Anglo-Boer War researcher Johan van Niekerk has taken a closer look at the train wreckers and captured the fascinating story of the train attackers in a soon to be published book entitled An Unfinished Line To Heaven – Boer War Trainwreckers – 1899-1902. “This is not just a book about the Boer saboteurs and trainwreckers,” says Johan. “It studies the legitimacy of attacking the railways and lines of communication in a time of war.” In this book Johan covers the actions of Boer and British saboteurs and devotes individual chapters to notable personalities like Koos de la Rey, Ludwig von Steinaecker, Winston Churchill, Danie Theron and Christiaan de Wet. In addition to the attacks and the devastation which they caused, the book covers British counter measures such as the erection of blockhouse lines, the scorched earth policy, the taking of hostages and consequences of such action. A large section focusses on the work of the Royal Engineers and the Railway Pioneer Battalion that was specifically organised during the war to react to and counter Boer actions against the railway lines. For those who wonder about the title of the book Johan explains that it came from an observation made by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as he witnessed the damaged railway lines (caused by Boer sabotage) between Kroonstad and the Vaal River. “l am in the final stages of proofing. the book. It should be available in May, 2022,” he says. More from Johan at


In the mid-1963 Eric Swanepoel, then a 10-year-old lad, explored the Karoo veld while his father, a welder, worked for a company building part of the N12 from Beaufort West to Klaarstroom. “The workshops and living quarters were located about 1 km from a quaint little outpost known as Zeekoegat,” he said. One day a white rounded building in the distance caught Eric’s attention It was unlike anything he had seen before. His parents said it was a “sterrewag” (observatory). But that was not enough for Eric. On closer inspection he discovered it had “a big, big telescope inside.” Then, one day, in the Zeekoegat store he and his parents met a family friend from their home town, Aberdeen. As luck would have it, he worked at the observatory and he invited them to visit.. Eric was thrilled to see the big telescope “up close”, sad that he could not look through it, disappointed at the pictures of black dots that it taken and totally delighted to see a batch of envelopes with foreign postage stamps on one of the desks, . He was an avid stamp collector and overjoyed when their friend offered to collect all foreign stamps for him. Memories of that day and the intriguing place stayed with him and 50 years later he decided to find out more. He contacted Willie Koorts of the SAAO and Willie explained that it had been one of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) test sites. South Africa and the Karoo were explored in early January, 1954, by the ESO -Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Great Britain (which withdrew in October 1956 to pursue the idea of a Commonwealth telescope in Australia). In time France built and operated this observatory near Zeekoegat and it delivered some quite meaningful results. Now all that remains is a sign on a dusty road. The full story will soon appear on


No-one seems to know who Turck was, but he gave his name to one of the scenic little passes in the Matjiesfontein / Sutherland area. Turck se Pas (Turck’s Pass) is south of Verlatenkloof (Desolate Pass) on the tarred road to Sutherland. The pass is well-designed and relatively safe states the Mountain Passes of South Africa website. “It has some big corners, but if the speed limit and barrier line restrictions are adhered to, there should be no problems.” This pass also provides access to the gravel road that runs through the mountains to the east of Sutherland, which includes the triple passes of Bakenshoogte (Beacon Heights), Smoushoogte (Pedlar Heights) , and Komsberg passes.


Dublin-born John Montgomery, who is hailed as the founder of Burgersdorp, arrived at the Cape aboard The Fanny in 1820. He was only 16 years old and before deciding to seek his fortune in South Africa, he had lived with his widowed mother. His father a Dublin Protestant Lawyer had died in 1815. John applied to get on to the settler programme but was refused. So, early on the morning of January 3, 1820, he left home and headed for the docks in Cork where he pestered all people aiming to emigrate as settlers until he eventually persuaded Thomas Fowler, a member of Butler’s party, to take him to the Cape. When they sailed from Cork on February 13, Thomas listed him as John Fowler, a 13-year-old son, to avoid paying a deposit for him. John then worked his passage as a seaman so that he could draw his full food ration.


John was an extremely interesting character. In The Reminiscences of John Montgomery, he describes himself as ‘trader, tinker, farmer, hunter, explorer and journalist”. On disembarking he joined a group heading for Clanwilliam but, as there were no prospects there, he returned to Cape Town and embarked for Algoa Bay. There he joined a party heading for Salem and once there worked for Richard Gush for a year. John was a descendant of Sir Hugh, First Viscount Montgomery of the Great Ards. He could trace his roots through centuries to the Earls of Eaglesham, who first arrived in Renfrewshire, Scotland, as early as the 1100s. In 1821 John Montgomery described the “fine gardens and orchards, vineyards, and orange and lemon groves, upon which the greater proportion of the residents depended”. He moved to Cradock and set up a business as shoe maker, a metal smith and jeweller. There he met Johanna Jacoba van Zyl and married her on December 22, 1822. They had 14 children, most of whom were born in Cradock. In 1824 he set himself up as a “smous”, a pedlar/transport rider and travelled widely through the Cape and Free State.


In 1832 he brought his mother, Mary Park, to South Africa. She remained in this country until she died on July 4, 1854. He also. located his sister Maria and her husband, George Coleman, in India where he was a regimental bandmaster and brought them to South Africa. A short time later, he arranged for his younger brother, Henry and his family to also come out from India to South Africa. By 1838 he opened a second business in Colesberg. From time to time he wrote articles which were published in the Bloemfontein newspaper, The Friend. As his businesses grew, he acquired some farms in the district. In 1821 John Montgomery described Cradock’s “fine gardens and orchards, vineyards, orange and lemon groves, upon which the greater proportion of the residents depended”. He owned Doorn Hoek near a Cradock and Zuurfontein on the road between Cradock, and Burgersdorp. In time he also bought Spreeukloof the farm on which Molteno was eventually laid out.


John was a gregarious and sociable fellow. He once stepped across “the colour line” to provided music at a wedding. “One evening my fiddler and I were invited to the wedding of one of the first merchants of Graaff-Reinet. I was much surprised to see that the company consisted of brunettes, who were beautiful as houris, and well and fashionably dressed – their hair covering their dusky shoulders. In fact, all the arrangements seemed to me unexceptionable, barring that the ladies had not been selected for the whiteness of their skins. However, they were splendid dancers, and possessed fine figures, small feet, and well-turned ankles.” Montgomery enjoyed himself, but had to pay the price of a scolding from a Dutch matron on the following day. “I did not understand much what she said but I was able to comprehend that I had done wrong in going to the wedding and dancing with the brunettes although the scolding old lady was herself far browner than any of the brunettes at the marriage festival”.


Nieu Bethesda prides itself of being a really cool, laid-back Karoo town. However, from March 25 to 27 it is going be a really hot place when the Karoo’s first Chili Festival takes place. This is set to be a gastronomical experience, say the organisers as visitors will be able to try and buy “everything chili”. In addition to chili rum and a Chili Tasting Competition, there is a canapé menu which includes a slice of Chili Chicken Liver Pizza, Tom Yum Soup, Chili Poppers, a Chili Cheese Platter, Chili Pancakes, Chili Hot Chocolate, Chili Raspberry Tart, Chili Meat Balls with Dipping Sauce, Chili Cheese Griller with Dumpling. For more contact festival organiser, Ludolf Smit,


A Scotsman, recruited as a teacher, came to South Africa in 1840 and went on to make a name for himself in education, business and politics. He was only 19 years old. He found teaching demanding, but not exciting, so he became involved in several entrepreneurial ventures in the Eastern Cape. He was John Graham Townsend Paterson, widely known as Jock. Born in Aberdeen on March 8,1822, he was the son of John Paterson, a Scottish stone carter, and his wife, Barbara, daughter of James Innes Shewan. Jock arrived in South Africa filled with enthusiasm and by 1841 had established The Government Free School. He was to establish several more schools. Jock was also keen on setting up better communications with inland towns. Convinced that railways were the key to the future economic prosperity of the Cape, he devised a railway line to link Graaff-Reinet to the coast. In 1857, he proposed a major rail network for South Africa and drew up a map showing a network of railway lines across the country. Oddly enough it differs only slightly from those that were eventually created. In Traveller’s Joy Bartle Logie pays tribute to Paterson’s idea by tracing the development of the first railway line into the eastern Karoo. It links places like Uitenhage, Jansenville, Aberdeen, Klipplaats, Baroe, Kendrew, Graaff-Reinet and Middelburg to bring the wool clip to the coast more efficiently.


In May, 1845, Paterson and a friend, John Ross Philip, a printer, started Port Elizabeth’s first newspaper the Eastern Province Herald. The first issue hit the streets at a cover price of one penny on May 7. As he was still contracted to the government this was illegal, so his involvement was kept secret. He used the newspaper to persuade residents of their civic responsibility and to promote such matters as the need for new roads, a hospital, library, agricultural society, better post office, census, street names and an improved harbour. After a fight he and Philip closed the newspaper in 1850. By then, however, he had made enough money to stop teaching, so he started a new newspaper, the Eastern Province News in that same year. Philip started the Port Elizabeth Mercury. In 1854 Jock he renamed his newspaper Eastern Province Herald and in 1857 sold it to his friend Robert Godlonton, the owner of the Grahamstown Journal. He served as the Consular Agent for the USA and gained many contacts for his trading firm. He visited Boston and several other cities in the USA in1860 to consolidate his American ties. He also founded The Standard Bank, one of the largest banks in southern Africa in 1862. Soon after opening it merged with several other banks including the Commercial Bank of Port Elizabeth, the Colesberg Bank, the British Kaffrarian Bank and the Fauresmith Bank.


Paterson’s temperament drew him into the political arena. He began lobbying for increased European immigration, among other things. In 1854 he was elected to the first Cape Parliament as member for Port Elizabeth with Henry Fancourt-White. He was a well-liked, bourgeoisie Scotchman, and for some time the leader of the Opposition. He unsuccessfully tried to cure himself of his sing-song brogue, writes James Stanley Little, in South Africa: A Sketchbook of Men, Manners and Facts. His life and times are recorded by Pamela Ffolliott. in One Titan At A Time. From the outset he made secession of the Eastern Province a priority, but this was kiltered In 1872, the Cape attained responsible government under Sir John Charles Molteno. John experienced some hard times, suffered several business failures and even declared bankruptcy in 1867. An economic boom ensued after Molteno’s appointment. Infrastructure across the country improved. Uplifted by the economic boom Paterson re-entered politics and was elected to the Cape Parliament again in 1873.


John married Frances Mary Kemp on November 7, 1849. The service was conducted by Rev A Smith of Uitenhage. They had four children before she became fatally ill and died aged 27 on April 5, 1858. In 1859 while on a business trip to England John made a bid for a seat in the Parliament, but then decided against it. While there Paterson, then 40, married 21-year-old Marizza Bowie in Paddington January 21, 1863. They had six children. Paterson died on his way home in May, 1880, in a bizarre double-shipwreck. Initially he twice delayed his departure, then sailed on the American. She was wrecked off West Africa, when its propeller-shaft snapped, and tore open part of the ship’s plating. All passengers boarded lifeboats before she sank, but they became separated. Paterson’s picked up by the Senegal which then ran aground off the Grand Canary Island. In the ensuing chaos Paterson was reported to have been struck by a hard object, reportedly the propeller and killed. He was the only casualty. Flags across the Cape were flown at half-mast and his obituary paid tribute to his zeal and his enormous achievements. The village of Paterson was named in his honour.


Few know that Peter MacOwan (later professor) was the man who verified the specific gravity of the Eureka diamond by using his own balance. This led to a friendship with Dr William Guybon Atherstone. Peter, the son of Reverend Peter MacOwan (or McOwan) and his wife Jane (nèe Townsend) was born in Hull on November 14, 1830. . After completing his schooling in 1846 he tutored in Bath, Colchester, and later taught chemistry at Huddersfield College, in Yorkshire. He obtained a BA in chemistry from the University of London. He also developed an interest in botany and started a collection of flowering plants and mosses. In 1858 he married Amelia Day and they had three children. Eventually A severe lung condition, possibly asthma, forced him to resign in 1861 and emigrate to the Cape. He settled in Grahamstown and became principal of the newly established Shaw College. In 1862 he began to collect the plants of the Eastern Cape. He built up an extensive private herbarium. He served on the first council of the Albany Natural History Society, as well as on the committee of the Grahamstown Botanic Garden. He later took charge of the Albany Museum. He also formed the South African Botanical Exchange Society.


Peter MacOwen befriended local scientists like Henry Bolus, Mrs M E Barber and Henry Hutton. He exchanged specimens with W H Harvey in Dublin, J D Hooker at Kew Gardens, and Professor Asa Gray in the United States. Peter published a catalogue of South African plants in 1866. In 1869 he became professor of chemistry at Gill College. During his 12 years in Somerset East, he collected fungi and studied lichens as well as parasitic fungi. In 1872 he donated plants. grasses and later mosses to Albany Museum and from 1873 was in charge of the Gill College Museum and herbarium. In February, 1881 he decided to devote his life to botany. He moved to Cape Town where he succeeded James McGibbon as director of the Government Botanic Garden and curator of the Government Herbarium. In October he was appointed professor of botany at the South African College. MacOwan resigned his teaching post in October, 1888, yet he still participated in many other scientific and cultural activities. In June, 1905, he retired (aged 74) and returned to Grahamstown where he again worked for a time in the Albany Museum. He died in Uitenhage on November 30, 1909.


The Honourable Artillery Company (HAC), the oldest regiment in the British Army, sent a unit to South Africa in early 1900. The HAC traces its history back to 1087 and has held colours since the 17th century. It belongs to the Guild of Longbows, Crossbows and Handgonnes, In the 17th century it played a significant part in the formation of both the Royal Marines and the Grenadier Guards. Among the exhibits at its headquarters is a beautiful Boer War Roll of Honour. A Battery landed in Cape Town on February 28, 1900, and immediately started training. They had brought their own horses to South Africa, but also had to train others “new to the work”. One of the men reported: “This was our first experience of the notorious Argentine pony. The aristocrats of that breed were fine, but the rank and file were some of the most stupid, soulless, and vicious little monsters that ever vexed a soldier’s soul.” The Battery was eventually divided into two and sent to guard the lines of communication at Piquetberg Boad and Matjesfontein, write Williams and Childers in The HAC in South Africa. .”We were disappointed by this news, but there it was, and we had to make the best of it; so we set off to spend two uneventful and bloodless months “guarding the line” a wearisome necessity.” At first it seemed they “might see action because the districts were seething with covert treason”, but nothing materialised.


The right section, then, under Major McMicking, with Lieutenants Lowe and Duncan, Surgeon-Captain Thome, and Veterinary Lieutenant Morgan, proceeded to Matjesfontein, “a dreary little station 170 miles from Cape Town in the heart of the great Karroo”. They said it was healthy, but in every other respect a most trying and repellent spot. “The country around was desolate to the last degree, and its boulder-strewn kopjes and valleys exceedingly difficult for artillery. Also, here was no bathing to be got.” The left section, under Captain Budworth, with Lieutenant Bayley, were more happily situated at Piquetberg Road, at the southern outlet of the Tulbagh Pass. The ground which sloped down to a spacious scrub-clothed valley, which for South Africa, was a paradise. There were frequent dust-storms, it is true, and occasional deluges of rain; but the country was easy and bathing, a precious solace, was always available in the Little Berg River, a mile away.

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle and the other as though everything is a miracle – Albert Einstein


(Supplement to Rose’s Round-up, April,2022)

Migrant farmers and Xhosa tribesmen began moving into the interior of the Eastern Cape in about 1750. Both groups were cattle farmers and there was constant strife over grazing, water and stock theft. Conflict broke out in earnest in 1778 when the Dutch government made the Great Fish River the eastern boundary of the Cape Colony. The area had by then developed into a turbulent frontier.

By 1798 acting-governor Major-General Francis Dundas sent General John Ormsby Vandeleur, to Algoa Bay to erect fort on the beach to keep French invaders from conquering the Cape and to protect the landing point as well as the Baakens River. Vandeleur, a veteran British Army officer, had arrived at the Cape in August,1796. He left almost immediately for Algoa Bay with 200 dragoons and local soldiers and set up a wooden fort on the beach. He named it Fort Frederick in honour of Frederick, Duke of York and Albany, commander-in-chief of the British Army, with whom he had served in Flanders. This was the first of a line of frontier forts mostly named in honour of military men. By the time the 1820 settlers arrived the fort was under the command of Captain Francis Evatt. He took command in 1817 and died there in 1847. He is buried in the Donkin Reserve.

During the century from 1779 to 1878 nine frontier wars broke out resulting in the need for an extensive security and communications network of forts, garrisons, military posts and signal towers. Men came from as far afield as Oudtshoorn, Graaff-Reinet and Beaufort West to fight in these wars. The dates were: (1779-1781); (1789-1793); (1799-1803); the 4th war, which resulted in the creation of Grahamstown, took place from 1811-1812; the 5th, was the War of Nxele or Makana and it took place in 1818-1819 (The Battle of Amalinde, considered by one of the most historical battles in Southern Africa, took place during this war); the 6th , Hintsa’s War, was fought from 1834-1836; the 7th , the War of the Axe from 1846-1847; the 8th, the War of Mlanjeni from 1850-1853; and the 9th the Fengu-Gcaleka or Ngcayechibi’s War from 1877-1879.

The periods between the wars were relatively calm, however, many incidents of stock theft resulted in skirmishes. Over the years a number of rather flimsy forts were built and abandoned. Their ruins, plus several restored forts have become tourist attractions. These offer a fascinating insight into Colonial development and British military strategy. Many military historians state that events along this frontier, from the time of the first British occupation until representative self-governance in 1872, were key to shaping the development of S.A.

In 1811 plundering hoards crossed the Fish River, burnt homes and forced farmers flee. In October, governor Sir John Cradock appointed Colonel John Graham to clear the frontier. He accomplished this by March, 1812 and built one of the first military bases on De Rietfontein, the loan farm of the then deceased Lucas Meyer. In August that year it was named Graham’s Town to honour Colonel Graham’s achievements.[Now Makhanda – renamed on June 29, 2018.] (In 1835 the Cape Corps Barracks and hospital was extended and named Fort England in honour of commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Richard England of the 73rd Regiment (the Gordon Highlanders). An Irishman, born in Canada, he was son of an influential general. He instantly set his men to work building roads in the Albany district, This fort saw 50 years of military service.)

Graham then created a series of posts in rehabilitated farmhouses, wattle-and-daub or stone shelters. One was on the abandoned farm of Coenraad Buys, then there was Van Aardt’s Post, near present-day Longhope siding, Kranz Drift near present-day Pigot Bridge, and old Drift Post, later named Cawood’s Post. This was about an hour’s ride from a post built largely as a result of petitioning by the Winterberg farmers on the farm of Commandant Piet Retief and named in his honour by Sir Benjamin D’Urban. The fort was designed by Major Charles Selwyn of the Royal Engineers and built by Retief from stone quarried in the area and fine woods cut from local indigenous trees.

It saw no action during its early years and was occupied by a widowed 1820 Settler, Ann Edwards, who ran a trading store there to support her five children. In 1846 Rev Joseph Willson came to share the space and started what is considered to be the first Anglican parish in the country from the Officers Quarters. The post was attacked in early February 1851 and its 60 occupants were held under tight siege for four days by rebels from the Kat River Settlement under Kiewiet, Van Beulen and an English deserter, named Shaw, formerly of the 7th Dragoons.

Graham recommended two more forts. One was planned for Noutoe, the former farm of the De Lange family on the road between Bruintjieshoogte and Uitenhage, but this was abandoned in favour of a post set up on Table Farm by 1820 Settler, Major T C White. The second post was built on the loan place of Commandant Piet Lombard, near the London Missionary Society’s station, Theopolis. Known as Lombards Post it played a pivotal role in border raids. It was taken over by 1820 Settler, Benjamin Keeton, who came from Nottinghamshire. On February20, 1829, he married Hannah , the widow of William Ford a settler farmer who had died in 1829. Benjamin erected a fortified farm house close to the site of the old post. Whittles Laager was later set up near it. From time to time these buildings were filled with refugees.

Lord Charles Somerset, successor to Sir John Cradock, visited the frontier early in 1817 and recommended the erection of signal stations to improve communication along the front line. These were at Kruger’s Farm, near Slager’s Nek, Somerset Farm, Prinsloo’s and Roodewal (later Cookhouse), Paul Bester’s, De Lange’s, van der Merwe’s, Junction Drift, Wentzel Coetzees or Espag’s (Carlisle Bridge), De Bruin’s, Kranz Drift, Koester’s and Waaiplaats.

At the end of the Fourth Frontier War of 1811-1812, Colonel Graham built two lines of posts in rehabilitated farmhouses, wattle-and-daub or stone shelters enclosed by primitive earthen redoubts with loopholes. The line over the Zuurberg from Grahamstown to Uitenhage included Assegai Post, Rautenbach’s Drift, Vermaak’s Farm, Sandflats, Nieuwepos, Coerney, Addo Drift, Jacobus Oosthuizen’s and Klaas Kraal. After Lord Charles Somerset’s visit in October 1819 the Xhosa ceded a strip of country and two military posts Fort Wiltshire and Fort Holloway were planned, but the latter was never built.

Fort Wiltshire, actually two fortified barracks about 800 m apart, was the most ambitious military station. Building started shortly before Lord Charles went on leave to England in December 1819.It was erected under the supervision of Major W C Holloway during the 5th Frontier War and named in honour of Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Wiltshire of the 38th Regiment, who commanded the troops during this campaign. In May 1820, Lord Charles’s deputy, Sir Rufane Donkin, visited the site and declared that there was a shortage of water. Consequently, he relocated the post to a new site closer to the river, where it was constructed under the direction of Lieutenant Rutherford and called the Keiskamma Barracks. It provided housing for 250 men plus stores and stabling The site was abandoned in 1836 when the army withdrew from the Province of Queen Adelaide. (No special protection plans were made for the 1820 Settlers so some of the forts deteriorated.)

Colonel Maurice Scott, who became Commandant of the Frontier in December, 1821, erected a Martello tower and named it Fort Beaufort in honour of Lord Charles Somerset’s father, the 5th Duke of Beaufort. Scott tried to provide better quarters for the troops. A new barracks was built by April, 1823, but the workmanship was so poor that during heavy rains in October the roofs leaked, foundations sank and walls fell in. The Old Powder Magazine or Star Fort Complex, which looks like a little house in the middle of the veld, was built near Bathurst by the Royal Engineers in 1821. This historic powder magazine held 271 kg of gun powder, 7 000 ball cartridges and 60 rifles. Next, in 1830 came a Defensible Guard House.

After the conclusion of the 6th Frontier War on May10, 1835, the area was seized by Governor Sir Benjamin D’Uban and annexed to the Cape as Queen Adelaide Province. He immediately arranged for the construction of Fort Brown, Fort Stokes, Fort Warden and Fort White – to maintain and protect water supplies. Work on the first, Fort Warden, began on May 12, 1835,under the guidance of Major Henry Douglas Warden, of the Cape Mounted Rifles, after whom it would be named. He had been only 19 years old when he came to the Cape in 1820. He joined the Cape Corps as a standard-bearer, later obtained a commission. In 1825 he became a Lieutenant, after displaying extraordinary courage in the 6th Frontier War.

He wrote: “I am now employed here in constructing the Entrenched Camp for my first fort of occupation in the New Territory.” This fort was near the wagon route across the Kei. The fort was a square redoubt comprising a cattle kraal, stables and “beehive huts” for officers and men. It was well surrounded by a ditch and abattis,” states researcher Richard Tomlinson.(Nearby are two graves with locally quarried headstones. One is in memory of John Hanna, 26, who died on December 24, 1835, and the other of Kyran Fitzpatrick, 30, who died on August 25, 1836. Both were members of the 75th Regiment.)

The planning of a defence system for the eastern frontier then fell on Royal Engineers Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Griffith George Lewis, Captain William F D Jervois, and a civilian employee of the War Office, Henry L Hall. Lewis repeatedly expressed his frustration at the tardiness of the government in allocating funds for effective defence. He drew up a line of strongly fortified structures for infantry and cavalry at Double Drift, Fort Beaufort, Fort Armstrong, Tomlinson’s post (named for George and Harriet Tomlinson (nee Turner) – 1820 Settlers who ran an inn at a popular stop for soldiers on the Koonap River – and Hermanus Kraal (later Fort Brown – named for Khoi Khoi leader Hermanus Xogomesh). Then there was also Trompetter’s Drift which was named after Khoi Khoi leader, Hans Trompetter, whose people settled at a rudimentary fort at this Great Fish River crossing in 1817. Trompetter’s Drift Fort itself was constructed in 1843 to protect the main road from Grahamstown to Fort Peddie and to serve as a base for patrols operating in this thickly wooded area.

These fortifications became known as “The Lewis Line”. Each was surrounded by a three-meter-high loop-holed wall. They also included officers and men’s quarters, commissariat stores, stables, a cookhouse, a bakery and so on. Some had two-storey gun towers on to which light 6-pounders or howitzers were mounted.

Sir Benjamin D’Urban approved the creation of Fort Brown in honour of Lieutenant Robert Boyd Brown of the 75th Regiment who was in command there during the war. One of the larger forts – a 4-metre square stone tower – it was occupied until 1861. It had a magazine, quarters, barracks, stables, a powder magazine and a 3-pounder swivel gun. In 1842/43 kitchens, plus accommodation for officers and NCOs were added. Fort Brown was declared a national monument in 1938. It later served as a police post. Nearby is a small cemetery with a number of military graves.

In June, 1835/36 Fort Armstrong was constructed near Adelaide to protect the Kat River, and named in honour of Captain John Armstrong who fought alongside the Cape Mounted Rifle men in the 6th Frontier War. This isolated wattle-and-daub fort with powder magazine, officers’ quarters, kitchen, stables and cells was attacked several times and it often served as a safe haven. It could accommodate up to 30 mounted men with ordnance stores. Nearby was a cattle kraal.

On June 27, 1835, 25-year-old Lieutenant Charles Theodore Bailie, an experienced frontier campaigner and 30 of his men were massacred at the Umnxesha River When the war was over a small search party under Captain John Bailie retraced the patrol’s route and last running fight. They recovered the bodies of the men who had fallen and they were buried at a spot named Bailie’s Grave. It became a landmark. (Charles Theodore’s brother Archibald was killed in the 7th Frontier War.) Bailie’s Grave Post, later became Fort Stokes. It ceased to function in the mid-1850s. In 1856 Colonel Bolton reported that the officers’ quarters, soldiers’ barracks, guardhouse and stables were all in a serious state of decay and in danger of falling down. The commissariat store and stone powder magazine were, however, in good order. All that remains is an earth embankment and a single granite tombstone, erected more than a century later, which reads “Lieut C T Bailie and Party, 27 June 1835”.

Fort White, established near King William’s Town, was named after Major T C White, assistant quarter-master general of the Burgher Force, military land-surveyor and topographer, who was killed near the Mbashe River.

Fort Selwyn, now is part of the Albany Museum, was a fortified barracks it was erected on Gunfire Hill overlooking Grahamstown in 1835. It was named in honour of Captain (later Major) Charles Jasper Selwyn of the Cape Corps of Royal Engineers, who was stationed in the Eastern Cape from 1834 to 1842. It was occupied by the Royal Artillery from 1836 until 1862, the garrison was withdrawn, and again during the Anglo-Boer War . Thereafter it fell into disrepair, but was later restored.

Fort Glamorgan, near East London was built in 1837, and annexed to the Colony that same year. Then, Fort Murray, a permanent stone fortification with thatched roofs was built near Mount Coke Mission Station. It provided accommodation for five officers, 40 NCOs and privates, 10 Cape Mounted Rifle horses, four officers and 10 troops Fort Murray was vacated in September, 1836. It fell into disrepair, but was restored in 1976/77. By August 1995 the fort was vandalised and totally destroyed (There were actually two Forts named Murray. After the original, built in 1835, was abandoned, a second, also named Murray was erected eight kilometres away An extensive stone structure, with barracks for infantry and cavalry, it became the headquarters of Lieutenant-Colonel John Maclean, Chief Commissioner for the Colony.

Fort Cox near Middledrift was named in honour of Major William Cox of the 75th Regiment. It accommodated a garrison of six Royal Artillery, one company of British Infantry and 160 local soldiers. A simple earth redoubt, it was abandoned in 1836, but rebuilt in 1846 to deal with the 7th Frontier War.

On December 29, 1850, during the 8th Frontier War, also known as the Bonte Oorlog (the colourful war) due to its multiracial complexity, was the longest and most costly of all the Frontier Wars. Around 220 British troops were forced to retreat to Fort Hare, near Alice after an unsuccessful attempt to relieve Sir Harry Smith. Fort Hare stood on a rocky outcrop in the foothills. Some of the ruins, as well as graves of the British soldiers are still visible today. Missionary, James Stewart created a school which eventually became the University of Fort Hare.

Fort Beechamwood, which was takes its name from Beechamwood Methodist Mission, founded Reverend Horatio Pearse, was built in 1841 Then Fort Armstrong was constructed in a relatively isolated location and designed to operate independently if need be. It had a wattle-and-daub barracks that could accommodate up to 30 mounted men with ordnance stores, a powder magazine, officers’ quarters, kitchen stables and cells. A few meters away was a cattle kraal.

Fort Peddie, east of Grahamstown. was also built in 1841 to protect the Fingo people. In 1846 it withstood a siege by 9,000 warriors It was named in honour of Colonel John Peddie, who led the 72nd Highlanders during the 6th Frontier War. Fort Pato was constructed in 1853 and named after Pato, Chief of the Amagqunukwebe, a major role player during the War of the Axe in 1846. Basically, it was established as was a temporary post at the site of an outspan to guard the supply line. Fort Pato became a safe place to rest oxen and soldiers on the way to the front. It was a square redoubt enclosed by earth parapets, with two small square loop-holed bastions at opposite corners, It contained three stone buildings, a commissariat, a powder magazine, cookhouse and brick officers’ quarters.

Fort Jackson a small, square temporary redoubt, built in 1859 to guard a new wagon route on the left bank of the Buffalo River, never saw military action. Fort Lingensen was built in 1877 and in 1878 Fort Warwick was built by Captain Wandell, of the 1st battalion, 24th Warwickshire Regiment and a detachment of between 40 to 50 men. It was named in honour of the regiment. It was besieged, but relieved by a force sent from Komgha by Lieutenant-Colonel Lombard, of the 88th Regiment, the Connaught Rangers. No dates or details were found for Fort Owen. Often these forts were the sites of trade fairs, where settlers and indigenous residents gathered to trade ivory, skins, baskets, cattle and sheep for tools, cotton goods, blankets, beads, wire, metal implements and staple goods.


References: Strategic Military Colonisation: The Cape Eastern Frontier 1806–1872 Linda Robson and Mark Oranje Department of Town and Regional Planning, University of Pretoria, Forts of the Eastern Cape : Securing a frontier 1799 – 1878; Fort England as a military base, Sally Sampson. The Heritage Portal, October, 2018, The Barracks And Hospital Of The Cape Corps In Grahamstown in 1826* Percival R. Kirby, Professor Emeritus, University of The Witwatersrand


(Supplement to Round-up April, 2022)

Horses were an essential part of the Anglo-Boer War. Both armies relied heavily on mounted troops and without a constant supply of fresh animals both armies would have been paralysed. Without the horse the Boers would not have been able to fight the war, nor the British win it, writes Professor Francois Johannes van der Merwe in Horses of the Anglo-Boer War. In an article entitled Heroes with Hooves, the website quotes an unknown author who wrote: “Look back at our struggle for freedom, Trace our present day’s strength to its source; And you’ll find that man’s pathway to glory, Is strewn with the bones of the horse” In terms of horseflesh Britain was totally unprepared at the outbreak of war. While the Boers and their agterryers (mounted retainers) simply needed to provide their own horses and join the commandos, the British army had to muster a mounted force, larger than any it had ever mobilized before, and then transport it 10,000 km across the world to South Africa – farther than it had ever before needed to move animals.

Early in the campaign, British authorities predicted a “teatime war” and a speedy victory. The Imperial Army entered the conflict with the idea that a mere 125 cavalry horses and 250 mules per month would be enough. They believed that the troops and their steeds would be home by Christmas. It soon became clear that these pre-war remount estimations had been dangerously optimistic. They proved to be wrong by a factor of ten. Figures eventually rocketed to over 120% above original projections and, in addition, both sides needed draught animals such as mules and donkeys.

By June 1900 less than a year after the start of the conflict the British mounted force had reached a state of collapse from which it did not recover for almost a year During that time nothing was done to provide for care and feeding of army animals,” said Field-Marshall, Sir Evelyn Wood, who called this carnage a disgrace. After about 15 months of war, England and Ireland supplied 87,000 horses. Many of these were large, unwieldy animals requiring better forage than the sparse veld could provide. Boer general Ben Viljoen in his book Reminiscences of the Boer War acerbically noted: “The British cavalryman might have used elephants with almost as much advantage as their colossal horses.”

In the end the British Army required 520 000 horses from October, 1899 to May, 1902, and great numbers had to be quickly brought to South Africa. About 360 000 has to be hastily shipped from across the Empire – India, Australia, New Zealand, Canada – European countries such as Austria, Hungary and Russia, as well as American and Argentina. Horses were, however, bad sailors. On board ship they were compelled to stand in poorly designed stalls; aeration was inadequate and this made it difficult to keep them clean. Unable to roll or lie down and at times with insufficient fodder, the horses simply starved to death. Hundreds, including valuable cavalry horses, did not survive the voyage.

Some regiments were more badly hit than others. The 6th (Inniskillings) Dragoons, for instance lost 26 out of 130 horses to pneumonia, injuries, “sheer seasickness and exhaustion”, while the 10th Hussars host 18 horses shortly after leaving England due to “heavy seas” and later two-thirds of all their mounts in a shipwreck .then,

One soldier wrote: “Poor old horses – one belonging to Heath, our artillery officer, fainted in mid-air as it was hoisted from the ship.” After being unloaded the horses were then immediately loaded onto trains bound for De Aar, 4000 ft above sea level – 33 hours and 500-miles (805 kms) away. “Aching from the rocking motion of the ships, the poor creatures then had forced to endure a jolty, bumpy train-ride across the scalding plains of the Great Karoo,” wrote Major Allenby. A sergeant major of the 7th Dragoon Guards added “it was quite awful to see horses packed into trucks like sardines, neither tethered nor tied. It was positively cruel. We lost mounts through injury because they are kicked and knocked about.” By the time the horses were led out of the railway trucks they almost had no stamina to cope with the severe demands placed on them.

The horses arrived confused, dehydrated, malnourished and with severely compromised immune systems, but after enduring these debilitating journeys there was no time to acclimatize them. Many had come from an icy winter in the northern hemisphere into a severely hot southern hemisphere Fodder was a problem. There was little grazing and while South African horses ate both oats and mealies. New Zealand horses would eat only oats, not touch mealies and Australian horses would eat only mealies but not oats. Then, suddenly they found themselves ridden by inexperienced riders, immersed in the noise of battle with guns being fired just behind their ears.

Then there were things that the bureaucrats Whitehall just did not know. For instance, Argentinian horses were used to living in little free-roaming man-made herds led by a trusted matriarch. When separated for remount work, the scattered horses missed the guidance of the senior mare, grew emaciated and pined for their erstwhile companions.

Also, about 2 000 of the 151 000 of the mules sent to South Africa did not make it, many donkeys died and 70 000 oxen were also lost. Also, about 2 000 of the 151 000 of the mules sent to South Africa did not make it, many donkeys died and 70 000 oxen were also lost. The War Office’s calculations were called a “scandalous failure”. The Remount Department was continuously condemned and criticized as a “Siberia” for incompetent officers, Things became so bad that the Director of Remounts sank into a depression shot himself.

Both sides took their horses for granted, used them ruthlessly and often driving them to the limits of endurance and beyond states the website The waste of horseflesh was unbelievable, unprecedented in modern warfare and proportionally regarded as the most devastating in military history up until that time. General French’s cavalry, for instance, rode 500 horses to their deaths in a single day, in their effort to relieve the Siege of Kimberley. The slaughter was actually described as a “holocaust” by a Major-General Sir Frederick Smith, of the Army Veterinary Corps. The average life expectancy of a horse, from the time it was unloaded in South Africa, until it was abandoned or died, was six weeks.

Casualties suffered by these animals was massive. At the end of the war Major-General Smith, confirmed the loss of over 326 000 horses, and 51 000 mules stating that these were exact figures, from official records and referred to animals paid for out of the public purse. Stephen Badsley of the Department of War Studies at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst agreed with these figures. Hilda Kean’s article Animal Rights and Social change in Britain since1800 reports that over 400 000 horses and donkeys died mostly of starvation and neglect. Ernest Belle and H Baille-Weaver in Horses in Warfare claim even greater losses. They state that of the 669 575 horses, mules and donkeys deployed for war 400 000 were expended during the campaign. They say that relatively few animals were lost in battle and add that only 163 horses died of bullet wounds. This loss was widely regarded as proportionally the most devastating waste of horseflesh in military history up until that time, states Sandra Swart University of Stellenbosch in an article entitled Horses in the South African War.

In his book Horses of the Anglo-Boer War, Van der Merwe points out that these figures do not take into account the tens of thousands of horses captured and commandeered by the British in South Africa. He estimates the total loss of horses and mules on both sides exceeded 500 000. “It is difficult to visualise the enormity of this loss, however, if 500 000 horses and mules stood side by side, in a line, it would extend from the Waterfront in Cape Town along the Nl to Beaufort West,” he says.

Despite this many soldiers loved their horses. Commanding officers on both sides had iconic horses that became stars in their own right. Among them were several magnificent Arab chargers, like Fleur, the faithful horse of General Christiaan de Wet, Aliwal, the loyal horse of Sir Harry Smith, Bokkie, the legendary Basotho pony of General Koos de la Rey, Dapper, the magnificent Boer horse of General Louis Botha and General Smuts’s horse Charlie. Other iconic horses were Adriaan de la Rey’s beloved white-faced pony, Starlight; General Wynand Malan’s Very Nice. General Ben Viljoen’s Blesman; Manie Maritz’s Krisjan and Bles Koos Kemp’s Noble. These animals were friends, comrades and companions.

Bokkie, helped General de la Rey through many trying times. On December 2, 1900, after leading his men up a high, hidden, mountain path in the dark De la Rey said: ”If it was not for my old riding partner, Bokkie, who I could grab by the tail and let him drag me up the steep parts, I would not have had the energy to climb.” When Bokkie died in De la Rey’s arms, he is said to have cried like a child. For days he did not speak to anyone.

Another man who shed tears when his beloved horse died was Lieutenant-General Sir Harry Smith. This little Arab, was named Aliwal, to commemorate Hir Harry’s victory at the Battle of Aliwal on January 28,1846. (Oddly enough during that actual battle Smith was riding a horse called Jim Crow.) Aliwal proved to be Smith’s best horse and served with him for 18 years. He was Smith’s only mount not to be sick, wounded or die. Aliwal travelled with him across Arabia, India, and South Africa and later England. He was a very loyal, faithful and obedient companion, states The Autobiography of Lieutenant-General Sir Harry Smith, Baronet of Aliwal.

A daughter of his second aide-de-camp Major C W Meadows Payne, wrote: “On the anniversary of the Battle of Aliwal, there was always a full-dress dinner at the General’s house. Someone would propose a toast to Aliwal. A groom would then lead the beautiful creature around the table, glittering with plate, lights, uniforms and beautiful dresses.” She said that the horse snorted quietly snort now and then. His health was drunk, the groom led him out and he could be heard prancing and capering on the gravel outside. When Sir Harry moved to his new house in London, he could not keep Aliwal. Sir Robert, Lord Gerard offered him a home, but Sir Harry feared that the horse’s old age might not be happy. He resolved to shoot him. “My father and the faithful groom were with Sir Harry. They all shed tears. That night Sir Harry’s place at dinner was vacant. He was seen no more until morning.”

General de Wet’s eldest son, Kotie, bought a superb eight-year-old Arabian horse for £30 in 1899, as a present for his father. De Wet was not impressed the first time he saw the horse, mainly because it was big and it was white. His first reaction was that the English would be able to see him from miles away and easily shoot him dead. However, in the end he took the horse and named him Fleur. The two crossed thousands of miles and were together through many battles during the Anglo-Boer War. When Fleur became ill General De Wet prayed to God to spare his horse “struck down by a foreign English disease” and then, when prayer failed, buried his beloved horse on his farm.

Some soldiers believed that their horses had almost mystical powers, could think for themselves and act independently to warn them of danger. One British soldier said of his dead horse’s bravery: “One learns from the parting how close has been the comradeship.” It was during the Anglo-Boer War horses began to count as individuals, stated Deneys Reitz’s famous book Commando was first called Of Horses and Men. He considered a good horse an essential and firmly believed that there should be an affinity between man and horse

Of his beloved horse Malperd (CrazyHorse), he said: “My father had purchased him from a home-going burgher, who omitted to mention that he was possessed of the devil. He indulged in such extraordinary antics that the police at the Government laager had declared him insane, and christened him the ‘Malperd’. Sometimes he would allow a single man to walk up and catch him without trouble, but at other times we had to turn out the whole Government, from the Vice-President downward, to form a cordon around him. He would pretend to be quietly grazing, but as soon as he was completely hemmed in, he would look up in feigned surprise and start to back against the ring, kicking and lashing so furiously that we had to give way, then he would go capering off, heels in air, to crop the grass nearby. If another cordon were made, he would repeat his performance, until he left the men helpless between cursing and laughter.”

Denys had lost his own mount to horse sickness, so Malperd was loaned to him by his brother, Arend. Malperd was indeed very highly strung, hard to manage and only the brothers could ride him Nevertheless, he was an indefatigable mount Reitz said Malpert came to respect his brother, after he doctored him when he got hurt and later reluctantly developed respect for himself after he managed to cling to him during one of his demonic box-jumping outbursts


At the beginning of February, 1901 Reitz and his brother were riding with the ACC, the Afrikander Cavalry Corps, a unit that was a shadow of its former self. As it had been decimated by horse sickness, typhoid and other diseases. Half the horses were dead and men were struggling along on foot carrying their saddles. The exhausted commando made the disastrous decision to seek shelter in the Skurweberg, west of Johannesburg, where fevers lurked. It was infested with mosquitoes.

Reitz noticed Malperd was struggling, showing serious signs of distress, staring wildly about and breathing raggedly He left him in a gully near as they climbed up a pass. Next morning, he looked over the cliff to see how his horse was doing. Malperd lay dead in the valley below. Reitz was overcome with grief. Malperd’s passing affected the entire commando With heavy hearts many men climbed down into the valley and stood around the emaciated carcass of the crazy horse to pay their last respects,.

A short time after Malperd’s death the Reitz brothers went off in search of their father. Denys had to turn back to find his saddle bag. He borrowed his brother’s beautiful chestnut horse, but on his journey also lost that one to horse sickness.

Many influential people throughout the world were aware of the problems the War Office was having in respect of managing horses in South Africa. In his book Florence Henniker, Hardy and the Anglo-Boer War Horse. Richard Sylvia discusses the correspondence between Thomas Hardy and his lifelong friend Florence Henniker

Born Florence Ellen Hungerford Milnes in December 1855, she was the daughter of Richard Monckton Miles, 1st Baron of Houghton and she had been named in memory of her father’s frustrated love affair with the Crimean War nurse Florence Nightingale. She was raised in luxury. In 1882, she married a British army officer, Arthur Henry Henniker-Major. Hardy, who had a life-long interest in animal welfare fell in love with her shortly after meeting. She was part of a concerted effort to protect war horses in South Africa and he staunchly supported her efforts.

Hardy writes of a man who told him of some dreadful experiences and of being compelled to drive his horse to dearth on a forced march and of having to abandon others not quite dead. Letters to The Times show that the public was aware of the situation. A war correspondent dramatically described how a British soldier tried to prevent vultures from feeding on his dead horse. “… in a revolting mass of beaks and feathers the devils flock around the deathbed of a fallen steed. A soldier on the outer edge of the extended line swings his rifle with swift, backhanded motion over his shoulder, and brings the butt amidst the crowd of carrion. The vultures hop with grotesque, ungainly motions from their prey … their necks outstretched and curved heads dripping slime and blood, a fitting setting amidst the black ruin of war. The charger now looks upward from eyeless sockets …”

Then, there was a charger from another was that deserves mention in a story of war horses. It was the nimble Arab Vonolel, that Field Marshal Lord Roberts purchased in Bombay. It carried him through campaigns in India, Afghanistan and Burma, and even received service medals from Queen Victoria. They were a perfect match. Lord Roberts, whom the troops referred to as “Little Bob” was only 1.2m tall (5 feet 4 inches), and Vonolel was little bigger than a pony, Roberts considered him a friend and of him said: “During the 22 years he was in my possession he travelled with me over 50,000 miles, and was never sick nor sorry.” When Vonolel died in 1899, he was buried at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Dublin and Roberts had a commemorative bowl made that rested on his hooves.


Sad as the story of horses is, it is not without its lighter moments. The Boers captured mounts whenever they could so there are many tales of the British commandeering horses. One tells of a bottle-fed stallion at Beaufort West. He was such a magnificent creature that very British officer who ever saw him coveted him. So, in 1901 when the British were commandeering horses from Nuweveld farms he was among the first to be brought down to the camp in town. He stood proud; head held high as he was saddled. But then the trouble began. No one could mount him. The instant anyone tried he bolted back home and after a while the saddle was returned to the camp. This happened regularly until one day the officers saw the petite, elderly, Mrs Daantjie de Villiers come riding into town mounted side saddle on this horse which was as docile as a lamb. They could not believe their eyes. Only then did they find that the horse had been bottle fed by this woman and had bonded with her to such an extent that he would allow no one else on his back.

Another soldier captured a handsome charger belonging to one of the Lancers. He mounted his prize and proudly paraded up and down showing it off to his comrades. Having finished this performance he jumped off, threw the bridle carelessly over the horse’s head and sat down for a chat. Just then a bugle sounded. The charger pricked up his ears, looked in the direction of the sound and bolted back to the British camp before anyone could stop him.

Then there is a poignant tale of Burghers who proudly presented General Christiaan de Wet with some horses they had commandeered from the Robertson Stud outside Colesberg. The great general, a passionate horse lover, sadly shook his head when he saw these magnificent thoroughbreds. “Take them back,” he said, “these beauties will never last in the field.”.

According to legend the wild horses of the Botrivier wetlands originate from the Anglo-Boer War. They are unique to this area and are South Africa’s only herd of wild horses. The story goes that during the war domesticated horses from surrounding farms were hidden in the Palmiet Mountains. Some escaped and formed a herd, and became “the wild horses.”

By the end of the war, there were still over 131,000 horses on the books of the War Office, with a fifth recovering in remount camps. The Repatriation Department faced the Herculean task of restoring the devastated country and dealing with remaining combat animals—a logistical cleaning of the Augean Stables. About 9,500 horses suspected of infection were simply destroyed to forestall epidemics. But that still left 120,500 horses from all over the world. These remnants of empire were sold to local farmers in the year after the war. So the horses accustomed to the fields of England and Ireland, the steppes of central Europe, the pampas and plains of the Americas, found a new home and new herds on the platteland and Highveld of South Africa. The horses’ experiences of war have offered a foundation for exploring the human experience—particularly, the personal experience of combatants on both sides of the war. Both the strengths and vulnerabilities of horses were significant in the


References: Horses of the Anglo-Boer War, Professor Francois Johannes van der Merwe,;; Lest we Forget :New Zealand’s Horses at War, Marcus James Wilson, Doctrine and Reform in the British Cavalry 1880–1918, Stephen Badsley, Horses for War Purposes Major A H Lane, My Reminiscences of the Anglo-Boer War, General Ben Viljoen, Camp Life and Sport in S A, TJ Lucas, Painting The Map Red, Carmen Miller,,, The Wild Horses of Kleinmond, Dr F J van der Merwe