A Remarkable Man - Felix Lutz M.C., A.B.O. LvW, WWI trio, WWII "home pair". 1 year 1 month ago #68516
Felix Lutz, M.C .
Burgher, Senekal Commando
Secretary & Adjutant, General P.H. Roux – Anglo Boer War
Captain & Adjutant, Thring’s Light Horse
Captain & Adjutant, 1st Regiment, 5th Mounted Brigade (Brands Free State Rifles) – German South West Africa –
Captain, Draft Conducting Officer.
Lieutenant and Captain, 3rd Battalion, Kings Liverpool Regiment – WWI
- Military Cross (unnamed reverse as issued) for services in German South West Africa
- ABO medal to Lt. F. Lutz - Adjutant & Krygs Sekretaris to General Vilonel and General Roux
- LvW - Wounded in Action at Driefontein (Abrahamskraal)
- 1914/15 Star to Capt. F. Lutz, Brands F.S. Rifls. (Adjutant 1st Regiment, 5th Mounted Brigade)
- British War Medal to Capt. F. Lutz (Liverpool Regiment)
- Unilingual Victory Medal to Capt. F. Lutz
- War Medal 1939/45 to 86607 F. Lutz
- Africa Service Medal to 86607 F. Lutz
- Efficiency Medal (late issue, privately named and not eligible for)
Felix Lutz was an interesting man – fighting, from a young age, with the Senekal Commando in the Boer War, his abilities were swiftly recognised and he became Adjutant and War Secretary to, first the infamous General Vilonel, and then to the “Pastor” General, Paul Roux.
He did his bit in World War I and was awarded the Military Cross for his efforts in German South West Africa. From there he went on to the Western Theatre and to service in World War II, as a Non – Commissioned Officer – some would say he was indefatigable – who are we to disagree?
Lutz was born on 17 June 1881 in Cape Town, the son of Felix Lutz, an Organ Builder by trade, and his wife Caroline, born Hausserman. Growing up he was kept company by a sister, Augusta Margaretha Lutz (who never married). As a young man he was educated in the nearby rural towns of Wellington and Worcester, completing the Higher Taalbond (Hollands) in 1896 and matriculating at the Cape University in 1898, before deciding to pursue a career in law, for which purpose he moved to the Orange Free State where he was articled to F.H. Hill, a firm of Attorneys’ in Kroonstad.
It was here that we find him on the dawn of the 12 October 1899, the day hostilities between the two Dutch-speaking Boer Republics of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal burst onto the international stage. Several weeks before war was declared, the order to mobilise had gone out to the various towns and districts to prepare for what was to come – Commandos sprang into existence and the men who to lead them into battle were elected by the Burghers. The Boers had a very democratic way of choosing their leader – they voted for them.
Although resident in Kroonstad, Lutz decided to throw in his lot with the Senekal Commando under the leadership of the soon to be notorious General Stephanus Vilonel. As is always the case with the Boers, the form they completed to apply for the award of their medal required them to stipulate where and in what actions and battles they participated. The Anglo Boere Oorlog medal which they were eligible for, was only available from 1921 onwards, and the passage of time had, in some instances, dimmed the combatants memory by the time they applied. The witnesses required to confirm that the recipient was where he said he was, kept the process honest and accurate.
In Lutz’s case he claimed to have been in action at the Tugela, Poplar Grove, Driefontien (Abrahams Kraal) and De Wetsdorp.
Whilst with the Senekal Commando at the beginning of his service, he served under Veld Kornet Gerrit van der Merwe and the aforenamed General S. Vilonel. Having seemingly not been present at the actions leading up to the Siege of Ladysmith on 1 November 1899, he was present at the Tugela. Amery, in Volume II of the Times History of the War, takes up the story on page 303 – General Botha and other Boer leaders, tired of the inactivity around Ladysmith where a stalemate had been reached and the decision taken to starve the British Garrison into surrender rather than to lose lives in a full frontal assault, had taken it upon himself to push for an offensive south of the Tugela River, where it was known that British reinforcements, determined to relieve Ladysmith, were approaching.
General Joubert yielded to the pressure on him and consented to an advance south of the Tugela. To this end a picked and well mounted force 3000 to 3500 strong, composed of detachments of, among others, the Middelburg, Vryheid and Utrecht Commandos, and the Johannesburg Police, and Senekal, Vrede and Frankfort Free Staters, with 4 or 5 guns, was collected at Colenso on 13th and 14th November 1899. On the 14th strong patrols pushed on to Chieveley, and as far as the Estcourt-Weenen road, within 5 miles of Estcourt itself, but without engaging the enemy.
What followed the very next day was to go down in the annals of history as the Churchill train incident. This is where Winston Churchill and a number of others were taken prisoner after the train they were travelling on for reconnaissance purposes, was derailed and fired upon by the waiting Boer forces.
A month later, on 15 December 1899, the battle of Colenso took place which saw one of several attempts by Buller to break through to Ladysmith thwarted. There is no evidence to suggest that Lutz and his Senekal comrades were present at this engagement or, for that matter, the seminal battle of Spioenkop which took place on 22 January 1900 – here, as at Colenso, the British forces were given a bloody nose.
None of this deterred the ponderous Buller who, yet again, plotted and planned another action with the objective of reaching Ladysmith. On this occasion, the battle of Vaalkrantz was fought – the total strength of the Boer forces on the Upper Tugela was about 4000 men. The hill, Tabanyama, was held by the Heilbron Commando, Spioenkop by the men from Ermelo, and Twin Peaks by an assortment of Commandos including the Rustenburg, Vryheid and Carolina Commandos.
From the Twin Peaks to Krantzkloof, the main position was held by the Ermelo, Senekal, Vrede, Frankfort and Zoutpansberg men, in that order. Buller had planned his attack for the 5th February – this plan was “to attack the enemy on the extreme left and to endeavour to take the hill Vaal Krantz”. There was to be an artillery bombardment first, which would drive the Boers into their trenches whereupon the 4th Brigade, supported by the 2nd Division, would attack Vaal Krantz.
All went well initially, but with Buller dithering and indecisive as to his next move, the Boers were able to bring up reinforcements and heavy artillery on the night of the 6th which, with the break of dawn saw them in a commanding position. Even then, had Buller, pressed home his numerical advantage, the day might have been won for the British – as it was he ordered the withdrawal of his forces back across the Tugela – his third attempt, so soon after Colenso and Spioenkop, had ended in failure. The role the Senekal men (and Lutz) played in this saga is not well documented but they would have been part of the force who played a withering fire, from their trenches, on the British troops as they crossed the drift on the hastily built pont.
The Senekal Commando was now withdrawn from Natal and sent with some alacrity to bolster De Wet’s numbers in the Western Theatre of the war where De Wet was in a duel with Kitchener and Roberts – trying everything in their respective powers to, on the one hand, capture Bloemfontein and on the other, prevent that from happening. Kitchener’s Kopje had been captured by the British on 21 February with De Wet just managing to make good his escape. A day later, on 22 February the reinforcements from Natal arrived in the form of the Winburg Commando under Commandant Theunissen and the Senekal Commando under Commandant Vilonel.
A plan was now hatched to retake Kitchener’s Kopje – on the 23rd a general attack was made but the Boers didn’t have the heart for it and most of them were not engaged in the action. Several demonstrations did take place but were easily beaten back by the British. Theunissen and 100 of his men were taken prisoner with the Senekalers, seemingly, staying out of the fight. With this setback it became apparent that the Boers had abandoned all hope of relieving Cronje’s force at Paardeberg.
On the morning of 27 February President Steyn arrived in the laager at Poplar Grove, in an effort to exhort the Boers to some fresh effort to relieve Cronje. Sadly, a few hours later, the news of his surrender with 4000 men was received. The mood was sombre and Steyn returned to Bloemfontein knowing that the British march on his capital was almost unstoppable. Kruger rushed down from Pretoria to consult with him and, together, they determined that a final stand would be made at all costs.
By now a total of over 6000 Burghers were assembled at Poplar Grove, under De Wet. De la Rey and some of his men were still around Bloemfontein. At Poplar Grove the Burghers had been busy entrenching a series of positions astride the Modder River, covering a front of 25 miles. Nearly four miles north-west of Poplar Grove Drift was the right of the main Boer position, and from it the Boer trenches ran south across the open veld. This section was held by Senekal, Potchefstroom and Bethlehem Burghers with one gun on the summit of Loog Kop.
These dispositions were well known to Lord Roberts whose plan was to capture the entire Boer army in the field in a pincer movement. French and his cavalry were to take a wide birth to the left of the Boer flank, perceived to be their weak spot, and, once word had been reached that he was to the rear of the Boers the Infantry would advance after the Artillery had pummelled the Boer positions with concentrated shell-fire. Roberts had calculated that he had over 30 000 men and 42 guns against the 14 000 men and twenty guns the Boers could muster.
The morning of 7 March dawned – this was to be the day of the battle – the British enveloping movement was so slow and ponderous that the Boers had 2 hours and more in which to observe the British movements – those stationed on Seven Kopjes and the whole range to the north, started withdrawing at about 7h30 – the odds they would otherwise face were too overwhelming. This set off a chain reaction and, soon, the entire Boer force closeby began to withdraw and take to their horses and waggons. The Boer Commander, De Wet was, as yet, unaware of these developments – he emerged from his tent when he heard the guns open fire, only to learn that his entire left wing was in full retreat. There was nothing for it now but to evacuate his position and fight a rear guard action and keep off the pursuers.
Save for a skirmish with a small band of Boers in the rear guard, no fighting took place. The failure of the plan can be attributed to the poor communication between the various members of the British command as well as their slothfulness in seizing the initiative. There were a number of occasions that presented themselves, during the course of the day, to overtake the retreating Boers and claim a singular victory. Lutz and the Senekalers rode away to fight another day.
Thoroughly disheartened by how easily they had been turned out of their positions at Poplar Grove, they streamed away in a disorganised fashion, toward Bloemfontein - now determined to make a stand at Abrahams Kraal they joined De la Rey and President Kruger there. Kruger stood on the roadside appealing to the Boers as they headed home in droves, to put up one last fight, save Bloemfontein and the war would then be over, he promised.
At first this exhortation met with little success, eventually Kruger ordered the Pretoria Police to shoot anyone who passed. No one was shot and, gradually, the flow subsided to a trickle and even some of those who had passed by returned to aid in this last effort.
Some low, flat-topped kopjes south of Oertel’s Farm effectively commanded the main road along the river. These were strongly entrenched and held by the Johannesburg Police and by the bulk of De la Rey’s force. The right wing was pushed forward almost two miles in the riverbed, while smaller detachments were posted across the river. The left flank was thrown back on an isolated group of well-defined kopjes on Damvallei Farm. De la Rey’s hope was that the British, coming along the road, might think they had only a rear-guard in front of them, and batter their heads against the centre of the position.
On the 10th French’s column moved off – he had intended to skirt Abraham’s Kraal kopjes and was under the impression that the Boers were dispersing and not intent on making a stand. Having been disabused of that notion by his scouts later that morning, he decided to give Abrahams Kraal, which was found to be well manned, as well as Damvallei, a wide berth and to march across the apparently unoccupied Driefontein kopjes to a point further south.
At 9 a.m. “Q” Battery, escorted by cavalry and some Mounted Infantry, moved forward and came into action against the Damvallei ridge. The Boers at once opened with their guns from both ends of the ridge, and with a gun and pom-pom on the veld east of the Driefontein kopjes. The escort scattered but the battery remained in action till dusk, keeping up a desultory artillery duel at 5000 yards. “U” Battery had headed northwards and engaged the Boers guns near the river, before moving south. French and his staff could see, from their kopje, a body of 600-700 Boers emerge from behind the Damvallei ridge and ride round to the rear of the Driefontein kopjes.
While Vilonel and the original force (Senekalers included) held the Boschrand, the Z.A.R.P. and others under De la Rey, reinforced the Driefontein kopjes. The main body proceeded with all speed to pile up stone schanzes along a long and narrow ridge running east and west. Martyr had come up with his Mounted Infantry across the veld some two or three miles south of Driefontein farm. He was acting as escort to the field telegraph section but they suddenly came under fire from a Boer patrol on a kopje west of the Boschrand.
Broadwood and his force came up to join Martyr and, making an attempt to secure a lodgement on the southern face of Boschrand, was repulsed. The British infantry were now coming up and, by midday, were half-way across the valley, and came under desultory shell-fire from Damvallei and long distance sniping from the Driefontein ridge. With the help of artillery, the infantry was able to advance, driving the Boers off their advance positions to fall back on the main ridge. French, seeing this, assumed that the Boers were in full retreat and ordered the advance to speed up. It did not take long before his error was detected – a heavy fire was opened on the advancing men and, at the same time, the heavy guns opened on the transport which was trundling along towards the open gap between Damvallei and the Driefontein kopjes.
The infantry, reaching the foot of the ridge without difficulty, found a tremendous fire directed upon them the moment they appeared over the crest. Time was marching on an, at 15h30, Roberts, whose plan to enter Bloemfontein was looking tenuous, ordered that a full-scale attack be made on the strong Boer position. With a series of short rushes, and under withering fire from the ridge, the British advanced – yard by yard, from boulder to boulder, the infantrymen made it to within 300 yards of the Boer sangars where the “ZARPS” and Free Staters from various Commandos, were hanging on with equally splendid determination.
Confronted with the sheer force of men advancing on their position and subdued by the artillery bombardment that went with it, the Boers started to drift away in twos and threes, heading for their horses. On this occasion though, they were too slow and as many as 30 were taken prisoner by French’s cavalry who made it to the rear of their position. The remainder headed for Bloemfontein in disarray.
It was here, in the Abraham’s Kraal action, that Lutz was wounded – a bullet wound through his left arm – for which he applied for and was awarded the Lint voor Wonden – the Wound Ribbon awarded to the Boers.
Mention has been made of Commandant Vilonel, senior officer of the Senekal Commando. This gentleman gained notoriety among the Boer Command for two reasons – although regarded as a highly competent leader, he was wilful and reluctant, at times, to obey commands from his superiors. The second reason was that he negotiated surrender terms with the British and covertly attempted to persuade other Boer leaders to do likewise.
On 25 March 1900, the burghers returned from the leave they had been granted following the fall of Bloemfontein. From their meeting place on the Sand River, Christiaan de Wet moved south with 1 500 men and seven guns. Somewhere between Winburg and Brandfort, he fell out with Vilonel, whose Winburg commando was accompanied by about thirty wagons, in spite of the krygsraad decision of just a week before that commandos should no longer be thus encumbered.
On 29 May 1900, at Senekal, Vilonel entered into negotiations with the British and it was agreed that should he surrender, he could remain in the town on parole. For the present, however, Vilonel returned to the commandos and was offered the vacant position of combat general. Vilonel declined on the grounds that he had decided to surrender and this he did in the second week of June 1900.
He subsequently justified his decision to surrender on the grounds that ‘our independence was hopelessly lost, … and that it was absolute folly to continue the struggle, as it would only lead to total destruction of private property and ultimate destitution’.
It is not clear when Lutz and Vilonel parted company – it could well have been at this time – but Lutz now moved on to bigger and better things. Although still only 19 years old, he was recognised for his acumen and administrative abilities, joining the staff of the Free State General Paul Roux. Roux was a complex but able man and, moreover, a man of the cloth who was reputed to have never owned, carried or fired a weapon.
At this stage of the war Roberts realised that he needed to subdue the Boer forces under De Wet operating in the Eastern Free State, around the Thaba ‘Nchu area (and surrounding towns). This part of the country was known as the “granary” for its abundance of wheat, flour and other foodstuffs. It was also home to the Winburg, Senekal, Bethlehem and Harrismith Commandos, to name a few. These men were among the most fanatical still in the field – they had, after all, a lot to lose should their towns and countryside fall into British hands.
Slowly but surely, Roberts applied the necessary amount of pressure and, with the Boers for the most part offering only sporadic and token resistance, his juggernaut rolled on, capturing the towns of Winburg, Senekal and Bethlehem with, almost, impunity. This had the effect of driving the Boers into what was known as the Brandwater Basin and it was here that the surrender of Marthinus Prinsloo and more than 4 000 Orange Free State burghers in Eastern Orange Free State at the end of July 1900 occurred. This had the effect of, seemingly, knocking the Orange Free State out of the war and was a severe blow to the Boer war effort in general. The fact that the Boers surrendered under dubious circumstances and without putting up a fight in the Brandwater Basin fed conspiracy theories and caused a lot of animosity.
One man who played an important part in this drama was Lutz’s senior, the Reverend Paul Roux. The Boer forces being divided into three main sections, Paul Roux found himself confronted by a dilemma, because he did not know exactly what forces he was supposed to command, as well as not knowing what exactly his command relationship with Marthinus Prinsloo was.
In July 1900 these two disparate commanders found themselves in the Brandwater Basin and it was just a question of time before clashes would ensue regarding who held overall command in the Basin. Several council meetings ("krijgsraadvergaderings") took place in the Brandwater Basin, with Roux and Prinsloo trying to outwit each other. And all the while, the British forces, commanded by Lieutenant-General Archibald Hunter, were closing in, eventually sealing off all the mountain passes leading into, and out of, the Basin.
During the night of 27–28 July 1900 Roux was elected as overall commander of all the Boer forces that remained in the Brandwater Basin. But then Prinsloo and a number of other officers arrived at the war council meeting and demanded a new vote on the issue, and as a consequence, Prinsloo was elected as overall commander. The war council meeting then debated the issue of what to do next: continue with the military resistance against the British forces; ask for an armistice; or surrender? Sources contradict one another as to what exactly the war council decided to do, but what is a fact, is that soon afterwards, Prinsloo contacted Hunter and surrendered all the Boer forces in the Basin. Roux apparently protested, but to no avail.
Roux’s version of events commences on 5 July 1900. At that stage the commandos of Ficksburg, Ladybrand, Thaba ’Nchu, Wepener and a portion of the Winburg- and Smithfield-commandos were concentrated about 10 km east of Ficksburg and Senekal. This section of the Free State forces was under the command of General J. Crowther and comprised about 2 300 men. A second section, under the command of Chief Commandant F.J.W.J. Hattingh, defended the mountain passes between the O.F.S. and Natal. As with Crowther’s section, Hattingh had about 2 300 man under his command.
The third section, under the command of Chief Commandant C.R. de Wet, took up positions in the vicinity of Bethlehem. This section comprised the Commandos’ of Heilbron, Bethlehem, Kroonstad, Bloemfontein, Rouxville, Bethulie, Jacobsdal and Fauresmith as well as part of the Winburg Commando.
On the 6 July 1900 the British forces attacked Bethlehem and, having discovered a weak point in the defences, occupied the town on the morning of the 7th. By that evening the Boer forces attempting to defend Bethlehem, fell back in the direction of Retiefsnek and Slabbertsnek.
At this point, according to Roux, the Winburg Commando separated into two sections – the section that interests us is most likely the Senekal Commando led by Commandant G.S. van der Merwe. Both Roux and Van der Merwe were at this time members of the Senekal Commando.
The effect of the withdrawal meant that the majority of the Free State forces which now found themselves in the Brandwater Basin, in a half-moon shaped deployment around Fouriesburg. The plan was that the Free State forces would now confer as to their next step. They were in a precarious position – the British forces could block all access routes into the Basin thereby trapping the Boers, depriving them of almost any hope of escape.
To settle the differences amongst the Boers in the basin, a secret council of war or krijgsraad, consisting of all the senior burgher officers, was held. The meeting was presided over by President Steyn and a decision was taken that the Boer forces would be divided into three columns and that each should attempt to break out of the basin.
The first column, under General de Wet, accompanied by President Steyn and Generals P Botha and Piet de Wet and about 2 600 men, was to start on 15 July. The second, under Paul Roux with Generals P J Fourie and Froneman and about 2 000 men, was to start a day later, and the third one was to follow later under General Crowther with about 500 men. The remaining men under General Martinus Prinsloo were to hold the passes against the British. The plan, which had not been made known to the rank and file, had considerable merit and had it been carried out completely, the British forces would have been kept fully occupied by the escaping Boers and held back by Prinsloo's men.
In the event, however, only the first column under General de Wet managed to escape on the night of 15 July. His laager, which had been in position at Kaffir Kop between Retief's Nek and Slabbert's Nek, moved through Slabbert's Nek in a convoy of about 400 wagons and carts. This escape must also be seen in the light of the fact that the Slabbert's Nek exit had not yet been closed by the British.
There was much criticism of De Wet and President Steyn for abandoning the remaining burghers in the basin and, owing mainly to the lack of an appointed commandant-in-chief, the rest of the plan was not carried out. The Boer military system did not provide for a regular or proper route of promotion, and any hoof commandant in an area at any time could assume command. Since both Prinsloo and Roux - men of equal authority - were left in the basin, a problem existed. Therefore, it had become imperative for the Boers to appoint a new commandant-in-chief or hoof commandant and, after much debate and discussion about the two main contenders, Prinsloo was elected at a krijgsraad at Slaapkranz on 27 July. By this time, valuable time had been lost and the escape plan had not been completed.
Paul Roux was much younger than Prinsloo and had drawn attention to himself and his commando in Natal by making useful suggestions about the organization of the forces and by his devotion to the wounded. After General P H de Villiers had become disabled at Biddulphsberg, Roux had been appointed Veg Generaal in spite of some jealousy from other commandants.
In the meantime, the British generals Bruce Hamilton and Hector Macdonald had been charged with closing and holding Naauwpoort Nek to the north of the Brandwater Basin and the Golden Gate exit in the north-east. General Hector Macdonald was despatched to Naauwpoort Nek on 25 July to join up with Bruce Hamilton and the combined forces bivouacked at Middelvlei. Macdonald established himself at David Naude's farm and had effectively closed Naauwpoort Nek by 26 July, after meeting with considerable resistance there.
As the only exit from the Brandwater Basin then still open to the Boers was the Golden Gate, Generals Macdonald and Bruce Hamilton marched eastwards to Darvel's Rust, about 10 miles from Naauwpoort Nek. There they bivouacked on the night of 27 July. On the next day, 28 July 1900, Bruce Hamilton moved eastwards with his brigade. These forces moved the enemy from successive positions and reached Stephanus Draai by nightfall. Bruce Hamilton, as yet unaware of the reinforcements that were being sent to him, moved forward on 29 July with his small force. The country was difficult and the Boers opposed his advance.
Inside the Brandwater Basin, the great majority of burghers were only too glad to be relieved of the intolerable strain of the last month of being harried by the British and surrendered willingly. On the morning of 30 July 1900, General Hunter received the surrender of Generals Prinsloo and Crowther and of the Ficksburg and Ladybrand commandos. The surrender took place on what would become known as 'Surrender Hill'.
The first prominent Boers to appear were Prinsloo, De Villiers and Crowther - fine looking men. Then followed the commandos, who threw down their arms and ammunition with a certain effect of swagger in front of the guns. The whole scene was most romantic ... In the background were huge mountain masses standing out in the clear morning air, and from these came the various commandos winding down the steep mountain paths to the valley below. They were a motley lot - old and young men - some mere boys; all had two horses each at least, but many had three, the spare ones being used for baggage, which consisted of pots, pans, bedding, blankets, etc.
The surrender at Slaapkranz went on for several days and the prisoners of war were despatched in parties of two hundred to the town of Fouriesburg under the escort of the Imperial Yeomanry.
The march of the captured commandos commenced the following day, on 2 August, and the men eventually arrived at Bethlehem, Senekal and Winburg on 12 August. With the exception of about 105 old men and young boys who were issued with railway passes to enable them to return to their homes, the commandos were sent by train to Cape Town and, subsequently, shipped overseas to Ceylon. The net total of the five commandos captured at the Golden Gate was 1 544 men.
Lutz is the pale fellow at the back of the photo - No. 1
There are varying accounts of the total number of men who were captured, but, according to the Times History, 4 314 men had surrendered by 9 August as a result of all the combined operations. Three guns were captured, as well as 2 800 head of cattle, 4 000 sheep, and between 5 000 and 6 000 good horses, while two million rounds of ammunition were destroyed.
Felix Lutz, Adjutant and War Secretary to General Paul Roux was one of those who surrendered at Fouriesburg on 30 July 1900. For him the war was over. Having been sent down to Green Point in Cape Town, he was transported to Diyatalawa Camp in Ceylon on 22 August 1900, aboard the “Dilwara”. At least he wasn’t alone, many of his intimate acquaintances as well as General Roux were incarcerated with him.
Having returned from Ceylon in August 1902, Lutz set about picking up the pieces of his life. At 21 he was still a young man – returning to Kroonstad he continued serving his articles with the firm of Attorney’s who had employed him prior to the outbreak of war. Involving himself in his studies it wasn’t long before he was called to the bar, becoming a practising lawyer in 1906.
There was little to disturb the equanimity of the country after the cessation of hostilities. Foes became friends and, with the advent of Union (the amalgamation of all four former colonies and republics in South Africa), in 1910, General Botha became Prime Minister and General Smuts the Minister of Defence. A period of relative peace prevailed but that was shattered with the outbreak of the Great War on 4 August 1914 – pitting Great Britain against Germany and her allies.
Not one to shirk his responsibilities Lutz approached an Irishman living in Kroonstad by the name of Alfred Lester Thring. Thring, like Lutz, an ex-combatant on the Boer side, was in the process of raising a regiment to see service and Lutz, with his administrative abilities, helped him bring Thring’s Light Horse into being on 26 October 1914. The first order of business for the unit was an unpleasant one – the decision by Botha and his cabinet to take South Africa into the war on the side of Great Britain, met with opposition by many former Boers in the Orange Free State and the Western Transvaal. So much so that they went into open rebellion against the government – taking up arms against them.
Local outfits as well as those from other Provinces were called upon to suppress the rebellion by force and, on many an occasion, brother would have been pitted against brother. The uprising was finally quelled in December 1914, freeing up the troops to invade German South West Africa. The various Free State Commandos (such as Thring’s Horse) were reformed as Brands Free State Rifles (5th Mounted Brigade) in January 1915 and formed part of Botha’s Flying Column of ex-Boer mounted men who were destined to bring the German resistance in South West Africa to a speedy conclusion on 9 July 1915.
Lutz, was Captain and Adjutant of the 1st Regiment, 5th Mounted Brigade, under the command of Alfred Thring. Embarking aboard the S.S. “Galway Castle” on 1 April 1915, he entered the theatre of war a few days later, having been promoted to Captain’s rank on 9 February 1915.
On 28 April the South African Mounted Brigades had gathered at Riet for the big push. Botha assembled his commanders and briefed them on the plan of action. Myburgh would swing out to the east to capture Grootfontein, and between Myburgh and the centre would be Botha’s 5th Mounted Brigade, who would move parallel with and east of the railway and maintain contact with the forces on either side of him. On 5 July 1915 it was reported that the men were “worn out” and that water and food were very scarce.
Having chased the Germans to the far north of the territory and on reaching Omarassa, Botha ordered a pause before beginning the trek across the waterless 40 miles to Otavi. The 5th were camped at Okaputa and the decision was taken to attack Otavifontein without delay, without waiting for the infantry to come up. At daybreak on 1 July, the burgher commandos were upon the Germans in their usual dashing style – Manie Botha and his Free Staters were well into a headlong commando-style advance into the heart of the enemy’s positions while the Germans, according to the campaign’s official historian, were still scrambling to man their defences.
Manie Botha with his 5th Brigade was on the left side of the railway and Lukin with his 6th Brigade on the right. As soon as they came within range the German guns opened fire, they had measured the range and their first shells were on target. Instead of advancing in column the South African melted into the bush on either side of the line.
The swiftness of the attack had left the German reeling and unable to occupy their carefully planned defences – they were driven inexorably further north until, at Otavi on 9 July, with nowhere to go, they surrendered. Lutz and the 5th Brigade had, unlike so many of the infantry regiments, seen most of the fighting and were rewarded by being “in at the kill”.
In recognition of his effort Lutz was awarded the Military Cross “For general good service as Adjutant. Owing to his zeal and experience, his regiment was always in readiness, well organised and disciplined”.
The war over Lutz returned to Kroonstad – on 3 May 1916 he wed Constance Muriel Wright Tunstall, the daughter of a merchant in the Albany District of the Eastern Cape who was living at Graaff Reinet at the time. She was to provide him with three children – the first, Desmond Tunstall Lutz, was born on 22 August 1917. The married couple took up residence at “The Moorings” in Kroonstad.
Whilst he settled down to married life and fatherhood, the war continued to rage elsewhere in the world. Determined to still contribute, he approached the O.C. of Military District 10 (Kroonstad) who, in turn penned a memorandum to D.H.Q. on 16 April 1918 which read (translated) as follows: -
‘Mr Felix Lutz, an attorney in Kroonstad, requests permission to be nominated for service, with officer’s rank, with the South African Infantry Brigade in Europe. Mr Lutz was the Adjutant, with the rank of Captain, of the 1st Regiment, 5th Mounted Brigade during the German South West Africa campaign and is, indisputably, a competent officer. If at all possible, I recommend that Mr Lutz be nominated.’
The road back to the front was destined to be a rocky one – at first his age (36) was deemed to be in excess of the requirement (maximum of 30 for a Captain’s rank) – this led to a suggestion that he could still see his way back but as a Draft Conducting Officer, escorting new drafts from South Africa to England. On 1 May 1918 Lutz wrote back accepting this proposal and asking for “timely notice to enable me to square up my personal affairs before departure”. How had he, despite his age, been considered? The answer lay in the fine print – an annotation on a memorandum read that “This officer is over the age laid down but is one of the officers on the list of those promised appointments prior to age limit being fixed”.
On 11 May he underwent his medical examination – with fair hair, grey eyes, 5 feet 5 inches in height and a fair complexion; he was found fit for service and, having been instructed to report to Potchefstroom, was appointed with effect from 4 June 1918 with the clear understanding that, once his draft duties were over, he would be released from service.
Lutz boarded the H.M.T. “Galway Castle” on 17 July 1918 with a draft of fresh recruits bound for England. On arrival there he was introduced to Captain Miller at the War Office on 22 August 1918, four days after he was released from duty – it would seem that there was still need of his services and, having passed a Gas Course in Cork, Ireland, he was posted to the 3rd Battalion, Kings Liverpool Regiment as a Lieutenant (later Captain) for service in France with effect from 10 November 1918 (the day before the war ended). Trouble was, however, brewing on the home front – Lutz’s failure to make it back home was not appreciated by his law firm – writing to the District Staff Officer from Kroonstad on 17 February 1919, his partner G.F. Hill stated as follows: -
‘With reference to the conversation I had with your good self some time back, I shall be very glad if arrangements can be made by which Mr Lutz can obtain his immediate discharge. He left here in July last and since then I have been single-handed in the business. I am finding it extremely difficult to keep up with the work as it comes in, and in consequence of my not being able to do so, the business is actually suffering, and this of course, apart from the loss to me, is also causing serious loss to Mr Lutz as my partner.
I shall therefore deem it a very great favour if the War Office can be cabled to asking for him to be discharged at once, or as soon as possible. His present position is that of Lieutenant in the Kings Liverpool Rifles’.
Lutz was released from service in June 1919, despite the entreaties of Mr Hill, and returned home to his family and legal practice. His 1914/15 Star was awarded by the South African authorities with his British War Medal and Victory Medal being awarded by the Imperial Authorities. He applied for and was placed on the Reserve of Officers in the rank of Captain with effect from 25 June 1923.
A little known fact is that Lutz was an ardent church-goer and a passionate Methodist. As such he often attended church-related conferences. One such occasion was for a period of three months, where, as he put it to D.H.Q., ‘I intend visiting Tanganyika Territory and Kenya Colony and I hope to leave Durban on the 23rd May 1927 and return by the middle of August 1927’. He was also a Librarian at the Kroonstad Public Library.
With war clouds gathering Lutz, in April 1939, decided it would be prudent to do some forward planning. He completed the Voluntary Registration For Service in the Event of War or National Emergency. The Registration Officer stated that, “I have known Captain Lutz intimately since 1914, served with him in South West Africa, for his service there he was awarded the M.C. He has exceptional organising abilities, was the Lay Missionary of the Methodist Church of South Africa, a man of good judgement and high character”.
War broke out in early September 1939 and South Africa was slow to get going. Lutz, now 59 years old, put his hand up and was destined for the 1st Reserve Brigade (3rd Transvaal Battalion) on 2 June 1941 but ended up as a Private with the Technical Services Corps at Tempe in Bloemfontein with no. 86608 (v). On 1 March 1944 he was promoted to Acting and then Temporary Sergeant. There couldn’t have been many Non-Comms. sporting a M.C. ribbon on their tunic.
He was discharged on demobilisation on 4 October 1946 and awarded the Africa Service Medal and British War Medal 1939/45 – these were posted to him on 26 January 1954. A soldier to the last – he wrote to D.H.Q. on 13 February 1945 (whilst stationed at Kimberley), asking for Anglo Boer Republican Forces ribbons to “replace faded and worn ribbons, as I am very anxious to have these before the 2nd March next. The occasion of my son’s wedding”.
One further accolade came Lutz’s way whilst in uniform – he was awarded a Certificate for Good Service in recognition of his contribution.
Felix Lutz, a stalwart on many fronts, passed away in Pinelands, Cape Town at the age of 86 on 13 March 1968 – a life well lived.
The following user(s) said Thank You: djb, QSAMIKE
A Remarkable Man - Felix Lutz M.C., A.B.O. LvW, WWI trio, WWII "home pair". 1 year 1 month ago #68520
Thank You very much Rory..... A very interesting bit of research on a man who fought with honour and gallantry on both sides, different wars, but both sides.... Thanks again.....
Military Historical Society
A Remarkable Man - Felix Lutz M.C., A.B.O. LvW, WWI trio, WWII "home pair". 3 weeks 3 days ago #76097
Rory, Thank you so much for this summary of the life of Felix Lutz, I am very proud of my great grandfathers achievements.
It saddens me that his war medals were all lost over the years but I am very happy that I still have his dress Military Cross in original case in the safe with me.
I have a folder full of summaries of his experiences and letters written to his wife explaining the proceedings at Buckingham Palace when receiving his M.C from Queen Elizabeth.
Where did you find all this information about him it was very interesting, Felix never told his children very much about his life so my Grandfather Desmond Felix Lutz passed very little information over to his two son's
Once again thank you for all of this information.
The following user(s) said Thank You: djb, Rory
A Remarkable Man - Felix Lutz M.C., A.B.O. LvW, WWI trio, WWII "home pair". 3 weeks 3 days ago #76098
I am thankful that you have made contact Shane. I have sent you a message to what I assume is your e-mail address.
A Remarkable Man - Felix Lutz M.C., A.B.O. LvW, WWI trio, WWII "home pair". 2 weeks 5 hours ago #76231
Felix Lutz's great grandson, who wrote above, has been very gracious and provided me with any number of copies of documents and letters, many of which provide a chronological history of Felix's life. I won't bore the reader with all of them here but am posting a few "titbits", many not often seen, which will add to the collective knowledge pool.
The first is a Red Cross card which appears to have been completed by Boer combatants prior to going on Commando. In this instance, Lutz provides the name of Johann Boer from Senekal as his "next of kin" - I have done a bit of research and Nicolaas Johann Boer was a Nederlands-born Solicitor practicing in Senekal. It must be remembered that the law was also Lutz's chosen profession - he could well have been articles to Boer at the time the war commenced.
The second document is a Prisoner Pass - Lutz was incarcerated at Diyatalawa and this example (there are more), is dated 31 December 1900. It provides a good physical description of him and a reminder that he must stay "within the boundary of the camp earmarked by a trench and flags" - he was, most likely, going to see General Roux whose secretary he was before capture and throughout his stay in camp.
The third document is the official communication wounded combatants received on application for the Lint Voor Wonden - the Wound Riband. Lutz applied for and was granted his in 1925.
For the fourth and final document, we leapfrog to WWII where Lutz served as a Sergeant (M.C.) with the Technical Service Corps in Kimberley. This is his Good Conduct Certificate.
My thanks again to Shane for providing me with copies of these documents. There is also a 6-page letter written by Lutz to his wife in 1918/19 detailing, in very descriptive terms, what he experienced at Buckingham Palace when he was invited to receive his M.C. from HRH King George V.
I hope these glimpses into the post are found useful.
The following user(s) said Thank You: RobCT, goose
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