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THE BOER WAR
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THE BOER WAR

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THE BOER WAR

Sir Arthur CONAN DOYLE. Autograph journal of Conan Doyle as Senior Physician, Langman Field Hospital, Bloemfontein, South Africa, 28 February - 22 July 1900, vellum, inscribed on spine 'War Diary 1900', 33 pages, folio, plus blanks, 327 x 210mm.

[Also:]

Autograph notebook (fragmentary), by Conan Doyle on some experiences in the Boer War, including his visit to an abandoned prisoner of war camp, and details of the intervention on the voyage home of Fletcher Robinson in a dispute over the supposed use of Dum-Dum bullets by the British, 11 1/2 pages, 4to; together with the letter of apology by Roger Raoul Duval, to Conan Doyle which Robinson extracted from Duval, 2 pages, 16mo.

Carbon copy of a diary in Conan Doyle's hand 'Adventures from May 2nd to 7th' [1900] giving an account of his expedition to the Front with Archie Langman 'to share in the advance of Lord Roberts', 13 pages, 8vo.

Autograph medical notebook kept by Conan Doyle on active service, recording clinical details and treatment of named British, Australian and Canadian servicemen, with some personal observations and comments ('You could find your way from Modder to Bloemfontein by the smell of dead horses') and one map, 8 April (with some retrospective details) - c.29 May 1900, written in pencil and ink, 87 pages plus blanks, with some pages cut away, oblong 8vo (180 x 110mm).

Two autograph letters signed 'Archie' [Langman] to Conan Doyle, the first giving a spirited account of his experiences in the war, Roodevaal, 11 June [1900], 6 pages, 8vo, part of second leaf removed; the second, congratulating him on his knighthood ('Of course I would have liked Father to have received some recognition').

Autograph letter, Conan Doyle to General H. L. Smith-Dorrien, asking for clarification of a point for his history, 24 September 1901, 1 page, 8vo, signature removed; with Smith-Dorrien's reply on integral leaf, mounted.

Autograph manuscript entitled 'Sir Arthur's African Connection' 2 pages, 8vo

Autograph announcement, signed, to 'the Vienna Tagblatt', written by Conan Doyle to explain his reasons for writing The South African War. Its Cause & Conduct, 2 pages, 8vo.

Nine letters addressed to Conan Doyle, including one signed by Lord Roberts, 'Roberts', thanking Conan Doyle for his history (1902), integral leaf removed; M. Hanlon, a private soldier in the Langman hospital; Walter H. Blight, Toronto, thanking for the care of his son who died in the Langman hospital; Jan van Niekerk, a Boer combatant, giving his views on the post-war situation in the Transvaal, and four others, one an acknowledgement from General Botha's secretary expressing the general's 'cordial thanks' for Conan Doyle's history, 1900-09.

Printed pamphlet, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, An Incursion into Diplomacy, London, 1906, reprinted from the Cornhill Magazine for June, 1906.

CONAN DOYLE'S MEDICAL ARMBAND, red felt cross on linen, 76 x 423mm.
Conan Doyle's journal formed the basis of the spirited account he gave of his Boer War experiences in Memories and Adventures (chapters XVI-XVIII), although by no means all the material was used.
He had received an invitation from his friend the philanthropist [Sir] John Langman who was equipping a field hospital at his own expense to be sent to the Army in South Africa. Langman offered Conan Doyle the position of senior physician with his son Archie Langman appointed general manager.
In his journal Conan Doyle summed up his experiences: 'I have seen Ian Hamilton's retaking of the Waterworks ... the advance of Lord Roberts army, the taking of Brandfort ... the Vet River engagement ... the annexation of the Orange Free State', he lists his medical work including work in the wards and records his progress on the book he was writing about the war (twelve chapters in twelve weeks, totalling about 60,000 words).
Although Conan Doyle was duly impressed by the sight of Lord Roberts's troops as they crossed the river Vet in their advance on Pretoria ('the whole 10,000 men ... rolling slowly like an irresistible lava stream over the plain'), his narrative skill is apparent in numerous closely observed situations. He watches the sacking of a Boer farmstead ('They are up in the loft throwing down the forage. Others root up the vegetables. One drinks milk out of a strange vessel amid the laughter of his comrades. It is a mediaeval scene.'); on a looted Boer waggon a British soldier sat at a harmonium playing 'Home, Sweet Home', with a photograph on the ground of the bridal couple 'whose menage had come to such irreparable ruin'.
Conan Doyle had much to say about the soldiers themselves: the New Zealand rough riders with their Maori war cry ('The very spirit of war') but also a column of Roberts's Horse ('We need a Napoleon who meeting such a regiment would tear off the C. O.'s epaulettes and send him home'.). He was full of admiration for the men in the hospital ('One man died as I fanned him. I saw the light go out of his eyes. Nothing could exceed the courage & patience of Tommy.').
On 27 June Conan Doyle was granted an interview by Lord Roberts ('urbane, and alert - eyes, full of kindness & intelligence but with the watery look of age'), and he records the bitter rivalry between the senior officers.
His return on the ship Briton was enlivened by the company of Bertram Fletcher Robinson (later the dedicatee of The Hound of the Baskervilles).
After the war Conan Doyle published a history The Great Boer War, 1900 and, two years later, The War in South Africa - its Cause and Conduct, 1902. The latter was written 'upon the methods and objects of our soldiers in South Africa. It was an attempt to stem the extraordinary outbreak of defamation which had broken out in every country'. (Memories and Adventures, p. 189).
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