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. Roberts1 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”2. 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 [redacted] 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 Bower3 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. Hodge4 on our way there and 2 other Drs on our way home. (Drs. Kinmont5 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 Hospital6 with Major Wright.
Yesterday we hired a chaise and went to No. 8 Hospital7 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.R8 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 Cole9 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.[mfn]Glasgow Royal Infirmary[/mfn] folk when we came, quite made the others jealous. They were all most kind and looked so happy and well. Miss Shannon10 the Supt. is very nice. Sister Alexander11 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[mfn]Scottish National Red Cross Hospital[/mfn] 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.12 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.Notes:
- ROBERTS – Lieutenant Frederick Hugh Sherston, V.C. – King’s Royal Rifle Corps Wounded at Colenso, 15th December 1899. Died 17th December. Aged 27, in a famous action to save the guns at the Battle of Colenso. Born at Umballa, Punjab, India. Son of Field Marshall Earl Roberts and Nora. He was buried at Chieveley Station, on the Tugela.
The Dames Institute, Bloemfontein @ T. Hilton
- BOWER, Alexandra MacIver, trained at Western Infirmary Glasgow, joined the Princess Christian’s Army Nursing Service (Reserve), May 4 1900, as Nursing Sister (Assistant Superintendent), (Number 524).
- Dr George Hodge, Surgeon, Glasgow. Army Nursing Notes (1900) Nursing Record and Hospital World. Vol 4: May 26th; p416
- Dr P Kinmont, Surgeon, Dundee. Army Nursing Notes (1900) Nursing Record and Hospital World. Vol 4: May 26th; p416
- No. 9 General Hospital (553 beds) opened at Bleomfontein on the 20th April 1900 and remained there for the duration of the conflict. Prime, P (1998) History of the Medical and Hospital Services of the Anglo-Boer War 1899 to 1902 London: Anglo-Boer War Philatelic Society
- No. 8 General Hospital (814 beds) opened at Bleomfontein on the 27th April 1900 and remained there for the duration of the conflict. Prime, P (1998) History of the Medical and Hospital Services of the Anglo-Boer War 1899 to 1902 London: Anglo-Boer War Philatelic Society
- Railway Pioneer Regiment
- COLE, Eliza Boyd, trained at the Western Infirmary Glasgow; joined PCANSR on March 23 1900 as Sister (No. 469) Princess Christian’s Army Nursing Service (Reserve) Nominal Roll dated September 30 1900
- SHANNON, Elizabeth Cochrane, trained at the Western Infirmary Glasgow, joined PCANSR on March 23 1900 as Superintendent (No. 476), awarded RRC June 26 1902; Princess Christian’s Army Nursing Service (Reserve) Nominal Roll dated September 30; London Gazette June 26 1902 p4193
- ALEXANDER, Margaret Butler, trained at the Western Infirmary, Glasgow, Joined PCANSR on March 23, 1900 as Sister (N. 477, Princess Christian’s Army Nursing Service (Reserve) Nominal Roll dated September 30, 1900
- Post Mortem