POW NUMBER: 15781
SURNAME: VAN DAM
FORENAME: GERARD MARI JOHAN
AGE: 45 YEARS
RANK: COMMANDANT, JOHANNESBURG POLICE
CAPTURED: 1900/07/21, LEBOMBO
POW CAMP: LADYSMITH, DURBAN AND GREENPOINT (CAPE TOWN) TILL 1902
Gerard Marie Johan van Dam was the Kommandant of the ZARP during the Anglo Boer War. He served as an Active Staff Officer for the Boer Contingent during the Boer Spectacle at St Louis in 1904. He was also awarded the Officer’s Dekoratie Voor Trouwe Dienst however that medal is unfortunately missing.
Gerard was the son of George Alexander and Cornelia Digna Kroeff and was born in Delfshaven in Holland in October 1855. Emigrating from Holland he arrived in the ZAR with his parents in 1868 and they settled at Potchefstroom. In 1876 he was living in Kimberley but returned to Potchefstroom the following year.
From the outset he was opposed to British influence in the ZAR and fervently denounced Shepstone. He was soon appointed as the secretary of the Volks committee and played a role in the discussions with the British Colonial Secretary, George Hudson, at Kleinfontein. He first served as a burger with the Schoonspruit commando, this being the commando that supported General PA Cronje, and on 13 December 1880 he was appointed as secretary to the Transvaal Volksraad at Paardekraal. He was the first official of the restored republic to take the oath.
In 1881 he took part in the fighting in what has become known as the First Anglo Boer War taking part in the actions at Laing’s Nek and Ingogo. From 1881 to 1888 he was a messenger of the court, acting landrost and public prosecutor at Potchefstroom, and in August 1888 was appointed as the first commandant of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Rijdende Polisie (Z.A.R.P.) on the Klerksdorp goldfields. In January 1893 he was appointed as second-in-command of the police on the Witwatersand goldfields and in November 1896 became the commandant of Johannesburg police district.
Soon after martial law was proclaimed on the outbreak of the Anglo Boer war, Van Dam left for the Natal front at the head of 400 members of the Z.A.R.P. He took part in the Battle of Nicholson’s Nek, the reconnaissance of Escourt and the Battle of Colenso. On 1 January 1900, then assigned to General Hendrik Schoeman, he was attached to General De la Rey and took part in the battle of Rietfontein and, under General Louis Botha, in the actions at Pienaarspoort and Donkerhoek. In April 1901, while on a reconnaissance of Swazie Captain Umbudula, commandant Van Dam was ambushed by Steinaeker’s Horse and captured. He was initially sent to the P.o.W. camp at Ladysmith then to Durban and finally the P.o.W. Camp in Green Point at Cape Town where he was held until the end of the war. After the war he left for the U.S.A. with General Ben Viljoen. He later returned to South Africa and in 1908 resumed police duties for a while and from the time of Union until his retirement he held the rank of Major. From 1908 to 1913 he was commandant of the Rustenburg police district and from 1913 to 1918 was stationed at Potchefstroom.
Gerard van Dam married Martha Magdalena Steyn in April 1877. At the good age of 84 years, he died in Pretoria on 12 January 1940.