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The Boer War letters of Subaltern Samuel Richard Normand, RA 1 year 5 months ago #74204

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XXXV
2-12-01
C.C. Pompom
No. 3 Column
Transvaal

My dearest mater

I'm sorry to have had no news of any of you, as the officer who was to have brought out our mails by the convoy which met us at Carolina today has forgotten them - I don't think he will be shot that is too good for him. The convoy leaves again tomorrow at 4:00 AM so I must ask you to be content with a very short note, but I do hope to hear of your complete recovery and good accounts of Sis. We have done nothing since last writing except a few futile attempts at surprising the wily burgher ; But expect to go out again on the hunt the day after tomorrow and may not have a chance of getting any mails for another three weeks or so, which makes it all the more harder that we should have to go without them . I must really close- I have no news and it is getting rather late. I was up at 1:30 AM this morning- we surprised a picquet of 4 Boers and got some cattle; - and did not get in till noon.

A Merry Christmas and happy 1902 to you all
with heaps of love
I am ever your loving son
Sam R Normand
Dr David Biggins

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The Boer War letters of Subaltern Samuel Richard Normand, RA 1 year 5 months ago #74205

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23-12-02
C.C. Pompom
Mackenzie’s Column
I do not know the number of this letter. but I think it is No. 40 (42 in pencil probably later)

My dearest Mother

I find a convoy goes tomorrow morning at 4:30 AM so I must write a few lines after a longish longish period of inaction at Carolina where I posted my last, about the 19th inst. we moved to Lake Chrissie. We made a night March there, and about 10 miles further and captured I think it was 13 Boers.

I am sorry to say Major Bramley of the second Scottish horse was killed. He was a splendid leader and a most charming man but his push and daring cost him his life. The next morning we got news of a Boer convoy about 10 miles off near Klipstapel, and though we had done 40 miles the night preceding the day before, we started off to catch them in broad daylight. We left camp at about 9:30 AM, and after a chase of some 20 miles we came upon their their rear waggons , and following on for another 7 miles called all the rest except 2 Cape carts. Some 50 or 60 Boers were supposed to have runaway; however we got 33 prisoners, 22 waggons 35 Cape and Scottish carts 1020 cattle 815 sheep and some 60 horses, mules etc. We were then too far away to return to camp so we bivouacked where we were; and as we were ordered to march light with strip saddles none of us had coats or blankets . However with a couple of sheets of corrugated iron taken from the roof of a neighbouring farm we made shelters as it began to rain and thus kept moderately dry. next morning we moved off to Smutzoog and then on to Lillieput Where we met our baggage. Tomorrow we move on to Lake Chrissie where we hope we shall spend Xmas and meet the outcoming convoy And we are looking forward to a couple of weeks mails.

I hope you are all well at home and perhaps by this time you have “trekked” abroad.

good luck and best wishes to all
ever your loving son
Sam R Normand
Dr David Biggins

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The Boer War letters of Subaltern Samuel Richard Normand, RA 1 year 5 months ago #74206

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8th January 1902

CC pompom
MacKenzie’s Column
Transvaal

My dearest Mother

The mail went off yesterday at 3:00 PM but it is likely another will go off in the next six or seven days, and as we will likely move tonight or tomorrow I will take this chance of writing. You are all asking in your last letters how I came to be with the field guns which were taken. Well I was in command of the two Pompoms on a ridge between the Boers and the field guns. When the Pompoms jammed - first one then the other (after firing about 1600 rounds) I retired to the ridge on which the field guns were but did not halt the Pompoms to which I gave orders to go straight on to the next Ridge nearest the camp. I myself went to report to Colonel Guinness C.R.A. who was with the field guns, But after I had done so, before I had gone 10 yards the Boers were on us and nearly all the horses shot down, and I could not have got away if I tried. I was very lucky to escape! I wrote to Mr Watt about Pat and Lindsay. He saw the former about a fortnight or two three weeks ago but not the latter. I believe there is a fellow Wood in the column , but curiously enough I have not met him- at least I do not know him by name but will hunt him up. I do envy Jim and Eleanor in Spain but I don't suppose they will find Algeciras an attractive spot and the habitants are beasts. I'm awfully sorry you missed old Stanbrough, you would have liked him immensely. What a rotter he is not to have left his address- I think he must be home from Gib as he was promoted with a company there last year. Many thanks to Sis for taking so much trouble about the films. I get them all developed here, but I'm sending the negatives to Lizars to print. I told him to send prints to you, and with each batch you will find a small piece of paper with the progressive numbers marked for future identification. Please send Lizars account out to me why he sent it to 15 Lt I do not know he's an ass. I do not expect to write again for a fortnight.

hope all are keeping well
and yourself in your normal good health
forever loving son
Sam R Normand
Dr David Biggins

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XLI
20 January 1902 CC Pompoms
Mackenzie’s Column
Transvaal

My dearest mother I was very glad to get yours and fathers of the 20th December and to hear you were both well with the exception of slight colds.

Bad snow and wind storms are reported in the papers.

We left Carolina three days ago on a night March, but only got 4 prisoners, so we came back again yesterday, but expected go out again tonight or tomorrow. The weather lately has been positively beastly- rain- thunder and wind. Today however is fair though it threatens to come on again tonight . I am glad Jim and Eleanor found a decent hotel in Algeciras; the town itself never struck me as being a model of cleanliness. I enclose a receipt for father please give it to him. I think I acknowledge safe receipt of the shortbread chocolate and magnificent cake . All very much appreciated indeed. I believe I also told father in my last that Mrs Cox and Co had acknowledged the safe receipt of the remittance for £50. I fear I have not much news but will probably write it during the next fortnight from Lamello

hope all are well
I am your ever loving son
Sam R Normand
Dr David Biggins

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The Boer War letters of Subaltern Samuel Richard Normand, RA 1 year 5 months ago #74233

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4-9 February 1902
XLiii
Bankplaats (87)

My dearest Mother

I think I wrote father on the 27th or 28th ult. (no 42) But have no record of it. We left Emels on the night of the 29th and crossed the Vaal by a pontoon bridge erected there and then at midnight e were after Botha . We arrived at a farm beyond Schimmel Hoek, But drew an absolute blank, both there and at another farm further on, but we heard later that Botha had dined at the farm The evening we had crossed that Vaal. We rested at Schimmel Hoek And at 6:00 PM that evening 30th moved out again and arrived near Bankop At dawn , but again true perfectly blank- and our language was pretty blank too. Here we remained all the day and night, and had a well deserved night's sleep . At 9:00 AM next morning 1st of February we moved about four miles and then outspanned waiting for orders . We got our orders to move off again for another “nighter” at 5:00 pm. still following up Botha who had made for Amsterdam a favourite haunt of his . At dawn we had covered the requisite distance and halted between Athole farm and Amsterdam while a different Column rushed the neighbouring farms , but for the third time “no Boer's “.

They had moved on at 2:00 AM you will of course understand that it is useless to try and follow them as besides the fact that they are on fresh horses they simply scatter into twos and threes and disappear. Later on, we heard that a small Boer convoy had left the previous night and we're only some 12 miles off but it was useless to think of following up on our jaded beasts. We had rather an amusing incident at Athole, and it shows how much cheek the Boers have. We had been at Athole farm some 4 hours when two Boer's came in un observed - They had I suppose being asleep in the trees and began picking fruit suddenly they spotted a “Tommy” doing the same so they quietly got to their horses and made a bolt for it. Some 500 yards below the garden was a spruit where a man was watering a couple of horses; him the “hands upped” and made off with him. This time the picquet saw what they took to be three men and a lead horse riding out of camp, presumably some of our intelligence scouts going out to try and get information ; so the two Boers got clean away with those men whom they allowed to go free later and kept the two horses. The next day the 3rd. of February We moved back in the direction of Emalo about 8 miles and the next day about 7 miles further. It looked as if we were to go slowly back to mlx with our tails between our legs, and we were not sorry as the horses had done pretty hard work- 3 nights march in four days, but we set off again at 6:40 PM back towards Amsterdam again . The convoy that had aided us at Athol having gone to Margval - About 15 miles beyond- being all likelihood in pretty much the same place the road was frightfully dusty as the last two days were very hot and dry , but we pegged along at a good 4 1/2 miles an hour, including halts, crossed three spruitsand at dawn had got beyond Margvale and were on the ridges beyond Davidale and Ringkink. I'm afraid the names will not assist you as they will not be marked at any maps you are likely to see but this is only a few miles off the Swaziland border. Here we sighted some Boers and a couple of waggons . The latter we captured after a chase of five or six miles and also got 12 Boers and killed one. About an hour it sufficed to collect our scattered forces, and then we started off to meet the light baggage and supplies which had been signalled for. We halted again for an hour at noon to off sadle water and feed the horses (and ourselves- nothing to each except a bit of biscuit since 5:00 PM the previous night) and then on again picking up the baggage at Straker's farm at about 4:00 PM . We had been on the go for 22 1/2 hours and had covered close on 55 miles, and our bag was most disappointing. It is no use hiding the fact that night marches appear now to be worked out . For a long time- a year- they have answered very well; since June captures have average something like 1200 to 1300 a month and since September certainly 320 prisoners a week now however commando always move away in the evening or at midnight from the places they have spent the day, so that when our column all night to surprise them they only arrived to find the Boers have decamped and are still some 12 or 15 miles away.
Moreover, as happened last time, any Boer who hear a column marching along at night follow up quietly and take prisoners away , any who may have got separated from the column and lost his way, or is unable to keep up through his horse going sick or lame. I think more will have to be done with small columns of about 500 strong, able to act quite independently, entirely unhampered by any wheeled transport whatever and if menaced by a bigger concentration of Boers, they must act as the Boers do- scatter, and individuals find their way back to block houses or to garrisons as best they can. If Tommy can only learn to keep his eyes open, learn the country, recognised landmarks, and remember the general direction of the country and what line he should take to reach say Emels, Carolina Standeton and or any such place, or a blockhouse, it should not be hard for him to find his way. But poor old Tommy is the least observant of the whole animal creation!

9th July

Just got in to Emels yesterday on business. The Major and I drove in a cape Cart from Bankop – 27 miles-Starting at 4:30 AM we got in at 10:30 am. We have we leave again tomorrow afternoon accompanying the supply column which is taking out five days supplies for the whole force. I got your welcome letters of December 27th and January the 3rd also from father of January the 3rd and Sissy January the 10th for which many thanks. I also had a PC from Eleanor of the 9th December from Gibb . It is a pity their trip to Granada could not have been in April or May. These are a long way the most pleasant months there as one gets beautiful clear warm days and cold nights.

I have received the papers father sent but have really had no time to read them and will wait till I re-join the column. The performing seals at the Waverly Market must have been most entertaining and the Turks must have had a real spree. Are you sure that Algernon Wood of the Essex Regiment was at Bakenlaagte?

I do not know his name, and I know all the third mounted infantry- I think- to which the Essex regiment belonged. I was very glad to see by Sissy’s letter that you have sent me the four pairs of socks after all. They have not arrived yet but I may get them tomorrow before leaving. I do not think there is the least chance of my coming home yet. I think Pompoms will be used still to a very great extent, and a certain number field guns are still required for convoy work. The socks will be most useful and I am glad they are thick as I never wear thin ones out of doors. I was glad to hear from yourself that you arm was nearly O.K. now and hope it is perfectly right again. Ord stairs were bad enough! I must now close this; I hope all are well and have had good news from J&E and Bert.

with heaps of love to all
every or loving son
Sam R Normand
Dr David Biggins

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The Boer War letters of Subaltern Samuel Richard Normand, RA 1 year 5 months ago #74234

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XLIII
Wakkerstrom
3rd March
CC Pompoms
Mackenzies Column

My dearest Mater,

here we are on our way down to Natal- with any rate VRYHEID (pronounced fry hade) where you remember I was near with a 12 pounder in February March last year, De Jagers drift is only 12 or 14 miles south of it. Botha has gone down and is supposed to be somewhere South of Vryheid and we are all after him. We had a spending success in the O.R.C last week, but you no doubt have had all of the particulars 811 killed or captured and a large number of cattle. K (itchener) ran the show himself and had quite a success. he knew of a weak spot in the block house line, and instead of strengthening it, left it as it was but put an immense wire fence some distance beyond. The Boers of course knew of this weak spot and drove the cattle towards it, and through with the result that all were captured. He and most of the columns have come up here to try a drive in this part of the country. If we only get a real success here also, it should do an immense deal towards the finishing of the war. There have been a very large number of voluntary surrenders lately. Yesterday I got your and Sissy’s joint letter of the 31st of January and so hope Sis will enjoy her visit to the Grants .

The R.S (Royal Scottish) Fusiliers have left us as most of the column consist solely of mounted men. But I may meet Fuller on the way into Vryheid as the regiment is about here somewhere and may join us for a week or so

you must excuse more as we march in half an hour

heaps of love to all
ever your loving son
Sam R Normand
Dr David Biggins

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