Yesterday Major Andrew received a communication to the effect that the seven selected men from the Eccles Volunteer Companies have to proceed to Ashton today. The men will assemble at the Drill Hall, Patricroft, at nine o’clock, and headed by the bugle band and accompanied by the members of the G and K companies will march to Eccles station to meet the 9.57 train to join the other men of the company from Wigan, Atherton, and Leigh. Major Andrew will accompany the volunteers to Ashton. They will leave for South Africa on Tuesday but whether from Southampton or Liverpool is not yet known.
Writing from Kot’s Cop, Sunday, 14th January, to Mr David Henry Holt, a Pendlebury postman, Trooper Whitworth, of the 10th Hussars, who lived at Moorside, and was employed by Messrs, Sackville and Swallow, Royal Oak Printworks, says – I have just received the present from the members of the club, for which please them. I have had a rough time of it and lost all my tobacco which I had from the ship. I was glad to see the football team had got level with the Parish Church. Give them a whacking and get to the top of the competition. Meanwhile, I will have another go at the Boers. We had a very good New Year’s gift in the shape of shells and bullets, but they didn’t digest very well. We have had five days’ fighting right off the reel before we could lay down on the rocks for a rest. This is the first time I have had time I have had the opportunity to write you a letter. We lost twenty men and officers killed and wounded, but you humble servant is all right, thanks to a little bit of Providence. I hope to get through all right. Our regiment is with General French’s brigade on the borders of Orange Free State. We have got the Boers penned in all right here, and I expect by the time you get this letter we shall have got into Colesberg, and have these fellows either killed, wounded, or prisoners. I must cut this letter short now, as I am wanted to go and look for the Boer positions. I have not looked got old Kruger’s whiskers yet, but I send you a duplicate set and an ostrich feather to look at. Give my best respects to all my friends.
Alexander Whitworth, of Moorside Rd, Swinton, in the 10th Hussars, now with General French’s force in Cape Colony, writes as follows from Coles’ Kop on Sunday, Jan. 14th, to Mr W Rushton, Oak St, Pendlebury – This being Sunday, the firing has stopped for a bit. I am writing this on a rock, dodging Boer bullets. I am still alive and well at present. After the Boers had retired from Arandel on Christmas Day we followed them to a place called Rensberg, not far from Colesberg, on the borders of the Orange Free State. On New Year’s Eve we did a night march, starting at five in the evening and getting “into the Boers” at about three on New Year’s morning. We got a fine reception of bullets. Our troop lost two killed and one wounded out of thirty four men and one officer. Our “O” and “R” Batteries R.H.A. consisting of twelve guns got into action, and pelted at the Boers who replied with their “Long Tom” and quick firing gun, which latter sends eight or none shells into you before you know where it is. We spotted it, however, and made for it, but the Boers cleared out for the day. We had the longest artillery duel that has taken place during the campaign, from three in the morning until half past seven in the evening. Next day we lost four more men wounded and the following day we took our saddles off, the first time for four days and nights. Not long after we got the alarm that the Boers had got round our left flank. Our troop and a squadron of the 6th Dragoons went out, and in the engagement which ensued we lost Major Harvey killed, Major Alexandra and a sergeant wounded. It was awful, shells and bullets dropping right amongst us. I never hope to be in such a hot corner again. We formed into line and charged them, and away they went like rats to their holes. We galloped after them until we got stopped by barbed wire, which ran across our front for about five miles, our artillery playing on them all the time, and doing great execution. When we stopped owing to the wire, the Boers kept on firing away with their rifles, “Long Tom” and quick firer, making us feel a bit queer. When we drove the Boers out of their positions, our squadron formed picket there that night, and as we mounted we searched around and found a Boer hiding. I got hold of him, and took his cartridge belt from him. Of course we took him prisoner and sent him on to Cape Town. If I have the luck I shall bring that fellow’s belt and ammunition home with me.
Private R H Allen, 1st Durham Light Infantry, has written three letters home to wife who resides in Dean Rd, Swinton. They are from Frere Camp. In the first, which is dated January 10th he says: “I daresay you will have read of the Battle of Colenso. I have nothing to say about it only I don’t want to go there again. How we got out of it with so few wounded in our regiment is a miracle, as we were well up supporting the Irish Brigade. When we shift the Boers from Colenso and relieve Ladysmith, I think it will be smooth sailing into Pretoria, but it easier said than done. The Boers have made a fine mess of the Frere and Colenso bridges and the armoured train. I have got a bit of each.” In a further letter he says: “We are expecting to make an attack on Colenso some time this week and we hope to get through this time and relieve Ladysmith. I prey to God to carry me safely through. We received the Christmas puddings sent by Messrs. Ly?? of London. We each got a bit about as big as an egg, and so did not burst our selves with it.” He writes again on the 11th – “We are off again to that terrible place Colenso, We move tonight and expect to engage the enemy on Friday. Our force has been strengthened by another 12,000 men. If we take the Tugela on Friday, it will be just 21 years since the English took it before from the Zulus.”
In the course of a letter just received by his wife, who lives at Hilton Square, Pendlebury, Private C Harrison, A Company 2nd King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, writing from Zout Pans’ Drift, South Africa, on Jan. 13th, says: “We left Orange River Station a week ago, and have had it pretty rough since we came here, as we have not brought our camp with us, and we have to bivouac in the open air. We have no shelter at all from the sand or rain, and all our tents are at Orange Station, There is a rumour afloat that we are going to march on Bloemfontein, the capital of the Orange Free State. As Lord Roberts has arrived we expect it has emanated from some order of his. I hope, anyway, that it is right, or at least that we are going to move somewhere out of this miserable hole. We were lying out in the open air the other night and it was pouring rain nearly all night long. You may easily guess how miserable we felt. I am thinking now Lord Roberts has arrived that if he does not soon smash up the Boers it will last a long time. I hope, however, that he will be as rapid in his movements here as has been in other countries where we have been at war, and, if so, you may depend upon it it will soon be over, and we shall be at home again.”
Corporal James Hill, of the 1st South Lancashire Regiment, writing to his young lady at Swinton from the College Hospital, Pietermaritzburg says “it is painful to see the wounded brought in with legs and arms missing. The sisters look after the wounded very well. I must say, and do all that human skill can do for them.”
Private Harry Kerfoot, who resided with his sister at 337, Chorley Rd, Swinton, is amongst those of the 2nd Battalion Royal Lancashire Regiment, reported missing after the Spion Kop engagement. He has been in the army about five years. He formerly resided at Pendlebury, and was employed as a miner by Messrs. A Knowles and Sons Limited. He is single and landed at the Cape on New Years Eve.
The following local men have been reported missing since the battle of Spion Kop: - 2nd Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers, Private T Cavanagh, Burrows Lane, Eccles, and Private R Jackson, 252, Green Lane, Patricroft. 2nd Battalion Royal Lancaster Regiment, Private H Kerfoot, 337 Chorley Rd, Swinton. Private E Stanier, Alexander Rd, Patricroft, reported wounded.
The employees of the Protector Lamp and Light Co, Limited, of Eccles, presented Private Robert Burton, of section D, who has been in their employ for over seven years, with £10, being a collection made on his family’s behalf as a mark of respect and on the occasion of his being called to join his regiment, “The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders” at present stationed at Cairo, Egypt. Mr S Pollitt, in Mr Prestwich’s absence, made the presentation, which was suitably acknowledged by Private Burton, and on Monday afternoon the men had a half holiday to enable them to give their old comrade a hearty send-off from Eccles, several hundreds turning out to witness the procession which was headed by a bugle band. Private Burton sailed on Wednesday by the Simla from Southampton for Alexandria, where his regiment will join the vessel and proceed to the cape to join General Macdonald’s Highland Brigade at Modder River.
Private W H Hamer, a reservist in the Royal Lancashire Fusiliers, was accorded a hearty send off on Sunday afternoon, when he left Swinton to rejoin his regiment at Bury. He was accompanied by a large crowd from his residence in Moorside, and patriotic airs were played most of the route by the Swinton Prize Band. Hamer was carried shoulder high on approaching the station, and as the train steamed out at 2p.m., the band struck up with “Auld Lang Syne.” The Fusiliers left for the front on Tuesday.
On Friday morning several thousand people assembled to witness the seven men belonging to the Eccles Volunteers commence the first portion of their journey for South Africa. Orders had been received the previous day that the men had to proceed to Ashton, were they were sworn in, and where they remained until Tuesday, when they had to proceed to Southampton to embark for the seat of war. The news that orders had been received quickly spread throughout the district, and judging from the enormous number of people along the route it is safe to assume that work in many factories and workshops had been suspended for an hour or two, while the schools were also closed for the most part until the men had departed. The early hour of nine at which the men had to parade at the Patricroft Drill Hall proved no drawback or detracted from the enthusiasm of the people, and as each man put in an appearance he was loudly cheered by the crowds which had even then begun to assemble. Public feeling was also shown in the display of flags which were to be seen at the Town Hall, the Overseers’ Offices, the Drill Hall, Eccles Parish and St Andrew’s Churches, the political clubs, the theatre, and many private establishments. The Drill Hall was a very stirring one, upwards of sixty of the Volunteers had assembled to give their comrades a hearty send off while the Patricroft Congregational Boys’ Brigade were also present to bid adieu to Sergeant Vickers, one of their officers. The Eccles Military Band, under the conductorship of Mr Elwood, played popular selections of music, and the time quickly passed away. Major Andrew, J.P., was in command, and there were also present Surgeon Lieut. Orr, Lieut. Cronshaw and Sergt. Instructor Wilson, while Captain Higson joined the men later. Just prior to the start Councillor Chadderton gave each of the seven selected men a tin of tobacco. Outside the crowds had been greatly augmented, and as soon as the men emerged from the Drill Hall they were greeted with load and continued cheers. Inspector Chipchase and a large staff of police kept the line of march as clear as possible, but it was with considerable difficulty that the formation was maintained. The route was by way of Liverpool Rd, and Church St to Eccles Station, where they joined the other sections from Wigan, Atherton, and Leigh on the train die at 9.57. Outside the station the crowd had reached huge dimensions, and it was only with the greatest difficulty the men could reach the station precinct, while the cheering was almost deafening. A strong force of railway officials was on duty, and gradually all were able to reach No. 3 platform from which the train departed. The Volunteers were drawn up in two lines towards the Manchester end of the platform, and while waiting for the train, which was a little late, the military band played several selections, though the cheering from those assembled on both embankments almost drowned the music. About ten minutes past ten the discharge of fog signals gave notice that the train was approaching, and the enthusiasm became almost unbounded. The cheering was renewed with increased vigour as the train came alongside the platform, the men from Wigan, Leigh and Atherton also cheering their comrades. The men with a brief but hearty farewell to relatives and friends were soon aboard, and as the signal for the departure of the train was given the Volunteers on the platform presented arms, the band played “Auld lang syne,” and the spectators cheered themselves nearly hoarse, the cheers being continued until the train had got a good distance from the platform. Major Andrew accompanied the men to Ashton. A word of praise is due to Mr Hallsworth, the stationmaster, for the excellent arrangements he had made for the large number of people he had anticipated would be anxious to see the men depart.
Private C Harrison of the A Company 2nd King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, with Lord Methuen’s forces at Zont Pans Drift, writes to his wife at Hilton Square, Pendlebury, under date Jan. 20th as follows: You will have seen that we have now moved across the river, and we are now in the enemy’s country. You will have seen by the papers that we have established the first port in the enemy’s land. We have had good news today from Natal. General Buller and Warren have both crossed the Tugela River after a big fight, and there are good rumours from our side of the country at Magersfontein. Now if it be that Ladysmith and Kimberley are both relieved during the next few days, I think that this will be the beginning to the end. I hope now it will soon be over. I have not yet had any letter from you, but I expect the mail in tomorrow with one for me. I am keeping pretty well.
Mr J Brown, Douglas St, Pendlebury, and employee of the Chloride Electrical Syndicate, Clifton Junction, has received letters from Private R Allen, 1st Durham Light Infantry, now with General Lyttelton’s Brigade. The first is dated from Frere Camp – I and sorry I could not write before, but we cannot get writing paper for love or money. You will see that we have advanced further up country. We left Mooi River and went to Willow Grange Farm, then through Estcourt to frère and Chievely, near Colenso. You will have read of the Battle of Colenso. It was an awful battle, raging for nine hours. We struck camp at 2am on the morning of the 15th December, and advanced on Colenso, which is four miles from our camp. We had been shelling them for two days before the attack. The first gun was fired at 5.20am and the last at 2.40pm. The 2nd Brigade was the firing line and the 4th the support. We advanced within 400 yards of the enemy’s position when we were met with a terrific fire, and our men were mown down like grass. The Boers being deeply entrenched we were unable to return the fire, so we retired, and in retiring we lost most of our men. If the English had the position the Boers have all round Colenso no two combined nations in the world could shift them. By the time you receive this the Boers will probably be shifted by a different method. We are waiting for more guns, as we lost the 13th and 66th Batteries at Colenso. I only hope I get through the next fight at Colenso all right, and then I think I will be safe enough. Whist writing it is rumoured that we shift tomorrow night to the right of Colenso. I am longing to hear from you to see how things are going on at Swinton. The next letter is written on January 14th from Spear Hill, Dewdrop Camp, N.W. Colenso. The last time I wrote was when we retired back to Frere Camp. We remained there for three weeks all being quiet except for the naval guns, which opened fire every time the Boers moved from the trenches. We had a bombardment on December 19th, when the enemy asked for an armistice for 24 hours to bury their dead, which was granted. We have now moved to the right of the enemy’s position. It took us two days and nights to do it. We moved out on Wednesday, January 10th, and arrived here on Friday morning. The distance was only 30 miles, but considering the country and the enemy we had to clear from our front it was not so bad. We crossed the Little Tugela River on our way, and had to walk through the water up to our waists. We also brought up a convoy, occupying 20 miles, and consisting of food for the beleaguered town, but before we can get there we shall have to fight our way over the Tugela, where I am told there are thousands of Boers with and impregnable position. I hope and trust we get through all right. We have taken three prisoners today. They were walking among our troops as cheeky as you please. They said they were starving and had had enough of the Boers. I notice that all prisoners taken are Englishmen, If I had my way I would shoot every one. By the time you receive this I hope we shall have both cleared out the enemy at Colenso and relieved Ladysmith, and then I think the war will be over. I am writing this on a corned beef tin. I have been very bad this last three days with dysentery, but otherwise I am all right.
Private Albert Oakes, of the “D” Squadron 6th Dragoon Guards, writing to his wife at Pendlebury on January 18th, says: We do not often get the chance to write, as we are fairly at it night and day. We are now at a place called Slingenfontein. The Boers keep us very busy, as they are getting reinforcements every day. They are now about 5,000 strong, and we are only 2,500. We keep popping a few off. In yesterday’s fight there were 150 of the enemy killed, our losses being very few. The York Regiment had six killed and seven wounded, and the New Zealanders one killed and one wounded. We did not lose a man; in fact our loss altogether up to now is only one killed and eight wounded. We had some marvellous luck. The Boers shelled our camp with the big gun called “Long Tom.” We had to retire; it was a fair panic. We then pitched our camp out of range and attacked them on their left, our artillery doing great havoc among them. We could not tell how many they lost that day, but it must have been many, for we could see our shells dropping amongst them as they retired. We keep driving them back every day. They must be getting tired with it. I think myself it won’t last long. I shall be glad when it is over; I have had some near shaves of being shot. I am thankful to say, however, that I am all right up to now, and am living in hopes of getting through. We have had some hard times, but I don’t care how hard they are so that I back to you again. I think two more months will see the war over; anyway, I hope so. I often wonder whether it will be my luck to come back to dear old England/ You will get the news of the war almost as soon as we get it, as we are out sometimes three and four days together. We have to turn out of camp at all times, and when we do turn out we get in touch with the enemy, and don’t get leave until we have driven them back. Then we turn return to camp, not knowing when we shall be called on again. We never undress, and we have to be always ready at a minutes notice. Our horses are saddled all night, and we sometimes go a long time without water. The fruit here will be ripe in another week or two. There is some fine fruit. It does not do to take much of it, however. It is awfully hot now. A week often goes over before any of us get a wash, and then we have to go about three miles. There are lots of English families coming in our camp for protection, and bringing all their cattle with them. It is hard to see them. They have had to leave their homes, but will get them back as we go up the country. They leave black people in charge of their farms. The Boers have been cruel to English subjects. We are anxious to get at them and give them some cold steel. They will hardly leave the rocks. Sometimes we catch them crossing from one hill to another, and then we make for them. They are quiet today, and that is the reason I am getting the chance to write this letter to you. I am anxious to hear from you. A letter does cheer us soldiers up. They have just brought some Boer prisoners in as I am writing this. They are ugly old beggars; it makes you feel as if you would like to shoot them. They would soon shoot us if we did not watch them closely. They wear ordinary clothes, not uniform. We are getting more troops this week and some Lyddite guns, then we shall move them. We have been waiting for Lyddite a long time; it has just arrived. The Boers use all kinds of guns; they are using dum-dum bullets now. We have lost a lot of the Berkshire Regiment last week through some mistake on the officer’s part. It was a piece of bad luck. The officers had orders to hold a hill, and instead of holding it he advanced to another hill and got surrounded. We could hear them firing from where we were. It was a night attack.
Private Rowland H Allen of the 1st Durham Light Infantry; writing to his wife at Dean Rd, Swinton, from the Upper Tugela, on January 22nd says:- I am yet alive, I am thankful to say, and in good health. We are steadily creeping up towards Ladysmith. We have crossed the river, and I think war will soon be over. I have had a wash for eight days, and am sleeping in a ploughed field with neither blanket or anything else for a covering. It is scorching hot in the day time, and bitterly cold at night. Give my best regards to all enquiring friends.