POW NUMBER: 28087
FORENAME: PIETER HENDRIK
AGE: 31 YEARS
ADDRESS: ATHLOON, LADYBRAND
CAPTURED: 1901/12/16, HANOVER ROAD
Kritzinger had no peace in the Southern Free State and with his horses in poor condition he retreated to Ladybrand. At Rouxville he met General Smuts(14) who was on his way to the Cape. Smuts was able to get a full report on the situation there from Kritzinger. After resting his men and horses for some time and waiting for spring, Kritzinger followed. He re-entered the Cape by crossing the Orange River during the night of 11th December, 1901. Kritzinger was fortunate in finding a sandbar over which it was possible for his 101-man commando to cross the river in safety. Before crossing the river he attacked about 100 men of Lovat's Scouts who were sleeping in their camp at Quaggafontain. Kritzinger was then hotly pursued by Thorneycroft (of Spioenkop fame) but the latter was unable to catch him.
The commando went to Colesberg but on the first night there, was attacked. Thanks to Kritzinger's able command, all his men escaped safely. The British were now more alert. Moving northwards he was pursued by the 5th Lancers who gave Kritzinger's men and horses no respite. In this rough terrain the animals were subjected to appalling demands and at the end of an exhausting day, 130 horses were abandoned by the Commando somewhere in the Hanover district.
The pursuers came on relentlessly and on 16th December, 1901, the 150-man commando was cornered on the Naauwpoort/De Aar railway line at Fransmanskop near Hanover where a line of blockhouses had been erected. The men had to cross the railway line in broad daylight, Fieldcornet J. Fraser and a number of men raced ahead to cut the fence(15) on Kritzinger's orders and the commando stormed through under a hail of bullets from the blockhouses. When an armoured train arrived on the scene the men were several thousand yards away safely behind a hill.
During this hectic breakthrough the Boers experienced one of their worst moments in the Cape. Assistant Commandant-General Kritzinger was wounded and taken prisoner by Lieutenant-Colonel Beauchamp Doran. Relating the incident, Kritzinger said: "I was waiting at the railway line for all the burghers, apart from about 10 of them whose horses had failed them, to cross. Then I followed the commando. But when I turned around for one more look, I saw one of my men hobbling across the line on foot. I immediately went to his aid, and was again the target of the enemy fire from which we had just escaped. While I rode back, one of my officers - Fraser - who saw me turn around, offered his services. He did not want me to be subject to the enemy fire again, and insisted that I rejoin the commando immediately. He would attend to the struggling man. I accepted his friendly offer, but just as I turned my horse to ride back, I felt a sudden shock.
"In a flash a bullet tore through the muscles of my left arm, and passed through my lungs, just missing the heart. It happened so suddenly that for a few seconds I did not realize that I had been wounded. I stayed in the saddle until a few burghers came to my aid. They lifted me from the horse carefully, wrapped a blanket around me and carried me to a place of safety. At first I was determined to accompany my commando to a spot where I could recover in safety, but I soon became aware of the seriousness of the wound, and realised that without proper nursing it would become infected, possibly at the cost of my life. My men also thought it impossible for me to stay with them, and decided to send me to a British hospital for medical care."
Commandant Louis Wessels took over the command of Kritzinger's commando and carried on with the job of harassing the British.
Kritzinger was taken to Naauwpoort by ambulance where he later recovered. Afterwards he was imprisoned at Graaff Reinet with Gideon Scheepers where he, like Scheepers, would undoubtedly have been sentenced to death. However, Advocate F.H.G. Gardiner who later became Judge President of the Cape, ably defended Kritzinger who was acquitted on all the charges brought against him.
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