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LETTER FROM PRIVATE WILLIAM LONG OF NORTH TAWTON - DECEMBER 1899

 

This letter was sent from Private William Long, Reservist of the 2nd Battalion, the Devon Regiment, to his boss, Frank Skinner, who was North Tawton's Postmaster and grocer, William Long had worked previously as the town postman before leaving for South Africa. At the time of writing, he was one of General Buller's men in camp at Chieveley.

William returned home safely and by early 1901, had resumed his duties as postman and was working alongside Frank Skinner in the grocery shop.

 

"December 26th 1899

Dear Sir,

I have been in one engagement and we all had a warm reception. We were under fire about eight hours, under shot and shell. The bullets were like a hailstorm. My regiment lost several, about nine killed and severely wounded. Our Commander got taken prisoner, and several others. I was one of the lucky one. A bullet struck my canteen and glanced off.

 

The 15th of December won't be forgotten for some time to come. We are now at Chieveley Camp, about four miles from Colenso. It is well fortified with big guns. There is a fort on high hills. Our naval guns fire on them most every day. The Boers say they don't like lyddite shells*. We are expecting to go round Weenen and flank them. There are very many tales. Our General told us yesterday the next advance should be a definite one. That means we shall push forward. After we get to Ladysmith we shall soon push on.

 

There is a sand storm on and it is very dry. It is about the middle of summer now. Water is very scarce. I have been hunting for water this afternoon and managed to get some to drink."

 

*Lyddite was named after Lydd where it was first secretly tested in 1888. It was a powerful explosive composed of molten and cast picric acid which was capable of penetrating armour plating.

 

 
 
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