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A letter "to the editor" published in the "Western Daily Press" 1901

ON GUARD AT St. HELENA

Sir,

I see with great regret that the people of England are being deceived by certain papers in descriptions of St. Helena. The island is described in one paper as a perfect model of all an island should be. I beg to state in my humble way that it is not. Nearly twelve months of a miserable existance here have opened my eyes to this one fact: St. Helena is a very undesirable residence, except for people who wish to die and be buried peacefully, to be forgotten by the world in general. I have been stationed in two camps, viz. Deadwood and Broadbottom.

First of all I will speak of Deadwood. I was there from May the 28th 1900, to January the 14th 1901. During the whole of that time, of which a portion is supposed to be the summer, I don't remember counting more than twenty-five days, rain and wind continuing incessantly. Wet through on guard, wet through when dismounting, and, generally speaking, drenched to the skin night and day. The bare ground to sleep on, and very leaky tents. The bread at first was very bad, but it improved later on. One day we would mount guard at 10 am and dismount next day at 10 am. The same day we went on picket at 11 am, and very often a fatigue in the afternoon. The next day a fatigue was ready for us, such as pulling a heavy cart of water to various places in the camp, as the water supply was very bad. The next day we might count ourselves lucky if we were not on guard again.

I well remember those guard tents - the water running over the floor. Do not doubt that we shall remember St. Helena, the ideal Paradise of a soldier. There were no amusements of any kind at first, though, thanks to our officers, sports were got up after few months or so; later on a coffee bar was opened, and finally a nice recreation room with every convenience. All thanks are due to the officers for trying to make things comfortable for us, but still it was a hard job to get anything convenient in Deadwood, because the town in seven miles away and transport is very short. Most of the goods were brought up in very light wagons or on the backs of mules. Nothing could be dried properly or kept dry for any time. Many a wet shirt have I had to take from the line and put on - at the risk of colds and sickness, which can be obtained in a miraculously short time here - free, gratis. I should be grateful to any intelligent man if he could inform us when the summer comes here. I have been here nearly twelve months and have not discovered it yet. I fancied Ireland was a wet country, but St. Helena has eclipsed it. Don't imagine that I or any one of us complain of this island. No! We can put up with it. It's our duty to do so, as soldiers. But we must feel angry with such people who write to papers knowing nothing of this place, and say that Tommy is having such a nice time. It is no holiday, I can assure them, but a stern, monotonous routine of duty. The people at home forget this, and little know what we go through. Let them remember that "T.A." on the Boer guard is doing as much as "T.A." at the front, and runs as much risk. I hope you will publish these facts for our good.

A Private Soldier, 4th (Militia) Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment