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Norbye of the Stellenbosch D.M.T., Royston's Horse & D.S.C. 4 days 8 hours ago #80736

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Carl Johannes Norbye

Trooper, Stellenbosch D.M.T. (District Mounted Troops) – Anglo Boer War
Private, 2nd Royston’s Horse – Bambatha Rebellion
Acting Lance Corporal, D.S.C. (Divisional Signalling Company) – WWI


- Queens South Africa Medal to TPR. C. NORBYE, STELLENBOSCH, D.M.T.
- Natal Medal with 1906 clasp to PTE. C.J. NORBYE, 2ND ROYSTON’S HORSE
- British War Medal to A/L/CPL C.J. NORBYE, D.S.C.
- Victory Medal to PTE. C.J. NORBYE, D.S.C.


Carl Norbye was of Norwegian extraction. Born in Maitland, Cape Town, on 8 March 1886 to Torvold Norbye, a Norwegian immigrant and Storekeeper, and his Afrikaans wife Dolphina Johanna Norbye (born Daniels). The family lived in the small hamlet of Faure, some 16 km south-west of Stellenbosch and 13 km north-west of Strand in the Western Cape,

The Norbye couple were nothing if not prolific with no fewer than ten children being born to Dolphina – a young Carl would not have lacked for company, being joined by siblings Harold, Torvold, Adam Jacobus, Christopher, John, Martin, Joshua, Grace and Sidney. Mrs Norbye would have had her hands full raising nine sons and one daughter.

Nearby Stellenbosch, at the time Carl was growing up, was not only a fast-developing wine-growing area but also a centre of learning for the Cape Dutch population which inhabited the town and its surrounds. It had also gained renown for being a Remount Station for the Colonial Defence Force in the region, something which placed it in a prime position when, on 11 October 1899, war broke out between the two Boer Republics to the north – the Transvaal and the Orange Free State – and Great Britain. The Cape Colony had long been part of the British Empire and, as a Colony under the Crown, was expected, nay required, to side with the Imperial war effort.



Stellenbosch in the late 1800's

This became more important as the war raged on. At first the Boer forces gained the upper hand, culminating in Black Week in December 1899 where, in their efforts to relieve Kimberley, Ladysmith and Mafeking, the British suffered a number of disastrous defeats. Gradually, with the huge influx of men and materials from the United Kingdom and several of her overseas Colonies, the tide was turned, forcing the Boers to adopt guerilla tactics where, as opposed to fixed battles, small but highly mobile Boer commandos would attack and harass British supply lines and isolated British patrols.

Boer commando leaders, in a desperate attempt to swing the tide of the war back in their favour, infiltrated the Cape Colony, both in the east and the west, in an attempt to seduce the Cape Dutch population into joining their cause. This was met with partial success, but it also led to the creation of Town Guards and District Mounted Troops, men sourced from the small towns dotted around the Colony, to protect their families, property and livelihood from the marauding Boers.

Stellenbosch as we have seen, had become a renowned Remount Depot with thousands of horses passing through its paddocks on their way to the front. But it was also one of the towns where a District Mounted Troop was raised, this in order to protect the property and livelihood of those in the farming community surrounding Stellenbosch. It was to this body of men Norbye gravitated, along with his father, sometime in 1901. Although probably not the youngest combatant in uniform, Carl Norbye, at the age of 14, could not have been far off.

We know that, despite their best efforts, the Boers under General Smuts and others, who penetrated south, didn’t reach as far as Stellenbosch. There is thus no record of any incident worthy of mention but, suffice it to say, Norbye and the 83 others who constituted the D.M.T., would have been prepared if they had. The medal roll off which Norbye’s Queens Medal was issued confirms that, “The individuals named in this roll were actually called out for active military duty against the enemy during the year 1901.”

The war, and the threat to Stellenbosch and its environment, having ended on 31 May 1902, Norbye and his comrades were free to go about their normal lives but Norbye, now of an age to seek adventure, found it in the Zulu uprising in Natal during 1906. No doubt enticed by the adverts placed in newspapers countrywide for members to join a Special Service Contingent, he put his hand up becoming one of the 93 members of 2nd Royston’s Horse.

The Bambatha Rebellion (as it became widely known), was the result of a series of culminating factors and misfortunes; an economic slump in Natal following the end of the Boer War, simmering discontent at the influx of White and Indian immigration causing demographic changes in the landscape, and a devastating outbreak of rinderpest among cattle.

The imposition of Hut Tax was a further burden and then the introduction of a Poll Tax on each male over 18 years in Natal and Zululand by the cash-strapped government was to be the final straw turning discontent into open rebellion. The enforced collection of this tax was deeply resented by many Blacks, it raised tensions considerably within Natal and resulted in a series of incidents and finally the murder of a farmer and the deaths of two Natal policemen in January 1906. This caused the Governor Sir Henry McCullum to declare Martial Law on the 9 February and the militia were called out.

Although the Zulu King Dinizulu paid his taxes, he is believed to have given tacit approval to other dissenters who refused to pay, and this further fermented the revolt. The summary executions of 12 tribesmen on the 2 April near Richmond, for complicity in the murders of the policemen, fanned the flames into armed revolt.

A minor chief of the Mpanza, Bambata of the Greytown area, was considered a ‘thoroughly bad character’ by the colonial authorities, but he held considerable influence over a large area, and he was the first to take up arms after he was deposed as chief for refusal to pay. He sought refuge in King Dinizulu’s kraal and there left his wife and family under royal protection and in doing so implicated the king in the rebellion. Bambata then fled to the Nkandla Forest, where he was joined by a large group of disaffected Zulus.

In April, a column of local units, Umvoti Mounted Rifles and Natal Field Artillery, under Lt Colonel G Leuchar, proceeded to the Mpanza area and shelled Bambata’s kraal causing him to flee to the mouth of the Mome Gorge. There they were joined by Lt Colonel ‘Galloping Jack’ Royston and the 1st and 2nd Royston’s Horse, which he had raised, and which numbered 838 by the close of operations.

The first skirmish in the Nkandla Forest, extremely rugged terrain covering an area of 20 km by 8 km, took place in May. The militia force was divided into smaller columns under the commands of Colonel’s Barker, Royston, MacKenzie and Mansel. It was here too that Bambata was joined by Sigananda, a 95-year-old Zulu aristocrat and a relative of King Shaka who was revered by his tribesmen. However, a pincer movement by the converging columns succeeded in cutting off their line of retreat and crucially caused the loss of large numbers of cattle and goats which robbed the rebels of their wherewithal to continue the rebellion. Terms for surrender were offered by the Zulus on the 24 May but this later proved to be a ploy for time.

A concerted ‘drive’ over the next 10 days by Colonel Duncan MacKenzie, in overall command of the troops, through the forest and a sharp action at Tathe Gorge, resulted in a concentration of Zulu forces at their stronghold at Mome Gorge on the 2 June. After a series of smaller sharp encounters, the decisive action was fought on the 10 June, when Bambata is believed to have been killed and Sigananda was taken prisoner two days’ later and subsequently died in prison on the 22 June 1906.

The Battle of Mome Gorge was the last major action fought and the rebellion petered out over the next few weeks. In terms of casualties between 3-4,000 Zulus were killed, 7.000 were imprisoned and 4,000 were flogged. In contrast, 25 Colonial soldiers died during the insurrection. King Dinizulu was sentence to four years’ imprisonment for treason.

In 1907 the Natal Government was authorised to issue a silver medal for this rebellion for service between 8 Feb-3 Aug 1906. Those who served for 50 days on active service were awarded the bar ‘1906’ and some 10,000 medals were issued about 20% being without bar.

His medal, with bar, earned, Norbye retreated to the idyllic surroundings of Stellenbosch where he pursued the trade of Mechanic. It was whilst employed in this capacity that war broke out again on 4 August 1914. On this occasion it was on a global scale with Great Britain pitched against Germany. Still unmarried, Norbye bided his time before taking the plunge and enlisting for service at Potchefstroom on 15 March 1916, with the Signal Section of the 2nd Mounted Brigade for service in German East Africa.

Confirming that he was 30 years old on his application form, he claimed 15 months prior service with the Western Light Horse. This was, of course, impossible as the W.L.H. had only been formed in April 1902 and was disbanded a week after the cessation of hostilities on 31 May 1902. A further fabrication was claimed in the form of 84 days in German South West Africa, ostensibly with the Mechanised Transport, but a diligent search of the S.A.N.D.F. Archives has failed to corroborate this claim. The attestation forms also revealed that he was 5 feet 6 ½ inches in height, had a medium complexion, hazel eyes and brown hair. He sported a tattoo on his right forearm and was a member of the Church of England.

The Signal section referred to above was the Divisional Signalling Company and Norbye, assigned no. 5640 and the rank of Private, began his service with a stint of training. A week later, on 21 March 1916 he was promoted, provisionally, to Lance Corporal and awarded additional pay as a qualified Linesman. Next came embarkation at Durban on 20 May 1916 per the “Professor Woerman” and disembarkation at Kilindini (Kenya) on 31 May 1916.

Like most South Africans of European descent, Norbye soon fell victim to sickness and disease. The humid tropical climate was anathema to white men, and they were hospitalised in droves suffering from dysentery, malaria or blackwater fever which, collectively, robbed them of their strength and turned strong men into skeletons. His first hospital admission, for dysentery, was at Handeni on 7 July 1916. This was followed by Malaria on 5 August 1916 at M’buyuni and an attack of both Malaria and dysentery on 24 August at Morogoro.

By the time November 1916 came round, Norbye had succumbed to Silicosus on the 3rd, being discharged after treatment on 12 November. Malaria the laid him low until the 27th whereafter he, for a time, was able to resume his normal duties. On 14 February 1917 there was a flare-up of Malaria again, this time at Dodoma. It was becoming abundantly clear that Norbye and the tropics were incompatible with one another and, on 16 September 1917 he disembarked at cape Town from the Hospital Ship “Oxfordshire” and was admitted to No. 2 General Hospital at Maitland where he was to remain until 28 October 1917.

Discharge, “Permanently unfit for tropical service, temporarily unfit for non-tropical service”, followed at Wynberg on 27 October 1917 and, with that, Norbye’s time in uniform came to an end. He was allowed to claim 1 year and 260 days service of which a large part was spent battling illness as opposed to the enemy. His Military Character was rated as Very Good. His British War and Victory Medals were signed for by him on 27 December 1922.

Carl Norbye never married. He passed away at the age of 77 on 2 July 1963. His death notice reflects that he was a retired carpenter and military pensioner and that he was living at Nooitgedacht, Modderdam Road, Bellville in Cape Town. Cause of death was Lymphosarcoma and Congestive Heart Disease. He is buried at the No. 1 Cemetery in Maitland, not very far from where he was born.








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