South African Military History 

P.O. BOX 12926

NEWSLETTER No 420 - MAY 2014

Our speaker on 13 March 2014 was Dr Dean Allen whose topic was Empire, Cricket and War – Matjiesfontein and Logan. Our speaker is a lecturer in the Department of Sports Administration at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. He became interested in Matjiesfontein when he met Mr David Rawdon who purchased the property and restored it to the state it had been at the turn of the century. He inspired our speaker to write a book on Matjiesfontein and its influence on the development of the sport of cricket in South Africa and the part it played in the Anglo-Boer War of 1899–1902.

Dr Allen noted that cricket played an important part in the British Empire during the latter part of the 19th century, a period when the Victorian British Empire was expanding. It became the “Imperial Game”, symbolising the essence of English Victorian society and promoting white, Anglo-Saxon values. The Victorians used the game to spread the accepted tenets of English behaviour and civility throughout the Empire. The game had many benefactors who financed the spread of the game in spite of competition from other sports and were instrumental in arranging (and financing) both local and international fixtures. Those supporting the game tended to come from the ranks of the wealthy and those influential in business and politics.

There were those of humbler background who attempted to rise in society and use any means to become the Colonial equivalent of “gentlemen”. The accumulation of wealth was used to rise to the higher levels of society. Becoming involved financially in the development of cricket was another way of achieving this.

The Empire was expanding and the colonies offered a promise of a new beginning to the ambitious. One of those who accepted the chance of a new beginning was James Douglas Logan, born in Reston, a small working class Berwickshire town near the English border, in November 1857. He was brought up in a typical Victorian family with a tradition of hard work. His father was, like much of Reston’s work force, employed by the North British Railway Company. At an early age Logan joined his father as clerk, working for the Scottish Railways at Reston station. The North British Railway’s management soon marked him for early promotion. But Logan’s ambitions had far outgrown the confines of the strict class structure of Victorian Britain.

The colonies offered a new beginning. There was no aristocracy and money was the only criterion and money brought status. In January 1877 Logan resigned his position and went to London. Here he signed as an apprentice on W M Anderson and Company’s sailing vessel Rockhampton, which was leaving for Queensland with a general cargo and a number of emigrants. She sailed on 12 February 1877 with Logan working his passage. The Rockhampton was damaged by a storm in Simon’s Bay on 1 May 1877 and had to undergo repairs in Simon’s Town.

Frustrated by the delay, Logan obtained an official discharge from the ship’s master and headed for the bustling port of Cape Town. This was a trade and commercial centre which was changing rapidly with the discovery of minerals in the north. Diamonds had been discovered in Kimberley and there was a need for an improved rail and transportation system in the interior. Logan’s timing was perfect. He joined the Cape Province Railway Service, working as a porter at the new railway station in Cape Town for 5 shillings a day. The Cape’s railway system was in a formative stage of development and up to 1873, the railway stopped at Wellington where transport wagons took over. The Cape Government acquired the Cape Railways in 1874. Ten years later, the lines to the interior from Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and East London were linked at De Aar and were extended to Kimberley. This opened the interior to imperial expansion and the railway and the telegraph had become the “keys to the continent”.

Logan’s experience of railway administration earned him a promotion from porter to a clerical post at Salt River Station. From there he became Station Master at Cape Town and then was offered the position of Superintendent of the line from Hex River to Prince Albert in the remote Karoo. This unlikely place is where Logan set up his base. His business and political careers developed from there, as did his support of cricket. In 1883, he resigned from the Cape Government Railways and bought 3 500 morgen of land at Matjiesfontein Station, between Touwsrivier and Laingsburg. The land had ample water supplies and he opened a refreshment room at the station (there were no dining cars on the trains in those days) and created a model village with all the trappings of Victorian Britain, a veritable oasis in the Karoo. He lived on Tweedside, a farm near the village and planted orchards wherever he found water.

Though isolated Matjiesfontein attracted attention. Logan was a master of self-publicity and stage-managed major developments in the village with widespread coverage in Cape Town newspapers. A hotel was built as were houses and shops with a swimming pool, golf links and a cricket ground. Logan became known as the Laird of Matjiesfontein. By the 1890s his enterprise had paid off as many celebrated figures journeyed there. Within British high society it became fashionable to make the sea voyage to the Cape, with an almost mandatory visit to Matjiesfontein. Logan and his village had become known throughout the Empire. Lord Randolph Churchill, the Duke of Hamilton, the Sultan of Zanzibar and many others provided Logan with highly desirable publicity and growing wealth.

His rapid rise to fortune coincided with his involvement in Cricket. He had built a full sized cricket pitch and during the 1890s he hosted many English and South African cricketers at this most unlikely venue. A pleasant stay at Matjiesfonten was an enjoyable part of a touring side’s programme. Logan’s greatest contribution was as a benefactor of the game. From early on, Logan had been aware of the distinct relationship that existed between business, politics and cricket in the colonial community of the Cape. His special relationship with the great cricket legend, George Alfred Lohmann, bears mentioning. See box:

Logan also had a very close relationship with his fellow Scot, Sir James Sivewright, much to his financial benefit. In 1890, Cecil Rhodes formed his first Cape Ministry of three noted Liberals and two members of Jan Hofmeyr’s Afrikaner Bond, one of these being James Sivewright, given the job of Crown Lands and Public Works. Sivewright had a reputation for both efficiency and shady business dealings and had charge over the telegraph system and the development of the Cape railway network. This was useful to Logan as Sivewright had sole control over the awarding of contracts relating to the railway service. Up to that point, Logan had built up his catering empire of station refreshment rooms along the Cape railway network by following the proper tendering process. Contracts were for five years with the option of renewal for a further five years. In May 1890, a new catering facility was opened at Matjiesfontein and a new contract signed between Logan and the Cape railways. As the Cape railways pushed north into the Free State and the Transvaal, Logan followed. In May 1892, he took over the refreshment room at Kroonstad. In September 1892, Logan met with Sivewright and the General manager of the Railways and stated that efficiency called for all of the catering services on the railways to be placed under his sole and single management. He was given a contract for an 18 year monopoly of the catering trade along the entire Cape Railways network – no tenders. There was considerable pressure to cancel this contract and it was cancelled. Rhodes’ government fell in April 1893 and he formed a new one, excluding the three liberals and Sivewright. Colonial South Africans like Rhodes, Sivewright and Logan were opportunists who took advantage of any opportunity given them. As long as their wealth and empires increased, they did not really worry about discretion and accountability. Logan’s support of cricket was part of his plan for personal advancement. He would advance money to tour organizers, to be repaid with interest at the end of the tour, normal practice at the time. Sponsorship of high profile tours sometimes brought Logan financial gain but it always brought publicity to promote himself, his business and his political interests. The financing of these tours sometimes ended in court. Publicity arising from these was often not favourable.

Matjiesfontein had by 1893 gained a reputation as a fashionable rival to the health resorts at Ceres and Beaufort West. Many cricketers spent their winters in South Africa and Logan invited some of these to move from Ceres to Matjiesfontein, a move which brought Logan much publicity. Throughout his rise to wealth, Logan had aligned himself with key politicians and influential businessmen. Now he had secured prominent sportsman as part of his “collection”.

Rhodes had offered his support to the first cricket tour to England by a South African team and Logan rushed to offer his financial support. He supported South African tours to Britain with varying success and involved himself with organising British tours to South Africa. These always included a visit to Matjiesfontein. The 1895 tour to South Africa coincided with the Jameson Raid but Logan still reaped benefit from it in the form of publicity. A further tour was planned for 1899, with a team made up of “a good mix of socially acceptable amateur gentlemen and professional players.”

The railway now had been extended to Bulawayo and matches were to be played in Rhodesia. But the political climate had turned bleak. Rhodes had resigned as a result of the Jameson Raid and Milner was in London, discussing the Transvaal problem with Joseph Chamberlain the Colonial Secretary. The South African War was looming. However, matches were played and the tour completed just before the war broke out. A tour to England planned for 1900 was cancelled on the outbreak of the South African War in October 1899. Organised cricket continued to be played at the Cape but this sat uneasily with some of those involved.

Undeterred by the war, Logan began to plan his own tour for 1901 and it was arranged with the English cricket authorities with the usual mix of gentleman players and more skilled players. The team left Cape Town with the war raging and an outbreak of bubonic plague in Cape Town. Not everyone approved of the tour. Arthur Conan Doyle, a serious supporter of British Imperialism, was vehemently and vocally opposed and the newspapers had a lot to say about cricketers playing cricket when they should have been fighting at the front. Logan had formed a company of mounted rifles at Matjiesfontein, under his command, which saw some action. He had given his village to the British army for use as a base. Large numbers of troops were stationed there – some 12 000 at one stage. Matjiesfontain was the railhead from which Lord Roberts launched his advance north, to break the siege of Kimberley. It became the site of field hospitals and was one of the places where troops were stationed to protect the railway line - a vital supply route for the British - from Boer attacks. It was also a collecting point for remounts.

When General Wauchope was killed at the battle of Magersfontein and was buried there, Logan applied to the British command for his body to be exhumed and transferred to the cemetery at Matjiesfontein. He arranged for this to be done. Our speaker effectively laid to rest - backed by documentation to prove it – the myth that Wauchope was buried by mistake at Matjiesfontein instead of Magersfontein due to the confusion caused by the difficulty in pronouncing these foreign names in English.

Logan and his wife were invited to the Coronation of King Edward VII in July 1902. His contribution to British affairs in South Africa had been formally recognized and, by the end of the South African War, his social elevation was complete.

There was a change in emphasis after the end of the South African War. His involvement in cricket was scaled back as were his business interests. The war had changed South Africa for ever and he recognised that the time had come to step aside. He continued to live on his farm until his death in 1920. He is buried there. His son and daughter continued to run the village until the 1960’s when the entire complex was purchased by David Rawdon, a hotelier of note who restored and operated some of South Africa’s best-known hotels. These include the Lanzerac in Stellenbosch, Marine in Hermanus, Drostdy in Graaff Reinet and Rawdons in Nottingham Road. After a lengthy period of restoration, the Lord Milner Hotel was reopened in 1970. The whole village has been restored and is open to the public.


Full name: George Alfred Lohmann
Born: 2nd June 1865, Kensington, London, England
Died: 1st December 1901, Matjiesfontein, Cape Province, South Africa

He is regarded as one of the greatest bowlers of all time. Statistically, he holds the lowest lifetime Test bowling average among bowlers with more than fifteen wickets and he has the second highest peak rating for a bowler in the ICC ratings. He also holds the record for the lowest strike rate (balls bowled between each wicket taken) in all Test history.

He bowled at around medium pace and on the primitive pitches of his time could gain a lot of spin, so that when rain affected the pitch he was invariably quite unplayable. However, against the best batsmen Lohmann possessed a great deal of skill and guile, and he could vary his pace, flight and break so deceptively as to worry batsmen on better pitches. He was the finest slip fielder of his time and in county cricket a good enough hard-hitting batsman to score two centuries for Surrey and average 25 in 1887.

Lohmann emigrated to the British Cape Colony permanently in 1897 and played a full season of first-class cricket for Western Province. In five matches on matting pitches during March 1897 he took 34 wickets for 12.26 runs each, but it was clear throughout that year that his health was unlikely to recover, and he was able to play only one further first-class match for "A Bailey's Transvaal XI".

Lohmann did come back to England in 1901 to manage the second South African touring team (and the first whose matches were recognised as first-class). However, his health was clearly never going to recover completely, and even after returning to Cape Town with the onset of autumn in England, Lohmann's condition only became more critical. On 1 December 1901, the tuberculosis he had fought against for nine years finally claimed his life at age 36.

He is buried in the Matjiesfontein cemetery under a memorial erected by his Surrey Comrades.

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Our meeting on 10 April 2014 was preceded by the Annual General Meeting. The 2013 committee was re-elected en bloc and will serve for 2014/15. It comprises the following members:
Chairman – Mr P J van den Berg
Vice Chairman – Mr A Mountain
Honourary Secretary – Mr R Hattingh
Treasurer/Assistant Scribe – Mr R A Buser
Scribe – Cdr W M Bisset
Additional Member – Mr R Adams

Because it was not possible to determine the duration of the AGM beforehand due to the matters to be discussed, it was decided to dispense with a speaker for the evening and rather show some documentaries on the First World War. The documentaries consisted of original black & white film that were converted by means of new technology into colour film that gives a totally realistic perspective of what it must have been like to have been an eyewitness and able to observe it in real-life terms. The first two episodes (in a series of seven) were viewed and covered the origins of the war and the horrors of trench warfare. The quality of these DVDs is astonishing - considering the age and quality of the original material - and consisted of contemporary newsreels with commentary, interspersed with interviews of the very few British survivors of the war at the time the series was made. These gentlemen were all over 100 years old with the oldest at 110 years of age. Sadly all of them have passed away since the videos were produced.

The remaining episodes will be shown from time to time in the coming months as part of our commemoration of the 100th anniversary of that dreadful “war to end wars”.

The first episode covered the origins of the war, starting with the assassination of the Crown Prince Franz-Ferdinand of Austria by a Serbian anarchist and, as Austro-Hungary threatened retaliation by punishing Serbia, it set in motion a series of events that had dire consequences. Russia started mobilizing which activated formal alliances amongst the main participants which inevitably led to conflict between the main belligerents – the Central Powers (Austro-Hungary, Germany, the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) and initially Italy; and the Entente Powers (The Russian Empire, France, Great Britain and their dependencies, as well, later-on, the United States of America. Other countries became involved afterwards. In fact, most of these countries were looking to grab some economic advantage from the hostilities even if it meant going to war. All of this was well explained by the narrator in the first documentary.

The second episode showed how the war started with armies manoeuvring and moving cross country. This happened both in the east, where Russia moved into East Prussia, and in the west, where Germany invaded Belgium and France. However, the size of the armies involved and the distances that they advanced overwhelmed the capacity of the logistical services to keep them supplied and the advances slowed or ground to a halt. In the west, the French used the busses and taxis of Paris as a stop-gap measure to move troops up to the Marne and so stop the German advance on Paris.

As a result, the armies dug in and a long period of trench warfare followed. The defences grew stronger and stronger but the technology available did not enable a breakthrough. So the infantry lived in their elaborate trench systems in appalling conditions under a constant bombardment from the ever-increasing number of guns. The trench lines were continuous and stretched from the English Channel to the Swiss Border so effectively ruling out the possibility of outflanking the enemy. All attacks therefore had to be frontal and the infantry was forced to advance over broken terrain, pockmarked by endless shellholes and in the face of withering machinegun and shell fire. The casualties were appalling – at the Battle of the Somme the British lost 16 000 dead in the first hour and suffered almost 60 000 casualties by the end of the day. The war veterans gave an account of their experiences and it was clear that even the passing of so many years had not dimmed their memories of those dreadful days.

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We welcome new members Mr Theo van Wyk and Mr Rupert Worsdale who joined us recently and hope to see them at our monthly lectures.

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Please note that Dr. Dean Allen’s book Empire, War and Cricket in South Africa: Logan of Matjiesfontein will be published in May 2014 and all details are provided in the attached brochure. Members can order it directly from Dr Allen or buy it at the next meeting as he will be making available a number of copies to be on hand at the June meeting.

Professor Albert Grundlingh, Chair of History Department, Stellenbosch University, had the following to say about the book:
It is more than just a sports history and also more than just a political history. Its strength is the way in which it melds the two to provide a new perspective on a turbulent South African past.

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Forthcoming Members:

Our speaker was the second-in-command of the paratroop force that assaulted Cassinga in 1978. As a Commandant in the SADF at the time, he was the commanding officer of 3 Parachute Battalion, a reserve force unit, which, along with 2 Parachute Battalion, formed the airborne assault force. The combat command was entrusted to the legendary Col. Jan Breytenbach, and he served as Col. Breytenbach’s 2IC. The Battle of Cassinga was a South African airborne attack on a South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO) military base at the former town of Cassinga, Angola, on 4 May 1978. Conducted as one of the three major actions of Operation Reindeer during the Border War, it was the South African Army’s first major air assault. However, despite well-known in combat lore – or notorious, depending on one’s political leanings – Col. Gerber contends that Cassinga does not warrant being classified as a “battle”, and modestly describes it rather as a skirmish within the context of a bigger battle – Operation Reindeer.


Maj Steenkamp will share some thoughts on the Border War that are not always clear or normally covered in the books published on the period. He will delve into aspects as what happened behind the scenes in planning and managing the war. With whom lay the final decisions to provide defensive measures? How did the channel of command and decision-taking work in the initial stages of the conflict and how did it evolve over time? How did politics in faraway Pretoria influence decisions and operations on the ground?

Knowing Maj Steenkamp and his ability to captivate his audience with his disarming charm and storytelling skills, it promises to be a most enlightening and thought-provoking evening, not to be missed!

BOB BUSER: Treasurer/Asst. Scribe
Phone: 021-689-1639 (Home)

Phone: 021-592-1279 (Office)

South African Military History Society /