King's College London
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On the Veldt: The British Army in South Africa 1899-1902

On campaign

In between fighting and marching, soldiers spent a lot of time in camp, on guard duty and waiting for orders and reports of Boers. Below are a few excerpts detailing the highs and lows of life on campaign.

Monotony of routine

Letter describing daily life in South AfricaCrossman’s letter from South AfricaLieutenant George Crossman, West Yorkshire Regiment, wrote home to his mother in November 1899 describing the monotonous life on outpost duty.

He said ‘...I am sick of this outpost job, we are on one day and off the next, so we are fairly “fed up” with it. No Boers reported within 25 miles of here today..The temperature has been about 103 [degrees Fahrenheit] in [the] shade.’

The rest of the letter can be viewed by clicking on the image to the right.

Within days Crossman was engaged in heavy fighting with his unit around Colenso.

Camp life

Arundel Camp during the Second Boer WarArundel Camp 1899Lieutenant Charles Foulkes, Royal Engineers, captured the scenes of camp life throughout the British Army’s time in South Africa.

At Arundel Camp we can clearly see the massed rows of white tents, grazing horses and scattered paraphernalia of war.

This scene would have been familiar to thousands of British troops during the war and through being in a constant state of readiness.

Christmas

Captain William Lawson, Imperial Yeomanry, described Christmas 1900 having ‘passed off very well with … plum pudding and cakes, but the turkeys did not exactly jostle one another off the festive board, which was, by the way, the floor of the Dutch Reformed Church at Lichtenburg. We also had a little champagne….’ (Reference: Burnham 1, ‘Letter to Margery’, 4 January 1901’)

Colour Sergeant John Archer also had ‘plum pudding for dinner and a small tot of rum in the evening’ when he celebrated Christmas with the Rifle Brigade. (Reference: Archer 1, ‘Letter to Mother’, 25 December 1899)

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