The new century began with news of Ryde’s Volunteers at the Front in South Africa.
Isle of Wight Observer January 19 1901
Military News from the early 1900s
A letter has been received by Mr Poole, of Green Street, Ryde, from Private C Poole, dated Pretoria, December 20th. The writer says. “I hope you will have a good time this Christmas. I cannot say anything about our Christmas yet, as it wants five days to it; but from what I can see, I don’t think there will be any difference between Christmas here and any other day. There is a yarn going that we shall have two pints of beer a man, but I don’t know how far it is true. I hope it is right, as it will be quite a treat to have a drop. Yesterday we had a parcel from Mrs Seely, containing socks, tobacco, pipes and handkerchief, which was a very nice little present. I don’t know what to say about our coming home, but it looks further off than ever, as troops that have been sent down country have returned since General Clements’ fight at Rietfontein. I think I said in my last letter that we could hear big guns. That was when General Clements had rather a tough job on at Rietfontein, which is not many miles from where we are. I have not heard a full account of it yet, but must wait for the English papers to see all about it. Since that affair we have been well on the alert, standing to arms, with all equipment on, from 3 till 6 am, and our picquets have seen several small parties of Boers knocking about. I am still keeping in good health, but Mew has been very ill with enteric. I think he is getting better now.”
Mrs Weeks, of Union Street, has also received a letter from her son, Sergeant W E Weeks, who also speaks of having been fortunate enough to receive from Mrs Seely (the wife of Col Seely), a parcel, and also a Christmas hamper from home. It is very fortunate the latter was forwarded, because only a day or so after it was despatched, a letter was received from Sergeant Weeks, stating that he was coming home with Lord Roberts, and his friends quite anticipated that the parcels sent would never reach him.
Mrs Weeks has also heard from her second son, Mr J Weeks, of the South African Light Horse, who is now the Sergeant-Major of his troop, a position which he formerly occupied in the Canadian Mounted Police. He appears to have had some exciting experiences, and several narrow escapes. On one occasion his horse bolted, and he had to catch it under the fire of a number of Boers on a neighbouring kopje. It is thought probable he took part in the recent fighting at Murraysburg.
The article appeared in the Isle of WIght Observer, February 2 1901. ‘W E Weeks thanks his customers for past favours, and trusts that during his absence on active service in South Africa with the Isle of Wight Volunteers his friends will continue to extend to him their kind support as heretofore’.
A letter from Sergeant Weeks addressed to the Deputy Governor of the Island appeared in the Isle of Wight Observer of June 16, 1900:
Orange Free State
May 16th 1900
Dear Sir, I am in receipt of your letter dated 5th April and am requested by the members of the IW Section of the 1st Vol Co Hants Regiment, to thank you and the members of the committee for their kindness in sending us the articles you mention. They have not yet arrived and it is doubtful whether we shall get them for some time. Still we are none the less grateful to think we are being remembered by our fellow citizens. We left De Doorns on the 3rd inst., and arrived at Bloemfontein on the 6th, left there on the 7th and arrived at Brandfort on the same day. Left Brandfort on the 9th and arrived here on the same day. The bridge across the Vet river having been blown up by the Boers a few days previously it became necessary to deviate the railway and cross the river further down. This was done by the Royal engineers and our company had to assist them. The deviation was about two miles, and three bridges had to be built and the bed of the road made. Our work was mostly excavation, carrying sleepers and laying rails. The line was completed on the morning of the 13th, and we were complimented by the officers of the Royal Engineers for the assistance we rendered. We have been under orders to move from here since Sunday, but we can never tell when we are to move until we are actually in the train, as orders are frequently cancelled. To-day we have been burying horses and cattle which have been lying in the river and on the veldt. It is not a nice job, but a very necessary one. Again thanking you I have the honour to remain,
Your obedient servant.
Wm Edgar Weeks
Sergt. Vol. Co. Hants. Reg
September 1900 – news from the Front