SIR,—While those on the Active List may not with propriety
criticise the doings of their official superiors, nor cavil at the work that they will shortly have to execute, may I, as a medical officer of Volunteers, express the hope that your article in the Spectator of July 8th will have the effect on public opinion which you desire ? The comparison you make between the age conditions of the Boer army and those which it is sought to impose upon the Volunteers induces me to give you some instances in support of it from what I saw in South Africa. It so happened that I was on lines of communication in the Free State at the time of the great surrender by Prinsloo at Wittebergen, and saw hundreds of Boer prisoners on their way south, both at Ficksburg and at Senekal, and noticed there both how old and how young they were, those Boers who were giving us such a lot of trouble. I recoiled now a boy in the ranks of the prisoners at Senekal, a mere child of fourteen or so, who had acquired by some means a Field Cornet's badge. Some of us wished him to sell it, but he would not, marching bravely into captivity in all the pride of borrowed plumes. At Bethlehem, some months after- wards, at a bit of a "scrap," the Boers sent in a request that we should take in some of our wounded. I went out with the ambulance, and was struck by the youthful- ness of the party in charge. Out of seven Boers three were mere boys ; one not much taller than his Mauser was strutting about very pleased with himself, having arranged two Lee-Metfords crosswise over his shoulders, the spoils of war. A few weeks after this we had had a fight for possession of a mill near Ficksburg. The Boers had been cleared off a hill, and our Yeomanry reported that a wounded Boer had been left behind on the hill. I went up for him, and found a lad of eighteen or so with a fragment of " Pom-pom " in his skull. He died in Ficksburg, and his mother told us that he had taken the oath and gone home, but had been so chaffed by the other boys who were on commando that, in spite of her, he had broken his oath, and gone out again only a few days before. As regards the upper age limit, the proofs that I could adduce as showing medical evidence of age would only be suitable for a medical paper. I may say, however, that age does not appear to affect shooting power to any extent. We had a " sniper " at Bethlehem who was particularly troublesome ; the men on outpost, who watched him carefully, described him as "an old man," and the practice that man made with his Abuser at 2,400 yards, as taken by our own mekometer, was something wonderfuL—I am, Sir, &a., C. E. DOUGLAS,
Surgeon-Major, 6th V.B. Royal Highlanders.