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Bear parted with this letter to help me add to my favourite medal group....

Orange River 10/3/01

Dear Miss Clarke,

Many thanks for your letter on 28th Dec. The excitement in this neighbourhood has at last subsided and permitted me to have a small amount of leisure, of which I am availing myself to answer a great accumulation of private letters.


I expect your opinion of DeWet has modified since he shot the two peace envoys.

I was out on the scene of the Taiborch smash up (between Declar & Naauwpoort on Feb 18th) shortly after it occurred. It was a bad wreck. Two I.Y. were killed by the accident and the fireman of the train and 2 natives were shot by the Boers and a Yeoman and 1 native wounded. We arrested 10 "peaceful inhabitants" against some of whom the evidence was so strong that one of them turned Kings evidence and "let in" 5 of the others and also 2 others as accomplices.

I sincerely hope the authorities will not exercise their usual idiotic leniency in this case. If they do I think the British Public ought to be clearly informed of the facts of the case so as to influence public opinion on the side of severe measures.

Most these men were not British subjects but in the employment of the Imperial Government. I am anxiously awaiting the published result of the Court Martial which was composed of a very strong body of officers.

It is believed DeWet has never before received such blows as he did during his attempted invasion of the Colony.


Had a better system of intelligence been arranged we would most likely have given DeWet and Hertzog very bad knocks with the armoured trains, besides the HoutKraal affair on Feb 18th, but there was no news of the Boers approaching the line till they had actually crossed it.


With kind regards to Sir Andrew and yourself, Believe me, your sincerely, H.Osborne Mann

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Of the 10 men arrested 3 were executed, Jan nieuwhoudt and Karel and Petrus Nienhaber. One man, Jan van den Berg was accused, but saved himself by bearing (false) witness against the accused.

The father of Nieuwhoudt wrote:

"My son said he was innocent but that we must now just let it happen, it is the will of God. He said he had forgiven Jan van den Berg, and so should we. Jan had not known what he was doing. He then said he was ready to meet his maker."

D.C. Nienhaber wrote

"They told everone who visited, that they should forgive Van den Berg and pray for him. It was a comfort to the relatives that the men accepted their fate so calmly. Karel said it was as if he was entering a new life, going to meet god. He went fearlessly to meet his death."

Original photo of a Boer being sentenced to death

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The Truth of the matter is...

Of the 25 Boer Raiders who crossed into the Cape with Malans party, no less than three wrote books. The train wreckers responsible were in fact Malans men, all were horrified when they read, months later, of the execution of the 3 young men. So much so that Malan had Van den Berg tried for perjury after the war.

The first action of the group after entering the Cape was not a feather in the cap for the small group of Raiders.

Arriving at the farm De Bad, about 1km from the deaar naauwpoort railway line, Malan and Co decided to start their Kaapland adventure by attacking and derailing a train.

Night had fallen as Malan surveyed the track, his plan simple but effective. Sending Cloete to the nearby farm to get a hammer and crowbar the Boers then proceeded to lift one of the tracks and put a rock under it. Malan then ordered two men to take position further up the line with orders to open fire on the train as it passed.

Six Cape Boers were visiting the farm that night, (3 named Nienaber, 2 named Nieuwoudt and 1 named Van Den Berg). They had been sent by the British to collect horse fodder for the military. Along with the farmers wife and daughter they stood on the porch and gazed at the comings and goings of the commando with curiosity.

They probably had an idea of what was about to happen, but according to Malan they did not help the Kommando and obviously has no means of preventing them from carrying out their plans. As it was the darkness prevented them from seeing very much.

The line was a well used communication route and it did not take long before a train arrived. As the train approached shots rang out further up the line. This had the desired effect of speeding up the train and the driver had no way of seeing the damage caused to the track. The locomotive left the tracks and hit the bank, a number of wagons piled up one upon another and Malans men opened fire. In no time at all the dazed occupants surrendered and the Kommando moved forward to see what goods they had captured. Unfortunately for the Boers most of the wagons were empty, those that had been loaded contained horses, of which only two had survived the crash.

With the horses as their only booty, the Kommando rode off into the night, unaware of the forthcoming repercussions of their ambush.

By the time the British arrived Malan was long gone, but the 6 wagon drivers were still in the area, and were arrested for the act. A number of Africans claimed the men had been involved in the act, and for some reason (Malan suspects he was threatened) Van Den Berg turned crown witness and in exchange for his freedom he sealed the death sentences for 2 of the young nienaders and 1 of the Nieuwoudts.

Malan was horrified at the execution of the innocent men and after the war had Van Den Berg tried in court for his lies in front of the British Court-Martial. Cloete testified as well but V.d.Berg was aquited.

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Hello Chris,

It's always fun finding pieces to the puzzle. I wonder what the next piece will be to the grouping. :beer:

Sad story though... In your photo it looks as though everyone showed up for the execution. Were they shot or hanged.



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