We expect battle to-day. We protect advance of Guards' Brigade.

Your affectionate son,

Sydney Earle.

No. 16,26/ll/'99: Near Graspan.

Dear Mother, - I hope you got my fifteenth letter, dated from Belmont; it was entrusted to a wounded sergeant of the Coldstreams, who promised to post it. We have had an anxious three days. Thursday we fought the battle of Belmont, and though we turned the Boers out of an almost impregnable position, we lost heavily in so doing. My company was operating on the right flank of the Guards and artillery, but we were unable to do much; we began by drawing the fire of the enemy to enable the artillery to have a target. We remained under fire until the position was taken, and then we dashed round the south side of the great kopje and tried to catch the enemy trekking away; but it was impossible to distinguish friends from enemy ; in fact, the Grenadiers fired at a portion of one company. We got a few waggons and a small laager of the enemy, we then tried to get still further round, but they got away so cleverly and so quickly, covered by the fire of a few men, that we never did any good. We then went away still further from the rest of the force (which in my opinion is wrong, as in these great plains it is most important not to lose all cohesion), and coming on to the top of a rise, a gun opened fire on us at a very short range, supported by rifle fire ; we stopped there for some time, but did no good. If we had been able to get up some guns, it might have been all right, but still the detaching of small forces is what so often leads to disaster.We then returned slowly and got some water and Boer bread (an excellent sort of rusk) from this laager. We destroyed about 15,000 rounds of their ammunition; they have plenty more, though. I saw Max, who, I hear, did splendidly on the afternoon, and heard about losses of Brigade. I saw C - and B with their wounds dressed walking about quite cheerfully. Max gave me your letter with father's ideas about war, in which I quite concur; it seems the most ridiculous thing that we should be going through every sort of horror in order to shoot at total strangers who have never done us much harm. They are splendid fighters too, from what I can see, and they make full use of the wonderful country in which every two miles there are perfect positions which fulfil all the requirements that a most ingenious engineer can contrive - a first-class position in Europe may fulfil five or six conditions, leaving four or five others unfulfilled; here every one is fulfilled, absolutely ready made, except an abundant supply of good water.

The day after the battle our company started long before daybreak to support the armoured train, which was going to repair the line. We sent out scouts in front and flanks. I took charge of a small rearguard and the left flank scouts ; all went well till we got nearly here. I was then sent off with a few men to a small farm about three miles to the right, where we thought we saw Boers and waggons, but on arriving we found only black farmers with oxen. I purchased a drink of milk all round from them, and was just going to water my horse at a pond when I saw in the far distance a big gun fire at the armoured train, which proceeded to retire rapidly. I at once set off to support it, and on arrival found that an officer and two of our scouts had been fired on at close range, and were missing.

We have since found that the officer andone man were killed; the other is lying here dangerously wounded, shot through the back of the head. It was no good attempting to repair the line farther, so all retired to Belmont, where we stopped the night alone, all the rest of the army marching out north. Yesterday we did not start till 5 a.m., as our horses and men were very tired. I borrowed a basin from the farmer, whose house had been turned into a hospital, took it into his vegetable garden, which had of course been completely stripped, and had a fine wash, which was only spoilt by the near neighbourhood of a decaying horse - this was the evening of the armoured-train day. Next day we started off in pursuit of our friends, arrived just in time for the opening of what I suppose will be called the engagement of Gras-pan. We had no orders, but we had an idea that the 9th Lancers were round on the right flank (east), so we rode round, being shelled at two or three places without result, though the aim was very good. We found the 9th snug under a kopje. We could not tell how the fight was going, but our artillery fire, which had been going on for a couple of hours, stopped suddenly, and we saw Boers on three sides of us.Colonel B -G -was just going to retire when we perceived that the Boers themselves were retiring, so we went on further round, very well concealed, till we got to a place where we could see them leaving the kopje with their waggons. There is no doubt that the Lancers ought to have charged home here, supported by us, instead of which we dismounted and fired at them. I am afraid we frightened them more than we hurt them. Anyhow, there were hundreds of them going away, trekking across the plain; a perfectly orderly rabble, no hurry or confusion ; it is always so, for every man works for himself in this open country. We got on our horses again and pursued, but got no closer ; we gave them a parting shot or two, but they were still round us on two sides. The Lancers then retired, and we were told to hold a kopje to cover their retreat; we had a ticklish time, but got out of it all right, one man shot through the cheek and neck. They shelled us going back, but only got a horse. I don't know yet whether we are doing much good; we are camping on enemy's position, but that is only a barren honour, specially as the water is infamous, same for animals and men, and all the colour of coffee. I hope it won't give disease. I am trying to drink it only boiled, but the dryness makes one dreadfully thirsty. I am suffering, like most of us, from bad cracked lips, and have no grease to soothe them. Today we have a rest day, but I expect we shall go out this afternoon.Much love.

Your affectionate son, Sydney Earle. I wish it was all over.