Emily Jane Wood: Diary July 1900

July 1st: I didn’t write such a long letter as I meant to because I was feeling seedy and had been ordered to bed. (Diarrhoea etc but we all go through it when we 1st come out). I am not ill and have the best of attention. Well! You ask me to tell you everything about ourselves.

Our lovely corrugated iron building we were crowing over is not allowed to come further than Cape Town because of its weight. You see the carriage of all transport is very much congested. Soldiers must be sent on, then ammunition, then food and lastly hospital supplies. They had to put us in Bell tents 3 sisters in each, today some of us have very neat little washstands and a small chest of drawers given us. It crowds us up terribly and 3rd July: some of our boxes have had to be put outside the tents to make room for these things. The tents are very cold during the nights and very hot through the day, but we have plenty of good clothes and my rug is a beautiful warm one.

The food is very much better than army rations, only being cooked on mostly wood fires – at any rate in coppers over open fires – tea, puddings, porridge etc. is very often smoky. We haven’t had any rain yet since we came but today it was so cold outside Miss Shannon told me to go to bed after lunch. I’ve been kept in bed 2 days. They are very careful for us, Miss Shannon asks each one of us if she is feeling well every morning and night.

They had their 1st concert last night. I was very sorry not to be able to go to it. They made a huge bonfire on a bit of the veldt, commandeered a piano, and had a fine time I believe.

3rd July: Still on the sick list and starvation diet. Yesterday was feeling very bright but don’t feel so well today. Its dysentery but a mild attack. Didn’t get up till just on lunch time. We have had a very windy day. 4 other sisters on their way to Pretoria visited our Hospital today, had tea and dined with us. They think everything perfection. Lady Roberts is going through in the same train as these sisters, in an armoured carriage and has sentries parade outside her carriage while in the station. She has made herself rather obnoxious by her interference in hospital affairs, I believe. (One of the plague).

There was fighting 3 miles from here yesterday. Some of our big guns have been fired yesterday and today, for Pretoria, I believe. Kitchener had all his men mounted and ready directly he heard of fighting so near. A lot of soldiers have gone out today to help control De Wet. There are constant rumours of his capture but I believe there are so many De Wets, like Bothas and though several are captured neither the De Wet or the Botha.

We have had a convoy of wounded and sick men (90) brought in today. It was a sight. They came in bullock wagons. Poor fellows! Some of them looked awful. There was a covered wagon with Boers who had been severely wounded. Each wagon is drawn by oxen from 15-20 in a team. If it had only been fine and light what a picture I might have taken.

We have had pouring storms of rains yesterday and today but the sisters have their own mess tent now and we have a slow combustion stove fitted to it and some red art serge for a table cloth today. It makes a nice comfortable looking sitting room for us now. We are in clover here.

If the Drs. let me I am going to have my own ward or wards tomorrow, how lovely.

4th July: The Dr. came last night and has allowed me on light duty if I wear thick shoes and take my time off. I have had charge of one ward today. Don’t know if I am to keep it. Wish I might. We have a band up every 2nd day to play to us. The Oxfords were up today. I am sorry to find I had one plate in the wrong way for the bridge, and so instead of shooting the 2 ½ s they appear right hand pieces of 2. I will try to get it done and send to you.

July 5th: I am alright now, on meat again. Took photo of exterior of the Dutch Reformed Church and 2 interiors. They have used it as a hospital since the commencement of the enteric here, and Australian nurses look after it. Sister Gould of the Sydney Hospital is the Supt. We hear the next contingent is on its way out, I suppose Jackie won’t be in it. I have not had a letter from you since the 1st dated May 25th several of them have had letters dated June 5th or 7th. I may get it tomorrow and our letters have to be in by 2p.m. so I must finish this tonight.

July 11th: I don’t feel like writing. I know you will be writing to me but I have only had one letter dated May 24th. Some of the sisters have had them regularly and letters have come dated June 11th. I am alright now and enjoying life. I have been doing a bit of photography lately but have had my time pretty much taken up in the ward. I am very happy at my work.

Today we went to some military sports in the town. They were very good. Capital. We had some flat races, tugs of war, artillery race was fine, 5 gun carriages with their guns mounted drawn by 6 or 8 horses each pr having a postillion, and the whole (preceded by a leader on horseback) went a roundabout course at the gallop and through pieces of wood set up like nine-pins which only allowed 2 or 3 inches – at most- on either side of the wheels as they went through. It was wonderfully clean driving. One lot went through without touching any. 2nd prize lot knocked one down. Then there was some buck jumping. Officers race on horseback. There were a lot of Bengali soldiers there in their native uniforms. They looked wonderfully picturesque with their turbans etc and they ride perfectly. They gave us tent pegging. One of their number didn’t miss once. Then there was some wrestling on bare-backed ponies which was very interesting.

Fancy biscuits that would be 4d 1b are 2/6 here and there is no soap in the shops. We have run out of it because a lot of stores have not been sent on. Personally I could stand a siege of 6 months or so. Mother’s chocolate is delicious, I have a bit occasionally. Today we went up to Gun Hill where the fort is but we were not allowed to take photographs. However, I went a bit further down and managed to get what I hope will be a good birds-eye view of the town and another of No. 3 Hospital the figures in are Lieut. ? [her query] Lieut. Gee and their Capt Harrington.

Two days ago the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders were set to watch a train. They discovered it contained whisky, so broke it open. 2 were found dead. Alcoholic poisoning, and one died yesterday “from exposure” nothing in his stomach but whisky. Mail Time. Au Revoir.

July 17th: Have had no letters, isn’t this sickening! The mails have been stopped both in and out since last Thursday, so my last to you will be late. We have had one sand-storm; they say it was not so bad as it is sometimes, but it lasted much longer. Anyway our beds were khaki colour and the floor had to be swept constantly and even then there was quite enough depth of sandy earth to grow mustard and cress on. It was terrible. All tent pegs had to be knocked in more securely and the place shut up and then the faces got brown with dust. We ate more than our share towards the ‘peck o’dust’ that day.

Yesterday I found out that we had one of the Yeomanry belonging to Col. Broughfield’s lot and that Hugh Pomfret is their Quartermaster and must have been visiting one of his men in the tent that is now mine since I came to Kroonstad …..

We gave a tea-party on Sunday which was quite a success. I photographed them. We had a lovely walk to the bridge and I photographed from the opposite side after scrambling across on stepping stones and climbing up the opposite bank. It is a very pretty negative. I have printed a lot but as you know, I have no toning sol. so I just fix them and they go a most awful colour. A yellowish tinge. Keep all the stamps you get on my letters as they will be very valuable later on.

20th July: Received your 2nd letter. I didn’t dream but what I should get the usual weekly letter. Don’t do it again. Thank you very much indeed for photographs. Everyone nearly has asked to see them and think them splendid. Could he send another of them, the one with the ship’s officer standing at head of gangway. Sister Thornton got engaged to him on the way out …

I had 2 wards given to me, one a perfectly new one which I fitted up as near perfection as any are, the old medical ward was almost equally well got up too. I had had 3 changes of Drs., Dr. Stirling, Dr. Graves and lastly Dr. Boyd who complimented me on my charts and hoped I would keep them like that.

I didn’t get off duty until 10 that night as we had cases and the Drs. visit was late. Miss Shannon had been looking for me so I went to her tent and that was to tell me to go to D.1. and D.2. two fresh wards. I was wild the more I thought of it the worse I felt. I worked myself into a perfect rage. Consequently couldn’t sleep and had a violent headache in the morning. No one can quite appreciate what this means to me unless they were here. One has to worry and bother and go again and again for things to the store, and just take things when you see them and forth. Everything is more or less commandeered by sisters etc. However, I felt a bit better when Dr. Hodge whose wards I now have told me the reason for the change. He had refused to have Sister Murdoch in his wards any longer, as she did not do her work properly and had been rude to himself.

I have one medical and one surgical tent each with 10 beds. I make the dressings myself so I find plenty to do. I have 3 Boer Prisoners of War and one German prisoner, a law student, all in the surgical tent. One Boer has a bullet wound , entrance front of chest below collar bone, exit left shoulder between scapula and head of humerus. It shattered and splintered the bone. One piece was taken out the other day in the Theatre before I had the ward.

Another one has one finger carried away by bullet and practically useless and I am afraid will have to be amputated, another bullet wound in leg. The German, it looks as if the bullet went in the front of neck, just above the bird’s nest (he did say it has altered his voice and made it hoarse) and came out back of shoulder. They are all getting on very well.

We had a fine lot of surgical cases in from Lindley the other day, have had a lot of operations lately. I went to one the other day. Major Beatson, the oldest brother of Dr. Beatson of Glasgow and Mr Graves. Uncle. He had a gunshot wound in shoulder which paralyzed his arm. They operated expecting to find a splinter of bone interfering with nerves in the brachial plexus – I was present at the operation and held the arm – what they actually found was that the cicatrix of shot wound was almost adherent to them and too much so to the subclavian for them to extensively dissect the scar out. They removed a good bit however and tied up the vessels and are hoping some good my be the result.

There has been a concert given in No. 3 Military Hosp. I was on orderly duty, so I couldn’t go.

July 22nd: I was going to write last night but I had put some glycerine jelly on my hands and gloves over and found I could not write in them. We all of us nearly, Drs. and Sisters suffer with cuts in our hands. You know we have been rising in the morning to find ice in the water and thick hoar frost outside the tent, but I had my dear little rubber bag, so was all right.

Miss Shannon said that the other day in her tent in the afternoon and in the shade it was 90o. Our single bell tent gets terribly hot. The nights are getting warmer now though. My! What a time we had of it yesterday. Sister McLeod and I asked a pass to go to Church in the evening (our 1st pass) but in the afternoon we heard a convoy was expected, and as I had 4 empty beds in each tent of course I could not go out. One of the Drs. went some days ago on horseback on his way to Lindley to bring sick from there. However De Wet was in the way and Dr. Garrow and train were sent after and ordered back. But there had been fighting between De Wet and some of ours involving 17th Lancers – about 12 miles this side of Lindley and their Colonel was bringing wounded and 33 sick on to us, so Dr. Garrow brought them on, and now some from No. 3 Hosp. have started for Lindley again.

Sir Burdett was the 1st to arrive in a Cape cart with his arm in a sling, there are 2 other officers who are more seriously wounded. We got 2 ‘death or glory’ boys who are sick. One has something wrong with his eyes another slight fever. Then we received a case of synovitis one of Robert’s Horse. We have a new case tonight, rheumatism, Suffolk Regt.

Well before the convoy arrived the rain came (not De Wet) and my it does rain when it rains, there’s no doubt about it. The winds descended and the floods came and beat upon our tents and some of them fell. Some with patients in, but some with orderlies, one of my ward tents was in danger, but they were able to knock in pegs and loosen the ropes in time. What a terrible night it was. Sister McLeod and I had to pull our beds into the middle of the floor and then we kept nice and dry but the elements were making such a noise we couldn’t sleep till after 1 a.m.

July 26th: Got your 3rd letter today. Hope I shall get them regularly now. How I have enjoyed myself today! I have been for my first ride on horseback. Oh! it was lovely. I shall soon be able to ride well I believe. We have had 2 side saddles lent us and Sister Smith and myself went for a ride with Dr. Kinmont and Fisher a ‘Tommy’ who is a splendid riding master. The horses never will trot much they either canter or gallop and I must say I rode far better than I ever have before. I felt thoroughly happy. I am beginning to suffer from the after effects now. I expect to be very stiff tomorrow; but shall hope to go again soon.

You will have heard all about the train that was burnt the other day up the line. It was brought into Kroonstad the day before yesterday and I photographed it. It reminded me of the Norman Rd Church. I brought a bit of charred wood away with me and a screw. There were only 5 trucks with any kind of wood left on them. The others not a scrap of wood left, nothing but the ironwork, wheels, screws etc.

Yesterday we most of us attended a Bazaar in the Presbyterian Church here. We hoped to be able to get some curios. They had a Kruger penny, sold for £2 and 4d stamps, selling for 5/- each.

The papers have come in today – hope the letters will be here soon. We hear our hospital will not be here more than 2 months more. We also hear De Wet was wounded in right arm and taken with 4 or 500 men. Also that B.P. has taken Botha and 1400 men and that B.P. is mortally wounded. Don’t believe any of this. So sleepy must wish you goodnight.

July 27th: Can’t stop for more today, mail goes at 2. Several contused wounds result of ride.

July 28th: Yesterday we went down to the wrecked train. I took it again a much better one this time proved, also the bomb shelter outside No 3 Hospital. I took one inside and the outside.

Heard Piet de Wet had been in to see my Boer prisoner. The day before a Presbyterian Chaplain to forces had been to my tent and had an arm set which he had got broken through a kick from his horse. Today we had sports. They were very good began at 2 and finished the prize-giving at 5.30. Having entertained all visitors to tea, scones, buns and bread and bitter previously.

General Knove, Captain Mausescaux, Piet de Wet, his son Jacobus, a brother-in-law and another prisoner came. I asked the aide-de-camp if I might tale a photograph of Piet, he asked him and getting his permission I flew off for camera. I took one and got his signature and that of his son in my birthday book. When people saw me getting them he got besieged on all sides. He wrote dozens. You will know before you get this that these 4 gave themselves up, it sems Christian kept his brothers prisoner for some time because he told him he should do so as he thought it very foolish to keep on any longer. These however managed to escape and surrendered. The Captain tells me he will go to Cape Town for St Helena, possibly on Monday. They want to see a proof. I have developed tonight and think it will be pretty fair.

Unfortunately in the officers race 2 of our men’s horses collided and are rather badly hurt I am afraid.

We are going to ask a pass to go to Church of England service tomorrow night.

July 31st: Didn’t go to Church on Sunday on account of bad cases in the wards. Yesterday we went out begging saddles, we got 2 sent up this morning – one for a few days only, and another is coming Tuesday morning. The man at the Scotch Stores made us go to his private house and have some tea with his wife. It was so good.

The Bazaar realized over £250. I haven’t had your letter this week. Had 2 from Pretoria, from 2 sisters we met at Bloemfontein. We had a convoy in tonight received 5 cases and have packed 2. Am rather tired tonight. Hope to go a run tomorrow afternoon on the new saddle.

Emily Jane Wood: Diary June 1900

10th June: Anchored in the basin 1/2 hr. after midnight (this morning). It was a lovely evening. We had dancing on deck. There is a big moon now and it was so beautifully clear. Table Mountain looked lovely. We went to bed soon after 2 a.m. and got up at 1/4 to 7. The sun was rising and looked lovely on the hills.

I took a series of 3 views from the Captain’s bridge by his permission. They should be lovely, but the boat was heaving slightly. So there are sure to be 2 or 3 outlines.

11th June: We have got papers on board, have just had a glance at one. It looks as if the war is practically over. The sea has been rather choppy for 3 or 4 days, but remarkably calm the whole day after. There have been no accidents or deaths, our boy is better, but he will have to be carried on shore to hospital.

We had a miserable day of waiting about and uncertainty yesterday. Wynberg is only 8 miles round Table Mountain and there are electric cars running between, so if they would only let us land we might be see about a bit. We shall not be able to get into dock till tomorrow night at earliest the transport officer says.

Dr. Stirling went ashore to report himself and get orders yesterday. The official did not know we were coming, very pleased as nurses are very badly needed. He says in the meantime we shall go to Kroonstadt as soon as he can arrange for us. If Dr. S, had gone 3 hrs earlier they might have arranged for us to go by the Hospital train which left yesterday.

The Princess of Wales Hospital Ship is in the dock. We can see her funnels, it would be lovely if we could go over her. Dr. Stirling has gone ashore again this morning to find out further particulars and to know if we may go ashore even if we are not going any further just now. Our tips here will come to £1 at least. I cannot collect my thoughts to write or read or any other thing, we are all very restless. If I have no time for more “Au Revoir”.

13th June: On the way to Kroonstadt, just passed Matjesfontein. Yesterday about 12 noon the transport officer came along to say we were all to be ready to go by ¼ to 2. It had been very foggy all the morning, fog signals going. We came away in rain, in a tug. Gordons, Surreys and Lancashires and our own orderlies stand under, and the Drs., Sisters and 2 Transport Officers on deck. They gave us a very nice send off and seemed sorry to part with us.

We landed at Cape Town, waited there and claimed our baggage, then went in an Ambulance Wagon to the Customs House and on to railway station. The wagon was drawn by mules. We went very slowly because we had to follow the baggage wagon. Our things were not opened out. We are surprised to pay for excess (above 100 lbs). Dr. Stirling paid £6.13.0 on the lot, we have ever so much too much baggage.

We didn’t leave the boat till ½ past 4. Arrived in dark 5 p.m. At station 6.30. Found Grand Hotel too full to take us for dinner, found a very nice place at last. The town is very full of military people. brought 2 doz. more plates at 3/- doz. Couldn’t get any more papers. Try and send me 3 pkts will you please? Cabinet size.

We bought a 2lb. tin of biscuits for 2/6 between 3 of us. We have 1st class Pullman Cars. Each compartment takes 4. Only 3 in ours. It looks like a sea cabin at night when we pull out the top bunks. A lot of the orderlies and all the Drs came to see us off. We started at ¼ past 9. Had breakfast at Matjesfontein at ¼ to 8 this morning. We were not in time for much paid 2/6 for it too. Coffee tasted so awful I couldn’t drink it. We had a very nice lunch at Fraserburg Rd and dined well at Victoria Rd. It is now 11.20 p.m.

We expect to reach De Aar about midnight. The train is very rocky tonight so please excuse the writing. We have heard very bad news tonight. The Northamptons, Middlesex Yeomanry and another lot have been cut up while putting up their tents. Very slimy of the Boers but where were our scouts? They say the railway to Kroonstad has been restored so we shall be able to go right up. I hope they let us but our orderlies and medics are behind.

The last mail which passed a few minutes ago says, “A victory to Lord Roberts. Buller is at Charlestown. There are 15 killed about 60 wounded and the rest taken prisoners”. Major Wright (R.A.M.C.) in charge of us thinks that will mean ½ company about 400. Will try to keep this up to date. We have seen several ostriches today. Passed heaps of kraals. Passed several odd tents and one had 80 West Surrey men. We opened one window and called one of the Tommies. They have been these 8 weeks. We gave them books and papers.

14th June: We arrived at De Aar about ½ past 12. Shunted and took on a lot more people. We took on others at 2 other stations after. This morning’s news is that 3 companies of Yeomanry were cut up and that we have retired from and the Boer have re-taken Kroonstadt. We have passed a heap of camps. We passed Colesburg and we have seen what we thought might be Lieut. Roberts grave at any rate it was a grave with a headstone. We have seen 7 dead horses this morning along our route. We had breakfast (a very nice one apart for coffee which was horrid again). At Norvals Pont have crossed the Orange River.

I saw the remains of 2 bridges that were blown up. We stop at Springsfontein for ½ an hour. The Welsh Hospital is there and Dr. Roberts who was of our party is to come to it but he was not allowed to come with us.

We are very much afraid we shall be detained at Bloemfontein now Kroonstadt is in Boer hands. There is more vegetation the higher we go. We haven’t seen any grass yet. Nothing but sand, rock and a short sturdy sort of shrub not unlike heather or sage bushes in their growth. There are a few taller shrubs and trees, occasionally willows etc. Oak trees in Cape Town. Sheep and Goats are fairly plentiful. We saw a large Ostrich farm this morning.

At Springsfontein some had lunch, we didn’t as it was not long after breakfast. Breakfasted at Norvals Pont. Who do you think got in there? Mr and Mrs Howe. I spoke to them before we reached Bloemfontein, had a good long chat with them. He says Kroonstadt is now ours again. Don’t know the truth of this.

Well we arrived at Bloemfontein and had to wait on the platform while the Major reported himself and us. Then we went to an hotel and had dinner. We then had to return and take up our old beds in the carriages for the night. They are expecting the Boers to attempt to blow up the station, rather a lively look out for us. There are hundreds of soldiers both inside and outside the station. Those inside packed into trucks (open ones).

15th June: What a time we have been having! We are now at the “Upper Dames”. It was formerly a boarding school but is now used as a Hospital for officers. You will see by this that we got through the night safely. We heard 2 shots fired, perhaps accidentally for we heard no others, they were expecting a visit from the Boers and the station to be blown up, but neither came off.

There was fighting 15 miles away and some miles of line blown up between here and Kroonstad. Major Wright and 2 R.C. Chaplains kindly came back and slept in the train with us. There was a strong patrol of soldiers. Our lavatories were closed so we had to go without a wash this morning and then go through soldiers to the Ladies Waiting Room and wash our faces round, there must have been fine high-water marks left. There are no sanitary arrangements here so it is no wonder there is so much enteric about. We have spent a terrible day today walking about finding diggings, going to the P.M.O.’s (Principal Medical Officer) etc. The one who was made a charge nurse is not a scrap of good. She made 2 appointments to meet us and didn’t keep either. Several of us gave her some words of comfort when she met us at ¼ to 6. Yours truly amongst them.

We are just opposite the camp now, am going to see it in the morning and if possible take some photographs. The dust on the sheets is terrible. The teams of mules and oxen are very quaint also the gin-rickshaws. Photographs of the place dear 1/- 1/3 1/6 each unmounted. No albums to be got.

16th June: We must finish our letters up today for the mail on Wednesday from Cape Town. We went to the station last night and heard that our own Drs are on the way. Hope they may arrive today as they say the line is now open to Kroonstadt. There is a good bit of wind and an awful lot of dust blowing this morning. We shall have rain through the day, I expect. We are going to walk through the town. We have a fine view from our room window. There are heaps of niggers in the garden washing and hanging out clothes. They look a beautiful colour. We are going down there now so it is no good keeping this for further news. Shall be very glad to get a letter from you, expect they will go to Kroonstadt.

Upper Dames Institute Bloemfontein.

We are still here our Drs. and orderlies arrived today. We saw 6 orderlies and met 2 Drs. who escorted us back to our diggings tonight. We no sooner got in than it began to rain and is now coming down in sheets. It may do us another good turn by keeping the Boers from us another night.

One man was killed not far from here last night. Lord Kitchener is here and Lord Roberts is either here or coming tomorrow. Lady R. lives in Steynes House the Presidency about 2 minutes walk from here.

I took 3 photos today hope they turn out all right but am rather doubtful as the focussing screen was made up you know. I got a ground glass one today 2/-. Went all over the place to get it, and then got a piece from a chemists and had to take it to a picture shop to get it cut.It has been very dull all dry and the sand blowing terribly. It will be very muddy tomorrow, I suppose. Had the misfortune to break my watch glass cost 1/6, bread is 6d, butter and cheese 3/- lb. We have bought some in case we are sent to Kroonstadt tomorrow. I shall go to the Wesleyan Church if we stay here tomorrow. Yesterday in our wanderings round we went to an English Church Home, conducted by a Sisterhood. They were going to put 9 of us up at great inconvenience to themselves too, but Nurse Bower the beggar who was given the charge of us muddled it somehow.

She made 2 appointments with us and didn’t keep either; but one of the Majors at the P.M.O.’s saw us looking very tired and forlorn waiting for Sis. Bower to come and tell us where to put up, so he stopped and told us about the St Michael’s Home.

So in the afternoon 5 of us were together and hadn’t seen her and didn’t know where to go so we found out the place. Sister Hora was so nice. They made us a lovely tea-pot of tea, gave us bread and butter and biscuits. How we did enjoy it sitting in easy chairs. I went back afterwards and saw the Mother Superior and another Major and told them where we were going. I must call again and tell them how we are getting on. Today is the last day of grace for the Boers, tomorrow they will be accounted rebels if they don’t surrender, that is probably why the Generals are here.

They are not allowed to be in the streets now after 8 hour, nor to leave the town without special permits. I hear Mrs Gladstone is dead and am not surprised – she must have missed him.

I wonder where our Jackie is now and what he is doing. I hear our Drs. only got £50 for the six months. The food is very indifferent, condensed milk, bad butter, bread good, meat pretty fair. Loads of flies about but nothing like what they have had. There has been a plague of them. They are swarming in the kitchen now. Tables are black with them. Get into the food Ugh! The sugar is awfully dirty stuff everywhere. The celluloid collars and cuffs are a boon. Washing is very expensive here.

17th June: We had breakfast at 9. Went to the Wesleyan church and heard the Rev (W) Kerry preach a very good sermon. It is a nice large church, but it was very small congregation owing to the rain no doubt. We went in about ¼ to 11 and so escaped the worst of the rain. We met Dr. Hodge on our way there and 2 other Drs on our way home. (Drs. Kinmont and Greaves ). All the Drs. have to sleep in a large room in an hotel on the floor wrapped in blankets and their rugs. Next Sunday is to be the Sun. Sch. Anniversary at our Church and the Chairman of the District Rev. Scott is expected from Kimberley. I think all the Sisters will go together to the Cathedral at 7 as it is not nice to go about after dark by ones or twos.

19th June: We went to the Cathedral and found the mass in an R.C. place had to sit through a sermon on the Holy Eucharist. Afterwards went to No. 9 Hospital with Major Wright.

Yesterday we hired a chaise and went to No. 8 Hospital to see 2 of our Royal Infirmary Nurses found one down with enteric and awfully down in the dumps. Cheered her up a bit. Went home to dinner then dressed to go for a walk. Got a pair of boots for 7/6 very dainty kids. While out met 2 nurses coming from the house, rushed up and found it was a despatch to say we were to sleep on the train in the station ready to start by train at 5 in the morning. We brought some food stuff for our journey, packed up, and after supper came out to the station. We are now on our way.

We have passed 3 bridges that have been blown up and not yet repaired. We are hoping the line is alright. None of the enemy seen yet but plenty of our Tommies distributed along the lines.

We have a lot of them in open trucks in front of us, just we 12 nurses and 6 Drs. are going on besides. We have sleeping compartments but an awful scarcity of water. We have just left Brandfort , a lot of Tommies came and talked to our people. Kelly-Kenny has been in Bloemfontein some days. The Tommies tell us Lord Kitchener passed on his way to Kroonstadt. We had some great excitement this morning. We had to pass over the Renosterspruit River by a hastily built wooden bridge, the other one was blown down about 2 months ago.

A heap of men of the R.P.R stood round watching us over, we got over in safety but our carriages were kept standing in the middle of the bridge, we looking down a sheer precipice on either side, while another train backed and went on another siding.

Now we are at the Don River about 10 miles from the Land where they are now fighting the Boers. A train of reinforcements and a heap of soldiers on foot and our horses have just passed. Hasty trenches are being dug and biscuit boxes stacked on earthworks.

21st June: A lot has happened since I wrote. Tuesday evening about ¼ to 12 Dr. Clarke’s son came down to the station and found our train just in. We had a long chatter with him, none of our equipment (tents etc) had been heard of. They have been free from the Boers, but have had a terrible lot of work to do. When they came (only a fortnight ago) they found over 500 cases of enteric and dysentery, principally enteric. They were in the Grand Hotel and the Dutch Reformed Church. They have done splendid work since they came and everything is splendidly arranged for the short time going.

The hospital is in the best of situations on a hill – everything looks so clean and nice.

They certainly have sent out a splendid equipment and I suppose when we get all ours it will be even better with it Doecker huts etc. 11 truck loads were sent out and 9 have now been found and sent on. So 2 traction engines have been busy bringing some of it up today. We slept in the train Tuesday night and on Wednesday morning about 7.30 Dr. Clarke himself and Col. Cayley came to fetch us up to the Hospital for breakfast.

How nice and clean the tables looked and there are 4 or 5 old soldiers who do the waiting at table. At present we all mess together Drs. and nurses exactly on the same food. Very good only the porridge is always singed a bit and milk puddings are made with water, because milk is so scarce, they use condensed – any fresh that can be got is given to patients.

Yesterday morning I went for a walk with 2 other nurses, took 2 photographs. They have a very small dark room fitted up. I must see if I can use it tomorrow. It is in the Theatre tent and they have been very busy trephining etc. After lunch 1 o’clock Sister Cole and I were sent on duty in 2 enteric tents. We have 5 very bad cases. Very interesting and I am quite happy. There is an awful lot of work to do, our orderlies not being much good yet. We came off to dinner at ½ past 6 and did not leave our wards till ½ past 9.

We are sleeping in bell tents they have put up for us. 3 in a tent. I slept very well, was very tired and had plenty of clothes on. My rug is a lovely warm one. Today we were called at ½ past 7. Ate breakfast in our ward 8.45. Found beds not made, orderlies are supposed to make them and will have to if I’m about – in the morning. I prefer to do them myself at night.

One of our cases has had haemorrhage 3 time today. Can’t live I suppose. Another is also hopeless I am afraid.

We were off tonight at 20 to 10. Supposed to be about 8.30 but our Dr. Cowen is a very particular man gives an awful lot of treatment. Each of the 5 bad cases have Temp. Pulse and Resp. taken every 4 hours, if over 102.5 to be sponged with tepid water, that pretty frequently. Stimulants given every 2,3 or 4 hrs. Mixtures every 4 hrs. One is almost wholly unconscious and 3 others take turns of it. Tea and arrowroot have to be made, milk and beef tea warmed.

Several of our 20 cases are helpless. Received one today. Must lie down and go to sleep now 11.20. Post leaves here tomorrow to catch the mail.

We had a most hearty greeting from the G.R.I. folk when we came, quite made the others jealous. They were all most kind and looked so happy and well. Miss Shannon  the Supt. is very nice. Sister Alexander  who has charge of the Theatre is a jolly bright little thing too. No letters yet for me, only 2 for anybody yet.

June 24th: S.N.R.C. Hospital Kroonstad.

Today is Sunday. Have just been to a Service in the camp and have ¼ of an hr. to spare before duty. There is not much to write about. Some of us have been on duty all the time of which yours truly is one. We have some very heavy cases of enteric etc. and Dr. Cowan whose wards 2 of us have charge of is a man most conscientious in his work, interested in his cases and gives any amount of treatment. So his wards are very warm for nurses. He is a thorough gentleman and most polite. We have had one death I am sorry to say. P.M. showed a sloughing ulcer which would have proved fatal even without the new perforation due to enteric.

I took the interior of officers tent yesterday. I am afraid it won’t be good as the light is not good. Do send me plenty of papers as I want to take 3 copies of each in case the variable temperature affects the plates.

I believe this is Wednesday night, at any rate mail goes tomorrow and this must be posted at 2 p.m. We have been very busy in our wards 2 more deaths; so they are a wee bit lighter now. The day before yesterday I was on orderly duty – which means I am on all day and till ½ past 9 p.m. and between 2 and 5 when all the other nurses are off duty, the nursing sister goes round all wards and does anything that requires doing between those hours. Yesterday also I stayed in as we were expecting the General to inspect the camp and none of us were to go off duty. He came but did not visit many wards.

We had the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders band of Pipers yesterday afternoon. I’m not very fond of the bagpipes when they are so close. Today they had a fine band of Oxfordshire men. I went out so only heard 3 pieces but they were really good. An armoured train came in this morning so I went down and photographed it.We went inside and I saw a Maxim Gun and I have 2 Lee-Metford bullets.

We went for a long walk passing through the native village and I  photographed a group outside a house. Then we went on to the old bridge and I took it in 2 sections. I have just developed them and they have all turned out pretty well. I am going to ask about the groups of our staff tomorrow. A lot of the stuff has come and some tents and 1 Doecker hut is up.

Our men arrived on Tuesday I believe it was. (Don’t know days here) they have been busy getting some ready as there are 500 wounded and sick waiting to come on when they can be accommodated.

So, as all our tents are not up yet many of our people are at liberty more or less. General Kelly-Kenny came by the armoured train today and he and his staff came up between 5 and 6 and inspected some of our hospital. Kitchener is expected at 7 tonight and is to be invited to dine with us one day this week.

A concert is to be given tomorrow in the new Doecker hut but will tell you about it next time. No time for more now. If you think this worth while send round to .. .. P.S. Received your letter yesterday. Thanks very much for it. Shall be so delighted to hear all about everybody.

Emily Jane Wood: Diary May 1900

Arundel Castle May 19th Saturday


Had a good journey to Southampton and a most enthusiastic send off, the streets thronged. It is now 10 p.m. and as I am sharing a cabin with 2 others must not write much tonight, I am going to be revaccinated but not inoculated.

21st May: Yesterday was lovely and the sea beautiful, we were in the Bay but it was in one of its best moods. The stewardess brings us a cup of tea about 6 a.m., then some have baths and we breakfast abut 8.30. At 10.30 we had a service. As there are 3 clergymen on board one of them took it – not much of a sermon.

Then we lunch at 1.30. Have a cup of tea and bread and butter or biscuits at 4 p.m. dinner at 6.30. No supper. The food is very good and plenty of it. The 2nd and 3rd class orderlies had some games. The 1st class sang hymns. There was a service for them aft. They are not allowed to mix with us at all. After dinner we sang hymns in the dining saloon, pianos accompanying. There are about 35 of us sitting at meals in the 1st class D.S. 8 doctors, 12 sisters. Sister Roberts returning to S.A. after taking the men of the ‘Powerful’ home .. .. ..

Several have been sick not yours truly. We are through the bay and were very near the coast of Spain this morning. Passed Cape Finisterre before lunch. My bed got swamped with sea water early. They have changed it all. The waves have been dashing over the bows of the boat. It has been so windy today we could scarcely stand in some parts, but I am enjoying myself thoroughly, not sick yet. They had some games tonight, Gordon Highlanders v Yeomanry, Surrey and Lancashires. The students or 1st class orderlies have a sort of concert every night in the fore port.

23rd May: Yesterday I saw some flying fish. The day passed much the same as others. Eating, drinking, sitting and reading. Walking and talking. A concert given but spoilt by the conceit and half intoxication of the reciter named Wolff. Gave us the peroration before Agincourt from Shakespere. Did it well but had been having too much Scotch, in fact he spoilt the whole evening for us.

Today I have taken 4 photographs. I don’t like the Thiosulphate Tabloids they are not nearly strong enough. We land at Las Palmas while the ship is coaling where I hope to take more. Won’t stay for more shall be late for post – finishing in my bunk.

25th May: What a lovely day we had yesterday. Arrived at Las Palmas about 11 a.m. it was fun to see the boats come alongside with Spanish, Italians and some negroes in them all selling oranges, lemons, bananas, green figs, onions, cigars, tobacco, parrots and such like things. Then came a big barge full of colliers another of coal. The kiddies in the boats were stripping and diving for silver pennies as they called them.

Then came two boats and took off a party of 25 including nurses and doctors. When we landed our conductor fried 5 of the funny little hooded crustaceans for us and we went on a 7 mile drive to an hotel on the top of a high hill. It gave us a splendid idea of the place. We found it on the whole very barren. A few palm trees and some other something like our birch trees seemed to flourish in the dry and infertile situations. We saw several patches of maize and some vineyards right up on the hills. Round their own houses and inside the houses on the streets there are well cultivated and most luxurious little gardens. You remember how Nelly told us of the little gardens inside the houses where they take their Sisters. They leave their front doors open so we could see the gardens inside. Geraniums for big shrubs. Agapanthus, clematis, roses, photinia, luxuriate and there are other lovely climbers, shrubs and plants.

I saw abutilons the size of young trees. Shrubs and lilies of all descriptions. Splendid. All gardens were full of flowering plants but it seemed to us that the Spaniards were too lazy to cultivate the rest of the ground. We only saw a very little corn and that of the very meagrest.

I have taken 2 views of the streets but they are not very successful, but they will give you some idea of the funny flat look of the houses. We returned in the same carriages and visited the Cathedral. Had not time to take a view of it. Then we returned to the town Hotel. Some of them bought some lovely Madeira wine at more or less ruinous prices. Returned to the boat between 5 and 6.

30th May: Not much to record since Las Palmas. We are now in the tropics and for the last few days and the heat has been tremendous. Monday was terrible. The heat gave me one of my old sick headaches so I had to miss dinner. The only missed meal so far.

On Saturday several of us were vaccinated I amongst them, but I don’t think mine has taken at all. On Sunday night there was some irritation and inflammation and none since.

On Sunday after service I took 2 groups of Drs. and nurses, with the ships captain. I am afraid that they will not come out well but Dr. Stirling said it would be the best day to take them as they would all be in Khaki for church parade. It has been too hot since to do any work.

We saw a tremendous shoal of porpoise. We crossed the Equator about 9 a.m. on Thursday. A case of suppressed enteric turned up amongst the Gordons so 3 of us are nursing it. We only take about 4 hrs. each and that is quite enough as the hospital is in the steerage end, and one feels the motion of the boat very much more there. However, we don’t see any signs of enteric ourselves and his temperature is now normal. It was 105 when admitted.

There are heaps of flying fish to be seen this side of the Equator and some nautilus also. They had a shuffleboard tournament yesterday, it was very good. The 2nd and 3rd class passengers got up a concert for us last week, they have a professional violinist amongst them. It was a very good concert. We are to give a return one next week, and I believe the stewards are getting up a minstrel group for next week also.

We are having some lessons in Cape Dutch from a pro-Boer parson who is on board, he is a very jolly little fellow. We have been rather more lively the last few days, on Tuesday evening we (1st class) gave a concert. On the whole it was very good, but it was spoiled for me pretty much as I had to play accompaniments for 3 gentlemen. Have you heard “We’ll be there” Jack? it is a music hall song from the British to Oom Paul. It is capital. Banjo accompaniment I think.

On Wednesday we had sports on the well deck. They were very good. Long jump, high jump, cock fight 2 men sit inside a chalk ring with their knees up, hands clasping them. The hands are tied and a stick passed through their legs, under knees and over elbows. When trussed they begin with their feet close together. The thing is to turn your opponent. When once over he has no power to right himself. If both go down it is a rare tussle which shall get the other outside first. In the evening the stewards gave the minstrel entertainment.

Wednesday a mail boat passed and we signalled “Have you any news?” Their reply was “P.R.E” and “T.O” then “surrendered”. We could scarcely believe it. The Red Cross people received the information with mingled feelings, but directly the troops were told there was cheering and great excitement, drinking, taking up lots and so on. Most hoping fighting is not over.

There is a shocking lot of gambling and open betting – We can’t tell what to make of the news or how it will affect us. We may be sent to Pretoria now, or some other place and not go to Kroonstadt at all. Last night some of us played round games, “tea-pot” etc. Evening passed quickly.

Emily Jane Wood’s Boer War Diary

Imperial Yeomanry Hospital, Pretoria

Emily Jane Wood trained at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. She joined Princess Christian’s Army Nursing Service (Reserve) in May 1900 as part of the Scottish Red Cross Hospital forming up to go to South Africa.

As well as serving with the Scottish Red Cross Hospital she served in Kroonstad, Pretoria and Kimberley. At the end of the war she stayed on in South Africa in Government service. She kept a journal of the early part of her experiences in South Africa. This is in The Library of the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine: Accession 333131; MS. 6034

She was a keen photographer and many of her entries deal with the intricacies of camera shots, and the supplies needed for photography at that time.