Neethling, Andries Christoffel. Kaptein 4 months 1 week ago #90973
Picturess courtesy of Noonan's
ABO (Kapt. A. C. Neethling.)
Andries Christoffel Neethling was a recently qualified Doctor (M.B., Ch.B. 1899 University of Edinburgh) chosen to lead one of the two detachments of the Sivewright Ambulance. In The Lancet of 18 November 1899, there appeared the following notice:
“Under the auspices of Sir James Sivewright K.C.M.G., who was recently entertained to dinner in Edinburgh by the South African Students' Union, an ambulance corps chiefly composed of Edinburgh medical students connected with the Transvaal has been formed. A portion left Edinburgh on Saturday night for South Africa (Nov. 1899). They will be joined in London by Dr. and Mrs. Gray, Aberdeen, and several nurses. It is said that Sir James Sivewright is to pay the expense of equipment and that a British steamship line will convey the students and material free of cost."
‘There were to be two detachments under the direction of Dr Gray, assistant-surgeon at the Royal Infirmary, Aberdeen. The one group, in charge of Dr Gray himself, included his wife, a British student named Alan Johnson, and three South Africans, L. Fourie, G. H. van Zyl and D. Luther. The other group was in charge of Dr A.C. Neethling, a South African who had recently qualified and was working as a house-surgeon at the Bradford Infirmary. With him were four medical students, A. J. du Toit, W. Walker Hauman, C. T. Möller and J. L.Schoemann, and a nurse, a Mrs. Bamford. They took leave of their fellow students with promises to return soon and complete their interrupted studies, and on 15 November the James Sivewright Ambulance sailed in the Moravian from the Royal Albert Dock, charged to report at Cape Town to the Senior Commanding Officer and from there to 'make their way to the Boer lines by whatever route he may direct'.
The Moravian had hardly left England when a storm of abuse broke about Sivewright's head. It could not have been forgotten that until 1898 he was a member of Hofmeyer's Afrikaner Bond in the Cape Parliament. The sympathies of the Bondsmen were known to lie with their fellow Afrikaners in the Transvaal and, although Kruger regarded this support as ineffectual, it seemed little less than treasonable in the eyes of many of Her Majesty's subjects further away in Britain. Sivewright was accused in the press of being a traitor and sending aid to the 'enemies of his native country’. With a flourish of self righteous indignation he protested his neutrality and immediately offered Her Majesty's Government his 4 large properties in Hottentots Holland, to be used as convalescent homes for wounded British officers!
On 16 December 1899 the Moravian docked in Cape Town and the Sivewright reported to the Commanding Officer, impatient to be gone on their journey northwards. A telegram was sent to President Kruger, offering their services to the sick and wounded. The reply was startling. President Kruger declined their offer, stating that he did not ‘receive such gifts from an enemy’!
The Afrikaners in the party, no less determined to reach their destination but scenting trouble, kept in the background and urged Dr. Gray to approach Sir Alfred Milner himself and ask for safe conduct to the Boer lines. No details of this interview are available, but the outcome was disappointing. It may be guessed that Milner disapproved thoroughly of the entire scheme and found in Kruger's telegram confirmation of his own opinion of the Boers. In the end they abandoned their attempts to travel up through the Cape Colony and were given passages on board the Congella, bound for Delagoa Bay.
On 26 December the Sivewright Ambulance, their optimism revived, disembarked at Lourenco Marques and presented themselves to Mr. Pott, the Transvaal Consul.
Their arrival had evidently been anticipated - and not alone by Mr. Pott. According to Alan Johnson, one of the 3 British members of the corps, this gentleman ‘told them curtly that they were not wanted, declaring that there were no wounded to require their care’. Dr. Gray's consternation may be imagined, the more so as he began to suspect that the Consul's message was directed at the British element of the corps. Matters were not improved, either, by the discovery that Gray was carrying letters from friends to British officers in the Transvaal.
Again he saw Mr. Pott, explained the purpose of their mission, and assured him of the goodwill that had launched this venture which now, at the last moment, appeared to be in danger of floundering. The reply was the same as before: The Transvaal did not desire any assistance from Sir James Sivewright and would reimburse him all expenses.
Meanwhile the Afrikaner medical students had not been still. Some of them had already made contact with a Boer agent operating in Lourenco Marques and learned that they would be allowed across the border if they made their way to Resanna Garcia. When negotiations between Dr. Gray and Mr. Pott broke down, Dr. Neethling acted, promptly. The Afrikaners had no intention of turning back; if they could-get through on their own they would do so. Dr. Gray, however, regarding such action to be totally 'at variance with Sir James Sivewright's intentions’ refused to hand over the surgical equipment. A telegram was sent to Sir James without further delay. His reply was unequivocal: All the equipment was to be handed over to Dr. Neethling and he and the other Afrikaners should proceed to Pretoria.
Whether, as Alan Johnson later contended, the object of the Transvaal Government was merely to get rid of the British members of the expedition, cannot be known for certain. Against this there is evidence that those who did reach the Transvaal - including the nurse, Mrs. Bamford - did so not through any official channel but on their own initiative. Nevertheless, a tirade broke when the news reached London. The Times' correspondent stated openly that the expedition had been used ‘as a cloak to smuggle into the Transvaal men with Boer sympathies who would otherwise have been stopped’. In ‘a leading West End club', rumour flared into open accusation: an armed group of Afrikaners had cheated their way into the Transvaal to join the Boer forces, and Sir James Sivewright had been their dupe! The latter denied the charge vehemently and offered £1,000 to the Lord Mayor's Fund if it could be proved. In any case, he pointed out, as Cape Colonials they were all British subjects and if caught with guns would be treated as rebels!
Of Dr. and Mrs. Gray and Alan Johnson little more was heard. Sad and disillusioned they made their way back to Durban and offered their services to the Imperial Army.
On 2 January 1900 Dr. Neethling and the rest of his group reached Pretoria. As individuals they were welcomed with open arms; as the Sivewright Ambulance they were still viewed with suspicion. By now, however, they had learnt enough about international diplomacy to sidestep any further entanglement with the Transvaal Government. They quietly dropped their title and joined Het Transvaalsche Roode Kruis as a single detachment under Dr. Neethling. By the end of January they were at the Natal front serving as a field ambulance to one of General Lukas Meyer's commandos.’ (Extracts taken from The James Sivewright Ambulance, S.A. Medical Journal, March 1966)
When applying for his A.B.O. Medal in July 1921, Doctor Neethling submitted the following statement: ‘About June 1901, if I remember correctly, I was captured by the British Forces near Harnertsburg, Pietersburg District, Transvaal & was allowed out on parole in Pretoria for about three weeks. Thereafter I was made Asst. Medical Officer at Irene Concentration Camp, which offer I accepted upon the advice of Mr. J. de Villiers Roos, as all my endeavours to rejoin the Boer forces were unavailing. I was at Irene for about 8 months when I was appointed Medical Officer of the Concentration Camp at Irene and about February 1902 I became ill & was allowed to proceed to the Cape Colony where I remained until the end of hostilities.
When I was captured in 1901 all my personal medical effects, as well as the whole Ambulance Section property was confiscated by the British Authorities.
signed A. C. Neethling
Calvinia 26 July 1921.’
Sold with comprehensive copied research and a fine original cabinet photograph of Doctor Neethling by Ovinius Davis of Princess Street, Edinburgh.
Dr David Biggins
The following user(s) said Thank You: Moranthorse1
Neethling, Andries Christoffel. Kaptein 4 months 4 days ago #91123
Andries Neethling's ABO sold for a hammer price of GBP 1,700. Totals: GBP 2,190. R 48,180. AUD 4,020. NZD 4,370. CAD 3,590. USD 2,720. EUR 2,460.
Dr David Biggins
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