DTD (General J.D. Opperman). In original white box of issue. City Coins, September 2017.
General Jacobus Daniel (Koot) Opperman was born in Cradock on 16 January 1861. In 1873 he moved to the Harrismith area with his family. He served in the 1884 expedition against Usibepu. Here he met Louis Botha, a future comrade-in-arms. He married Anna Catharina Badenhorst and had three children (her death notice in file).
In 1893 he was appointed Lieut in the Tvl police (ZARPS) and posted to Swaziland. He served in the Boer War with the Swaziland Burghers. He fought at Colenso and at Pieters Hill where he was carried from a trench after being concussed by a lyddite shell. He also fought at Barberton, Vryheid and Piet Retief. He was wounded at Itala in September 1901.
A most competent soldier; he was mainly responsible for the British defeat at Scheepersnek and the capture of two guns at Bloedrivierpoort in September 1901 as well as for the destruction of Bethune's Mounted Infantry.
When attacking Major Valentin of Plumer’s Column at Onverwacht, near Ermelo on 4 January 1902 he was shot in the forehead within 20 metres of the enemy as he urged his men forward. His body lay on the field and his adjutant, M.W. Coetzer, and Willem Collins battled to load the 120kg body onto a horse. By then, the British columns were arriving at the top of the ridge and the Boers now became subjected to artillery fire. In spite of all their efforts, they failed to recover the General’s body which was left on the field. Today he lies buried in Vryheid cemetery.
The following description of the Battle of Onverwacht is courtesy of The Australian Boer War Memorial and can be located here:
The Battle of Onverwacht was the last great clash of the war between the Boer and British forces on the Eastern Transvaal Highveld. Blockhouse lines stretched in the north from Barberton to Wonderfontein, in the west from Wonderfontein through Ermelo to Standerton and in the south from Standerton through Volksrust to Piet Retief. General Bruce Hamilton with a force of 15,000 was busy pinning down the remaining Boer Commandos in the area against the Swaziland border.
General Louis Botha with a force of 750 guerrillas tried to prevent this. For General Louis Botha this was a last desperate attempt to continue the armed resistance. Increasingly the Bitterenders questioned the sense of continuing with the war which obviously could not be won. Course of the Battle of Onverwacht 4 January 1902 On 1 January 1902 General Bruce Hamilton moved out of Ermelo in a north-easterly direction to corner General Louis Botha's Commando. His force consisted of three columns.
Major J M Vallentin of the Somerset Light Infantry was the Commander of one of the three corps. Major Vallentin is regarded as a capable and brave commander. His corps consisted of companies of the Buffs Mounted Infantry, Hampshire Mounted Infantry, a company of Yeomen and 110 privates of the 5th Queensland Imperial Bushmen under command of Major Frederick W Toll. Major Vallentin's columns served as an advanced patrol for the columns of General Plumer. Major Vallentin also had a Pom-Pom cannon at his disposal. The last-mentioned can be regarded as a light cannon that could fire 60 shots per minute. As such it was a weapon feared by the Boers.
A strong west wind was blowing when Major Vallentin's corps reached the hilly terrain of Onverwacht's ridges. Major Vallentin set the Buffs Mounted Infantry the task of occupying the heights at Bankkop in expectation of the arrival of General Plumer's main force.
Meanwhile Major Vallentin and his corps advanced another mile (1.6 km). There he decided to remain and place his force in a half-circle of 3 miles (4.8 km) long. The Yeomen were placed in the middle, supported by 25 men of the Hampshire Mounted Infantry slightly behind the Yeomen. The 5th Queensland Imperial Bushmen were placed on the flanks.
Shortly after they had come to a halt, they noticed about 50 Boers on the right flank of a small ravine. Without waiting to familiarize himself with the unknown terrain, Major Vallentin decided to chase the 50 Boers. They had hardly advanced half a mile (800 metres) when they were surprised by 300 Boers under the command of General Koos Opperman.
The superior power of the Boers forced Vallentin's forces back. The Boers could then concentrate on trying to seize the Pom-Pom cannon. The lightning-fast action of the Hampshires and the 5th Queensland Imperial Bushmen prevented this. Upon orders of Major Vallentin the Pom-Pom cannon fell back and resumed firing.
The Boers then surrounded the flank of the British forces and succeeded in placing the draft-horses of the Pom-Pom cannon out of action. The Pom-Pom cannon landed in a gully. The Boers could not succeed in capturing it. In the meantime Major Vallentin spurred the rest of his force on to make a last attempt to prevent a defeat. Major Toll of the 5th Queensland Imperial Bushmen had to retreat on foot with his soldiers and together with Major Vallentin and the remaining Hampshires they made a last desperate attempt on a bare ridge. But the superior force was too big - approximately 500 Boers at the time. Major Vallentin was killed in action. Just such a telling loss to the Boers was the death of General Koos Opperman. General Koos Opperman is regarded as one of the bravest and best commanders of General Louis Botha's army. The battle was won by the Boers.
The Boers had thus ambushed the British. With great determination the Boers attacked Vallentin's forces. A Boer eyewitness, C O Stolp, said "It was a fierce battle and one I shall never forget as to see 500 armed Boer riders recklessly attacking the enemy. It is a sight to make your hair rise and send a chill down your spine."
Seventy-nine British soldiers were taken prisoner. The Boer forces did not have much time to celebrate their victory. There was just enough time to seize horses, weapons, ammunition, clothes and footwear before they had to make themselves scarce. General Plumer arrived on the battlefield with reinforcements and the Boers had to sound the retreat. General Plumer had the Boer forces followed but stopped after a while. General Louis Botha tried to operate on the Eastern Transvaal Highveld between the blockhouse lines for about another month.
Gideon Erasmus stood behind a hill holding his father, Willem Petrus Erasmus' horse, listening to the sounds of the battle. His father also died during this battle, and his hat, with a bullet hole in the front, was later given to Gideon.
In 1962 all the graves were dug up and the British soldiers were reburied in the Ermelo cemetery. These graves are indicated by a beautiful monument. General Koos Opperman was reburied in Vryheid.
On Saturday 5 May 1962 a memorial service was held for the 140 Boer and British soldiers who had died. All the veterans of the Anglo Boer war in the area attended the service and the unveiling of the statue.
General Louis Botha's ten year old son, who used to go on commando with him, was protected by the orderly Mosie van Buren. Van Buren was also killed. His grave is still on the farm.
Speak my name so that I may live again
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