Joseph Petrus Hendrik Crowe, a hero of the Indian Mutiny and the first South African-born recipient of the Victoria Cross, is to be reinterred in the Heroes Acre Section of Jubilee Park Cemetery in Uitenhage, at 14h00 on August 24, 2019. His remains were initially repatriated from Europe in 1977 and reburied in ground, which was granted special status as a burial ground by the Cape Provincial Administration. This unique decision made this the only burial ground in the country to contain only one person. The MOTHS have now sold the property and Joseph’s remains have to be moved. Joseph, who was born in this area on January 12, 1826, was the fifth of seven children born to Joseph Crowe, a Lieutenant in the 60th Foot Regiment (later King’s Royal Rifle Corps) of Ireland, and Classina Magdalena (nee Vermaak). She was the daughter of a farmer at Vermaak’s Military Post in the Alexandria district not far from Uitenhage. Joseph was baptised in the local Dutch Reformed Church in February, 1826. He attended the local school where he and his brother, Thomas, who was 12 years older, were taught by James Rose Innes. After completing his schooling Joseph decided to follow his father and brother into the army and joined the 78th Highlanders. His regiment left for India in February, 1847. He found promotion in the army very slow and appealed unsuccessfully to his father for a loan to purchase promotion. This was a tradition of the day, but his father refused. In 1856 he was promoted to lieutenant and sent to serve in the Persian Campaign. He stormed Bushire and gained the Persian medal with clasps state family historians.


Joseph’s unit was sent to India in 1857, to support Major-General Henry Havelock’s historic advance on Cawnpore, a key episode in the Indian Mutiny, states Joseph’s grandson, Professor John Philips of the University of Natal, in the Military History Journal of June, 1972. “The engagements were bloody, and at times desperate.” Havelock, a skilled leader, steadily raised sieges of a number of towns. A particularly challenging situation faced them on the August 12, 1857, on the outskirts of Cawnpore. Men were firing almost non-stop from a redoubt and Havelock’s men were “falling like flies” either killed or wounded. They decided to storm the redoubt, but ammunition was running low and night was coming. Joseph ran out, outstripped all others and dashed into the redoubt. Within less than a minute it was captured. This gallant act, which was reported in the London Gazette of August 15, 1858, helped the British win the day and earned 31-year-old Joseph, the VC. Right behind him was Lieutenant Campbell, who died of cholera a few days later. Havelock’s column broke through to the Lucknow garrison on September 25. They suffered heavy losses. Joseph was wounded, but awarded the Lucknow Medal with two clasps.


By December 20, 1859, Joseph was a brevet major. He returned to South Africa in 1860 and, in 1862, was commander of the 10th Foot in Port Elizabeth, states Ronnie Crowe, one of the family researchers. Joseph was sent to Fort Beaufort and remained there until he left for India again on November 21, 1864. On October 23, 1875, he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel. He served in the Indies, China, Japan, Perak and Malaysia. He visited England before he was scheduled to return to South Africa in 1876, and while snipe shooting in the Irish bogs caught a chill. This developed into congestion of the lungs and caused a heart condition which proved fatal. He died on April 12, 1876, in Penge, Surrey, aged 50 and was buried in the West Norwood Cemetery. John Phillips visited his grave in 1957 and found it in an appalling overgrown state. He applied to have Joseph’s remains repatriated to South Africa. This took 20 years and during this time, sadly, his original grave stone was lost. A military service was held in St Katherine’s Anglican Church in Uitenhage and the Post Office issued a First Day Cover on February 5, 1977, to commemorate Joseph’s reinternment.


In 1970 a plaque, honouring Joseph was unveiled at 34 Cuyler Street, Uitenhage, where he spent his youth. After he died his eldest sister, Maria Margaret Lister, inherited his medals, but these were lost when her home was destroyed by fire. Another sister, Dorothy Susanna Lovemore, inherited his sword. It is still in the family.

Note: Joseph was the second South African recipient of the Victoria Cross. (He was one of 181 men to be awarded a VC during the Indian Mutiny – the same number were presented during WWI). SA’s first recipient of the VC Christopher Teesdale, who came to the country as a young child and grew up in Grahamstown. His VC was presented for bravery on September 29, 1855, during the Crimean War.


There has recently been a great deal of renewed interest in the iconic valley Gasmkaskloof, The Hell, in the heart of the Swartberg Mountains. Initially discovered in 1830 this valley could only be accessed on foot until a road was built in the early in 1960s. Before then men had to walk along the riverbed, if the water was low enough but, when it was not, they had to climb over the peaks to take produce, such as grain, vegetables, fruits, honey bush tea. tobacco, witblits (a powerful distilled liquor, which some say has a kick like a mule) and a beer made from wild honey, to market in the Klein Karoo and Prince Albert. They brought back much-needed items such as coffee, sugar, building supplies, stoves and furniture. This tiny community of 160 souls were promised a road in 1959 by Dr Otto du Plessis, then Administrator of the Cape. The route to the valley floor was planned by Louis Terblanche, an engineer. His sister, Aletta Hanekom, paid tribute to his efforts in a booklet entitled Diepadkloofin, published in 2014. He keenly explored the entire area before deciding on the best course to take. He considered the western side near The Ladder, however, after personally tackling that steep climb he knew it was not feasible. He eventually concluded that the only feasible route would be from Teekloof, at the top of Thomas Bain’s Swartberg Pass and submitted his plans for a winding gravel road passing between the east and west ridges of the Swartberg. Road inspectors Van Rensburg (from Prince Albert) and Titch Riley (from Oudtshoorn), accompanied by chief inspector Greeff met at the top of the pass, found the route acceptable and gave the go ahead. Koos van Zyl, a bulldozer operator from the Central Karoo Roads Department was given the job. It took him and his crew of eight labourers 2 ½ years to complete the 37km road. It was an enormous task, but at the end of the road he found the love of his life, married her and, after living for a short while in Gamkaskloof, moved off to raise a family. Koos became the hero of the valley and, while there is a memorial plaque along the route, many consider the entire road to be his memorial.


The pack donkey routes from Gamkaskloof, The Hell, to surrounding towns were long, tiresome and tedious. The Ladder was a popular climb up to the Laingsburg Road, states tourism writer Braham van Zyl, who has been visiting The Hell for over 25 years. He says a vehicle was parked at a shady spot above The Ladder. It was used to drive through Bosluiskloof to Prince Albert or, at times, through Seweweekspoort and the Huis River Pass to Calitzdorp. “Drivers loved the route along the Matjiesvlei River and on to Oom Broer Nel’s farm and from there on to Calitzdorp.” Oddly there was a car in the valley long before there was a road. It was carried across the mountains, so was a tractor. Both came in bits and pieces, together with the required tools, and were assembled in the valley. These tales – with other amusing, poignant and sad stories – will form part of a book currently being compiled by former resident Piet Joubert.


Soldiers have been taking sewing kits, known as a “housewife,” (as mentioned in the July Round-up) to war since 18th Century. These little pouches included everything needed for repairs to uniforms. They were mostly made by the soldier’s mother, wife, or sweetheart. Such kits included a thimble, two balls of darning wool (for socks), 50 yards of linen thread wound around a card, needles, brass buttons (for battledress) and plastic buttons for shirts. They were folded up and stowed within the man’s haversack. Many servicemen made their own kits and some were quite elaborate. Drummer Yeates of the 88th (Connaught Rangers) Regiment of Foot was awarded a prize for his at a military exhibition in 1867. New Zealand attributes the leather housewife which their soldiers brought to South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War to Quartermaster Sergeant Seymour Spencer an Auckland engineer, who arrived with the Fifth Contingent in 1900. This pouch had a white linen lining and a pocket on one side. There were strips of fabric for needles, safety pins, and darning needles. A small piece of cardboard, sewn into the lining, held pair of scissors, states the New Zealand government website.


A well-known South African judge, with close ties to the Karoo, was the nephew of the Karl Marx, the German-born social revolutionary who was hailed as the “father of communism”. He was the Hon Sir Henry Hubert Juta QC (also known as Hendricus Hubertus and Henry Hebert). He was born on August 12, 1857, to Dutch immigrant Johann Carel Juta and his wife, Louisa Leah, one of Karl Marx’s sisters. In 1853 his parents founded Juta and Company which today is still a leading publisher of academic and legal works. Henry was baptised in the Dutch Reformed Church in Cape Town. He attended the South African College and, after graduating, went to England to study law at the University of London. On qualifying, he returned to South Africa and, on January 26, 1880, was called to the Inner Temple. He set up what became a lucrative practice in Cape Town during that same year. Henry took silk in 1893 and rose to become a prominent South African judge. He served as Judge President of the Cape and as judge of the Appellate Division from 1910 to 1923. He was well known across the Karoo as he travelled widely with the circuit court. He describes events and adventures from this time in his life in Reminiscences of the Western Circuit. Published in 1912 it is filled with anecdotes and personal observations. It contains a variety of amusing court room dramas, tales of poor weather and of times when his cart was “smothered in dust”. It also tells of a time that he was so ill that he had to consult a Klaarstroom herbalist.


Henry Juta married Lady Helena Lena Theresa Johanna Tait in 1886. She was born in Richmond on April 17, 1862. (Her mother came from Somerset East and her father from Caledon.) They had five children. He served as the Member of the Local Administration (MLA) for Oudtshoorn from 1893 to 1898. In 1894 was appointed the attorney general in the second government of Prime Minister Cecil John Rhodes and from 1896 to 1898 he was speaker of the Cape House of Assembly. He was knighted in the 1897 Diamond Jubilee Honours. He was a versatile writer and, in addition to legal treatises, wrote a 160-page Sherlock Holmes-type mystery novel, Off the Track, in 1895, under the nom-deplume Jacques Aanropy. He also wrote several children’s’ books. Among these were Tales I told the Children, Jam Babies, The Water Baby and The Cloud Baby. He retired to the United Kingdom and died in Sussex on May 15, 1930, aged 73.


Isaak Johannes van der Merwe, who was born in Calvinia in 1857, was encouraged by his uncle, Wouter, to study medicine. After completing his schooling, he set off to Edinburgh and graduated MB CM in 1899. He returned to South Africa just after the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War and had a bad experience in Durban. British Authorities boarded the ship on which he was travelling to Lourenco Marques, sought him out and forced him to disembark without offering any explanation whatsoever. He was detained in a police cell overnight. The next day he asked to speak to someone in authority. An official arrived. Izaak explained that he was a doctor, a British subject, and on a neutral mission, but no one took any notice. He was not allowed to re-board the ship which sailed next day without him. Izaak then returned to Calvinia and set up a general practice. When the British occupied the town, he was in trouble again. The British deported him, but no one was sure why and his letters gave no explanation as to the reason, writes Prof J C (Kay) de Villiers in Healers, Helpers and Hospitals – A History Of Military Medicine In The Anglo-Boer War. After the war he again returned to Calvinia. He was highly respected and fondly referred to as “Die Ou Dokter” (The Old Doctor). He owned Hantam Huis and lived there for most of his life. Izaak did not marry. He died in 1939, at the age of 82.


Isaak’s uncle, Wouter van der Merwe, also had a frightening experience during the Anglo-Boer War. He was on duty with a Boer ambulance and, despite the fact that he was wearing Red Cross insignia, he was attacked by a group of British Lancers. His horse was shot out from under him and killed. Then, to his horror, the group of soldiers turned and attacked him. He was in serious danger until a British officer stepped in and rescued him. Wouter, who also hailed from Calvinia, studied medicine at the Universities of Aberdeen. Edinburgh and Dublin While in Scotland, the beautiful, but very young Jane MacKee stole his heart. She was only 16. Wouter did not let that stand in his way. He declared his love, proposed and married her before returning to South Africa in 1885. Once back in this country he went to the Zuid-Afrikaanse Republiek (ZAR) to set up a practiced there, but already the winds of war were blowing. Sadly, ill health forced him to retire to Calvinia where he remained until 1897. Then, when war broke out, he returned to the ZAR to assist the Boers. He at one time treated President Paul Kruger and later also attended President Marthinus Steyn of the Free State.


A new book recording historian, Midge Carter’s wanders through many battlefields is now available. Midge, who died on July 23, 2016, was well-known and widely liked by Boer and Zulu War enthusiasts. He travelled from Australia to visit South African war cemeteries for over 60 years recording stories, anecdotes and taking photographs and videos. Now, as a tribute to him, his partner Trish Woodman, has collated this material into an interesting book and website. Midge had a life-long passion for the history of wars, particularly the Anglo-Boer War. He collected many stories as he wandered through far flung, isolated, overgrown graveyards. I have assembled this website to ensure that this wealth of research material is not be lost. Anyone is free to use of the material, as long as they credit the website and Midge,” she said. The book covers Midge’s experiences, the people he met and areas he photographed. “He always had a camera with him, and so photographed places that are now difficult to access or have fallen into disrepair.” The book also has detailed descriptions of some lesser known battles such as West Australia Hill, Itala and Doornkraal/Bothaville (the action where the gun at the South African memorial in King’s Park, Perth, was won). There are also photos of gravestones, monuments and inscriptions. This book covers the more human side of war. To view it visit We Wander the Battlefields and click on View PDF. For more information contact Trish at


In times of war flickering lights are a cause for great concern. During the Anglo-Boer War, flashes of light dancing across the dark Karoo plains, in the Victoria West area, seriously bothered the British. They were convinced someone was sending Morse Code messages about their positions and troop movements to the Boers, who were well known for communicating in this way. One of their commandants, Gideon Scheepers was an acknowledged expert at heliograph communications, says historic researcher Marthinus van Bart. The Sixth Inniskilling Dragoons traced the flashes to the farm Kweekwa. Next day eleven men raced to this farm and promptly arrested the owner, Pieter Johannes Olivier. He was surprised – even a little hurt. Like his father Andries Philippus Olivier , Pieter was an honest, peaceful, law-abiding man, an industrious farmer, and totally neutral. Again, like his father, who in 1853 had purchased 29 000 morgen of land adjacent to the transport route from Victoria West to Carnarvon, Williston and Calvinia, Pieter cared for his fellow man. He frequently offered hospitality to travellers of this route. His father’s vast tract of land was eventually subdivided into the farms Trompsgraf, Adriaanskuil, Nuwefontein, Ysterkoppe, Witkranz and Kweekwa, where Pieter farmed with horses and sheep. Here he, his wife, Christine (Chrissie) and their children lived quietly and happily.


British columns frequently used the old transport route and often touched at Kweekwa in search of water, food and fodder. They were always received in an open-hearted and friendly manner. In fact, Crissie often baked bread – sometimes as many as 26 loaves a day – and sold these to British soldiers. They had seemed grateful for this, so Pieter could not understand why they were accusing him of spying and signalling messages. He did not even know how to do this. He was totally bewildered, but no one would listen, and he was locked up in gaol, without a trial or hearing whatsoever. Fortunately, he was not deported and after a few days was released on parole and confined to the village. He was even more furious when, during the Boer’s second invasion of the Cape Colony, British soldiers, the very men whom he had treated so well, rode out to his farm and commandeered all his horses and sheep, Leaving him with only four donkeys, but he knew better than to fuss about this. Only after the war did Pieter discover the reason for his arrest. Shortly before the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War he had imported a windmill from American to allow him to more efficiently get water to his 204 horses and his other livestock. The intermittent flickers which the British columns had seen were caused by moonlight glinting off of the blades as it gently turned in the night, states Elbie Immelmann in Vir Vryheid and Vir Reg. However, by the time the riddle of Pieter’s arrest was solved, the war was over and it was too late for an apology. To add insult to injury Pieter, like many other Cape farmers, received no compensation for the livestock commandeered by the British troops. This was a serious setback to his farming.

NOTE: The programme for the 120th Anglo-Boer War Conference is now available. Contact Vicky Heunis for details. Tel 051 447 3447 Register at

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If you can’t get rid of the family skeleton, you might as well make it dance – George Bernard Shaw