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Gideon Scheepers

TODAY IN KIMBERLEY’S HISTORY – 21 NOVEMBER

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21 November 1899, Skirmish between the Boers and Cattle Guards outside Kenilworth.
21 November 1899, Lord Methuen’s British army leaves Orange River station and advances on besieged Kimberley.

DID YOU KNOW

The coloured community, as well as their Indian and Malay counterparts of Kimberley volunteered for service in the local Kimberley or Beaconsfield Town Guard in order to defend the town, an offer which was turned down by the military authorities, albeit diplomatically. Major Henry Scott-Turner, a personal friend of Rhodes, and a special service staff officer seconded from the then Rhodesia in order to assist with the defence of the town, replied to the Town Clerk of Kimberley that “….it is not possible to consider the question of arming the coloured men. Colonel Kekewich however suggests that you take their names and if an opportunity arises he will gladly avail himself of their services, and he highly appreciates the spirit of their offer.”

Despite the official stand by the Kimberley authorities, black persons were utilised by both the military and civilian authorities in a quasi-military role, and in the Kimberley Town Guard, a unit known as the Special Location Police comprised mostly Coloured persons.

PT_One_of_the_British_redoubts_during_the_Siege_of_Kimberley-1899

One of the British redoubts during the Siege of Kimberley

During the siege, Africans were used as drivers and conductors by the Royal Artillery, and as military intelligence Scouts and dispatch riders. The De Beers company also utilized Africans in collecting information on Boer movements and for sending and receiving messages to and from Lord Methuen commanding the British army at the Modder River camp some 30 kilometres south.

Africans armed with rifles guarded large herds of cattle close to the Boer positions, and on at least two occasions there was some heavy fighting between the cattle guards and the Boers at Dronfield and Tarentaalkop. In the fight at Tarentaalkop, Sgt-Major Gideon Scheepers of the OFS Artillery killed two and captured two Africans. On 18 January 1902, Scheepers was executed by the Imperial forces for, among several other charges, the killing of African spies in the employ of the British Army.

Kimberley had natural defensive works in the form of the many mine tailing heaps that surrounded the town and these were easily converted into fortifications using the thousands of Africans resident in Kimberley. This (initially) 14 kilometre long defensive line of redoubts, trenches, minefields and barbed wire entanglements, (and later enlarged to encompass the Wesselton Mine and Kenilworth village), was constructed by mine compound Africans supplied by De Beers, African convicts, African labourers supplied by contractors, and unemployed relief work “boys”, all under the supervision of 45 men of the 7th Field Company Royal Engineers. Only the Sanatorium defensive positions were built by whites, and even then they were built by regular soldiers of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. Kimberley had natural defensive works in the form of the many mine tailing heaps that surrounded the town and these were easily converted into fortifications using the thousands of Africans resident in Kimberley. This (initially) 14 kilometre long defensive line of redoubts, trenches, minefields and barbed wire entanglements, (and later enlarged to encompass the Wesselton Mine and Kenilworth village), was constructed by mine compound Africans supplied by De Beers, African convicts, African labourers supplied by contractors, and unemployed relief work “boys”, all under the supervision of 45 men of the 7th Field Company Royal Engineers. Only the Sanatorium defensive positions were built by whites, and even then they were built by regular soldiers of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.9 Pictured is Gideon Scheepers later in the war when Kommandant, as well as one of the British redoubts in Kimberley during the Siege 1899-1900.

The Siege of Kimberley was from 14 October 1899 to 15 February 1900.

Pictured is Gideon Scheepers later in the war when Kommandant, as well as one of the British redoubts in Kimberley during the Siege 1899-1900.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

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