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Artists Impression of Cavalry that charged through the Boer Lines


UPDATE: 15/02/2024

15 February 1853, Alfred Beit, financial genius, born in Hamburg.
15 February 1882, Street Lights tested in Kimberley, but they fail.
15 February 1900, Kimberley is relieved in 1900 by General French after 124 days of siege by the Boers.

Pictured is Winifred Heberden and “The Cavalry charging through the Boer lines at Klipdrift on 15 February 1900”.


Feb 15th. This morning only six 100 lb shells were fired in and a few shrapnel from Carter’s Ridge. Poor Jack arrived in the afternoon, having been relieved by Surgeon-Lieutenant O’Gorman at Alexandersfontein. He had about 2 hours rest when Woodruffe rode up to say that they were all ordered out again and were to proceed to Kamfersdam. At the same time the glorious news was confirmed that General French’s Column was in sight, and advancing fast to the relief of Kimberley. But Jack had to go the opposite way with his men.


Winifred Heberden

I went off to the Debris Heap with many others to view the approach of General French from the far end of Beaconsfield. Here we could see the long trail of dust stretching for miles across the veld far away below us, and a large body of horsemen riding in quite close to the Barriers. The place was alive with people in the most excited state and presently we saw a single horseman riding in alone, being greeted enthusiastically by everyone, who laughed and cried alternately.

This man, who had the honour of first entering beleaguered Kimberley, is Lieut-Colonel Paterson, a retired Australian Officer who is accompanying the Queensland Defence Force for reporting purposes.

The next man to ride in was Mr Beresford of the ‘Daily Telegraph’, who also came in for a great ovation.

The excitement was intense – and indescribable. People did all they could to welcome any soldier they could get hold of – who, poor fellows, were in far greater need than ourselves at that moment, of rest and comfort, and food and drink after their brilliant and intensely fatiguing dash to our rescue.

Bread and cigarettes seemed to be most valued. One man told me that 50 of them had only had one box of matches between them for the last 4 days. They expected to find us, however, in a much more desperate condition than our appearance showed and some of them went so far as to empty their wallets of ‘bulley beef’ amongst a group of ‘Poor Whites’ alongside the road who certainly did not scruple to gobble it up as though they were literally starving.

At about 5 p.m. General French and Staff rode in via the Wesselton Mine, just missing Colonel Kekewich and Staff who went to meet them at the Barrier. The Mayor of Kimberley, however, met the General at the boundary of Kimberley, and with a few grateful words tried to express our feelings to him. He answered that he supposed we were as glad to see him as he was to see us and after a further exchange of compliments, he rode on to the Kimberley Club.

Here, we were told, his reception was tremendous One lady, almost hysterical with reaction after the terrible time we have gone through, falling on her knees and attempting to obtain a little portion of General French’s boot-lace as a momento of to-day’s great gladness! After shaking hands and listening to further demonstrations of gratitude from everyone at the Club, the General retired to the Sanatorium for a well-earned dinner and rest with Mr Rhodes and Party.

In the meantime, a portion of our local Mounted Men had proceeded to Kamfersdam and Dronfield to reconnoitre.

They approached the Waterworks to within 250 yards without a shot being fired, when the Boers suddenly opened fire on them. They promptly got off their horses, putting them behind the best cover they could, and lying down themselves, till there was a chance of a retreat to the Debris Heap below Kamfersdam.

When they got there they could distinctly hear heavy waggon traffic going in the direction of the Free State border, and were certain that it meant that the big gun was being carried away. However, Colonel Murray, in charge of the Lanc. Regiment refused to allow them to chase it. Night had fallen, and their horses were already too done up to risk the certain great loss of life to the men. Therefore, they bivouaced where they were till dawn.

Winifred Heberden (pictured) was the wife of Captain Jack Heberden, a medical doctor. Dr. G.A. Heberden, (affectionately known as ‘Jack’ to his family and friends), was at this time District Surgeon of Barkly West; and when it was realized that the Anglo-Boer War was inevitable after the Ultimatum, the Magistrate of Barkly West advised all who could to leave the District, as the small town could not be defended against the Boers. Dr. Heberden immediately decided to offer his services to the Imperial Forces in Kimberley, and that night he tied his three year old son, Reggie, to his back with a blanket and, together with his wife and 19 year old cousin, Harry Gibbs, left everything they possessed behind them, but for a few important papers, and rode on horseback the 23 miles into Kimberley.

General French first went to see Cecil Rhodes at the Sanatorium before heading to the Kimberley Club.

Banjo Paterson composed the song “Waltzing Matilda”.

UPDATE: 15/02/2017

15 February 1853, Alfred Beit, financial genius, born in Hamburg.
15 February 1882, Street Lights tested in Kimberley, but they fail.
15 February 1900, Kimberley is relieved in 1900 by General French after 124 days of siege by the Boers.


Alfred Beit (pictured) has been described as the “Financial Napoleon” of the South African business world, and was certainly the brains behind Cecil Rhodes’ ventures. Born in Hamburg Germany in February 1853, Beit is normally the forgotten man of politics and business – which would have suited him immensely.


Alfred Beit

A man of indifferent health, he was an apprentice in merchant business being indentured to Siegmund Robinow and Sons. In 1875 he was sent as a diamond buyer to South Africa, at age 22, with the firm DJ Lippert and Company. He had the same idea as Cecil Rhodes, that is, that to save the diamond industry it must be controlled by some strong hand.

In 1882 he joined the firm Jules Porges and Company, became a partner to Julius Wernher in 1886 and in 1889 formed the firm Wernher, Beit and Company. Like Rhodes and Isaacs, Beit was busy buying up claims when, one day, he met up with Rhodes, who asked Beit what his plans were. Beit replied, “I am going to control the whole diamond industry before I am much older.” Rhodes then said: “That’s funny. I have made up my mind to do the same. We had better join hands.” Which they did.

Gardner Williams, the first General Manager of De Beers, said of Beit: “He was very largely instrumental in building up the diamond mining industry and bringing the dreams of Rhodes into practical shape and on business lines.” He never took part in politics as such, but was associated with Rhodes in the settlement of Rhodesia, what is now Zimbabwe.

All this time, Wernher, Beit and Company were busy consolidating and they became the powerhouse on the Witwatersrand.

Beit and his firm fitted out and provided horse for the Imperial Light horse as well as the Imperial Yeomanry during the Anglo-Boer War. All the horses used in the Mafeking Relief column were supplied from Beit’s own pocket, and the Boer flag captured at Vryburg was given to Beit in 1902.

During the siege of Kimberley he remained in London.

His last trip to South Africa was in 1902 when he fell ill, an illness from which he did not recover. Beit, a very charitable personality, was a Governor of Guy Hospital in London, donated £100 000 to Hamburg University, and was a great benefactor of Oxford University.

Short in stature, thickset in figure, Beit was nervous, and hated publicity. His weight of intellect however, combined with his methodical business skills, ensured that he would always be remembered in South Africa. Most South Africans only know the name, however, for the bridge crossing the Crocodile River (Limpopo) that joins Zimbabwe with South Africa.

He died on 16 July 1906.


From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

About Steve Lunderstedt


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