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Devonshire Rgt.

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Letter from Private Herbert Worth of B Company, 2nd Battalion, the Devonshire Regiment, serving in the South African Field Force, to his brother Tom who lived in Newton Abbot. Tom and Herbert were the sons of the late William and Ann Worth who had had a butcher's shop in Harberton. The family consisted of Tom, Herbert and their sister Fanny.

The letter is dated  February 3rd 1900 and was written from a camp in the Ladysmith area.


Dear Tom,

We are in camp now. We have been here seven days, but we are expecting to advance again tonight (Saturday) to relieve Ladysmith, and it will be a hard job of it too. We have been trying to get in ever since we have been out here.

General Buller gave a lecture last Monday to the Division, and told us that he had got the key and that we should be in Ladysmith in a week, but he will have to hurry up for there is only three days left out of the week, and we will lose a few more troops going in, and not only in that place.

No doubt you have seen the papers about the Colenso affair. It was awful to see our poor fellows dropping down by hundreds by the side of us. It was cruel to be in the battle field for 12  hours and in the burning sun and to face so many thousands of them and they in the trenches for miles and miles around. Tell about the last one I was in, Tirah - it was nothing compared to this. If ever I get over this one which I trust the Lord I shall, it will take me about twelve months to tell you all about this war.

I suppose you saw that we have lost our Commanding officer at the battle of Colenso. We lost 116 killed, wounded and captured in that battle of our regiment. The loss on our side was estimated to be 1,137, and that's nothing to what we shall lose before this war is over, but I can tell you, Tom, that we are all fed up with it and shan't be sorry when it's all over.

It's cruel for want of water and food where we are  now. Can't get anything, and as for anything to smoke we can't get it, and if I tell you that that we have  been smoking tea leaves and coffee, you would not believe it, but it is true. We can't get a smoke for love nor money so if you can send me out a few boxes of cigarettes you would do me a great kindness, and I won't forget you.

Just going to shift for another go - in. Good-bye.



Herbert Worth was born in Harberton in 1872. When he wrote this letter he was 28.

Ladysmith was eventually entered 118 days after the siege began, on the 28th February 1900.


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