11 January 1902
Letter from Corporal Eric Eaton
Harrismith, Orange River Colony November
Dear mother, As I may not get the opportunity
of writing to you for some time to come, as we
may go out any minute with General RANDLE for
six or eight weeks, I send you a short account
of our last experience. We went out 20 days ago
with a fighting column under General BROADWOOD.
We made a forced march to Elands River Bridge,
a distance of 18 miles, in 5 hours and 20 minutes
a record for this regiment. After a rest
until 9pm the same night, we started on a night
march to occupy some ridges about 11 miles away.
Just outside the camp was an exceedingly bad drift,
and in here the mules stuck. Then the order came
for the infantry to take off their equipment,
and drag the wagons over the drift. Officers,
sergeants, Tommies, with their tunics off, shouting,
pulling, hauling, cursing and swearing like fiends.
This was carried on for five hours,
and at 2.15am we were again on the move. Orders
were issued that no one was to speak above a whisper,
no smoking and all dogs to be tied up. Like a
huge snake the column wound slowly along the tortuous
route with its mounted men thrown out like feelers
all around. We pounced on one farm and found that
the Boar was ready to go out. His horse was ready
saddled. He told Captain NOBLE that he was going
shooting birds, but we thought different and he
joined the prisoners. We occupied the position
all the next day and night. The following morning
the mounted men went out at 2am, and we left just
after dawn. As we moved away a few Boers opened
fire on us from a small kopje about 500 yards
on our left, the Mauser rifles going flip-flop
and the bullets splashing round our heels like
rain for a few minutes, but no one was hit. When
the mounted troops got into camp they had had
a major (Major QUICKE) killed and one captain
and one lieutenant wounded, all of 1st Dragoon
Guards B Company. MI visited a farm on the flanks,
and found one Boar, about 70, and hidden six rifles,
one Cape cart, and 1,500 rounds of SA ammunition
buried. That made no difference, and the next
day we marched to Harrismith, camping two miles
from the town. At 2pm the next day we started
with a convoy to Bethlehem.
The first and second day passed
as usual. On the third day we had some heavy fighting
in Tiger's Kloof, but no one was hurt on our side,
and we reached Bethlehem safe and sound the same
night. After a day's rest we marched back, being
troubled by snipers. Next morning we were escort
to the wagons. Moving out early we seized a ridge
just outside camp, when the Boers opened fire
on sight of H Company, who were cut off. After
an hour's heavy fighting we drove the Boers into
some rocks, where we were firing for two hours
longer, when the big guns and the pompoms came
up and shifted them out. There was all the time
the continuous flip-flop of the Mauser, followed
by the whistle of the bullets as they passed over
as we lay behind our heaps.
One of the mounted men rode across
the firing line for reinforcements and ammunition,
the Boers firing all the time. Two sections of
F Company rode and reinforced the party already
there. Leaving them there, we moved on, fighting
an advance guard action. Soon after, an orderly
told me that the men we had left were cut up
three killed, one officer and two men wounded,
and eleven captured. One of the killed was a volunteer
called BABY, and three of the captured also were
volunteers. The Boers, about 150 strong, attacked
the advance guard with vigour, and then moved
across the plain in extended order as the pompoms
opened on them.
We stopped at Elands River Bridge
on our way back for the day, and there we had
the worst experience in our lives, "a military
funeral." I would rather be in the firing line
fifty times than see those poor lads laid in the
ground far from home and civilisation. The Boers
had taken their boots off them and stripped the
doctor at first, but returned them on finding
out that he was the doctor. We sent in our prisoners
29 in all including an Austrian
major, who was fighting for the Boers, and all
our wagons, and leaving one company entrenched
on a kopje near the bridge, we returned under
orders to hold a line between Harrismith and Bethlehem.
The same night we camped near a huge kopje on
which we left another company..
We were on outpost on a ridge when
a terrible hailstorm broke on us. The stones were
as large as pigeon eggs, and when they hit you
it was like a catapult being fired at you at a
very short range. It made us dance and shout like
maniacs; the pain was awful. After twenty minutes
of this, during which all the horses stampeded,
it slackened and finally stopped. The tents were
washed out and all the beds were wet through.
We moved off early in the morning,
and only marched four miles, fighting heavily
all the way. We Occupied ridge after ridge, fighting
all the time, the big guns and pompom going like
mad. When we reached the last ridge under a big,
strong kopje, we lay there for two hours, firing
all the time. Captain NOBLE galloped through our
line towards the next ridge, which the infantry
had occupied once and retired from, being unable
to see any of the enemy about. After about half
an hour the sound of heavy firing came to our
ears and soon after a Volunteer called FERN galloped
back to us with Lieutenant HOLBARTON in his arms;
he had been hit in the chest, but his bandolier
saved him. Two more came in sight galloping like
mad; one was a regular who was hit in the shoulder,
and the other a volunteer called RUSHTON, hit
in the elbow. They told us Captain NOBLE was mortally
Just then the remainder of the party
retired, the Boers being not 30 yards behind them.
As they appeared on the ridge we proceeded to
get a little of our own back, and opened a heavy
fire on them, driving them back in confusion.
The ambulance and doctor went out to bring in
Captain NOBLE and Jack CONNERY. The Boers, 150
strong, surrounded them, but did not hurt any
of them. PRINSLOO, who was in command of them,
sent word to the Colonel by the doctor that we
must surrender by 6pm, or he would give us socks.
Captain NOBLE died as soon as he reached the hospital,
and Jack CONNERY was reported dangerously wounded.
We pitched camp and settled down
for the night. We were on outpost on one ridge,
and on the same kopje that Captain NOBLE was killed
we could see the Boers doing sentry-go just like
ourselves. About 11pm out of the darkness came
a volley right into our midst, the bullets falling
all round and amongst us.
For a few minutes everything was
confusion in the extreme; men running all over
the place, dogs barking, horses dashing about.
The Boers drove some horses over the ridge into
the midst of us to draw our fire, but it did not
come off. After the first few minutes' excitement
everybody recovered their composure and lay down,
most of us without any cover. Every nerve was
strained and quivering with excitement, and in
every chamber was a round of ammunition waiting.
Oh! Would it never be daylight! What a terrible
suspense, and how long would it be to daylight.
Flip-flop going like mad on the right; they were
firing into the column that was moving.
When everything was quiet we retired
from our ridge, and moved on to the one in rear.
It seemed as though we were lost, and G Company
with us. We could hear nothing but the whispering
of the men and the occasional neighing of a horse
in the distance. We were lost to all intents and
purposes. Captain LUPTON was walking along the
line as cool as a cucumber, with a revolver in
his hand, encouraging his men.
We went back to the ridge we had
left, and lined the ridge all night, waiting for
daybreak. When morning dawned Captain LUPTON was
asleep on the ground with Captain KING, both without
a blanket, starved, and nearly frozen stiff. When
it was properly light we found that the column
had not gone more than 11/2
miles. We retired safely and got away, the Boers
fighting a rear guard action. For five hours they
fired at us continually, the bullets splashing
round our heels like hail and whistling round
our heads. One of B Company was hit in the chest
by a bullet that passed over our heads, as they
were in front of us all retiring.
The mounted rearguard was driven
like a flock of sheep. We got away safely into
camp. The next day we fought another rearguard
action to Elands River Bridge. That night we received
a congratulatory message from General RANDLE,
and a s a reward we were actually allowed to ride
on wagons for about three miles the next day.
When we reached Harrismith we were paraded to
go to Captain NOBLE's funeral. About 200 infantry,
300 mounted men, and Generals RANDLE and DARTWELL,
with their staffs a perfect sea of ribbons
and about 50 officers of all ranks, with
two bands and the drums of our regiment. I was
glad when it was over, and we were marching back
All the sergeants are in hospital
except myself, so duty is pretty thick. We are
going out again under RANDLE, so it looks like
Christmas on the veldt. I received your three
parcels just as we came in, and they could not
have come more opportunely. If I have not time
to write again for Christmas, give my best wishes
to all. Your loving son, Eric
WATERLOO AND BARDSLEY
DRUNK AND DISORDERLY. At the Ashton County
Police Court on Wednesday, Benjamin BENNETT was
fined 5s for being drunk and disorderly at Waterloo,
to which charge he pleaded guilty.
A CHARGE OF BEING DRUNK.
James JOHNSON was fined 2s 6d at the Ashton County
Police Court on Wednesday for being drunk at Barsdley
on December 15th, to which charge he pleaded guilty.
FAILING TO APPEAR.
Henry ORMSHAW failed to appear at the Ashton County
Police Court on Wednesday to answer a charge of
being drunk and disorderly at Waterloo on December
21st. Evidence was given by a constable
of seeing defendant drunk and misconducting himself
in Oldham-road. Defendant, who had been
ten times previously before the court, was fined
10s and costs, or 14 days.
THE CARTER AND THE CANDLE.
At the Ashton County Police Court on Wednesday,
John RODGERS pleaded not guilty to a charge of
having no light on vehicle at Bardsley on December
19th. Constable NEWTON proved the case,
and deposed to seeing defendant without light
in Oldham-road at eleven o'clock at night.
Defendant said he saw that his light was going
out, and he went and purchased a candle. The light
was not absolutely out when the constable came
on the scene. Fined 2s 6d for costs.
THE DANGER OF THE MINE.
On Thursday morning Isaac BURGESS, a wagoner employed
at the Copperas House Pit, Bardsley, met with
a singular and serious accident. He was engaged
in his usual occupation at the time stated, and
had the misfortune to come into collision with
a tub of coal, the result being that BURGESS had
his nose split so seriously as to necessitate
the attention of a medical man. It is hoped the
injury may not prove of a permanent character.
THE INDUBITABLE MARGARINE
Technical Breach at Hurst
A Hurst tradesman, George FOOTE, was charged
at the Ashton County Police Court on Wednesday with
exposing a package of margarine for sale on November
11th without having a printed label on as required
by the Food and Drugs Act. Mr Wingate SAUL appeared
to prosecute and said he was instructed not to press
for a penalty in this case, as it was more a mistake
than anything. Defendant pleaded guilty and stated
that the label was not properly on the margarine.
It was a tin label which he thought would be sufficient
to cover two margarine dishes. Inspector PARKINSON
stated there were two labels for three dishes of
margarine. Defendant was fined the costs 5s 6d,
and the analyst's fee 8s 9d.
ANOTHER DROWNING CASE AT
The body of a man, apparently about 47 years of
age, was taken from the canal near Valley Bridge,
Bardsley, about four o'clock on Thursday afternoon.
The body was at once removed to the Dog and Pheasant
Inn, where an inquest will be held. Constables BARBER
and NEWTON searched the body and found a card bearing
the name of "w LLOYD." Nothing further, however,
was found to lead to the identity of the deceased.
On Friday morning the body was identified as that
of William Henry LLOYD, spindle maker, of 2 Hathersage-street,
Werneth, Oldham. The deceased was in the employ
of Messrs Platt Bros and Co, and he had been suffering
for some time from depression caused by the death
of his wife and daughter about two years ago.
SELLING ADULTERATED BUTTER
At Ashton County Police Court on Wednesday,
James TWIST, of Hurst, was before the magistrate
charged with committing a breach of the Food and
Drugs Act. Mr Wingate SAUL, who appeared to prosecute,
stated that there were two charges, consisting of
the selling to the prejudice of William James PARKINSON,
an inspector under the Lancashire County Council,
a pound of butter which was not of the nature, substance,
and quality demanded, at Hurst, on November 11th;
also selling a pound of margarine without delivering
the same in a printed wrapper. Defendant pleaded
not guilty to the first charge, and guilty to the
Mr SAUL stated that when Inspector
PARKINSON went to defendant's shop he asked for
the price of butter, and Mrs TWIST, wife of the
defendant, said they had none of the best in,
and that they had only one shilling butter, and
Mrs TWIST lifted up a cloth which was over a dish
and disclosed two different kinds of butter. She
said, "Oh, here's some of the best butter." He
purchased it, and she only charged him 1s for
the butter. Inspector PARKINSON told her it was
for analysis, and he divided it in the usual way.
The analysis disclosed 91/2
per cent of water and upwards of 80 per cent of
fats other than butter. What was asked for was
butter. Defendant was selling margarine as butter.
The Magistrates' Clerk: He must
be guilty of the first offence, if the inspector
demanded butter, because he admits he sold margarine
without a label, and this is the very sample taken..
Continuing Mr SAUL referred to the enormous profit
made. He said that the value of the margarine
sold was 5d, and so to charge 1s 3d or 1s for
this butter the magistrates would see that the
purchaser was very highly prejudiced, and that
he was being charged at least more than twice
the value. He would ask the bench to impose a
penalty which would deter people from making money
in this fraudulent way, for it was fraudulent
and nothing else. He would ask for a penalty which
would deter shopkeepers of this character from
swindling the public as he submitted had been
done in this case.
Defendant said he was an overlooker,
and that he was in the mill at the time. The butter
was got for their own confectionery; they did
not sell it at all. The magistrates imposed
a fine of £1 and costs for the first offence,
and 5s for costs in the second case.
ALLEGED ASSAULT AT ASHTON
A Black Eye for a New Year's Gift
At the Ashton Borough Police Court on Monday,
Mary WALKER, of Wellington-street, Ashton, summoned
Isaiah LAMBERT for an assault alleged to have been
committed on January 1st. Mr J B POWNALL appeared
for the complainant, and Mr J S EATON defended.
From the evidence it appeared that LAMBERT's wife
had some disagreement with Mary WALKER, who it was
stated, was about to become the wife of Mrs LAMBERT's
father, or the man she had always called her father.
The fact that this marriage was about to take place
seems to have led to unpleasantness and ill-will
between the women.
On New Year's Day LAMBERT came home
from work, and found his wife bathing her head
under the tap. She had a wound there which was
bleeding. She complained to him that Mary WALKER
had struck her. He went over to a house in Wellington-street
and knocked at the door. A woman named Amelia
McCLUSKY opened the door. He asked to see the
complainant, and when she came it was alleged
defendant struck her a violent blow over the eye
with his closed first. He "let the peg go" without
saying a word, one witness averred. Both the women
concerned showed their bruises to the bench.
The case was dismissed after hearing evidence
on both sides.
THE TROUBLES OF A YOUTHFUL
At the Ashton Borough Police Court on Monday,
Emily CALLAND summoned her husband, Joseph CALLAND,
for desertion. The complainant was represented by
Mr J B POWNALL, whilst for the defendant Mr SHIMOLD
The parties concerned were young
people, both being well dressed. Mr POWNALL said
his client alleged that she was deserted by her
husband in November last. They were only married
in December of the previous year. They started
house keeping together in Turner-lane, but defendant
got out of work, and they went to live with his
parents. The case seemed to arise out of quarrelling
through the interference of defendant's parents.
She had tried to persuade him to take another
home, but he would not leave his parents.
On the 10th November the defendant
made an appointment, and after his client had
waited for him some time, she went to the house
of her husband's parents, but they told her there
was no home for her there. She went down for some
of her furniture, and she was told he had left
the town. It was afterwards ascertained that he
had never been out of Ashton all the time. He
was a bricklayer, and could get from £2 to £2
10s per week wages.
Emily CALLAND, the complainant,
said she was married in December 1900, and there
was one child born of the marriage, now seven
months old. She was employed at Wellington Mills,
and her wages averaged 10s a week. She had not
had regular work. On November 19 he asked her
to meet him at the corner of Scotland-street at
six o'clock, but he failed to turn up. Her husband's
family had not treated her very well.
Cross-examined by Mr SHIMOLD: He
put his age on his marriage certificate at twenty,
but he was not yet nineteen years of age. As a
matter of fact he was only just turned 17 when
he was married. He will not be 19 till next May.
When they were living together he treated complainant
well. When he got out of work his parents wanted
to help them and they went to live with them.
They had borrowed the money to get the house furnished.
Complainant denied that she had behaved badly
whilst she was living at the defendant's parents.
Her sister lived at the Blue Bell, but she was
not always trying to get defendant to go there.
When they parted, she did not go to defendant's
parents and create a row. It was the defendant's
sisters who nagged at her and when she went to
pack up her things they made a bother in the street,
The Magistrates' Clerk here interposed,
and said it would be better if the young couple
could be could be got together and an amicable
settlement come to. The solicitor might retire
and try to negotiate a settlement. Mr SCHIMOLD
said he only too glad to arrive at a settlement,
but it was a question of the amount defendant
would have to pay. He was out of work, and had
no home to take his wife to. The Chairman:
There is plenty of work for bricklayers in the
town. Mr SHIMOLD said that had not been
his client's experience. He had tried, and although
he was the son of a brickmaker, he had not been
able to get constant work. The Bench made
an order for defendant to pay 5s per week towards
the maintenance of his wife, and to try and get
a house for her to go to.