Letters from the front.
The men from the County of Kerry have fought many battles, from the battles for freedom against the country across the water to joining the enemies armies and fighting for the dominance of other countries and in later wars a different kind of freedom. In 1880 Kerry men fought in the Boer Wars.
FOLLOWING LORD Kitchener’s arrival in Cape Town on 10th of January, a Special train left Tralee for Queenstown to embark for South Africa, bearing some 200 men of the Royal Munster Fusiliers and 150 reservist of the Kerry Militia.
Two Kerry men currently in action in the Boer War sent these letters home from the front. The first is a letter received from Corporal O’Sullivan Yorkshire Regiment, who was the postman between Tralee and Fenit.
“Dear Ned, Just a few lines to let you know that I am still in the land of the living. Well this is New Year’s Day, but a queer one for us, cannot get a pint of stout. Oh, how I would like to get one of yours now; I would pay a bob for it.
1 hope it won’t be long when I pull old Kruger’s whiskers for him. We have a lot of Boor prisoners here and we were out scouting Xmas day and we captured ten Wagons of flour, rice meal, sugar and jam and forty Boors.
“Dear Ned, we have a large hospital here where all the Wounded come: you would pity the poor fellows when they come down from the front, all Sorts of wounds: nearly all Irish and Scotch. It is a very big hospital and it is all full.”
Den is, from Ardfert, under Lord Methuen in the First Coldstream Guards, gives this description of the fighting along the Modder River:
“We made it hot for the Boers in this battle, and I expect the casualty list will be heavy on both sides. The tattle and din of war can never be realised except by an eye-witness. You are breathing in an atmosphere of powder and your ears at first are split from the heavy peals become cloyed from the frequency of the discharges from field artillery.
Dear Mother I have never prayed so much in my life as I did during the battles. Death is always so near, your comrades drop besides you and you cannot help reflecting that the next moment you may be lying by their side.”
Lord Kitchener, Commander of the British Forces in the Boer War, was born in Gunsborough Villa near Listowel and spent his early years in North Kerry.
MrJ O’Keeffe, a dweller in the town of Tralee, was at the time a resident of the Same region. When the youth who afterwards became Lord Kitchener (he says) lived in Crotta House, near Kilflynn, a one-horse trap used to convey them to Banna strand, where they would not be so confined as they would have been in Ballybunion and where the sensation of a straight gallop of seven Irish miles used to delight the future Sirdar as well as the other members of the Kitchener family.
“I was then a burly young lad going to school, with my books under one arm and two sods of turf under the other, and very often the Kitchener trap and I ran ‘on parallel lines’ over half a mile of smooth,road. I thought the young Kitcheners pretty expert swimmers when bathing at Banna, but they appeared to lack courage when the waves were high.
The rough children of the coast often laughed at their cowardice. They appeared young at that distant period and, as the years rolled by, it is more than likely that the word “Cowardice” had no place in the Kitchener vocabulary. Recent events have proved so."
Have You Found What You Are Looking For?