Boer War: Miracle Delivery of Soldier’s Letter & His Long Awaited Reply

The gentleman’s war that turned guerrilla lasted an unanticipated two years, seven months and twenty days. A lengthy war where the harsh conditions were nigh impossible to live in, but aided in the recovery of many of the 22,000 troops that were treated for wounds sustained in the Boer War.

The opportunity for medical practices to progress was great. The treating of antisepsis, using anaesthesia, research in bacteriology and testing the newly developed X-ray technology were among the few progressions that took place. The ground was uncontaminated and was nearly bacteria-free. Bacteriological examinations proved that all pyogenic organisms – which cause pus and thereby infections – were only found close to dwellings and not found in the veld. This reduced wound infections and coupled with the very little rain and hot sun helped the wounded soldiers to heal. However, more than half of the British casualties in the Boer War were not by enemy action, but rather caused by illness, especially typhoid fever.

“Wars pass, but the human soul endures; the interest is not so much in the war as in the human experience behind it.” – Jan Smuts

The British soldiers saw a great defeat at the Battle of Colenso most likely due to the shortage of competent staff and the lack of geographical knowledge of the area. This battle was the third and final of three devastating defeats for the British. This third battle included the 2nd Devonshire Regiment which had arrived at the Cape and sent on to Durban. Five officers and sixty men of this regiment were wounded in this battle.

re-directed boer war soldier's letter from england to south africa


A fascinating cover from England shows the tenacity the military and the Post Office Officials had to deliver a letter addressed to a wounded soldier, a son, in a military hospital. It took much effort as seen by the destination cancellations to find this young man.  His family received the long awaited reply from him more than a month later. Both covers are available on

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