Forgotten voices of Empire.
Walter Cooper a postman from Arbroath has recieved a letter from his son, Private Walter Cooper, of the Scots Guards, from Modder River, and is dated 30th November. He says: “l have pulled through all safe up till now. I have been through all three battles Belmont, on the 23d, Graspan. on the 25th, and Modder River on the 28th. So you can tell mother that we celebrated your silver wedding on the 28th in great style. There were plenty salutes fired anyway.
Belmont was a deadly fight. We charged right up the hill with fixed bayonets. The officer on my right was shot through the cheek, the fellow on my left was shot through the leg. Luck was in my way, and I got, to the hilltop all right. The Boers on the top did not stay long, I tell you.
There were thousands on the hill opposite, and they poured in volley after volley. Poor Sergeant Wilson, to whom I used to bowman, was killed the beginning of the fight. Belmont lasted fully six hours, eight hours, and Modder 14 hours. The General said it was one of the hottest fights in the annals the British Army. We lost heavily at the river. We fixed bayonets and charged right across the river.
Two fellows were drowned in crossing. It was very deep some parts. However, we did not forget the Boers when we did get across. We are about 122 miles from Kimberley. I hope to be home soon again if all goes well. Tell all the boys that l am getting on ‘champion.’ We get a big feed some days, other days we have nothing to eat at all. There are plenty of ostrich farms round about here.
Private Walter Cooper was born in 1874 at Abroath, Scotland. He was a ‘Boot Finisher’ but joined the Scots Guards on the 5th of July 1895. On the 21st October 1899 his regiment was sent to South Africa, he spent a total of 180 days and was entitled to the Queen’s South Africa medal with clasps for Modder River and Belmont. He served a total of 12 years with the colours before being discharged in July 1907. He emigrated in New Zealand and died there in 1932.