get wood and water, then another 3 or 4 miles [5 or 6 kilometres] and stop for steam.
There is no system whatever in the Portugese railways. We would run on a siding and wait half a day for another train to pass, but I was too crook to care whether she stopped or went.
I never ate anything for about a week till I was put into the hospital. We got to Umtali on Monday about 8 pm [20:00h] 21st June. Three or four of my mates and I were put on a cart that was yoked onto six bullocks and taken to hospital. I laughed in spite of myself at the Kaffir drivers, it is as good as a circus to see them drive bullocks. They have whips 40-60 feet [12-18 metres] long and speak to the bullocks like dogs barking.
We passed through splendid country for grass and water. Imagine a well watered orchard gone wild for about five years and you will see the country between Bamboo Creek and Umtali and most of it is gold bearing.
I was in the hospital for six days where I was treated splendidly. There were four Melbourne nurses there who came over with the second contingent. I had a narrow escape of being sent home. The flap of the tent blew off at Bamboo Creek and I woke wet with dew. I got rheumatics in the left wrist and right foot, but it soon went away and I came to right as rain.
All I thought about was eating. I had plenty of brass that I was going to keep for tobacco and matches but I spent it all on tucker. They don’t give us half enough rations for our appetites, but plenty to keep us in good health.
Umtali is a nice little village, several stores and a hotel. There were ten thousand British yeomanry landed in Beira several weeks before us. They went down with fever like rotten sheep – can’t stand the hardships like us. They put us on ahead of them and we left them at Umtali.
I left Umtali on the 18th. We got into the train at 3.30 pm [15:30h] which was to leave at 4.00 [16:00h], but we waited and made ourselves as comfortable as circumstances would permit, even went to sleep and woke in the morning in the same place. We never got a start till 10.00 am [11:00h].
Had a good time from there to Marriandad shooting buck and hyenas all the way, but it was the slowest and most unsystematic train imaginable. The drivers would stop and sleep at night as the country got more open, There was a level steep kopje rising straight out of the ground; running steams every few miles; grass five to ten feet [3 metres] high and the land was full of deer.
We reached Mariandellas at 2.00 pm [14:00h] on the 21st and marched up to the camp where we found A Squadron, all ready for the march to Bulawayo. I got my new saddle and kit that night as the old ones were condemned.
We also got wallets and rifle buckets (we have Lee Speed rifles similar to the ones we had at Kensington but three pounds [1.3 kg] lighter), and new overcoats, big black ones with cape – one is as good as two blankets. With two new shirts; knife strung to our necks; khaki pants, socks and boots, we could not be better clothed. I have gone through more clothing since I joined the Contingent than ever before in my life. Got paid and left Mariandellas the next afternoon.
We had bullock teams for transport as ours were condemned. We had an Hungarian pony each for remounts, but I and three others were on guard over the wagons
We started about 5.00 pm [17:00h], went six miles [9 km] and camped near a running stream on the first night and got to bed about 1.00 am [01:00h]. We were relieved from guard duty after three days and nights and I was dashed glad to get into the troop again. I also got a good remount – they are good ponies, the same style we had in Victoria.
We packed our own horses most of the way and rode the ponies. My mare has kept pretty right. We landed them in splendid nick in Beira, but the train knocked six months work out of them. They are not over it yet. I am glad I did not bring a horse of my own, it would have been only throwing money away.
We crossed a lot of bluetongue country. Their tongues would swell up and stick out of their mouths. The train driver would lead them off the track and shoot him. The track was also lined with dead horses and bully beef tins.
We started our march without any salt or nitre for the horses which was a dashed shame. Some of the poor beasts nearly died for want of a feed of nitre. We only had oats and corn for them and very little of that. If it had not been for the grass we would never have got through.
We travelled at the rate of 10 miles [16 kilometres] a day, leaving the camp at 6.30 am [06:30h] and march until about nine or ten, when we would meet up with the wagons, feed our horses and catch and hobble them out. We would then have our breakfast, clean up until two or three in the afternoon and start off again.
The bullock wagons travel at night here from 3.00 pm [15:00h] until 10.00 [22:00h], have a few hours camp and then travel until 6.00 [06:00h] or 7.00 [07:00h] in the morning.
We had a picnic from Mariandellas. All we had to do was get up at 6.30 [06:30h], saddle our horses and pack our remounts. We would start at 6.30 [06:30h] and at night ride into camp, tie up our horses and get our supper. Our picket would go ahead and get the lines up. We mostly had good camps and enjoyed warm weather, although there was one frost at Shangiva. Because we had four blankets, our overcoats and oil heating it would take a lot of frost to hurt us.
Our route crossed the best watered country I ever saw – running streams every few miles, a regular watershed and grass higher than our horses’ backs. I saw a lot of Australian grass, a sort of couch, the high stalks resemble kangaroo grass. It is good country, white and red sands, black and red clay and a few rocks. It has no timber worth mentioning. I have not seen a tree in SA yet, most of it grows like fruit trees and boxthorn, but thorns twice as long and shrubs very much like Tasmanian wattle.
We saw some beautiful country. Imagine the country around Parkes with no timber. You can see for miles, some reckon this is going to be another young Australia – all the creeks are gold bearing. My mate picked up some nice specimens, but I couldn’t find any.
I would like to see the rainy season before I would say too much. All the land belongs to companies, you can buy it for 3 or 4 shillings an acre. There is talk of giving us three or thirty thousand acres, I don’t know which and 25 head of cattle and twenty pound a year as an inducement to stop there after the war. I will snap it up if the conditions suit. I intend to see a bit of SA before I settle in Australia.
We had some ructions about rations on the road. The cooks were serving it up and at first we would get a toothful of tea and sugar and only four biscuits a day, so we got it weighed and now we get twice as much. My mate and I would get cornmeal and rice sugar etc at the stores on the track and made rum sauce for our porridge one morning as we get rum twice a week. I weighed 12 stone 3 when I came out of hospital and am nearly fourteen now.
C Squadron went on as advance guard and a battery of pompoms leaving Mariandellas two days before us. They got here three days ago – 65 of them are going onto Mafeking tomorrow by train. We were supposed to go to Fort Juli by road but we know absolutely nothing until we get the order to pack up and go. If we go to Fort Juli we will be in the midst of the Boers.
You know more about the war than we do. We know nothing – can’t believe what we hear, one says it’s all over and the next that it’s just started, but I’m sure we have some fighting ahead.
We heard the Bushies had a go and fought like Australians. The Yeomanry reckon that the Australians have won all the battles for the British, but that is saying too much.
I went into Bulawayo the night before last. It is a nice little place, but too scattered. It is lit by electricity and at night it’s like a large city firm. It’s on a bit of a hill and there are one or two splendid buildings – you could compare them with the Victoria Markets in Sydney, but not as large.
Things are fairly cheap here, tobacco is 6d per lb [$(AU)11.35 per kilo in 2013 terms] approx and we get it supplied to us, one pound [454 grams] a month. They charge us one and four pence for it, but I smoke 2 lbs [approx 1 kilo] a month.
We had some volley firing yesterday. If the targets had been 1,000 Boers we would have shot the lot. We are anxious for a shot at something. Today we had mounted drill and got paid this morning. We can draw it all or just what we require. They have four pounds of mine so far [$(AU) 4,000 in 2013 terms]. I don’t intend drawing more than a few matches.
Leaborn is Lieutenant Robinson’s orderly now. I got full up of him. We left him in the Mariandellas hospital. Gilman and another trooper out of A Squadron let Mariandellas three or four days before I caught them as an advance guard to Lord Carrington, goodness knows where they are now.
This is the lousiest lot of men and horses I every heard of. We have to de-louse ourselves every day and the ticks are something terrible on the horses. They get on them like lice and swell themselves up as big as the end of your finger. When the tick fall off there’s another small one goes in the hole he leaves. There are three sorts of ticks – Bottle tick, small one like a louse that goes in the hole the Bottle tick makes and another red tick with legs like red tailed spiders. He gets in the place where there is no hair, fills himself up, grows wings and flies about laying eggs.
I am having a race with the candle. I have it in my jacket and am writing on the back of my saddle bag with a blanket or two over my legs. You can’t write in the daytime for the wind and dust here. Goodness knows when you will get this letter or where I will be, this is just to let you know, we get the best of care taken of us.
Well I must shut up. I can think of more tomorrow if I have time. Hoping this finds you as well as it leaves me. With love to all and remembrance to all old friends.
I remain, your sincere old boy
M Stewart Haynes
xxxxx some for Kitty
Tell Bill and Jess to write a few lines. The Times would be very acceptable. Haven’t had anything to read this month.
Wish J.H.A was with me over here.
August 31st, 1900
Dear Father and Mother,
Just a few lines to let you know how things are going. I had no time to finish the note in Mafeking. Mathiewan passed through here on the 27th with 6,000 men. We got the news from some of the old Bushmen who were with him, that we had beaten the Boers at Elands River.
You can imagine our feelings. Carrington is just an old whiskey sopper. He left this morning having been recalled. General Douglas is taking his place.
We had very heavy thunder storms last night and the night before, but I was on police duty and was under cover, but the men on the veldt got soaking wet.
About 3,000 of us left Mafeking on the 10th to retake Ottoshoop. A Squadron was advance guard as usual. We advance up to the foot of the hill when one of our scouts came galloping back with the wood of his rifle split in two. We fixed bayonets and charged the town. Some of the squadron was ordered to get round to the rear but when we got in we could see the Boers leaving about a mile [1.6 km] away.
We followed them for about three miles [5 km] and then came back to camp. They wanted three men to get to the Elande River the best way we could. They chose my mate, me and a corporal. We reported ourselves to the Major who put us on MP duty looking after the farms from looting etc. We had a splendid time. I am getting to be an expert at scalding pigs and cleaning fowls.
We have been here ever since messing the men about going out, firing a few shots, then retreating. One of A Squadron was shot dead the other day and another was wounded. Walter Louring and 8 or 9 others have been captured. Some of the Victorians and Poms shot 80 of them a week ago. The Vics lost a Captain, a Lieutenant and a Private, who were shot dead along with the New Zealanders, a Captain and a Lieutenant.
Fighting the Boers is like breaking an empty eggshell – when you break it, what you want is gone. There is no satisfaction the way we do it. We fire away at a kopje where the Boers are, but they won’t let us charge them and finish it.
This is all the news I can think of. We might be on our way home by the time you get this note. I have seen enough of it and the country is not worth having. Hoping this finds you all as well as it now leaves me. With love to all and remembrances to all old friends.
I remain your sincere old boy
M S Haynes
xxxxx some for Kitty
I saw Mr Louring yesterday, he is with the Ambulance Corp.
Sept 5th 1900
Your welcome letter to hand at Bulawayo. I am glad you are all well and having such a good time. After the lecture I found some very interesting news. I think the note you got was intended for another Tom. You must excuse the paper, a fellow can’t get foolscap nor a chair or desk to work on.
Well Tom, we have had a merry time in SA. We had a great trip in the boat, landed at Beira in good health and condition, but if we had stopped there for long we would have all been dead. It’s the lowest, most sickly place I ever struck. Just a white man’s grave. All the work is done by Kaffirs, they get them for their scoff – one pound per month.
We were there for a fortnight, before leaving. I was ‘jerry juggler’ to our Lieutenant and had a good time until I got the fever three days before we left. They treated us like sheep. Marching about 30 of us into an open ballast truck with room for about 10 sending us to Bamboo Creek.
We came to Bamboo Creek where the wide gauge railway line came to another awful place for fever. However, there is plenty of good country if it were not for the climate. You can imagine a well watered orchard gone wild for nine or ten years, with grass 12 feet [3.6 metres] high and another grass of a stunted nature.
We then came to Umtall after a three day trip. The Portuguese have no system whatsoever for running trains. They have to stop and get wood and sometimes, to get up steam, run on to a siding and wait half a day for another train to pass. The drivers stop sometimes to shout back.
I was in hospital for a week, came out and went to Mariandellas with E Squadron. Arrived there the night before we left for Bulawayo. Five or six were left in the hospital, our Lieutenant among them. Haven’t heard of them since.
We had a twenty eight day trip to Bulawayo, the best times we’ve had, then started for Mafeking on the 22nd. We arrived about 8.00 am [08:00h] and left the next morning to relieve Baden Powell, but marched to Ludenbgerg without fighting the enemy. Then onto Elande River where the A Squadron captured a trophy after some hard fighting – bullets raining around us like hail, but we took no notice of them. The shells made our blood run cold – if one had burst over us it would have killed us all.
It was marvellous that some of us were not shot. We won the battle and camped that night where we had been the day before, but the next day we had to cut our way out. We retired to Mafeking and started after two days spell with the rest of the Regiment to take Ottoshoop.
A Squadron is always advance guard when there is any fighting, or looking after the rear when we are retreating. We charged Ottoshoop with fixed bayonets but by the time we got over the rise we could see the Boers going out the other side of the town.. We followed them for three miles [5 km]. When they turned there was some very sharp sniping, but we returned to town without a scratch and then 20 of us were put on police duty to stop looting.
We had a splendid time, brought the women off the farms and had to have them guarded. We had fowls and pigs and all sorts of berries while our mates were out sniping. One got shot. Another of my mates was recommended for a VC for getting a wounded mate home and dispersing eight Boers to the Squadron.
The night before last I was on our observation post and last night we could see the Boers putting up breastworks about 4,000 yards [4,000 metres] away. We were fired on in the morning but soon scattered the enemy with a few volleys. Also, the telegraph line was out yesterday morning and in consequence between here and Mafeking our guns had a narrow escape – about 500 Boers had them surrounded but were not game to charge them. Lord Matthews passed through on the 27th on his way to Mafeking.
This is splendid country for fruit. We lived on oranges and on our way to Elands River we took a deserted store the day before the fight and found a good supply of berries, peaches and apricots. Trees grow wild. We are offered farms up in Rhodesia, but I wouldn’t have one for all the tea in China.
We had some dust last week and a thunderstorm the other night that laid the dust. The country is most peculiar around the high kopjes and plains – covered with barest rock and all volcanic with very little timber
I’m looking forward to some of your papers but haven’t received any yet, although I received papers and letters from home at Mafeking. Matthews Cavalry got out yesterday at Zeerust when nine were wounded. Had a camp fire concert on the 23rd and most of our horses have sore backs – we’re giving in our old saddles and getting English panels.
Your old chum
Scraps and Latest Mulgas
September 7th 1900
On observatory post this morning can’t see any Boers although we expected an attack last. We are moving in a few days. B Squadron with 180 men is stopping to garrison the town. All the Colonials, excepting the Imperial men are homeward bound next month. Lord Robert had a skirmish, 900 were killed and there were wounded on both sides.
Some of the New Zealanders shot, wounded and captured – five the day before yesterday. We have reckoned about 100 Boers have been killed and wounded since we started. I have seen 20 or 30 dead myself.
We call the Padget Horse P.H. – Perpetually Harmless. They call us I.B. – Ignorant B…..
One of their officers was visiting our Cossack posts the night before last, I halt a man in a very rough tone of voice and he rode up and said "Why don’t you put some music in your voice?" The next post heard him and when his turn came he said: "Da diddle, rum, tim, to, who comes there?" The officer rode up quite indignant, wanted to know what he meant. "Oh" he said, "that’s the only bally tune I could think off". Very funny.
The other day one of them came along wearing an eyeglass. He looked at one of my mates then pushed up a stirrup iron and gazed at him through it with his eyeglass.
It is appalling to see the way the furniture, homes, crockery etc is broken and thrown about in these farmhouses. I sympathise with them when they come crying about it, but take all I want of any use. I was interrupted by a some Boers trying to sneak up on us, but a couple of shots sent them back like buggery. We eat like dogs out here Tom – bully and biscuit every day. Bran makes shocking porridge, pollard would be a luxury, damper a treat, yet we are in splendid health and condition and as happy as kings.
A man has a splendid prospect taking one of these farms in Rhodesia. Sheep won’t live. 95% of horses die yearly with horse sickness and snakes die of fever. Excuse the dust on the paper – terrible dusty weather before the storm, but lovely grass growing well.
Scraps – Baden-Powell’s Bluff and Mafeking
One – and the most important one was Powell sending the trucks of gunpowder. The engine driver, having orders to take it out several miles [km] lighting fuse and retiring but was attacked when five miles [8 km] out.
He saw the Boers coming, left the trucks and got back as fast as possible. The Boers put a volley into the trucks and blew them up but never got over the shock. Powell placed rows of white stones round certain places telling the niggers to keep the mules off them as they were undermined. It was another great piece of bluff.
Cronje sent in word that if he did not surrender there would be terrible bloodshed. Powell asked when was he going to start the next day. They put good shells in and killed one dog. Our trenches were dug up within a few yards [metres] of the Boers. Some of us threw a bottle of whiskey at a concertina – they were very fond of music and dancing and when the whiskey took effect, one huge Boer jumped on the bank and was riddled.
Every house in the town has been hit. Roofs riddled with shrapnel, pieces of shell lying everywhere. When relief came, the Boers scattered everywhere, they were in a terrible hurry to get away. One seized a pair of old pants, another got away with only his shirt on.
He came to a farm where there were only some women. He was crying and lifted up his shirt to wipe the tears away.
Some never stopped till they got to Ottoshoop, a distance of 18 miles [29 km] and shot one of their own men who was wearing a British uniform. Baden Powell had a machine in the centre of the town that whenever they fired, the big gun would thrown up a lot of dust. They thought they had the range but their shells were going to a quarter of a mile [0.4 km] over the town. The pompoms are in situ towards Mafeking.
Mafeking is situated on a large rolling plain, not a bit of scrub for miles (I don’t call it timber). One particular feature of this country – it is covered with butt rock that has been blown up by some eruption. It’s a town about the size of Parkes with a nice running stream and waterworks and a nice little railway station.
Firing getting heavy – must get ready. More anon.
Goodbye from Mac.
Lake Wom De
September 18, 1900
I now take the opportunity to drop you a few lines. We left Ottoshoop Sunday week. Fought our way out to Jamison’s store. The first day was called out at three the next morning; travelled about six miles [9.5 km] and saw the prettiest Boer farm I have ever seen.
We commandeered 3 or 4 hundred head of stock. Plenty of green stuff for our horses, also wheat and barley. Our horses get 5 lbs, 4 quarts [2.5 kg] of grain besides what we can commandeer. A Squadron was on outpost the next morning. Captain Byrie and a trooper were wounded, we shot four Boers at the outpost where I was. Commanded the country for miles [km] – we saw it all. I am sending a rough sketch of the battle as near as I can as it is.
The next day was the fun. We had marched about 3 miles [5 km] when, around sunrise, the scout sighted a convoy. We charged about 20 miles [32 km] over a rolling plain. It was great fun galloping up to the wagons, asking to "hands up". If they hesitated they would get a bullet through them. We got 103 farmers and 50 wagons – about 6,000 head of stock.
We were out all day. When we got back to camp we found we had lost two men shot. Alec King, an old M 1 cobber of mine and L White, who rode up to a wagon, asked them to "hands up" and they got a volley.
Our horses are in splendid condition. My old Rookwood mate is better than our Sally Kruger, the best mare in the Squadron. We only have about 15 in our Squadron.
We are camped on a Salt Lake today and have not seen a fire these four days. We are under General Douglas who will not take defeat. Some of the prisoners told us that we had them, but at Elands River and runaway. They are taking 100 of us who haven’t seen any fighting on a flying patrol under Mathiewan to relieve the servicemen.
Hoping this finds you as well as it leaves me.
With love to all. Your old boy
xxxxx and some to Kitty.
Have not seen a letter or paper since we left Mafeking on 10 August. All our kits etc. have gone onto Pretoria. Hope you are having a good clip this year. This country right enough for sheep if a man had about 100,000 acres.
Near Lake Wom De
September 18, 1900
This rough sketch shows a portion of our convoy. About 500 Colonials and four 15 pounders in action in a skirmish near Ottoshoop. I happened to be on outpost and saw the whole performance. They fired about 20 shells and killed three or four Boers.
The 2nd Troop C Squadron rode about two miles [3 km] into the Boer lines. They fired a few shots when they saw 50 Boers coming to cut them off and raced for their life. Three of them got cut off. They took their hats, coats and arms and were going to shoot them when shrapnel burst over their heads and they let them go and they raced for cover.
On the right is a Squadron of NZs. They took the hill, got to cover, and fired a few volleys when the Boers put the pompoms on them. Further over are two 10 pounders shelling the Boers out of the scrub. Here in the morning Captain Byrie and a trooper, Edmunds, were wounded going to their outposts.
October 6, 1900
Dear Dad and Mum
Just a few lines to let you know how things are going. I sent a note from Barpaspan the Salt Lake, where three Squadrons of the 6th IBs went with Mathiewan to relieve some town, but he was three days too late. It was relieved when he got there. We moved three miles [5 km] to a dry salt lake called Seewapun where we camped for five days. A terrible, dusty place. We were on outpost at a Boer farm and got 3 pigs, as much potatoes, tobacco and greenstuff as we could carry.
Had an Imperial Band playing every night for a concert etc and a day’s military sports tug-o-war; a mule race and some foot races. One foot race which the 5th NZ won, I would have won but my Troop was sent to rout out some Boers a few miles [km] from camp, so had a few volleys over head.
We left there on our way to Leichtenberg travelling 20 miles [32 km] a day turning out at 1.00 am [01:00h] and getting to camp about 10 [10:00h]. The second day we had just got our horses off the grass and were having some dinner when we got word of 500 Boers, 2 guns and 5 pom poms. We saddled up and raced away across the plain routing about 200 Boers. Had a couple of horses shot and got back about dark.
We came on to Leichtenberg where some of 7th Squadron under a madhead Lieutenant rode up to about 50 Boers who were standing with their arms at the present. Our fellows thought that they were giving themselves up when to their horror they loaded their rifles and fired point blank at them, wounding five, shooting horses and leaving the clothes and bandoliers on the others. Three have since died.
We came to Mathiewan 12 miles [19 km] on our right and Lord Errol 15 [24 km] on our left. We are under General Douglas with about 6,000 men and have passed through some splendid country this last few days. Sheep and cattle rolling fat (we can kill as many as we like) but we get no sugar or bully beef lately. We are camped here for a few days where Mathiewan had a big battle on his last march through where they should have captured De Witt, who nicely slipped through our fingers.
The other day we doubled back on our tracks through the mountains and my mate and I nearly got cut off. We were on outpost about 2 miles [3 km] from camp and had got leave to go back to our vehicle to get whatever we could. We had just got in when a bullet whistled over our heads and looking up we saw one of the scouts running as hard as he could with about 20 Boers sniping at him. We ran to cover and shot at the Boers with a few good shots, but had to go back without any oranges.
I think our next move will be back to Leichtenberg after De Witt. All the British army is between Rustenberg and Pretoria. I would like to get hold of a newspaper as all our kits went to Pretoria and we haven’t had any mail since we left Mafeking on 10th August.
This is all the news I can think of, Cousin John won’t get this child fighting for him again. It would be alright if he would give us something to eat. We often have a laugh over the turkeys and butter at Rookwood – have a good supply in when I get home. I’m going to do nothing but eat and sleep for six months. I weigh about 13 stone [83 kg] now.
Hoping this finds you all as well as it leaves me. With love to all, I remain,
Your sincere old boy
Mac xxxx (some for Kitty).
23 October 1900
Dear Dad and Mum
Zeerust at last on the 19th. A bundle of letters and papers on the 21st after two months without seeing a line. We left Mafeking on the 14th August and it was like being home again. I received one letter written on the 19th July, one Weekly Times, Jess’s and Lid’s of Sept 9th, Jess’s of Aug 5th yours of Aug 28th, Bill’s of June 8th.
I’m glad you had such a good year and splendid time. I would have liked to see the snow. You must have a splendid crop this year and won’t have to cut any hay if the war keeps on. China wheat will be a great price.
I wrote one letter from Barpaspan, the salt lake and another from Olephant’s Nek, so I haven’t much to tell just now. We came to Rustenberg the next day, where we camped for a few days. It is a very pretty place with some nice buildings. Here we saw some Highlanders who looked very funny in their kilts.
We had lively times all through the trip, with a few shots every day. With three others I was on outpost duty one day when six of who we thought were our own men, were seen coming over the ridge. We were watching, they ought to have been in camp three hours before we went out. We made sure they were Boers and let them get about 1800 hundred yards past us, then fired on them, shooting a horse when they made for the camp. We thought there was something wrong and afterwards found our mistake. It taught them a good lesson. There were eight Boers who came within six hundred yards from me the day before and the sergeant wouldn’t let us fire thinking they were our own men.
We passed some splendid farms from Rustenburg to here and commandeered about 5,000 sheep and cattle as fat as I ever saw. Mathiewan has been a days march ahead of us and we saw the Boers shell his camp the other day. The Yeomanry signalled all clear. The Tommies reckon we are great fighters. They see us go out in the morning, hear a few shots three or more miles away and they can’t get a look at all, whereas the Yeomanry often used to let them get cut up, but I don’t reckon we are any good at all, we only lost poor Sarg Bennet, shot in the back of the head, whereas the Yeomany lose one every day. I think the Boers are afraid of us.
Mathiewan’s guns have been shelling constantly this last couple of days. We went out commandeering yesterday and the day before. I had a nasty time for five or six weeks when leaving Ottoshoop. I was struck on the neck with a piece of an explosive bullet. It swelled up and turned into a sort of abscess. I had it lanced three times. It is alright now, bar a bit of a lump.
It is very rough country between Rustenburg and here, although beautiful country in the valleys. The only thing it lacks is timber – there is only prickly pear scrub around and about.
Well, I must shut up, get my rations and draw the horses feed. Hoping this finds you all as well as it now leaves me (I weigh 13 stone 3 pounds [84 kg]). With love to all.
Your sincere old boy
Mac S Haynes
October 26, 1900
Received your letter the other day and am glad you are all well and having such a good times and luck. I hope it keeps on going. I expect you had a great clip this year. I see wool is a good price – if things keep going like they have there soon won’t be many spinsters at the Brogans. Expect they will have to get another secretary for the Marge Rock Ball come next year.
Would have liked to have seen cousin Edith and Ted. I’m dashed glad Ted won the racquet. Sorry Lid put her shoulder out, she should have won the ladies. Would have liked to have seen the snow. Just my luck to be away when good things turn up, but I was here.
The other day we had a splendid fight, the best I have ever seen. Both Mathiewan and Douglas reckoned it was the smartest and coolest work they have seen in SA. We turned out soaking wet. I had been on picket. Left Zeerust at day break, went about 3 miles [5 km] when the scouts were fired on. We were ordered to take a kopje and galloped up within 2,000 yards [2 km], where we dismounted in the open and advanced on foot. We would do a couple of hundred yards [metres], lie down and volley at the ridge. We had to shift about 400 Boers who fought with desperate courage. We had shrapnel pompoms and advancing volleying every time we laid down. It was a splendid experience.
While we were lying down the gun would hiccup and fire and as soon as we got the order to advance they would open with redoubled vigour. The air seemed full of howling, shrieking shells and when they struck the ground it would shake again. But still the Boers held the kopje and didn’t retreat until we charged it with bayonets. It’s alright to lay down and fire away, but they will have to volley. It’s not very sweet laying listening to Marten bullets whistling around you, but just as long as a fellow is banging away he doesn’t notice it.
I was waiting once and a bullet tore the ground up about a foot from my head. I cringed away and another tore past my left elbow. I wondered what on earth I ever came here for. We got to the kopje, made of great rocks as big as a house.
All we thought about was looking for dead Boers. I found one with his head and shoulder blown off. I got a beautiful bandoleer off him, not damaged much, but covered with blood. Our fellows were like crows round a dead horse – one at his food, another at his pockets, another chap, Frank Tuft and I at his five bandoleers. When I pulled mine away his head rolled off. We only found three dead, one cut in two. The Boers carry their dead and wounded away in bags between horses when they can.
A Squadron’s next movement was to gallop about 4 miles [6.5 km] to the left flank to surprise some snipers. Kangaroo jumping is nothing to it. We raced over three or four kopjes when we saw ahead 20 horses in a gully. We shot 8 or 9 men and horses before they could get away. We then went to a farm capturing 11 prisoners and getting as many mangos as we could carry. Then we went to camp and found that other parts of the division had captured 16 wagons and 117 thousand rounds of ammunition.
We were about 2,500 strong – 400 of us and the 4th and 5th NZers and a few Companies of Tommies. I don’t go much on the NZers, they won’t keep out on the flanks. We are in the advance 3 days out of 4. We’re the 6th IBs,
October 31, 1900
Lid and Kate
I received your welcome letter with the others and am glad you are all well and having such splendid times. The tennis must have been very exciting. I hope your shoulder is alright by this time and you can beat Miss Christie McKeowan. I hope you enjoyed yourselves at the dances and Kitty had to stay at home, but never mind Kit, wait till I get home, I’ll play you a waltz and what a jolly time we’ll have. You must be a bit lonely being away at school but I expect you have a bit of kangarooing.
How old is Jerry and Bangh and Tiger and the Kangaroo. Jerry ought to be in good order for hunting. Don’t worry about me, the Boers can’t shoot a bit – we stand and let them bang away at us sometimes and know that they can’t hit us. We are having a splendid time. Have been on the march for two months over beautiful county. You can see fifteen or twenty miles [24 32 km] or off in the distance some pretty hills and in the valley you can see the farm paddocks of wheat and oats that are hedged with very large spreading, weeping willows, as well as all sorts of fruit trees and water springs are running out of the hills.
We get tons of oranges and lemons, but it is too early for the other fruit yet. We have plenty of poultry and pigs and I’m now a champion cook. Also, our horses were examined by the Brigadier General this morning. Mine is lame and the reinforcements they send are no good at all.
Much needed new suits of clothes have been provided as the clothes we received at Mariandelles were made of the same rotten stuff we brought with us. Also, we had a great fight the other day – about 500 Boers held a kopje for about two hours. They wouldn’t retire until they saw us charging with fixed bayonets. We had cheddite shrapnel pompom and our rifles played on them all the time. The kopje was strewn with rock pieces, shells and bullets. I could have got a car load of shells.
We went out to a place called ‘Kaffirs Doope’ the other day, where there were about 600 Boers who, when they saw us coming ran off without firing a shot. We commandeered two or three thousand head of sheep and cattle; a threshing machines at work which we burnt; several wagons which we also burnt; a lot of hay and sweet potatoes, but we got a drenching first. It rained all the afternoon we were there and does it rain here when it starts! Comes down in bucketfuls, not in drops.
Leitenberg is a very pretty place, just like a patch of willows at a distance, but there are some fine buildings too. It used to be the capital of the Transvall (across the Vaal – Trans means across) some of the Dutch girls told us that they were waiting for the ammunition to come up and they would be shooting at us.
Well Lid and Kit, this is all the news I can think of (you know Lid that is very unladylike to tear a sheet of foolscap to think of news to fill it all up) so I must shut up now. With best love to Mum, Dad, Will, Jess, Ted, Art, Uncle Bill and your own two selves.
Your sincere brother
Mac S Haynes xxxxxx
I am sending some African wildflowers
October 31, 1900
I received your welcome letter with the others the other day and am glad you are all well (no time to finish).
November 19, 1900
We left Zeerust on the 30th, arrived at Mabalstab, a native village, after five days march and were camped there for four days. The first day we left Zeerust, A Squadron was in the advance and had no fighting, but Murray was shot dead and Darrell wounded. They rode up to four Boers in khaki thinking they were our men.
We had three days steady rain and I can tell you it was the roughest time we have had in SA. We all have tents, pieces of sheets commandeered off the Boer wagons. We have made a record trip capturing about 150 prisoners, 10,000 head of cattle, 40,000 head of sheep, as well as pigs and fowls by the hundreds and have lived on them since we left Zeerust.
We were at Elands river where the Bushmen were garrisoned. It is very rough country. We would have easily relieved them if Carrington had followed the mountains instead of coming up in the open country where we had a skirmish with the Boers. We burnt some wagons and captured 3 or 4 thousand head of cattle as well as looting all the farms we came across.
We have had 14 battles without the sniping, which we had every day. Our last was on the 16th, the day we came here. They opened a 12 pound crusof and a couple of pompoms on us, but no rifle fire. Their shells landed all amongst us but did no harm. We smashed their guns up with 15 pounders after a couple of hours of shelling. General Douglas has orders not to fight unless attacked, just drive them out of his way.
Klerksdorp is a very pretty place with the train line running through it, but we won’t have the train for a week or ten days. The line is broken between here and Pothatwon. We are having athletic sports tomorrow and played cricket with the pompom battery today and beat them 143 against 76.
Our horses are in splendid condition – my old mare is still as good as ever. There is plenty of grass about and it is a splendid climate – rain about twice a week. I expect you are busy stripping now – how are wool and wheat selling? Send me some news about the war. We hear nothing but what happens to ourselves.
Hoping this finds you as well as it now leaves me. Love to all (xxxx for Kitty).
Your old brother
PS Glad you took Bridli down a peg at tennis. Remember me to all old friends.
December 14, 1900
Dear Dad and Mum,
I received your welcome letter yesterday and am glad you are all well. I must congratulate you on your splendid clips of wool. It will be hard luck losing the 300. I hope you have since found them. We have been having a splendid time lately re pigs and poultry. We haven’t had much fighting lately.
December 17 (cont.)
Yesterday, being the birthday of the Boers and Great Nation Chief, they came to the race course, about 2 miles [3 km] from town and were just beginning their fun when our patrol party bumped them and made things pretty hot for some time. The British have had some reverses lately, they lost 400 infantry and two big guns, some 4 or 5 weeks ago, then four companies of about 380 men who were part of a convoy in the Rustenburg mountains last week.
There are a lot of Boers gathering round here. We arrived on the 16 November after coming through Vinters Drop and the land mines and the Elands River.
Last week we commandeered 925 women and children and got 7 prisoners, 14,000 sheep, 500 head of cattle and 150 horses.
Along the Vaal it is beautiful country – splendid grass and plenty of water. The Vaal is a nice river about 7 or 8 chains [160 m] wide. One of its characters is that you will travel miles along it and never see a tree. They talk of the war being over (Baden Powell is forming a police force and we all have a chance of joining, but I’m not having any of it. I don’t think it will be over or us home until the middle of next winter.
The garrison had a great lark here the other day as we left for Rothestown. The Boers drove the outpost in and were lining up to charge the town. The women lined up outside the town and were singing about the English running away, when a ledyte gunner slipped round behind a kopje and routed the Boers. A Company lined up behind the women and sent them to Pretoria and the Boers back to the mountains.
It is a beautiful climate here – hot days and thunderstorms and cool nights. The grass is three or four feet [1 m] high – splendid grass for sheep and cattle. I have been finding out all I can concerning the land. The Major reckons it will be all small farms and I know what dairy farming is having done enough spade digging here to know what it is, so I’ll get back to wool and wheat.
Well I must shut up for want of news and space. Hoping this finds you all well as it now leaves me, with love to all. I remain
Your sincere old boy
xxxxxx (some for Kitty)
PS: I am sending some more cards, the best I could get. Remember me to all the old friends.
Between Oliphant’s Nek
January 6th, 1901
Dear Dad and Mum
Just a few lines to let you know how things are going. I received a couple of W.Ts and Telegraphs before Xmas – they were a great luxury. We have great difficulty finding English books. Spent a quiet Christmas at Krugersdorp and got ¼ lb [100 g] of plum pudding and a pint of beer.
We left the next morning at 2.00 am [02:00h] for Ventersdorp and had to drive the Boers away – about 3,000 of them. We are only about 1,000 strong under Colonel Kekewich (the hero of Kimberley) but he is no good in command of a column. The first day we had one man shot, two wounded and some horses shot. The next day we were within 3,000 yards of the Boers convoy and had about 300 rifles into them but he would not send up the guns.
We went into Ventersorp where we stopped for five days and then started towards Krugersdorp. We marched 40 miles [65 km] in two days and it rained like the deuce all the time. We camped about 3 miles [5 km] from here the night before last and yesterday morning we started in the advance at daylight in a thick fog. Went for a couple of miles [3 km] when the Boers started firing on the left flank and half a mile further on the Lieutenant and I had 3 shots fired at us from about two hundred yards [METRES] in our front. We wheeled to the right and took up a position.
It was my day for horse holding when eight of our chaps started firing from the rocks and about two hundred rifles started volleying at us. I thought I was under cover but the bullets were humming over us like bees. It was the hottest fire I was ever under. They started a pompom on us and a 15 pounder and the fire kept up for about an hour when I looked round and saw a lot of New Zealanders with their hats on their rifles and flags flying. Their last volley came right where I was standing and shot one of the horses. We then found out it was General Gordon.
His guns were coming into action when Gordon saw two of our flags. It was the narrowest squeak we have been under – another five minutes and the Bushmen would have been scattered all over the rocks.
We had to change our front and while doing so two squadrons of FL Horse took our places. They went along in quarter column of squadron with neither an advance guard or flanks out, when 500 Boers opened into them at about 30 yards, killing 15 and wounding about 40. Five more have died since, it was a terrible thing and the Colonel got off scot free
We got to the front again and galloped about 4 miles [6.5 km] under shrapnel from one gun. The Boers can use their guns well all the time, but it’s a fluke if any of us get hit. We extend to about 20 yards and gallop a quarter of a mile then walk the next. It would take a good gunman to keep his gun on us. They fired about 30 shots as us without drawing blood. If we had had a 15 pounder with us we could have had their gun and a lot of Boers. We had them surrounded but had to retire and take another position further to our left . Six more dead JLHs were brought in off the veldt out of ten missing. It is rumoured that they captured a squadron of 14 Hussars and two boxes of ammunition.
Letter continues 18 January
We were commandeering and burning houses at Ventersdorp for three days at the beginning of the week, chasing 300 odd Boers for about 3 miles [5 km] and giving them such a shaking as they ever had. We went out yesterday for about 6 miles [10 km], Matthews and I were in the left flank advance guard. We rode to within 300 yards [metres] of them before they fired and when they did, the bullets went way over us. Johnny can shoot when you are advancing on them.
The C flank, reinforced by E and F Squadrons, engaged about 300 in our front. The right flank wheeled and was engaging a lot of Boers further on when we routed our lot and they went racing through C Squadron and the rest of A like a lot of wallabies.
We shot dead 5 Boers and 6 horses and captured several horses. We only lost one signaller who was severely wounded, but died last night. There were about 800 Boers and only 150 or us. Our Regiment is completely broken up - out of 4 Squadrons with this column, we can only must 134, the joke is that we will all go sick and they might invalid us all home.
Well I must close for want of space. Hoping this note finds you all as well as it leaves me. With love to all.
Your sincere old boy
PS: Would like to have been home for Xmas, wedding etc. expect it was a great turnout. Excuse paper – all I have and it got soaking wet.
January 18th, 1901
Just a few lines in answer to some of your never received papers and written letters. I know how things are at home – you lolling about in 110 degrees [43 deg C] in the shade and us here enjoying the cool breeze at 80 [27 deg C] in the sun. Well Ted, we had a quiet Xmas Day, but had a lively Boxing Day and have had a lively time ever since.
We left Krugersdorp at 4.00 am [04:00h] and bumped into about 500 Boers out of the hills. We were in the advance and F Squadron in the rear. We had just got into camp, two of our troops were on outpost and five of them rode onto the post when half a dozen Boers opened on them and shot five horses.
We had to go out and shift the Boers and had just got back when we had to saddle up and go and relieve F Squadron who were cut off and surrounded. We got back about 8.00 pm. The Boers had retired so we got them in without a shot and to bed about midnight.
The next day we chased about 400 Boers and their convoy for about two miles [3 km]. We had it in our hands if only old Kekewich had sent up the guns. I had the best time sitting on a rock for about and hour firing as fast as I could until they got out of range. That is saying something as our rifles can reach 3,000 yards [metres]. We wounded 2 or 3 Boers and shot some horses.
The next day we came into Ventersdorp, had a bit of sniping as usual and after Ventersdorp we went to Oliphabt’s Nek where we thought we had the Johnnies hemmed in and were going to have a big battle. We set off about daylight in a thick fog and had a go at Gordon. It took a lot of guts to tackle Gordon with 2,700 men and over 20 guns and all we had was 500 mounted men and 400 Tommies. We had to change our front and while doing so the Imperial Light Horse took our places and went in quarter column up to within a short range of 500 Boers and got cut up. We lost about 100 men.
We worked the left flank and charged up to within half a mile [0.8 km] of the Boer gun which was pumping shrapnel at us all the time, but never even broke the line. We had to retire and go further to the left. If we had had a gun we would have captured their gun.
We have had a splendid time lately - tons of fruit and vegetables and fowls etc. I am a dab hand at cooking chooks, but I can’t come up to the ones we had at Rockwood. We came back to Ventersdorp, there was a bit of sniping along the road. We were out for three days commandeering and gave the Boers such a shaking up like they never had – it was a splendid day for shooting, you could see the dust of the bullets which allowed us to find the range.
130 of us went out yesterday and shifted about 800 Boers. We got them in a half circle and routed about 300 of them through the right flank like a lot of wallabies. B Squadron and part of A was on the right. I would have given a fiver to have been with them. We shot five Boers, took one prisoner and wounded a few. We had a signaller shot and buried him today. We also got several horses, saddles, bridles etc.
The Boers are getting together now. I believe Kitchener has given them to the end of this month and then is going to settle them. The poor buggers are on their last uppers. They are living on crushed corn boiled and baked and some meat. From 80 to 100 casualties amongst the Boers lost, killed and wounded. There are about 1,700 west of us and about 800 south east of us. The patrol took two prisoners yesterday afternoon.
We left three days ago to meet a convoy from Rothstrewn. Going out towards Oliphants Nek we had a bit of sniping and would have captured a couple of wagons but they wouldn’t let us go. They say we just missed it. I’ve heard Fredrischstad shelling Johnny from about 10 pm [22:00 h] to 1.00 am [01:00 h]. We saved the convoy and had a nice few days and back yesterday.
What a welcome treat, we collected our mail on our return and the parcels survived the journey as we’ve been very short of clothing lately. I looked a cut in a red shirt, pair of white drawers and black leggings. all I had to wear while my pants were drying.
It is a splendid climate over here – quite frosty. I received Dad’s, Jess’s and Lyd’s letters yesterday and am glad you are all well, but I’m sorry the crop turned out so badly. What were you doing letting the dogs get into the sheep. I hope you had a good time at Watson’s send off.
I must close now, with love to all.
Your sincere brother
22 January 1901
Dear Dad, Mum, Jess and Lyd
Yesterday I received your welcome letters, parcels and cards from Sydney. I have had two Christmas days. The clothing was a great treat as we have been pretty short lately. You musty excuse this note as I am out of paper and news.
I posted a letter the other day. Lourings, Gilman and I were going to send a telegram from Klerksdorp but could not get it away. Don’t be surprised if you get one before you get this note.
I am sorry the crops did not turn out better. It is a wonder the wool was not a better price.
Well, I must find something to write about. Have just had a bag of fruit. We can get as much as we can carry down the creek. Hope you got the fire out all right, a bit of a worry breaking out when you were going to the send off.
Well I can’t think of anymore to say, only that the Major had a fall and broke his collar bone yesterday, but he looks well this morning and we are only going to have seven days more and then a month’s holiday at Klerksdorp. Some of our chaps have had great times down the Vaal.
More mail today – Gillie is getting mine – none for me. I must close with love to all and best congratulations to Bill and Mag and wishing them the best of happiness and prosperity.
Your sincere old boy
M S Haynes
PS Don’t publish any more of my letters. I am sending some Xmas cards from Klerksdorp – the best I could get.
13 March 1901
I received your welcome letter and a paper yesterday, the first mail I have had for some time. I am glad you are all well and having such a good time. Hard luck about the wheat being a failure and the wool not getting a good price, but the weight should make it up.
We’ve had a rough time lately – plenty of fighting and it’s been raining like the deuce. We did a forced march from Siplerfontain to here, about 50 miles [80 km] in two days. Burnt a couple of thousand pounds worth of wagons etc with cases of bully and chocolate etc thrown about. We got enough to last us a week, but when we got here word came that it was relieved so we stopped here.
I ran into a trap a few days before we left. We went down the valley to give Johnny a go. I was on the right hand advance and found myself on my own. I rode up to a house and said g’day to a couple of Boers and glancing around I saw 7 or 8 horses and as many saddles and rifles. Johnny evidently thought that I was one of their own men and asked me which way I had come. I told them the opposite way to the one I had come and then told them to be good and rode off into the scrub. I could have shot them while they were getting away but couldn’t murder men in cold blood when the women were handing them their rifles etc. Besides, if I had there might have been more of them there and they would have shot me.
We have been going home ever since we landed here but I think another couple of months will see us in the water. I would have liked to be home for the wedding and Christmas, but I guess not. Give Bill and Mag my heartiest congratulations. I hope you have a good time at Draffins’ wedding too. I guess you must be getting short of spinsters now – you want a shipload or two from SA – there are plenty here?
There was more than one Boer shot. This will be a splendid country when things quieten down. I have made up my mind to go home, but I think I will come back again. Some of our chaps are joining the police. It’s not a bad lurk. A fellow can get invalided home easy enough – all he has to do is say he is sick and he gets sent away. Some have been sent to England and others to Ceylon with prisoners. I am on guard today. The latest mulga is that we are going to Johannesberg tomorrow where we’ll wait for the other Australians to relieve us.
I must close now, hoping this finds you as well as it now leaves me. With love to all.
Your sincere brother
M S Haynes
xxxxx some to Kitty
PS I got my name back some time ago. Remember me to old friends.
17 March 1901
Dear Dad and Mum
Since leaving this garrison on the 15th we have had a lively time. We did three days forced march to near Leichtenburg after Deleroy who we knew was in this district. We came round to Haartesburgfontein near Klerkesdoorp where Mathiewan had the men go back to force the pass at the point of the bayonet.
We went through without a shot, but saw a lot of Boers. The next day the ILH were on patrol and were cut off and got out. We got out but lost some 20 men killed and wounded. The next day we went after them, had some heavy firing with the big guns on both sides. We got into camp about 8.00 pm after coming about 20 miles [32 km]. The next morning we left at daylight, went about a mile and a half [2.4 km] and they opened in on us with volleys. They raced as soon as the pompoms and 12 pounder opened on them.
They fired some shots out of their big guns at us but did no harm. Then they opened out and scattered in all directions and we led the charge for about 12 miles capturing guns and wagons as we went and turned the convoy after a good hour and a half’s ride.
The next evening when we arrived in Ventersdorp, Brigadier Grey addressed the officers and men of the 2nd, 6th and 4th brigade as follows: "I cannot let this march conclude without personally thank you for the inestimable service you have rendered your country this day. Had you given the enemy a minutes respite they would have made a stand and that, once done, this glorious opportunity would have been lost.
I know it has always been the work of Colonials to capture guns and this you have done the best way with your dash and gallantry. You have achieved one of the brightest deeds, if not in all the war, in the latter part of the war. The guns were not dug up, hidden in trees or found in rivers, but were in fair fight against a bold and enterprising enemy.
You will shortly be leaving as your term of service will soon be at an end. For my sake I regret it, for your own I am very glad. You have done a deed which will make your country proud of you and not only your own country but the Mother country also.
This victory will have a moral effect in not only this district but the whole of SA and will tend more than anything to hasten the termination of the war. Again, I thank you, officers and men of Australian and New Zealand. I can do no more."
Then General Babbington lined us and the 4th NZs up and gave a bit of an address, but I forget it. The finest words he said was that Lieutenant Colonel Grey is the best Brigadier in SA.
We captured two big guns and one pom pom. It is believed that the Boers got a Krupp and a pom pom. There was Delero de Smut with about 5,000 men while we were about 2,000 strong. Colonel Shackleton was on our left, it was our luck that we had the Boers in an open plain. It was like fighting wallabies with whips. We kept a good fire off our horses at all times. The Boers didn’t know where it was coming from. There were 10 or 12 Boers shot, some unnecessarily as some of our chaps got very excited. We had to shoot some of the mules to stop the wagons. We got 60 wagons, 30 or 40 cape carts, 30 or 40 tons of ammunition of all sorts and about 200 prisoners. Some we got lying in the long grass, some we missed and got away. It was the easiest capture we ever made. None of our men was hit, but if they had had time to take up a position it would have been a good fight.
I saw a list of our captures since we’ve been at the front. It reads something like this: 10 guns; nearly 700 prisoners; 280 wagons; 800 small arms; 200,000 rounds of ammunition; 5,000 cattle; 17,000 sheep and goats – not too bad for the time we’ve been here. Some of the Boers were glad to be captured and others reckon the war will last two or three more years, but I think another six or eight months will bring it to an end.
We have heard a lot of the other contingents are coming to relieve us and some that they are sending mend to make up the ranks, but we’re living in hopes of being home in another month or two. The Colonel is still in Cape Town – he’s a disgrace to any Colony or Regiment, the way he has treated us.
Hoping this note finds you as well as it leaves me and with love to all. XXXX some for Kitty.
Your sincere old boy
M S Haynes
9 April 1901
Just a few lines to let you know how things are going. I am on picket today. Each squadron turn the horses out and three men take it in turn to look after them. There is good grass here now that all the kangaroo grass has been eaten. I received Mum’s letter of the 30th January last night and am glad you are all well. I expect Bill is alright again.
28 April 1901
I received your letter yesterday and I’m glad you are all well – dashed nice photo of Lyd’s. I’m glad you’ve had such good rains, I expect the lamb marking is in full swing now. We left Ventersdorp on the 11th and had a bit of sniping on the treck to Limburg’s farm where we camped for a couple of days.
We had a night’s march to a Boer laager and surprised them at daylight. After a bit of fighting we got a couple of their guns and returned to camp at dark after doing about 40 miles from 10 pm the night before. We shifted camp the next day to near Haartesburgfontein and in a reconnaissance bumped into about 2,000 Boers in the pass. After four or five hours of shelling we returned to camp. It would have been impossible to have taken the pass with out strength.
I saw some of the best machinery I’ve ever seen – more in one shed working one mine than they have altogether in Parkes. We then shifted around to here, keeping the convoy in the flat country.
Delray de Wet and De Smut, with about 4,000 men attacked an empty convoy on its way to Klerksdorp for some stores the other day. Delray led his 600 men to within a few hundreds yards of the guns not knowing there were about 300 Tommies laying in wait for them and killed or wounded 30 or 40 of them. Our fellows lost four or five killed and about a dozen wounded.
We met the convoy the day before yesterday on its way back. Johnny came down off the kopjes’ to have a go at it, but we soon sent them back. We are about 3,000 strong now and about 15 guns, one lady reaches about six miles.
We turned out after a convoy yesterday but they were too quick for us – it would have taken a bit of catching as the roads are very good now. We have had a few good chases after what we thought were convoys, but which turned out to be locusts. You would swear they were dust a few miles off.
They sent in word today asking us to surrender, we expect an attack tonight, but no such luck. I’d like to have a fight tonight. We don’t take too much notice of their warnings now, we have had too much of it. The rumour is that we are going to have a big fight soon and finish the war, but no such luck it would seem, they say we will get home some time this year. I look forward to a more peaceful Christmas and New Year next time than last. We were fighting all last Christmas week and digging trenches on New Year’s Day. There is talk of the Federals relieving us – I hope they do and have as much luck as we’ve had.
We are a happy family here. Six of us have a tent and mess together. We have two kaffirs cooking for us and two slush lamps going tonight.
We have a few books going around here in the camp, some are the ones Mum and Mrs Arthur sent me at Rookwood. However, we’ve been short of tobacco lately, falling back on the raw leaf we get out of the Boer houses.
The corn is getting ripe and there will soon be plenty for our horses and bush (veldt) fires will be the rage. Mum talks of the Queen’s chocolate – it might be at Mafeking, but we have not seen it here yet. I’ve not had a W Times since we left Ventersdorp in January – I received them regularly up until then.
I must say good night Ted as we want a bit of sleep (before Jacky attacks us) and will close now. Hoping this note finds you as well as it now leaves me. With love to all.
Your sincere brother
M S Haynes
PS Remember me to all my old friends and give Hugh and Nell my best wishes. Don’t mind the paper, it’s the best I’ve got. Hope Lid had a good time in the Peak.
22 May 1901
Dear Ones at Home
I received letters from Jess, Mum and Lyd some weeks ago and was glad you are all well. I wrote to Ted about that time that we were supposed to have the Boers surrounded in the Haartbugfontein ranges, but when we made the attack the Boers had run off leaving only a gun and some stock.
A couple of days after the 9th we went after a convoy and after racing about 15 miles we succeeded in capturing 30 wagons, 10 cape carts, 55 prisoners and other sundries. We had a very exciting chase with the Boers running into Dickson;s columns who got the best of the capture. In short, we drove the Boers into Dickson and then fought those who would have it. We had all of his flankers and guns engaged, but we had good luck too and finished without a scratch. Our chaps know the game too well to throw any chances away and always look for cover. A few days later the I L H captured 15 prisoners and 30 wagons and cape carts.
We were in touch with the 1st Regiment NSWMR who arrived at Klerksdorp a few weeks ago under Colonel Lasseter. Their first fight resulted in hard luck – they started after a few wagons and some horses, then after chasing them for five or six miles in close order, of course, Johnny just opened out and when they got in they closed the trap and killed 6, wounded 16 and captured 41. Rather a sever lesson for a start, but they must live and learn like ourselves.
We have 600 Imperial Yeomanry with us – the pick of 10,000. They marched me back never having seen a horse until they came to SA. We call them De Wit’s remnants. I blame them for detaining us for so long.
The 4th NZs and ILH left a few days after we came here. We are supposed to go on the 28th because Kitchener wants us to stay for another six months, but we will lay down our arms first.
I must close for want of news. Hoping this note finds you as well as it leaves me. With love to all.
Your sincere old boy
M S Haynes
PS I hope the rain came in time. Gillman wishes to be remembered. We have old Gill doing a bit of sketching.