We have received for publication the following letter, which has been received by Mr. Hopkin Rees, of Ystrad Rhondda, from his brother, whose name appeared in the official list of the killed at Isandula.
Rorke's Drift, February 20, 1879.
Dear Brother, - I now take the pleasure of writing these few lines to you, hoping to find you in good health, as they leave me at present, thank God for it. Dear brother, I am sorry that I have not write to you before, as I have not much chance, as we have been on the move ever since we have been in this country. Dear brother, this is to inform you that we have had a very heavy battle, on the 22nd of January, at a place called Isandhl. We were encamped there, and on the morning of the 22nd we marched out to meet the enemy, and we went about ten miles from the camp. We had left five companies 1-24, one company and a half 2-14 and some volunteers to guard the camp, with some of the native infantry and two guns R.A. About one o'clock we could hear some very heavy firing, and we looked in the direction of the camp. We could see that the enemy had been and attacked it. It lasted for about three hours, and we were ordered into camp about three o'clock. We started at once, and when we were within three miles of the camp the General met us and told us that the enemy had attacked the camp and killed all our men, and destroyed everything, and that we must retake the camp at the point of the bayonet. We formed up in battle order, and marched on to either take it or fall, and when we came within range the guns started shelling the place, and we took the camp without any loss. We stopped there all night, and at daylight next morning I saw one of the dreadfullest sights as ever a man seen. The dead were laying about in all directions, and every white man was cut into pieces, and their intrels cut out. We have heard that the number of the enemy that attacked the camp were between 15,000 and 16,000, the number of ours were about 900 white men and about 500 blacks, and only about nine white men escaped. The number of our loss is five officers, 10 sergeants, eight corporals, two drummers, 159 privates - total, 184 2-24th; 16 officers, and 403 non-commission officers and men - total, 419 1-24th, and about 69 of the Royal Artillery and two guns, making a total of 672 British soldiers, and about 230 Volunteers and mounted police, and about 350 natives. Roberts Stephens, from Trealaw, is amongst the dead. Dear brother, please to tell Rees Evans Cooker that his son Thomas is alive and well, and sends his best respects to him; and please to give my best respects to Henry Rees and his sons, and Sanders, and all my old friends, and accept the same yourself, from your affectionate brother, WILLIAM
No. 1,092, Private William Rees,
F. Company, 2-24th Regiment,
Natal, South Africa.
(The Weekly Mail, Saturday 12th April 1879)
Thank you for sharing this letter. In my opinion, it is the literate amongst the lower ranks of the British army who left some of the most moving and revealing records of their battles in South Africa.