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Snyder, W.H.

From: Snyder, W.H.

To: L. D. Robinson

April 1st, 1900 Green Point Camp, Cape Town, S.A.

My Dear Mr. Robinson:

It is rumored about camp that we are to leave for front on Thursday, so I am going to try and get off a letter to you, as it will be next to impossible the write from there.

You doubtless know long ago that we arrived in Cape Town on March 21st, just exactly four weeks from the time we left Halifax. We met hardly any sailing craft while coming over, but once we entered Table Bay we found a perfect hive of steamers of all sizes – men of war transports. We heard of the capture of Cronje and of the relief of Ladysmith, shortly after our arrival, and cheer after cheer rent the air from six hundred of Canada’s sons. We did not know for a few hours about the gallant part our first Canadian Contingent had played in it, but when we did hear, cheer after cheer was given for our gallant comrades from the Land of the Maple Leaf. I am wondering if you will be able to read this, for I am writing on the ground by the flickering candle. The camp where we are located along with the Regulars is about twenty minutes walk from the main part of the city. There are about 5000 men in camp. Last week we had our first experience of an African sand storm. The sand came down like hail stones, cutting one’s face and hands till it brought the blood. Our tent blew down and our horses got frightened and stampeded. Altogether it was quite an experience. It seemed a great change to find when we arrived here that the trees were all leaved out and the weather like our summer. The winter or rainy season is about commencing. The houses are very pretty, with beautiful lawns and gardens attached. You will meet nearly all kinds of people in Cape Town. I was detailed, with about 150 more, to act escort to Boer prisoners yesterday. They were taken to St. Helena by the same boat that we came out in. There were about 400 of them. They took matters very philosophically and laughed and chatted. I was talking to one. He said the Boers didn’t blame Englishmen for fighting but thought that Canada had no business to get mixed up in it and that the Boers were laying for the Canadians particularly. To-morrow we strike camp, just as if we were moving from place to place, and we have to hustle.

The cars in Cape Town, both steam and electric, are different from ours. The electrics are double deckers; the upper passengers go by a winding staircase. The steam cars are lower than ours, with three compartments and the door opens on the side. Every day pedlars bring apples, grapes, tomatoes, eggs, pomegranate and other fruits to sell. Grapes are sixpence a pound, apples one penny apiece, tomatoes sixpence a dozen. The apples are small and insignificant. Most of the vehicles are two wheeled and the mule is chiefly used. The natives get themselves up in very fantastic dresses. Tell the scholars if they take their geographies and look at that picture of Cape Town and Table Bay and Mountain they will see exactly where we are. We are nearly at the water’s edge, directly opposite Table Mountain. We are kept busy from 5 a.m., until night, continually on the go. We will be glad to get to the front. Two of our fellows have died since landing.

April 3rd. We go to the front to-morrow at 2 p.m. – to take part, if things turn out as anticipated, in what may be the deciding battle of the campaign.

I am well and in the best of spirits, and will give a good account of my self.

In haste, Your old School. Boy,

W. H. Snyder

Berwick Register, Thursday, May 24, 1900

Contributor: This letter is transcribed from, and courtesy of, the Berwick Register newspaper, Berwick NS, by Phil and Stephanie Vogler and reproduced here with Phil’s kind permission.

Snyder, W.H.

From: Snyder, W.H.

To: L. D. Robinson

Feb. 28th, 1900 On board Str. Milwaukee

My Dear Mr. Robinson,

I have a little leisure now, and will try to get a letter ready to send to you at the first opportunity. I have just come off a twenty-four hour continuous watch, so if my letter appears disconnected, please pardon on this account, as I naturally feel a little sleepy. We are now eight days out on our long voyage and have come about 1,900 miles. It is rumored that we will be at the Cape Verde Islands by Saturday, and that we will be convoyed by a British Man O’War from there. The first three days out was very rough but since then the water has been as calm as a lake. I was quite sick for two days but am all right now. We are fairly comfortable but our sleeping quarters are pretty cramped. We sleep in hammocks, wedged in like sardines. We get up at a quarter to six and go at once to stables. The horses, poor creatures! Have the hardest time. Already some eight have died and been thrown overboard.

The weather to-day is simply perfect, the sea is like a mill pond. A breeze, like one is accustomed to meet on a balmy day in June, is sweeping over the decks. I am writing this stretched out on the deck. All over the ship is hustle and bustle. Some are drilling, others at fatigue work, others at target practice, while many are reading or writing. We seem to be altogether out of the track of sailing craft. Occasionally a steamer can be discerned away off on the horizon but never near. We have a sort of impromptu concert on board every night, consisting of Songs, Instrumental Music, Stump Speeches, &c. Occasionally a sportive whale, shark or porpoise pays us a close call. One of the prettiest, or at least one of the most impressive sights I ever saw, was the Parade Service last Sunday at 10 a.m. Imagine a large steamer steaming rapidly over a trackless sea. On her decks some 600 men assembled in a Service of Parade One of the old, familiar tunes is given out by Rev. Mr. Lane and as the organ strikes the first note the time is taken up by hundreds of voices. The strain of praise echoes and re-echoes far out over the waters and I feel as if it must reach even the little town in the dear home land where are all I hold dear. God bless and keep all! I hope once again in the future to meet you all, but if it is my lot to offer my unworthy life for my Queen and country, I promise, God helping me, to die like “a soldier and a man.” The strange feature of our voyage seems to be the fact of being away from all news. I dare say stirring events are taking place. The general health of the men is good. Yesterday, and for two days before, we were being vaccinated. I was rather amused at the antics of some of the men when they bared their arms for the surgeon’s lancet. It took quite a while for some of them to get the proper courage. One fellow remarked to me that he always fainted at sight of blood. I wonder what he will do on the battlefield!

Today is wash day on board. Our troop have their turn this afternoon. I must close now. Will try to write you an interesting letter from South Africa.

With kind regards to all – Your old School Boy.

W. H. Snyder

B. Squadron, 4th Troop, South African Field Service

Principal L. D. Robinson has received the following letter from Mr. W. H. Snyder, of B. Squadron, 2nd Canadian Contingent. It will be read with interest by his friends in Berwick and elsewhere.

Berwick Register, Thursday, May 3rd, 1900

Contributor: This letter is transcribed from, and courtesy of, the Berwick Register newspaper, Berwick NS, by Phil and Stephanie Vogler and reproduced here with Phil’s kind permission.