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Louis Sauer – A Prisoner War at Diyatalawa in Ceylon 1 month 6 days ago #85304

  • RobCT
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A recent posting about the Prisoner of War Camp at Diyatalawa in Ceylon has prompted me to post this story. As noted, some aspects of research are still outstanding. Hopefully a kind Forum Member will be able to add something to my story.

Four – Anglo Boere Oorlog Medalje Burger L. Sauer; 1914/15 Star; BWM; AVM (Bil) Pte. L. Sauer, Grobler’s Scouts.
German, General Schoeman (Klerksdorp) and General Liebenberg’s Commando.
ABO officially re-impressed. Type II re-issued in 1947.

Louis Sauer was born at Esbjerg in Jutland Coast, Denmark on 1 April 1875. At the age of 7½ years, he accompanied his parents to Johannesburg, and in due course became a naturalized Burgher of the South African Republic. He was a carpenter and was taken prisoner during the Boer War and was interned at Diyatalawa in Ceylon.

Being of Danish descent it is perhaps not too surprising that his name is listed amongst those linked to the Scandinavian Corps however his Vorm “B” application for his Anglo Boere Oorlog Medalje simply records that he served with the “Duitshe” and Klerksdorp Commandos under General Shoeman (sic), Commandant Naal? and General Piet Liebenberg. It was General Piet Liebenberg who endorsed his application for the medal which was dated 7 April 1921. (Did he sign his medal application or was it his son Louis? Died 1917? – refer later note)

An archival reference records that he was captured at Prieska by “Captain McMullen” of Nesbitt’s Horse

“It will be remembered that when Lord Roberts was advancing to Bloemfontein disaffection broke out to the west of the De Aar line (see Orpen’s Horse). Among other troops employed on the lower Orange and about Prieska was one squadron of Nesbitt’s Horse which did much patrol work. They operated during part of March and April 1900 under Lord Kitchener and General Settle, and were present with Colonel Adye in a sharp fight at Kheis district, Griqualand West, on 28th May 1900, when Lieutenant Venables and 1 man were wounded. The total British losses in Adye’s column were about 7 killed and 20 wounded, and that of the enemy was heavier, 20 of them being taken prisoners. This squadron of Nesbitt’s Horse remained in the Prieska district for over one year.”

The relevant ABO Vorm “B” includes the following detail for L. Sauer “October 1899 – 1900. Gevangen in Prieska krygsgevange in Ceylon”. It would therefore seem likely that Louis Sauer was captured by this squadron of Nesbitt’s Horse and that perhaps he was one of the 20 Boer prisoners who were captured during the sharp fight at Kheis district on 28 May 1900.

Having been taken prisoner Louis Sauer was interned at Diyatalawa in Ceylon. The Star newspaper published on 14 April 1980 includes an article which records his experiences as a Prisoner of War at the Diyatalawa Camp. (Must get a copy)

He was clearly one of those fortunate burghers who were allowed a great deal of latitude in mixing with the local Dutch population in Ceylon where about 5 000 burghers were interned on the island. After the cessation of hostilities in South Africa in 1902 he applied to remain in Ceylon where he married Grace Theresa, the daughter of William Edmund Felsinger and Catharina Wilhelmina Perkins. William was a Notary Public and was born on 26 August 1884, whereas Grace’s mother, Catharina who was born on 5 February 1844. Grace’s parents were married in the Dutch Reformed Church in Wolvendaal on 23 December 1861 some 17 years before she was born on 24 February 1879. Grace and Louis Sauer were married in the Dutch Reformed Church at Bambalapitiya on 28 January 1903. Their marriage produced the following children:

(i) Louis Edward Paul, born 17th October 1904.
(ii) Gerhard Valdimar born 13th October 1905, married in St. Peter's Garrison Church, Colombo, 3rd February 1934, Frances Elizabeth Roper, born 21st January 1908, and he had by her: —
(a) Susanna Pamela, born 24th November 1934.
(b) William Paul Roper, born 13th September 1938.
(iii) Julius, born 14th April 1907, married in the Dutch Reformed Church, Regent Street, Colombo, 5th September 1936, Johanna Enid Charlotte Van Rooyen, born 19th September 1903, daughter of Andries Johannes Berhardus Van Rooyen and Adeline Van Rooyen.
(iv) Grace Dorothea, born 15th April 1908.

Louis returned to South Africa in 1911. His son L.E.P. Sauer later donated a trove of family documents concerning his marriage to Grace, his Discharge Certificate and correspondence relating to the South African Rebellion dated 10 August 1914 to the War Museum of the Boer Republics in Bloemfontein in 1981. (To get copies)

It would seem that Louis was seemingly criminally charged in the Supreme Court with a demeanour involving drugs which involved a certain Dr McMullen. It would seem that he was reprimanded and fined - a further archival report dated 1922 seemingly recommending the remission of the remaining portion of a fine. (Still to draw documents)

World War 1 service records reflect that Louis Sauer first served as a Private, No 39, under Commandant L. Van Niekerk (Regiment: Zeerust) and that he received pay as a member (Rank: Private No 132) of the Marico Commando from “8 October 1914 to 13 December 1914”. He transferred to Grobler’s Scouts immediately thereafter, his dates of pay with the Scouts being recorded as “13 December 1914 to 18 May 1915”. These records also reflect that he was reported “Varicocle” at Swakop on 7 April 1915. His transfer to Maitland was noted on 13 April 1915, a Medical Board hearing which resulted in his discharge being held the following day. Both these documents record his Next-of-kin as Mrs L. Sauer, Colombo, Ceylon.

The General Staff Section of the UDF was tasked to conduct intelligence related activities and this role came to the fore when South Africa was ordered to invade German South West Africa in 1915. Major Langbaard Grobler and a fifty man Scout Corps were deployed to Walvis Bay. This unit was instructed to collect information of the German town of Swakopmund and the surrounding area.

In December 1914, South African General Louis Botha landed his troops at Walvis Bay, beginning the second phase of operations in what would become the Swakop River Campaign in the northern part of the German protectorate. As he moved forward, first to Swakopmund and then inland, he deployed the UDF’s intelligence units to reconnoitre the territory in advance of the front line while using signal units to monitor German wireless transmissions. The combination of both these methods allowed Botha to accurately determine the placement and strength of his opponent while the Germans remained largely in the dark about what was to their front.

On 18 March 1915, Botha moved forward with approximately 7 500 troops, outnumbering the Germans nearly tenfold.
Some 40 or 50 members of Grobler’s Scouts under Major Cornelius “Langbaard” Grobler were stationed at Walvis Bay where they were specifically deployed to obtain and uncover intelligence information from Swakopmund and further inland.

Although one reference records that Louis Sauer was killed in German East Africa this is not correct and he survived for many more years! It would seem that he himself signed his application for the award of his ABO medal which is date stamped 7 April 1921. Furthermore, the service documents which have been noted make no reference to any further service after his demobilisation on 18 April 1915, the finding of a Medical Board held in Maitland on 14 April 1915 recording: “Condition not result of services” and “Recommends discharge as unfit for any Military Service”. Interestingly however Grobler’s Scouts did serve under Major P.J. Pretorius during the campaign in German South West Africa.

It would seem that he and his wife divorced at some time or other as he is recorded as marrying Moria Sophia Benningfield by special license at Middelburg in the Transvaal on 26 May 1931 whilst being employed as a contractor in the Althorp district in Barberton. Grace died 15 years later on 3 May 1946.

Louis Grobler died 3 years later on 30 September 1948 following a fall down some stairs.

The following user(s) said Thank You: Rory, BereniceUK, Moranthorse1

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