I was looking at images on the
Imperial War Museum
website over the weekend and came across an interesting memorial photograph from their collection. The image is of a cross which was erected over the burial site, I would imagine soon after the dated period of 8 January 1901, by soldiers of the 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders for the action which took place at Belfast, naming some of the deceased Boers that took part. Please see the below image -
The following is a description which describes this photo -
'Grave of the group of Boer fighters: Wolmarans, Cudhoopdraai, Greylingstadt of the Heidelberg Commando; and Jacobus, Van Wyk, Van Wijk Vler of the Carolina Commando; killed in action at Belfast on 8 January 1901 and buried by troops of the 1st Battalion, Gordon Highlanders.'
This photo is attributed to William Skeoch Cumming, a painter who completed many watercolour sketches which record incidents during the Boer War campaign and his portraits depicted characters involved in the war. As an amateur photographer, more than 300 of his photographs are to be found at the Imperial War Museum.
There appears to be some discrepancies with the above description as I believe, this is my opinion, that some of these names are actually places not names of the deceased. I had no luck in finding any relevant information on the deceased using this site, so the names that I have been able to find and attempted to verify was by using the search engine at the Anglo-Boer War Museum site, which are -
Above the cross - V. P. Weldon (Victor Patrie Waldon), with the address given as Standerton of the Bethel Commando, age 23/29.
Top of the cross - F. Wolmarans (F. G. Wolmarans), with the address given as Greylingstad of the Heidelberg Commando, age 40.
Bottom of the cross - H. Jacobus Van Wyk, no luck in confirming this Burgher.
Below the cross - Corp. C. C. Engelbrecht (Coenraad Christoffel Wanseberg Engelbrecht), with the address given as Witbank, Standerton of the Standerton Commando, age 36.
The Attack on Belfast
The following account is from the information provided on this site of Imperial Units -
Royal Irish Regiment
'When Belfast was attacked on the night of the 7th-8th January 1901 the Royal Irish provided part of the garrison. After severe fighting, the attack, which had been favoured by a dense mist, was driven off. The battalion lost 9 men killed and over 20 wounded. The praises of an enemy may be discounted by some, but it is at least worth noting that General Ben Viljoen in his book, when dealing with these attacks, mentions that the Royal Irish Regiment were the defenders, and says, "of which regiment all Britain should be proud". He also praised the 1st Gordons.'
Guerrilla Warfare, October 1900 - May 1902: Boer attacks on the Pretoria-Delagoa Bay Railway Line.
The South African Military History Society December 2000 by D. W. Aitken
The next big attack on the railway line by the ZAR forces took place on 7 January 1901. The places selected for attack were Machadodorp, Dalmanutba, Belfast, Wonderfontein and Pan, all railway stations on the Pretoria-Delagna Bay line, General Ben Vilinen was to attack from the north and commandants Botha and Smuts from the south. General Ben Viljoen describes the part he played in the attack on 7 January 1901:
'It was one of those nights known in the Steenkamp Mountains as "dirty nights", very dark with a piercing easterly wind. About 9 o'clock the mist changed into heavy rain. Exactly at midnight all had arrived at the place of destination. The positions near Monument Hill (Belfast) and the coal mine were attacked simultaneously. There were four forts near the Monument which the burghers stormed in the dark and captured, but suffered fairly heavy casualties. Twenty minutes of very fierce hand-to-hand fighting took place while the forts were being overrun by the ZAR forces and 21 prisoners of war, a Maxim and 20 boxes of ammunition and provisions were taken from the four captured forts.' Ben Viljoen's men then advanced into Belfast but failed to make contact with the other ZAR forces and decided to withdraw as dawn approached. The attacks on Wonderfontein, Pan, Dalmanutha and Machadodorp Stations all failed on 7 January and the Republican forces lost 40 killed and wounded.'
During January 1901, the ZAR forces between Carolina and Middelburg were estimated at between 5 000 and 7 000 men under Botha and Viljoen and the position of the British garrisons along the railway line was a critical one. At every moment, they were liable to attack by greatly superior forces and the perpetual vigilance necessary to prevent the success of such attacks imposed a severe strain upon officers and men, the more so as the rations for the men were by no means adequate, owing to the difficulty of maintaining communications. Telegrams reaching England from Delagna Bay seemed to indicate that for some time prior to the attacks upon the posts along the railway in January, the line at some point between the Portuguese frontier and Belfast had passed completely into the possession of the ZAR forces. A message reported that from 7 January the British had been holding the line and added that military supplies were being forwarded in great quantities, despite a shortage of engines and the interruption of traffic by frequent derailments.
(The Albury Banner and Wodonga Express, NSW, Friday 18 Jan, 1901)
I can't imagine that this wooden cross has survived after 120 years of unpredictable weather, but does anyone have any further information of this burial site or if this memorial has been replaced with a more solid structure in remembrance to these named Burghers.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Elmarie, BereniceUK
Thanks for posting the image of the memorial tablet. I did some late night internet searching and was able to find these two images of a Burgher Memorial for the fallen in the Belfast district, located at the Old Age Home, Belfast, Mpumalanga.
Three of the Burghers names that I was able to locate in the above post are listed, the fourth is still a mystery.