Well-known author, Chris “Bulldog” Ash, launched a comprehensive military atlas covering every aspect of the Anglo-Boer War on February 2 this year. The Boer War Atlas has 230 full-colour maps, which cover the conflict on a strategic, operational and tactical level and guide the reader through each stage of the war. There are also detailed diagrams and ORBATs (orders of battle). By showing how every operation and battle fits into the bigger picture this publication enables readers to better understand the war and the British victory The book covers the famous battles, lesser-known ones and the vast “drives” of the guerrilla phase, which broke the back of the Bittereinders, thus bringing the war to an end. Blockhouse lines and their critical role is discussed. All maps were specially drawn for this publication which is lavishly illustrated with contemporary photographs and drawings, as well as modern-day photographs of the battlefields. The Atlas includes pictures of the monuments erected to commemorate the men who fought and died. Published by 30 Degrees South Publishers, the Atlas is available from most booksellers. Chris grew up in the Shetland Isles and studied at Aberdeen University. After a brief spell in the British Army with Lovat Scouts and the Gordon Highlanders, he drove his Land Rover to South Africa and decided to stay. Since then, he has worked in oil and mineral exploration all over Africa and the Middle East. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.


Widely popular photojournalists and Karoo storytellers, Chris Marais and Julienne du Toit, are soon to launch a sequel to their popular book Karoo Roads. This sequel promises to be even more enjoyable and entertaining than the first book. It will take readers to a variety of dryland places – some of which are little known – and introduce them to a wide range of fascinating people. In this book they capture the essence, the lifestyle and the spirit of the Karoo. For more and to order contact:


For Karoo and food lovers Cradock is the place to be from April 23 to 25. The is where the Karoo Food Festival kicks off at 17h00 on April 23 with sundowners at a spot overlooking the town. From then on live entertainment, and good food, at some superb restaurants and food stalls, will be the order of the day. The stalls will also offer produce, products and hand crafted items. There’s wine tasting and a selection of craft beers to be sampled. For the energetic and adventurous there’s biking, running, river tubing and paint balling. Barbara Weitz, an acclaimed chef, forager and owner of the Ibis Lounge in Nieu-Bethesda will introduce visitors to indigenous plants, their medicinal properties and demonstrate how to cook with them. Elize van Aardt is offering lessons on how to make a pottery plate or bowl using garden herbs for inspiration. Several venues are offering lazy Sunday lunches. It is essential to book tickets for these events. This can be done online. For further information and everything you need to know about the festival contact

Williston is planning to hold its Winter Festival in August this year – for details contact 079 190-9538


Ceres Rail Company (CRC), an organisation dedicated to the preservation of South Africa’s rich railway history, purchased a GMAM Garratt 4135 some time ago. Its restoration is underway and when completed this unit will see service on the Caledon branch line and the steep inclines of Sir Lowry’s Pass. This locomotive, built by North British Locomotive Company in 1958. was one of the last GMAMs delivered to the South African Railways. It operated in mountain country until 1980, when it was loaned to Zimbabwe. It was later sold to Randfontein Estates Gold Mines. When this group phased out steam in the early 1990s the 4135 was saved by an overseas benefactor committed to the preservation of steam heritage. CRC bought the locomotive from them.


The Karoo is a never-ending source of interesting tales. Many are now being shared in Cameos on the Karoo Development Foundation website. The little railway siding, Adendorp, for example, played a pivotal role in the history of civil defence in South Africa. In 1856 governor Sir George Grey was instructed to send all regular forces to India, so he placed the defence of the country in the hands of its citizens. Volunteer regiments such as the Graaff Reinet Rifle Infantry and Mounted Rifle Cavalry Corps were among the first to be raised. They were dubbed “The Greys” in Sir George’s honour and they wore his crest. The cavalry corps, however, soon disbanded because none of its members could afford a horse, let alone pay for its upkeep. Also, there were no guns or ammunition nor time to train. Those who acquired guns found that the government-supplied ammunition did not fit. By 1862 interest in the Volunteers had expired. Then, an unusual decision was made. An Adendorp man was elected as senior officer. He was Professor James Gill, teacher of Classics at Graaff-Reinet College. Whether he had any hands-on experience, or the physical attributes of a soldier, is not known, but he certainly inspired the Volunteers. Under his leadership they came alive. He arranged for merchants to allow time off for training. He organised training sessions to end at the Adendorp pub and he emphasised the importance of marksmanship. It was a Volunteer’s duty, he said, to hit the enemy and not to get killed himself.


Many hamlets across the Karoo mushroomed at railway stations, but most towns evolved from a kerkplaas (a farm on which services were regularly held). Every three months or so far-flung farmers travelled for weeks, mostly by ox wagon, to attend church, for nagmaal (communion), to marry, be baptized or court potential spouses, states Franco Frescura in The Journal for the Study of Religion. These trips were social occasions during which farmers purchased goods, conducted business, exchanged news and discussed current affairs. In time the farmers petitioned for separate congregations and these grew into towns. They were named to honour the Queen, her consort, governors of the day and their relations, (as in the case of Richmond), dignitaries, Colonial Secretaries, the Scottish (and local) Dutch Reformed church ministers. Overseas birthplaces and founding families were celebrated as were military men. Some towns have indigenous origins, others highlight natural phenomena, several celebrate magic and some were simply named because they were in the middle of everywhere, or nowhere. To view the cameos visit –


Rosmead, a small siding 12 km east of Middelburg was founded in 1880 and named Middelburg Road. When the rail link to Cradock was inaugurated on April 2, 1883, its name was changed to Rosmead in honour of the then governor and high commissioner, Sir Hercules George Robert Robinson, GCMG, PC and Baron of Ennismore Gardens. The title Baron of Rosmead, County of Westmeath and Tafelberg, South Africa, was created especially for him and conferred on him on August 11, 1896. From then on he was known as Lord Rosmead. Born on December 19, 1824, in Rosmead, Ireland, he was the second son of Admiral Hercules Robinson and his wife, Frances Elizabeth, only daughter and heiress of Henry Wildman Wood. He chose a military career, studied at Sandhurst and joined the Royal Irish Fusiliers. On April 24, 1846, he married Nea Arthur Ada Rose D’Amour, fifth daughter of Arthur Annesley Rath, 10th Viscount Valentia. Robinson, was a well-trained and admirable administrator of Crown colonies. He held several top civic posts and governorships before coming to South Africa. Among these were Hong Kong, Ceylon, New South Wales (in Australia) and New Zealand. Knighted in 1859, he was praised for his discerning judgment, fair patronage and efficient administration. He was said to be astute, sharp, clear, a “capital” writer and good speaker. He was fond of power and an indefatigable worker, but morbidly shy, said his peers.


Rosmead was one of the South African places where UFO’s were seen. Strange lights caused a stir here in 1972 and some considerable damage was caused to the school tennis courts. This event was widely reported. UFO were first sighted in South Africa way back in 1914, during WWI and just before the South West African campaign. Thousands of people across the country saw “lights doing sophisticated manoeuvres in the night skies”. Some said it was a German monoplane on a spying or bombing mission. Those reports were discounted and the lights were never explained. Then, on January 15, 1960, a Mr D Coetzee, manager of a PE insurance company, reported seeing a noiseless, silver, cigar-shaped craft. It was travelling slowly, had no visible means of propulsion, and for no apparent reason, suddenly accelerated and disappeared, he told the Cape Argus


Years went by, then on June 26, 1972, a fiery craft was seen at Fort Beaufort. Bennie Smit of Braeside farm, sent a worker, Boer de Klerk, to check a reservoir early one morning. Boer raced back shouting that “a fireball with red flames coming out of it” was hovering near some trees. It was going from bright red to dark green and then yellowish white, he said. Bennie called the police, grabbed his .303, raced out and fired eight shots at the craft, This had no effect. When police station commander P R van Rensburg and Sergeant Piet Kitching arrived they fired more shots. The craft stopped changing colour, turned gun-metal grey and moved off. Bennie tried unsuccessfully to follow it. People rushed out and camped nearby. The local hotel was fully booked and the incident gained widely publicity. Arthur Bleksley, professor of applied mathematics at Wits University said he could not fathom why a UFO was wasting its time at a small place like Fort Beaufort. There was talk of landing marks. The Grahamstown regiment was said to have investigated, but no records were ever found.


Frik du Plessis reported seeing strange lights in the skies over Middelburg for about three months before the Rosmead sighting hit the headlines. He said he had watched a light go up, down, backwards, forwards and “quite crazy” at times, before it disappeared. It also glowed green, blue and red and it shot off rockets. Du Plessis said the object approached Middelburg from the direction of Graaff-Reinet, Cradock and Rosmead. On November 12. 1972, four soldiers guarding a huge fuel depot at Rosmead observed rotating red lights from their duty room window. At the same time Sergeant John Goosen and Constable Koos Brazelle grabbed their binoculars to examine a bright light changing colours in the sky over Rosmead. Rifelmen P K Nel and S J Rosseau later said the lights seemed to be about 1.5m above the ground and at the Rosmead junior school’s tennis court. They called headmaster Harold Truter who had just returned home. The lights then suddenly disappeared leaving the whole petrol depot bathed in a strange incandescent light, they said.


It took Harold Truter 10 minutes to reach the court. He was horrified at what he saw. Large holes had been gouged into the asphalt, yet the gate and fencing were secure and not at all buckled. Some said damage was caused by an explosion, yet, oddly only the top 10cm layer of tar was affected and it had not melted. The ash on which the court had been built was undisturbed. Some suggested a whirlwind because chunks of tar were found strewn about 183m away on a ridge, but this was discounted because there was nothing in or near the fence. The five holes in the court surface formed a distinct pattern. There were two 3m in diameter oval-shaped ones at each end with tail as well as a circular 2m hole in the centre of the court and a small hole that appeared to have been made by a spike. By the time Truter, and some other villagers, reached the court the weird light was still hovering casting an oblique beam on the ground and a “flickering glow’” over the asphalt. Then, it suddenly vanished. Truter called the Middelburg police who were still watching through their binoculars. They raced to Rosmead, searched the area, but found nothing. A prank was suggested, but there was no indication of spades or shovels being used. A nearby blue gum tree was badly scorched while its neighbours remained green. This was confirmed by Colonel B J van Heerden, the district commandant of Middelburg police. The tree soon died. Investigators were sent to Rosmead and samples from the asphalt and the tree were analysed by the CSIR. Nothing was ever found. This was subsequently considered to be a UFO landing site, states Cynthia Hind in the July 1988 issue of Comment UFO Afrinews.


Photographs of Truter and policemen examining the damage appeared in Rapport on November 19. Further reports streamed in. The craft was said to have landed at Ouberg. Middelburg resident, Betsie Coetzee reported that she and her husband had been traveling towards Rosmead when the light appeared. They stopped and watched it for about 15 minutes. Nola van Deventer said that she and her young son had also seen it and been badly frightened. Philip Human, as well as senior post official, Gert Pretorius and his wife, Anna, and some other residents, told Rapport that they had seen two little glowing red men carrying shoulder bags step out of the craft. They seemed to be carrying torches in their hands. No one could confirm where they went. On January 15, 1973, the Sucknow family were driving across Penhoek Pass near Queenstown just after midnight. They all – mother, father and two children – reported seeing a 30m wide orange disc with large portholes hovering about 7m above road. It was emitting orange-coloured smoke. This craft also sped off as they approached it, however, as it departed the whole area suddenly and inexplicably got very, very cold, they said


Two years later on July 31, 1975, 66-year-old Danie van Graan, spied an oval-shaped craft with round windows on his Loxton farm. It had four prong-like legs, which left clear imprints. Through a large side window he clearly saw four short, blond and sharp-chinned beings inside, operating various instruments. They became aware of him and shone a bright light into his eyes, he said. He experienced a variety of sensations and his nose began to bleed. The craft took off at a sharp angle and sped away. On September 29, 1978, a Uitenhage resident reported a disc-shaped object taking off from the Groendal Nature Reserve. Three days later, on October 2, four Despatch school boys, reported seeing three silvery-clad men. Two came from the direction of a shining object, and joined a third to ascend a steep incline on what seemed to be fins. Again everything suddenly disappeared. A set of nine regular imprints were found on the ground. On December 27, 1998, the Laubscher family videotaped a group of triangular craft passing over Graaff Reinet, at about 25,000 ft. These were changing colour – from red to blue and bright white. The lights sometimes circled one another. They were overtaken by a much larger, shiny, gold-coloured craft. At this point all the objects disappeared into a cloud bank.


Thomas River Historical Village lies exactly halfway between Stutterheim and Cathcart – the drive in either direction takes 20 minutes. The tale of Thomas River is a rich tapestry interwoven with tales of missionaries, deserters, outlaws, war, fire, the railways, Royal visits and hospitality. This story dates back to 1801, when a soldier named Thomas Bentley, deserted from the British army and travelled into this area with the outlaw Coenraad Buys and some elephant hunters. He later joined the Dutch missionary, Dr Theodorus Van Der Kemp’s mission near Stutterheim. In December 1800 Van der Kemp received word of an inevitable outbreak of violence. He decided to go to Grahamstown to avoid becoming involved in any conflict, but to avoid suspicion set off towards the Great Kei River, announcing that he was going to hunt elephant. The route he chose was in the opposite direction to Grahamstown, so no one took any notice. In time he and his party circled back. Then, on June 6, as they were crossing a river Thomas Bentley was shot by poisoned arrow fired by a group of San. He died almost immediately and, in his honour, Van Der Kemp named the place Thomas River.


The village, now a conservancy offering mountain biking, hiking, birding, hunting and fishing, stands on what was once the main road from Port Rex (East London) to the interior. In 1850, a portion of land, named Hospital Grant, was allocated to John Wardle on condition that he grow vegetables on it for the Queenstown and Cathcart hospitals. He agreed, shortened the farm name to Granta (as it is still known today) and got going. Many of his descendants still farm there and the beautiful old Granta homestead still stands. Horses, carts and wagons plied this rugged route which often claimed vehicle wheels. This brought a blacksmith to the area and he set up a smithy near the river. The 9th Frontier War erupted in 1877 as a result of a quarrel at an Mfengu wedding party. This was the last in a series of wars caused, by colonial expansion, that lasted for a 100 years. The periods between them were relatively calm, except for intermittent clashes sparked by stock theft, agreement violations, trespassing and the like. The colonists thus built several little military forts and signal towers all along the border. Four of these were built at Thomas River, but fortunately there was never any conflict near the village

After the frontier wars Thomas River slowly declined and almost vanished. Then, in the 1870s the railway arrived and breathed life into the place. The East London / Queenstown line, started in 1876, reached this spot in 1879 and a station was built between the little forts. A little village sprang up. A supply store, post office, church and school opened. In 1926 a second station came into being and one of the four forts was knocked down. The railways vanished, but today Thomas River Historical Village graces this site. Extensively restored by Jeff and Ann Sansom, it was opened in 2003.  More from :


Karoo rivers are treacherous as a 21-year-old post office clerk discovered in 1931. Uitenhage-born N J Maggs, a diligent, well-liked employee, was transferred from Grahamstown to Queenstown and had just accepted a post in Umtata. He and some friends were picnicking beside a river when he decided to go for a swim. He waded in calling out how pleasant the water was. When it reached his armpits he suddenly disappeared, states the Daily Representative of October 19. He didn’t resurface and his friends could not find him, so they sent for the police who recovered his body at 20:30. Maggs was a Sergeant in the “A” (Queenstown) Company, First Regiment.

Even if you stumble you are still moving forward – Victor Kiam