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Sketches of soldiers in the Blackburn Times 1 month 2 weeks ago #71614

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Private C. Stones, 1st East Lancashire Regiment

….In a letter, dated 17th March, to his friend, Mr. Geo. Comberbirch, of 86, Dewhurst-street, Blackburn, Private C. Stones, of the H Company, 1st Batt. East Lanc. Regiment, says: - "We went from Capetown to Graspan, and we had it pretty hard. One night in bed, and every morning at 3 30 a.m. we are in the trenches. But we can't expect anything else. From Graspan we moved on to Kimberley, and stayed there a week. We next proceeded to Naauwpoort. We went in open trucks in the hot sun. We also had nineteen horses in the train. We were packed like herrings in a box. We got two tins of corned beef and a drop of coffee, but no bread or biscuits. Talk about tripping to Blackpool, it is not in it. But I don't care as long as I keep my health and strength up. There are about 80 of us here. We have been sent twice to join our regiment, but have been prevented from doing so, for we were wanted to guard our lines of communication. But, of course, we expect to meet them some time. I have not been in any engagements yet, but I expect to be before we (that is the British forces) reach Pretoria, and I don't think that will be very long, for the Boers are giving themselves up daily. Give my kind regards to all inquiring friends."

The Blackburn Times, Saturday 14th April 1900

Two possibles for C. Stones are Christopher Stones, whose birth was registered in Blackburn, second quarter of 1880, and Christopher Walmsley Stones, Blackburn, fourth quarter of 1874.

1414 Sapper W. Bland, 23rd Company Royal Engineers Killed in action at Ladysmith on 6th January 1900


….Sapper H. Bland, No. 1414, of the 23rd Company Royal Engineers, who was one of the besieged in Ladysmith, and who was killed in action on January 6th, on which date the Boers made a determined attack on the town, was 25 years of age, having served two years in the army. He has sent several letters to his mother and father, who reside in Darwen, and also to his wife, who resides in William Henry-street, Blackburn. His wife has also received a letter from the major commanding his division to the effect that her husband was killed in action and buried by his comrades. In the letter to his wife, written six days previous to his death, he says: - "We have had a fearful time of it here at Ladysmith up till now. Shot and shell are flying about the town every day and night. Poor Ladysmith is nearly in ruins now, but I don't think the siege will last much longer. The Boers are getting fed up with trying to get in here. If they had any fighting in them at all they would have got in here long ago. Their force is nearly forty thousand strong and we are only ten thousand; so that is four to one. The Boers haven't the pluck to come out into the open and fight like men, but they get in among the rocks. The other night 250 of us went out and blew up three of their big guns, and also captured one Maxim. They didn't know what to make of it when we rushed into their midst with fixed bayonets. They fired a few shots, and then they ran over the hill as though the devil was after them with 200 of us following them, while the other 50 blew up the guns. We killed about 150 Boers, while our loss only amounted to one killed and one wounded. We saw them next morning taking away the three guns, but they are now no good. They have got one big gun on a hill about five miles outside Ladysmith, and it fires 94lb. shells. If it does much damage we shall have to blow that up, too. It is just nine weeks to-morrow since we were shut off from the outside world. We are expecting the relief force here soon, and then won't the Boers get a lively time of it. I'll bet when the brave Lancers charged them at the battle of Elandslaagte they cried for mercy, and they got it with about two feet of cold steel. It was fearful to see them. But it is their own fault. I don't know when I shall see old England again. The black women out here will have nothing at all to do with the white women."
….In a letter to his mother and father at Darwen he says: - "The war has now commenced, and we are fighting for all we are worth. We had a terrible fight at Dundee yesterday. We captured some of the Boers' guns and put the rest out of action. We did this in less than fifteen minutes. We are going to defend the bridge we have put up out here. A shell has just burst about 30 yards from where we are having our food, but injured no one. Give my best respects to all inquiring friends."
….In a second letter to his mother very early in the campaign he says: - "You said we shall have something to do if we are fighting the Boers. But it won't be so hard this time as you think, for we have got some of the finest guns with us in the whole world. More troops are pouring in every day, and fresh guns, so it won't take us long to clear 'Old Kruger' out of the Transvaal. We have sent two batteries of artillery, the 18th Hussars, the Lancasters, and the Dublin Fusiliers up to Charles Town and No. 1 section of the Royal Engineers have also accompanied them. The other night it was rumoured the Boers had fired upon them whilst they were out scouting. We have our outpost duty both day and night all round Ladysmith, as the Generals are afraid of the Orange Free Staters giving us a prise. The other men have gone up to keep 'Old Kruger' quiet. The English mean business. Over 10 million rounds of ammunition came here not long ago. We are under orders to turn out at a moment's notice, so we have with our clothes on, and our rifles and bayonets lying by our side, and we also carry 20 rounds of ammunition about with us. Last Wednesday we marched 23 miles from 6 a.m. till 5 p.m., and then we had to sleep on the ground, and we had to tramp back next day. You see they are giving us something to go on with. I expect having a couple of medals."
….In a third letter from Ladysmith he says: - "I hope the siege doesn't last much longer, for we can't hold out. This place is nearly in ruins. I have heard that General Buller is at Colenso with a relief force. Colenso is about 16 miles from here. We have heard about General Methuen's great and splendid victory at Mooi River. General Buller was signalling the other night, and it is reported that he is only five or six miles from here. We shall not be fit for further service when we are relieved, for fever is raging and doing a great deal of harm. We are all done up, what with being short of food and fighting every day. I can tell you we look like old men. We have never had a shave, we are slutched up to the eyes with dirt, and our clothes are ragged. We have to sleep amongst the hills and rocks at night. We are gradually diminishing. We used to be 10,000 strong, but disease, fighting, famine, and fever have done for us. I don't think that we could now muster more than six thousand men. It was our company which blew up three of the Boer guns and captured a Maxim."

Blackburn Times, Saturday 14th April 1900

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