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Today in Kimberley's History

TODAY IN KIMBERLEY’S HISTORY 16 FEBRUARY

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UPDATE: 16/02/2018

16 February 1900, The Battle of Dronfield.
16 February 1901, Four Africans killed in a mud rush in De Beers Mine.
16 February 2001, Clyde N Terry Hall of Militaria opens at the MOTH Centre.

DID YOU KNOW

The second battle of Dronfield could more accurately be called The Hunt for the Long Tom Gun, and happened on 16 February 1900, the day after Kimberley had been relieved.

The Boer Long Tom situated on the Kamfersdam Mine tailing fired its last shot into Kimberley at 4pm on the 15th, an hour before the relief column made its way into Kimberley from the east. The Boers had to get the gun away knowing full well that the British would attempt to capture it, and overnight the gun moved to Riverton Road Station where General Piet de la Rey was in laager, quite probably crossed the Vaal River at one of many drifts in the Riverton region and headed off into the then Transvaal Republic.

Commandant van Aswegen with his Griqualand West Commando (Boer rebels from the Cape Colony who held allegiance to the Queen and were thus considered traitors by the British) held on to Picardi Ridge (Felsteads Farm) to give some cover to the withdrawal. The Armstrong 9-pounder gun was left with them, the other eight Krupp guns having already withdrawn with various commandoes.

The Sanatorium hosted a celebratory function for General French and his relief column – officers only – at the Sanatorium, and it was here that a De Beers Director offered 100 Golden Sovereigns to the unit that captured the Boer Long Tom.

General JDP French, the commander of the relief column that consisted of 3 Brigades of cavalry, had been advised that there were approximately 2000 Boers, with the Long Tom, in laager west of Macfarlane’s near Riverton. He ordered the 1st Brigade to clear Dronfield Ridge from the south, the 3rd Brigade to remain north of the ridge, while the mounted infantry, in support of both brigades, would be in the centre.

The 1st Brigade was delayed virtually the entire day by a courageous stand by 200 entrenched burghers of the Griqualand West Commando, ably assisted by a 9-pounder Armstrong gun that was used most effectively. (One of these shells passed through Sergeant-Major McDonald of the Diamond Fields Horse without exploding, killing him instantly).

Once the British had taken the Ridge known as Felstead’s or Pringles, General French made his command post there. Lt-Colonel RG Kekewich was with him at the time.

The GW Commando abandoned their position on the night of 16 February, leaving the 9-pounder behind. British forces captured this gun intact the next morning and thus became the first Boer gun captured by the British during the war. This Armstrong gun now forms part of the Cape Police Memorial in Belgravia. (This means that the Cape Mounted Police would have been credited as the unit to capture the gun.)

The delay on Dronfield meant that French did not capture the Boers in laager, nor the Long Tom, but he did disperse the laager with some desultory actions resulting from the Boers fleeing. Several Boers were killed or wounded in these actions around the laager.

68 chargers (cavalry horses) were left dead by the British on Dronfield reported the Diamond Fields Advertiser.

Four GW Commando members died on Dronfield that day and another two Boers were killed in the Riverton/Riverton Road region. 14 Boers were captured by the British in the same region, of whom ten were wounded.PT-Dronfield_Engagement-1900

This means that six Boers were killed in action that day, a number that tallies with Captain JH Adams of the Kenilworth Defence Force who counted the bodies on the battlefield. The Cape Times reported that five Boers were killed, while the Diamond Fields Advertiser estimated that 43 Boers were killed.

Nine British (Imperial) Forces were killed on Dronfield/ Macfarlane’s, including two from Kimberley, Sgt-Major McDonald and Trooper Jeremiah Sutton, one from the 9th Lancers, two from Robert’s Horse (SALH), and four from the Royal Scots Greys.

At least two Kimberley men were also wounded, there are no doubt more.

The British dead were either buried at Gladstone and Kenilworth cemeteries in Kimberley, or in the case of Lt Brassey of the 9th Lancers, buried where he fell on Macfarlane’s farm, and later re-interred in Kimberley.

The Boers killed on Dronfield were not re-interred at Magersfontein in the 1960s and 1970s, so remain buried somewhere on the battlefield at Dronfield.

16 February 1900, The Battle of Dronfield.
16 February 1901, Four Africans killed in a mud rush in De Beers Mine.
16 February 2001, Clyde N Terry Hall of Militaria opens at the MOTH Centre.

DID YOU KNOW
The Clyde N Terry Hall of Militaria is the brainchild of Clyde Terry, former curator of the MOTH Centre, and son of a World War II veteran, Clyde N Terry, as it was he who first started collecting military artifacts. Clyde Junior continued collecting militaria after his father died in 1962, but eventually the collection became too large and it moved to Group 22 Headquarters, the first visitors passing through on 21 June 1986. The vision of Colonel Boet Herholdt, commanding officer of Group 22, to see the collection on display, had come true.

It was later housed in the old Bicycle shed of what was then the William Pescod school (at the time HQ of Group 22) when it was named the Group 22 War Museum. This museum itself was officially opened in June 1992 at a medal parade constituted by Lt-General LA Meyer.

The Collection moved in 1996 when State buildings appropriated for military uses, were recovered by the new Government, and was kept in storage temporarily until a new building could be found. The MOTH organisation gave permission for the erection of a museum on their property, and the collection, now known as the Clyde N Terry Hall of Militaria, was opened on 16 February 2001.

The contents of the Hall include South African and International weapons, uniforms, badges, as well as many artifacts from Europe, Africa, and the United States of America. The general layout of the exhibits are chronological and geographical, and wars include the Crimean war, the Anglo-Boer South African War, World War I and II, as well as many other minor conflicts in Southern Africa and the world.

Visitors will find a tour of the Hall a fascinating insight into war and history.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

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