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War Memorials

LETTER FROM PRIVATE FRED COOPER OF EXMOUTH - NOVEMBER 1899

 

This letter was written by Frederick Walter Cooper to his mother Clementina Cooper who lived at 3 Trinity Terrace, The Point, Exmouth with his sister. He was a Private in the 2nd Battalion, the Devonshire Regiment and at the time of writing was 19 years old.

 

"November 28th 1899

Dearest Mother and Sister,

I have now got a few minutes to spare to write a few lines. I have just come in from the hills, where we have been an outpost. That is to watch all night and see if one can sight any of the enemy.

 

I felt rather disappointed at not having a letter: to see other fellows get them by this morning's mail made me feel a little bit "off". But I know there has not been time for me to get one yet. I have never felt more anxious for a letter than I have done since I have been out here.

 

Well, dear mother, now to tell you about my first experience of the War. We arrived at our destination, Durban, on Sunday the 19th of November, travelling from thence in cattle trucks. The people treated us splendidly, piling up cakes, tobacco, cigarettes, bottles of beer, and bread and cheese. The truck I was in was very nearly full of some stuff or other, and I can tell you it came in alright, because it had been so rough on board ship. We were very nearly starved, and we had stops on the road for bread and cheese and coffee.

 

The way they travel out here is simply marvellous - up and down mountains. . . well, we got to a place called Mooi River, and there we heard shots and shells going ahead. We had to lay down on the ground for the night, because our tents had not yet arrived. The next day, when we were all sitting down to dinner, the Boers gave us a little dessert by sending a few shells into the midst of the camp, but happily, they were not much good because they did not burst. This made the troops start laughing to see them all scattering about in every direction. I had to laugh myself but at the same time I felt a bit shaky.

 

We got our rifles and went out to defend the camp, and as we  were marching along, talking and laughing, a shell pitched just behind the Company I was in, and all they did was to laugh at it. We still went along with the rifle bullets dropping all around us, and they seemed to some very uncomfortable. I was just getting used to it, and we'd fired a few rounds at them when our Artillery opened fire and they soon cleared, leaving about 500 killed and wounded on the field.

 

We have just arrived at this place after an eighteen mile march, and we've been chasing the Boers in all directions. Our Company were put on Sentry over a bridge one night and the Boers caught up, shot our sentry and wounded two or three others. They then scampered off.

 

We have a fine time when we chase them, and take all the cattle they have stolen, away from them. We march into camp with turkeys, geese, lambs etc., over our shoulders, and then have a fine feed.

 

Now  I don't think  I can say any more at present. Give my love to all at home and accept my fondest love from you affectionate son,

 

Fred."

 

 
 
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