Chauvel, Henry George "Harry" (General, b.1865 - d.1945) and Barnes, Charles Grafton (Private, b.1873 - d.1958)

Accession Number AWM2018.100.1
Collection type Private Record
Record type Collection
Measurement Extent: 1.5 cm; Wallet/s: 1
Object type Letter
Maker Barnes, Charles Grafton
Chauvel, Henry George (Harry)
Chauvel, James Allan
Place made Egypt, South Africa
Date made 1900-1901, 1915-1916
Access Open
Conflict South Africa, 1899-1902 (Boer War)
First World War, 1914-1918
Copying Provisions Copyright expired. Copying permitted subject to physical condition. Permission for reproduction not required.

Collection of letters relating to the Boer War service of No. 159 Private Charles Grafton Barnes, 4th Contingent, Queensland Imperial Bushmen, and the Boer War and First World War service of General Sir Henry George (Harry) Chauvel, 1st Queensland Mounted Infantry, Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division. The letters were sent to James Allan Chauvel (known as "Allan"), Barnes' brother-in-law and Harry Chauvel's younger brother.

Charles Barnes, whose sister Susan was married to Allan Chauvel, joined the 4th Contingent of the Queensland Imperial Bushman as a 26-year-old private and departed for South Africa in May 1900. The collection includes four letters Barnes sent to Allan Chauvel between August 1900 and March 1901 while fighting in South Africa. The letters describe the weather, the terrain and difficult operational conditions, skirmishes with Boer forces, and discusses horses, friends and events back in Australia, including Federation. One letter, dated 18 November 1900, refers to the shooting of a woman, an incident Barnes describes as a "murder" but one that was officially labeled "an accident of course". Barnes also details the pursuit in Cape Colony of the noted Boer general Christiaan de Wet, an event he describes as "the most exciting & arduous there experienced yet". Barnes was Mentioned in Despatches for his good work on these operations and returned to Australia in August 1901.

The collection also includes five letters sent from Harry Chauvel to Allan. Three letters were sent between May and October 1900 while Harry was serving as a captain in the 1st Queensland Mounted Infantry during the Boer War. In the letters, he complains about newspapers printing exaggerated reports of success and about the poor mail services in South Africa, and writes about his commands, mutual acquaintances serving in South Africa, the scenery, and operations. In one letter, sent in October 1900, Harry writes that he is now in command of a post "in a poisonous place here" and complains that one cannot ride far without being sniped at. Instead, to pass the time, he and the men sometimes play baseball.

The remaining two letters were sent to Allan Chauvel during Harry's service in the First World War. In the first letter, dated a week prior to the Gallipoli invasion in April 1915, Harry remarks that "Australia is playing the game magnificently in sending these troops" but complains about the quality and character of some of the men: "I really did not know that such low scoundrels existed in Australia, at all events in such numbers." Harry was at that time a brigadier general in command of the 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade.

The second letter, from September 1916, was written while Harry (now a major general) was leading the Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division on operations in the Sinai. Allan had by this time enlisted and received an officer's commission in the Remount Unit of the Australian Imperial Force. Allan later attained the rank of major and was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire and Mentioned in Despatches for his service in the First World War. Harry remarks that if Allan is to be posted overseas he should seek to serve in Egypt as, in Harry's opinion, the weather in the Middle East is on average more pleasant than that in Europe. Harry also writes about his recent success at the Battle of Romani (August 1916), which he assumes Allan "no doubt read about it in the papers".