REMEMBERING THE FORGOTTEN FRONTIER

A new book, covering details of the Anglo-Boer War in the Karoo and Colesberg area, in particular, is now available. Entitled The Forgotten Front, Untold Stories of the Anglo-Boer War in the Karoo, it is written by Michael de Jongh, Professor Emreritus in the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology at UNISA, and widely known for his books on the “karretjie people” as well as Belinda Gordon, who formerly worked at Colesberg’s Kemper Museum. The book is based on research which Belinda started in 1990. It highlights the significance of the confrontations along the southern or central fronts, during the Anglo-Boer War. Until now these have been under-reported, so this book fills in the gaps. The Forgotten Front brings the action of the day into sharp focus and gives a voice to those who were voiceless during the turmoil. This new book puts a whole new and exciting twist on the action along this long and forgotten front.

EXCITING FACTS REVEALED 

The Forgotten Front is not a re-hash of known facts. It contains untold stories of local people, common soldiers and incidents. It covers animosity, ravages and casualties. “Among the untold tales is a report of General De La Rey’s victory over General Clements and 7 000 to 8 000 men across the entire 60km front line on February 15, 1900. This was the same day that Kimberley was relieved by General French, a fact curiously and carefully hidden by the British. This victory not only endangered Roberts’s supply line from Noupoort, but it was also the first good result that the British had since the start of the war. Johannes Meintjies claimed that it was due to this victory was that Roberts attacked Cronje as strongly as he did,” said Belinda. “Few people even know that De la Rey was in Colesberg. Some authors state that General French was there, but he never was. He did not get to Colesberg. His first defeat of the war was at Suffolk Hill on January 6, 1900, but the British played that down as well.” Well-illustrated and published by Watermark Press this book costs R250, plus postage.

CONSIDERING A MOVE?

Moving to the Platteland – Life in Small Town South Africa, is the latest in the range of books published by popular freelance authors and photojournalists, Julienne du Toit and Chris Marais. In it they discuss the “platteland pioneers”, people who have taken “the leap” and permanently swopped skyscrapers for fresh air, open skies and country living. Among them are animators, sculptors, musicians, hairdressers, cartoonists, movie set designers, geeks, hotel owners, chefs, stock market analysts, writers, editors, photographers, nurses, teachers, tattoo artists, wheeler-dealers and moonshiners. These interesting people are scattered across the hinterland. The Karoo worked its magic on Chris and Julie. They fell in love with the area and 11 years ago moved from Johannesburg to Cradock. Once settled they regularly meandered from one small town to another, photographing and capturing the stories of hundreds of people from all walks of life, who had also relocated. “These former “city slickers” had chosen country living for a myriad of reasons. It was a new way of life for most, yet they faced and overcame the challenges. They brought with them skills, ideas and business acumen which they shared to the benefit of the hinterland,” said Chris. The book is, not just a rosy tale of country life – it is a celebration of a lifestyle. Chris and July tell the full story. They cover the ups and downs, the successes and failures, the heartbreak and happiness. That’s what makes Moving to the Platteland an excellent read for anyone intending to swop the “rat race” for a simpler way of life. Experience makes up the substance of this 316-page book which is beautifully illustrated by 138 full page monochrome pictures. The book, which costs R260 by registered post and R280 by courier, is an “in-comer’s companion”. There are also two Ebook versions, which together cost R150. Full of advice and guidance, Moving to the Platteland answers the “how”, “where” and “why” questions.

FIRST WWI VC GOES TO A CRADOCK MAN

The London Gazette of September 9, 1916, carried the story of a brave son of the Karoo who had been awarded the Victoria Cross. William Frederick Faulds, fondly known as “Mannie” to friends and family, was the first South African soldier to receive this medal, the highest award for bravery. He was just 21 and a private in the 1st South African Infantry Brigade. His gallant actions, while fighting among “the bravest of the brave” at Delville Wood, in France on July 18, 1916, gained him the VC however, Mannie displayed supreme courage on several other occasions and, in total, was awarded 11 medals. Born in Cradock on February 19, 1895, Mannie was the second youngest of seven children born to Scottish carpenter, Alexander Faulds and his wife, Wilhelmina Ernestina (nee Neseman). She was a Cradock girl and they were married in the Wesleyan Chapel on February 2, 1881. After attending the local school Mannie worked at the Midland Motor Garage until war broke out. He then enlisted with the Cradock Commando on October 19, 1914. Later with his brother, Paisley and best friend, Arthur Schooling, 25, he joined the 1st South African Infantry on August 23.

AGAIN AMONG THE BRAVEST OF THE BRAVE

On July 18, 1916, a bombing party under Lieutenant Arthur W Craig attempted to rush across a 36 m stretch of ground which lay between the British and enemy trenches at Delville Wood, an area only 1 sq km in size. The Germans were shelling the wood at a rate of 500 rounds per minute. Tree roots had mitigated against deep trenches and ferocious hand to hand and bayonet combat were the only ways to survive. Rifle and machine gun fire was so heavy that most of the men were killed or wounded. Among the dead was Mannie’s dear friend Arthur. He was shot and killed in no-man’s land – a zone between the South African and German lines. Mannie had no time to mourn because Lieutenant Craig had also been injured in the same action. Unable to move, lay pinned down on open ground, midway between the two lines. In full daylight, Mannie, and two other men, Clifford Baker and Alexander Estment, climbed over the parapet, ran out, picked him up and carried him to safety. Clifford was badly wounded in the attempt and survived only 14 days before dying of his wounds on July 10. The VC was presented to Mannie by King George V on January 8, 1917. Despite being severely wounded in his face and eye on April 18, 1918, Alexander returned safely to South Africa. ,

ANOTHER COURAGEOUS ACT

Two days later Mannie again displayed great courage. He ran out alone to bring in a wounded man, and carry him almost half a mile to a dressing-station. At the time the artillery fire was again so intense that stretcher-bearers considered it impossible to bring in the wounded. A later act of courage enabled the battalion to withdraw with only slight losses. Mannie was wounded and captured by the Germans on March 24, 1918, at the Battle of Marrieres Wood. He was released, as a prisoner-of-war, after the Armistice on November 11, 1918. After the war Mannie accepted a job as a mechanic with De Beers. On March 22, 1921, he married Thelma Methuen Windell in Kimberley. They had two children – Selwyn Herbert (1924) and Veronica Joy (1928). Mannie went on to serve in WWII and saw action in Italian Somaliland and Abyssinia. After that war he moved to the then Rhodesia where he worked as a Government industrial inspector. He died in Salisbury on August 16, 1950 and was buried in an unmarked grave. A headstone was placed on it in 1972. His VC, which was at the National Museum of Military History in Johannesburg, was stolen in 1994. It was never recovered. The museum later built the W F Faulds VC MC Centre to honour his memory. It opened in 1995.

MORE HINTERLAND HEROES

In a talk to the S A Military Society in 2016 Ian Uys, an expert on Delville Wood, discussed some of the sons of the hinterland who were there. “Lieutenant Sidney Style from King William’s Town, (First Regiment), was shot through the throat. He wrote to his CO, stating ‘I am sorry sir. It wasn’t my fault. I’ll get back as soon as I can.’ He never fully recovered and died at King Williams Town ten years later, aged 34. Captain Billy Barlow, founder of the Barlow’s dynasty, was in the Second Regiment. The medical officer of the Third Regiment was Captain Steven Liebson, brother of the authoress Sarah Gertrude Millin. Lieutenant Sandy Young, of the Fourth Regiment, was a madcap Irishman, who won the VC in the Northern Cape during the Anglo-Boer War. Private Nash from Steytlerville was killed in bitter hand to hand fighting at Longueval. A shell landed in the soft earth in front of messenger Garnet Tanner, from East London. It blew him into the air and he landed head first in the shell hole. The soil collapsed around him. Comrades saw his “waving” legs and rescued him. Unperturbed, he went on to complete his mission. Private Loubser, a burly Afrikaner, was commended for carrying wounded men out in threes – one under each arm and a third on his back,” said Ian.

TOP AWARD FOR A ‘MADCAP’

During the Anglo-Boer War Alexander “Sandy” Young, a 28 year old “madcap” Irishman was awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery at Ruiters Kraal, in the Northern Cape, on August 31, 1901. At the time he was serving as a sergeant major with the Cape Mounted Police. During the skirmish Sandy led a small body of men against a hill being held by Commandant J L P Erasmus. As the Boers tried to escape Sandy closed in on them, succeeded in taking Erasmus prisoner despite the fact that Erasmus fired on him three times at point-blank range. Sandy, the son of William and Annie Young, of Ballinamana, in Galway, Ireland, was born on January 27, 1873. He was educated at the Model School in Galway. In his teens he showed great prowess as a rider and, at the age of 17 joined the Queen’s Bays. There his skills so impressed his superiors that he was sent to India as a riding instructor. He was promoted to sergeant major and, with the Dragoon Guards, served in India, Egypt and the Sudan. Hailed as the best horseman in the British Army, his rough riding abilities were unequalled.

SAW ACTION IN TWO WARS

After being injured by a horse in 1899 Sandy retired from the British Army and came to the Cape in August, that year. He joined the Cape Mounted Police and again his skills were recognised and he was chosen as a mounted bodyguard to accompany Lord Milner on an official visit to the Transkei. When the Anglo-Boer War broke out Sandy was stationed at King William’s Town. He immediately joined the British forces and saw extensive active service. After the war he remained with the Cape Mounted Police until 1906, when he joined the German forces in German South-West Africa and saw service during the Herero uprising. For this he was decorated by Kaiser Wilhelm II. He saw action again during the Bambatha Rebellion and after this he turned to farming. At the outbreak of WWI, he rejoined his old regiment and was promoted to lieutenant and again saw action in several places, including Egypt and Delville Wood. He was killed in action during the Battle of the Somme on October 19, 1916.

THE PAUSE TO REMEMBER

The three-minute silence, which originated in Cape Town, (Round up August 2018) lasted for only one day. “It was suggested by Cape Town mayor, Sir Harry Hands on May 14, 1918, after he received news of the death of his son, Reginald,” says historic researcher, Joan Abrahams. “It was initiated by the daily firing of the noon day gun on Signal Hill, but the period of silence was, however, found to be too long and a two-minute pause was introduced the following day. Joan, who has written widely on this subject, said other times were tried, but were not found to be effective. “The Last Post sounded as the noon day gun was fired and then, after two minutes, the Reveille signaled the end of the silence. Newspapers described how all vehicles stopped, pedestrians came to a halt, men bared their heads, and offices workers stopped what they were doing. Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, wrote to Lord Milner in November 1919, describing the profound effect of the silence. He proposed that it become an official part of the Armistice Day Service in London and across the Empire. Milner showed the letter to King George V and he immediately approved the suggestion.”

DREAM UP A GOOD NAME AND WIN

Clanwilliam is planning a Rooibos Festival for 2019. It is scheduled for March 30, next year and the local tourism office is looking for a catchy name. They have organised a competition to help them find one If you can dream one up you could win a giant hamper of rooibos products and free admission to this festival with three friends. A wide range of stalls will sell rooibos and other products, such as candles, creams and beauty items. There will be a baking demo by Corli Botha, “the Face of Rooibos”. As well as workshops on how to use the tea in tasty dishes and healthy drinks.

PRAISING THE LORD, IMPROVING THE SOUND

The 20 biblical scenes in the Dutch Reformed Church hall in Aberdeen were created mainly by a group of senior citizens. The 4,5 m wide x 1,8m high panels, designed by Johanna Konig, were made by five ladies and several helpers. They portray God’s Covenant with mankind and were created by pasting textiles and lamb’s wool, onto a background of hessian using a coarse salt, flour and water glue. More than 250 meters of hessian were used. Spaces between the panels were covered with pleated hessian, and hessian roman blinds were made for the windows. The aim of this project, which took four months to complete, was to improve the acoustics in the hall. The artworks were inaugurated after the midnight service on December 31, 1999.

CELEBRATE THE WRITTEN WORD AT A SOIRÉE

The 2018 Etienne van Heerden Veld Soirée takes place in Cradock from September 22 to 24. This festival, a celebration of the Karoo and the written word, is an occasion not to be missed says organiser Darryl David. Anyone who would like to participate should contact him. He added that buses would be running to Cradock from Cape Town, Pretoria, Johannesburg and Bloemfontein to ensure no one misses out. Etienne is a true son of the Karoo. He grew up on farms in the Cradock and Graaff-Reinet districts and he sees the Karoo as his “landscape of the mind”. Darryl emphasises that a variety of work will be celebrated during the Soirée. Good writing, stories and music are on the programme. The festival takes place in the historic Victoria Manor Hotel and Die Tuishuise in Cradock, and at Buffelshoek Dirosie Lodge, 15 km south of the village.

…AND BOOK FESTIVAL

The Richmond Boekbedonnerd Book Festival takes place this year from October 24 to 27. A superb programme of speakers, books, walks, talks, music, films and other entertainment, is on the cards. Several new books will be introduced, and many authors will be on hand to discuss them A highlight of the festival will be the Annual Independent Publishers Awards Programme and Banquet, a gala event not to be missed.

COME AND ENJOY THE FLOWERS

There’s a great deal going on it the Clanwilliam area now that spring is on its way. This area is world famous for the wildflowers that carpet the veld and entice tourists and sightseers to the region. A highlight is the Clanwilliam Wild Flower Festival from August 24 to September 2. Since its inception in 1972, this festival has showcased the unique flora of the Clanwilliam district and Ramskop Nature Reserve. It is designed to raise public awareness of indigenous plants and conservation.

WARM UP AT A WINTER FESTIVAL

There’s still more to do in the Karoo as winter changes to spring. Visit the Williston Winter festival from August 30 to September l. At this event visitors will be able to enjoy seeing more than 100 “rieldancers” in action. There will be several other events to showcase local talents, music and bands. And, of course there will be stands at which visitors can sample a wide variety of tasty Karoo dishes. This festival captures the heart of the Karoo and those who love the area should not miss it. The town, which is on the banks of the Sak River and near the Slangberg Mountains, started as a Rhenish Mission station in 1845. First named Amandelboom (after the wild almond tree under which the first missionaries pitched their tents), it was renamed in 1919 in honour of the Colonial Secretary of the Cape, Colonel Hampden Willis.

FESTIVAL WITH A DIFFERENCE

The small Eastern Cape town of Loerie holds a Naartjie Festival in late September each year. This tiny town nestles in a fertile valley in the Baviaanskloof and is sustained mainly by farming. The festival focuses on naartjies, oranges and other locally grown produce. Stalls serve tasty local treats such as pancakes, boerewors, burgers, biltong and home-made preserves. In addition to music by local artists, there will be fun activities such as a naartjie eating contest with cash prizes, and a festival queen competition staged by Style Models.

AND FOR THE ENERGETIC

The 40km single day Baviaanskloof Trail Run is scheduled for September 8. It takes runners along a challenging, breathtaking, but inhospitable route through a rugged wilderness inhabited by Black Rhino and Cape Buffalo.

DISCOVER THE WITTEBERG

Staying over at Matjiesfontein, the little historic village of the Great Karoo is always a treat. It is a step back in time with all modern conveniences and enjoyments. It has a pool and tennis courts and recently it has introduced a mountain bike ride along the Witteberg. This offers some breathtaking, awe-inspiring views.


You have a talent. Use it in every way possible. Don’t hoard it. Don’t dole it out like a miser. Spend it lavishly like a millionaire intent on going broke. – Brendan Francis (pen name of Edward F. Murphy a New York schoolteacher)