by T. E. SOLE
The underlying cause of the war was the fear on the part of the indigenous people of South West Africa that the persistent endeavours of the German colonists to acquire possession of tribal lands for the increasing number of German immigrants, would rob them of their traditional unrestricted grazing rights. Smouldering resentment erupted into fiery rebellion in October 1903 in the extreme south in the region occupied by the Bondelswart Nama.
Lieutenant Jobst, the officer in charge of the Warmbad garrison and area, became involved in a dispute with the Nama chief, Abraham Christiaan, and tried to arrest him. The Nama resisted, and Jobst and two of his men were killed. Following this murder, with the smell of blood in their nostrils, the Nama laid siege to the fort at Warmbad. The defenders, eleven of them, valiantly resisted repeated attacks, and heliographed to Windhoek for help.
The Germans were caught off balance, for most of the military garrison troops were stationed in Hereroland in the North. Ever since their first colonisation of "Luderitzland" they had been constantly harassed by the Herero, and had therefore always posted the majority of their troops in their area. On receipt of the alarm from Warmbad, the German commander managed to raise a force of 200 soldiers, together with some 300 men supplied by Hendrick Witbooi. This force marched South and succeeded in relieving Warmbad three weeks after the start of the siege. While the Germans were pre-occupied with the disturbance in the South, Samuel Maherero chief of the Herero, struck in the North. On 11th January 1904 he issued instructions to his followers that all Germans must be killed. He also sent a message to Hendrick Witbool asking him to join the rebellion. This message was however intercepted, and Witbooi did not in fact strike until six months later.
With the forts very thinly held, the Herero warriors swept over the lonely farms, and 123 German men, women and children were murdered - the women and children against the wishes of Maherero, who had given orders that no indigenous people nor any British, Boers, or women and children were to be harmed. Terror stricken, the survivors fled to the military posts, but even they offered only precarious refuge for it was not long before the Herero laid siege to these forts.
The Germans were quick to retaliate. On the 27th of January 1904, Captain Franke arrived at the head of a column and the Herero were driven from Okahandja. (This same officer, but as Colonel Franke, was the man on whom fell, in 1915, the awful responsibility of surrendering the German forces in South West Africa to the Union forces). At Omaruru the officer in charge, Kühn, realised that his fort could not be held and ordered all personnel, military and civilian, to man the Police station. No sooner had they transferred the food and ammunition, and finished sandbagging the Police station, than the Herero onslaught began. Fortunately there was a well in the grounds of the station, and the defenders never went short of water, but rations had to be reduced and the women and children suffered considerably before Franke, now a Major, was able to relieve them after a three weeks' siege.
Shocked at what was happening in South West Africa, the German Imperial Government found a scapegoat in Leutwein, the Civil governor and military commander. Leutwein was criticised in Germany and was accused of having provoked the rebellion by being too lenient in his treatment of the natives. Contrary to what was said, he had in fact been very much in favour of keeping the native in his place. He was replaced as Military Commander on 27th of January 1904, von Trotha being appointed to succeed him. The following year he was replaced as Civil Governor by von Lindequist. However, before losing his military command he had personally directed operations against the Nama, and after negotiating peace with them at Kalkfontein on 27th January 1904, had returned with the troops to make preparations to tackle the Herero. He was however, recalled to Germany before he could ride against the Herero, and relinquished his command to Lieutenant-General von Trotha in June 1904.
The only action ever fought in the North occurred at Fort Namutoni on 28th of January 1904. Incited by the Herero, five hundred Ovambo attacked the fort which was held by only seven men. Realising that they could not defend the whole fort, the tiny garrison selected one massive tower and stocked it with food, water and ammunition. The Ovambo threw themselves at the fortifications, but were brought down by well directed fire from the seven. That night under cover of darkness, the defenders slipped stealthily away, six of them carrying their comrade who had been wounded. Returning to the attack the next day, the Ovambo found the fort deserted, but around it lay one hundred and fifty of their dead. This salutary lesson was sufficient to dissuade them from taking any further part in the war.
Meantime the Herero, retreating before the advancing German columns, found themselves massed in the Waterberg mountains. Reinforcements having arrived from Germany the troops had been divided into two columns, one operating in the East towards the British frontier and the Kalahari desert, and the other in the West. By disposing their troops in this manner the Germans had forced the Herero northwards and at the same time prevented them from crossing the border into British territory. Thus it was that on 11-12th of August 1904, some 60,000 Herero with everything they possessed and no less than 6,000 rifles, were surrounded by 3,000 German troops. With von Trotha personally directing operations, the Germans then commenced the systematic massacre of the Herero. All through that day the noise of battle reverberated through the hills, to cease only with the coming of night. Even then, with darkness covering the horrible scene, spasmodic rifle fire was heard, although the German field pieces were silent. In the darkness those Herero fortunate enough to have survived the holocaust slipped quietly through the German lines and made for the frontier and safety. Eventually Samuel Maherero and a small remnant of only some 1,500 of his tribe succeeded in reaching Bechuanaland.
The Herero had been completely crushed, but still the war was not over. Hendrick Witbooi, whose men had marched and fought alongside the Germans against the Nama and Herero, now repudiated his treaty of 15th September 1884, and in October 1904 declared war on the Germans. He had been their faithful ally for ten years during which time he had been on very good terms with the Germans. On numerous occasions he had actually joined Governor Leutwein in the officers' mess. His declaration of war was brought about by his coming under the influence of a man named Stuurman, a priest of the Ethiopian church, who urged him to take up arms against the Germans. In this Stuurman was assisted by the fact that the Witbooi Hottentots had been badly treated by the Germans. Von Burgsdorff, district officer at Gibeon, unarmed and without escort, visited Witbooi with the idea of reasoning with him, but when he admitted that he knew of the declaration of war, he was brutally murdered. And so, with a reward of R2,000 on his head, dead or alive, Hendrick Witbooi went to war with the Germans. By the end of 1904 the Witboois had been beaten in battle, but they carried on a guerilla campaign against the Germans until October 1905. Eventually on 29th October, Witbooi was fatally wounded while leading an attack on a military wagon at Vaalgras. Shot in the ankle he managed to escape, but the wound proved fatal. He was buried on a farm in the area, which afterwards came to be known as Witbooisend. Despite the approach of German troops, Witbooi's son and helpers buried the old man, and with bullets whistling over their heads, removed all traces of digging and then retreated. Witbooi's last words to his son were that he should make peace with the Germans -- advice which he was quick to follow.
Even now peace eluded the Germans, for in January 1906 a portion of the Bethanie people rose against them and inflicted heavy casualties on them in the Tiras mountains. However, the fortunes of battle soon changed, and the Bethanie under their leader Cornelius were severely beaten in actions fought along the Auob river. Cornelius himself was captured in March 1906.
Throughout the campaign against the Herero, Nama and others, the Bondelswarts in the South had persisted in harassing the Germans. In January 1904, after their surrender to Leutwein, they had reluctantly handed in their muzzle loaders, but had succeeded in hiding their breech-loading rifles. With these breech-loaders and under their new leaders Morris and Marengo, they constantly harassed the Germans, and became a source of great irritation.
Joseph Marengo, a half-breed, had learned something of the white man's ways while working on the copper mines in the north-western Cape. For all this he bore a grudge against all whites, the result of a hiding he had once received from a farmer, and he proved to be one of the most notorious rebels of his time.
Provoked beyond endurance, the Germans made a determined effort to subdue the Bondelswarts, but Morris and Marengo evaded their attacks and led their followers over the border to British territory.
Captured by the Cape Police in Gordonia in June 1906, Marengo was interned at Tokai near Cape Town. After a year's internment, and as hostilities were reported to have been concluded, he was set free and returned to South West Africa in June 1907. However, he soon escaped surveillance, and gathering a party of 500 of his followers around him, returned to his marauding activities. Again the Germans made a determined effort to catch him, but after a long chase he once again escaped into the Cape Colony. Prevented by their treaty obligations from crossing the frontier in pursuit of their quarry, the Germans called for assistance from the Cape Government, which, feeling some responsibility in the matter, had agreed to co-operate with the Germans in the event of Marengo's again crossing the border.
The Cape Government immediately arranged for a mounted squadron to be formed at Upington to deal with Marengo. Commanded by Major F. A. H. Elliot of the Cape Mounted Police, this squadron consisted of 78 members of the Cape Mounted Police and 27 members of the Cape Mounted Riflemen under Lt. A. J. Cowley.
Early in September this force, accompanied by two German officers, Hauptman Eberhard van Den Hagen and Oberleutnant Paul von Hanenfeld, set out from Upington. Entering the area bounded on three sides by the Orange and Molopo rivers and the German frontier, Marengo and his men had a vast area of semi-desert in which to roam, and they made the chase as difficult as possible. His men were well armed and excellent marksmen, and were adept at taking cover. The first three weeks of September were spent in following various spoor in this parched and sandy country, until finally Marengo was run to earth at a place known as Narum in the Gordonian district near Witpan.
Marengo and his men, who at this stage were even more exhausted than the Cape force, took up a position on a low koppie. Although cornered, Marengo gave no sign of surrender and a short and sharp fight ensued. Commencing at 13.30 hours on 20th September 1907, the desert resounded with the crack of the Lee-Enfield rifles of the Cape force, and the Mausers of Marengo's guerillas. The Cape Force surrounded the position, and then charged, firing as they rushed the low koppie. Luck was with them for before long Marengo was shot between the eyes and killed instantaneously. Seeing their leader fall, the guerillas threw down their rifles and surrendered. By 15.30 hours it was all over. On the hill lay a number of dead, seven to be exact; Marengo, his son, his uncle, his chief secretary and two other Hottentots. The seventh was No.164 Corp. Henwood of the Cape Mounted Police. No. 1700 Private Gilbie also of the Cape Mounted Police, was wounded, as were two members of the guerilla force. The C.M.R. contingent escaped without casualties.
Some of Marengo's men had separated from the main body and after the battle the Cape force found they had 200 prisoners. These prisoners they handed over to a strong troop of German cavalrv at the border, and the Cape force returned to Upington having done all asked of them.
After this action fought by the Cape force the war against the indigenous tribes gradually petered out and eventually ceased in 1908. However, this was not the last, as they rose again some years later. But this is another story, and we shall leave it as it does not concern the campaign in question nor the award of the German medal for the campaign in South West Africa.
The South West Africa Commemorative Medal
Authorised by Kaiser Wilhelm II on the 19th March 1907, a medal was awarded in two classes for service in this campaign. A bronze issue was awarded to combatants and to persons who were engaged in tending the sick and wounded, and a steel issue to those who had assisted in the movement of troops and supplies to and from the war zone. (This included members of ships' crews of German shipping lines which had been chartered to ferry troops and material to and from South West Africa).
Kaiser Wilhelm designed the medal, and the dies were cut by Otto Schultz, Chief-die-sinker at the Royal Prussian Mint in Berlin. (A point of interest is that this is the same Otto Schultz who had cut the dies for the Kruger coinage of the Transvaal in 1892, and whose initials "O.S." appear on Kruger's bust on the famous error double-shaft pond and half-pond).
There are in existence privately minted copies of the medal in various metals which, apart from slight differences in design, do not bear the name Schultz on the obverse. On genuine medals his name appears in minute letters on the truncation of the bust of Germania.
The only difference between the two medals, apart from the metal, is the reverse. Otherwise they are identical, and the following description applies to both the Bronze and Steel medals, except where stated to the contrary.
Circular, with slight ear at top. The medal measures 32.5 mm. across and 35 mm. from top to bottom.
Helmeted bust of Germania, left, low relief. Legend: "SUEDWEST AFRIKA" on left, and "1904-06" on right. "O. Schultz" on truncation.
REVERSE: BRONZE MEDAL
Imperial cypher "W II" surmounted by the Imperial German Crown with ribbons. Below a pair of crossed swords. Legend: DEN SIEGREICHEN STREITERN.
REVERSE: STEEL MEDAL
Imperial cypher "W II" surmounted by the Imperial German Crown with ribbons. Below, a spray of leaves. Legend: VERDIENST UM DIE EXPEDITION.
Ring through hole in the ear at top.
35 mm. wide with a central stripe 15 mm. wide consisting of alternating horizontal bars of red and white. (8 bars to 10 mm.). On each side of this central stripe are a white and black stripe, each 5 mm. wide, the black being on the outside.
Unnamed, but accompanied by a certificate. The certificate reads as follows:-- "Auf Befehl seiner Majestat des Kaisers und Konigs ist die van Allerhochstdemselben gestiftete Denkmunze aus bronze dem . . . in anerkennung seiner pflichttreuen theilnahme am Kampfe gegen die aufstandischen eingeborenen in Sudwestafrika Verliehen worden." (By order of His Majesty the King and Emperor, this commemorative medal in bronze given by the same all highest - is awarded to . . . in recognition of his faithful participation in the campaign against the rebellious natives in South West Africa).
Left: Reverse, steel issue. Centre: Obverse, Bronze issue with bar "Kalahari 1907". Right: Reverse, bronze issue.
A total of Sixteen bars was authorised for award with the bronze medal. No bars were awarded with the steel medal. The bars are 33 mm. long by 7 mm. wide. Each is surrounded by a raised polished border, and the inscription is in raised letters on a rough sand-paper-like background. Genuine bars are of gold plated brass, and once more, as in the case of the medal itself, numerous bars were privately manufactured. However, the above size and description does not apply to the bar "KALAHARI 1907". As far as can be ascertained this bar was not made in Berlin as all the others were, but in South West Africa itself. After exhaustive research I have been unable to establish the authorisation date for the bar "Kalahari 1907", and I am therefore of the opinion that the Governor of South West Africa authorised this bar himself. The other fifteen bars were authorised on three occasions, on 19.3.1907, on 11.11.1908 and on 5.8.1912.
The following is a complete list of sixteen bars together with the qualifying dates.
The Award of the Medal to the Cape Force
Extremely pleased that at last they were to have no more trouble from Marengo, the Governor of the German colony exercised the power vested in him by article 1(b) of the original authority and awarded to the entire Cape force the "German War Medal for South West Africa", in bronze. The wheels were set in motion, and under cover of a letter dated in Cape Town on the 23rd of January 1909 from the Imperial German Consul General, H. P. von Humboldt, 105 South West Africa commemoration medals in bronze together with the corresponding patents and 90 clasps with the inscription "Kalahari 1907", were delivered to His Excellency the Honourable Sir Walter Francis Hely-Hutchinson G.C.M.G., Governor of the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope, for the officers, non-commissioned officers and privates who took part in the final Operation against Marengo. The letter also gives the names of those members of the Cape force who, because they did not actually take part in the final battle, were not eligible for the clasp, and who were awarded the medal without clasp.
Besides the South West Africa commemoration medal, Major Elliot received the 2nd class order of the Royal Crown of Prussia on the 15th January 1908, and the Distinguished Service Order on the 21st April 1908.
Permission having been given by the Cape Government, the South African recipients of this medal wore it in uniform. For a number of years this German medal was seen on South African parade grounds, only to disappear in 1914, on the outbreak of the First World War. At the start of those hostilities all South Africans took down this German medal; the only German medal ever awarded en bloc to a South African force, and it did not reappear for many years.
Major Elliot, F. A. H. C.M. Police Commanding Officer.
Inspector Harvey, A. St. G., Cape Mounted Police
63 Squadron Sergeant-Major Smith W. B., Cape Mounted Police.
Lieutenant Cowley, A. J.
|3219||Sergeant||Robertson, S. R. A.|
|2065||Sergeant||Sikes, J. H.|
|3597||Corporal||Butter, W. E.|
|3644||Corporal||Wakefield, H. S.|
|2830||Corporal||Currie, R. E.|
|3291||Corporal||Furnivall, J. R.|
|3781||Corporal||Rutland, H. D. R.|
|3848||Private||Adams, G. H. E.|
|4282||Private||Butterfield, J. W.|
|4101||Private||Engelbach, E. Y.|
|4121||Private||Howard, R. A.|
|651||Private||Ash, E. G. H.|
|3888||Private||Scott, R. D.|
|2861||Sergeant||Gregory, E. J.|
|3569||Private||Lathrope, E. J.|
Sub-Inspector Mander, A.
|164||Corporal||Henwood, A. J.|
|199||Corporal||von Below, C. L. G.|
|778||Private||Clarke, J. R.|
|1125||Private||Lonsdale, H. E.|
|1417||Private||Fuller, C. W.|
|1470||Private||Loynes, B. A.|
|1665||Private||Killingbeck, J. D.|
|1513||Private||Grace, H. D.|
|1545||Private||Green, M. J.|
|1684||Private||Orsmond, J. D.|
|1700||Private||Gillbee, G. F.|
|2060||Private||Whitson, C. B. R.|
|1539||Private||Hayward, H. G.|
|1973||Private||de Klerk, W. A.|
Sub-Inspector Burges, E.
|315||Lance-Corporal||Corlett, D. R.|
|419||Lance-Corporal||Wesley, W. H.|
|607||Lance-Corporal||Riggs, F. W.|
|814||Private||Stigant, C. W.|
|830||Private||Pittuck, H. T.|
|841||Private||King, C. E.|
|875||Private||Bartlett, W. H. A.|
|915||Private||Elliott, C. A. C.|
|1065||Private||Parker, C. W. J.|
|1121||Private||Albutt, J. H.|
|1198||Private||Burgoyne, C. F.|
|1728||Private||van Eeden, J. M.|
|1833||Private||Weyers, M. A.|
|2028||Private||le Roux, G. D.|
|2073||Private||Pattle, F. M. C.|
|839||Private||Terblanche, H. E.|
Sub-Inspector Gash, T.
|231||Corporal||Simon, W. L.|
|448||Lance-Corporal||Hersey, S. G.|
|448||Lance-Corporal||Hersey, S. G.|
|642||Lance-Corporal||Lewis, J. D.|
|28||Private||Porter, D. H.|
|893||Private||Burger, G. C. M. L.|
|983||Private||Quincey C. F.|
|1059||Private||Ogg, W. G.|
|1132||Private||Barnes, W. T.|
|1450||Private||Galloway, J. A.|
|1483||Private||Kotze, C. F. J.|
|1939||Private||Lamont, C. H.|
Sub-Inspector Currie, H. M. B. Cape Mounted Police.
|495||Private||Sloan, G. F.|
| || ||Cape Mounted Police.|
| ||Scout||Louw Willem|
| ||Scout||Louw Gert|
| ||Scout||Titties Jacobs|
| ||Scout||Pretorius Karel|
| ||Scout||Pretorius Stoffel|
| ||Scout||Pretorius Cornelius|
For one reason or another only 105 of the 111 men listed received the medal. I therefore assume that the last six men listed as scouts without regiment, did not receive the medal. Originally 90 clasps were awarded but this number was increased by a further two as private H. E. Lonsdale and private C. W. Fuller were subsequently awarded clasps.
The action fought by the Cape force featured in the Cape papers and the following are extracts as they appeared.
CAPE TIMES -- MONDAY SEPTEMBER 23RD, 1907 -- PAGE 5
Upington -- September 21 (Reuter). It is reported that the Cape Colonial Forces recently attacked Marengo at Witpan, in the Kalahari Desert, while on his way to join Simon Kooper. So successful was the engagement that Marengo, his son, his uncle, his chief secretary and two other followers were all killed.
Unfortunately, Corporal Henwood of the Cape Mounted Police was killed, and Private Gilbee was wounded. Major Elliot was in command, and the greatest satisfaction prevails locally at the police having distinguished themselves in a country so difficult in which to operate against natives. This engagement is considered to have concluded the disturbance on the border...
We learn on enquiry, that official confirmation of the above telegram has been received in Cape Town. The engagement, it seems, was fought on Friday at a place known as Narum in the Gordonia district, near Witpan, and some eight hours from the nearest water. Major Elliot's available force was seventy men, but, probably as the information upon which he acted was received at very short notice, the actual number engaged was considerably less".
"CAPE TIMES -- TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 24TH 1907.
Following message from Major Elliot, begins:
Norokie, September 21. The squadron under my command overtook Marengo in the Kalahari at a place called Witpan, and an engagement started at 1.30 p.m. and finished at 3 p.m. Am pleased to record that Marengo's position was taken. He was killed together with five other men, and two men wounded.
Rifles and ammunition are in my hands. Could not follow up remainder of gang owing to want of water both for men and horses. Regret having to record the death of 164 Corporal Henwood, killed in action. Wounded 1700, Private Gilbee. All ranks behaved splendidly. Am now marching on for Upington. Marengo, his son, his uncle, and his chief secretary fell on a sand ridge carried by the C.M.P. in the attack. Major Elliot desires me to make it quite clear to you that Marengo's gang has been wiped out."
A point of interest is that the man listed as Cpl. Wakefield, H. S. had joined the C. M. R. in 1901 and was at this stage just commencing what was to prove a very colourful and lengthy military career -- a corporal in 1907, a Major-General in 1954. Called from retirement during the 2nd World War, Major-General Wakefield CB, OBE, held several important appointments, including Deputy Chief of Staff and Adjutant General of the S.A. Defence Force. After the war, and once more in retirement, Major-General Wakefield served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the S.A. National War Museum for a period of ten years during which time he served as chairman on two occasions.
I would like to put on record my sincere thanks to the following. Without their encouragement, help and co-Operation this article would definitely not have seen the light of day:-- Dr. K. G. Klietmann of the Institut Fur Wissenschaftliche Ordenskunde, who assisted in verifying a number of points: Mr. J. Mahncke, who spent a considerable amount of time translating from the original German to English: Cmdt. and Mrs. G. R. Duxbury of the South African National War Museum, who not only encouraged me but put the entire library at my disposal: Mrs. M. Davies the librarian of the S.A.N.W.M. who spent many hours looking for books: Miss A. H. Smith and Miss Chapman of the Africana Museum, for putting at my disposal photostat copies of the Deutches Kolonialblatt and Die Tragbarem Ehrenzeichen Des Deutchen Reiches, and for having to take them out for me on so many occasions; the librarians of the Africana reference library who proved most helpful: And last, but by no means least, Dr. F. K. Mitchell, J.C.D., F.S.A.N.S. Dr. Mitchell proved muost helpful and informative, and amongst other things supplied the medal roll of the Cape Mounted Riflemen and checked and corrected the draft of this article.
Numerous books and papers were consulted. For those who are interested, below is a list of the books and papers that proved most helpful:
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