Frederick William Pfister served in the De la Rey/Smuts Kommando. He took part in the battles at Mosilikats Nek, Hekpoort, Nooitgedacht and Stompies in the Lichtenburg District where he was wounded 24 March 1901. Gunshot wound right shin – fractured leg, permanent cripple. P.o.W 3 April 1901, sent to Bermuda and repatriated 1902. Sold with copies of Vorms B and C.
Frederick Williem Pfister was born on the 24th March 1866 to Frederik Pieter Frans (1842 to 1917) and Sarah Gertruida Pfister (1843 to 1873), nee Whelan, and baptized on the 29th April 1866 in Cape Town, South Africa, and was the eldest of 5 children.
In October 1899, at the age of 33, he left for Pretoria and during the conventional phase of the war served in General Joubert’s War Department.
By chance his younger brother, Robert Pfister, passed away in Addington hospital in Durban on the 29th October 1899 at the age of 29yo.
He remained in Pretoria until May 1900 after which he joined General’s De La Rey and Smuts for which he served under Commandants Boshoff and B.D. Bouwer.
During this time he was active in the Magaliesberg region and took part in the battle at Mosilikats Nek (Nitrals/Uitval Nek), 11th July 1900. Following this he was present at Hekpoort and Nooitgedacht on the 13th December 1900.
He was wounded at the Battle of Stompies in the Lichtenburg district on the 24th March 1901 with a gun shot wound to his right shin (fractured leg and with permanent injuries) and subsequently captured on the 3rd April 1901 and sent to Bermuda; he was later repatriated in 1902.
An encounter with Frederick Pfister was captured in Warmelo “On Commando” in the Conclusion of his book following both their capture on the 3rd April 1901:
“I came across an old acquaintance of mine in the lager--Phister, who had served under Commandant Boshoff. I knew that he had been wounded in the leg at the Battle of Stompies and taken by our men to Rietpan. On the trek from Ventersdorp to Potchefstroom I discovered him lying on his back in the blazing sun on an open trolley, near to Potchefstroom; he shouted to me that he had had nothing to eat during the whole of the eighteen hours' trek.”
In 1921 when he applied for his ABO and Lint Voor Wonden he was living at 21 Stiemens Street in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, and working as a Clerk.
Fredrick Pfister passed away on the 26th February 1923 at Victoria Hospital in Mafeking at the age of 57 years old in the presence of his cousin G.W Field; at the time of his passing he had not married nor had a family.
From a British perspective; 2 days prior to his wounding at the Battle of Stompies:
Reference City Coins Postal Auction 71, p153 (Hartbeestfontein, 22 March 1901)
On 22 March 1901 General Babington, acting on observations of a sentry the previous evening, ordered Col Briggs and 3 squadrons of the ILH with a pom-pom to Kafferskraal, 25 km west of Hartbeestfontein, to find out whether De la Rey’s laager is in the vicinity. Reaching the farm Geduld at the halfway mark at 9.30 am, an advance troop under Lt Dryden was attacked by some 200 Boers. They took refuge in a kraal and vigorously returned the enemy fire. Shortly afterwards Col Briggs brought the pom-pom into action, causing the Boers to temporarily fall back. Having confirmed the presence of De la Rey’s commando, Briggs ordered the ILH to retire to Hartbeestfontein. De la Rey’s men attacked on horseback, firing from the saddle and a running battle developed with Smuts’ men joining in. The three ILH squadrons were subjected to heavy fire but fought their way back with the pom pom working at maximum capacity.
Individual troops and squadrons alternated as rear-guard and they reached base camp at about 2 pm. The British casualties were heavy: 2 officers and 4 men killed, and 3 officers and 15 men wounded. Years after the war General Smuts, who was shot through the leg at close quarters in an effort to capture the pom-pom, spoke at a banquet in honour of Col Briggs when he relinquished command of the Transvaal Volunteers. He said, inter alia: “The rear-guard action fought by the ILH, supported by a Maxim-Nordenveldt, at Hartebeestfontein was the most brilliant one I had seen fought by either side during the entire campaign. Both General de la Rey and myself were determined to capture the pom-pom, as well as the ILH”.
From a Boer perspective; Battle of Stompies and aftermath (capture):
Reference Warmelo “On Commando” in the Conclusion of his book
“…I was not present when the Krugersdorpers attacked Babington's force near Lensdenplaats, in the neighbourhood of Groot Kafferkraal. But the following morning, when they were retreating, I joined them with some cattle, and was present at the Battle of Stompies. The night before the battle I heard De la Rey's order given to Kemp to march his men at four o'clock the following morning in the direction of the enemy. He was told to retreat fighting, in case the enemy attacked, so as to give our reinforcements an opportunity of attacking in the rear. Kemp ordered the lager, or, rather, the few waggons, to retire to Bodenstein's farm the following morning.
While we were busy inspanning we heard the enemy's bomb-Maxim, and before the waggons had forded the dangerous drift of the donga near Bodenstein's farm the bullets flew over our heads from the bult behind us. The women fled into the house and the burghers retreated as fast as they could. The enemy had surrounded us in the night, and each burgher had to do his utmost to escape from out of the half-circle. The few who stayed behind to defend the guns were soon obliged to fly after the rest, and to abandon one gun still on the other side of the drift. The others might have been saved if the women's lager had not impeded their flight by obstructing the way.
We retreated to Vetpan. Those of the burghers who retreated more to the right in the direction of Stompies were the best off, as the right wing of the enemy had to be on its guard not to enter the wood there. The enemy fired at us from horseback to enhance our panic, which was clever of them, as it was impossible for us to turn in any direction. My horse was overworked, and had changed its pace into a heavy gallop, a sure sign that it would not last much longer. When I looked round, I saw a few khakies riding on ahead, making our burghers 'hands-up.' Fortunately, someone released a spare horse; I mounted it without a saddle and made good my escape, but was incapable of riding for several days after.
Our men made no attempt to check the enemy's progress. They all fled, each one bent on saving himself. A Boer, if once he flies, is not easily turned aside. But it must be remembered that our horses were terribly overworked. They had to live on nothing but grass, and very little of that. We all also recognised the impossibility of checking the enemy, as we ran the risk of shooting our own men and women; so our only chance lay in flight.
The horses of the enemy were soon 'done up,' and they had to satisfy themselves with our guns--two large ones that we had taken from them at Colenso, a damaged bomb-Maxim and several smaller ones. They took 136 prisoners, among whom were Lieutenant Odendaal, 32 artillerists, 13 burghers, and for the rest women and children and some big, full-grown cowardly men who were in the habit of fleeing with the women and children. The greater part of the women's lager fell into their hands. The few waggons of Generals Smuts and Kemp that they captured were of no importance. Jooste and Malherbe were also taken prisoners.
I rode with General De la Rey to Tafelkop, where our lager was stationed. In a week's time I was back again at Stompies. I had been there scarcely an hour, when the tidings came that the enemy were camped on Willem Basson's farm. The following morning before daybreak I was on my way to Rietfontein. There, too, I had been only about an hour, when another column came down upon me from the direction of Ventersdorp. I fled to Tivee Buffelgeschiet with two boiled mealies and a piece of meat in my hands. Before I reached that farm, half an hour's ride, my horse was done up. I crept behind an ant-hill and prepared to defend myself against four scouts who seemed to be coming straight towards me. Suddenly, however, they turned off in the direction of their main-guard, because, as I afterwards heard, they were threatened by eight of our scouts.
But the khakies were nearing me, and I was obliged to lead my horse into a mealie-veld and to lie down full length in the rain. They did not appear, however, and I concluded that they had camped at Rietfontein, so I walked my horse to the farm of Mrs. Jansen, one of the few hospitable women in that sparsely inhabited country. She hastily informed me that the khakies had been there.
The eight burghers soon returned, among them a young man who was nursing a wounded man on the farm. In the night we went into the veld with a small brother of his, who rode a mule, and returned in the morning to watch the enemy's movements from the roof of the house. My horse was so ill with horse-sickness that it shook under me. The enemy suddenly appeared on the long bult (hill) along which I had come the day before. I carried my saddle into the house and fled into the veld. From behind an ant-hill I watched the enemy shooting my poor sick horse. They passed by me several times, but at last I was discovered, and had to give up my beloved Mauser without a chance of defending myself. My two companions escaped. This happened on April 3, 1901.
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