February 6th, 1902
Letter from Corporal W. H. Snyder.
The following letter, recently received by Rev. D. H. Simpson, will be read with interest.
Dec 12th, 1901.
My Dear Mr. Simpson.
I have been going to write to you for some time, and now as I have a good opportunity I shall not delay any longer. We are "out on the veldt" in genuine earnest. I am on outpost duty with a squad all by myself that is, the nearest S. A. C. post that we can see is No. 14 Troop. Our own head quarters is nearer, but we can not see it from our position. The last few days we have had plenty of excitement as numbers of Boers come very close to our squad. One of my men and myself had a very narrow squeak day before yesterday. I had just come back to my post from No. 14 Troop, when away off in the Valley below I saw a stray horse making straight for the skyline, and a horseman in pursuit.
When I got down to my outpost one of the men told me that McDonald was after a stray horse. Handing my rifle over, I immediately started out to help him. As I got to the foot of the Kopje McDonald and horse disappeared over the skyline. When I got up to the top I saw the pair disappearing over the next skyline. I followed on, but got no sight of them, so I concluded to await developments. Time passed and I began to feel uneasy. (I may say that 400 Boers under Botha and others were not more than two miles away and are still out there and we are looking for an attack everyday.) I mounted and went on. Soon I espied two horses coming towards me. I felt relieved and was congratulating McDonald on his success, when over the skyline next me I saw McDonald coming waving, his hat. At once I knew they were Boers. My first impulse was to fly, for remember we were both unarmed, but I saw that McDonalds horse was completely played and I could not desert a comrade, so I waited. Pretty soon he was up to me, and his first exclamation was that he was almost into the Boer lines. Now our race, perhaps for our lives, commenced. The Boers got near enough to fire, and soon those little bursts of dirt around showed us that they had the range, and on we went, my horse leading the way. His tired one plucked up heart and before long we were out of harms way, for my outpost had seen us coming. Now we might have been all right but it was one of the narrowest escapes from death or capture I have yet had in the S.A.C.
That night we made a night march to lay for Boers, Corporal Dobie and myself being the non-commissioned officers in charge. We waited till day light but did not see any. We may go out again tonight.
It is very hot and rainy now, and miserable campaigning. I have a splendid squad under me, one lance corporal, six troopers and myself. It is called the fighting squad, as they had been considerable fighting before I took charge of it.
I am sending you a sketch of our outpost, showing our tent, trench and wire entanglements, with the skyline in the distance.
I have been offered a promotion in the Canadian Scouts, but think it best to stick where I am.
I suppose the new Canadian Contingent will have left Canada before this. It seems hard to realize that Christmas is so near, for the weather is almost killing in the intensity of the heat. Then at night we can hardly sleep for mosquitos, flies, lice, tarantulas and other vermin.
I am fortunate in having several P.E.I. men in my lot, for they are excellent fellows. Capt. Moore, of Charlottetown, and Lieut. Willets, of Windsor, our two officers, are splendid men; good, capable officers and always alive to our best interests. Lieut. Willets is the son of the President of Kings College.
We are living high on bully beef and hard tack.
I am thankful to say I am in good health and spirits.
With kindest regards and best wishes that you and yours may spend a Happy Christmas and enjoy a prosperous New Year, I am your friend.
(Corporal) W. H. Snyder,
17 Troop S.A.C.
C. (Eastern Division,) Transvaal.