LAST MEETING - JOHANNESBURG - 9th MAY 1985
Mr. Ian Uys presided over the evenings proceedings in the absence of Major Hall who was in Cape Town.
Commandant Baker gave a brief but superb illustrated presentation dealing with the remarkably versatile German 88mm gun. In particular, his interview of Oberleutnant W. Hasselberg an ex 88mm gun battery commander who served in Russia and North Africa was extremely interesting as testified to by the lively question time.
Colonel Duxbury advised the Meeting of the forthcoming one day battlefield tour to be held on 16th June 1985. The battlefields of Swawelkrans, Rooiwal, Renosterrivier and Vredefort Road will be visited. Please contact the museum (tel. 646-5513) if you do not receive details of the tour. Ian then introduced the main speaker for the evening Mr. Nick Kinsey, and his subject "The Brandwater Basin and Golden Gate Surrenders, 1900". Nick had the dubious distinction of being introduced twice - the second introduction, preceded by a trumpet fanfare, being contrived by Major Darrell Hall, whose prerecording enabled him to talk in two places at once.
Mr. Kinsey opened his lecture with a brief description of the Brandwater Basin region. The Brandwater Basin lies to the north of Lesotho and is surrounded by a horse-shoe shaped range of mountains to the west, north and east. This range had only 5 passes that were suitable for a large force with wagons and guns, namely Commando Nek, Slabbert's Nek, Retief's Nek, Naawpoort Nek and the Golden Gate.
Following the successful British advance through the Orange Free State and the fall of the Boer capitals the remnants of many of the O.F.S. commandos sought refuge in this apparent mountain sanctuary. Lord Roberts, in Pretoria, concerned about his lines of communication, decided that it was essential to eliminate this large O.F.S. force. As a result he appointed Maj. Gen. Sir A. Hunter to the command of all British columns in the north eastern Orange Free State. Hunter's force consisted of the VIIIth and Colonial Divisions, the Highland, 12th, 20th and 21st Infantry Brigades, the 2nd Cavalry and 2nd Mounted Infantry Brigades. Sir A. Hunter intended to close in on the Boers from the west and north simultaneously.
In the Brandwater Basin some of the Boers were uneasy about their position. General C. De Wet persuaded the other Boer leaders of the necessity of evacuating the Basin and it was therefore decided to break out in three separate divisions. On the night of the 15th July De Wet led out some 2600 men, including President Steyn, via Slabberts Nek. The British columns however were now rapidly closing in. On the 23rd and 24th July two sharp actions which resulted in the capture of Retiefs' Nek and Slabberts' Nek were fought. General Rundle demonstrated against Commando Nek on the western side of the Basin and after the capture of Slabberts' and Retiefs' Neks a vigorous push resulted in the unopposed capture of this Nek on the 25th.
The British now advanced into the Basin occupying Fouriesburg on the 26th and fighting an action against the Boer rearguard at Slaap Kranz on 27th. The Boer main force was now heading eastwards in an attempt to evacuate the Basin via Naauwpoort Nek and the Golden Gate. However the Seaforth Highlanders and some artillery had already been placed in commanding positions outside the Nek thus sealing a fourth exit. The Nek was occupied on the 29th after it had been evacuated by the Boers. At this critical time the Boer fores were further compromised by confusion concerning who was in cownand. On 27th July an election took place, the candidates being Generals N. Prinsloo, P.H. Roux and J.R. Olivier. Prinsloo and Roux were the main contenders. Although the votes of some of the more distant commandos had not yet been received, Prinsloo, thinking himself elected, entered into negotiations with the British and surrendered the Boer forces on 30th July 1900. In total over 4 000 Boers fell into British hands.
Mr. Stewart Stiles thanked Mrr. Kinsey. for his very interesting and superbly illustrated lecture.
FUTURE MEETINGS :
Johannesburg - June 13th Mr. C.M. Milner - "The BEF in France 1940"
- July 11th Maj. D.D. Hall - "Above the trenches"
Addendum - One day Tour - l6th June, 1985
The Museum is organising a one day tour of the battlefields of Swawelkrans, Rooiwal,Renosterrivier and Vredefort Road. The tour departs from the Museum at 07h45 and returns at 17h30. Transport will be by means of a bus and a nominal charge of R20-00 per person is being made which includes lunch and morning tea. Speakers at the battlesites will be Prof. C. Barnard and Col G. Duxbury. Details can be obtained from the Museum (as mentioned in the newsletter ) or from Mike Marsh 648-1150(w) 648-1657 (H). It is necessary to book for this tour in good time as space on the bus is limited.
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