It has been reported that Private Joseph Sharples, of the 2nd Scots Guards, wounded at the battle of Modder River. Private Sharples is only 22 years of age, and is a Blackburn man. He has served in the [unreadable] also three years in the Regulars. We have been enabled to reproduce his photo through the courtesy of his brother, Robert, who resides in Clitheroe.
4693 Lance-Corporal W. H. Holding/Holden, "D" Company 1st Loyal North Lancashire Regiment
ANTICIPATING THE BIGGEST BATTLE OF THE WAR.
Mrs. Holding, of Griffin-street, Witton, has received some interesting letters from her son, Lance-Corporal W. H. Holding (No. 4,693), of the "D" Company 1st Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. The letter is dated Thursday, December 7th, 1899, and is from the Modder River Camp. He says: - "We have been marching, fighting, and camping out on the open plains all the time I have been here. We have had three battles, and I managed to pull through them all. The first one was at a place called Belmont, but that was not so much. We were fighting about six hours, but only lost a few men killed and wounded. We brought in the dead, and laid them in their last resting places. We were doing that nearly all day. The next battle we had was at a place called Graspan. Well, this was a little harder, for the bullets were falling over us like rain. I pulled through however without a scratch. After a few days, we fought another battle at a place called Modder River, and this was the worst of all. It lasted about 16 hours, and the bullets fell just as thick as before, but at the finish we beat them off. We lost a good many, but the enemy lost about five or six to us one. We are staying here till the war is over, as the General says we have done more than our share of the work."
In another letter, under date December 21st, he says: "We are expecting to begin fighting very soon. The battle will be one of the greatest battles ever fought since the war began." - Mr. Holden mentions that his captain's wife has sent every soldier a Christmas card to be sent home to the soldiers' wives and friends. He also says that another kind-hearted English lady has sent every soldier engaged in this war some note paper. He goes on to say: - "I must not forget to tell you that her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen has not forgot us, for she is sending every soldier a tin box of chocolate, which is already sweetened and milk in it, enough to make 30 cups of cocoa. I have also heard that some kind ladies and gentlemen are sending us ten tons of Christmas pudding. You can send me tobacco, cigars, pipes, &c., free of charge by just putting my name, number, rank, company, and regiment on the outside of the parcel. The enemy are quite close at hand. They are at our right and at our front. The last battle we had a few hundreds killed and wounded, but the Boers had treble that number. It took them over three days to bury their dead, and they had to send for a lot of our doctors to attend to their wounded, but they still hang out. We have not done any fighting for a few days now, but as soon as the battle is over we shall come home to England. Please send me some local papers. The General says that our regiment is the best he has under his command."
Driver M. Leach, 63rd Battery Royal Field Artillery
AN EVENTFUL VOYAGE.
Driver M. Leach, of the 63rd Battery Royal Field Artillery, sends an interesting and graphic description of the wreck of the troopship "Ismore" to his brother, who resides at 2, Shore, Blackburn, when it was proceeding to the Cape with a contingent of men. He says in one letter, dated November 16th, 1899: - We expect to arrive in Palmas to-morrow. I am on the sick list just now. I was inoculated last night, and it is very painful. We have had a very rough voyage. As we were passing through the Bay of Biscay I fell flat on my back. I did not even know whether I was on my head or on my feet. We got into a severe gale on Tuesday and we had to shelter in a harbour. We have had a lot of trouble with the horses. We have had ten Hussars sick, eight of them dying. She is a very good sailing boat, but rocks dreadfully." Enclosed with this letter was a slip of paper, dated December 3rd, on which was written:- "We struck a rock yesterday morning, but I am quite safe. We all took to the boats and got ashore. Will write later.
CALLING THE ROLL ON A SINKING SHIP.
In another letter, dated December 9th, he says: - "We have arrived at the Cape at last. I daresay you will have read in the papers about our misfortune. We had a terrible time I can assure you, and I would not like to go through it again. I will now describe it to you. About 2 30 a.m. on Sunday morning we were all in our hammocks fast asleep when we were awakened by a terrible shock. I was bounced out of bed on the floor, in fact all of us were. We all rushed on deck and we saw she had struck on some rocks. It was dark and we could see no land. The officers told the trumpeters to sound the "fall in." I shall never forget it as long as I live. We all fell in line, and we got the order to dress with as much marching order kit as possible - that is, with our water bottles, life belts, etc. We were next told off, so many men to each boat. We had to stand in line and the roll was called. As our names came in turn we had to slide down a rope into the boat below. We then rowed away from the wreck. As day was breaking we could see land about a mile away, and we made our way there with all haste. When we got on 'terra firma' we did not half send us a cheer. The major congratulated us on our coolness. One of the hussar officers took a snap shot of the men. We were all chatting together, just as if nothing had happened. We were on shore about two hours. We thought the place was deserted when there came in sight a number of n******. When they saw us they ran for dear lives, but we chased them and called them back. We were very hungry. So we told them the best way we could that we wanted something to eat and drink, which they quickly brought. They also drove us two bullocks (into, I was going to say, "camp") but we will call it our company. We soon had a good dinner. We were here two days awaiting orders from Capetown. We had no tents, so we had to sleep in the open air. We had not even our overcoats. We lost everything - guns, horses, kits, etc. On Tuesday morning a gunboat came in sight and took us all aboard, and landed us safely at the Cape, and we are now camped out in Maitland. We are getting new kits, horses and mules, guns, waggons, etc. We shall be ready for the front in the course of a few days. It is very hot here indeed. My face is that sore that I can't wash. It is a very nice country. We are allowed in town three hours every night. It is a wonderful sight to see the different ways of people. You would laugh to see them. They say, "White man, me lubby him. Kill Boer." They don't like the Boers, you know. There were eighty Boer prisoners brought to Capetown yesterday. You would pity them if you only saw them. They looked proper wretched, and when they were asked what they were fighting for, they actually didn't know.
Add Driver Leach Experience [sic]
In a later letter Driver Leach gives a graphic account of the wreck. Writing from Maitland Camp on December 16th, he says: - "I am glad to let you know that I am still living, though they tried hard to drown and starve us. I shall never forget the 3rd of December. We were all on deck on Saturday, singing, dancing, and enjoying ourselves, being the last night we should spend on the water. We then went down to sleep in our hammocks. At about half-past two in the morning I was suddenly awaked by feeling my head come in contact with the roof. There was a terrific crash and a sudden stop. We all jumped up out of our beds and ran on the upper deck. But we could see nothing. An order was given for the trumpeters to sound fall in. We all fell in as if on parade. We stood as if rooted to the spot, not daring to move. The ship's crew began to lower the boats, which seemed to last a life time. The roll was called and each man as his name was called stepped out to the front and was lowered into the boat. When daylight broke we could see nothing but rocks and cliffs around us for about a couple of miles distant. We pulled our way towards them and found a very nice place to land. We were on the coast for about four hours before we could see any signs of habitation. At last some n****** came in sight but they seemed to be afraid of us. We soon got their confidence however. We were very hungry and you can guess they could not provide for about 400 of us. However, they got us two bullocks and some bread. We were on short allowance for two days. We were ultimately picked up by a gunboat and brought to the Cape and are now encamped in Capetown. It is a nice place, but there are too many n******. We have lost all our horses, guns and kits, &c., so we are starting afresh and are now waiting for guns and waggons. We expect to be ready for the front in the course of a few days. The Boers have had the best of us this week, having captured 10 guns and completely cut up the 66th Battery. Don't I wish I was there! I am longing for a shot at them. Things here are very dear; one could not live properly here without a weekly salary of £5 or £6. Excuse the writing as I have not got a good pen, the one you gave me being at the bottom of the ocean."