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Battlefield correspondence 2 months 1 week ago #93935

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Fighting-General J.C. Celliers to Methuen, 17 June, 1901

The following letter also relates to getting wounded British soldiers back to their units but has a decidedly different tone. General Celliers, a Krugersdorp police commander, is clearly fed up with the British ambulances crossing his lines willy-nilly and sets out the rules of the game:



In the field
June 17, 1901
The Right Honourable Officer commanding Her Majesty’s troops, Mafeking, Zeerust

Right Honourable Sir,
I wish to bring to your Hounour’s attention that in future I will forcefully oppose the sending of your ambulances through our lines. I will afford you all the privileges under the Geneva Convention, and gladly do whatever can be done for your wounded, but your Red Cross carts require my prior authorization before they can cross our lines. I will not be responsible for the consequences if such is not complied with.

I have the honour to be, Sir
Your obedient servant,
(Signed) J.G. Celliers
Fighting General

This letter was the result of a discussion General Celliers had with Civil Surgeon Collins at Quarryfontein (Quarriefontein 149) about a wounded soldier left behind at Groot Afdeling (Jeppe 33). At the back of the letter, the CSO of the Western Districts at Mafeking writes on the 19th of June rather sarcastically about that altercation. I can’t decipher the name of that pedantic man, perhaps someone can help. Also I couldn’t find surgeon Collins among the 1291 men with that name who were active during the Boer War.










General Johan G. Celliers was born in 1861 in Fraserburg and grew up near the Kimberley diamond fields. In the first Boer War he fought under, then, Veld Kornet Koos De la Rey with the Marico commando. Celliers moved to the Witwatersrand when gold was discovered and ended up in the Police. Celliers was a member of the feared Krugersdorp ZARP commando that participated in many battles in Natal and Northern Cape. After the death of General Herman Lemmer, Celliers was appointed General of the 1000-strong Lichtenburg and Zeerust commando. In the West Transvaal Celliers fought with General J.C.G. Kemp (see previous post). He was severely wounded on March 4, 1901 but fully recovered and was with DelaRey when the latter attacked Colonel Anderson near Ysterspruit and bagged a British column with 150 wagons near Jagdspruit. Celliers also participated in the battle of Rooiwal on April 11, 1902 which cost the life of 50 Boers including General Potgieter. Celliers stayed in the field for the entire duration of the war and was at Vereeniging where he voted for peace.
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Battlefield correspondence 1 month 4 weeks ago #94147

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General L.A.S. Lemmer to Methuen 18 June 1901

During the height of the guerilla phase of the war, General Lemmer writes to Methuen asking him for a personal favor.






Buffelshoek
18 June 1901

To the Officer commanding H.M troops Mafeking or Cowan’s farm

Honourable Sir
Please have the goodness to send my wife to her destination and let my cart return with messrs Dyason and Louw.
Please sell Mr. Dyason some fodder for feeding my mules at your place.
Thanking your Honor in anticipation,
I have the honor to be,
Your honor’s obedient servant
(Signed) L.A.S. Lemmer

An internal memo survived in Belfield’s papers containing the negative response to Lemmer’s request.



The memo was compiled at Mafeking by a certain Captain A. Percival. This is probably Capt. Arthur Jex Blake Percival (born 1870), a highly decorated officer (DSO, Croix d’Officier du Legion d’Honeur) who died with General Lomax and other officers during a shell attack early in WW1. Methuen wrote about him: ”Ihad no officer serving under me in the South African War whose service as a regimental officer I valued more highly. He was a born leader of men, of splendid courage, and possessing a character which inspired all with whom he come in contact” (please refer to the excellent write up about Percival at this site).



Buffelshoek (Jeppe 284) is located northeast of Otto’s Hoop. Cowan’s farm may be Goodhope as that is the place where Belfield was on the 19th of that month.
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Battlefield correspondence 1 month 3 weeks ago #94158

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Vecht Generaal J.G. Celliers to Lt General Lord Methuen 11 July 1901

Fighting General Celliers (for short Bio, refer earlier post) writes to Methuen with a request for information about members of his commando who went missing.



In the field
11 VII 1901
His honor,
The officer commanding H.M troops Zeerust

Honorable Sir,
While crossing through your columns, the Burger Gert Benade and the youths Hendrik Pears, Jacobus Beukes. It is supposed that they were, perhaps, taken prisoner by one of your columns. This is to ask your honor therefore if you could provide me with information about them.
Thanking your Honor in anticipation,
I have the honor to be,
Your honors obedient servant
(signed) J.G. Celliers
Fighting General


Colonel Belfield, the good keeper of all these papers, was at the farm Kareespruit, west of Zeerust, when he responded to General Celliers on behalf of Lord Methuen that very same day:



Belfield did not only relate news about the fate of Gert Benade and the boys Pears and Beukes, he also explained why Methuen had a house burnt (reluctantly) on the farm Nooitgedacht (“first in many month”) because a woman fired from the house on HM troops or helped a man doing so.

The burger Benade referred to is Johannes Gerardus Benade of Rietvlei (Jeppe 5 or close-by 91 or 77) born on the 2nd of December 1884 and thus 18 years of age at the time he was captured on the farm Wilgeboomspruit (Jeppe 216) on the 8th of July 1901. Benade was shipped off to an unknown POW camp with number 20740. He survived the war and settled in Klerksdorp (Van Zylstraat 18), joined the league of veterans and received his ABO medal.

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Battlefield correspondence 1 month 3 weeks ago #94201

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Fighting General Celliers to Methuen, response by Colonel Belfield, September 11/12, 1901

On the date that would change the course of history exactly 100 years later, General Celliers wrote to Methuen two letters. The first responds to a letter that Methuen, or Belfield on behalf of Methuen, wrote to General L.A.S. Lemmer regarding arrangements for fetching Mrs Louw and Lemmer. Celliers writes:



In the field
11.9.1901
The right Honorable Officer commanding HM’s troops, Mafeking
Honorable Sir,
I have read your letter addressed to Assistant Fighting General Lemmer. I will arrange for a cart on Friday 13th at ten o’clock in the morning at Otto’s Hoop (Malmani) where I will fetch Mrs Louw and Lemmer. I regret not having been able to answer you earlier, but only received the letter [from] Gen. Lemmer yesterday.
Please find enclosed herewith letters address to Mrs Lemmer and Louw.
Thanking you in advance, I have the honor to be etc.
(Signed) J.G. Celliers, Fighting General


The second letter refers to the aftermath of the battle at Rhenosterfontein which took place on the 5th of September 1901. The History of War in South Africa 1899-1902 describes this from a British perspective as follows: ” On September 5, Lord Methuen skirting the Schurve Bergen near Wonderfontein, was waylaid by a commando in a most difficult valley, from which a long day’s close fighting extricated him with the loss of 11 killed and 26 wounded, the enemy loosing somewhat more in killed and wounded and 11 prisoners besides. On the 9th Lord Methuen was in Zeerust, with 23 prisoners and some 80 wagons captured by him and von Donop, who had marched slightly detached to the southward, his own casualties during that time having been 1 officer and 12 men killed and 2 officers and 28 men wounded. He then marched to Mafeking where he refitted and was for some time busied in filling Zeerust and Lichtenburg with supplies”. Celliers enquires in this letter after burgers who went missing in battle.



In the field
11.9.1901
The right Honorable Officer commanding HM’s troops, Mafeking
Honorable Sir,
In the engagement on the 5th of this month, two burgers went missing namely A. Dorfling and B (C?) de Winter. I would like to ask your honor, if you cannot perhaps give information about the mentioned burgers.
In the same battle at Rhenosterfontein, a cart inspanned with two mules driven by a certain Van der Walt under the banner of the Red Cross (the cart being a red cross ambulance) also went missing and your Honor would greatly oblige me if you could give me some information about said ambulance cart. Thanking you in advance,
I have the honor to be etc.
(Signed) J.G. Celliers, Fighting General

Belfield replied to both letters. He writes from Mafeking on the 11th of September:



Belfield sent a follow-up letter the next day in respect of the missing burgers Dorfling, de Winter and Van der Walt.



Adrias Zacharias Dorfling, 24 of Mooimetjesfontein was taken prisoner at Rhenosterfontein and ended up in India with POW number 22711. Cornelius de Winter, 24, of Lindleyspoort was sent to Trichinopoly Camp in India with POW number 23428. The 5th of September 1901 was not a good day for the Van der Walt family as no less than 4 family members were taken prisoner: Two at Steenbokfontein (Gert Hendrik, aged 45 and Tjaart Andries, aged 14) and the others at Olivenfontein (Hendrik Louis, aged 26 and Sarel Jacob, aged 29). Another van der Walt (Jan Ignatius) was taken prisoner that day in an unrelated incident at Myburgsfontein in the Orange Free State. The van der Walt driving the ambulance referred to in Celliers’ letter, however, was given a free-pass through Methuen’s camp at Wonderfontein to the farm Waterkloof.

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Battlefield correspondence 1 month 3 weeks ago #94202

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Everhard,

This is an extraordinary archive of correspondence, which shines a light on an aspect of the war that is rarely written about. Today, the gentlemanly conduct of the generals on both sides seems out of place for a war that had become so messy. Perhaps, in this way, it was "the last of the gentlemen's wars".

Your ability to locate the events described on Jeppe's map adds greatly to the narrative, as does your research into the subsequent whereabouts of the individuals discussed.

I am really enjoying this fascinating topic.

Neville
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Battlefield correspondence 1 month 3 weeks ago #94203

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Re gentlemen’s war: DelaRey was in for a whirlwind of hostility from some of the Boers for letting a seriously wounded Lord Methuen return to his lines when the latter was taken prisoner in the final months of the war at Tweebosch. In this respect, some of the most virulent attacks on DelaRey came from men who never fired a gun in anger. It is interesting to note that the attitudes of the men in the field towards the enemy often differed significantly from those at far away head-quarters or government offices. For example, one of the most bitter of the so called bitter-einders was my compatriot Leyds, who fought the war in starched shirt collars from heated offices in Brussels on a salary ten times that of General DelaRey's. As can be gleaned from this thread, during the war Lord Methuen was as fair, courteous and humane towards his opponents as the circumstances allowed. By that, he earned the respect of DelaRey -and many other Boer officers in the Western Transvaal- and that in turn played undoubtedly a role in the unpopular decision to release him.
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