Pte. H. Simpson's letter home, 30.11.1899

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Pte. H. Simpson's letter home, 30.11.1899

Postby Berenice » Tue Dec 02, 2014 1:15 pm

From Frere Station, Natal Field Force, under date November 30th, Private H.. Simpson, of the 1st Border Regiment, writes to his father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. R.H. Simpson, of Lancaster, as follows: - "I thought I would write a few lines to let you know that I am still alive and kicking. You will know that we were at Estcourt. Our company went up the line on the armoured train after we had been there a week, but we didn't see any Boers. Three days after that the Dublin Fusiliers went up, and when they got up the line to where we are now the Boers, after waiting till they had passed, widened the lines so that when our troops came back the train ran off the line, and the Boers let into them. There were about 59 killed, wounded, and captured, and about 90 got safe back to the camp. About a week after that the scouts brought in the news that the Boers were advancing on Estcourt. So we went out about 2.30 one afternoon, and the next morning the fun began. We found the Boer position on the top of a hill, so the West Yorkshires went up one side and the East Surreys up the other, and we went to the front. This was before it got light. The West Yorkshires got right up to the Boer sentry before they were discovered. The man who was nearest the sentry had a round in his breech and his bayonet fixed. When he was going to bayonet the sentry he pulled the trigger and so alarmed the Boer camp. We had to retire under cover of our big guns. Then there was an artillery duel. When we had put about half of their guns out of action we had to advance again. Talk about hail coming down, it was not in it, and shell came down like rocks. But the best of it was they were all dead ones and instead of them bursting they simply hit someone and then stopped. One of our men got a shot on his boot, and it only knocked him on his feet, and he had to walk back on two sticks. I felt a bit nervous at first, but I got used to it. We drove the Boers out of their position about six o'clock the following night. Coming back to camp we had a rest, and one man was saying he had a narrow escape - the shot had just grazed his leg, but when he took off his putties it was seen that the shot had gone right through the calf of his leg. The total loss on our side was 20 killed and 60 wounded, most of them belonging to the West Yorkshires. We had only two wounded. On the 24th we had to advance higher up the line to Frere Station. The same night we were on outpost duty, and at dawn, when we were standing to, the sentry saw some men coming up. He challenged them, but they did not answer, and when he challenged them again they fired into us. One of the bullets entered a colour-sergeant in the lower part of the stomach, and came out at his back. But he is still alive and doing well. When we landed here the armoured train was just as the Boers had left it. There was a big hole in the side where the shot had gone through. I got a bit of the signalman's flag which was on the train, and I am sending it in this letter. We expect to advance on Colenso in about a week, and then on to the relief of Ladysmith. We are living very well here, getting bread - about three-quarters of a pound per day - and half a pound of biscuits, besides fresh meat and vegetables, and sometimes we come across a stray fowl which has lost its home, and we give it a nice warm corner on the fire. I am in the best of health and spirits, and hope to be with you before long.

From The Lancaster Observer and Morecambe Chronicle, Friday 29th December 1899.
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Re: Pte. H. Simpson's letter home, 30.11.1899

Postby kerchi » Tue Dec 02, 2014 1:37 pm

That is an interesting letter and a great addition to the newspaper archives on the forum, many thanks.

The Boer tactics of derailing the train was bound to cause some fatalities so in their eyes, quite effective if not a bit underhand, but that's war. The sentry that survived a gut shot was lucky to be alive but that probably has something to do with the bullet coming clean out the back and generally, their dietary intake seemed quite varied and healthy.

I wonder if Private Simpson ever made it home.
In memory of John Bardgett (15309 L/Cpl.), 11th Border Regiment who died 1st July 1916.

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Re: Pte. H. Simpson's letter home, 30.11.1899

Postby Berenice » Tue Dec 02, 2014 6:43 pm

The Border Regiment Boer War Casualties thread on this forum has this possibility - H W Simpson Wounded 6 Jan 1902 Potchefstroom.

Looks like this is the Colour Sergeant - G Parish Wounded 23 Nov 1899 Willow Grange
The ABW Forum has this - Parish G 2637 Cr Sergeant 1st Btn. Dangerously wounded at Willow Grange. 23 Nov 1899.
Source: Natal Field Force Casualty Roll, page 121 line 1

viewtopic.php?f=59&t=2503
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Re: Pte. H. Simpson's letter home, 30.11.1899

Postby plbramham » Sun Dec 14, 2014 1:35 pm

Always nice to get info about Boer War, a much forgotten war. If it had not been overshadowed by WW1 it would probably have a much higher status in history. It was the first real major conflict since Waterloo and Napoleon!
Lots of "modern" warfare introductions : tactics, weapons, equipment etc,
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Re: Pte. H. Simpson's letter home, 30.11.1899

Postby kerchi » Mon Dec 15, 2014 1:02 pm

Berenice wrote:Looks like this is the Colour Sergeant - G Parish Wounded 23 Nov 1899 Willow Grange
The ABW Forum has this - Parish G 2637 Cr Sergeant 1st Btn. Dangerously wounded at Willow Grange. 23 Nov 1899.

When the term "dangerously wounded" is used does this mean "fatally" or could he have recovered?
In memory of John Bardgett (15309 L/Cpl.), 11th Border Regiment who died 1st July 1916.

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Re: Pte. H. Simpson's letter home, 30.11.1899

Postby Berenice » Mon Dec 15, 2014 4:27 pm

There doesn't seem to be an online record of him dying while out in South Africa so he could have made it back to the UK alive. A bullet through the lower stomach sounds like "dangerously wounded" would be a fair description; would a Victorian military hospital have been able to cope successfully with that?

If we knew any of his personal details we could see if he was included in the 1911 UK Census. Would the Border Regiment Museum have a record of whether he died or not while serving?
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Re: Pte. H. Simpson's letter home, 30.11.1899

Postby IanT » Mon Dec 15, 2014 11:30 pm

Looks like G Parish made it back. There's a couple of one page documents (part of a larger one) on findmypast. Confusingly listed under 1914-1920 service, they relate to a soldier AWOL. 2637 Cr Sergt G Parish, Depot Border Regt. gives a witness statement beginning "At Carlisle on 24th September 1900..." 6175 Pte W D Smith is the absentee. Because of the way findmypast presents the documents I can't see any other pages, just those with G Parish's name, & no way to browse backwards or forwards. The source is series WO 363 at the National Archive. TNA states the document is available on Ancestry. However I managed to find 6175 William Dargue (?) Smith of the Border Regt there. He enlisted 3rd Feb 1900, deserted 1st March, rejoined 23rd May to be tried & sentenced to 21 days for loss of kit and absence. Returned to duty he deserted again on 2nd October. Meanwhile on 3rd August he was awarded a 3rd class certificate of education! A court of enquiry was assembled on 23rd October to investigate his absence etc.
In the defaulter's book Smith has three entries:
1/3/00 absence & loss of kit
29 July overstaying pass from 28th to 30th July
31 August absent from tattoo until 9th September
added later an entry for 12 July late for tattoo 55 minutes
There's a court martial sheet for his AWOL in May
At last found the rest of the document mentioning G Parish. It was the Court of Enquiry 23rd October 1900, Parish was the second witness.
So, yes, G Parish survived his wounds at least thus far.

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Re: Pte. H. Simpson's letter home, 30.11.1899

Postby kerchi » Tue Dec 16, 2014 11:19 am

Berenice wrote:There doesn't seem to be an online record of him dying while out in South Africa so he could have made it back to the UK alive. A bullet through the lower stomach sounds like "dangerously wounded" would be a fair description; would a Victorian military hospital have been able to cope successfully with that?

I guess the phrase is a fitting one for the type of wound; I don't recall having heard it before. It's usually fatal, lethal, mortal, deadly, severe, grave and even pernicious.

For Victorian medicine, I think a bullet that is clean through the gut was vastly easier to cope with than if it had lodged itself somewhere deep not only causing more tissue damage but poisoning as well. Georgian medicine maybe not so well.

Nice bit of detective work Ian; the Colour Sergeant made it back to England.
In memory of John Bardgett (15309 L/Cpl.), 11th Border Regiment who died 1st July 1916.

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Re: Pte. H. Simpson's letter home, 30.11.1899

Postby plbramham » Tue Dec 16, 2014 12:27 pm

I think it would have said " mortally wounded" if he died - I reckon the term "dangerously" probably means " seriously""?
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