The South African
Military History Society

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging

Military History Journal
Vol 1 No 1 - December 1967

Forty-seven Years After "Spion Kop"

The following report is taken from the "Die-Hards", the Journal of The Middlesex Regiment (Duke of Cambridge's Own), Vol. Vlll, No. 3, issued in September, 1947. It is reproduced with acknowledgements to that Journal and The Middlesex Regimental Association, Inglis Barracks, Mill Hill, London, N.W.7.

Officers' Reunion Dinner

The officers of the former 10th (H.D.) Battalion held their first reunion dinner on May 2nd, 1947, at the Criterion Restaurant, London, with the C.O., Lt.-Col. H. Cook, M.C., in the Chair, and a company of 48 which included an unexpected and very welcome guest, Col. H. F. Prinsloo, O.B.E., E.D., from South Africa, who was in London on his way back from the Geneva P.O.W. Conference.

Col. H. F. Prinsloo is the son of Commandant H. F. Prinsloo, who commanded the Carolina Boer Commando at Spion Kop and was killed in action at Witkloof, where in 1926, Boer and Briton erected a monument to commemorate his gallantry.

He is also a direct descendant of Hendrik Fredrik Prinsloo, who was involved in the Slachter's Nek rebellion in 1815. Formerly the C.O. of the Botha Regiment, in 1942 he became Commandant of the great P.O.W. Camp at Sonderwater.

Between wars Col. Prinsloo is a farmer in the Ermelo district.

After Major E. W. Mayhew, M.C., T.D. (second-in-command) had proposed the toast "The Guests" with care and courtesy, and Major P. Dickens had replied with amusing episodes of the invasion period, Col. Prinsloo also replied to this toast and his remarks are reproduced below: "Colonel of the Regiment and Brother Officers,

When I say 'thank you' for this fine reception, I want to assure you that it springs from a source deeper than the ordinary human touch. The honour and the pleasure is entirely mine.

I am indeed proud to be amongst you as members of so famous a regiment, but more so because you belong to the London people, so few of whom not so long ago, had to stand for so many, alone at bay between victory and defeat of perhaps our western civilisation.

May I assure you of the highest admiration of my people in South Africa for you, who preferred a grave under the ruins and debris of your fine houses, rather than bend your knees to the brutal bullies and cruel gangsters of the time.

Men of your regiment (Lt. Cols. Cunningham, Hermelin, and others) served under my command during this last world war, and I am glad to say they were not the worst I commanded. In the first world war I also had the honour of having some of your regiment's members under me.

Talking of that war, it seems almost strange to think that it took place only 12 years after the Boer War, in which I also took up a rifle against you, as a boy of 11 years old.

Today I cannot help thinking of one of our Boer War generals, Coen Brits, who at the outbreak of the 1914 war, and a rebellion in our country, received a wire from Gen. Louis Botha asking him how many volunteers he could raise by the following Saturday, and he replied, saying, 'I can raise about 70,000 by Saturday, but let me know who the hell I must fight this time.!'

I first heard your regiment's name from my late father, Commandant Prinsloo, who commanded the burghers on Spion Kop (January 24, 1900) when he said to my late mother, 'The Middlesex and Lancashire Fusiliers were plucky fellows, and it seems a pity that we, belonging to two God-fearing nations, should kill one another like that." On Spion Kop there stands a monument erected on the trenches, which had to serve as an honourable grave to those brave men of yours.

If I remember well special mention was made of one of your Middlesex men, the late Capt. Muriel, a man among men.

In that war I had lost my all and my little heart was full of bitterness and revenge. I was sorry we could not kill you all, and, looking back, I often wonder what would have happened to me if we had not had men like Generals Louis Botha and Smuts to lead us.

It was well expressed by that grand old soldier, General Sir H. Smith Dorrien, when he said 'We had a good scrap because chivalry was then still alive.'

Anyway, we made an honourable peace, joined hands, coming to grips with reality on the ruins of our wars, realising that only on the foundations of good fellowship, through mutual respect for one another's sentiments, was it possible to form our British Commonwealth of Nations within the broad framework of which we have learned to co-operate, to think and feel alike and to act and sacrifice for the common good of the whole which, in view of the present world conditions, is indeed a fine example for suffering humanity struggling in their ruins towards peace with security to follow. It demands, however, a much larger - framework, an entirely new world system, needing "atomic" courage, because unless we are prepared to look far beyond even the glory of the Middlesex Regiment and of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and make way for a new life of unselfish co-operation in a system of sympathy and sacrifice for humanity as a whole - mankind will fail again."

Colonel H. F. Prinsloo, O.B.E., E.D.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Colonel Hendrik Fredrik Prinsloo, O.B.E., E.D., passed away at Ermelo in the Eastern Transvaal on 20th November, 1966, after a long and distinguished career of service during which he gained both local and international honour.

As a boy of twelve he was taken prisoner-of-war by the British while carrying arms in his father's Commando (the Carolinaers) during the South African War 1899-1902 and, because of his tender age, was lodged in the Barberton concentration camp with his mother.

During the 1914-1918 war he saw service in the South West Africa campaign in which he received the award of the Croix-de-Guerre (avec palmes) from the French Government of that time.

Later, in 1922, when a Lieutenant in the Military Constabulary in South West Africa he took a leading part in ending the Bondelswart Rebellion (which has often been referred to as ,,the last of the tribal wars") and was in fact the leader of the force which tracked down and killed the rebel leader Abram Morris, bringing about the subsequent surrender of the Bondel insurgents.

In the final action in which Morris was killed, air support was provided by two small aircraft of the period led by Colonel van Ryneveld (now General Sir Pierre van Ryneveld, K.B.E., C.B., D.S.O., M.C.) who only three years previously with Sir Quentin Brand had made the first historic flight down the continent of Africa.

At the outbreak of the 1939-1945 war Colonel Prinsloo was Commanding Officer of the Regiment Botha. When on the point of leaving for North Africa with his Regiment he was recalled at the instance of the late Field Marshal J. C. Smuts and placed in Command of the vast Italian prisoners-of-war camp at Sonderwater, an article about which appears elsewhere in this issue.

In 1947 Colonel Prinsloo represented South Africa at the Diplomatic Conference held in Geneva for the purpose of revising the International Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners-of-War, that is, the Geneva Convention of 1929.

Addendum in November 2021 from another Prinsloo descendant...

From: Piet Prinsloo
Subject: Hendrik Frederik Prinsloo

I read your Journal article on col Hendrik Frederik Prinsloo. It is stated there that he is a direct descendant of Hendrik Frederik Prinsloo of the Slachtersnek rebellion. That is incorrect. Hendrik Frederik had one son who died as an infant before his father was involved in the rebellion. If you so wish I can provide you with the names of his ancestors. The fact is that my ancestor Willem Petrus Prinsloo married the young widow of Hendrik Frederik and they had another six children, besides three daughters from her previous marriage. Their was a son, but in Hendrik's estate inventory only the three girls were mentioned, meaning that the son had died before his father. I hope this sets the record straight.

And later:
... You have to go back as far as Willem Prinsloo born ca 1715 to find a common ancestor. Col Prinsloo descends from the former's third son Willem born 1749, while the Slagtersnek rebel was the son of Marthinus (Kasteel), born 1751, the fourth son. I descend from Joachemus Johannes, the fifth son.

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