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LETTER FROM SIGNALLER FRED LEONARD OF TORQUAY - OCTOBER 1899

 

Some months ago we published an 1895 photograph of Torquay men of the Devonshire Regiment. At that time they were stationed in India. By an amazing fluke, Signaller Frederick Leonard and Bill Satterford, the friend he mentions in the letter are both included in this photograph. They stand in the back row - Bill on the left-hand end and Frederick towards the centre, easily recognisable by the signalling flags he holds.

 

This letter was dated 11 October 1899. It was written to Mr. Hugh Leonard of Plainmoor Terrace, St. Marychurch, Torquay by his son Frederick Leonard of the 1st Battalion, the Devonshire Regiment, a member of the so-called Indian Contingent on his arrival in Ladysmith, Natal.

 

Dear Father,

A few lines to let you know that I am all right up to the present. We left Jullundur on the 16th September and arrived at Bombay on the 21st in the morning. Here we found two steamers waiting for the regiment, the  "Satley" and the "City of London", and we embarked immediately. I went on board the "Satley", as also did Bill Satterford. We steamed out of harbour at 11.30 a.m. so there was not much delay. The voyage was uneventful and was fine the whole way.

We passed Madagascar on the morning of the 3rd of October and arrived at Durban, port of Natal, on the 5th and disembarked the same day. The Cavalry and the Artillery had all their horses with them, and these had to be slung on board and also slung ashore on reaching their destination.

We left the same night for Ladysmith. All the English residents in Johannesburg and other places in the Transvaal left for British territory, and nearly the whole of the rolling stock of the Railway Company was sent up for them and the Boers seized the lot so we had to do the journey in open trucks. It was fearfully cold in the night as we only had on our thin khaki uniforms. All the way up, the people thronged the stations and cheered the troops as they passed on their way to the front. However we are not the only ones who had to travel in open trucks. The refugees from up country had to travel in them packed in like herrings with only standing room for days, men, women, children altogether, and the worst of it was the Boers came to the trains and insulted the people, and even struck them with their rifles.

We arrived here on the 6th in the evening and have been here ever since; we are waiting until all the troops arrive, and as soon as war is declared, we shall start operations. They caught a Boer spy here the other day and they tarred and feathered him and tied him in front of a railway engine and sent him up country.

Bill Satterford is writing by this post. I haven't had a letter from you for some time now, not since I was at Dalhousie as the postal service is somewhat interrupted. You must excuse paper and pencil, as you will remember that I am on field service and can't get writing materials.

This is all ,with love to Mother and yourself, and all at home.

I remain, your affectionate son,

F. Leonard.

PS: I forgot to say that this is about 190 miles from Durban.

 

Frederick William Leonard was the youngest son of Hugh and Harriet Leonard and was born in the September Quarter of 1873 in St. Marychurch. His father was described in the 1881 census as a General Dealer.

 

 
 
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