The South African
Military History Society

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging

Military History Journal - Vol 3 No 4


Notes, Questions and Replies


3. The Boksburg Gun: This gun is mentioned in the article ‘German Guns of World War I in South Africa’ in Volume 3 No 2, December 1971, of the Military History Journal. In that article, uncertainty is expressed about its origins. It is believed to be a 9cm Krupp Field Gun model C/73/88, which stands outside the Cinderella Prison in Boksburg. It was the standard field gun of the German Army from 1888 to 1896, although there was a modification incorporating a better barrel in 1891. The actual calibre of the gun used by the German Army was 8,5cm, not 9cm. The calibre of the Boksburg gun is 8,7cm this being the calibre of the gun supplied for export.

Most old German guns now in South Africa were captured from German forces in World War I - either in German West or East Africa, or on the Western Front. However, at the time of writing the article, no record could be found of such a gun being used in either of the two African campaigns. Being obsolete in 1914, it is unlikely that it was used in Europe.

Another possibility is that the gun was sold to either the Transvaal or Orange Free State Republics before the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902, as both republics possessed several guns of about this vintage. Once again, no record could be found of such a gun being in South Africa at that time.

Soon after the article was written, the writer received a letter from a retired German Naval Officer, Kapitän zur See Hans Abel. This officer, now aged 90 years, once served in the German light cruiser, the Konigsberg. When this ship was destroyed in the Rufiji River delta in German East Africa in June 1915, Captain Abel was a prominent figure in the recovery of the Konigsherg’s guns — guns which did yeoman service with von Lettow Vorbeck’s forces throughout the East African campaign.

Captain Abel was very interested in seeing photographs of two of his old guns which can be seen in Pretoria to-day. A 10.5 cm gun stands in the grounds of the Union Buildings, and an 8.8 cm gun is at Fort Klapperkop.

In his letter, he listed the guns the Germans had in that theatre. He then said that the Schutztruppen had none of their own artillery - only eight 8,7 cm saluting guns! The answer to the Boksburg Gun problem could well be therefore that it is one of these guns, and that it was captured from the Germans in the course of the German East African campaign. The fact that these guns were intended for saluting purposes only, could explain why they do not figure in the list of operational guns available to the German forces of that theatre.
Darrell Hall


3.Berg River Gun. This photograph has been sent to us by Mr W. McE. Bisset of Cape Town, who in turn received it from Mr W.C. Willis of the Simon’s Town Historical Society. The original photograph was enclosed in a letter, dated 20 December 1901, from Lt-Cdr E. LaT. Leatham of HMS Partridge to W. Birchfield Esq.,Customs Officer at Berg River Mouth, Cape, in which Lt-Cdr Leatham said, ‘I enclose a photo of your heavy gun which may interest you.'

Judging by the characteristic step-down at the muzzle and the overall length of the weapon (about 5 ft), the gun would appear to be a 68-pr carronade, a type of ordnance popular in the Royal Navy at the turn of the 18th Century. What is interesting, however, is that in the photograph there is what appears to be a trunnion fitting into the raised portion of the obviously locally designed carriage. Carronades did not have trunnions, but a 'carronade loop’ below the barrel.

Can any reader throw any light on this weapon, its history and what purpose it served at Berg River Mouth?

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