The Anglo-Boer War

Dennison Fort

From t October 1899 to 1st January 1900, a small body of Cape Police under Captain Bates, assisted by Captain Dennison (who later created Dennison's Scouts), held the village of Kuruman, situated about 100 miles to the west of the Kimberley-Vryburg railway. The total number of men available to bear arms was 63, and this included coloured and black men

 

The numbers of the assailants varied, running from 300 to over 1000. From 12th to 17th November 1900, the place was bombarded.  Frequently the Boers got very close to the trenches and walls of the little forts, but were always driven off with loss up to 1st January, when they brought a second and heavier gun, whose shells smashed the defences and made a surrender inevitable.

 

"Too little justice has been done to the defenders of Kuruman: their endurance, watchfulness, and pluck could not have been excelled. They had no artillery, and by rifle fire alone they held the place and kept a considerable body of the enemy employed for two months. They were also a means of getting news to and from Mafeking. About one-half of the force were hit during the siege" (John Stirling, The Colonials in South Africa, 1902). 

Captain Bates and Dennison, and 155 men from Kuruman, were captured as POWs and transported by the Boers to Pretoria.

Postmasburg

The Boer commandos took control of Postmasburg - and kept their power base there until the end of the war, thereby resisting the British forces of the Cape Colony. These rebel commandos therefore formed an important link between the Boer forces in the Transvaal and in the Cape Colony south of the Orange River.

When the war broke out on 11 October 1899, the two Boer republics annexed Griqualand West and "British Bechuanaland". Despite the military law imposed by Lieut-Colonel RG Kekewich, British commander of the area, the Postmasburg sustained their support for the Boer commandos. On 18 November 1899, a Free State commando under Commdt Jan Jordaan and Judge JBM Hertzog raised the Free State flag in Postmasburg. Many local men took up arms to fight for the Boers.

After the Free State commando left the area, the local rebels of the Hay District established a Military Council, and appointed officers (commandants and field cornets) in each local ward. Commandant Jan Vorster and Field Cornet Piet Venter were appointed for Postmasburg. The rebels, under the supreme command of General PJ de Villiers, entrenched themselves in Griequaland West. 

Not all local people supported the Boers. One shop owner, NJ van Druten, remained loyal to the Crown, and raised the British flag. Other pro-British loyalists left the town.  The Boer Military Council appointed EM Warden, a Free Stater, as magistrate, to maintain law and order. He was assisted by Field Cornet GHJ van der Walt. They arrested loyalists such as Adam Gossa, a local detective, and such prisoners were even whipped into submission.

In April 1900, the British set about reconquering Griqualand-West and British Bechuanaland. They attacked Postmasburg, and the local Boer forces fought bravely under Field Cornet Venter, but they yield under a British bayonet charge. In this stand-off at Fabersput, 115 British soldiers and 13 Boers died. The Burghers fled. By June 1900, General Charles Warren and Colonel S Hughes captured all the towns in the region.

Postmasburg was now a British town. Magistrate JH van der Walt handed the keys of the government offices of Postmasburg. The keys were taken by Field Cornet JD Aucamp, who had remained loyal to the British. Within a few days, 90 Postmasburgers had surrendered. Some of the Boers drew up a petition stating that they had been compelled to join the Boers, but the British were unimpressed, and imprisoned all the leaders. Soon Thomas Green, a loyalist in the Warren Scouts, a volunteer force, was appointed as commanding officer and magistrate. Eventually, some of the rebels were released on parole, and they returned to the town or their farms.

But this period of stability was shattered in June 1901, when Boer commandos again arrived in the area. General de Villiers's incursion would serve as link between General de la Rey in the Western Free State and General Jan Smuts, then moving around the Cape Colony.

 

Postmasburg was captured by the Boers for a second time. Commandant Edwin Conroy seized the police station and government offices on 10 August 1901. They captured and destroyed the post cart between Griquatown and Postmasburg. Conroy was ruthless. He seized  some of the loyalists such as Thomas Green, Piet van Heerden (a local blacksmith) and Doors Schoeman, and each was whipped with a sjambok. 

Postmasburg remained in Boer hands till the end of the war. Many local men signed up with the Boers, in Commandant Koot Kruger's commando. Even some of the erstwhile loyalists joined up, under pressure of the local Boer forces.

The closest battle to Postmasburg was on the farm Kalkfontein (4km south of Postmasburg), in August 1901. A batallion of the Leicestershire?? Regiment was on its way to capture Postmasburg, when it overnighted on the farm. Early the next morning, they were attacked by General de Viulliers, and several British soldiers were killed. For a while, the Boer commando withdrew to the Langeberg, and the British took the town; soon there was heavy fighting between them in the Langeberg.

General de Villiers made Postmasburg his Headquarters between January and March 1902, while Commandant Koot Kruger's base was on the farm Mooidraai, 13 km south of Postmasburg.  He headed a commando of 527 men. They kept themselves busy by attacking British convoys in the area. There were regular skirmishes in the area.

When the Boer republics laid down their arms in May 1902, the Boer supporters in Postmasburg found themselves in a very tricky situation. Most of them laid down their arms on 21-22 June in Kimberley. They were accused of high treason, and a special Court was established to try them. Most of them suffered the loss of the franchise for a period of five years, but the leaders were imprisoned or received heavy fines. 

The Boers left Postmasburg in a chaotic state. The post office and magistrate's office were used as barns and stables. Churches had not functioned for months, the Town Council had disintegrated, the postal service had collapsed, and the schools had closed. The war left a legacy of bitterness between pro-British and pro-Boer people.

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