Military Insignia – Harrismith 1900

42nd Hill (previously known as Reitzheuwel), Staffordshire Hill, Platberg, the Grant Quarries and Basotu Hill

During the Anglo Boer War the number of troops in the town increased & many camps were established around the town.

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The British troops occupied Harrismith in August 1900 under Genl. Leslie Rundle of the 8th Division. The 8th Division was made up of the 1st Leister Regiment, 1st South Staffordshire Regiment, 2nd Grenadier Guards, 2nd Scots Guards, 2nd East Yorkshire Regiment, 1st Worcestershire Regiment, 2nd Royal West Kent Regiment, 2nd Manchester Regiment and the 2nd, fourth and 11th Battalion of the Imperial Yeomanry.

The Division was 8000 men strong, but Rundle lost many soldiers because of total exhaustion and malnutrition. The units that originated in 1902 replace what was left of Rundle’s unit. Half of Rundle’s division was for ever on track to dominate the Eastern Free State. The remainder of the unit’s soldiers then rotate and it was time for the next group to go to battle.

The 20000 troops that is mentioned in Hawkin’s book actually spoke of Kitchener’s major concentration of troops, which he used for his 2nd Great Drive in February 1902 that ended in Harrismith and the town was used for a short period from where the soldiers operated and from. From Harrismith they were place back into operations in different areas.

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1st Battalion Black Watch, which was part of maj.gen. Hector MacDonald’s Highland Brigade which seized Harrismith in August 1900. The photo courtesy of Biebie de Vos collection

In the ensuing months the number of troops increased and many encampments were established around the town. The 3rd Dragoon Guards and the Staffordshire Regiment pitched their tents under Stafford Hill, while the Manchester Regiment, the Grenadier Guards and, later, the 4th King’s Royal Rifles were quartered on Basuto Hill. To enable the latter group to reach town, a suspension bridge was built across the Wilge River.

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Manchester Regiment, the Grenadier Guards and, later, the 4th King’s Royal Rifles were quartered on Basuto Hill and had to make use of a suspension bridge to reach town. Thank you to Biebie de Vos for sharing a part of his collection

The artillery took post on Queen’s Hill, while a military hospital, No. 19 Stationary Hospital was situated where Bergsig is today.

A memorial service in honor of the death of Queen Victoria was held in Harrismith on Saturday 2 February 1901 starting at l0h00. The garrison in town, forming up on three sides, in a rectangle, facing the Town Hall (draped in black) gathered to show their respect. Lt Gen Rundle and Staff took up their places in the center. Precisely on the hour an 81-shot salute was fired from Johannesburg Hill (presumably this was 42nd Hill) overlooking the town.

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The view from 42nd Hill from where the 81-shot salute was fired. Part of Biebie de Vos collection

Stafford Hill, which bears the stone badges of the Third Dragoon Guards (The Prince of Wales’ Feathers) the Knot of the Staffordshire Regiment and the Sphinx of the Manchester Regiment.

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Knot of the Staffordshire Regiment clearly visible in this old photo.
This photo is part of Biebie de Vos collection

The Sphinx appeared in the badges of several British Regiment, it is difficult to ascertain which Regiment was responsible for the Badge. E B Hawkins claims that it is the Badge of the Gloucester  Regiment, but according to the archivist of the Regiment, Lt. Col. H Radice, none of the Battalions of the Gloucestershire Regiment were in the vicinity of Harrismith. The badge could be possibly have been the handiwork of the Manchester Regiment, which also had a Sphinx as a badge, and was stationed at Harrismith.

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The Plumes of the Prince of Whales visible on this old photo which is part of the Biebie de Vos collection

The military camp of the 3rd Dragoon Guards, was established under a ridge to the east of the town. The 3rd Dragoon Guards whose regimental emblem is inscribe on the hillside, arrived in South Africa in February 1901 and remained in Harrismith until mid-1904. The 42nd Hill was previously known as Reitzheuwel.

42nd Hill, to the north of Harrismith where the N3 ascend to the plateau above Harrismith, has an interesting history. Before the war it was known as Reitzheuwel (after pres. FW Reitz of the Free State).

At the end of the Anglo Boer war, it was renamed after the 2nd Black Watch. (Not to be confused with the 1st Battalion Black Watch, which was part of maj.gen. Hector MacDonald’s Highland Brigade which seized Harrismith in August 1900, but they only stayed for a week, before moving on to Heilbron.)

The 2nd Battalion Black Watch only arrived in South Africa at the end of 1901 from India. They camped on top of Reitzheuwel, just above Harrismith. On 27 December the headquarters and 4 companies reached Harrismith. One of the companies stayed there, while the rest moved to Elands River Bridge. By the end of January 1902 the battalion returned to Reitzheuwel, where they would camp until the end of the war four months later. After the war they became part of the garrison stationed in Harrismith, still camping on Reitzheuwel. It was during this time that the hill was renamed after the 2nd Battalion ’s feeder unit, the 42nd Regiment of Foot. (During the Childers Reforms in the early 1880’s the 42nd Regiment of Foot became the 2nd Batalion Black Watch.)

The 2nd Black watch was relocated to Kings Hill when the permanent buildings were erected early in 1903. They left Harrismith in 1904.

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The British Regimental Badges in Harrismith.

The Regimental Badges are a Provincial Heritage site.

Thanks to Leon Strachan for sharing his knowledge.

Till next time

Hennie & Sandra

 

 

 

Story of a Free State Farm School

“History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illuminates reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life and bring us tidings of antiquity” Cicero.

Evidence of history is all around us; the farms schools we attend and the stories told by the children’s family.

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We attended farm schools as children. Hennie attended the Kruispad school close to Reitz in the Free State and I attended Kameel school in the North West. When we learned about an old Farm School in our area it was time to pay a visit.

We arrived at the address and realized that we have taken many pictures over the last couple of years of this building, not knowing that we will one day learn more about it.

Situated on a farm on the banks of the Meul River it sure brings back a lot of memories. The need to start a school was realized in the late 1800’s and early years of the 1900’s. Originally the school was in an old building close to the farm house. The farm owner showed us around and first school was in a packed stone building. No motart between die stones. The walls was not built up and on the one side was a shed with fodder for the animals that brought the children to school.

For many years the Farm School and the teachers would educate the kids of the surrounding farms. The school and the children and the farms were integrated and they would walk or ride with a horse cart to school.

The teacher had living quarters attached to the school . The stove chimney is still visible and look at the wallpaper. Remember not everyone had to privilege of a any sort of vehicle – not even a teacher way back then. Normally teachers would stay in the house of the family on which farm the school is situated.

The teacher’s quarters attached to the school and a door that leads into the classrooms.

The children sitting in this school has long gone passed on but their descendants still live in the area and the education that their ancestors received in this little school still remains after they have forgotten what was learned in the school. The knowledge was passed on from generation to generation.

DSC_0095The entrance to the school. Thinking of all the little feet that step up the steps to attend school.

The Burgher Monument, Harrismith

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The Chevy pays a visit to the Burgher Monument

The Burgher monument was inaugurated on 8 November 1938.

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On Friday morning 1 March 1940, six months after the beginning of the Second World War, Harrismith awoke with the upsetting news that the Burgher Monument had been damaged: pieces of the kneeling burgher’s hat and rifle had been broken off. Angry people were already gathered around the Monument, more followed out of curiosity, wild threats were made and more than one fiery fist fight had to be stopped.

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Protesters on horseback

Although it could never be proved, persistent rumours had it that it was one of the two MacFadyen brothers who had got to the Monument with a piece of water pipe. They had been socialising in the Central Hotel on that Thursday evening before they were to depart to the front in North Africa the following morning. In die city hall, across the street from the hotel, a function was in full swing. Late that night they departed from the hotel, tipsy and upset with the Afrikaners’ apparent disapproval of the war in which they, as allies, were to place their lives at risk. Lively dance music from the city hall lured them to see what was going on. When they reached the Burgher Monument in front of the city hall, one brother froze, refusing to walk under the Boers’ granite arch. In the heat of the moment he grabbed a nearby piece of water pipe, and with his brother’s help, climbed onto the top of the arch. He aimed a massive blow at the burgher’s head, which he missed, but smashed off a piece of the wide-rimmed hat as well as the barrel of the mauser.

The leadership of the English-speaking community of Harrismith was most upset and immediately began collecting funds to repair the damage. Crankshaw Brothers, the original constructor of the Monument, repaired the barrel free of charge.

One would have thought that this would be the end of the matter. Not so! There was great disagreement about the fortune of the Monument between the followers of the two political parties of that time: The South African Party (SAP), the ruling party of General Jan Smuts, and the National Party (NP). While the SAP was quite satisfied that the Monument be repaired, the NP totally disagreed.

The neatly-repaired barrel was broken off again and hidden by members of the Ossewa Brandwag (OB), an organisation working in close co-operation with the NP. It was decided to make a political martyr of the statue: if would be left incomplete as a remembrance of injustice. The broken-off pieces of the statue were hidden, in great secrecy, in a loose sandstone brick in a wall on a farm in the district.

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The new marble plaque

A new marble plaque was made with an inscription in Afrikaans, stating that the Burgher Monument had been violated on the morning of 1 March 1940 by the enemies of the Boer nation. Its inauguration was accompanied by great ceremony and political fanfare. The guest speaker was Mr. JC van Rooy, chairman of the Afrikaner Broederbond. Advocate Blackie Swart, a future state president, was also a speaker at the ceremony.

As a compromise between the two Afrikaner camps, it was decided to place the Monument in the hands of the Voortrekker Commando of Harrismith. A document was compiled, signed and the necessary stamps applied in order to make it official.

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The broken-off pieces of the statue were put into safekeeping by the firm Cloete and Neveling Attorneys, where it remains to this day.

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The broken of barrel

I think we have the most interesting monument in the country! By far!

Thanks to Leon Strachan and Jeannie Wasserman Cook for the information.

For more information we suggest that you read Leon Strachan’s book

Krygers en Skietpiete

Till next time

Hennie & Sandra

Kaalvoet Vrou Monument

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Oliviershoek Pass

Wanneer jy voor die monument staan besef jy dat die vrou klein van postuur is. Haar skouers is smal, byna asof sy koud kry in haar gegote gewaad. Sy is geklee in haar Voortrekkerkappie en lang rok. Onder haar rok steek haar fyn kaalvoete uit.

Haar regtervoet trap op ‘n klip. ‘n Mens verwag amper ‘n gebalde vuis of ‘n intimiderende gesig wat luidkeels uitroep, maar alles behalwe. Haar arms hang langs haar sye, verseker nie die lyftaal van ‘n veglustige aktivis nie. Sy het ‘n tipe kyk wat met jare se ondervinding kom. Liefdevol, wys, sag, geduldig en omdat die geskiedenis dit laat deurskemer, maar met ‘n goeie skoot vasberadenheid op.

Beeldhouer was Anton van Wouw

Die kaalvoet vrou is ‘n interessante hartseer storie van Susanna Catherina Smit. Susanna was die suster van Gert Maritz en die vrou van eerwaarde Erasmus Smit wat as die Voortrekkers se predikant opgetree het.

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Die groep vroue was deel van Piet Retief se trek wat besluit het om die groen land van Natal as weivelde te kies. Volgens oorlewering het van die Voortrekker-vroue met ‘n Britse kommissaris in ‘n woordewisseling betrokke geraak. Hulle het met hom gestry omdat hulle nie onder Britse gesag wou staan nie en gesê dat vryheid vir hulle meer werd was as hulle lewens. Dit is toe dat Susanna Smit die bekende woorde uiter, “Liewer kaalvoet terug oor die Drakensberge as om onder Britse beheer te staan.” Susanna is egter in die destydse Natal dood, wat beteken dat sy nooit kaalvoet terug oor die Drakensberge geloop het nie.

Tot ‘n volgende keer

Groetnis

Hennie & Sandra

Journey to Stardom

We purchase De Oude Huize Yard and our family moved to Harrismith on 15 December 2000. Our sons did a huge commitment to leave their schools, sport and friends behind and join this new venture into the Free State.  Remembering the night that we traveled to Harrismith and the uncontrolled veld-fires were lighting the skies Pedri made a comment —so beautiful but so destructive.  Our new lives away from the hustle and bustle of Pretoria and “retirement” in the town will have to make a difference.

Everything’s done on impulse.

We bought the old house to save it from the bulldozer and in the words of Adam Small:

proud ou gabou—pathetic pêllie
stil ou—djy fancy djy staan nog…
djy word gedemolish sê ek vir djou!…
Hoor djy die pêrepote vannie bulldozers?

Ever since we have spend all our time in renovating and collecting history about our house and the town.  Even thought everything that we , Pedri and Gerald-Cecil have done did not come easily we still see this as a blessing and we would like to believe that we have made a difference to De Oude Huize Yard and our neighbourhood.

De Oude Huize 2000

Our neighbours are the best.  On our day of arrival they welcomed us with tea, coffee, rusk and a lot of help.  Strange people opened their hearts and hands to help us to move into a very dialectic house.  They treat us with love and open their heart to all off us.

On opening the front door of our new dwelling we immediately decided to give it a name — De Oude Huize .  The state of neglect was cleary visible and we decided to keep to the original era of the house and try to safe a little history in Stuart Street.  We had little experience of such a big renovating process and as the kids at school asked Gerald-Cecil— does your parents know what they are doing—he could honestly answer I don’t know, I think they don’t know themselves.

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We have read articles on renovating but nothing really helps until you start with the process.  We have asked stupid questions and really work our fingers to the bone.

 

The renovation process of the original house was solely done by Hennie, Pedri and Gerald-Cecil.  They have sanded floors, scraped down old paint remove rotten novilon, wood and carpets. They have cleaned the yard from invasive kakibos.  They have leveled the garden and made new beds.     They have opened up the Attic , painted every room and  replaced old floorboards.

 

De Oude Huize Story stoep

To put the cherry on cake the new sandstone wing was added on the footprint of the old stables.

 

De Oude Huize Yard Logo

Till next time

Hennie & Sandra

De Oude Huize Yard