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Author Topic: From Brandwater to Waterval-On the tracks of the Boere Pimpernel  (Read 2667 times)

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Offline Armpie

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This Ride report is dedicated to the 5 OVS Artillerie Corps artillery horses that died at Modderfontein, 15km from Ventersdorp. 9th August 1900

The darkest day in my life was when I was 6 years old and my father told me we lost the Vryheidsoorlog.  I was devastated for a week.  The Anglo Boer war would become one of my many passions.  As would adventure motorbiking.  Me and the KLR.  The trusty workhorse.  And after this trip I would understand horses much better.

By July 1900, about 10 000 of the remaining Freestate Commandos were squeezed against the Maluti Mountains.  But not only the Maluti’s behind the Commando’s,  also surrounded by a  series of mountains on all sides.  In front of them to the west and south was the Witteberge.  To the north was the Roodeberg.  The area was known as the Brandwater Basin  And if the British knew what to do all the Commando’s would be cut off from escape.  This trip would follow the route of that month long escape.

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Members of the Oranje Vrystaat Artillerie Corps "marsgereed".  In front Capt Muller, he would play an important role in the whole trek.

Sedert 8 Janaurie 1666 toe die "Vergulde Tijger" geanker het
 

Offline tifua

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Re: From Brandwater to Waterval-On the tracks of the Boere Pimpernel
« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2017, 10:19:05 am »
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Offline 1ougat

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Re: From Brandwater to Waterval-On the tracks of the Boere Pimpernel
« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2017, 10:43:47 am »
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Make mine a Boxer with a shaft!!!!
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Offline africana

Re: From Brandwater to Waterval-On the tracks of the Boere Pimpernel
« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2017, 04:36:47 pm »
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Honesty is very expensive. Don't expect it from cheap people.
To begin, begin.
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Offline Jors Troelie

Re: From Brandwater to Waterval-On the tracks of the Boere Pimpernel
« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2017, 06:06:00 pm »
Armpie, ek sien uit na die res van jou verslag.

Hijack on: My ma was 'n nooi Muller, en haar oupa (dws my oupagrootjie) was Kapt. Muller van die Vrystaatse Artillerie. Ek vermoed dit is dieselfde Kapt. Muller wat jy in jou inleiding vermeld. Ek het slegs een foto van hom, die persoon links op die foto (nie die een in die middel nie). Die onderskrif op die besondere foto verwys na hom as Leut. Muller. Ek neem aan my foto is van hom as 'n jong man, want die persoon waarna jy verwys as Kapt. Muller op jou foto lyk ouer en meer geset. Ek wonder of dit dieselfde person kon wees?

"WH Muller writes in an entry in1948:
I was a “boer-seun” on the farm of my father (‘Uitzoek’, District Harrismith)* when the Artillery came to Harrismith in 1882 for a weapons show. They spent 2 days on my father’s farm and this is how I came to fall in love with the Military. So, in 1883, I talked my parents into letting me go, with some ox wagons that were going to Bloemfontein, to join the Artillery."

In elk geval, ek sien daarna uit om die res van die storie te hoor. Ek lees graag enigiets oor die Vryheidsoorlog. Hijack off
« Last Edit: April 22, 2017, 06:44:39 pm by Jors Troelie »
 

Offline Armpie

Re: From Brandwater to Waterval-On the tracks of the Boere Pimpernel
« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2017, 05:11:34 pm »
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The great devide! To the starting point. And the Vaaldam is full!
Sedert 8 Janaurie 1666 toe die "Vergulde Tijger" geanker het
 

Offline Armpie

Re: From Brandwater to Waterval-On the tracks of the Boere Pimpernel
« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2017, 05:19:07 pm »
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Crossing the Vaaldam at Oranjeville

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Offline Armpie

Re: From Brandwater to Waterval-On the tracks of the Boere Pimpernel
« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2017, 06:47:26 pm »
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Blokhuis by die NG Kerk in Fouriesburg.  Die Boere het  na die porlog die ding afgebreek waar hy was en om n punt te maak hom hier by die kerk kom oorbou..  Net sodat sy maajesteit en die se troepe herinner word aan ouens wat nooit vasgekeer kon word nie.
« Last Edit: April 23, 2017, 06:50:42 pm by Armpie »
Sedert 8 Janaurie 1666 toe die "Vergulde Tijger" geanker het
 

Offline Sidpitt

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Re: From Brandwater to Waterval-On the tracks of the Boere Pimpernel
« Reply #8 on: April 23, 2017, 06:51:29 pm »
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If you dont like something, change it!
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Offline Armpie

Re: From Brandwater to Waterval-On the tracks of the Boere Pimpernel
« Reply #9 on: April 23, 2017, 07:12:32 pm »
Now a bike trip like all goods things start with a beginning.  An idea. I have walked around with this idea for a long time. Tried to canvas fellow riders to come along. The heavy is on school holiday,  that one bought a farm,  and that one had to lay the dead to rest. So I decided to go alone. I packed the KLR and unpacked him again. Off came the camping stuff.  I remembered the khaki that shot me through the shoulder last year on the hard sand of the Kalahari. Then I was ready to go. I took of from Pretoria and took the N1-N3 to Heidelberg, then on the R549 towards the Vaaldam. As  I rode along I smelled the smell of ripe mealies, of the dust of mielieblare. Later past Heidelberg I came across huge catte feeding pens. Thousands of cattle crammed together. How ethical that is  I do not know, but so is it, we Westerners lost contact with our food chain.

I rode past the Vaaldam wall parked the KLR and took out my OVS and Vierkleur flags. 117 years, this river divided two  Republics but when it mattered, they fought together to the bitter end.

Then of to Oranjeville where I crossed the dam on a long bridge. On to Reitz and Bethlehem and finally to Fouriesburg.  But when I came to the Slabberts turn off I turned around and took that dirt road.  I could not control my curiosity.  I went up Slabbertsnek and went back to Fouriesburg.    What charming little dorpie.  I booked into the Lemon tree Lodge, went 100m back to the Fouriesburg Inn (both buildings pre ABW)and had a beer and a steak and chips.  I was at the starting line. Let the games begin!
« Last Edit: April 23, 2017, 07:18:23 pm by Armpie »
Sedert 8 Janaurie 1666 toe die "Vergulde Tijger" geanker het
 

Offline Armpie

Re: From Brandwater to Waterval-On the tracks of the Boere Pimpernel
« Reply #10 on: April 23, 2017, 07:23:30 pm »
Jors Troelie ek post so na die einde n foto van Kapt Muller. Daar is n lekker storie oor hom, n tarentaalskieter,  Pres Steyn. en de Wet
Sedert 8 Janaurie 1666 toe die "Vergulde Tijger" geanker het
 

Offline Armpie

Re: From Brandwater to Waterval-On the tracks of the Boere Pimpernel
« Reply #11 on: April 26, 2017, 04:21:41 pm »
So the business end of the trip started when I left my hideout for the night in Fouriesburg.  I stayed a few houses away from the house that belonged to President Steyn. I did a recce on the Brandwaterkom roads, before I set off for Slabberts, an old station where I had to meet a journalist of Die Volksblad.

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Sedert 8 Janaurie 1666 toe die "Vergulde Tijger" geanker het
 

Offline Armpie

Re: From Brandwater to Waterval-On the tracks of the Boere Pimpernel
« Reply #12 on: April 26, 2017, 04:32:03 pm »
In the dusty road opposite the old Station at Slabberts, I met Marguerite.  We had our interview and as she planned to leave I took out my Vrystaat and Vierkleurflags, also my Galaxy Tab.  Then in proper fashion I played the Vrystaatse Volkslied and sang "Ken gij dat Volk".  Then I got on my bike and took the road to Slabberstnek the only nek the british did not block by the night of 15 July 1900.

For the  war to continue, there had to be an escape.  And the man with the plan was General Christiaan de Wet.  He had to get rid of the wagons.  But to ask the burgers to abandon the wagons would lead to mutiny.  So he had to get away with the wagons and then leave then somewhere.  But this plan he told nobody.

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Slabbertsnek
Sedert 8 Janaurie 1666 toe die "Vergulde Tijger" geanker het
 

Offline Armpie

Re: From Brandwater to Waterval-On the tracks of the Boere Pimpernel
« Reply #13 on: April 26, 2017, 04:46:42 pm »
With de Wet was the Freestate President, Pres. MT Steyn.  But de Wet was surrounded by capable men.  The man that would organize the logistics of the trek was General Philip Botha.  He was the brother of General Louis Botha.  Then as leading scout, his eyes and ears, looking forward was a 23 year old artillery captain, now with is own scouting corps, Gideon Scheepers.  The in the back protecting the rear a  28 year old Transvaal lawyer, Capt Danie Theron.  He brought together 200 men, Germans, Hollanders, a few Russians, a number of Pretoria and Johannesburg Policemen and a few more adventurers.  Fiercely loyal to Theron.  His Theron’s Verkenners Korps would be the most professional and effective scouting unit of all during the war.  Both Theron and Scheeprs would not see the  end of the war.

So de Wet knew he had to get out.  The most obvious way to get out was through the Slabbertsnek to the north. Slabbertsnek was not occupied by a british force as most of the other possible escape routes.   The July of 1900 was bitter cold, and on the afternoon of 15 July the around 2500 men with their 400 wagons and carts were instructed to be ready at sunset.  That night would be breakout.  Nobody knew what was going to happen,  as nobody knew where they would be trekking to.  It was blind faith in de Wet.

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Once out of the nek, the Freestate opens up.
Sedert 8 Janaurie 1666 toe die "Vergulde Tijger" geanker het
 

Offline Armpie

Re: From Brandwater to Waterval-On the tracks of the Boere Pimpernel
« Reply #14 on: April 26, 2017, 04:56:45 pm »
Just as it was dark the wagons and carts moved into action.  North across the nek, away from what could have become a death trap.  Two week later 4400 burgers surrendered.  But a  few more commando’s, with around 2500 would also escape through different gaps to the south.

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Boerkommando oppad na Sannaspos

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Danie Theron, one of the finest soldiers ever to come from South Africa.  The founder of a specialized bicycle corps, but even beter, the founder of Theron's Verkennings Korps.  A crack unit of 200 scouts.  De Wet would heavy press on their efforts and gallantry.

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Gideon Scheepers, brilliant, motivated, fearless.  His death would cause bitterness- to this day.  Shot for no more than that the average British intelligence officer did every day in the Transvaal 1901.
Sedert 8 Janaurie 1666 toe die "Vergulde Tijger" geanker het
 

Offline Armpie

Re: From Brandwater to Waterval-On the tracks of the Boere Pimpernel
« Reply #15 on: April 26, 2017, 05:05:29 pm »
The convoy was boxed in with the Gideon Scheepers’s scouts in the front, Danie Theron’s scouts in the back and two commandos of about 500 men on each side.

After 16km the convoy  crossed the Bethlehem-Senekal road between the Besterkoppies and Meyerskop.  To the west, 2km away was a British cavalry camp on the farm Sebastopol.  Blissfully unaware of the big fish getting away.  Early the morning the convoy reached the hollow at the farm Witklip where they outspanned.

By noon the British had realized their mistake and launched and attack on the laager, but the OVS Artillerie Corps and men from the Heilbron Commando with Theron’s scouts kept the advancing British at bay. Koos Papenfus became the first burger to die, when he was killed in the skirmish. By sunset the running battle was over and the convoy reached Osplaat where they outspanned for a few hours.  But at 0100 the convoy was moving again,  but in a brilliant 90 degree move took them northeast away from the northwest.


The road took me forward,  north to the Besterkoppies and crossing the Bethlehem- Paul Roux road.

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Then on to Witklip where the first Boer casualty was suffered.

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Sedert 8 Janaurie 1666 toe die "Vergulde Tijger" geanker het
 

Offline Armpie

Re: From Brandwater to Waterval-On the tracks of the Boere Pimpernel
« Reply #16 on: April 26, 2017, 05:12:58 pm »
The Boer convoy crossed the Lindley-Bethlehem road at Malanspos.  Then on to Cravensrus. 

Here between Lindley and Bethlehem lived the family Craven.  In the soccer playing part of the Freestate.  Then about 1920 a Stellenbosch trained schoolmaster, Tivoli van Huysteen arrived.  He built rugby in the school and in the dorp.  By 1924 a 14 year old Standard 6 boy, Danie Craven, played for both the school and dorp teams. The young Craven, a man that would later in his life receive 4 Doctorates, failed Standard 6.  By matric, van Huysteen had a message for the Rugby coach at Stellenbosch, Mr Markotter.  Van Huysteen took the train to Stellenbosch.  Walked into Markotter’s office and said: “ I am sending you a Springbok”.  Message delivered, he returned to Lindley.  By the next year Danie Craven, at the age of 19 would play scrumhalf for the Springboks.  He would play in atime when the Springboks dominated world rugby, defeating the All Blacks in New Zealand.  Later as coach he would be the most successful coach ever.  As a Northern Transvaler that is hard to admit.

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The road to Cravensrus was on of those that does not get looked after.  It was rocky and rough
« Last Edit: April 30, 2017, 07:55:51 am by Armpie »
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Offline Armpie

Re: From Brandwater to Waterval-On the tracks of the Boere Pimpernel
« Reply #17 on: April 26, 2017, 05:50:57 pm »
After standing off At Cravensrus the convoy went in a northwestern direction again until they reached the farm Karroospruit, about 10km northeast of Lindley.  Here danie Theron’s men brough the message that a unit of British Cavalry was isolated 20km to the south, west of Lindley at a farm called Paardeplaats.  De Wet left the laager in charge of Gen. Piet de Wet and with a commando of 500 men went to intercept the British.  Here de Wet’s men cut off  and surrounded the British Mounted Infantry.  The Boer canons ripped through the hastely established British defenses and some of the soldiers started to surrender.  Just then the victory was grabbed from the Commando.  A dispatch rider arrived at de  Wet and informed him that the Laager at Karroospruit was under attack.  The contact with the defeated british were broken and the return to the lagger was done as fast as the horses could go.

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The road to Karroospruit was rough.  Tweespoorpaadjie at its best, and some technical parts.

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Next to the game fences, with the battlefield in the back, I had a brunch.  Real commandokos.  Dried peaches from the Moot, dried Blesbok droe wors from Heilbron and biltong from Pretoria.

I continued to Blesbokfontein, and at Tierbank Noord, I took out my phone, while sitting on the bike.  The next moment the still standing bike went to the ground.  I jumped off and let it drop.  The only time my bike was on the floor for close to 1400km

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Sedert 8 Janaurie 1666 toe die "Vergulde Tijger" geanker het
 

Offline Armpie

Re: From Brandwater to Waterval-On the tracks of the Boere Pimpernel
« Reply #18 on: April 26, 2017, 06:02:51 pm »
The laager fought of the attackers and the British commander withdrew.  He did not have enough men to continue, and his supplies were gone.  Late during the night the convoy reached a farm of a Boer Cornelis Wessels.  Blesbokfontein.  It was here where Piet de Wet, General Christiaan’s brother informed him that he was finished with the war.  He and his staff left the convoy and surrendered a few days later to the Brits.  The two brothers would never talk again.  Later Piet de Wet joined the national Scouts to fight against his countrymen.

The S899 between Reitz and Blesbokfontein stayed in bad condition, and I reached the farmer Cornelis Wessels's farm where Piet and Christiaan split- forever.

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Then I went straight to Edenville.  Unfortunately both my GPS's gave problems, so I did not take the road towards Schurwepoort Oos road, but rather one to the south, emerging at the R82, 5km south of Serfonteinstation.  Wolvehoek, where Danie Theron overrun the British train.

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Serfonteinsiding.  Nothing remains.
Sedert 8 Janaurie 1666 toe die "Vergulde Tijger" geanker het
 

Offline Armpie

Re: From Brandwater to Waterval-On the tracks of the Boere Pimpernel
« Reply #19 on: April 26, 2017, 06:11:21 pm »
The wagon From Blesbokfontein the convoy took a northwestern direction passing about 7km northeast of the current Edenville.  All along the British forces were behind the convoy.  Around 50 000 soldiers were moving from all directions on the convoy.  But the speed with which the wagons moved, combined with very bad British communication and intelligence, created huge gaps for the British effort.

One must remember that this escape lasted for 31 days, and there have been books written about it.  I only give a limited account of the escape itself. 

With the british behind the convoy, the convoy had to get over the Bloemfontein-Pretoria railway line.  And the railway line was stacked with armoured trains.  The wagons were arranged in lines of 6 and as soon as it was dark the convoy crossed the line without incident.  Here Danie Theron and his scouts over run one of the trains and took 80 Prisoners.  On the train was also the American Consul.  He hid British documents in his diplomatic bag.  So much for American neutrality. It forever stays a blot on the American diplomatic corps.  One must remember that the wagon convoy stretched up to 8km in length.  To move all the wagons and carts passed a specified point could have taken up till 4 hours.  So it was a dusty slow business.  More than 2000 oxen and mules pulled the wagons and then there were also more than 1000 cattle making the journey along.  That was the meat for the biltong and “Bontspan” sosasties.

Crossing the railway line a few hundred meters from the station
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And crossing the N1 over the bridge
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Sedert 8 Janaurie 1666 toe die "Vergulde Tijger" geanker het