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Baden-Powell:

LETTERS FROM COL. BADEN POWELL AND GORDON WILSON TO LADY SARAH WILSON DURING THE SIEGE OF MAFEKING

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2 individual letters: Each one written on a single sheet of thin A5 writing paper in slightly faded script, with the envelopes addressed to Lady Sarah Wilson c/o General Snyman.

The letters were sent through the Boer lines to Lady Sarah while a prisoner of the Boers and are both dated Mafeking on 5 December 1899, one from her husband, and the other from Baden Powell.

The first letter written and signed by Baden-Powell reads; ''Dear Lady Sarah, I am so distressed about you. You must have been having an awful time of it, and I can't help feeling very much to blame; but I had hoped to save you the unpleasantness of the siege. However I trust now that your troubles are nearly over at last, and that General Snyman will pass you in here. We are all very well here and really rather enjoying it all. I wrote on Sunday asking you to be be exchanged with Mrs Delpoort, but had no answer, so have written again today, and sincerely hope that it will be all right. Thank you so much for the kind letters you wrote me, and which I never answered. Hope you are well in spite of all your troubles. Yours sincerely R Baden-Powell.'' This letter was published in Lady Sarah Wilson's South African Memories page 142 with 2 grammatical corrections.

The letter from her husband Gordon Wilson reads: ''My dearest Sarah. I am sending you a letter from the Colonel & I hope his appeal to the chivalry of General Snyman will be answered in the affirmative. I am sure as he is an honourable Gentleman that he will see his way to helping two ladies in distress. There is no honour to be gained in retaining ladies as prisoners of war & this would be of course never to be done by a civilised nation. Gordon''

 Lady Sarah Isabella Augusta Wilson was the sister of Lord Randolph Churchill and aunt of Winston Spencer Churchill. She moved to Mafeking with her husband Lt.-Col. Gordon Chesney Wilson, at the start of the war, where he was aide-de-camp to Colonel Robert Baden-Powell the commanding officer at Mafeking.

Baden-Powell asked her to leave Mafeking for her own safety after the Boers threatened to storm the British garrison. This she duly did, and set off on an adventure in the company of her maid, travelling through the South African countryside.

While she was at Mosita she sent messages on Boer positions into Mafeking by pigeon, but was arrested as a spy when the Boers captured one of these pigeons. She was initially supposed to be exchanged for a convicted horse thief, Petrus Viljoen, but Baden Powell found it impossible to do this. (See South African Memories page 140 - the letter by her husband to her dated 3 December 1899) Lady Sarah was exchanged for Mrs Delpoort and returned to Mafeking, where she served as a nurse at the Victoria Hospital and as the first woman war correspondent for the Daily Mail for the final 5 months of the Siege.

The siege finally ended after 217 days, when the Royal Horse and Canadian Artillery galloped into Mafeking on 17 May 1900. Only a few people standing in a dusty road, singing "Rule, Britannia!", were there to greet their saviours. But in London it was a different scene as more than 20,000 people turned out in the streets to celebrate the relief of Mafeking. Wilson (Lady Sarah) South African Memories published in London in 1909 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Wilson_(war_correspondent)

  • Name: Clarke's Africana & Rare Books
  • Contact Person: Paul Mills
  • Country: South Africa
  • Email: africana@clarkes.co.za
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