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Transcripts and research by Kay Collins, 2023
The Bettles Family

The Bettles Family c1899
Edward, Sarah and children in age order
George, Charles, Eveline, Maria, William, Richard and Lily

Edward Bettles was born in 1854 at Podington, where he worked as an agricultural labourer. He had married Sarah Rainbow from Denton, in 1875, and already had a son George Edward, a son Charles Rainbow, and daughters Eveline Mary, and Maria, when the family left Podington.

Edward brought the family to Rushden in about 1885, when George was about nine years old, Charles was four, Eveline was five, and Maria two. William Harold was born soon after they arrived here, then, two years later son Richard was born, and daughter Lily Farey three years later. Edward worked in the shoe trade. They lived in Orchard Place, but then moved to 19 Windmill Road.

Charles was a member of the Rushden St John Ambulance Brigade, and when volunteers were called to serve in South Africa he was one of the volunteers. He wrote serveral lettes home, and these were kept with the photograph above. Each envelope contained serveral letters, some from Charles and also some sent to Charles that had been returned to the family following his death.

Some of the Letters :

Charles’ letter to Mr Arthur Cave, describing the journey.

Rest Camp
April 12/4/00

Dear Sir
Just a few lines to let you know, that we have arrived at Bloemfontein, we had a rather pleasant voyage across, it would have been more so, if it had not taken so long, we stayed at Cape Town ten days, then we were ordered up here, during the time we were there I wrote to sergent Knight a note, asking him if he could find time to come down to the docks and have a look at us, as we were not allowed off the ship, but we did not see anything of him, we called at Port Elizabeth on the way up, we landed at East London on the 4th of April we stayed there one night, and started from there about 3.30 the next day, we did not ride quite as comfortable as we do in England, which I think you will admit when I tell you, first on the train was a cattle truck, rather longer than they are in England into which 64 men were packed, next came a prison van, this was about as long as an ordanary railway carrage, with a walk up it from one end to the other, and seats facing one end, which hold two men on one side and one on the other 40 men were put in this which was very moderate, as we all had seats, I was in this myself, the rest part of the train consisted of third class railway carrages but they were packed so close that they could not sleep, we were four days on the journey altogether, we began to see the first signs of actual warfare at a place called ‘Bethulic’, some time before we reached there, we found a bridge that had been blown [up] by the Boers they stopped the train about half a mile father on, as we went back and had a look at it, at Bethulic there was another bridge blown up which crossed the Orange river, it had five spans blown up out of nine, it was through this that we had to get off the train and walk across the Orange, to Bethliic station, here of course we had crossed the border, there was a force here of our fellows about 2 or 3 thousand strong, they were expecting an attack from the Boers that night, it had been reported that there were 2 or 3 thousand on the hill just round there, that night we had to lay down on the ground, just as we were, we had no tents, when we layed down to sleep we did not know if we should be called up during the night in the thick of a fight, but morning came round and no fight so we started on the last part of our journey this time we were all packed in open trucks so thick that when night came round we had to sleep one on top of another We reached Bethany here we saw General Gatacre, and his forces here, also we saw two young boers one had been sentenced to death for firing on the General, and wounded a Lieutenant of his staff, well we arrived here quite safe some were told off to put up tents and others to look after kit, we have had three nights here now, last night it was a very wet night, the rain came down in torrents, some of the tents got flooded out, but we got off well, Arthur Taylor has been told off to duty in another hospital in town for a day or two with several others, to get used to the duty they will join us again as soon as we get our hospital in working order, we have the nineth and tenth General hospital here waiting orders, I notice there are no more from our division, please remember us to all the members and sergent Beozeat also Mr Swindall and please write as soon as possible I remain yours truly

P.S. Please excuse the the writing as I am writing this on my water bottle by candle light C.B.

C R Bettles,
No 454 SJAB
General hospital
South Africa

Notes : written on the top of the letter and envelope and circled:  ‘Ans 11/5/00’
presumably Arthur Cave had sent his reply on that date.

Sister Pollie wrote to Charlie on April 18 1900 addressed to Cape Town.

His father wrote to ‘My dear son’ on the same day but addressed to Woolwich telling him that ‘mother is getting better and George is up today, all the rest of us are well.’ At the top of the letter he wrote ‘Kisses from Lily’ and she presumably did the crosses. A pressed pansy is enclosed within.

His father and Pollie both wrote on June 12 - his mother also wrote and Lily had written a letter on the back page:

Dear brother
How are you getting on I suppose you are still alright as it leaves us all at home. We went out on Saturday after tea we went right to upper Dean and nearly to Tillbrook and George took us and he kept telling me that we was lost and I felt so figety. And then we were out on Sunday Mother and Father me Misses and Mr Gilbert we went to Riseley and we stoped there to give the pony a bit of grass and then we come  on towards Yielding open fields. But before we got there we had some drink which we took with us and a few tarts. And when we had them we come on our journey reached home quite safe. Now dear Charl I must conclude with love from your dear little sister Lily xxxxxxxxxxx

Some of the enevlopes each with several letters inside.

Letter to Charles' sister, sent on his return to England, from S J Smith who was in charge of the ward, telling how Charles had grown weak and died peacefully in hospital in Bloemfontein.
Card and envelope enclosing the letter to Miss Bettles. On the outer envelope is written 'Pollie' with some letters she
had written to her brother Charles.
(Unable to confirm sister 'Pollie')

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