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An original Pioneer Column man in Rhodesia - G.S.T. Mandy 3 years 7 months ago #60613

  • Rory
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George Stephen Thomas Mandy

Trooper, "B" Troop, Pioneer Corps (Pioneer Column)

- British South Africa Company Medal with bar Mashonaland 1890 to Tpr. G.S.T. Mandy, Pioneers

George Mandy was to make his mark, unwittingly, on South African history long after his death. Born in the frontier town of Grahamstown (some reports say Barkly East) in the Eastern Cape on 25 April 1871 he was the son of George Edward Mandy and his wife Amelia, born Stock; and was the great grandson of a well-known early South African settler who led a party of settlers who sailed from the Thames in the Nautilus in December, 1819, reaching Algoa Bay in April the following year.

John Mandy and his wife, Mary Anne Day, left England with their two sons, John Wilkinson, aged six and Stephen Day (George’s grandfather), aged five. Two weeks before the ship reached Cape Town their third son was born. He was named William Nautilus Mandy - his second name being after the name of their ship. John, who was a carpenter and Mary Anne settled at Bathurst, where John built the Drostdy. After their home was burnt down during one of the Frontier Wars, they moved to the farm Lushington Valley which is situated between Grahamstown and Bathurst. George’s grandfather, Stephen Day Mandy, was a wine merchant in Grahamstown and married twice.

George’s father, George Edward Mandy was one of his six sons of his first marriage to Sarah Dougherty. He was a farmer in the district of New England in Barkly East. He additionally owned a farm he named Pelion in Lady Grey. Little is known about Mandy’s early years but it can be imagined that life on the eastern frontier of the Cape Colony could not have been easy. As many as nine Frontier Wars were fought between the local indigenous population and the European settlers in the area, with the last of them ending in 1879. Although Mandy played no role in these conflicts he would have been painfully aware of the toll, in lives and livestock, exacted on the community of which he formed a part.

Mandy married twice - the first marriage was to Alice Beatrice Fedora Jones at King Williamstown on 16 June 1892 – the marriage certificate indicating that he was farming at Pelion. At some point in time he ventured north finding himself a member of the Pioneer Column and attesting into the Pioneer Corps (as they were known) on 7th May 1890 as Trooper with No 142. He was appointed to “B” Troop on 3 June 1890 and was transferred to Intelligence Staff on 4 September 1890.

This Column was a force raised by Cecil Rhodes and his British South Africa Company in 1890 and used in his efforts to annexe the territory of Mashonaland, later part of Southern Rhodesia.

Rhodes was anxious to promote the Imperialist agenda in southern Africa and part of this was the need to secure Matabeleland and Mashonaland for the Crown before the Germans, Portuguese or Boers did. His first step was to persuade the Matabele King Lobengula, in 1888, to sign a treaty giving him rights to mining and administration in the area of Mashonaland which were ruled by the King. Using the Rudd Concession (Charles Rudd was Rhodes's business partner) between his British South Africa Company and Lobengula, he then sought and obtained a charter from the British government allowing him to act, essentially although in a limited way, with the government's consent. The next step was to occupy the territory but, for this to happen, he needed men.

Rhodes's military advisers estimated that it would take 2,500 men and about one million pounds to win the war that would inevitably result when Lobengula realised that Rhodes meant not only to mine but also to occupy his land. Frank Johnson, a 23-year-old adventurer, however, undertook to deliver the territory in nine months with a mere 250 men for £87,500. Frederick Selous, a hunter with close knowledge of Mashonaland, agreed to join the effort as guide. Johnson published recruitment notices in Kimberley offering each volunteer 1,200 hectares (3,000 acres) of land and 15 mining claims (aggregating about 8.5 hectares (21 acres).

On the advice of Rhodes, Johnson selected for his column, from thousands of applicants, mostly the sons of rich families, so that if they were, indeed, imperilled by Lobengula their families would be more likely to enlist British government support for their rescue. Johnson's column eventually consisted of 180 civilian colonists, 62 wagons and 200 volunteers (who ultimately formed the nucleus of what became the British South Africa Police). A further party of 110 men, 16 wagons, 250 cattle and 130 spare horses later attached itself to the column. The troopers were equipped with Martini-Henry rifles, revolvers, seven-pound field guns and Maxim machine guns, as well as an electric searchlight (which they later used to good effect to intimidate Matabele warriors shadowing the column).

It was as one of this merry band that Mandy entered the territory, the route beginning at Macloutsie in Bechuanaland on 28 June 1890. On 11 July, it crossed the river Tuli into Matabeleland and proceeded north-east and then north over a distance of about 400 miles intending to terminate at an open area explored by Selous a few years earlier that he called Mount Hampden. However, the column halted about 9 miles before that at a naturally flat and marshy meadow bounded by a steep rocky hill; on 12 September. The Union Jack was hoisted on the following day, 13 September.

Raising the flag at Fort Salisbury

The Pioneer Corps, there work done and their objective realised, was officially disbanded on 1 October 1890 with Mandy granted leave from the Pioneer Reserve from that date until 31 May 1891. In February 1892 he was issued with a farm, in accordance with the promise made to him and his comrades, in the Umtali area.

In 1927, the government of Southern Rhodesia issued a new British South Africa Company Medal to commemorate the earlier 1890 Pioneer Column. This medal was identical to the prior British South Africa Company Medals issued for the First Matabele War and Second Matabele War, except that it was struck without any campaign details on the reverse. Mandy applied for his medal at this time and received it with the Mashonaland 1890 clasp.

Mandy does not appear to have been cut out for farming and, at some point, made his way back to his roots in the eastern Cape where he took employment with the Roads Department as a Roads Inspector.

In October 1899 the Anglo Boer War burst on the world stage - Mandy was commissioned and served as a Lieutenant with the Queenstown Rifle Volunteers for which he was awarded the Queen’s South Africa medal with the bars Wittebergen and Cape Colony – the whereabouts of which are unknown. Aside from skirmishes in the Eastern Cape in which the regiment took part, they also participated in the chase after General Prinsloo in the Brandwater Basin.

But quite aside from his exploits in both Rhodesia and in the Boer War, Mandy became famous, posthumously, for quite another reason - George Mandy is remembered today for it is through his foresight and persistence exhibited more than a hundred years ago that South Africa owes one of its best known National Symbols of post-apartheid South Africa.

J.D. Lewis takes up this story:

“Many South Africans are unaware that the central image in their country’s coat of arms derives from a San rock painting. In 1994 South Africa moved out of the dark decades of apartheid and set out on a new democratic path. It was a time of renewal, and new symbols of unity had to be found. In due course, on 27 April 2000 President Thabo Mbeki unveiled a new national coat of arms. He and the government had decided that it would be appropriate to incorporate a San rock painting in the new design. They therefore approached the Rock Art Research Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand for suggestions, and then chose one image from the range that was submitted to them. As it now stands in the coat of arms, the selected rock painting seems to show two men facing one another with their arms raised in greeting.

There is a story behind this image. In 1916 Dr Louis Peringuey, Director of the South African Museum in Cape Town received a letter from Mr G.S.T. Mandy, a field assistant in the Provincial Roads Department. It informed him of the possibility of removing ‘really magnificent’ rock paintings from a remote rock shelter on the farm Linton in the Maclear district of what is now the Eastern Cape. Much correspondence followed in which Mandy described the tragic destruction of other valuable paintings and the growing threat to the panel in question. He told Peringuey that the cost of removal would be about £30 (a fair sum in those days) but that he considered ‘the paintings will be worth any money if successfully removed’. Peringuey agreed. Both he and Mandy were determined to save the paintings, and work on their removal started in July 1917.

The Linton stone panel

This proved a very difficult and time-consuming task because, as Mandy put it, the paintings ‘had to be carved out of the solid rock and in most awkward positions’. A stonemason and a blacksmith were employed to undertake the work. At last, on 25 May 1918, Mandy sent a telegram to Peringuey announcing the successful removal of the very heavy 2 m x 0.75 m rock slab. Then they faced the task of getting the slab to Cape Town without damaging it. A track had to be built up on the slopes of the narrow valley in which the rock shelter is situated, and the stone was dragged to the top of the mountain on a sled. There it was transferred to an ox wagon and transported many kilometres over tortuous mountain roads to the railhead at Maclear.

It finally arrived at the museum later that year. Delighted though they were, neither the Roads Department assistant nor the museum director could have had any idea of the far-reaching final outcome of their endeavours and of the role that the removed rock would play in the construction of a new national identity some 80 years later. Today, next to nothing remains in the rather damp rock shelter from which the slab was removed. The paintings that Mandy had to leave behind have mostly weathered away. Moreover, to extract the panel by laboriously chiselling into the rock behind it, about 1.5 m of the rock face had to be destroyed on each side. Painted remnants remaining beyond the destroyed area suggest that the parts chiselled away were as densely painted with images as is the preserved portion. Although we may lament the loss of so many paintings that the removal of this one panel entailed, we can nevertheless be grateful that this key cornucopia of San imagery and belief is now safe from further damage. Had Mandy not been alert to the value of the paintings, and then successful in removing the slab, the stunning images on it would have been lost forever.

President Mbeki summed up the significance of the resulting dual image in the new South Africa: ‘It pays tribute to our land and our continent as the cradle of humanity, as the place where human life first began.’ The significance of two men greeting one another is also expressed in the new national motto which is part of the coat of arms. It is in the now-extinct |Xam San language: !ke e: |xarra ||ke. It means: ‘people who are different come together’, an apt sentiment for a divided nation attempting to move on from its violent, divisive past. (The symbols !, | and || denote the clicks that are characteristic of the Khoisan languages.) In fact, as it stands in the |Xam language without any particles, the motto can be read as indicative or imperative, that is, as a statement about what is happening in South Africa today, or as an injunction to people to come together.

Mandy continued in the employ of the Roads Department – tragedy struck when his wife Alice predeceased him in Cape Town on 15 August 1936. A year later he married Dorothy Cecile McCulloch who was many years younger than he having been born in 1907 – according to the ante-nuptial contract the pair signed; Mandy was a Widower living in Milner Street, Queenstown with his wife-to-be a Spinster from East London.

George and Alice had three children, a daughter Audrie, who married Joe Chemaly of Queenstown, another daughter, Mandy who married an Avis and a son, George John Stack Mandy, who was born in Kokstad in about 1893 and served with the 2nd South Infantry in Egypt and France. George is recorded as being wounded at Mersa Matruh during the Senusi campaign on 23 January 1916 and was later Killed in Action on 8 December 1917.

George Mandy passed away at his home, 31 Wodehouse Street, Queenstown on 20 May 1940 at the age of 69 years and 1 month from Chronic Myocarditis. He was employed by the Divisional Council, Queenstown as a Roads Engineer. Dorothy passed away on 19 June 1945.

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An original Pioneer Column man in Rhodesia - G.S.T. Mandy 3 years 7 months ago #60616

  • Georgegt351
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Thanks Rory-another great story -is it only the 1927 issue of this medal that has the milled edge on the rim (thats the best technical description I can give).

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An original Pioneer Column man in Rhodesia - G.S.T. Mandy 3 years 7 months ago #60617

  • crypt
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Excellent write up as usual, always been on my wants list, a BSACo medal to a pioneer,

Thanks for the good read

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An original Pioneer Column man in Rhodesia - G.S.T. Mandy 3 years 7 months ago #60638

  • LinneyI
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Thanks for that post. I found it most interesting; especially the backgrounding of the Linton stone panel and the recognition it eventually received. In addition, the rendering of the animals is really vivid.
Well done!
Best regards
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