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LETTER FROM PRIVATE  BULLEY OF NEWTON ABBOT - DECEMBER 1899

 

Because this letter was addressed to "Mrs. B. Bulley" we are assuming that "Private Bulley" refers to Frederick Bulley whose wife was named Bessie. But this is very flimsy evidence and we can only hope that someone may come forward with a positive identification. Meanwhile he is Private Bulley of "C" Company, the 2nd Battalion, the Devonshire Regiment.

 

The letter was written to his wife from the village of Waterval  and he wrote as a prisoner of war of the Boers. Here, huge compounds had been erected at the railway station, surrounded by tall barbed wire fences and lit at night by electricity.

 

As the place was strongly guarded and as the surrounding landscape was completely unknown to  British soldiers, trying to escape would have been dangerous and pointless.

 

From the Anglo-Boer War website:


"The hospital at the Racecourse was used for wounded and sick prisoners until the fall of Pretoria. The officers remained at the Staats Model School until 16 March 1900 when they were moved to their new quarters known as the Birdcage at Daspoort.

The welfare of the prisoners was controlled by a board of management consisting of four persons. They were Louis da Souza, Commandant Opperman, directly responsible for the safe custody of the prisoners, Dr Gunning, who was Opperman's assistant and Hans Malan. Opperman was replaced by a Mr Westerink in March 1900.

The 129 officers and 36 soldiers detained at the Staats Model School were released on the 5th of June 1900. On the 6th of June Colonel T C Porter's Brigade was ordered to affect the release of the men confined at Waterval. A squadron of Greys under Captain Maude finally released some 3187 men.

It was found that 900 prisoners had been removed by the Boers from Waterval on the 4th of June. These men were now detained at Nooitgedacht. They were eventually released by the Earl of Dundonald on the 30th of August 1900.

When General French entered Barberton in September 1900, he released the final group of prisoners namely twenty-three officers and fifty-nine soldiers whom the Boers had removed from Nooitgedacht. Most of them had been confined in a barbed wire enclosure while some were housed in the local goal."

 

Written at Waterval, nr. Pretoria.

19 December 1899

"Just a few lines hoping it will find you and all at home quite well, as it leaves me in fair good health.

I must tell you that I am a prisoner of war. I got captured at the battle of Colenso on the 15th of December. I was shot through the clothes three times, but did not touch my flesh. Lucky, was it not, after fighting nine hours? We were in support of two batteries of Artillery and could not get back. All the others retired and left us behind. We are treated all right here, as well as can be expected for prisoners. There are about 110 of us captured and 10 guns with us.

 

I dare say you are anxious to know my whereabouts. We shall be here until the war is over. I am lucky that I am here, or I should have been under the ground by this times. I will give the Boers their dues, they are treating us very kind, better than I expected but I can't tell you much.

 

We shall keep our Christmas here but, never mind, we must keep up. There is a lot of us  here; we are guarded well all round, but we could not help being captured. We were doing our duty like true British soldiers. It is no disgrace to us that we are here.

 

We advanced under a shower of bullets, and were shelled by the big guns for nine hours. It must have been that I was not meant to be shot after getting through all that."

 

From The Devon Weekly Times

8 Jun 1900

"Waterval, to which place the British prisoners were removed some months ago, is the second station on the railway line to Pretoria. The prisoners, to the number of about four thousand, were housed here in sheds, with the exception of the officers who were kept in Pretoria. It is reported that they have been released and since General French was to the north of the town on Monday, it is probably by him that they have been liberated.

The total number of missing and prisoners, according to the latest official return, was 4,348 non-commissioned officers and men and 178 officers, excluding those who have been recovered or released, but many, we know, are in hospital. 

150 officers and 3,500 non-commissioned officers and men are now safe in our camps. However, the retreating Boers have carried off some 900 men. They had intended taking away all the prisoners but the arrival of the victorious British Army frustrated their plans.

 

 
 
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