Diary of Private Herbert Thomas Beard - 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment (1900)
Leaving Aldershot on Sunday, March 18th (1900) we took train for Tilbury Docks where we embarked on the steamship Braemar Castle at 2 oclock in the afternoon leaving the docks at about 3.30 pm midst amidst great cheering from some of the friends of the men and of the Regiment who had flocked down to give us a hearty send off which was much appreciated by the men, there were a lot of us who remained up that night to see the last bit of England for some perhaps the last time, after passing the Channel Islands the next day we had nothing but water to look at until our arrival at Las Palmas were we had .... coal and from our boat it looked a rather pretty place, here we saw the ill-fated transport Ismore which had run aground in the harbour and could not be got off.
Leaving Las Palmas the same day we had to make our own amusement for passing the time away for we saw no land until we got in sight of Cape Town, the day before we got into Cape Town we saw a small boat drifting about and we turned out to be one of the Transport M..ean which had been in collision with another Transport called the Winkfield and had been sunk. All the Regiment except my company left Cape Town the day after our arrival but we had to remain on board and await orders and did not leave until the 10th April and then we did not know our destination. As we were leaving by train we met about 400 Boers who had been brought from the front as prisoners and we off to St. Helena.
Our first stop was at a place called Wellington were we stopped to get food but were soon on the move again passing through Worcester during the night, on the way the guard told us we were going to a place called DeArr (correct spelling is "De Aar") but were we would be going from there he could not say, on our arrival at DeArr we had to wait for orders, which when received were to go to Nauwport (correct spelling is "Naauw Poort") from there we went on to Stornberg (correct spelling is "Stormberg") were we stopped for an hour to get breakfast and then onto Bethulu Bridge (correct spelling is "Bethulie Bridge") which was blown up by the Boers and which is over the Orange River, here
Front page of Private H. T. Beard (9291) hand written diary
(CLICK HERE TO AN ENLARGED VERSION)
s.s Braemar Castle at Tilbury Docks (March 1900)
we had to leave the train and march to Bethulu station (correct spelling is "Bethulie Station") which was about three miles away, when we got there we had to wait for them to make up a train for us to go onto Edinburg (correct spelling is "Edenburg") this was the 13th of April (Good Friday) and I shall not forget it in a hurry for it was the most uncomfortable ride I ever had in my life, for the train was made up of coal trucks and horse and cattle trucks and we were packed in them like herrings in a barrel and I must say we were glad when we got to Edinburg first thing on Saturday morning (April 14th) here we had a good days work getting all our baggage and Transport together but we pitched our camp in the afternoon thinking we were going to get a day or two's rest before starting up country but we were disappointed for after a miserable night, for it poured in rain and we were told we were to go on the march at one o'clock that day (Easter Sunday) we started away at between one and two and kept on until we reached the Reit River which we had to cross up to our knees in water and it was pitch
dark and we could not see where you were going and it started to rain again when we got the order to halt for the noght and a miserable night it was for we soon got drenched to the skin some of the men lying down and the water running under them in streams and others walking about in it all night. The next morning after getting a couple of biscuits and a bit of bully beef we started on the march to Reddersberg leaving one half of the company as baggage guard and I remained with this lot, we started off with the baggage at 9 am and being told that Reddersberg was only about 10 miles away we expected to get there soon after dinner time but we were sadly mistaken for the wagon tracks were in such bad condition through the recent rains that it took us until dark at night to get there and in some places we were up to our knees in mud besides getting wet through on the way. We stayed here for two and it was raining all the time and we were not sorry when we got the order to move on towards Dewetsdorp (also referred to as "De Wet's Dorp").
We started from Redderberg at six o'clock and marched to a place called Rosindale were we encamped for the
night my company going on outpost duty coming in first thing in the morning to go on the march, we had hardly time to get a bit of breakfast before we got the order to fall in and move off, we had only been on the march about 2 hours when one of our scouts came back and reported to the General that they had been fired on and that the boers were holding a Kopje about 3 miles to our front.
1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment men defending their position (1900)
We were now formed up for attack and told to push on as quick as possible our Regiment being the firing line after going on for about 1½ miles my company were ordered to hold a kopje near to where our artillery and the boer artillery were having a set to with big guns, we remained here for some time and then received orders to push onto the remainder of the Regiment who were working to the right and left of the Boer position my company going straight to the front and I must say it was about the hottest time I have ever had in my life for there were shells from the big guns and pom poms and bullets from rifles flying in all directions and you did not know a minute but what you might get bowled over, but the way the troops marched across the open plain under heavy fire was a sight never to be forgotten my company had their blankets rolled horse collar fashion and the Brigade Major told our officer that the way our company threw off their blankets and charged up the hill was atrat to watch but when we got to the top of the kopje the boers had retired back to another one about 1800 yards away and kept up a heavy fire on us and of course we had to return the compliment. I am pleased to say that we only got one man hit while taking this positon.
We held this position for 36 hours when we were relieved by the West Kent Regiment and we marched back to camp were we had a drachm of rum per man issued to us we also learnt that the party who brought us food and water on the Friday might have lost their way and might have been taken prisoners by the Boers.
We moved our camp on the Sunday morning to a place called Constantine Farm and which was nearer to the position we had taken, on the Monday we were sent out as escort to the big guns and while we were there on this duty feet inspection was ordered and while this was taking place the Boers dropped a shell into the Company which was lay next to mine killing 2 men and wounding 3 more, this cast a gloom over the Regiment and there were some angry murmurings over having such a thing under fire and a few threats of taking our revenge for the loss of our comrades, we buried them on the side of the hill were they were killed the Commanding Officer reading the Burial service by the light of a candle held inside a helmet to shield it from the wind.
We remained on duty until the Tuesday night when we got relieved by the East Yorkshire Regiment. On the Wednesday morning we started off at 3 am in the direct of De Wet's Dorp as we had heard that the Boers were holding this town and we intended to make a flank attach on them but on our arrival there about 8 o'clock at night we found General French and Charnside were in possession of the town which they had attacked from the other side. We halted there for the night and started off again next morning to follow the Boers who were making for Thaba Nchu (also spelt "Thaba N'chu"), and getting in touch with their rear guard there was some sharp fighting but we marched into the tone Saturday (27th April). We had not been in camp long before we were ordered to go out again as the Boers had attacked a convoy but they were driven off without any loss by our Brigade and we came back into camp on the Sunday morning.
We went out again about midday and had a sharp engagement with the Boers succeeding in driving them out of their positions which we occupied until the Wednesday night marching back into camp on Thursday morning (1st of May) we had only been in camp a few hours when just as we got our dinner served up the Boers opened fire on the camps with their big guns of course we had to move out pretty lively, but owing to some misunderstanding, instead of being marched out of range we were took straight out into the open and only for the bad ammunition which the Boers were using we should have lost half the regiment for they put 38 shells into us but as luck wold have it none of them burst and no one did any damage as soon as we got well out of range we halted in a nullah where we stayed until the Saturday morning during which time the Boers had fled in the direction of Ladybrand and had only gone about three miles on the road when the Boers opened fire on us with their big gun which they had posted on a kopje on the right of the road but our artillery soon got their guns into action and soon silenced them the infantry going round to try and flank them but they got away to quick for us as they were on horseback and we on foot, that night we returned to our camp at Thaba Nchu arriving rather late at night.
My Company were sent from here as escort to a convoy to the Water-works which is about halfway between Thaba Nchu and Bloefontein arriving there on the morning of May 11th and starting back the same night we halted about 10 o'clock for a few hours rest and started off again at 4 o'clock in the morning but we did not return to Thaba Nchu as we were stopped to reinforce 'B' Coy who were at a place called Israel’s Poort, we remained here about five days and the returned to Thaba Nchu where we found out that the Division had gone on up country and our Regiment had been left to garrison this town.
We had one night in camp and were then sent onto Thaba Acher mountain which is over 4000 feet high and it took us between 3 and 4 hours to climb. We were up here for a few days when orders came for five companies to follow the Division up and my company was unlucky enough to be one of three left behind, there was some grumbling about being left here bit it could not be helped as some had to be left to garrison the place. We hung on here until the 4th of August when we got orders for two companies to leave one to go to Ladybrand and the other to Ficksburg and we were all anxious to know which place we had to go to. We started from Thaba Nchu at 9.30 am on Sunday the 5th of August and marched to Leeuw River a distance of 20 miles we were halted for the night and were soon down to get what sleep we could for we knew we had another march of about 22 miles to do the next day (August Bank Holiday) We started off again about nine in the morningand halted for dinner about one and then off again the first party arriving to stay in Ladybrand about 8 o'clock at night, my company which was doing baggage guard arriving in about midnight the next morning we found out we were the company to stay at Ladybrand and glad we were of it for it is a very pretty and more English people in it than any place we had passed through coming up country we enjoyed ourselves here alright for a bt but it did not last long for on the 1st Sept the Yeomanry patrols reported a strong force of Boers were making for Ladybrand so the one half company were sent on to a big hill overlooking the town to guard the stores and the ammunition while the other half were put in the trenches in front of the town, but early on Sunday morning we found that the Boers had surrounded the town and the men were order to retire back onto the hill where the remained had got into position and there we waited for the music to commence.
The Boer Commandant sent in a Flag of Truce demanding our surrender and the surrender of the town but this we refused to do so he gave us 20 minutes to consider and then opened fire on us with his big guns, after shelling us for some time he sent in again and gave us another ten minutes to throw up the sponge but little did he know we had supplies and ammunition to hold out for at least 10 day and knowing that a relief column was on the way to us we did not have the least idea of giving in. After the 10 minutes were up they again opened fire with their big guns and also heavy rifle fire which was kept up day and night until General Bruce Hamilton arrived on the Wednesday morning (5th Sept) with his flying colours which had marched from Bloemfontein a distance of 80 Miles in four days and a half when the Boers retired having fired 320 shells from their guns on our little garrison which consisted of 98 Worcesters ('H' Coy), 43 1 Yeomanry (Wilts) and a few civilians while the boer force was 3000 or more. Our casualties during the siege was five wounded while the boers lost heavily. We left Ladybrand with General Bruce Hamilton and marched to Leeuw River where we joined the 21st Brigade, and got a well earned rest until the 10th Sept. here our ration of 1 lb Biscuits was stopped and we got served with 1 lb of flour instead with nothing to mix it in nor no fat to cook it in so we had to mix flour and water into a paste and cook it as best as we could, we were on the march for for about 21 days doing about 18 miles a day on such poor living as this.
We rejoined the Regiment at Land River between Senekal and Bethlehem after passing through such places as Brands Drift, Winburg, Elands Kop, Reitz and Senekal and on into Bethlehem arriving here on 21st Oct, on our arrival the boers started sniping at our sentries but did no do any damage until Oct 27th when two companies went out for wood and had a pretty warm time of it having two killed and two wounded on on Oct 29th a heany thunderstorm burst over here and in less time than it takes to tell everything we had in the trenches was wet through and we were drenched to the skin and had to lie in our wet things till the next morning and wait for the sun to come up to dry them. During the month of November two or three items occurred to liven us up a bit for on the 4th the Boers took it into their heads to make a night attack their main object being to capture our big guns, they waited until the moon was well up which was about 10 oclock and then came in range or our trenches and opened a heavy rifle fire on us and tried to draw us out of our trenches by shouting in English such things as fix Bayonets and Charge to make us think some of our own men were out there but of course it did not work for our men had been told not to fire until they came close enough to give them a warm reception they kept up their fire for about one hour and half and then retired doing no damage. They tried the same dodge the next night but met with the same result for we got our machine gun in waiting for them and they got more than they bargained for, I think this disheartened them for they did not try it on again.
My company went out several times to loot farms and to bring in horses but the Boers got to hear of it and one morning 1 Sergeant and seven men went out to capture some horses in front of our trenches and the Boers were waiting for us and when we within 500 Yds of them theu opened fire and it was about the hottest 10 minutes I have ever had in my life as we had to run about 200 yards before we could get any cover and there was some very narrow escapes I myself having a bullet pass through the leg of my riding trousers just above the knee. We had two or three excursions like this but nothing of any note occurred until the 9th of Dec. when my company with the 'G' & 'A' companies went out to loot a farmhouse about 3 miles out but the boers got scent of this somehow and I think must have laid a trap for us, we started out at 3 o'clock in the morning the color sergeant going out in advance with 20 men and just as it was breaking day walked straight on top of the Boers before they were seen and then there was a pretty sharp tussle during which which 14 men of the company got cut off from the remainder, the color sergeant had a bullet pass though his helmet parting his hair nicely and had it been x⅛ of an inch lower would have blown his brains out but the Boer who fired at him did not live long as he got riddled in less time than it takes to tell.
We were fighting from about 4.30 till 11 o'clock but could not get our comrades out of their dangerous position and at last they had to give in for they had fired all their ammunition and 7 of them were lying wounded and I am sorry to say the others were taken prisoners by the Boers but were released about a week after being put over the border into Basutoland.
Private Herbert Thomas Beard (1914)
A TALE OF THE WORCESTERS
I chanced to meet out Kroonstad way a week or two ago
A batch of veldtstained khaki lads, soldiers from head to toe
And having roughed it a bit myself
I could tell by the look of these
They’d passed the time of day with the boer
They’d been in the battle breeze
For I’ve seen them as came out from Kimberely where their stomachs had asked for food
Who for weary weeks midst shot and shell at deaths open door had stood
I saw Kelly Kenny’s diversion offer four or five weeks of hell
So when I see fighting soldiers, I reckon I’m able to tell
And I knew that the lads I talked with were some who had chanced their skin
Who for many long nights in harness had slept and oft had little within
I couldn’t tell what they belonged to badges and numbers gone
For you have’nt a thought for ornament when life counts no more than a song
But soon I learnt it was the Worc the famous old 36th
And Firm as old their motto is, in the 12th brigade they’re feted (?)
And I’m sure in the county of Worc back in the dear old home
The people have read with pride in their hearts of the work these lads have done
From Wolverhampton and Dudley, Stourbridge, Worc and Brum
Cross 7000 miles of land and sea these lads had willingly come
And had helped drive the cunning boer out of the O.F.S.
Each of them doing his countrys work helping to wipe the slate
And they told it was back around Arundel way compliments first were paid
For the boers dropped shells right into the camp just as dinner was laid
It was only an ordinary dinner with the usual allowance of sand
“Of course” said my friend from the Worc we took it away in our hand
And quickly set about moving as soon as the music began
For only when you’re in big gun range your magazines not see the fun
And its better to keep the Amm till your visitors get a a bit close
So we cleared away then but we peppered them since with many a leaden dose
And now for months long weary months we followed them up and down
Foot after horse and failing like the elephant after the clown
If they’ve fighting men like some people say why don’t they stand their ground
Lets have a chance to see them let us be equal all round
But they prefer to lead us a dance, those Braves you hear people call
Oh where the blazes dos bravery come in when they fight inside of a wall
Put ‘em out in the open stick ‘em up 20h 1 (?)
If we don’t “wash out” in less than an hour I’d eat my blooming gun
But they haven’t got that on their programme they go on a different style
And drop in a shot occassionaly, perhaps once in twenty mile
And when you have to foot it and keep up to them that’s on horse
It makes you say Hallyiyah, or other things that’s worse
But that just what we’ve been doing since we started from Bloemfontein
And I guess you would fill a tidy book of the blooming sights we’ve seen
O’er hundreds of miles of dreary veldt o’er kopje and in betwixt
We’ve marched and marched and now we’re called the marching 36th
Our shirts are getting ticklish and we kill em in ones or twos
The trowsers are turned to knickers, for the part that was round the seat
Why we had to commandeer it, twas wanted up round the seat
Tommy’s addicted to grumble when things go a bit on the twist
If he hadn’t something to whinge about I believe he’d cease to exist
Night and day you can march him and he’ll damn at every pace
But pass a joke to his section you’ll see there’s a smile on his face
There’s another Battalion of Worc Ficksburg and LadyBrand way
Holding the hills around Thabanchu keeping the Boers at bay
And here as I write of the old 29th news comes into my hand
That shall live in the annals of history the holding of Ladybrand
Bravo old Worcesters, you’ve shown the world how British Tommies can fight
Though 3000 surrounded you, you 156 sat tight
All honour to you for you’ve paid ‘em back in a little bit of their own
The advantage of boulders and kopjes as allies you have shewn
Let the grumblers cease to grumble, let the public orators think
Of the difficulties Tommy’s mastered while he’s sat at home with his drink
You’ve got a tale to tell ‘em, those heroes who value their skin
Tell ‘em the tale of LadyBrand where the motto was never give in
Tell ‘em of outposts and frosty nights, and a biscuit or two a day
Tell ‘em you did to “wipe a slate”, and then see what they’ll say
And so my Worc comrades, I’ll bring my song to a close
Wishing this minute that each of you had a pot beneath your nose
But I’ll bid you be of good cheer lads, theres better days in store
And loving hearts awaiting you, back on fair Britains shore
Send these lines to mother or wife and then in the years to come
You can look at them through your glasses as you sit by the fire at home
T’will remind you of where you’ve been to, and of what you’ve done and seen
And you’ll think with pride of what you’ve done, for Country, Home and Queen
2nd Gloucester Regt. Bloemfontein U.R.C
NOTE: This transcript of the “Diary, South Africain Campaign” ( Private H. T. Beard) and “A Tale of the Worcesters” (Corporal Pollard) was copied from the pages of an exercise book found amongst the effects of Gwendoline Greenway after her death on 2nd November 1994. She was the daughter of Herbert Thomas Beard and the notes have been typed by Michael Jones, the husband of her daughter Mary. The original notes were written in manuscript in pencil – for the most part the pages are legible if rather faded, discoloured and ragged at the edges. It is assumed that all three pieces are in the handwriting of H. T. Beard.
Herbert Thomas Beard survived the Boer War but lost his life in the 1914-1918 1st World War whilst serving with the 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment. He was 42 at the date of his death which is recorded as 16th March 1915. He has no known grave but his name is recorded on the LE TOURET MEMORIAL in the Military Cemetery at Richebourg–l’Avoue in France. Panels 17 and 18 record the names of men of the Worcestershire Regiment.
This diary was kindly submitted to the Worcestershire Regiment webite by Michael Jones.