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LETTER FROM PRIVATE OLIVER HAVILL OF CLYST ST. MARY - OCTOBER 1899

 

Letter from Private Oliver Havill ( son of Mr Thomas Havill of Clyst St Mary) of F Company of the 1st Battalion, the Devonshire Regiment to his mother. The letter is dated "Ladysmith 22nd October". See footnotes at the end of the letter for various explanations.

 

Dear Mother,

Just a few lines to you. I suppose you have seen in the paper by this time about our regiment under fire. Dear mother, I must say I got through the fire on the 21st  October, but I must say I had chums and chaps that I knew falling on both sides of me. But I took it very cool. The scoundrels (i.e the Boers) tried to blow us off the face of the earth but they were flatsº. Talk about war, it was dreadful. The General was passing my Company when a shell came up over and struck in front of us, but it only wounded a horse. They kept up the fire with their big game rifles all day but our artillery shelled them nicely.

I was right in the firing line all the time, and I was felling a lot of horses and Boers in front of me, but I have no pity for them. We got to within three hundred yards of them and then we charged with fixed bayonets up the hill and drove them out of the camp.

Then we saw a sight. Boers in several places groaning and asking for water; some were dead, some shot to pieces, and horses lying dead and wounded in all directions. They left all their things behind, food, tents, harness, ragsºº. Well I cannot tell you what was there - talk about tinned meats, there was plenty of that.

We had to stop in  the cold and rain all the night but I was used in the charge. I was very cheerful but bullets were flying all over the place. Bert Staddon* got through all right but Marks** from Woodbury got shot in the knee.

Well, mother, we expect to go out tonight or tomorrow morning to fight about 7000. Well dear mother if I get shot I will die fighting for Queen and Country. But don't trouble about me, I shall be happy. I am writing this with a Boer pencil on Boer paper.

Well goodbye, mother.

Your ever loving son, Oliver.

º  Victorian slang word for someone who is easily taken in

ºº Victorian, slang word for clothing

*  Herbert Staddon of Colaton Raleigh

**Harry Marks of Woodbury(referred to in the letter of John Marks)

 

Thomas and Ellen Havill had four sons (Oliver, Sam, Wilfred and Arthur) and two daughters (Laura and Eliza) Oliver was born in the September Quarter of 1877 and was 22 when he wrote this letter.

 

 
 
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