Historical Trip to Hartbeespoort area
September 2011: On a beautiful Spring day on a date significant
in recent and past history the sidecar ride along group set out for
a day with a strong historical feel. We had a big group of enthusiasts,
Ryno doing 3 up with Emma and Klara, Arno & Zeta, Jacquie &
Jenna, Jude & Sheilagh, Richard & Eleanor, Mark, Steph &
the boys, Ray & Bron and our ever loyal 2 wheeler friends Greg and
Noel. Henry and Geraldine met us at the first stop, we very briefly
saw Nick Loveday and Erhard and Rosi followed in their car.
Here is the story as told by Ken Dalglish (our fearless leader)
Stop 1: “The
from the Skyview Garage on te R511 we travelled through the kloof at
Skurweberg up over Saartjesnek then the indifferent path up the hill
to the restaurant and B&B at The Oxwagon Ring. The beautifully restored
ox wagons starting with the Voortrekker Kakebeen wagon and showing how
the designs developed over time. I was reminded of the story told by
the gentleman who restored the wagons (his name escapes me), he was
asked to provide a wagon for a ‘Fees;’ at Hartebeestpoort,
a farmer was to provide the trek osse. The whole procession was lined
up, the wagon at the back led by a band with all manner of groups represented
in between. Off they went, however the oxen were used to pulling a plough
and accordingly they put their backs full heartedly into their task
and brakes had to be applied to slow things down. This only made the
oxen pull harder, soon the brake blocks were starting to smoke and water,
cold drinks and whatever was in hand had to be poured on them. By this
time the wagon had forced its way through any number of the groups ahead
of it and finally the band had to give way.
down we went again like ducks in a row to the memorial cross of General
Hendrik Schoeman. We walked up the path to the platform in front of
the memorial. The original farm on the land that lay before us was at
one time owned by Andries Pretorius and later by General Schoeman. In
June 1900 both Pretoria and Bloemfontein had been captured by the British
under General Roberts. Many on both sides felt that the war was over,
but a Boer Council of war decided to continue fighting since they had
been heartened by several Guerrilla victories. General Roberts made
his declaration that the Boer farms would be burned and crops destroyed
with women and children and farm labourers interned.
Schoeman saw the impact of this. At the time there were 450 000 British
troops in the field and never more than 70 000 burgers. Schoeman went
to the leaders of the Commandos trying to persuade them to give up and
spare the disaster that he foresaw. He was regarded as a traitor and
was arrested. General Smuts who was Attorney General of the ZAR refused
to try him and he was sent to General Botha to the East of Pretoria
who had him put in prison in Barberton where he was later released and
returned to Pretoria to try again, only to be once again imprisoned
this time in Pietersburg. He was released from there when the town was
captured by the British and returned to his house in Boom Street in
the early part of the war at the siege of Colesberg a 4.7 inch lyddite
shell fell outside his tent but did not explode, he kept it and had
it in his home at the fireplace. It is said that he knocked his pipe
out on it, it exploded and killed him, his daughter and a friend. Many
said that it was improbable that a man with his experience would not
have removed the explosive and that it was the work of ‘Bittereinders’
who rearmed it.
The inscription on the memorial reads “Melancholy is the path
of the peacemaker; Remember Hess…Remember Petain…”
So sad when you remember that 28 000 women and children and 30 000 black
farm workers died in the concentration camps.
The Military Cemetery at Rietfontein
area is so built up that earlier we had great difficulty finding the
cemetery. Ryno found it following coordinates given by the Commonwealth
War Graves Commission. Those soldiers killed at that battle at Zilkaatsnek
were re-interred here. There are many that were killed by lightning.
When you consider that the Magaliesberg has the second highest incidence
of lightning strikes in the Transvaal and the ‘’Rice Block
houses’ were simply two iron tanks one inside the other and the
gap filled with sand and stone usually situated on high ground and excellent
lightning conductors; it is no surprise.
was not far from here that the road crossed the Crocodile River. Many
years after the war Ikey Sonnenberg wanted to travel from Pretoria to
Rustenburg and the only transport he could find was a Cape cart drawn
by two horses, but the carter charged him 16 pounds. He reluctantly
accepted. When they reached the Crocodile River they rested the horses.
Ikey sat on one side and played with cards by himself. The carter eventually
asked if he would like to play Poker, Ikey condescendingly agreed. Ikey
won his fare back and went on to clean the carter out of money, then
won the two horses, then the cart and the carter had to give up but
not before Ikey made him sign an IOU for 16 pounds - fare to Rustenburg.
Battle at Zilkaatsnek
Garrisons had been placed on the passes over the Magaliesberg at Commandonek
and Zilkaatsnek which were on the routes from Pretoria to Rustenburg.
On the night of 10th July 1900 Colonel Alexander with the Scots Greys
and four guns of Royal Artillery were joined by three under strength
companied of the Lincolnshire Regiment under command of Colonel Roberts
and they were posted at Zilikaatsnek. There were orders for Colonel
Alexander to move to Hekpoort on the following day to join a force from
Krugersdorp on its way to Rustenburg.
Roberts received intelligence reports of a possible attack by Boer Commandos
and sent a message to Pretoria informing Lord Roberts HQ. The centre
of the Nek is blocked by a small kopje with high shoulders of the Magaliesberg
on both sides. Two guns had been placed East of the central kopje and
Colonel Roberts failed to post sentries on the summits on both sides.
General de la Rey was to attack from the North side and he split the
commando into two groups of 200 each and ordered them to climb on both
sides of the Nek at 2 am on the 11th. When it got light at 5.30 they
were spotted and the action commenced. The Boer force was in an excellent
position to fire down on the British and they had the support of a Pom
The two British guns were badly positioned and could not be elevated
high enough to reach the Boers, the signalling equipment was in an exposed
position and could not be used to contact Colonel Alexander at Commandonek
just seven kilometres away.
Colonel Alexander must have heard the firing but made no move. At about
9am a messenger reached him on foot and he sent two guns to the valley
and they fired on the Boers on the East side of the Nek and were effective.
However for some reason they ceased firing after less than an hour and
de la Rey’s force worked their way further South and the British
were forced into a gap alongside the kopje. The fight ensued all day
and by evening it was clear to Colonel Roberts that he could not withdraw
(there was a bright moon) and he surrendered.
Meanwhile Colonel Alexander decided that the Nek had been captured and
had withdrawn towards Pretoria, en route he came upon the relieving
force sent in response to Colonel Roberts message and they all proceeded
back to Pretoria. 30% of Colonel Roberts force were killed or wounded,
including Roberts, two guns and a great deal of arms and ammunition
as well as 189 men taken prisoner.
We walked into
the gap next to the kopje and as I described the battle one of the party
found what looks like the damage done by a Pom Pom shell. It is easy
to imagine the predicament that Colonel Roberts landed in.
battle along with several others gave the Boers courage to carry on
fighting despite the odds against them. General de la Rey continued
to be a major thorn in the British side. I reminded people that he had
voted against the ultimatum in the Raadsaal and had said to President
Kruger that despite not voting for war, he would be fighting long after
others had left. It was on this day 11th September 1900 that President
Kruger left ZAR for Mozambique to sail to Europe in the battleship sent
by Queen Wilhelmina to fetch him.
went on to the Chameleon Village for lunch and I was fortunate enough
to go and watch the Springboks play Wales in their first match of the
Rugby World Cup. I hope that I was forgiven but for me Rugby is not
a matter of life and death it is far more important than that.”
Thank you Oom Ken
for sharing your knowledge ... a most enjoyable day was had by all.