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    Onverwacht is a farm in the present-day Mpumalanga, 30 km south-east of Ermelo.


    The advance guard of Brig-Gen H.C.O. Plumer’s column under Maj J.M. Vallentin, Somersetshire Light Infantry, halted on the farm on 4 January 1902 and then saw a party of burghers moving north-east. 

    During the pursuit, as far as Bankkop to the north-east, a commando of some 400 burghers attacked and a desperate hand-to-hand fight ensued, the British being saved by the arrival of reinforcements.


    However, they lost 19 killed, including Major Vallentin, 36 wounded and some 50 captured. Boer losses included Veg-Generaal J D Opperman who was killed. 


    Both Vallentin and Opperman’s medals feature on the memorial (see picture attached)


    Brevet-Major John Maximilian Vallentin, Somersetshire Light Infantry, was killed in the Bankkopaction. He was the son of Sir J Vallentin, was born in February 1865, and educated at Haileybury.


    He entered the Somersetshire Light Infantry February 1885, was promoted Captain June 1892, and Brevet-Major November 1900.


    In August 1888 he married Helen Mary, daughter of Col. Carnegy. He served in the Burmese Expedition of 1886-87 with the 2nd battalion of his regiment and received the medal with clasp.


    He graduated at the Staff College in 1897, and before the outbreak of the war in South Africa was brigade-major at Ladysmith, Natal.


    On the re-distribution of the brigades of the Natal Field Force after the arrival of Sir George White, Major Vallentin was appointed brigade-major to Lieut.-Gen. Sir Ian Hamilton.


    At the battle of Elandslaagte, Major Vallentin behaved with gallantry in rallying the flank attack during the most critical phase. He served throughout the siege of Ladysmith until January 1900 when he had a severe attack of enteric.


    When convalescent, he elected to return to his chief, Sir I Hamilton, and joined him at Bloemfontein just after his appointment to the command of a division. 

    After the occupation of Heidelberg, Major Vallentin was appointed Commissioner of that town. In the autumn of 1900, he was sent out with one of Roberts’ Proclamations to a commando in his neighbourhood and lived with the Boers for a week while the object of his visit was under discussion.

    Vallentin served as Major in the South African Constabulary between 22 October 1900 and 29 August 1901. He then returned to his old Regiment and saw extensive service until he met his death while pursuing with about fifty men some Boers under Generals Opperman and Christian Botha, who were several hundred strong.


    His party suffered severely, but General Opperman, who held chief command over a group of commandos as well as the personal leadership of the Swaziland Commando, was killed. 

    Major Vallentin was mentioned in despatches by White on 2 Dec. 1899 (LG 8 February 1901, p918) and again in the despatch of 23 March 1900 (LG 8 February 1901, p930); also in the despatches by Kitchener of 28 July 1901 (LG 20 August 1901, p5482 :


    In command of Heidelberg Volunteers rendered good service on 24th May, 1901”) and of 8 August 1901 (LG 15 November 1901, p7376: “For gallantry in action on 23rd July, 1901”). He is buried in Ermelo.



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