General C R De Wet
During the night of 24th December 1901 and the following morning, Christmas day, General De Wet and his ‘Burghers’ were getting ready for another battle. I was in a mood to play around with words and hope you enjoy this piece of writing. Feel free to leave comments!
Groenkop – Battle of Tweefontein
You were our tormentors into the night
barns and farms burnt during the day
rage and rave, wrath and anger
against the dying morning light
De Wet and his guerilla force were right;
based near the settlements of hay
Boers were tough, wise and out of sight
their enemy: they did not affright
Your Major General deployed the ‘Imperial Light’
lines of blockhouses – day to day
from infantry to regiment uptight
against the dying morning light
Boer leaders determined to scale the west side
15 pounder guns and a pom-pom at bay
rage and rave, wrath and anger
their enemy: they did not affright
De Wet scanned carefully, day by day
On Christmas day, his commando clambered the site
boots removed, ‘Stormt Burghers’ they were in fight
against the dying morning light
You, the enemy, were slaughtered, a carnage on this day
desperate men by night, alright?
Boers were tough, wise and out of sight
their enemy: they did not affright
- Nikita – 21/12/2014
From De Wet’s book: – see link at the bottom
Let me describe Groenkop. On its western side was a precipice, on the north and south a steep descent, and on the east a gentle slope which ran down to the plain.
From which side should the attack take place?
Some of the officers were of the opinion that this should take place on the east, where it was the least steep, but I differed from them, for through our field-glasses we could see that the walls of the fort were so built that it was quite clear the enemy had thought that, should they be attacked, it would be from the east. The forts were built in a semicircle towards that side, and although this would be of little importance once the fight had begun (because the defenders had only to jump over the wall to find themselves still entrenched), still it was to the advantage of the attacking party to come from a side where they would not be expected.
These reasons brought me to the conclusion that[Pg 279] the English would not be on the look-out for us from the west, and I therefore decided to make the attack from this side, the steep side of the mountain. But I did not then know how steep it really was.
On the western point there were four forts close to each other. Each was sufficient to give shelter to about twenty five men. To the south there were four forts, and to the east three.
The top of the mountain was not more than three to four hundred paces in diameter. To the east in a hollow the convoy was placed, and from every schanze we could rake it with our fire.
I remained on the spot from which I was reconnoitring, and sent word to the commando, in the afternoon of the 24th of December, to come to a certain place at Tijgerkloof, which they could do without being observed. I ordered them to remain there until nightfall, and then to advance within four miles of Groenkop, to the north, where I would meet them.
This was done. I found the commando at the appointed place, and also General Brand and Commandant Karel Coetzee, who had come on a visit that day to my commando. They also took part in the attack. My men consisted of burghers from General Michal Prinsloo, Commandants Hermanus Botha, Van Coller, Olivier, Rautenbach, Koen, Jan Jacobsz and Mears, in all six hundred men. Of these I left one hundred in charge of the Maxim-Nordenfeldt and the pack-horses.
We had not a single waggon with us; every man put what he had with him on his pack-horse, for long we had made it a rule not to be hampered with waggons. Yet whenever we picked up reports of engagements in the camping places of the English we repeatedly saw that they had taken a Boer camp—and their greatest delight was to say that it was one of De Wet’s convoys.
They could not have been convoys of mine, because for the last fifteen months I had had no waggon-camp[Pg 280] with me. If a waggon-camp was taken, it could only have been one consisting of women, who were flying in order to escape capture by the English, and to avoid being sent to the concentration camps. Everywhere in the State the women were taking to flight, and their terror was increased tenfold when the news came that many a woman and child had found an untimely grave in these camps.
The troops which had not remained with the pack-horses now advanced towards the mountain. Each commando was ordered to ride by itself, and to leave in single file. My orders were that they were to march quietly to the western foot of the mountain; here the horses were to be left behind, and the climb made on foot, the burghers keeping the same order as that in which they had been riding. Should the English, however, discover us before we reached the mountain, we must then storm it altogether, and leave the horses wherever we had dismounted.
We succeeded in coming to the mountain unobserved, and at once began the climb. It was exactly two o’clock in the morning of December 25th, 1901.
When we had gone up about half-way we heard the challenge of a sentry:—
“Halt; who goes there?”
Then followed a few shots.
My command rang out through the night—
The word was taken up by the burghers themselves, and on all sides one heard “Storm! Storm!”
It was a never-to-be-forgotten moment. Amidst the bullets, which we could hear whistling above and around us, the burghers advanced to the top, calling out, “Storm! Storm!”
The mountain, however, was so steep that it can scarcely be said that we stormed it; it was much more of a climb. Often our feet slipped from under us, and we fell to the ground; but in an instant we[Pg 281] were up again and climbed on, and on, to gain the summit.
I think that after the sentry heard us, three or four minutes must have elapsed before the troops, who were lying asleep in their tents or on the veldt, were awakened and could come out, because their camp was about a hundred paces distant from our point of attack.
Directly we reached the top the deafening roar of a heavy fight began, and lasted from fifteen to twenty minutes. Shortly before this the Armstrong gun and the Maxim-Nordenfeldt had each fired two shots, but they fired no more; as we reached the top the gunners were shot down at their guns.
After a short but desperate struggle the English gave way, or surrendered, and we took possession of the Armstrong and Maxim-Nordenfeldt.
We continued to fire on the troops, who had retreated to a short distance. Again they gave way, and took up another position a little further on, and so it went on for about two thousand paces, and then the English took to flight.
As we had no horses with us and it was dark, we did not pursue the fleeing enemy, but returned to the camp. The whole engagement lasted, so far as I could judge, for about an hour. I cannot say for certain, because I made no note of the time.
It was a party of Yeomanry with whom we had been dealing, and I must say they behaved very gallantly under exceptionally trying circumstances; for it is always to be expected that when men are attacked during the night a certain amount of confusion must ensue.
It was heartrending to hear the moaning of the wounded in the dark. The burghers helped the doctors to bring the wounded into the tents, where they could be attended to; I gave the doctors as much water as they liked to take for the wounded.
It was greatly to be deplored that the ambulance[Pg 282] had been placed in the centre of the camp, for this was the cause of Dr. Reid being fatally wounded.
When the day began to dawn we brought the waggons and guns down the mountain. I sent them in the direction of Langberg, to the west of Groenkop.
The enemy lost about one hundred and sixteen dead and wounded, and two hundred and forty prisoners of war.
Our loss was also heavy—fourteen dead and thirty wounded; among the dead were Commandant Olivier from Bethlehem and Vice-Veldtcornet Jan Dalebout from Harrismith; among the wounded was one of my own staff, Gert de Wet. Later on two more died, one of them being Veldtcornet Louwrens. I appointed Mr. A.J. Bester as Commandant in the place of Commandant Olivier.
Besides one Armstrong and one Maxim-Nordenfeldt, our booty consisted of twenty waggons, mostly ox-waggons, a great quantity of rifle and gun ammunition, guns, tents, five hundred horses and mules, and one waggon laden with spirits, so that the burghers, who were not averse to this, could now satisfy their thirst.
The sun had hardly risen when the enemy opened fire from a mountain two miles to the north-east of Groenkop, where there was a little camp with one gun. If I still had had the same numbers as were with me at the storming of Groenkop, then I could also have taken this little camp. But it was not to be thought of, for some of my men had been sent away with the waggons, and the others—well, every one had a horse that he had taken from the English, and as these horses were in the pink of condition for rapid retreat, I thought it wiser not to call upon the burghers to attack. I ordered them, therefore, to go back after the waggons, and in the evening we camped to the north of Bethlehem. From here, on the following day, I sent the prisoners of war through Naauwpoort into Basutoland.
On the same day I gave orders to General Michal Prinsloo to take the commando and to strike a course between Reitz and Heilbron. I myself paid a visit to President Steyn and General Wessel Wessels, after which I put matters straight in our hospital at Bezuidenhoutsdrift, which was under the charge of Dr. H.J. Poutsma.
Please click HERE to read General C R De Wet’s book published by Project Gutenberg.
Posted in Battle of Groenkop, Battle of Tweefontein, Boer War, Boer War Battles, General De Wet, Slag van Groenkop, Slag van Tweefontein | Tagged Battle of Groenkop, Battle of Tweefontein, Boer War, Boere-oorlog, General De Wet, Slag van Groenkop, Slag van Tweefontein | 5 Comments »
I have been reading Annie’s blog for the past 7 years, so Annie is not ‘new’ to me. I’ve got to know her as a very kind, friendly person who has compassion for anyone around her. Read her blog entries about the many projects she’s been taking part in as a ‘foreigner’ in South Africa and many South Africans will feel ashamed to know what she’s been doing to do her bit in comparison to what they’ve been doing. I have gained great respect for Annie over the past few years since I’ve started reading her blog. She’s an amazing woman. Please take time to read her letter. I have an American friend, also a big chess friend. Dan if you read here… you will remember the many conversations we had about South Africa, its people, the past, the present, the history and many many more.
A letter from an American living in South Africa the past 7 years.
Link of article HERE on the blog site of Henri Le Riche and here on Henri’s main site where you can watch videos of Jim Reeves singing in Afrikaans.
“I confess that when I first moved to South Africa, I thought Afrikaners were the “bad guys”. Because I was never required to study African history in school, I knew only what the American media had taught me, which was that Afrikaners were responsible for Apartheid and therefore the bad guys. Six months after moving here, I realised how incorrect my initial assumptions were. Everyone in South Africa is both a “bad guy” and a “good guy”, and so it is with the rest of the world (for such is human nature).
The following two years were spent reading every book I could get my hands on regarding South Africa. If one wants to understand a culture, I reasoned, then one must study their art, music, literature, cuisine, and history. And so I did just that – not only for the Afrikaans culture, but for other South African cultures as well.
At the end of those two years, I felt a keen remorse for having been so arrogant in the beginning. I now knew enough to understand that I knew very little, if anything. I enrolled in university (again) to study pastoral counselling, with the intent of learning how to listen and ask better questions. After I finished my studies, I enrolled in another three-year programme to study spiritual accompaniment, which teaches one how to journey with people on a spiritual level as they wrestle with issues of faith. I have two years left of this course, which brings me to the present moment.
Having lived in South Africa for seven years now, my desire is to walk humbly and respectfully with the people here, to forever be a student of the land, languages and cultures, and to serve where I can to help build this nation. This nation, however, will never reach its potential so long as any one people group is being marginalised or oppressed. The point of this letter is to share with you what I have observed among the Afrikaners, as well as my hopes and dreams for them.
A famous American that loved Afrikaner/Boer culture was non other than Jim Reeves. During the early 1960s, Reeves was more popular in South Africa than Elvis Presley and recorded several albums in the Afrikaans language. In 1963, he toured and was featured in a South African film, Kimberley Jim. The film was released with a special prologue and epilogue in South African cinemas after Reeves’ death, praising him as a true friend of the country. The film was produced, directed, and written by Emil Nofal.Jim Reeves was himself a Christian and had huge admiration for the Afrikaner people who is a Christian nation similar to Americans. Jim Reeves died July 31, 1964 flying in a small aircraft with his manager Dean Manuel.
Reeves was one of an exclusive trio of performers to have released an album there that played at the little-used 16⅔ rpm speed. This unusual format was more suited to the spoken word and was quickly discontinued for music. The only other artists known to have released such albums in South Africa were Elvis Presley and Slim Whitman.
I see a people group who are being slowly squeezed out. I see a people group with no political representation. I see a people group whose younger generations are forced to carry the weight of the mistakes of their forefathers (which begs the question: how long does one punish a people group for the sins of the past?), whose older generations are frustrated, disillusioned and often angry with current situations, and whose middle generations struggle to find work and bridge the gap between the old and new South Africa, though they are desperately trying. I see a people group who are surviving at best, barely coping at worst, yet rarely thriving as they should be. I see a people group emigrating in large numbers. In short, I see a cultural crisis among the Afrikaners, as well as a great struggle to belong and be accepted in their own country. And this grieves me.
In the seven years I have had the privilege to live in South Africa, I have come to love the Afrikaners. I love all of the cultures here – truly I do – but there is a soft spot in my heart for the Afrikaners. Not because I am also white, certainly not because I am racist, but because I see the strengths of their culture, and I believe those strengths should be celebrated. Afrikaners have an amazing ability to persevere despite the odds. Afrikaners have a strong work ethic. They also have a unique ability to improvise, make do, and find a way around their obstacles (‘n Boer maak ‘n plan!).
I have learned much from the Afrikaans culture. One thing that especially touches me is the way Afrikaners pray. In the seven years that I have been here, nearly every prayer I have heard begins with “Dankie, Here”. To begin a prayer with heartfelt thanks despite present challenges is something that moves me deeply. In my own culture people nearly always being prayers with, “Dear God, would You please do such and such…?” I no longer pray that way, and I have the Afrikaners to thank for that.
Another thing that I admire is the concept of a “lekker kuier”. It is more than a visit, more than a quick cup of tea, and can often interrupt schedules or to-do lists. In a kuier I am welcomed, heard, given priority over time’s looming deadlines, and valued. It doesn’t matter if my house is messy, my hair is not perfect, or what my plan for the day was. I thought I knew what hospitality was before I moved to South Africa, but I was wrong. I learned about hospitality from many a kuier, and I have the Afrikaners to thank for that.
One of my favourite things about Afrikaners is the Afrikaans language itself. I studied German and American Sign Language in school, but I confess that learning another language as a middle-aged woman was a bit daunting. Even so, as an immigrant I believe it is respectful to learn the language of one’s host country. I chose Afrikaans to begin with because my children have to learn it in school, and I wanted to be able to help them with their homework. And what a delightfully descriptive language! With words like “spookasem”, “stofsuier” and “trapsuutjies”, how can one not love Afrikaans? It is a young language, it does not have a large vocabulary, but it is marvellously expressive and inventive. I came to appreciate the Bible all over again after I began to read it in Afrikaans, and I have the Afrikaners to thank for that.
I long for the day when Afrikaners can hold their heads high and be proud of their culture and their heritage. I long for future generations to be in awe of their ancestors who fought bravely in the Anglo-Boer war or contributed toward the many inventions that are uniquely South African. I long for the Afrikaans language to persevere and continue to be relevant. And yes, while I long for Afrikaners to learn from the mistakes of their fathers and grandfathers (as I must learn from the mistakes of mine), I also long for the day when they no longer have to apologise for being Afrikaans but can celebrate their contribution to this great nation. No one should have to be ashamed of their culture or ethnicity, no matter what happened in the past.
I would like to end this letter by saying the following to the Afrikaans people: I see you. I value you. And I would like to respectfully journey with you in helping this nation to reach its great potential.
Some of my favourites
Merry Christmas to you all. Geseënde Kersfees aan almal!
I’m currently busy listening to ‘Arende‘ – beautiful music. I’m thinking ‘loud’ about my studies that I need to resume – after a break of a year. Also, 3 evenings of Parents Evening coming up next week and an e-Safety course I need to attend on Monday – all day till 4pm in London and I honestly don’t like travelling on the tube – not anymore – especially on peak times during week days. I am in need of a good holiday – 3 months at least! Oh, forgot to say, also busy marking children’s homework. You would think it’s 2014 and children won’t be getting homework anymore, they should have been too clever for this after 2000, but no, it’s still old school – he he… I really want to have a delicious Christmas pudding, but they all taste the same, so will have to bake my own, I guess, and I’ve ordered everything I need for this delicious South African fridge tart: Peppermint Crisp tart. Click here for the recipe.
This is a great advert of Sainsbury’s
Love this music – great for a Saturday evening. The Springboks lost against Ireland! And.. Anand vs Carlsen = 1/2
The World Chess Championship Match between World Champion Magnus Carlsen and Challenger Vishy Anand is taking place in Sochi, Russia on November 7–28, 2014. It’s the first time that Magnus will defend his title. [Images:Twitter & Official site]
5-time World Chess Champion, Vishy Anand is considered one of the most versatile chess players in the world. He is the only world champion who won titles playing in all different formats (match, tournament and knockout). He is the first Indian grandmaster.
It’s been a year since my entry about the game in Chennai, where Magnus walked off as the World Champion
Please click HERE for the official site. You can also follow the game on twitter – on the bottom photo you will find the official twitter account of Carlsen and Anand. Sochi temperatures average 24° C – 27° C between June and October/November. Who are you supporting?
The Chess set
I hope you like this card-image – I was in a mood to play around with the two chess kings!
As Carlsen is called the ‘Mozart of Chess’ – I have some Mozart for you to listen to. One of my favourite pieces – though only part of the composition.
This is the Instagram link for you to follow, should you wish to do so.
On the map I’ve highlighted for you where Sochi is.