Boer War letters, Belmont and Kimberley
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Boer War letters from Belmont and Kimberley

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Two letters from Richmond Farm
near Belmont, 14 Oct 1899 and
1 Apr 1900:
Walter Hart Wayland (1852-1930)
to his friend George Hull (1828-1916)
in Kimberley.


W.H. Wayland was the sixth child and second son of Albania settler Charles Joseph Wayland (1817-1889) of Belmont farm (Uithaaldersfontein/Thomas's Farm). Richmond, the Walter Wayland farm, is about 18 km north west of Belmont.

A further eight letters from Wayland to Hull, dated May to July 1900, have survived and address matters, inter alia, concerning the British garrison at Richmond and the progress of Warren's force against Griqualand West rebels. Wayland was not complimentary on either score: of the garrison, he wrote, "I have been looted by my own people...these wretched militia seem the scum of the world"; while he thought "precious little" of Warren and declared he "never saw anything so absurd as the way these military fellows advance, one would swear they were examining Karoo bushes for hares or birds' nests and not looking for men... at the rate of one thousand yards per hour"! In October 1899, however, his mood was upbeat: the whole "business", he believed, would be finished up by Christmas. It was obviously inconceivable at the time that the first battle of the western campaign was to be fought at Belmont, 23 Nov 1899; and that the advance to relieve Kimberley would be stopped in defeat at Magersfontein two and a half weeks later.


Richmond Farm
18th October 1899

My dear old Chum,

The despatch riders from Kimberley to Orange River are passing here and I have today supplied fresh mounts to Orange River Stn. From these men we get the only reliable news of the state of affairs at Kimberley. As you may imagine there are all kinds of rumours in the air, no doubt spread with a purpose by the other side. For instance, last Sunday, we heard that Kimberley was a heap of ruins and in possession of the Boers. Vryburg and Mafeking had been taken without loss and so forth. Only today I heard the first authentic news about Mafeking, from "Sam Brown", one of the despatch riders, to the effect that the Boers attacked it and were badly beaten off. We are all thirsting for news from the Natal side, but there appears none to be had. Most the fighting will no doubt be there. All that the Boers on this side appear capable of doing is smashing up the railway and telegraph plant. There were three hundred Boers at Belmont last night, but they only blew up the culverts on each side of the station and cut the telegraph wires breaking the posts down. Rumour said that you were to be attacked this morning. I don't fear much your ability to hold the town, but a good deal of danger could be done by shell fire upon a crowded place like Kimberley. I think the arrangement was to smash Mafeking and then to get reinforcements from the Bechuanaland Boers and then for Cronje to march to assist in the attack on Kimberley. As they have been beaten at Mafeking it will upset their plans a little. You will no doubt have the troops from Orange River during the week and they will be able to take active steps to drive the Boers across the border and open up the rail and telegraph communications. My own opinion is that the Boers will make but a poor stand when once active operations against them begin.

Well I was glad to get your letter of the 8th inst but before I could reply communication was cut off. I am glad to hear you are in town and comfortably housed, and fancy you joining the volunteer forces! Well I think the excitement of it will do you good; Man! Were I not a married man with kids in charge I would go in for all I am worth! Even if I had an assistant to have in charge I would be in Kimberley with you. I would give anything to see a fight but here I am tied with iron bands. I am going on just as usual here. I don't think the Boers will interfere with us and I think very soon they will be moved off from these parts. I fancy there are troops sufficient now in the country to finish up the business of the Republics before Xmas. I suppose it is not altogether safe writing by these despatch riders, as they may be taken by the Boers one of these days, or I would ask you to send a line by them.

We are rather in a fix about a nurse. I fear we won't get one from Kimberley so must manage with some old Boer Vrouw - I was thinking of going up to Kimberley by cart and bringing a nurse out, but Brown says I may have difficulty in getting through. I am enclosing a letter to Sister Henrietta, which, if this reaches you safely, will you kindly deliver.

We are wanting rain badly. The locusts have played the devil with veld and crops.

What does Wright think now? He refused to believe that the Boers would fight. I expect some of the De Beers cattle and horses have been looted. Well, I hope this will find you all well. Wife joins in love to you all.
Always yours sincerely,
W.H. Wayland
Richmond Farm
1st April 1900

My dear old Chum,

Your note of the 21st March reached me on Saturday 24th so I was not able to go to Kimberley for Sunday, but made up my mind to go on the Monday, which I did, with the result that I just missed you. I was of course greatly disappointed at not seeing you in Kimberley. It was my intention always to get into Kimberley directly it was relieved but as this farm was made a military station I was unable to get away. I have been supplying the troops with meat, milk, etc, so have been kept pretty busy. The place is in an awful mess, as you may imagine. I shall be glad when all the troops are moved. To see the place, you would imagine I was a rebel, the way my things have been looted. We seem to have nothing left in the way of furniture and bedding etc. Well it is no use complaining, I dare say others have fared worse than I have. I stayed at the "Lodge" in Kimberley and came to the conclusion that no-one in Kimberley was better off than you were during the Siege. Kimberley appears to me to have improved during the Siege, thanks I suppose to the "Great Cecil". The people seemed thinner but otherwise none the worse for their experiences of warfare. Whatever Lord Methuen may say of Boer pluck, I maintain that Kimberley is a monument of Boer cowardice. It would not have held out a fortnight against a brave foe, of the strength of the Boer force. It is wonderful how, between four or five thousand citizens could guard such an extent of circumference. The Boers for all their big talk have made no show at all during this war.

I was sorry to hear that your old pains were troubling you again and hope you will find the change do you good - I had no idea you intended going away alone, but thought it was your usual family excursion you mentioned in your letter. I would give anything to get away for a month to the seaside, as I feel pretty well run down. I don't know what has come to my back which aches most consumedly - have an idea that I have stone in the bladder. I half promised Tapscott to go down to Cape with him but it will all depend on how things go here. At present I have grand assistants. Old Mr Steyn who is a dear old chap, with his son, and three Turners. Also my cousin Eddie Wayland. So long as they are here I could go away with an easy conscience but we don't know what developments may eventuate and they may leave at any time. Do you know we are feeling very sore with the military authorities? Our part of the country was the first to be invaded by Boers and we have been bearing all the loss and inconvenience of the invasion. Loyal men have been driven from their homes leaving wives to the mercy of rebels and yet no effort is being made to quash the rebellion in Griqualand West and restore the Loyals to their homes. It is sickening to see troops here and elsewhere idling away their time with nothing to pass the time, and to think of men like Mr Steyns and Turners living in daily anxiety as regards their families and properties - Griqualand West people have for some reason or other always been badly treated, the last to be considered in everything.

I managed to save most of my cattle by sending through to the Colony. Lost a good many horses, poor Lily's white [...] mare among them. Had some revenge in going with a patrol across the Riet River and arresting sixteen prominent rebels and looting theirstock.

I hope you got down safely, I expect you were delayed by that wash away about Victoria Road. I saw that some train had overturned there. Are you not going to Somerset Strand for a time? I hope I may get down to see you in Cape but if not will go to Kimberley when you return. Let me know when you will pass Belmont.

Much love and hoping you will benefit by the change.

Ever yours,
W.H. Wayland.

"Our experiences of a siege" : George Hull of Kimberley to his sister, 28 February 1900


George Henry Hull wrote a letter to his sister Sophy Carson in Cape Town a few days after the Relief of Kimberley in February 1900. He had already written to his elder sister, Gertrude (that letter has not survived - or has it, somewhere?); now writing to his younger sister, probably in much the same vein, he wished to share "a few details" of his family's "experiences of a siege". The Hulls farmed at Riet Pan (it features on contemporary maps as "Hull's Farm"), outside Kimberley, just over the Free State border. At the outbreak of war the family moved hurriedly to town (family silver was buried on the werf), to take up residence at The Lodge as guests of De Beers. Hull's granddaughter, Olive McIntyre, was given her first birthday party there on 19 February 1900.

George Hull (1828-1916) had come to the Diamond Fields in 1870, and owned claims right near the centre of Colesberg Kopje, later Kimberley Mine. These he still held, in the partnership of Hull, Carr and Brown, in 1876. His more important enterprise, however, was not mining per se, but rather as a local agent for a range of hydraulic and general engineering equipment and materials, and dynamite. His home, "Gladstone", reputed to have been the first burnt brick dwelling in town, was situated off what would become Hull Street. At the end of 1893 Hull retired and leased the farm Riet Pan from De Beers, and went into dairy production. The family lived there until his death in 1916, when they moved to 22 Elsmere Road, in Belgravia, a block away from where they resided during the Siege.

David Morris, January 2000

The Lodge
28 Feb 1900

My dear Sophy(1)

As soon as communication opened(2) I wrote to Gertrude(3) and the Tyger Hoeks.(4)Gertrude would let you, as well as the others(5) know that we were all right, but I know that you would like to hear from me direct with a few details of our experiences of a siege.

We have all been exceptionally well during the five months, this being a particularly healthy part of the town - in fact you may call it suburban.(6) I don't remember if the Currey's house was built when you were here. It stands on the high ground halfway between Kimberley and Beaconsfield. Jolly nice quarters for us, well furnished and all, but we quite had our share of the shelling as our abode is in close proximity to the Sanatorium(7) where Rhodes lives and I need not tell you that they showed the greatest attention to that building, which however remains untouched as does this, though all the big houses in our neighbourhood have marks of the 100 lb shells.(8)The Kimberley Light and Diamond Fields Horse are camped within a stones throw of us and no less than five shells fell and burst in that camp within an hour doing not the slightest damage.(9) A large piece of schrapnel (sic) casing however flew over into the rear of our building not many yards from where Netty(10) was standing looking at our cart being spanned in and she and Johnny(11) secured the trophy, it weighs with its contents 45 lb, a murderous looking mass. On that same afternoon Mrs R. Solomon and her baby were killed and two men down town, and several buildings badly damaged.(12) The thing was becoming very serious and the women & children all scooted into the mines for safety(13) barring a few who had good splinter proof undergrounds. We trusted to Providence & remained above ground but whilst the shelling went on, kept the nurses & children(14) on the lee side of the house where there was some chance of safety as the 100 pounder would have to penetrate seven walls to reach them - though I believe nothing would stop such a big shell. Anyway here we are over it all and in fairly good condition, gee gee diet notwithstanding. It was a splendid piece of good luck Rhodes being here though I believe he purposely came to Kimberley to see us through. He has been the saving of the place during the siege. The military may be all very well in their line, but utterly unbusinesslike. Rhodes' first suggestion to them was to fix price of provisions and prevent dealers charging famine prices then to prevent anarchy among the out-of-work natives and [? .... ] population he started extensive street works &c at his own expense. All the De Beers Company employees have had full pay during the siege, though no work was doing, all of them being in the Town Guard. He started the soup racket and a great boon it was to the entire community, the vegetables being all supplied from the Kenilworth gardens. He distributed fruit from the above to the military as well as the various forts all round the town, fifteen miles circumference, mind you. Fortunately the orchards and vines bore splendidly this season & produced tons upon tons of peaches and grapes. Finding that Cronje & Co were holding out at Paardeberg longer than was expected, Rhodes sent out fifty De Beers wagons with mule teams loaded with forage & provisions (this only three days ago). He rides all over the country seeing to everybody's comfort. On Saturday last he found the Australians and New Zealanders camped on a wretched flat without tents or blankets - this was a contingent of French's relief column who had to stay here because their horses were knocked up on the forced march - Rhodes immediately sent them all down to Kenilworth where there are a lot of vacant houses and put all their horses into the big stables.

And this is the man a lot of misguided people would like to make mince meat of. Nothing would make me believe that the military who have been with us through the siege (I mean of course the Officers) could be so small minded as they have since proved to be. Of course you know that when our pop gun ammunition began to run short, poor Labram who was killed by a shell, undertook to make shells and was laughed at and poopood. He made them, though, and not a failure among the lot. But the military outburst when he proposed to make a 4 inch gun was something to be remembered. He made it though and the 28 lb shells to match and a perfect success it has proved, and a lasting memorial to poor George Labram. O if it had only been a failure how delighted the other chaps would have been. I could not have believed in such pettiness until it was brought home to me. What great exceptions Lord Roberts and Gen French are. Didn't French go for the Col of the Lancs when he arrived for his not [asking more?] than he did with a man of Rhodes' calibre. We hear that Kitchener has hemmed in another lot (5000) boers not far from where Roberts copped the 3000. I hope it is true. These successes on our border will probably bring the war to a close in another month or two.

We are still being rationed, but another week will see free trade again. We kept Olive's birthday(15) on 19th last and had gee gee soup and lard oil cookies.

I was glad to hear from Johanna(16) who was the first to write that you were all alive and well. The Tyger Hoeks(17) write that their uncle Tom Peter(18) died in November. Vancouver was his habitat (over 80 years). Also old Mrs Thomas the old gardener's wife.(19)

I hope we shall see Tom and Billy up here. Perhaps George too may find his way here. Eddie too is among the fighters. More power to all four of them.(20)

We, the Buffs, are disbanded tonight after nearly five months of twice a day roll call and sentry go, now and again only for me. No glory though the beggars would not attempt to storm.

With our united love to you all.

Ever yours affectionately

G.H. Hull

1. Sophia Bourhill Carson, nee Hull, was George Hull's youngest sibling.
2. The relief column entered Kimberley at about 17:00 on 15 February 1900, ending the 124-day siege, which had begun with the cutting of telegraph lines out of the town on the night of 14 October 1899.
3. Gertrude Hull, George's elder sister.
4. Sisters-in-law of George Henry Hull, Frances and Edith Susan Vigne, on the farm Tyger Hoek, Caledon.
5. In addition to Gertrude Hull and Sophy, there resided in Cape Town his sister Janet Spengler, his sister-in-law Johanna Hull (nee Richards, a first cousin of Sir J.H. Brand, late President of the Orange Free State), and nephews and nieces including members of the Hull, Bourhill, Brooke, McIntyre and Morris families.
6. The Lodge, built for J.B. Currey, was then on the outskirts of Belgravia.
7. The Sanatorium was built in 1897. Rhodes occupied rooms there during the Siege.
8. The Boer gun "Long Tom" began firing shells into Kimberley on 7 February 1900. In Belgravia both Rudd House and Dunluce sustained direct hits.
9. 12 February 1900
10. Henrietta Mary Hull, nee Vigne, wife of George Henry Hull.
11. John Peter, Mrs Hull's uncle's son.
12. 9 February 1900. It was also that evening that George Labram was killed when Long Tom scored a direct hit on the Grand Hotel.
13. On 11 February 1900 nearly 3000 people, mainly women and children, were lowered to safety in Kimberley and De Beers Mines.
14. The Hulls' only surviving child, Edith Susan Vigne Hull, had married Kenneth Grant McIntyre in 1895, and they had daughters Mavis and Olive McIntyre.
15. Olive McIntyre, writer's granddaughter, born 19 Feb 1899.
16. Hull's sister-in-law, married to Thomas Sparke Hull. She was a first cousin of the late President of the Orange Free State, Sir J.H. Brand.
17. The Misses Vigne.
18. Maternal uncle of Mrs Henrietta Hull.
19. John Thomas accompanied the Vigne family when they emigrated from London in 1844.
20. All nephews of the writer, sons of Thomas Sparke and Johanna Hull.

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