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TODAY IN KIMBERLEY’S HISTORY 17 OCTOBER

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17 October 1871, The Keate Award made public.
17 October 1918, Champion golfer of the Diamond Fields Robert S Chatfield dies in flu epidemic.

DID YOU KNOW

Robert Sivewright Chatfield was born on 26 September 1880. 

PT-Lt_Robert_Sivewright_Chatfield-1918

Lt Robert Sivewright Chatfield

Lt Robert Chatfield served during the siege with the Kimberley Light Horse, an elite unit known as “Rhodes’ Own” and selected for service by Lt-Colonel Henry Scott-Turner. He was involved in both battles of Carter’s Ridge of 25 and 28 November 1899, and was mentioned in the 15 February 1900 despatches by Colonel RG Kekewich, as being “…an excellent officer. He has shown conspicuous gallantry.”

Born to George Eugene Chatfield and Frances Anne Chatfield (the eldest daughter of George Page) in Bloemfontein on 26 September 1880, the family lived at the time on the farm Quaggafontein where they farmed for 25 years before moving to KimberleyGeorge Eugene Chatfield, Robert’s father, while a member of the Bloemfontein Commando, saw action at Thaba Bosiu (Bosigo) and was wounded while on piquet duty at Mount Misery. Indeed, in this action of 1866, Chatfield received 13 assegai wounds, and still killed five Basotho enemy with five rounds from six fired.

A talented person, he wrote “Our Farmer’s Column” for the Diamond Fields Advertiser.

He died on 28 September 1893. Robert’s mother died in Kimberley on 26 November 1916 at the family residence of 6 Park Road, Belgravia, at the age of 68 years.

RS Chatfield’s close relatives were well known, particularly in political and naval service, his one uncle being Sir James Sivewright. Sir James was married to his mother’s sister, Jane Eliza Page, and he was named after this politician, telegraphist pioneer and financier who was also his godfather. As a telegraphist, Sivewright was responsible for laying the entire telegraphic network of Southern Africa from 1877 to 1881, including the network in Natal during the 1879 war for which he was awarded the CMG. He was also the only non-combatant to receive the Zulu War medal of 1879 with all three clasps.

Sivewright, a member of the Cape Parliament from 1888 (and a minister in Rhodes’ cabinet in 1890), was responsible for drawing up the agreement for the 1890 Pioneer expedition which settled in what is now known as Zimbabwe. He was a personal friend of President Kruger and a Director of Barney Barnato’s JCI, in the news recently because of the Kebble murder. He was primarily responsible for arranging the Bloemfontein Peace Conference of 1899 (that failed). Sivewright was the commanding officer of the Cape Town Highlanders during the 1890s up until 1894.

Another Page girl was married to the Cape Legislative Assembly member William Ross. An aside here is that Sir James Sivewright, while hunting for Springbok on Magersfontein farm in September 1893 with Ross and farm owner Bissett, wrenched his ankle badly and needed assistance. The family was in Kimberley for George Eugene Chatfield’s funeral.

George Eugene Chatfield’s brother, (and Robert’s uncle), Alfred John Chatfield (1831-1910) was an Admiral in the Royal Navy, while Robert’s first cousin was The Baron Chatfield, First Lord of the Admiralty from 1933 to 1938, a member of the British War Council, and a privy councilor to the King in 1939. The First Sea Lord was the eldest son of Admiral AJ Chatfield.

Back to RS Chatfield. He was a highly respected diamond buyer (and sorter) for the Diamond Syndicate, the forerunner of the Diamond Trading Corporation (DTC), especially as a buyer on the river diggings. An accomplished tennis player “Bob”, as he was known, also enjoyed soccer, but it was at golf he excelled. Noted as an up-and-coming young golfer in the 1907 SA Championships held in Kimberley, he won the SA Foursomes title with his partner HF Lardner-Burke. He was a scratch golfer and won the Kimberley Golf Club Championships from 1911 to 1914, an impressive four years on the trot.

Third in the SA Amateur of 1913, he came fourth in the same tourney in 1914, Chatfield was reckoned to be the equal of any professional of amateur golfer in South Africa, but when it came to putting on grass greens, he failed as did all other Kimberley golfers who played on diamond bearing gravel “greens”. His driving off the tee was superb and he was the longest hitter of the ball in the country prior to World War I.

While on a visit to his uncle Sir James Sivewright’s estate in Scotland during 1917, he lost an eye in a shooting accident, and while he never gave up golf, he was not the force he used to be.

The outbreak of the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 in Kimberley saw Bob volunteer as a hospital worker at the Hotel Belgrave annex where he caught the flu and died on 17 October 1918. His funeral left his home 26 Carrington Road for interment in West End cemetery where he is buried close to his sister Kate who also died in the epidemic.

He had married Dorothy (nee Scratchley) on 1 August 1916, and when he died, the couple had one son.

His wife sold the house to the De Beers Company shortly after Robert’s death.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

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