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337 Sergeant William Cox of the Devonshire Regiment

337 Sergeant William Cox of the Devonshire Regiment

© William Wylie

 

The first page of the letter from Ladysmith

The first page of the letter written from Ladysmith by 337 Sergeant William Cox

of the Devonshire Regiment

©William Wylie

 

TRANSCRIPTION OF THE PAGE ABOVE:

Ladysmith

28.8.1900

My dear Bro and Sis,

In answer to your kind and welcome letter hoping this will find you quite well not forgetting the babes. You asked me to tell you how we were during and after the siege.

It was very trying day after day the same old thing, rise to man the posts before daybreak then dismiss if all is quiet and no danger. Next, rations were issued and that was the time to see us, not a crumb of bread or biscuit was wasted. Our mainstay was a cup of soup at dinner time altho' a lot of men used to eat the meat in preference to the soup which I think caused a lot of sickness.*

Well when we got to our lowest diet things began to look black but we never doubted that the relief were doing their best. So it happened for they got through when little expected for we expected to have a big fight for it when the relief were at hand.

But nothing of the kind happened. The Boers simply scooted when driven from Pieter's Hill, our naval guns gave "LongTom" a warm adieu all the afternoon and night before the relief came in. (Well after we were relieved we were put on full rations which some of the men made away with . . .)

 

(The first part of the final sentence is completed on the next page)

 

This text is the copyright property of William Wylie

 

* Perhaps Sergeant Cox was trying to save distress to  his relatives with this passing reference to food supplies during the siege. Louis Creswicke in his 6-volume series of books about the war writes in a very different vein:

     

"The men were very near the barbaric brink of starvation. On one occasion a shell plumped into the mule lines and killed a mule. There was a general rush. Shells followed on the first, crashing all around, but the famished, racing throng heeded them not: their one desire was to get at the slain  beast, to capture the wherewithal to stay their grievous cravings. Quickly, with their clasp knives they possessed themselves of great chunks of the flesh, and then, with death hurtling around them and over their heads, they proceeded to carry their prize to safer quarters. Here they determined to have a grand "tuck-in". Fires were kindled and the flesh was roasted and swallowed with lightning rapidity."

Philip Gourd, a family connection of Sergeant Cox, writing in our times to William Wylie about this historic document says:

Extracted from a letter to William Wylie from Philip Gould

 

 

 
 
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