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Battlefield correspondence 7 months 2 weeks ago #92436

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He certainly didn't mince words - told it to Methuen just like it was.
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Battlefield correspondence 7 months 1 week ago #92527

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Acting Kommandant Claasen to Methuen, Lt.Col. Money to Belfield

On the same day Kommandant J.D.L. Botha sent his no-nonsense missive to Methuen about deportations and farm burnings, acting-Kommandant J (?) E.F Claasen enquired after the whereabouts of missing burgers.

Army Camp

Mr. Methuen
I acknowledge receipt of your dispatch and ask if you will good enough to let me know -wherewith you would greatly please me- the whereabouts of the following persons:

H. Klaasen, Rietkuil [Hendrik Jacobus Claassen, 23 years of age]
H.Vorie, Renosterdoorn [Hendrik Jacobus Fourie, 22]
G. Venter, Rietkuil [Gerrit Stephanus Venter, 31]
J. Booisen, Vaalbank [Jan Gert Booysen, 21]
A. Oosthuisen, Kafferkraal [Andries Petrus Cornelis Oosthuizen, 23 of Goedevooruitzicht]
J. larox, Putfontein [Jacobus Johannes Le Roux, 28]
A. Engelbriech, Geluk [Adrian Johannes Engelbrecht, 24]
Above mentioned were captured at Vaalbosput. By doing so you will do me a great pleasure.
J (?) E.F. Claasen, acting Kommandant.

I could not find anything about acting-Kommandant Claasen, quite likely he even spelled his own name wrong. Between brackets are the names of the burgers as they appear in the database of the Bloemfontein museum. All these youngsters were captured by Methuen’s forces on the 9th of November 1900 either at Elandsputten or nearby Wonderfontein. They all hailed from farms east and south of Lichtenburg and were shipped off to St. Helena, quite likely on the same vessel. Interestingly, Kommandant Vermaas had on the 13th of November already enquired after Hendrik Fourie and had received an answer (see earlier post).

Belfield apparently forwarded the message to the O.C. of the 1st Northumberland Fusiliers, Lt. Col. G.C.G. Money, and this prompted a rather interesting reply the following day (Money’s handwriting is problematic and perhaps a helpful reader can decipher the various words that are illegible to me)

Money writes:
CSO 1st Division
Yesterday I sent under the flag of truce your letter to Commandant Vermaas which was answered by acting-Kommandant Classen (sic) I have no idea what your communication was, but herewith the translation of reply. [followed by text of Money’s translation as per above]
Money continues: Of course, I cannot answer this, so must await your reply. This morning a boy named Kriel (aged 12 about) came in from Manana and said that last night the Boers visited Manana and made all the men in the town dress and go to the laager which I think is at Varkfontein. Our friend de Wet has thus been taking( ?) away any and every other man. The boy’s mother is a sister of DelaRey’s and sent him in apparently to tell this tale to Mr?/ ??
It looks as if they were breaking (?) out (?) every man now, and seems serious.
C.G.C. Money, Lt. Col.
Commandant, Lichtenburg 31st December 1900.

General Koos DelaRey “The Lion of the West Transvaal”, was married to Jacoba (“Nonnie”) Greeff, a daughter of the founder of Lichtenburg Hendrik Adriaan Greeff. Koos and Nonnie initially settled on Manana (Jeppe 82), the Greeff family farm. Later DelaRey bought the farm Elandsfontein (35) north west of Lichtenburg. Koos and Nonnie followed the religious mantra of Go Forth and Multiply to the letter and had 12 children. They also took in six orphans, giving fresh perspective on the notion of a full house.

*Claassen and Venter both are listed residing at Rietkuil without Jeppe Indication.
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Battlefield correspondence 7 months 1 week ago #92528

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Jacques Malan / Van Zyl lists a Kmdt. Claassens:

"Hy was kommandant van die Krugersdorp-kommando en het op 30 Mei 1901 onder geni. J.C.G. Kemp, tydens die slag by Vlakfontein, geveg".

Could this be your acting-Kommandant?

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Battlefield correspondence 3 months 4 weeks ago #93875

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Letter from Assistant Commandant-General Jacobus Herculaas (Koos ) De la Rey to Lord Methuen, March 9, 1901

Wolmaranstad, March 9, 190
The Right Honourable Lord Methuen

Honourable Sir,
I have heard that Landdrost Pearson of Wolmaranstad has been taken Prisoner of War by you. I am prepared to exchange him with Major Paget, who is my prisoner. If you agree to this, you can send Mister Pearson back to our lines in the vicinity of your present camp and you can let me know where you wish me to send Major Paget.
Your obedient servant
(signed) J.H. De la Rey.

Manuscript letters by De La Rey written whist on commando are few and far between. This letter to Lord Methuen is interesting both for its timing and content. De la Rey wrote this letter just a few days after Methuen’s troops captured the Landdrost. De la Rey was, with reason, (see below) very concerned about the fate of Pearson and possibly feared for the man’s life.

The exchange alluded to in the letter seemed not to have taken place, as Frank Huysche Pearson, 46, of Valkfontein, is listed as captured near Wolmaranstad on the 5th of March 1901 and ended up in a POW camp in India. Interestingly, this website mentions another POW with the name Frank Pearson. This man was captured on the 11th of March at the same location.
The Major Paget De la Rey refers to is quite likely Major George Thomas C. Paget of the 19th Btn. Imperial Yeomanry, staff.

Imbued with the true Jingo spirit, Creswicke writes about the Pearson affair in Chapter IV, Western Transvaal, January-May 1901, page 31 and subsequent.

“At the end of February Lord Methuen's force, together with the small column under Colonel Benson, was actively engaged in hunting bands of marauders in the triangle—Klerksdorp, Potchefstroom, Venterdorp. On the 4th of March the troops marched from Klerksdorp towards Hoopstad, thence to withdraw the garrison. En route they, having left their convoy under strong escort on the road to Commando Drift, made a night descent on Wolmaranstad with the intention of liberating the British and Boer State prisoners who were known to be detained there. But at dawn when they arrived they discovered that the place was deserted ! Tile sole, though not unimportant, result of their exertions was the capture of the Landdrost, Pearson, a person who had rendered himself notorious in connection with the cases of Messrs. M'Lachlan and Boyd, who with three burghers were shot at Wolmaranstad. The particulars of the dastardly murder of these men must be recorded, as they serve to show the innate brutality of the Boers, which in the earlier part of the war had been suppressed in hope to seduce the sympathy of the Powers. The news of the execution of five British subjects so-called rebels —by Delarey's commando was brought to Klerksdorp by Mrs. M'Lachlan, whose husband, father, and brother-in-law had been among the victims. Most of them were burghers who had surrendered or left the country prior to the war, while the others were alleged to have taken up arms. The man Boyd, a British subject, had been detained in jail since July 1900 by the Landdrost, who induced him, with two others, to indite a message to the English praying them to come to their rescue. This was afterwards made the plea for sentencing the three to death, .Among others sentenced were two burghers named Theunissen, well-known farmers of Klerksdorp, who had surrendered with General Andreas Cronje's commando in June, and had taken the oath of neutrality and refused to break it. Mrs. M'Lachlan, the daughter of the elder Theunissen, gave an account of her loss, narrating how she had taken coffins to the place of execution to bury the bodies of her father, brother, and husband, to whom she had been married only two years, while another lady made the following statement : —"The Boers have forty of our men prisoners there. Eight or ten have been condemned to be shot. They were tried by the late Landdrost of Klerksdorp, a man named Heethling [Probably Neethling, efv], in conjunction with other members of the Court. The sentences were confirmed by Generals Smuts and Delarey, who sent men to carry them out. The four who were shot were Mr. Theunissen, his son, his son-in-law, Mr. M’Lachlan, and Mr. Boyd. From first to last they were most brutally treated. The execution was a sad spectacle. The prisoners, on being taken out of jail, grasped one another's hands. They were placed in a row and shot down one by one. Mr. Boyd received three bullets, but was still alive when put into the grave. The Boers then fired again, and all was over. It was nearly being my husband's fate, but, thank God, he escaped. Mr. George Savage was also condemned to be shot, but he has been insane since his trial. His wife has gone with Mrs. Pienaar to try to get the sentence commuted. Mrs. Pienaar being with her maypossibly have some influence." From all accounts it appeared that the man Pearson, who was captured by Lord Methuen, was prime actor In the barbarous drama, and, handcuffed, he was removed to await his trial”.
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Battlefield correspondence 3 months 4 weeks ago #93924

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Fieldnotes by Generals C.C.J (Stoffel) Badenhorst and L.A.S. Lemmer to Lord Methuen, April/June 1901.

During the second WW, a famous incident occurred that involved Luftwaffe ace Franz Stigler and rookie B 17 pilot Charlie Brown. (If you are not familiar with that story, look it up, it’s fascinating). Stigler spectacularly saved Brown’s life but nobody got to know that at the time because Brown was sworn to secrecy by his superiors. The reason for this imposed secrecy lay of course in the notion that such stories distort the negative image of the enemy as constructed by the authorities and press.

This notion applied, and applies, to any war and the Boer War was not an exception. Reading through the British press articles of the era you will be hard-pressed to find an article in which the Boers are depicted other than that of a bunch of cowardly, ruthless murdering bastards. The reality in the field was different.

Hereunder follow two short Field notes scribbled by Boer Generals on notebook pages addressed to Lord Methuen in the first half of 1901. Methuen was at the time already busy implementing Lord Robert’s scorched-earth orders (admittedly, with much reluctance) and the atrocities committed under that policy could, on their own, have been sufficient ground for the Boer Generals to harden their stance on matters such as the treatment of wounded enemy soldiers. These little notes show that even at the height of the hostilities a certain sense of civility survived in these instances in the form of permitting wounded Prisoners of War to go back to their own lines where they had a better chance of recovery.

In the field
April 5th, 1901

Commanding Officer
Please send for your wounded. His leg is shot off.
(signed) C.C.J. Badenhorst

This message was received and at Boesmansput (201) a farm south east of Christiana. Methuen had arrived on that farm from Warrenton.

Lemmer wrote a similar message two months later;

In the Field
June 2, 1901

The Right Honourable Lord Methuen, Lt. General
Right honourable Sir,
Please send your ambulance to fetch your wounded.
I have the honour to be your honour’s obedient servant
(signed) L.A.S Lemmer
Kommandant Marico

According to Belfield’s map, on June 2, 1901 Methuen’s force was operating near Lindley.

Christoffel Cornelius Jacob (Stoffel) Badenhorst, born in 1871, was a Boer General from the Boshof district in the OVS. Badenhorst fought from the beginning of the war, first as an unranked burger under Kommandant J.H. DuPlessis. He participated in the siege of Kimberley and was active in many subsequent battles in the vicinity, notably at Rooilaagte, Belmont, Magersfontein and Modder Rivier. In March 1900 he was appointed Field Cornet. He escaped Prinsloo’s Brandwaterkom disaster together with General DeWet and was subsequently appointed as Kommandant for the newly-raised Boshof-Hoopstad commando (1000 strong). In that capacity he was involved in the capture of a British train at Slypklip and with Colonel Pilcher’s surrender. At Tweefontein, he liberated a Women’s Laager and captured 400 guns and 800 head of cattle. Two weeks after writing the field note, he was appointed assistant Hoofd-Kommandant for the North western part of the Orange Free State and promoted to General just before the end of the war. Badenhorst was present at the peace negotiations at Vereeniging where he was one of the few who voted against the terms imposed by the British. He published a book about his war experiences in 1903 titled: “Uit den Boeren Oorlog 1899-1902”.

General Lodewijk Arnoldus Slabbert Lemmer (not to be confused with his namesake General Hermanus Richard Lemmer, mentioned in an earlier post) was born in 1864 in the Marico district. Lemmer, a teacher and later tax collector, entered the war as an unranked burger but was quickly promoted, first to Korporaal then to Veld Kornet. With the reorganization of the Boer Forces in 1900, Lodewijk Lemmer was appointed Landdrost of Zeerust, but was called back to active duty to become Kommandant of the Marico Commando at the death of General Hermanus Lemmer. Lodewijk Lemmer was severely wounded in March 1901 during an attack on Lichtenburg. Upon his recovery he was appointed assistant Fighting General for Marico. When Generals De la Rey and Kemp left the for the peace negotiations, Lodewijk Lemmer was appointed General for Pretoria, Krugersdorp and Rustenburg in place of Kemp. Interestingly, Lodewijk Lemmer and Jan Kemp ended up on opposite sides in South West Africa during the rebellion of 1914/1915.
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Battlefield correspondence 3 months 3 weeks ago #93931

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All these are very interesting - keep them coming!
The past is not dead. In fact, it's not even past.

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