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Devon County

Devonshire Rgt.

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William Dendle came from Barnstaple where his father, John Dendle,  worked for the local council.  By the time he was 13, William had followed his brother George into an apprenticeship as a baker but by the time this letter was written, he had become, at the age of 21, a Lance Corporal in "G" Company of the 2nd Battalion, the Devonshire Regiment. In 1901, he was seriously wounded and, sadly, there is no trace of him in the 1911 census.


He was the son of John and Annie Dendle and was born in a small village (and parish) called Landkey, located on the outskirts of Barnstaple, in the September Quarter of 1877. This letter was written to his father.


From The Mooi River

December 1899

"I am in the best of  health - only a little brown in the sun. I can tell you it is hot here. We don't know what to do to keep cool, and I expect you don't know what to do to keep hot.

We got to Durban all right, but the ship ran aground as we were about to disembark, and it took two hours for the tugs to get her off. There were thousands of people to see us come in, and the reception they gave us was something grand - a reception I shall never forget. They gave us fruit of all sorts, tea, bread and butter, and as many cigars and cigarettes, with tobacco, as you had a mind to have, which were very acceptable, after being so long without a smoke, and the cheers that went up afterwards was something grand. We could not have had a better reception in our own country. It was a thing we never expected.

Then we got into a train, and had to go 180 miles. We travelled all night, and at different stations there was coffee and bread and butter, which was very acceptable in the middle of the night.  We were supposed to go on to a place called Estcourt, but could not owing to the fighting, and we had to stop at a place called Mooi River which is nearly surrounded by Boers.

We got to camp and had something to eat, then we had to turn out in marching order because the Boers were advancing on us. We were out all that night. There was only one man killed and four wounded out of about six thousand. We have been in awful danger since we have been here. They have been firing shells on our camp, but as luck was in our favour they did not do any damage. But it was awfully near it.

A shell dropped within ten yards of where we were standing, and just as I am writing this letter, a shell pitched on one of our officer's tents and smashed up everything that was in it. It was lucky there was no one in it, or it would have been a case of death with them. I am glad to say that I am all right so far, but the shots have been very near me. We are right in the thick of it now. We want to get to Ladysmith but we cannot. We are camped near a station, and the next station has been blown to pieces and the telegraph wires cut down by the Boers.

We have just come in after being  on all night, and as I have got a little time to rest, I thought I would write you a few lines to let you know I am all right, for I do not know when I shall be able to write again.  We are waiting for more troops to join us. What we want is cavalry so that we can advance further.

If you get this letter before Christmas, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I was home last Christmas, but I don't know where I shall spend this Christmas."


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