NEW BOOK TELLS OF MORE THAN WAR
A new book which investigates the link between Croatia and South Africa towards the end of the 1800s has just been published. It is the result of four years of in-depth research by Zvonimir Navala, who was born in Croatia in 1946, completed his schooling and university studies there and came to South Africa with his family in the 1990s to complete his research. The book, Croats in the Anglo-Boer War, South Africa 1899 – 1902, covers much more than the war. It discusses the interconnections between the two countries and it the less well known, but fascinating history of Croatian emigration to South Africa in the second half of the 19th century. Interwoven into the mix is a discussion of the different worlds from which the men, who mostly fought side by side, came, Their involvement in the diamond and gold mines, as well as their activities as farmers and businessmen is detailed. “One could not imagine a link between these two totally different worlds,” said Professor Fransjohan Pretorius, Professor Emeritus, University of Pretoria, in a review of the book. “The excellent text and understanding makes this book a fascinating must read,” he added. The first wave of Croatian emigration started in 1880 and lasted until the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War in 1899. “Out of the 1 000 strong colony of Croatians in this country dozens of men took part in the war, the vast majority on the Boer side,” said Zvonimir, “More than 130 were deported or left South Africa on their own accord.” The book costs R390 and can be ordered from https://geniusacademicpress.com/products/croats-in-the-anglo-boer-war
‘MOUNTIES’ OF THE KAROO
The mounted policemen of the old Karoo looked a rather fearsome in their stiff khaki uniforms and tall pith helmets. These men served at stations in Langfontein, Kendrew, New Bethesda, Petersburg and Ferndale, in the Graaff-Reinet area and despite their daunting appearance, children loved to watch them trotting by on lustrous steeds with highly polished saddles and harnesses. Their brass uniform buttons and insignia gleamed in the sunshine. These units were usually led by a sergeant with a corporal or constable as second in command. As the force worked in the towns and extremely remote, isolated districts a strong bond developed between them and the people they served. Most farms kept a stall ready for a police horse. “Arrested felons were handcuffed and marched to the nearest town jail on foot,” states Marj Noel in Graaff Reinet Heritage Society’s Stoep Stories. In time, the service was motorised. It was disbanded in the 1950s. One farmer, Frank Sharpe, who eked out a hard living on the far-flung farm Kaaimansgat, recorded in his diary that in one year he had only two visitors and one was a policeman on his rounds. Local historian, Andrew McNaughton, mentioned Constable Williams, a most patient, well-built, extremely strong and efficient man, the epitome of “the strong arm of the law”, who was not above eavesdropping to get the evidence he needed. When tourism took off some old Karoo police stations were converted into guest cottages, but the window bars were kept for effect.
ALL ABOUT BOOKS
The ever positive and never-ending energy of Darryl Earl David and Peter Baker has once again saved the day. Despite the withdrawal of official funding the Richmond Bookbedonnerd Book Festival is going ahead. from Thursday October 29 to Saturday, the 31st. As ever the line-up of speakers is impressive. Hot on its heels will be the Madibaland World Literary Festival 2020 from November 20 – 30. This festival, presented by Book Town Richmond, in partnership with the University of the Western Cape, is set to be the largest online book festival in the world and the greatest book festival in the history of South Africa. Already there are 150 names on the list of authors. The titles which they are set to discuss is most diverse and extremely interesting. This event promises to be a winner. For more contact Darryl Earl David on email@example.com or on Whatsapp 066 455 8822 – website www.richmondnc.co.za.
THE WAR COMES TO TOWN
On November 20, 1899, when Major-General John French arrived in Noupoort to prepare for the advance of the Boer forces on Colesberg a significant hospital, the No 26 General Hospital, to care for the British sick and wounded, had been established When the nurses for this unit arrived at the Cape there was no transport to take them inland, so they did not disembark, but sailed on to Port Elizabeth. There they found no suitable accommodation, so on May 17, 1900, went directly to Noupoort. Conditions there were so bad that within three weeks of their arrival. Sister Mary Boyd, the sister of physician Dr Francis D Boyd, was struck down by dysentery. Nothing could be done for her and within four months she was dead. Then, one of the medical orderlies, William Dick, died of typhoid. Interestingly Boer Commandant Gideon Scheepers was nursed back to health at this hospital before being sent to Graaff Reinet for trial and execution. A small number of Boer Prisoners of War were kept captive in a stockade in Noupoort and a cast iron pavilion, imported from India, became the officer’s mess.
DESPATCHED TO GUARD THE RAIL
The Coldstream Guards served in several Karoo towns during the Anglo Boer War. In Beaufort West and De Aar people enjoyed the military band’s performances and parades organised by Lieutenant Colonel Spence. Two Coldstream Guard companies occupied Richmond, another was at Britstown and about 70 men of the 2nd Coldstreams, along with some local troops, formed the garrison at Aberdeen. The 2nd Battalion was at Graaff-Reinet and during the guerrilla phase the 1st Battalion was stationed at Noupoort. This unit saw action at Modder River and Magersfontein before moving to the Karoo. The men trekked about in mobile columns, did garrison work and built blockhouses during 1901 and for the first six months of 1902 to protect the rail from Noupoort to Rosmead in one direction and to De Aar in the other. A most unusual blockhouse, perhaps the most idiosyncratic in the country, was built in Noupoort. It resembles a Dutch windmill. Its base is 8m in diameter .This tapers to 7m at the top and the entrance is 7m above ground. It has five vertical steel loopholes and 15 horizontal ones at the top. Unusually, the loophole plates are mounted on the outside and not in the middle of the wall as is customary. Apertures are much larger than usual. St Agnes Anglican Church was designed by a railway engineer to commemorate fallen British soldiers and built in 1901 by troops stationed in the town. Many of them were stonemasons by profession. These men were repatriated before they could complete the church.
RENAMED THE TRAIN
On June 22, 1901, No 16 Armoured Train was assigned to the Coldstream Guards at Noupoort. Lieutenant R L Dawson was its commander until September 11, 1901, when command was taken over by Lieutenant C J C Grant. He named the train Coldstreamer and had the unit’s insignia painted on the armoured trucks. The Coldstreamer patrolled the line until December 1901. The crew consisted of Second Lieutenant Lefroy, from the Royal Engineers, plus 32 NCO’s and men, four gunners, three Royal Engineers signallers, one searchlight expert and two cyclists. The drivers, stokers and guards were civilians and Cape Government Railway employees. Armament included a 3 pounder gun, plus two machine guns. The train carried a special truck with rails and paraphernalia to repair the line when necessary. This train was sent out to rescue the wounded Commandant Kritzinger and Gert Bolding, a Dutchman, who was fighting on the side of the Boers.
STEAMED TO THE RESCUE
When Kritzinger was lying badly wounded in the veld near Noupoort, one of his adjutants raced to the blockhouse to ask for help. On that night the English officer in charge of Hanover station said: “One hardly knows who admire most, the resource of the Boers or the tenacity of the British Columns.” The dramatic tale of his rescue is told in the diary of Major Godfrey Dalrymple-White, of the Grenadier Guards: “The armoured train had just got in when we got the news that a young Boer had come in to number 40 blockhouse, under a flag of truce, saying his commandant and another wounded Boer were lying in the veld near a windmill. We went to look for them, but after searching in the dark for an hour we found neither. The Coldstreamer’s search light was then turned on. It played across the veld as we stumbled over Karoo bushes. About two miles away we found Kritzinger and got him on a stretcher. His ADCs Landman and Hugo wanted him urgently brought in. No one seemed to know the whereabouts of the other man but, much as we admired the fidelity of the ADCs, we could not leave a wounded man out all night. At last we heard a feeble voice and steering for it, found him.”
A TRULY GREAT MAN
Dalrymple-White led Kritzinger horse as the others carried him back across the veld. “It was a hard job as he is a very heavy man. We put him into Berring’s bed in the train where he was bandaged up. He showed great pluck and never even groaned. The bullet had gone through his left arm, through both lungs but missed the right arm. After we gave him an opium pill he went to sleep just like a child. The doctor said he had never seen such wonderful breathing with a lung wound. Kritzinger is a very fine looking man, about 6 feet tall, with a delicate complexion, dark hair, a small beard, very strong face and a good expression.” The British received a message from Commandant Louis Wessels, who had taken over from Kritzinger asking them “to be very kind to the commandant saying he is well worthy of it”. Bolding, who was shot through the stomach, had a bullet lodged was just under the groin. He died next day. Dalrymple-White, told Kritzinger he was pleased to meet him as he had been tracking him for five months. Kritzinger said: “I too am glad to see you” Kritzinger gave a beautiful karos of wild cat skins to the train’s medical orderly and a new down quilt. “He had £24 in gold coins and Dalrymple-White gave him some English coins for a few gold ones and kept his purse, after buying him a new one.” Kritzinger was later tried by a British military court for war crimes, but was acquitted.
LEFT THEIR MARK
Major Herbert Shute arrived in Graaff Reinet at midnight on January 1, 1900, by armoured train with 600 members of the 2nd Battalion of Coldstream Guards. They stayed until 1902 and during this time their officers enjoyed socialising at the club. (the second oldest social club in South Africa). This beautiful building, constructed in 1876, offered excellent food and drinks, so whenever the men reached town it was for the club that they headed. At the end of the war, the Coldstreamers, as was their way, made for the club to celebrate. There they partied so hard that the bar counter and floor eventually became riddled with bullet-holes as the man after man emptied his weapon. The battalion later presented a mantel clock to the club.
FULL OF HOPE FOR A NEW LIFE
Philip Mayer Borkum and his wife, Ella (née Heydenreich) came to South Africa from Riga on the Baltic Sea, at the mouth of the River Daugava, in 1902 because she thought life here would be good. Her dreams ended in tragedy. Ella, the eldest daughter and child among Celina (née Arensberg) and Samuel Raphael Heydenreich’s eight children, was born in Courland in Russia in 1866. A charming child with a vibrant personality, she grew to become a forceful woman with great charm and a good sense of humour. She had a huge influence on all her relatives. She and Philip met and were married in Riga, the capital city of Latvia and there the first three of their five children were born. (In time they had five sons and two daughters, but sadly two sons died infancy).
Riga was a major cultural centre known for its wooden buildings, architecture, medieval Old Town, restaurants, concerts and theatres. It was thus hardly a wonder that Philip was reluctant to leave. He knew South Africa would not offer such culture. Also, his family were prosperous, widely known. respected hat makers and merchants. Ella, did not share Philip’s view of this faraway land. Her head was filled with hopes and dreams. Her parents had emigrated from Mitau to South Africa in 1898, despite the fact that they were quite prosperous and had just inherited a brewery and potato factory. Their aim was to join their son Hermann Herbert Heydenreich, a general dealer in Kimberley. He had left Europe when the “Russianification” of Kurland began and when young men were being conscripted into the Tsar’s Army. In Kimberley he made a good life for himself, his wife Joanna (née Fischer) and their family. Eventually most of the Heydenreichs settled there.
MURDERED BY HIS HELPERS
Philip, the son of Myer Liebel and his wife, Anna Borkum, was born in January 1861. He was a short thickset, muscular man with a black beard and “a heart of gold”. He loved Ella dearly and could deny her nothing, so they left to set up home at No 7 Fergusson Lane, Kimberley, on August 7, 1902. Their next two children were born there. From the moment he arrived Philip set out to build a good life for his family. He intended eventually to set up a boarding house in the Diamond City, which in those days was a bustling place. But that was not to be. On what he promised Ella would be his last trip away from home he was brutally murdered on January 27, 1906, near the farm Ganskuil, outside Britstown. At the time he was only 45 years old. The people of Britstown were horrified and made arrangements to bury him in their little local cemetery. There was no Jewish graveyard, so he was buried in the Christian sector. After this tragedy Ella took her five children and went to live in England with her cousins, Alexander and Jane Bernstein. In time she returned to South Africa and married Abraham Glatt. They lived for some years at Vrede in the Free State, then moved to Johannesburg.
TRIP TO THE TOP OF THE WORLD
It was a stark telegram. It read “Olive Died Peacefully Tenth”. It was sent on December 10, 1920 by Frances, the wife of Olive’s brother, W P Schreiner to Sam Cronwright-Schreiner, who at the time was in London. He in equally curt fashion noted on the telegram, “I first got the news in the papers at breakfast”. Historian and author, Dean Allen brought Olive Schreiner’s burial on Buffelskop to life recently on a visit to the town. “It had always been Olive’s wish to be buried on Buffelskop, because from there were magnificent panoramic views of Cradock and the Karoo, stretched out as far as the eye could see,” said Dean. “Cronwright-Schreiner wrote of a day when he and Olive climbed Buffelskop, and she said to him, ‘We must be buried here, you and I, Cron. I shall buy one morgen of this top and we must be buried up here.’ She stipulated this in her will, adding: ‘Any close personal friend of mine, whether a member of my family or not, who wishes it, may also be buried in that ground, provided they have secured my written consent’. Cronwright-Schreiner left £200 “to be safely invested, the interest accruing therefrom to be expended in the upkeep of the sarcophagus and, as far as necessary, the fence around it and the plot of land on the summit of Buffelskop,’” said Dean. After initially being buried in Maitland, Olive was reinterred there with the bodies of her little daughter and her dog Nita, “the most faithful friend a human being ever had.”
CHURCH CELEBRATES THE SETTLERS
In 1844 the silver jubilee of the arrival of the 1820 settlers was commemorated by building a church in Grahamstown. The foundation stone was laid on April 10, 1845 by Ann, “the Lady of the Rev William Shaw”. A lead casket containing a complete set of coins and specimens of the English, Dutch, Xhosa and Sichuana languages used by the Wesleyan Missionaries, was placed beneath the stone. Five years passed before Rev Shaw, could perform the inauguration ceremony on November 24, 1850. The church, which could accommodate 1400 people, was packed to capacity. The building was designed by Thornley Smith from drawings done by Sergeant Hopkins, of the Royal Engineers. William Martinson was responsible for the construction of the Neo-Gothic arch for the organ, the placing of the stained glass windows and the memorial tablet. He efforts were highly praised in his obituary in the Grahamstown Journal of April 12, 1898. By the time of the opening £5000 of £9000 pounds owed for construction had not been paid. The Colonial Treasury helped with £1000. T King took over the contract from T Walker and cost of imported iron railings and gas lamps. Pew rents were raised to 3d per sitting to help defray costs. Rev Shaw said it was “probably the most commodious and handsome of any building of its kind occupied by any English congregation in Southern Africa.”
COULD NOT BE ORDAINED IN BRITAIN
William Shaw. born in Glasgow on December 8, 1798, was the eleventh child of a sergeant in the North York Militia. In time he joined the army and, in 1812 converted to Methodism. This was said to have hampered his military career. He was discharged, returned to England, became a local preacher, set up a day school and married Ann Maw on December 30, 1817. His marriage prohibited him from being ordained in Britain, but not in the colonies, so he came to South Africa as a chaplain with Hezekiah Sephton’s party. William, 21, his beloved Ann, 31, and their 4 ½ month old daughter, Margaret Anne, sailed for South Africa on the Aurora on February 6, 1820. Their departure was delayed because the Thames was frozen and the ship could not get underway. (Their 17-month old son, William Maw, was left with his grandmother, who otherwise would not agree to Ann leaving.) Ten weeks later, on May 15, they arrived at Algoa Bay and from there in three groups, travelled over 160 km to Assegai Valley and founded the settlement of Salem, which means peace. Two more children Mary Impey and Mathew Benjamin were born to the Shaws there.
FATHER OF METHODISM IN S A
William, who became known as the father of Methodism in South Africa, preached to colonists of many denominations across about 2 500 km of the Eastern Cape. He set up a chain of missions to serve the indigenous people. In 1820 he had 63 church members, no colleagues, no chapels and only a reserve of £10. A mud block and thatch chapel was consecrated in 1824. By 1832 a stone building, which often served as a refuge for women and children during the Frontier Wars, replaced it. By 1860 there were 3 sub-districts comprising 51 circuits with 74 chapels and 183 preaching stations containing 36 missionaries, 96 assistants and a membership approaching 5,000 with an annual income of £3,500. William always hoped to return to South Africa, but never managed to do so. He died in England on December 4, 1872 at the age of 73.
Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – Mark Twain