22/09/ 1900 - 480 Trooper Thomas Jamison, Lord Strathcona's Corps 10 months 2 weeks ago #65971
Good Morning Everyone......
Thought you might like to read the following especially since it was written 119 years ago today...... To me one of the funny things is that be was from Belfast and he has the bar Belfast on his medal..... I would tell people, that were not in the know, that it represented the Saturday Night bust up in the Pubs of Belfast. LOL.....
Also in some documents etc. Where he is mentioned his name is spelt Jameson and Jamison which is correct
The following is a letter written by 480 Trooper Thomas Jamison, Lord Strathcona's Corps from Calgary, Alberta to his cousin Miss Annie Brown of Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A. A native of Belfast Ireland, he came to Canada in 1893, and worked on the Patrick Burns Cattle Ranch. (It became the Senator Patrick Burns Ranch which is now a Shopping Centre. Senator Burns was one of the Big 4 the founders of the Calgary Stampede). He stayed in Calgary until he enlisted in Strathcona's Corps
22nd September, 1900
Dear Cousin Annie:
I was indeed pleased to get your letter of June 17. You have no idea how I love to get letter out here. It is the one thing I look forward to. By the time you get this I trust the was will be over, it has certainly lasted much longer than people thought. The Boers are stubborn or they would have given in a long time ago.
I forget now where we were, when I last wrote to you. I think Cape Town, so I will endeavour to give you an idea of our wondering since leaving there until our arrival at Heidelberg, then finish up to date in a letter to cousin Maggie, how will that do? Kill two birds with one stone, will that be fair? I am afraid I have forgotten most dates.
It was shortly after the Queen's Birthday, when we left Cape Town, under sealed orders, so of course did not know where we were going. We embarked on the Steamers Wakool and Columbia, steamed out of Table Bay, under escort of H.M.S. Doris, rounded the cape, then up the eastern coast, the weather was splendid, and our horses stood the trip pretty well.
It was about the fifth day when we anchored off the mouth of the Kosi River, and being Sunday, we were invited over to the Doris for Divine Service. They sent their pinnacle and another boat over and about 40 of us were allowed to go. I enjoyed the service very much (Church of England), although there was no sermon, and then the Jacks piloted us all over the boat showing us the sights. We got back about dinner time. In the evening the bugle sounded general assembly and we went below to the mess deck to hear orders.
The Major came down and told us the object of our move, orders were to land at some convenient spot up the coast, swim our horses ashore, make quick march overland to Koomati Poort on the Pretoria and Delagos Bay Railway, blow up the bridges, demolish track generally, and so cut off supplies coming in for the Boers. Notwithstanding the great secrecy which had been observed it appears that the Boers got wind of us and had heavily reinforced piquets along the railway etc. So another man-o'-war was despatched after us with orders to return and land at Durban. We were very disappointed, but as we had no artillery it was the wisest thing to do, beside orders were orders. I forgot to say that our force consisted of but one squadron “B”. The others “A” and “C” left Cape Town a few days before us for Durban, and the intention was to join them up country someplace after we had blown up the bridges.
I wish you could see the native policemen in Durban, Kaffirs mostly. They are dressed in a uniform of dark blue with red facings, short knee breeches, bare legs just shining with oil or something rubbed in and well polished and armed with a big Knob-Kerrie. Also they are quite tall. It is amusing to watch them strut around town, very dignified looking too, some of them were, but they appeared very comical to me at first. There are very few rigs in Durban, rickshaws take their place, with a gigantic Zulu in the shafts. The rickshaws are very light and run easily so the two legged horse can go a pretty good rate without much fatigue – of course their muscles get pretty well hardened. Durban is also a great place for fruit, bananas, pineapple, oranges (20 pounds for a five cent piece), lemons, melons, guavas and a lot of other fruits native to Natal.
After staying a few days we entrained again for Tugela where we joined “A” and “C” Squadrons. I think this move has the same object as the other, only we were to march through Zululand and that way strike the railroad. The Tugela River separates North Natal from Zululand. It was very wide but shallow where we forded so we got across it easily enough. Zululand is a grand country but very hilly, in fact it is a succession of hills or kopjes as they are called here. I don't wonder John Bull hadn't such a snap during the troubles with the Zulus. It is a fine country for defence. I think the Zulus a fine race of men – great big strapping fellows, superior in size to our indians, at least to the ones I have seen in Canada. They live in detachments, as it were, a few families in a kraal of half a dozen huts or so. These are scattered all over the country. Their food I think, consists mainly of mealies but they have cattle and goats so I suppose they have lots of milk. I don't think they are great beef eaters and I never saw a horse in their possession.
We marched up as far as Eshow, when orders came again to return and join General Buller, so next day we turned right about and got back to Durban in three days. It is the quickest march we have made yet – I guess the quickest made by any regiment during the war. I don't know the exact distance but I think it is quite a bit over one hundred mikes. Considering the transport which was necessary to take I think it was very quick. Instead of entraining at Tugela we kept right on through Natal down to Durban.
There are lots of English settlers in Natal and they treat us like generals. Wherever we camped at a town, biscuits, lemonade and fruit were given to us and we had a rare old feed lots of times. On the march to the people came running out with big jugs of tea and baskets of oranges and bananas etc. I tell you they were much appreciated as it is terribly dusty, and our throats got parched up at times, but we never actually suffered for want of water or anything of the kind. We passed enormous fields of sugar cane and some refining mills. Natal is a great place for that.
Durban once again and I had a much needed bath in the briney. OH!, it was fine! Some of us took our horses down to the beach, undressed and rode into the sea bareback. My horse is a fine swimmer he did not seen to enjoy it much though, but I did, and I am sure that we both were benefited. Did I ever tell you about Pete? I bought him in Calgary for $125.00 and sold him to the regiment on condition that I could ride him during the campaign. Dr. McEachran, the Dominion Veterinarian Service would only allow me eighty for him. I have never regretted it, until I found I wouldn't be allowed to take him home. Horses are not allowed to be shipped out of the country , this is to prevent disease etc. Being carried to England I suppose. Poor Old Pete, has got me out of many a tight place.
We only stayed in Durban a night and the next day entrained for Newcastle. It was late in the afternoon before we got the horses loaded, the poor beasts were tied up close in open trucks, it was cold for them. It took three trains to carry us all bag and baggage. The country we passed through was loaded with fruit, that is west of Pietermaritzburg and south. Where ever we stopped at stations the people loaded us with fruit and gave us sweets. Even when the train was tearing along we would lean out the train to catch bags of oranges etc., which were held or chucked at us as we passed. Lots of tangerines, a kind of small orange with a thin skin were plentiful. I must say they were very good to us. Arriving at Maritzburg we were regaled with tea bread and bully beef with salt and plenty of mustard to season it up. We were pretty hungry as it was late. Only stayed about half an hour so I couldn't see what kind of place it was.
Next morning we got into Ladysmith where we fed and watered the horses. It was a sorry looking place, and it is puzzling how on earth the garrison stood off the Boers. The place has no natural defences at all, but is surrounded by high kopjes most of them too far away for such a small garrison to hold but just right for the Boers “Long Tom”, but I won't go into details here as I supposed you have read about it long before this.
Well, eventually we got to Newcastle, and it was some time about midnight before we got the horses unloaded and in camp. I slept in a railway carriage that night. I got a trifle chilly towards morning as I had no blankets but I didn't even wink until morning. I supposed I wouldn't be comfortable in a feather bed now. Newcastle was pretty badly wrecked by the Boers, the British inhabitants of course has to skip out when war was declared.
We camped at Newcastle the following day and in the next morning we were on the march again, passed the famous Majuba Hill through Laing's Nek and joined General Buller at Zand Spruit, our first camp in the Transvaal, second from Newcastle. Our regiment was brigaded with the Third under Lord Dundonald. The following three days passed uneventfully on the march to Standerton which we occupied without opposition, the Boers having evacuated it before we got there, but they took care to blow up the railway bridge before leaving.
We stayed at Standerton for about 5 days but put in the time patroling the country looking for arms, ammunition etc. Which might be cached in the farm houses. The veldt around Standerton would I imagine be very good for stock raising, the hay is abundant and plenty of water, but I don't think it cures very well before winter. I am told the Boers kept their cattle there in the summer and in the winter trek up to Swazieland and the bush veldt where the grass is green, and then return south again for the summer, but in my opinion, it can never come up to the North West for cattle raising.
Leaving General Buller at Standerton we pushed on up the railway. Our first brush with the Boers was about Washout Spruit on Dominion Day, July 1. Strathcona's were in the advance, two troops of :B: Squadron on the right flank No.s 3 and 4. No. 3 (my troop), was away ahead and No. 4 acted as support behind some distance. A chap called Burdett and myself were detailed as connecting files to ride between the troops and keep them in touch with each other. You see in rough country this is necessary so that the troops won't get to far away from each other and so be in danger of getting surrounded.
Before long one of our chaps came tearing along with news that the No. 3 was under fire so I rode off to No.4 to get them to come up. When I got to them I found that they had been under fire too, and had one man killed and 2 horses. The Boers had retired and No. 4 were scouting around looking for them. I rode up to the Captain and reported and he sent me back with a message to No. 3 to report and say that he was going after the Boers.
I was a while finding them as they had changed direction while I was away, and I almost rode into a nest of Boers. All at once I heard an old Mauser go, then another and then a regular fusillade. The bullets made the dust fly all around me, then I caught sight of Burdett and our troop. He was yelling like mad and waving his hands at me to hurry up. I had ridden in between them and the Boers as it were and our fellows were afraid of firing as I would have been right in the cross fire. As you imagine I did not stay very long but jest let old Pete out, both got out without a scratch.
One man was killed, two captured, one our Captain was with No.4, and the yarn goes that after poor Jenkins was killed, the Captain started off on foot over the kopje away ahead of his men and so was surprised and made prisoner. We were very angry with the Major for not letting us try to get back our Captain. He said that orders were not to engage the enemy. Of course I knew we were not supposed to being scouts, but it seemed a shame to leave our Captain and Hobson with the Boers the first day we were under fire.
The advance and flank met with quite a lot of sniping and on the way up to Greylingstad, where we halted for the day, then marched on up the Railroad to Vlaakfontein where we camped about a week. But almost everyday we were patrolling the Railroad to keep the Boers from coming in and cutting our line of communication.
The Boers fight something like Indians only not nearly so brave or enduring. A kopje well covered with big rocks and a good place to retire is a favourite place and when we approach, Mr. Boer greets us with several volleys at long range and retires to another kopje, where he goes through the same manoeuvre. They will not stand, and do not seen to have the heart, lots of times we would have lost heavily if the Boers had made a bit of a stand. You see they have such excellent cover, sometimes when they can cut off a few with little risk they certainly try.
We returned to Greylingstad again, left about half of our regiment there, and the rest of us went on with our brigade strengthened by additional infantry and a big 5 inch Naval gun, towards Bethel where De Wet with a big commando was supposed to be.
The first time I heard the Boer Pom-Pom was when we got into action near Watervaal. It is only a small gun but the shell does make a fiendish noise very bad on the nerves. I did not mind the rifle fire so much but I must confess I did duck when the first few shells went over my head, although I couldn't help laughing watching the other fellow and the look of relief after the shell burst and nobody hurt. We were in a donga so nearly all the shells passed harmlessly over.
An officer and seven men, myself included, were sent over to the right flnk where a squadron was advancing. We got to within 300 yards from the top of a kopje, when we got a regular volley from a lot of Boers concealed there. We did see a few , but, when they fired the whole ridge seemed alive with them, we didn't stay to count. It is a miracle how we got off, but not one of us was touched. The willy old Boers has a Pom-Pom there two abd turned it lose on us. Two chaps were wounded and six made prisoner along with an Imperial Guide.
We had fighting every day for about a week, mostly artillery though. The Boers got pretty well scattered and we returned to Watervaal, and leaving some infantry and guns there, we marched up as far as Heidelburg. There is a very nice place, some splendid trees and gardens too, not a big place though and very Dutch.
Well I think I will let you have a rest now. You will be pretty tired when you get through reading this far. I hear very regularly from home and they say “I hope you write to Cousin Annie sometimes”. I am in splended health but the heat here is very relaxing. I think will not be very long before things will be wound up.
17th October: We are in Pretoria now a fine place Kruger went off withe gold hands off the clock of his church. They say he had gone to Europe. De Wet is still at large. I expect the end of the war is very near now I hope so anyway.
Love to everyone at Bryan Tange
Military Historical Society
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