- Queens South Africa Medal to 15 Pte. H. Voskule, Kenhardt T.G.
Henry Voskule was born in the barren and parched district of Pypklip in the Northern Cape, just outside the town of Kenhardt, in about 1880. He was the son of Julius Albertus Voskule and his wife Alida Karolina Johanna Voskule (born Van Zyl). Mr Voskule was born in Germany and, having married a Dutch-speaking woman once in South Africa, had settled down to farm in the Kenhardt area, not far from the fertile banks of the mighty Orange River.
Henry would have been all of 19 years old when the Anglo Boer War erupted onto the international stage in October 1899. At first the conflict, which raged between the two Boer Republics of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal and Great Britain, was far from the rural settlement in which he lived and farmed the land with his father and brothers.
As the formal phase of the war gave way to the guerilla phase, where small and highly mobile Boer Commandos would penetrate deep into the various parts of the Cape Colony in search of supplies and fresh recruits from the Dutch speaking section of the population; the war gradually came to places like Upington and Kenhardt in the Bushmanland region of the Colony.
Being so isolated and far from the madding crown, Kenhardt and towns like it, were soft targets for Boer leaders in search of the aforementioned. Additionally, the majority of the rural European population, although subjects of the Crown by virtue of where they lived, were Dutch and known to be sympathetic to the Boer cause. It was also difficult for the Imperial forces, stretched as they were in terms of both numbers and the challenges distance bought to the lines of communication, to maintain a presence there. Small Colonial units such as Orpen’s Horse and the Bushmanland Borderers were raised but the defence of the towns in the area themselves, was left to the locals.
This led to the creation of Town Guards, men of business or farmers in and around the towns who were banded together, without uniform or kit, but supplied with a rifle, ammunition and rudimentary training on how to use it, who would be called out in defence of the town and its people and property should word reach them that the Boers were approaching,
By and large these Town Guards were represented by the English speaking residents, the Boer sympathisers either maintaining their neutrality of slinking off and joining the Boers themselves – becoming Cape Rebels in the process. It is odd that Voskule, whose mother was Dutch and whose father was German, elected to join the Town Guard. This would have subjected him to ridicule from his neighboring farmers who would have been inclined to the Boers.
The records fail to indicate any action in which the Kenhardt TG took part – the war, for the most part, seems to have almost passed them by. The area was a hot-bed of Boer activity but the mounted troops assigned to the district proved capable of warding off any attempt Boer patrols may have made to enter the town leaving the members of the Town Guard to go about their business. There was always, however, the potential for action in a volatile part of the country.
Voskule and the 50 or so men who were the Town Guard under Captain William Eustace, were awarded the Queens Medal, but only after the initial controversy where the Cape Colony clasp was claimed for them, had been resolved. The medal roll, dated at Kenhardt on 30 September 1902 contains the following wording in the Remarks column: -
“Permanent address of all individuals named on this roll are care of the Civil Commissioner and Resident Magistrate, Kenhardt. Those officers and men for who the Cape Colony clasp is claimed served on active military duty against the enemy outside of the town of Kenhardt.”
Despite this statement the Kenhardt men were, along with every other Town Guard raised in the Cape (with the exception of Mafeking and Kimberley), denied the Cape Colony clasp. What is of interest though is the statement that “they served outside of the town” – in other words in almost the same role as the District Mounted Troops attached to so many other towns. This would imply that they were also mounted in order to carry out their duties.
The battle for the clasp lost, the men were awarded the medal without clasp with a significant number of them being returned to the Mint, unclaimed.
Voskule ap[ears to have had additional service as a Civilian Clerk with the 19th Company of the Army Service Corps but nothing is known of where he served or for how long.
The war ended on 31 May 1902. Henry Voskule, at the young age of 24 years and 8 months, passed away at his residence in Kenhardt on 23 March 1905. He was unmarried and was described as a Merchant by occupation. his father, who was to pass away a year later, signed his death certificate.
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Very interesting as you say that he should have signed up for the Town Guard. I wonder to what, if any, peer pressure he was subjected when he joined and how he was received by his Dutch counterparts after the war?
When the Boers occupied Kenhardt late February 1900, Commandant Jooste initially raised a Town Guard to offer protection against the British. Resistance was shown from some
Jooste got local men, farmers etc to join the Rebellion, but 49 men refused to join. The bulk of the these would no doubt later make the Kenhardt Town Guard - some were Acting Magistrates (info in link below)
Those who joined the Boers were sent to Prieska, but upon the news of the advancing British were sent back to Kenhardt. There they lay down their arms
There is a lot more information to be read in link below