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Today in Kimberley's History

TODAY IN KIMBERLEY’S HISTORY 18 SEPTEMBER

UPDATED: 18/09/2019

18 September 1945, Radio talent show at the Plaza: Charming songs provided by Merle Herbert, Janice Farrelly and Carol West.

DID YOU KNOW

PT-AG_Malan-1963-3

AG Malan

Yesterday was the 56th Anniversary of the death of famed Battle of Britain pilot Sailor Malan, he having succumbed to the ravages of Parkinson’s Disease in Kimberley on 17 September 1963.

On the 50th Anniversary of his death a moving memorial service was held at his grave in the West End cemetery at sunset with wreaths being laid by the South African Airforce Association and the MOTH. He was 53 years of age when he died.

His actions during the Battle of Britain and France saw him reaching the rank of Group Captain, having commanded 74 Squadron RAF, the famous Tiger Squadron, and being awarded the DSO and Bar, DFC and Bar as well as bravery medals from four allied countries of World War II.

Just to touch briefly on what Sailor Malan did after the war and up until his death.

Shortly after the war had ended Malan worked for Harry Oppenheimer as his personal assistant and in the early 1950s was one of the leaders of the Torch Commando, a non-aligned action group of ex-servicemen set up to fight against the Nationalist Government’s plans to disenfranchise the Coloureds – who had the vote at that stage. Despite the fact that the group attracted some 250 000 members they were not successful in their quest.

He had expressed a wish to go farming so for a year before he moved on to Benfontein farm he worked at the Oppenheimer racehorse stud farm Mauritzfontein. He then leased Benfontein from De Beers Consolidated Mines in 1952 and concentrated on sheep farming. His wife Lynda (who called him John), continued the lease on the farm after Sailor’s death in 1963 but relinquished it in 1972.

PT-Adolph_Malan-1963-02

Adolph Malan

It was the leasing of Benfontein to Sailor Malan that saw dramatic improvement in quality of life for those who lived there. Electricity was finally extended to the farm from Kimberley, and there were major renovations (and rebuilding in places) of the Homestead. All costs were borne by the De Beers Company.

The swimming pool, now covered and filled in, adjacent and to the east of the homestead, was a personal gift to Sailor Malan from the Chairman of De Beers Consolidated Mines, Harry Friedrich Oppenheimer.

Malan was an active member of the RAF Association, the SAAF Association, and the MOTH.

He was also keen on horse racing and was a steward of the GW Racing Club. Until quite recently the feature race on the Kimberley horse racing calendar was the Sailor Malan Handicap.

UPDATE 18/09/2017

18 September 1945, Radio talent show at the Plaza: Charming songs provided by Merle Herbert, Janice Farrelly and Carol West.

DID YOU KNOW

The influential Sunday Times stated in 1954 that Kimberley was a ghost town, and the Kimberley Chamber of Commerce (now NOCCI) immediately went up in arms, disagreeing vehemently. The town, the Chamber said, was “live, virile and expanding” and “Kimberley per head paid the highest income tax of any centre in South Africa”.

As the membership grew – it would reach 173 in 1959 – so too did Kimberley experience a mini boom as sixteen new suburbs or townships opened since the war ended in 1945. Building plans had since 1950 averaged £1 million annually, and the “best ever” Kimberley Show in 1957 attracted over 20 000 visitors. Membership fees for large businesses for the Chamber was £10 10s per year, whereas small businesses paid £3 3s. A Managing Director of a local firm calculated that membership of the Chamber had gained or saved his company approximately £3500 per year. Despite this sudden activity on the building front, the Chamber was very concerned as Kimberley was only 11th on the list of priorities for the Government.

1961, when membership reached a (then) all time high of 188, was a momentous year for South Africa as the Nationalist government broke ties with the Commonwealth, declared a Republic, and the horrific massacre of innocents at Sharpeville made world headlines. The Sharpeville incident would rally the black majority and eventually force the Nationalists to the peace table – although that was still 30 years away. The then Chamber President, C.S. Rademeyer, agreed that “we live in rapidly changing times, witnessing history”, as not only politics made front page news in Kimberley, but also the fact that Route 13 (now the N12) was complete, and the decimal changeover from Pounds to Rands had occurred in February.

The Chamber recommended a new Post Office in 1962, and despite the fact that there was a temporary automatic telephone exchange, there were still many complaints about the service. Doug Henderson in 1964 said that “our antiquated telephone service is no longer adequate to meeting the demands of a city developing like Kimberley”. Business was indeed booming and flights into and out of Kimberley were increasing, although the Chamber still requested a direct flight from Kimberley to Durban once a week. Some things never change! At least two people in the country knew that the diamonds would not last forever (in Kimberley at least). Sir Ernest Oppenheimer had mentioned the fact earlier in the century, and Chamber President Doug Henderson reiterated the fact in 1967.

“Where would Kimberley be without the diamond industry. We cannot depend entirely on the diamond mines forever…and must take immediate steps to supplement this industry if Kimberley is to expand. Some definite action must be taken and taken now”, he thundered at the Annual general Meeting. The genial Poddy Shein, a perennial President on and off for the next twenty odd years, prophesied most wisely in 1968 when he said that a new “bug” had appeared in the business world – that of “discount wars”, and he feared that many small businesses would collapse or fail with competition from national firms. This indeed came true as large chain stores put paid to many small family businesses.

Chamber news and views took a back seat in 1969 as the “greatest venture of all time” occurred, the landing of man on the moon. “We salute them all,” said Poddy Shein. Not for the first time tourism came to the fore in 1970 when it was mentioned that 122 845 people had visited the Big Hole and the adjacent open-air museum. “If properly exploited Kimberley’s tourist potential is perhaps the brightest in South Africa,” said Shein. Concern was expressed that these visitors only spent a few hours in Kimberley before moving off again to their eventual destination. Metriculation had been introduced to South Africa in 1971 and the value of building plans reached R14 million rand, just slightly lower than the previous year. Building plans would total some R18 million the following year, the last year of Poddy Shein’s first five year stint.

In 1973, and after twenty years as Honorary Auditor for the Chamber, Edgar Davis, the son of AA Davis of Diamond Fields Advertiser fame, retired and Noel Borgstrom took over the reins. The AGM of 1975 would see the retirement from the secretarial position – after 19 years – of R Hartley Marriott. Uncle Robbie, as he was known, was unanimously elected an honorary Life Member of the Chamber, and Gerald Barnes took over as Secretary. That same year saw inflation begin to bite, and it hurt the man in the street. It was going to be a whole new ball game for the Chamber to tackle.

Update 18/09/2016

18 September, Nothing found yet that happened this very day in the history of Kimberley. However, research is ongoing…

DID YOU KNOW

It has always been believed, quite erroneously, that De Beers Consolidated Mines introduced the Compound system for black mineworkers into South Africa and that they were the first in the world to do so. This has always been perceived to be the truth, and the De Beers Company portrayed as the compound system villains. But first, what is a compound.

The Collins Westminster Dictionary describes the word ‘compound’ as having been derived from the Malay word ‘kampong’ which means ‘an enclosure’. In the Far East the word means an “enclosure about a house” whereas in South Africa it is described as “an enclosed area in which native labourers reside.” In this case it means mine workers and in particular, black mine workers, or does it?

As recently as 1961 when Eric Rosenthal produced his Encyclopaedia of South Africa he described it as being “premises for housing natives and other non-European employees of mines and industrial concerns.” He went further by stating that “…in its strictest form it involved (as it still does) the native employees remaining inside an enclosure during their employment.” Like many others before and since, Rosenthal stated that the compound system had been introduced by De Beers Consolidated Mines.

Rosenthal and all the others are wrong. The De Beers Mining Company opened their first Compound for black mineworkers in 1886, remembering that technically and legally, this company ceased to exist in 1888 upon amalgamation of the two major companies that formed the De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited. Before the De Beers Mining Company even had their compound the Kimberley Central Diamond Mining Company as well as the French Company already had closed compounds for their black mineworkers at the Kimberley Mine, plus another two in Bultfontein Mine. So officially, even before the advent of DBCM, there were already five major compounds in existence, and four of them were formed before that built by the De Beers Mining Company at the De Beers Mine. Naturally, upon amalgamation, DBCM took over the management of all of them, and has probably suffered in publications ever since.

But let us go back a little in time.

In 1878 Cecil Rhodes was sharing bachelor quarters with at least eleven other men, known simply as “The 12 Apostles”. It is quite likely that this mess was adjacent to the consortium’s diamond sorting table on what is now Belgrave Road. This residence was called ‘The Compound’.

There were many such compounds dotted all around the then municipalities of Beaconsfield and Kimberley. Otto’s Compound off Hull Street is but one. Even the Kimberley municipality had a compound. This municipal compound eventually settled at their Stockdale Street base and not only included (closed) quarters for certain categories of workers but also housed workshops and the Fire Brigade vehicles. Maps of early Kimberley throughout the 1870s and 1880s show these quite clearly.

In Kimberley by 1882 the word “compound” was commonplace indeed. The term was used to describe the area where the claimholder had his tent and where the diamond sorting was done, while it was also used to describe an encampment of black workers. These latter encampments were called “black compounds”.

In January 1885, a hero of the Transvaal and Zulu Wars, one Teddy Green, died in the Dutoitspan Compound. Where was this compound? Maps do not show any such structure so perhaps it was one of the myriad smaller company compounds that were still open compounds rather than the more well-known closed compounds.

The very first closed compound for black mineworkers was opened officially on Saturday 17 January 1885 by the French Company who were based at the Kimberley Mine. The company marched 110 black mineworkers into the compound from which they were not to leave for six months.

Barney Barnato’s Kimberley Central Diamond Mining Company’s compound for their black mineworkers opened on 27 April 1885. In the same report the newspaper states that there was a strike by the black workers but this was quashed rapidly by removing the ringleaders who were then placed beyond the enclosure.

Yet another two mining companies in Kimberley had compounds in use by 1885, both based in the Bultfontein Mine – the Hatton Company and the Bultfontein Mining Company – as the GW Diamond Mine Inspector states in his annual report.

The De Beers Mining Company only opened their Mine compound on the southern side of the De Beers Mine in 1886, although they did have a Convict Station built in 1884 to house 300 convicts and 25 guards in their own mining area. Strictly speaking this ‘station’ does not qualify as a compound as the inmates were prisoners ‘on lease’ to the De Beers Company.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Update 18/09/2016

18 SEPTEMBER – Nothing of historic importance has been found so far that happened today in Kimberley’s history. Research continues.

DID YOU KNOW

The 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain has been commemorated during this past week, one of the highlights being a fly past in England of some 40 Spitfires and Hurricanes. Other than the famous “Sailor” Malan, there were two other men, both educated in Kimberley, who were involved in the 1940 Battle of Britain – Air Vice Marshal Sir Christopher Quentin Brand, and Pilot Officer Albert Lewis.

Air Vice Marshal Sir Christopher Joseph Quentin Brand KBE, DSO, MC, DFC, (25 May 1893 – 7 March 1968) was a senior officer of the Royal Air Force. Brand was born in Beaconsfield and educated at St Patrick’s CBC. During the Battle of Britain he was the Air Officer Commanding No. 10 (Fighter) Group, the group responsible for the defence of southwest England and South Wales. Brand enjoyed a good relationship with Air Marshals’ Park and Dowding, and frequently deployed his squadrons effectively to back up the efforts of Park’s No. 11 (Fighter) Group. Brand also supported the tactic of using small and rapidly deployed groups of fighters rather than the “Big Wings” favoured by Leigh-Mallory and others.

Pilot Officer (later Squadron Leader) Albert Gerald Lewis DFC and Bar (Kimberley 10 April 1918 – 14 December 1982) was an ace during the Battle of Britain. Born in Kimberley, he attended Kimberley Boys’ High School. He was the second highest scoring South African air-ace of the Battle of Britain with 9 victories. He performed an amazing feat during the battle when he shot down six German aircraft in one day, on the 27 September 1940, including two Bf 110s, three Bf 109s, and a Ju 88.

Pictured is Sir Christopher Brand (left) and Albert Lewis.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook

By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

About Steve Lunderstedt

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