Jump to content

Recommended Posts

Both these groups are to men who had documented "kills" amongst the British/Colonial troops in the Boer war.

The top group is a DTD, DCM, ABO and trio. The ABO is the Boer medal for the Boer war, The DTD is the boer officers distinguished service medal.

Most Boer war Boer officers who served on the govt side in WW1 served as officers once again. Jordaan, who had the top group had joined the regular army after the Boer war and was an NCO (with high connections as his superiors were all old comrades from the boer war era.)

From Ben Bouwers book where Jordaan kills a british soldier...

I was to take my men and trek with them through the Free State to the

vicinity of Zastron where General Smuts would join us about the 15th

of August. The other commandants received similar instructions.

The men were not informed of what we were going to do at once, but

with the assistance of the officers I drew up a list of seventy-five

names. This occupation of ours was interrupted by news of a column (enemy)

coming from Johannesburg evidently to Potchefstroom via Losberg.

Lochenberg brought the news of it and I rode out with him and a

strong detachment towards them, coming in sight of them on the farm

Elandsfontein. The men hid themselves in the orchards and

Lochenberg and I went to the house of Mr. Jan Pienaar, whose family

were still on the farm.

The column was passing the house by then, at a distance of eight hun-

dred yards, along the road, without any intention apparently of exa-

mining the houses. Nevertheless we posted two men on the roof to

observe their movements, it being my intention to attempt a surprise

attack from the rear as soon as they had passed. Lochenberg and I had

hitched our horses to a post outside the door and gone inside. It being

about eight o'clock in the morning Mrs. Pienaar offered to give us

breakfast which we gratefully accepted and were waiting for its ap-

pearance, when we heard the sound of horses' hooves. Lochenberg

and I took no notice; my nose and mind were both occupied with the

coming breakfast, which was nearing completion. But Mrs. Pienaar

went to a window, gave a shriek and called out "Heavens' the

English!"

Lochenberg and I dashed for the door and as we opened it six troopers

swung round the house. We sprang on our horses and dashed away,

but he missed his stirrup and fell off before he had gone ten yards,

which in a way was quite as remarkable as our surprise. Hardly had he

touched ground however when he fired but hit nobody. I continued to

race for cover and had just pulled up behind some trees a couple of

hundred yards away when Jordaan, one of my staff, and a few other

men who had been posted near, came up and fired on the troopers.

Jordaan killed one and the others dashed away into the trees.

We now expected that the column would advance towards the farm

but they continued their march as though nothing had happened. We

knew that, at the time, the soldiers had orders not to touch at farms,

and it is therefore probable that these six men had stalked the house

so succesfully because they were guarding against being seen going to

it by their own people and, probably, without a thought of us.

I could not help regretting the death of the trooper shot here, a fine,

handsome fellow he was too, who had doubtless approached the farm

with no more serious purpose than that of asking for a morning cup of

coffee.

The two men on the roof had failed to see the troopers and that was

one of the very few occasions I have known a Boer sentry to fail.

Altogether it was a morning of surprises.

When the rear-guard passed we attacked it, but they had doubtless

received notice of our presence; the pith had been taken out of our

enterprise and the whole thing came to nothing.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Cloete, the bottom group, is way, way, way more intresting... its a long but worthwhile read...

Cloete ? The Sharpshooter

Cornelius Willem Cloete D.T.D., D.S.O. died at the age of 70 on the 2nd of September 1944. His death certificate lists him as a pensioner and owner of the Grand Hotel in Ermelo.

At the outbreak of the war he was serving in Danie Therons Bicycle-Despatch riders Corps under Theron and Koos Jooste. When Theron left to form his famous Scouting Corps Cloete went with him and served as a Scout for President Steyn and General De Wet in a string of battles and adventures up until just after the death of Theron, when he joined another Theron Lieutenant named Wynand Malan for an attack on the Cape Colony.

At the outbreak of the First World War he was serving as 2nd in command of the Pretoria rifle association, better known as Enslin?s Horse. Barend Enslin had also served as one of Theron?s officers in the Boer war. After the rebellion in 1914 Cloete took command of Enslin?s Horse until the end of the campaign in GSWA as part of the left wing, 4th Mounted Brigade of the Southern Force.

What kind of man was C.W. Cloete ? He seems to have had few aspirations to command during the Anglo Boer war, whereas fighters like Slegtkamp, Hindon and Malan left the TVK to make a name for themselves as leaders of independent raiding groups, Cloete seems to have been content to tag along with Malan as adjutant and Sharpshooter. When Malan needed a man to form the Commando at Calvinia he did not send Cloete on to make a name for himself, but promoted Maritz and sent him instead. Cloete, willingly or unwillingly stayed behind as Malans personal sharpshooter.

Malan praises Cloete?s prowess as a fighting man, brave, tough and resistant to pain, but at no stage in his book does he communicate any warmth in his relationship with his adjutant.

Malans memoires provided a wonderful insight into Cloete?s fighting abilities, just about every mention has Cloete shooting someone as he stands, rides or walks next to Malan. As Cloete had independently taken part in a number of large actions in which many enemy soldiers were killed as well as taking part in numerous ambushes and train wreckings...... it leads to the rather morbid question of how many British and Colonial soldiers fell to shots from Cloete?s Mauser, and if any of the soldiers serving under him in 1914 -15 had been in his sights 14 years before.

It is of course a question that is relevant for any Boers serving in the Union Defence Force in 1914 but specially pertinent in the case of Cloete because he was a noted marksman with in all probability a large number of kills.

So far it has not been possible to trace any mentions of Cloete?s service at the beginning of the boer war in the bicycle corps as there is no published literature about this, but with the help of F.J. Pretorius?s superb book about the first De Wet hunt it is possible to get a rough idea about Cloete?s services with the TVK in the second stage of his career as a scout.

Theron had formed a scouting corps of 150-200 hand picked men. At this stage of the war De Wets commando averaged around 2000 men and they kept tens of thousands of British and colonial troops on their toes by raiding and attacking their lines of communication.

In his history of the Boer war Thomas Pakenham writes?

?A Boer commando travelled light, light and fast. De Wet?s commando moved like a hunting cat on the veld. One minute the men lay there: formless, huddled around the small fires of cow dung, sipping coffee, or trying to sleep, wrapped up against the cold in their blankets; ponies picked at the bare veld, hobbled by foreleg and halter. The next minute the raiding party was on the move, bobbing heads under slouch hats, mausers erect, bandoliers swathed across the mens shoulders, strips of Biltong (dried meat) and pouches of flour tied to the saddle-bow???De Wet?s commando was not a majestic fighting machine, like a British Column. It was a fighting animal, all muscle and bone: in one sense the most professional combatant of the war.?

The British hunted De Wet with a complicated system of sweeps and columns, and it was largely due to Therons Scouts that De Wet was able to operate at all. Theron?s scouts shared the vanguard duties with a small group of scouts under Gideon Scheepers, but their most important contribution was providing a solid rearguard that allowed De Wet to escape pursuers time and time again.

Theron?s tactic was to place hidden pockets of men (10-12) at 1km intervals, slowly falling back and covering each other. By firing in volleys it made it impossible for the enemy to accurately judge how many opponents were firing at them, and as the groups were spread over a wide area it was difficult for the enemy cavalry to flank them.

Step by step Theron would withdraw his men and when he had decided that De Wet and the main group had reached safety the rearguard would melt away.

After the death of Theron, Cloete and Malan continued to serve in the TVK, finally parting ways with De Wet in Febuary 1901. De Wet had planned an invasion of the Cape and Malan and a Group of men were sent out to scout for the enemy and take the town of Philipstown. Having achieved this goal they awaited the arrival of De Wet.

The British succeeded in changing De Wets plans for him, and Malan found himself cut off, with the option of making his way back to De Wet, or invading the Cape Colony with 25 men.

25 men who invaded the 276 000 square miles of Cape Colony were a mixed bunch indeed, including Manie Maritz who would be a key figure in the 1914 Rebellion, P.J. Joubert who would join him in Rebellion, the French Count Robert de Kersausson and the TVK sharpshooter Lt. C.W. Cloete.

The Train Wreckers.

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.

Passing through the town of Richmond the Kommando exchanged shots with the town guard, Malan unfortunately killing a Cape Afrikaaner who was seeking to join his group.

Making their way in the direction of VW they bivuaced on the farm Klipplaatfontein owned by Mr Kochtt. As they had no pressing schedule the men awoke late and were having an outdoor shower under a water tank when the sentry called ? the Khakis are coming!!?.

After a mad scramble for their clothes the Boers realised that the large force that was approaching had not yet spotted them and it was decided to ambush the British.

Sending Maritz to the right, Malan took the balance around the left flank of the approaching horsemen, taking up position on a large rocky hill. When the group drew level Malans men opened fire, and so started what Malan describes as the most enjoyable fight of the war, insofar as one can describe a fight as enjoyable. For the next half hour they played a deadly game of hide and seek, until all the pockets of British soldiers had been captured. The British Colonial troop was composed of over 150 green troops under the command of Captain Strong. If Malan was astounded at capturing such a large group, Captain Strong appears to have been badly embarrassed at being captured by a force of just 18 Boers. Initially Strong refused to believe how small the group of Boers was and Malan took pleasure in assembling his small force to show Strong how few they actually were. One of the younger Boers recognised Strong from pre war days and asked him what the KFS on their badges meant. ?Kitcheners Scouts? replied Strong. And what is the F for asked Breda and was delighted when Strong told him it stood for fighting. Looking innocently at Strong he asked why they called themselves fighting scouts when they didn?t really fight.

Being a newly formed unit the KFS were kitted out with brand new equipement, to which the Boers greedily helped themselves.

After the skirmish at Klipppppp the British prisoners were released. The Kommando had no way of guarding, housing or feeding POWs.

During the Guerilla phase of the war many wounded Boers ended up in British hospitals and in spite of claims to the contrary by some Boers, the treatment they recieved was generally fair... and of course led to their automatic capture. In the case of POWs the Boers were at a distinct disadvantage. Boer POWs were sent off to Ceylon or Bermuda, having little chance of participating in future combats, British POWs, once released by the Boers could be back in the field within a day or two.

A frustrated De Wet once sent an indignant letter back to the British after releasing a group of POWs. In it he insisted that the British arrest the soldiers for allowing themselves to be captured for a third time !!

Inspite of some ugly episodes later in the war, the shooting of prisoners was not a common occurance, and one can only imagine how much self control was needed to release men who would be shooting back at you some time in the near future.

The fight at Probart?s farm

I have found Two versions of this story, the First is from the Book ?Commandant Gideon Scheepers and the search for his Grave? By the David and Taffy Shearing, the second is the version according to Wynand Malan.

?On 26 March all horses in Graaff-Reinet were paraded, and Grenfell purchased 23 for his Kitchener's Fighting Scouts. The next day a combined force of 1st and 2nd Brabants under Scobell, Maj D Arbuthnot and Mullins were to have swept the mountains from due north of Aberdeen to Zuurpoort. At the last moment Grenfell was ordered to the Transvaal with Kitchener's Fighting Scouts. He left, taking the Graaff-Reinet horses with him.

In the Camdeboo a call of ?Opsaal!? rang out as scouts reported a force of Brabant's horse under Captain Mullins with two guns coming up the valley. That night a farmer led Malan's men down a slippery path. They stumbled and the horses slipped and fell, until they reached the safety of Palmietfontein on the Aberdeen side of the Camdeboo. Mullins took the Boer laager at Roodepoort, and collected saddles, ammunition and booty. But the birds had flown.

At the same time Major Arbuthnot with the Imperial Yeomanry was marching unsupported into the Camdeboo on the Aberdeen side. His reports to Scobell survive in his letter book. After leaving Probart's farm at Zeekoeirivier (New-lands), Arbuthnot placed an officer and 20 men on a koppie between Brandkraal and Waterkloof, and proceeded with the remainder to a ridge between Morgendal and Platfontein, while another patrol went to Mrs Pretorius' farm at Komskloof to get information. They received a report that the main body of Boers was in the mountains north of the homestead.

Arbuthnot next signalled Aberdeen that he was trekking with the IY ( Imperial Yeomanry) and Brabant's(Horse) through Klein Kariegas (he must have united with Mullins), while Scobell advanced via Uitkomst. He reported that there was no news of the enemy.

Malan, Scheepers and Maritz swooped back over the krantzes and captured Arbuthnot and a large number of his Yeomen. Mullins got away, but the Boers took back what they had lost at Roodepoort, and more. The troopers trudged back to Aberdeen, footsore and weary. As usual they had restocked the commando with rifles, bandoleers, clothes and especially boots. They appeared back at camp without the Major who was kept prisoner by the Boers, to the amusement of the Aberdeen people.

Scheepers now took over Arbuthnot's letter book and used it to write to Malan, saying that a party from the north-west Cape had arrived from the Kenhardt district with a letter (which later went on to De Wet) from Cmdt PA Froneman asking for instructors for 140 rebels.

Malan, Scheepers and Maritz waited in the Camdeboo, full of anticipation. Sure enough a strong force of 5th Lancers, Imperial Yeomanry and Nesbitt's Horse, led this time by Captain Stapleton-Bretherton, arrived on Zeekoeirivier. Bretherton entrenched the farm house, built stone sangars around the homestead and broke gun ports into the walls. The horses were placed in the kraal under the protection of a Colt gun sighted on a ridge above. Bretherton told the owner, Probart, that he intended to take Malan with him to Aberdeen for breakfast.

The Boers surrounded the place during the night of 6 April, ignoring a continuous downpour. Maritz deployed men to guard the road to Aberdeen, while Scheepers occupied the koppie north of the house. Piet van der Merwe, Lieut Cloete and the ex-miner, 21 year-old Johannes Rudolph, led the attack. Van der Merwe was cutting a fence when the guard challenged in a frightened voice. As the first bullet flashed, he turned and fled. Lieut Cloete, quick on the draw, shot a guard on the other side of the house. Brisk fire was exchanged between the Boers under Maritz and the troops protected by the gunports.

Scheepers' men crept behind the battery of the Colt gun, and wounded the gunners. In the middle of the fracas Rudolph grabbed Bretherton's golden chestnut with a diamond on its forehead, and Van der Walt claimed a black horse. The quality of the animals made them forget the war, he said. Malan stamped over, furious at the looting, and, ignoring the hail of bullets, dressed them down and told them to get on with the attack. Maritz was spurred on by hunger and a longing for coffee. The thought of getting his teeth into tin after tin of the Tommies' wonderful bully beef drove him on.

When the Colt gun was captured by the Boers, the 5th Lancers in the sangars lost their cover. The Imperial Yeomen lost heart when they found themselves under fire from the ridge above. De Kersauson, with PietJoubert, attacked the troops holed up in the shed. Suddenly Malan rounded the corner of the house, leading a group of prisoners. Then an officer of Nesbitt's Horse, holding a piece of white linen, walked out of the front door. The fight was over.

Although the guns were silent, the racket went on. The children were crying, the women were screaming their heads off and the donkeys were braving with fright. Huge Mr Probart (the whole family was over 6 foot), furious at the damage to his property, stormed over to Malan. He raged at the Boers for fighting and endangering the safety of the women and children. Malan shrugged it off, showing Probart the note that he had sent to Stapelton-Bretherton, demanding surrender because of the women. Probart rounded on the Captain, who had also capitulated, and started veiling at him. Bretherton ignored him. He was staring at the Boers. In an upper-class English accent he exclaimed, 'Are you really Boers? I thought Boers were thick, short fellows with long beards' Why, you look like gentlemen!'

The Boers roared with laughter, triumphant in their victory, and nobody knew that, as fortunes of war go, they were at their peak. Their timing had been perfect. They had used surprise and concentration of effort, they had worked together, taken the initiative and won the day.

However Malan, Scheepers, Judge Hugo, Robert de Kersauson, Manie Maritz, Lieut Cloete and Rudolph would soon scatter - not driven out by the columns, but by their own initiative. Malan wanted to move to the Cradock district, Maritz would leave for Kenhardt and only Scheepers would keep the Camdeboo Mountains more or less as base. Each was planning to be the warlord in a territory, and all were sure that there was another crest of the wave to ride.

The Tommies had no bullv beef, so the hungry Boers slaughtered sheep. They threw the pieces of mutton on the fire, and, even though it was only hot and still dripping, began to gorge themselves. Probart stared as the commando consumed mounds of meat followed by cans of water. As he walked away shaking his head, Maritz said to him, 'If you had last eaten three days ago, and then been in a heavy fight, you wouldn't shake vour head like that!

Stapleton-Bretherton and Arbuthnot were kept prisoner for a few days. De Kersauson paid them a visit, and reported to the commando with glee that they felt like jackals caught by a flock of hens. Thev eventually walked back to Aberdeen.

The Boers took the wagons, the supplies and 50 civilian coats, as well as the horses. Although the bluff Stapelton-Brethcrton was captured, he was long remembered by the Aberdeen villagers as the only Englishman who dared enter the Camdeboo without surrounding the whole mountain range first.

The affair had been another debacle from a Field Force point of view - only a young officer, Fletcher, and 25 men got awav. Over 80 men of all ranks were captured. The problem for the British had arisen after Gen Settle planned a drive by Scobell and Grenfell from west to east through the Camdeboo Mountains. Mounted men from Aberdeen were to guard the exit near Uitkomst, and Stapelton-Bretherton was to block the Graaff-Reinet side. But Grenfell was suddenly ordered to the Transvaal, and Settle found Aberdeen unable to supply mounted men. He told Stapelton-Bretherton to sort it out with Col Priestly, Royal Artillery commandant of Aberdeen. Priestly ordered him up to Proban's farm, without support, and he became a sitting duck for the Boers.

Priestly got the sack and S/M Aston, 5th Lancers, a severe reprimand. An enquiry was started against the Nesbitt's Horse ofticer, the first to surrender. Settle seems to have gone on leave suddenly, and now it was Lieut-Col Haig's turn to do something about the Boers in the Camdeboo. Trumpeter D Martin and Saddler Peck of 32 Coy IY (Lancashire Hussars) were promoted to corporal for their conspicuous gallantry under heavy fire. Ptes HD Thompson and H Flemming of the 5th Roval Irish Lancers and Sergt A Owbridge and Pte Collinger of the 2nd Battalion IY who had been killed were later re-intered in the Aberdeen graveyard.

Malan remembers the action slightly differently. In the Malan acount there is no mention of Scheepers participation, the three groups of Boers being under the command of Maritz, Piet Van der Merwe and Malan himself. Cloete was with Malan and killed the sentry when challenged.

After Probart?s farm

After the skirmish at Probarts farm Malan was ordered to provide an officer and cadre for a new commando in the Calvinia area. This task was given to Maritz and a picked group of 10 men.

Soon after the departure of Maritz, Malan, accompanied by Cloete and 2 Burgers went to visit Mr. Probart. Upon arrival the farmer ran out to meet them, shaking with anger.

He told the Boers that a British soldier had come to claim some of the horses left in Probarts care by Malan after the fight. To help him drive the two horses and two mules back to Aberdeen he had taken two young boys, the sons of some of Probarts farm workers. To the horror of the mothers of the boys, the soldier had threatened to shoot the two boys. According to Probert the soldier had been drunk and therefor capable of carrying through his threat. Added to that, shots had sounded out soon after the group had disappeared from view.

Turning their horses down the road in the direction of Aberdeen Malan led his men in pursuit of the group. It did not take long to catch up and as they reached them Malan overtook the soldier. He had his pistol in his hand, but judging the man to be of no danger he passed him without firing. He had just passed when a shot rang out, the still galloping Cloete shooting the soldier out of the saddle.

It is difficult to read between the lines of Malan?s description, as the man slid onto the road he asked Cloete ?Why did you kill the drunken bum??? to which Cloete replied he had been worried that the man was going to shoot Malan in the back as he galloped past. The way Malan describes the incident leaves it rather ambiguous... was Cloete looking after his friends, or was he simply trigger happy....

It is worth noting that Malan never seems to have had a warm friendship with Cloete, no nicknames, no personal details. A great respect for Cloete?s skills with the rifle are about the limit of his comments.

Probart was a large man whos very size intimidated those around him. He was also rather deaf and as is often the case with the hearing impaired he tended to speak very loudly or shout, in Probarts case the sentences were often punctuated with an aggressive sounding ?eh?? .

In an action that lacked somewhat in taste, Malan asked Probart to return the body to the Town commandant of Aberdeen with his compliments.

Probart strapped the body to the back of his cart and rode into town coming to a stop in front of the office of the town commandant. Probart called loudly and when the commandant came out to see what he wanted, Probart loosened the straps and let the body fall onto the ground.

?This soldier has been shot Eh? Malan sends him to you with his compliments Eh??

Understandably the Commandant was furious and ordered his men to confiscate the two Mules pulling the carriage.

Probart refused to hand them over and protested that Malan had only sent the Body, not the Mules, and if he went back without the mules he would be in big trouble? and noone in Aberdeen would be able to protect him.

With this reasoning he turned his carriage around and drove unmolested out of the town.

A nearly fatal error

The day to day life of the kommando consited of playing cat and mouse with the British columns.

Malans Kommando grew slowly and they began to establish themselves as a force to reckon with in the Cradock Area.

One day Malan sent Veldkornett Van der Merwe out with an nine man patrol to find fodder at one of the nearby farms. Soon after a rider came back with the message that Van der Merwe had discovered a force of about 100 English mounted troops at one of the farms. He wanted to attack and requested that Malan send reinforcements to support the attack. Taking Cloete and 8 other men Malan rode out to take a look at the situation.

According to the messenger, Van der Merwe had taken position behind the farm, Malan decided to approach it from the other side.

He was still not 100% sure that the troops were indeed British. He had been awaiting a troop of Boers who had not yet arrived and did not want any shooting until the group had been properly identified.

About 300 meters from the farm they arrived at a wire fence. Malan slid from his horse, wanting to have a good look at the troop through his binoculars. It right away became apparent that the troops were indeed English, who, having seen Malan were in turn were uncertain of the identity of Malans little group. While the main troop stayed up on the overlooking ridge, a small patrol of 10 men broke away to approach and identify Malan.

As the riders approached, Malan ordered his men to stay saddled and to carefully load their rifles. Noone was to do anything that could identify them as enemy until Malan fired the first shot, then they were to jump off their horses and open fire.

If Malan was worried he did not show it as he stood smoking, one hand rested on the fence post, the Rifle he had borrowed from Hoffmann held casually in his hand.

Ever nearer came the English patrol, and Malan sensed the tension in his men. The British lieutenant had evidently mistaken them for Colonial troops and he rode up to Malan, just a thin wire fence seperating the two men.

As he brought his horse to a standstill Malan said ?I think you have made an error, you think we are Colonial troops, but we are Boers. You are my prisoners.?

The Young officer was no coward, grabbing his rifle he slid from his horse? he was dead before he hit the ground.

At this moment a number of things happened. One of the young Boers shouted ?Ride!!? and took off followed by six of the others. Malan opened a desperate fire on the group of Englishmen. On the English side of the fence two riders had whipped their horses around and went speeding back to the larger group, the other seven sat frozen in their saddles and were shot down by Malan who was firing as fast as he could. Cloete slid from his saddle throwing his rifle to his shoulder, fired at and hit the two who were getting away.

In the mean time, Hoffmann was sitting calmly in his saddle, having no weapon at hand.

The main group had opened fire at the three Boers, who now had bullets whizzing around their ears. Malan was furious and shouted to Cloete to go and catch the fleeing Boers, Malan himself taking a shot at and missing the boer who had shouted to the others to flee.

Cloete and Hoffmann took off after the group, they needed to get them back into action, Van der Merwe was attacking the British from behind and Malan needed to support him by attacking from his side. It developed into a bitter fight with many British casualties, but it was the death of the young Lieutenant that was to influence the war in the Cradock area for some time to come.

At the end of the war, Malan, badly wounded at the time was waiting for a train at Cradock station. Suddenly Colonel Scobell pushed his way to Malan and shouted at him ?You shot my Lieutenant. You personally did it. If you come out, I will take it out of you!?

Malans men were angered at this performance and with cries of ?Kick him out! Kick him out!??they did just that.

This was the first and only face to face meeting of Malan and Scobell.

In June 1901 Malan?s commando was west of Cradock where they, according to Creswick?s book on the guerilla war, they "made themselves perpetually offensive". Malan?s nemesis was without a doubt Colonel Scobbell.

In the meantime Scobell had to content himself with a dawn raid on Malan?s camp on the 19th of June. Four Boers were killed and 40 horses captured, the rest of the Boers escaping mostly bareback on their horses. By the 25th Malan had gathered enough men for a raid on the town of Richmond but was beaten back by the defenders and on the 27th of July a Major Mullins leading a unit of Brabants Horse (a unit of irregulars) caught up with Malan and a fight ensued in which Cloete was seriously wounded.

Cloete?s last action

After the depart of Maritz and his men Malans Commando found itself in a weakened state and on the run. Pushed out of their hide by Scobells column they retreated in the direction of Betjieskraal, a farm owned by a man named Koos Venter. One of the ways to the farm was through a wide gully which Malan thought would make a good place for an ambush. Sending a few scouts and his extra horses ahead to the farm, he and Cloete prepared for the arrival of Scobbels men. Aware that his position would crumble if any of his men fled, Malan threatened to punish anyone who abandoned their position with treason. The men lay, tense behind their hides as they observed Scobells approach. The vanguard consisted of a couple of native scouts, followed by a group of around 200 horsemen, behind them was a larger group of around 800 men. Malans plan was simple, he wanted to hit the enemy a hard and fast blow, and then escape along the gully in the direction of the farm. The men must have sweated blood as they lay there waiting for the khakies. Luck was on their side however and the scouts failed to notice the Boers as they rode across the front of the gully. The 200 horsemen trotted on unaware that they were crossing the muzzles of 20 hidden mausers. The Boers waited breathlessly as the riders past by them at just 50m distance. Malan fired the first shot followed by a volley which he estimated downed at least 20 men. The boers kept up a murderous fire, aware that any lull would give the enemy time to reorganise. The riders fell over each other trying to break out of the ambush. In a very short while the rifle barrels were glowing. Malan writes that it was a short and bloody slaughter and one can assume that Cloete with his sharp shooting skills must have left his mark in what Malan describes as a screaming, shouting mass of horsemen. The larger group of horsemen were able to manouvre without being fired on by the Boers and a portion of them gained some high ground where they were able to fire down on the Boer position.

For a Boer there was nothing worse than being flanked and as had happened countless times before, the appearance of an enemy on the flank was the signal Malan needed to order his men to run to their horses and leave the field of battle. The only Boer to be hit was Lt Cloete, whose femur was totally smashed. According to Malan Cloete was in extreme pain but refused to stay and surrender. The ride up the gully saw Cloete?s leg banging off the walls twisting on the sinews and muscles that were holding it in place. In the confusion after the attack, Malan and his men escaped, leaving Cloete at Venters farm. The Venter family realised that Cloete?s only hope for survival was at the British military hospital at Cradock, where they brought a rather unhappy Cloete.

It is difficult to judge with what degree of bias Malan reports the details of Cloete?s hospital stay, but if his report is accurate Cloete must have suffered to a large degree indeed. According to Malan, Cloete lay for 2 days before anyone was willing to treat him. When the doctors did arrive Cloete was afraid they were going to kill him and he refused to be touched by what he called Horse doctors. Not really a wise move on Cloete?s part and the doctors told him to go to the devil, which seems to have been pretty strong stuff at the time. Cloete?s attitude to the doctors led to him being left another couple of days before any treatment was forthcoming. When it did it was not with kid gloves. A hand wound had been bound by Mrs Venter before bringing Cloete to Cradock. Now, 4 or 5 days later the cloth had hardened and was stuck to the wound. In all probability the situation in the hospital must have been rather tense as the dead and wounded from the ambush must have been there as well, but Malan says that was no excuse for the way the dressings were ripped off. Luckily, ccording to Malan, Cloete was as tough as a ratel, the feisty little bush beast that the South African army would later name its armoured personnel carrier after.

As harsh as the treatment of Cloete sounds, it must be remembered that the dead and wounded from the ambush would have been in the same field hospital and tempers would have been a little frayed. That in no way excuses the treatment, but in the end the British doctors seem to have done a good job as his badly shattered leg was saved although left a couple of inches shorter than the right one.

Link to post
Share on other sites

And here is an example of the supreme irony....

Cpl King, a volunteer from Edinburgh, fought in the Boer war in the 70th "Sharpshooter" coy of the 18th Imperial Yeomanry Batln.

They were involved in numerous skirmishes with Cloete and company.

His WW1 star has him as a member of Van Deventers Scouts... in the Boer war Van Deventer was a commander of one of the units he was fighting against. He served in the South West African campaign under the command of men he once tried to hunt....

One of the Ironies of South African medals !!

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 year later...
  • 1 month later...

Gorgeous sets, Chris and excellent write ups! Definetly some of the more under-appreciated medal groups, and yet some of the most interesting.

If i may ask, where do you find these Bore soldier medals and groups? And how is research conducted on them?

Look foward to the next installment!

All the best,

Sam.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 7 years later...

What astonishing groups of medals, Chris.

They are absolutely amazing in every respect!

I suppose that if it was possible to find an American counterpart, it would be a group that included a Southern Cross of Honor, awarded to a former Confederate soldier of the Civil War, along with his United States Army Campaign medal for the Indian Wars or the Spanish American War, reflecting that the former Confederate went on to serve in the United States Army with his former adversaries.

I know that there were indeed such men, but I have never seen a group such as I've described.

The groups that you have posted are, without doubt, some of the most fascinating and historically significant that I have ever seen (and, without trying to sound self-important, over more than 40 years of collecting I have seen A LOT of groups!).

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Blog Comments

    • Sounds great other than the Orange & Mango squash only because I prefer cran-pomegranate juice.
    • "(...) disgusting herbal concoction (...)" I took note of this description, to enrich my otherwise limited, English "Wortschatz"...
    • At work the standard indian tea such as PG tips is referred to as chimp tea. This goes back to the days when we had a Spanish girl working for us whose command of the English language was extremely limited. One lunch she said she was going to the shop could she get anything. I asked if she could get a pack of tea bags. She returned with some disgusting herbal concoction. I tried to explain what was required but without success. I then remembered PG tips had a picture of a chimpanzee on the packe
    • When I read Lapsang Souchong i decided to post something about these Tea . Many years ago I dont  know about Lapsang until I read James Michener book Centennial and the description of the savour of the Lapasang as a mix of tar and salt & smoked made me proof . It was exact ! and i liked it since then .
    • I have been known to drink Lapsang Souchong and Tea, Earl Grey, Hot... both "without pollutants". I normally have one mug of coffee in the morning, then spend the rest of the day drinking Orange & Mango squash (by the pint). Then evening comes and it's a pint, followed by red wine with dinner and sometimes a drop of Laphroaig afterwards.
×
×
  • Create New...