The Afrikaner Nation and Boers feature prominently in my story of bacon. The first and second Anglo-Boer war shaped our land and provided the motivation for setting up the bacon company. Here are photos from the time immediately before and after the second Anglo-Boer War (ABW). It allows the reader to visualise the context better. I dedicate this section to my friends who bring to life the Afrikaner, referred to as Boers, the Brits, and the black and coloured South Africans who fought in these wars and lived through these times.
I started collecting photos from the Anglo-Boer War. These photos serve to remind me and my descendants not only of what the Brit did to the Boer, but how the Afrikaner did the same thing to the black South African, of all tribes. Irrespective of faith or creed, it is true that the heart of man is more deceptive than all else and that all humanity has within its soul the propensity to perform unspeakable evil. The art of living is, like the skill of making bacon, something which does not come naturally to us. To embrace all that is good in life, to be tolerant, to give, to have the courage to build up and not destroy; to know that our time on earth is short and is best lived by compassion and caring for those around us is something we have to nurture in our children and in our own hearts, every day. It is easy to kill, tear down, belittle, destroy and look down on others. True greatness is far more difficult – to respect, honour, and value all life – this is hard work but is by far the most excellent way!
Martin Plaut writes about the role of ‘black Boers’, as they refer to black people fighting for the Boer nations, and says that the role of these ‘black Boers’ is captured in this British ditty:
‘Tommy, Tommy, watch your back
There are dusky wolves in cunning Piet’s pack
Sometimes nowhere to be seen
Sometimes up and shooting clean
They’re steathy lads, stealthy and brave
In darkness they’re awake
Duck, Duck, that bullet isn’t fake.
Chris Pretoriusposted a quote about Plaatjies: “In 1932, Solomon Tshekisho (Sol) Plaatje, intellectual, journalist, linguist, politician, translator and writer, born at Doornfontein near Boshof, OFS in 1876, passed away in Soweto at the age of 56. He was (amongst others) court translator for the British during the Siege of Mafeking and diarized his experiences, which was published posthumously.”
Brandwater Basin (Where my great Grandfather surrendered to the British – ABW)
Bermuda, Hawkins Island
Canadians fighting in the ABW on the side of Britain
Children, Concentration Camps and War
Crossing the River
Genl. De la Rey
Genl. De Wet, Christiaan.
The newspaper article is from a 1950’s Sunday Times article. Who is the “Pieter” referred to in the article? There was a Pieter de Villiers Graaff who was known as the Cape Rebel (Kaapse Rebel). He was a cousin of Sir David de Villiers Graaff, who is featured prominently in my work on bacon. Pieter participated in 25 battles in the ABW against the English and on 24 March 1901 he was captured and sent to India as a POW where he remained for the duration of the war. I doubt if the Sunday Times article refers to him. He did, however, have a son, also named Pieter de Villiers Graaff. He was born on December 16, 1911 and passed away on July 11, 1988. He was 76.
The Diyatalawa Garrison is a common name used for collection of military bases of the Sri Lanka Army located in and around the garrison town Diyatalawa in the Uva Province. Sometimes it is referred to as the Diyatalawa Cantonment. It is one of the oldest military garrisons in Sri Lanka. It is home to the several training centers of the army, including the Sri Lanka Military Academy and has a detachment of the Gemunu Watch. The Sri Lanka Army Medical Corps maintains a base hospital in Diyatalawa. SLAF Diyatalawa is situated in close proximity.
It is not exactly known as to when Diyatalawa became a training station for troops, but available records show that it was selected around 1885, when the British Army first established a garrison at Diyatalawa. At that time training was conducted at the Imperial Camp, which is presently occupied by the Gemunu Watch troops. In 1900, the British War Office constructed a concentration camp in Diyatalawa to house Boer prisoners captured in the Second Boer War. Initially constructed to house 2500 prisoners and 1000 guards and staff, the number of prisoners increased to 5000. During World War I an internment camp for enemy aliens was set up.
Early in World War II the camp was reopened and German nationals resident in Hong Kong and Singapore, as well as many sailors, like those removed from the Asama Maru in violation of international law, were housed here. Also imprisoned were Buddhist monks of German extraction like Nyanaponika and Govinda Anagarika who had acquired British citizenship. In June 1941 most of the sailors were transferred to Canada. The section for Germans was sensibly divided in a pro- and anti-Nazi wing. There was also a section set up to house Italian POWs. After the Japanese started bombing the island, inmates were on 23 February 1942 transferred to camps on the mainland. Males usually went to Dehradun.
After independence the facilities of the British Army were taken over by the newly established Ceylon Army, and Diyatalawa became the primary training grounds for the young army with the establishment in 1950 the Army Recruit Training Depot later renamed at the Army Training Centre. Several of the army’s regiments were resided here, 1st Field Squadron, Ceylon Engineers (1951), Sri Lanka Sinha Regiment (1956), Gemunu Watch (1962).
The Royal Navy had a rest camp, HMS Uva, which was situated at Diyatalawa with recreational facilities; this was later taken over by the Royal Ceylon Navy in 1956, commissioning it as HMCYS Rangalla and established its training center there. They had to move out in 1962 and it was taken over by the Gemunu Watch.
On 14 March 2013, the Security Forces Headquarters – Central the youngest of the seven commands of the Sri Lanka Army – was formed at Diyatalawa. Prior to this Diyatalawa served as an Area Headquarters.
Germans fighting for the Boers in the ABD
Howick British Concentration Camp for Boer Women and Children
Indigenous Houses (Used by Boers in the ABW)
Irish fighting for the Boers in the ABW
Scorched Earth (Verskroeide aarde)
New Zealand soldiers in the ABW fighting on the side of Britain.
New Zealand troopers from the Sixth Contingent move across open country in South Africa, 1901. This photograph may have been taken by Private William Raynes, a Waikato farmer serving with No. 16 Company.
Much of the conflict took place on open plains known in Afrikaans as veldt. Extreme temperatures made life tough for New Zealand troops. While trekking men would often be forced to endure severe daytime heat, while at night they would sleep out in the open with only an overcoat to keep the freezing cold at bay.
Soldiers on trek often began their day at 4 a.m. and broke camp at 5.30 a.m. before spending up to 12 hours on patrol. To preserve the strength of their mounts, the soldiers alternated between riding and leading their horses on foot. Using this method, they could cover 30 km or more in a day.
The New Zealanders who fought in the South African War were the first soldiers from this country to take part in an overseas conflict. Prompted by Premier Richard Seddon, the First Contingent was rapidly assembled and became the first colonial contingent to reach South Africa.
Between 1899 and 1902 New Zealand sent 10 contingents to South Africa. The men who enlisted came from a variety of backgrounds and from all over New Zealand. Many had prior experience in the Volunteer forces but others were ordinary citizens who were skilled riders and marksmen. The contingents were often made up of companies that had strong regional identities and many were supported by local fundraising.
In addition to the men of the contingent, two small groups of New Zealand women served in South Africa. Hospital-trained nurses helped combat the ever-present threat of disease in the unsanitary conditions of field hospitals in South Africa. New Zealand also sent a contingent of female teachers, dubbed the ‘Learned Eleventh’, to teach Boer refugee children in the schools set up in British-run concentration camps.
The Royal Irish Regiment recruited from the counties of Tipperary, Waterford, Wexford and Kilkenny. It served in South Africa with General Hart’s Irish Brigade. Around 30,000 Irishmen saw service with the British Army in South Africa.
Iain Hayter writes, “There were a number of instances where Irish fought Irish in the ABW and many poems poems were written, the Irish being so lyrical……… We are leaving dear old Dublin
The gallant famous fifth;
We’re going to the Transvaal
Where the Boers we mean to shift.
We are the sons of Erin’s Isle –
The famous Fifth Battalion
Of the Dublin Fusiliers.
Let this conflict be a warning
To all Britannia’s foes;
Not to tease her ftirious lion
As on his way he goes.
For if they do, they’ll fmd they’re wrong
And won’t get volunteers
To stand in the face of a Regiment
Like the Dublin Fusiliers
On the mountain side the battle raged, there was no stop or stay;
Mackin captured Private Burke and Ensign Michael Shea,
Fitzgerald got Fitzpatrick, Brannigan found O ’Rourke,
Firmigan took a man named Fay – and a couple of lads from Cork.
Sudden they heard McManus shout, ‘Hands up or I’ll run you through’.
He thought it was a Yorkshire ‘Tyke’ – ’twas Corporal Donaghue!
McGany took O ’Leary, O ’Brien got McNamee,
That’s how the ’English fought the Dutch’ at the Battle of Dundee.
The sun was sinking slowly, the battle rolled along;
The man that Murphy ‘handed in’, was a cousin of Maud Gonne,
Then Flanagan dropped his rifle, shook hands with Bill McGuire,
For both had carried a piece of turf to light the schooh-oom fire …
Dicey brought a lad named Welsh; Dooley got McGurk;
Gilligan turned in Fahey’s boy – for his father he used to work.
They had marched to fight the English – but Irish were all they could see –
That’s how the ‘English fought the Dutch’ at the Battle of Dundee.
Russians in the ABW
Lt. Col. Maximov ( A Russian volunteer) with Gen. Kolbe. Photo supplied by Elria Wessels.
Simons Town POW’s
St Helena, Broadbottom Camp, Deadwood Camp.
Treaty of Vereeniging, signed on 31 May 1902 (end of ABW2)
Gideon Jacobus van Tonder was born in 1864 in Uitenhage, Eastern Cape (then the Cape Colony). He passed away in 1924 in the Free State. He is buried at the Rustfontein Dam, which is located on the Modder River near Thaba ‘Nchu. He was the owner of the farm Brakfontein in that area. He also resided at 21 Hill Street, Bloemfontein. From 1894 to 1900 he was minister of Agriculture in the Orange Free State Government. Giel Venter from Fauresmith gave me this information. Giel is one of his descendants. If Gideon was still alive we would have spent many days talking about farming and animal husbandry and of course, bacon curing!
When President Steyn was out of the country or on leave, he acted as State President on numerous occasions. When the ABW broke out, he resigned from government after his son, Hansie, was killed at the battle of Magersfontein. Genl. De Wet wrote about it in his book, Three Years’ War.
De Wet wrote: “I can only remember three instances of anyone being hurt by the shells. A young burgher, while riding behind a ridge and thus quite hidden from the enemy, was hit by a bomb, and both he and his horse were blown to atoms. This youth was a son of Mr. Gideon van Tonder, a member of the Executive Council.”
I am planning a visit to Giel, as soon as it is permitted and will update this section with much more information.