By Stellan Bojerud

Skandinaviska Organisationen i Transvaal – Scandinavian Organization in Transvaal.

In Spring 1899 Mr Axel Christer Helmfrid Uggla, a Swedish Engineer who since 1890 was working in Transvaal and Head of the Nederlandsch-Zuid-Afrikaansche Spoorweg Maatschappij (NZAM.) Railway Workshops in Pretoria took the initiative to the “Scandinavian Organization” in Transvaal. The main purpose was to find work and housing for unemployed fellow Scandinavians and to raise funds for financial aid to them.[1]

This Organization had a Central Comittée in Pretoria and a Local Comittée in Johannesburg.

Central Comittée

Chairman                    Mr Chister Uggla (Sw)
1st Secretary                Mr William Baerentzen (Dk)
2nd Secretary               Mr Henrik Iverus (Sw)
Treasurer                     Mr Johan Lycke (No)
Member                       Mr Jens Nielsen (Sw)
Member                       Mr Karl Knutsen (No)
Member                       Mr Erik Stålberg (Sw)

Local Comittée

Chairman                     Mr Marius Hansen-Stormoen (No)
Secretary                     Mr Mauritz Kramer (Sw)

Skandinaviska Kåren – Scandinavian Corps

Following outbreak of war a meeting was on 12th October 1899 held in Pretoria which led to organizing the Skandinaviska Kåren (Scandinavian Corps) of volunteers for serving with the Transvaal Militia. The service of this unit was offered to the Government of Transvaal which gladly accepted. The Boers had up to then believed that the Scandinavians as uitlanders tended to side with the British.[2]

Mauser rifles model 1888 were provided by the Transvaal Government and clothes suitable as uniforms were bought by the Comittée. On the first day of recruitment 68 Scandinavians volunteered of which three for medical service. The Government also provided 90 horses. For the logistics three Voortrekker ox-wagons were acquired.[3]

Officers and NCOs were elected. As Mr Uggla had been ordered by the Government to transform the Railway Workshops into a Weapons Factory and Workshops, he could not take command over the Company sized force. The Officers and NCOs appointed were:[4]

Johannes Flygare (Sw)              Captain (Veldkornet)
Erik Stålberg (Sw)                    1st Lieutenant
William Baerentzen (Dk)           2nd Lieutenant
Carl David Appelgren (Sw)        1st Lieutenant-Quartermaster
Adolf Claudelin (Sw)                 2nd Lieutenant-Quartermaster
Gotthard Christensen (Dk)        Sergeant (Danish Troop)
Johan Niklas Wiklund (Fi)         Sergeant (Finnish Troop)
Norman Randers (No)               Sergeant (Norwegian Troop)
Charles Johansson (Sw)            Sergeant (Swedish Troop)

Captain Flygare was born in Natal by Swedish parents. Before the war he had been a Land Surveyor with the Transvaal Government. He spoke Afrikaans and Kaffir languages and had previously participated in military actions against the Kaffirs.[5]

Lieutenants Erik Stålberg and William Baerentzen were members of the Central Comittée and Stålberg had previously served as a Warrant Officer with the Royal Swedish Army. Stålberg was made responsible for military training. This was a difficult task since most of the men had never seen a Mauser-rifle and only few of them knew how to ride a horse, many of them being sailors.[6]

Since this unit de facto was a Company I will from now on use that term and not Corps wich suggests that the unit was by far larger.

When the Company had been organized it was paraded before President Krüger who addressed the troops and shook hands with all volunteers. This was probably on 16th October 1899 when the Company was ordered to the Mafeking front.[7]

 

The Scandinavian Company in Pretoria. Probably on 16th October 1899. Mr Uggla is standing first row far left. First row centre under the banner is a group of five Officers. From left 2Lt QM Claudelin, 1Lt Stålberg, Cpt Flygare, 1Lt QM Appelgren and 2Lt Baerentzen. Except for Claudelin all Officers were killed or wounded and taken prisoners at Magersfontein 11th December 1899.

To the Mafeking front

The Company now was counting some 100 men and 130 horses moved by rail from Pretoria to Klerksdorp where continued training was carried out another few days. Especially horse-riding was difficult and lieutenant Stålberg had no previous experience in this field. He was however instructed by a local Police Officer for some hours.[8]

On horseback the troops continued moving south. Due to the low skills in horse-riding the march progressed slowly. In Polfontein the Company was ordered to act as protection for the “Long Tom” siege-gun moving on Mafeking. On 21st October 1899 two volunteers, the Swede Carl Hultin and Norwegian Einar Olsen were wounded but no details are known. Here the traces of Hultin ends and he probably returned home but Olsen was later killed at Magersfontein.[9]

On 23rd October 1899 the Company joined the forces of General Piet Cronje at Reitvlej near Mafeking.[10]

The first actions

On 25th October 1899 the Company was ordered to take part in an assault on Mafeking which was to be carried out by some 1.200 Boers under Commandant Vallmarens. This assault was no success and the Boers only managed to get some 500 meters from the enemy lines. Two volunteers were wounded namely a Dane named Klaussen and a Finn Jacob Johansson. About Klaussen nothing more is known and he is missing in the roll whereas Johansson fought at Magersfontein and later died in 1900 as a prisoner of war on S:t Helena.[11]

The next action was during the night to 3rd November 1899 when Captain Flygare and 20 of the best trained Scandinavians plus some 80 Boers infiltrated the British positions and entrenched. This position was held until 5th November when a part of the British defence line was charged and taken cutting of British artillery on the “Cannon-kopje”.[12]

The position had however to be abandoned and the Scandinavian Company was during the following days used as scouting forces and demolition teams.[13]

To Magersfontein

On 20th November 1899 the forces of General Cronje including the Scandinavian Company started moving in order to prevent the British under lord Methuen to relieve the besieged Kimberly. The Company – now in good control of their horses – made the ride back  to Klerksdorp on half the time compared with the first time they had covered that distance.[14]

In Klerksdorp another 15 new volunteers brought there by Mr Uggla joined the Company which moved by train to Edenburg and from there to Jacobsdal on horseback. The Company was ordered to join General De la Rey at Scholtznek and on the way serve as protection for two Krupp field guns.[15]

In Scholtznek there was a period of rest which was used for continued training but also for sending out demolition teams to blow up the railway line to Kimberly. After scoring some success with this, General Cronje presented the Scandinavian Company with a donkey-wagon loaded with explosives and trench tools.[16]

A demolition team of ten volunteers headed by two Finnish experts drove out with the wagon and mined the railway on two places about 20 km south of the Modder River.[17]

After that reconnaissance on 6th December had shown that the British were closing in General De la Rey persuaded general Cronje to take up a defensive position at Magersfontain on 8th December and two days later the General inspected the Scandinavian Company. On 10th December Captain Flygare and two Troops carried out reconnaissance. During the night to 11th December approximately half the Company manned an advanced outpost and the rest was entrenching the defence positions some 1,5 km further northeast.[18]

Scandinavians in the battle of Magersfontein

The fight for the Scandinavian outpost began on 11th December 1899 at 03H15 and was apparently a mistake. General Cronje had approximately 02H00 ordered Commandant Tolly de Beer to abandon the outposts but this had been known only to the Boer units and not the Scandinavians.[19]

The Scandinavians repulsed the first British attack but a second followed at 06H15 and lasted for half an hour. Captain Flygare was one of the first killed and lieutenant Stålberg was wounded three times but had before he fainted ordered the troop to abandon the outpost. Also liutenant Baerentzen was wounded twice and out of action.[20]

Lieutenant-Quartermaster Appelgren was not at the outpost but was wounded in the main defence line and died some days later. There was then only one Officer left namely Lieutenant-Quartermaster Claudelin[21].

There are several different figures regarding the strength of the Scandinavian outpost. British sources are sometimes stating 80 men and Scandinavian sources 49 or 52 men. I have found that the figure 52 is probably the correct one since that number of names have been identified.

The later Colonel Erland Mossberg, who in the Boer War was Swedish Military Attaché with the British Forces writes (1943) that there were 26 Swedes, 11 Danish, 7 Finnish, 4 Norwegians and 3 of unknown nationality. He also writes that the number of killed in action was 15 Swedes, 4 Danish, 3 Finnish, 3 Norwegians and 2 others, totalling 27.[22]

By comparing different sources I have however found that the correct numbers should be thus: (KIA = Killed in action, WIA = Wounded in action, DOW = Dead of wounds, POW = Prisoner of war, Esc = Escaped, Found = Found on the battlefield),

Status

Danish

Finnish

Norwegian

Swedish

Others

Total

KIA

3

1

2

13

1

20

WIA-DOW

-

1

1

-

1

3

WIA-POW

5

1

1

7

1

15

POW

-

-

-

1

-

1

WIA-Esc

1

2

1

3

-

6

WIA-Found

-

2

-

-

-

2

Escaped

2

1

-

2

-

5      .

Total

11

7

5

26

3

52

In appendix  below I have listed these volunteers by names. Thus I found that the Company lost 39 men in killed and prisoners while 11 managed to escape to the main defence lines.[23]

On 12th December the Scandinavian Ambulance on the battlefield found 18 dead and 2 severely wounded namely the Finns Sergeant Nils Viklund and volunteer Otto Backman. The other wounded had been collected by the British.[24]

Mr Hansen-Stoermoen from the Johannesburg Comitté had been sent by Mr Uggla to assist the Company. Three graves were dug and the only remaining Officer, Lieutenant-Quartermaster Claudelin carried out the funeral.[25]

Reorganization

Following the heavy losses on 11th December it was decided to dissolve the Company in order to join a Boer Commando. However nothing had been done when four days later the news of another Boer victory was brought namely Colenso in Natal. The British advance had been halted and at Magersfontein there was a period of rest that lasted into February 1900.[26]

Mr Uggla had continued recruiting and on 20th January 1900 another 20 new volunteers arrived from Pretoria under command of Captain Jens Friis, who was a Dane. The decision to disband the Company was now altered and it should instead be reorganized. The new organization was:[27]

Jens Friis (Dk)                         Captain (Veldkornet)
Helge Fägersköld (Sw)              1st Lieutenant
Carl Magnus Lang (Sw)             2nd Lieutenant
Adolf Claudelin (Sw)                 1st Lieutenant-Quartermaster
Gotthard Christensen (Dk)        Sergeant (Danish Troop)
Johan Niklas Wiklund (Fi)         Sergeant (Finnish Troop)
Norman Randers (No)               Sergeant (Norwegian Troop)
Charles Johansson (Sw)            Sergeant (Swedish Troop)
John Rudolf Ruthström (Sw)     Corporal (Swedish Troop)

In February 1900 the British began advancing again but instead of attacking the Magersfontein positions they tried to outflank it. Late on 15th February General Cronje began evacuate the positions and move north. The Scandinavian Company however had its horses on a farm that was taken by the British before most of the horses had been collected. The Company therefore had to march by walking.[28]

During this period the Company lost three volunteers. The Dane Ludwig Rubech was wounded on 14th February and later died 17th March 1900. It is however not known if he died from the wounds or from disease.[29]

The following day Swedish Corporal John Rudolf Ruthström was killed near Jakobsdal and his fellow countryman Wilhelm Stoltze was taken prisoner.[30]

On 16th February 06H00 British Cavalry began harassing the column and the Company had to fight them off on several occasions before reaching Klippdrift some 10 kilometres west of Paardeberg.[31]

Paardeberg

During the night to 17th February the Company marched on with Bloemfontein as final destination. When daylight came the troop put up camp at Wolwe Spruit.[32]

The following day – 18th February – the British attacked but was repelled. In this fight the Swede Elof Blombergson and the Dutchman Jacob Woolf were killed.  The Finns Sergeant Johan Viklund and volunteer Otto Backman as well as Danish volunteer Peter Krohn were taken prisoners by the British. A serious blow was that the wagon with food and equipment was hit by a shell and burned out. After that the Company had just one single spade for entrenchment.[33]

Monday 19th February was described as the heaviest day for the Scandinavians although there were only two wounded, namely the Swede Oscar Cederström and the Norwegian Adolf Hansen which both were taken prisoners a week later.[34]

On 20th February Norwegian Abraham Abrahamsen was wounded and taken prisoner by the British.[35]

After fighting for another week General Cronje surrendered to the British at Paardeberg on 27th February 1900 and the Scandinavian Company now counting 47 men marched into captivity.[36]

The Scandinavian Ambulance

In October 1899 Mr Uggla and Captain Flygare had also organized a medical unit. The Scandinavian Ambulance consisted of:[37]

Biedenkap, Wilhelm, Boeck, MD (No) Surgeon
Lindblom, Anna (Sw)               Probationist
Lindblom, Elin (Sw)                 Nurse
Svensson, Hildur (Sw)             Nurse
Slabbert, H K E (ZAR)              Assistant Nurse
Andersson, Axel (Sw)              Medical Orderly
Hedberg, Oscar (Sw)              Medical Orderly and Cook
Lindberg, Ernst (Fi)                Medical Orderly
Stoltz, Wilhelm (Sw)               Medical Orderly
Trotzmüller, Wolf (Ge)            Medical Orderly

The last mentioned three men left the Ambulance on 1st January 1900 and joined the Scandinavian Company. The Ambulance had one ox-wagon driven by two natives. An account of the activities of the Scandinavian Ambulance was in 1924 written by Elin Lindblom and is available in English on internet http://rapidttp.com/milhist/vol045cj.html.[38]

Dr Biedenkap left the Ambulance in the end of November 1899 and thereafter the unit had no Surgeon until February 1900 when the Ambulance was merged with “Afrikaner Corps Ambulance” headed by Dr Neethling from Transvaal.[39]

Scandinavians in other Boer units

Two Swedes serving in the Lydenburg Commando were killed at Spion Kop 24th January 1900, namely Sune Valdemar Christenson and Georg Wilhelm Fermén (or Fromén). In this battle also the Swede John Rydström was killed whilst serving with the Artillery as a Warrant Officer.[40]

It is not known in which units several Scandinavian volunteers served, but only that they were taken prisoners and interned on St Helena. The persons serving with identified units are listed below.[41]

Colesberg Commando

Reismüller, H G (Sw)             Volunteer

Lydenburg Commando

Berg, Ernest (Sw)                   Volunteer
Christensen, Jens (Dk)            Volunteer
Chistenson, Sune Valdemar (Sw)       Volunteer        KIA 24/1 1900 Spion Kop
Fromén, Georg (Sw) (or Fermén)       Volunteer        KIA 24/1 1900 Spion Kop

Utrecht Commando

Hammar, Josef MD (Sw)        Surgeon
Ihlén (No)                             Medical Orderly
Pedersen, Carl (No)               Volunteer

Vrijheid Commando

Björkman, Axel (Sw)              Farrier
Thorén, Arthur (Sw)               Farrier

Staatsartillerie

Rydström, John (Sw)             WO     KIA 24/1 1900 Spion Kop

Norwegian Axel Onsum fought at Koorn Spruit, Zand-Rivier and Crocodil-River. He was wounded five times during the war and ended up as Aide-de-Camp to General Botha.[42]

 

Captain Stålberg (left) and lieutenant Baerentzen as prisoners on Ceylon

Appendix

Casuality and prisoner of war list

WIA 21/10 1899 on way to Mafeking (2)

Hultin, Carl (Sw)

Olsen, Einar (No)

WIA 25/10 1899 Mafeking (2)

Klaussen (Dk)

Johansson, Jacob (Fi)

KIA 11/12 1899 Magersfontein (20)

Ahlström, Conrad (Sw)

Andersson, Julius (Sw)

Benson Olsson, Albert (Sw)

Benson Olsson, Edvin (Sw)

Dahlén, Johannes (No)

Flygare, Johannes (Sw) - Captain

Goetterup, Arthur (Dk)

Jacobsen, Peter Marius (Dk)

Johnsson, Nils Alfred (Sw) - Sergeant

Landgren, Oscar August (Sw)

Lindström, Emil (Sw)

Mark, Osvald August (Sw)

Mattsson, Emil (Fi)

Nyqvist, Nils Harald (Sw)

Olesen, Frede (Dk)

Olsen, Einar (No)

Olsson, Carl Albert (Sw)

Osberg, Fredrik (Sw)

von Rassau, Frans (Ge)

Stael von Holstein, Otto Wilhelm (Sw)

WIA 11/12 1899 Magersfontein (27)

Allum, Jacob (No)                   Escaped

Andersson-Lind, Johan Alfred (Sw)  POW

van Aken, Johannes (Nl)                     POW

Appelgren, Carl David (Sw) – QM    Died of wounds 13/12 1899

Backman, Otto (Fi)                 Escaped

Baerentzen, William (Dk) – 2nd Lt      POW

Blombergsson, Elof (Sw)                    Escaped

Cederström, Oscar (Sw)                     Escaped

Christensen, Wilhelm (Dk)                 POW

Fägerskiöld, Helge (Sw)                     Escaped

Hägglöf, Henrik (Fi)               POW – Died of wounds 14/12 1899

Johansson, Charles (Sw) – Sergeant   POW – Escaped from prison camp 19/3 1900

Johansson, Jacob (Fi)              Escaped

Krohn, Peter (Dk)                   Escaped

Lang, Carl Magnus (Sw)                     POW

Lindeberg, Gustav (Ge)                      POW – Died of wounds 12/2 1899

Michelson, Johan (Fi)              POW

Nielsen, Oluf (No)                  Died of wounds 12/12 1899

Olsen, Johannes (No)              POW

Petersen, Jörgen Peter (Dk)    POW

Pettersson-Janek, Hjalmar (Sw)          POW

Rydholm, Carl (Sw)                POW

Schaedtler, Victor (Dk)                      POW

Stenberg, Schack (Dk)                        POW

Stålberg, Erik (Sw) – 1st Lieutenant  POW – Released for healt reasons May 1901

Werner, Sven (Sw)                  POW

Wiklund, Johan Niklas (Fi) – Sgt       Escaped

POW 11/12 1899 Magersfontein (1)

Mellquist, Carl Emanuel (Sw)

Escaped unwounded 11/12 1899 Magersfontein (4)

Carlsson, Carl Albin (Sw)

Knauer, Harald (Dk)

Ohlsson, John Martin (Sw)

Rank, Johannes (Fi)

WIA 14/2 1900 Jacobsdal (1)

Rubech, Ludvig (Dk)              Dead 17/3 1900

KIA 15/2 1900 Jacobsdal (1)

Ruthström, John Rudolf (Sw) – Corporal

POW 15/2 1900 Jacobsdal (1)

Stolze, Wilhelm (Sw)

KIA 18/2 1900 Paardeberg (2)

Blombergsson, Elof (Sw)

Woolf, Jacob (Nl)

POW 18/2 1900 Paardeberg (3)

Backman, Otto (Fi)

Krohn, Peter (Dk)

Wiklund, Johan Niklas (Fi) – Sergeant

WIA 19/2 1900 Paardeberg (2)

Cederström, Oscar (Sw)                     POW 27/2 1900

Hansen, Adolf (No)                POW 27/2 1900

WIA 20/2 1900 Paardeberg (1)

Abrahamsen, Abraham (Dk)   POW

WIA 27/2 1900 Paardeberg (2)

Eliasson, Hans Pieter (Sw)                  POW

Johansson, Per Erik (Sw)                    Escaped

POW 27/2 1900 Paardeberg (47)

Andersen, Anders (No)

Andersson, Pontus (Sw)

Bagger, H (Dk)

Bakman, Sunnion (Fi)

Balderachi, John (It)

Besseling, Johannes (Nl)

Carlsson, Carl Albin (Sw)

Cederström, Oscar (Sw)

Christensén, Gotthardt (Dk) - Sergeant

Claudelin, Adolf (Sw) – Quartermaster

Eklund, Johan Alfred (Sw)

Eliasson, Hans Pieter (Sw)

Erikson, Isak (Fi)                    Dead St Helena

Friis, Aage (Dk)

Friis, Jens (Dk) – Captain

Gustafsson, Wilhelm (Sw)

Hansen, Adolf (No)

Hansen, Emil Ferdinand (Dk)

Hult, Gustaf Adolf (Sw)

Johansson, Jacob (Fi)              Dead St Helena

Johnson, Herman (Fi)

Johnsson, Erik (Fi)

Jungmarker, Viktor (Sw)

van Kal, Hugo Cornelis (Nl)

Kielland, Hjalmar (No)

Koehenen, Gabriel (Fi)

Knauer, Harald (Dk)

Knutsen, Charles (No)

Kruts Gustavsson, Matts (Fi)

Larsen, Hans (No)

Lassen, Einar (Dk)

Lindström, Otto Erik (Sw)

Matson, Mats - Cook

Möller, August Gustav (Dk)

Nelson, Matts (Fi)                   Dead S:t Helena

Nielsen, Peder (Dk – USA)

Nyman, Jan (Fi)

Randers, Norman (No) – Sergeant

Rank, Johannes (Fi)

Rasmussen, Sophus (Dk)

Schiönning, Aage From (Dk)

Schutz, John (Fi)

Stenros, Karl Anders (Fi)

Svensson, Johan Emil (Sw)

Söderström, Johan (Sw)

Ucherman, Sigurd (No)

Wehlau, Franz Karl (Ge)

POW unknown date 1900 (2)

Udenkyll, Gustaf (Russia)

Winberg, Anders Efraim (Sw)

Escaped captivity or left the Company before the capitulation at Paardeberg

Ahlström, Carl (Sw)

Allum, Jacob (No)

Andersson, Carl-Grustaf (Sw)

Fägerskiöld, Helge (Sw) – 1st Lieutenant

Fredericks, S.A (Dk) - To other unit Nov 1899

Grennebach, Julius (Ge)

Hagedorn, Frans (Ge)

Hatcher, Raymond (Ge)

Holländer, Karl (Ge)

Hultin, Carl (Sw)

Johansson, Per Erik (Sw)

Kramer, Maurits (Sw)

Nielsen, Carl Peter (Sw)

Thomsen, Julius (Dk) - To other unit unknown time


[1] Uddgren, H.E., Hjältarna vid Magersfontein, Uddevalla 1924, p 8 f.
[2] Ibid, p 13. f
[3] Ibid, p 15 f.
[4] Ibid, p 17.
[5] Ibid, p 17.
[6] Ibid, p 17 f.
[7] Ibid, p 19.
[8] Ibid, p 20.
[9] Ibild p 22 and 86 f.
[10] Ibid, p 22.
[11] Ibid p 24 and 86 f.
[12] Ibid, p 25.
[13] Ibid, p 26.
[14] Ibid, p 28.
[15] Ibid, p 29 ff.
[16] Ibid, p 33.
[17] Ibid, p 33.
[18] Ibid, p 43.
[19] Uddgren, p 46.
[20] Ibid, p 47 f.
[21] Ibid, p 86.
[22] Mossberg, E, Minnen från tre krig, Stockholm 1943, p 92.
[23] Gustafsson, M and Viklund N, Boer och Engelsmän. Skildringar ur det sydafrikanska kriget 1899-1901, Helsingfors 1910, p 63, is listing 8 volunteers that managed to escape. See also Uddgren, p 86 ff.
[24] Uddgren, p 53.
[25] Ibid, p 53.
[26] Ibid, p 56.
[27] Ibid, p 56, p 86-88 and Kerfve, A, Svenska hjältar i Boerkriget, Stockholm 1900, p 119.
[28] Uddgren, p 57.
[29] Ibid, p 61 and 88.
[30] Ibid, p 86 ff.
[31] Ibid, p 57.
[32] Ibid, p 57.
[33] Ibid, p 56 ff and 86 ff.
[34] Ibid, p 58 and 86 ff.
[35] Ibid, p 60 and 88.
[36] Ibid, p 60.
[37] Ibid, p 62 and 90.
[38] De Jong, C, Die verslag van suster Elin Lindblom oor de Skandinawiese ambulans in die Tweede Anglo-Boere-oorlog, Military History Journal (South Africa), Vol 4 Nr 5.
[39] Ibid, p 9.
[40] Uddgren, p 60 f and 91
[41] Ibid, p 61 and 91 f.
[42] Ibid, p 61.