Octavo, 8 pages (two bifolia).
The letter is creased where folded for posting; in excellent condition. The cover has a Cape of Good Hope 1d stamp, with a partial and indistinct postmark; the verso is postmarked Melbourne, 30 July 1900, and Hawthorn (on the same day). The cover is chipped and torn, with minor loss to the rear flap.
The letter comes 'From No. 96 VMR on active Service South Africa', and is addressed to his cousin, Miss E. Kirwood (Eva) in Glenferrie, Victoria. After he deals at length with the squabbles over the fate of some stamps he had sent, he explains in even greater detail what occurred to him after he 'got the Fever' at Kroonstad. He was in hospital for a fortnight in Bloemfontein where he 'lived on five pints of condensed milk & water & 5 ozs of brandy a day & I got pretty thin & weak on that'. He was then sent to a convalescent hospital at Wynberg. 'I was glad to leave Bloemfontein for men were dying fast every day & the hospital I was in was overlooking the cemetary & one could never look at the place, but what he could see a lot of niggers digging graves as fast as ever they could ... Eva I was not affraid to die by a bullet from a rifle, but to lay there & die from that miserable fever, I dreaded the thought of it'. Wynburg was 'a grand place, only 22 of us to a ward & on spring beds & everything kept quiet, & clean as a new pin'. He is then sent to Maitland Camp, and 'what a difference, ... it was 120 of us laying on the floor as thick as it was possible for us to lay, All Australians & New Zealanders in one room, & there was no one in charge, & it was nothing but one constant din ... I couldn't stand it at all'. Conditions improved, then worsened; he was told he was going home, then not; he was put on what the doctor 'calls "Light Duties" ... he won't send us back to the Regiment, but we have to go fooling round this camp'. A dozen of them had to put stones around the paths at the camp, then they had to paint them white, 'Oh by jove, "Talk about a fancy Ball" ... I am beginning to think I am a poor fighting cock now'. The last two pages contain a lot of these sorts of ruminations. Murray, page 315 (687 Private Harry Ernest Cooke, in 'The Second Battalion Australian Commonwealth Horse, Victorian Units').