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LETTER FROM CORPORAL JOHN MERSON OF NORTH MOLTON - APRIL 1900

 

John Merson was the 2nd son of another John Merson and his wife Harriet. His father farmed at Brimsworthy Farm in North Molton. He was 28 when this letter was written to his brothers Thomas and William.

 

6571 Corporal John Merson had volunteered for service in the Devon Company of the Imperial Yeomanry. On his return to England, he was one of a select band of men who were chosen to receive their medals from the King in person in a ceremony on Horse Guards Parade which took place on 31 August 1901.

 

After the war, he returned to Brimsworthy, and, together with his brother William, settled back down to helping their father run the farm. Thomas too stayed on in the house but pursued his own career as a solicitor.

 

Maitland Camp

April 3rd 1900

"We have received orders to be in readiness to proceed to the front tomorrow. We very much hope it will not be cancelled, but fear it will be, as Captain Bolitho* is ill with dysentery.

I have been acting as the Camp "policeman" and have had trouble in keeping Dutchmen and miserable Germans outside the Camp Lanes. When three or four Dutchmen get together and I ask for their passes, they are inclined to be a bit sulky, but then I draw their attention to the sentry with his bayonet fixed and that frightens them out of their lives and they clear off in no time.

We are camped on a sandy plain, and everything we touch or eat, is full of grit. The air here is very dry and bracing but I never felt better in my life.

Many wounded men from the front have told me they do not consider the war will be over for six months. I've met a lot of Devon fellows out here; several came into camp on Sunday to see the Devons, and shook hands heartily with every Devonian they met.

A little boy, about nine years old, came up and asked me if I was "a Devon Soldier". "Yes", I said. So he asked if I would give him some little trifling thing - "if only a button", in remembrance of the Devon Yeomanry coming out to the war! So I gave the little chap a small split ring with a bone label on it, and he was delighted and put it on his watch chain."

 

*Captain William Edward Thomas Bolitho who was to become Commanding Officer of the Royal 1st Devon Yeomanry in the Great War. He served in the Boer War with great distinction and was wounded at Noitgedacht, in the Transvaal in November 1900 and was awarded the DSO for his actions, against all odds,  in holding a range of  hills there. He was very much respected by the men who served under him.

 

 

 

 
 
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