A letter from the Boer War - June 5th 1900

Found among family papers

This article first appeared in Newsletter 122, April 2014


Among some old family papers was a much worn envelope “On Her Majesty’s Service – Returned Postal Packet” addressed to:” Miss R. Simmons, c/o Mrs Harris, Lorne Lodge, Southall,.” from her brother Alfred Simmons.

Postmark on “Returned Postal Packet”, 19 December 1900. Credit: Martin Coburn, 2013

On the back of the envelope, in another hand was written “This came this morning, take grate(sic) care of it – it is worth a good bit” also a post mark Southall 7am DE19 [19]00.

I do not think ‘worth’ meant monetary value, but the thankfulness that a soldier in the Boar War had survived to write home.

This envelope contained another envelope addressed as before but with an official stamp “Recovered from mails looted by the enemy”, postmarked “Field Post Office, British Army, S. Africa 17 July [19]00”. Hand written at the top “No stamp available in Field Hospital” and the reverse postmarked “Army Base No12 PO Cape Town”.

Original envelope, inside the “Returned Postal Packet”. Credit: Martin Coburn, 2013

The envelope and its contents are much damaged and water-stained and can only be read with much difficulty.

Alfred Simmons, shepherd at Annables

Alfred Simmons (b. 1875) was a son of Moses Simmons and Ellen. Moses was a shepherd at Annables (near Kinsbourne Green) at this time.

First page of Alfred’s letter. Credit: Martin Coburn, 2013

Miss R Simmons (Rachael, their daughter) was in service at Southall. Rose, her younger sister, became the wife of Ralph Coburn – the parents of Leslie, my husband.

The letter is six pages (each about 4½” x 3”) and is written in indelible pencil, as were most letters from service-men at this time.

The 16th Queens Lancers took part in the Relief of Kimberley (11 – 15 February 1900).

Transcript of the letter

June 5th 1900


16th Queen Lancers’


South Africa.

My Dearest Sisters,

I once more have the pleasure of writing a few more lines to you hoping they will find you both quite well, as I am very sorry to tell you I am not well and in hospital with [dysen]tery but I hope to be all [right] by the time you get this [let]ter it was the cold nights that gave me this and not enough cloths to keep me warm at night but it might have been worse than this.

Dear Sisters I received the cap and socks quite safe and was very thankful for them for they came in very useful I can assure you. We have found it very hard lately and a lot of fighting but I got through safe and I hope I shall do so again if all is well and I shall be pleased when I get home for it seems a long time [since] I saw any of you. [The] sisters in hospital are [v]ery kind to the sick and help us all they can and it puts me in mind of home again with Mother looking after me but of course it is not the same but it seems nice to have a bed to lie on the first bed this year to lie on was on Whit Sunday and I slept for about 24 hours and it seems just like home to be in a nice bed once again but real one when I get in the old bed at home.

Give my very best love to Rose and tell her to be a good girl and I will take you all for a walk when I come home.

I think this is all there is  – – – hoping that this will find you quite well.

I remain your every loving brother good bye XXXXXXXXXXX and more when we meet.

Last page of Alfred Simmons’ letter. Credit: Martin Coburn, 2013

Note: The dashes or words in [] indicate where the writing has been lost due to damage to the document, with a guess at the missing word or letters.

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