1899 – Happy-Go-Lucky Clonmel Soldiers Set Off For the Veldt

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Nationalist, 16 December 1899

When the Second Boer War broke out in October 1899, many in the Empire believed, as they did at the outbreak of so many wars both before and since, that “The boys will be home for Christmas”. It soon became apparent that this would not be the case: it turned out to be the bloodiest conflict Britain had fought for nearly a century, and accounted for more casualties than the Crimean War. The Boers had enjoyed success in the early stages of the War, which saw them lay siege to a number of strategically important towns and cities in Natal and The Cape Colony, the result being that British reinforcements had to be flooded in at great speed. There was also a scramble to supply the beleaguered garrisons with equipment and ammunition, to such an extent that it was reported in The Nationalist a couple of weeks previous that all live ammunition had been taken from Clonmel and shipped to the front: all that remained in the Barracks were blanks. The snippet below reports on the farewell enjoyed by the members of the 18th Royal Irish Regiment, drafted to South Africa in mid December 1899. They enjoyed quite the send-off. It is interesting to note the mood of the journalist in the last couple of sentences, as it mirrored the sentiments of much of the local press at that time. Indeed, in the pages of The Nationalist throughout the duration of the War there appeared many articles full square in support of the Boers’ plight.

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