20 Letters reporting events at Ladysmith, the Transvaal, Bloemfontein and elsewhere.

VP including Ladysmith, Geluk Farm, Vluchfontein et al: 28 October 1899 - 5 April 1901.

Price: $5,000.00

About the item

Nine ALS, three TLS, eight carbons. 64 pp in total. Folio & 4to. FIRST-HAND ACCOUNT OF THE SIEGE OF LADYSMITH. Very good, some tiny chips to carbons and one two spots of minor dampstaining not affecting legibility. In manilla folder.

Item #303348

A fine group of letters by an English intelligence officer steadily rising through the ranks. In 1899 he is "sleep[ing] in the open air, only one blanket & one waterproof sheet." Within a year he was Lord Roberts' private clerk and in December 1900 he is stationed at the Commander-in-Chief's Office (Kitchener's) doing "confidential military work for the Military Secretary to Lord Kitchener."

Although part of the intelligence service, Carter saw more than his share of fighting. He describes the march to Ladysmith, and the action at Elands Laagte Station, noting "a bullet going through the top of my helmet and cutting off some of my hair but without even scratching the skin."

The next four letters were written from Ladysmith and provide a full account of the siege. "The Boers had big siege guns mounted on the hills around Ladysmith which quite outclassed our light field guns ... [They'd] completely invested Ladysmith & cut the telegraph lines & pulled up the Railway ... Then began the long dreary siege..." Carter reports using "a lot of pigeons" and the cost of Kaffir and Zulu runners, to get letters out of Ladysmith and at least one of his letters (not here) was published in the Hamilton Spectator.

The siege is depicted much like a holiday camp, citing football matches, swimming races, water polo, cricket. "We got so indifferent to the Boer 'snipers' that you would see most of our chaps having an afternoon siesta behind their trenches while bullets would be chipping the stones around them. We also used to organise pools, when we could see some of the Boers, and have a long range shooting match, the man who bowled the first Boer over taking the pool." Yet there is also much on troops movements, information on the Boers, the conditions of Ladysmith, accounts of engaging the enemy, and reflections on the experience of combat: "the actual fighting is all right as the excitement deadens your faculties, but after a battle when ... you see your poor companions who a few hours before were joking with you, lying dead or else writhing in the agonies of pain caused by frightful wounds, then you feel your courage leaving you and your nerves getting like wax."

The remaining correspondence includes three letters as Carter's regiment treks across the Transvaal through August and September 1900. These too are full of detail of life in the field, bivouacking scouting enemy positions and action: "There was a grand opportunity for our Field Artillery. They simply pumped shrapnel into them, the Artillery Officers going mad at the sight, and shrieking to the gunners 'fire! fire! hurry up you b----- fools, you never had such a chance, fire!' ... You could see at every discharge of the guns, the Boers falling, and at the same time our splendid Infantry running for all they were worth trying to get at them with the bayonet ... [I]t is very seldom the Boers leave any wounded or dead behind them and it proves how hard we pressed them ... It was like a shambles ... one, two or more bodies, horribly mutilated by the effects of the Lyddite."

The final group commences with Carter being stationed at the Commander-in-Chief's office and he wastes no opportunity to use the special mail service for his own correspondence. He describes Kitchener at work and provides insight to life in the office. Yet beneath this is a yearning for the war to end and a frustration that it can't be done in one swift battle: "We cannot get a good fight out of the beggars they simply have a few shots at us and as soon as we get near enough to do some damage, off they go helter-skelter."

This group were all addressed to Carter's long time friend we know only by the name of Jose. Given the warmth and detail included here, it's possible that he was using these letters as a substitute for a diary. Carter served with some distinction in 1st Manchester Regiment and was mentioned in the despatches.