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PT-Cape_Corps_Gun_Memorial-1934
The Cape Corps Gun Memorial in Kimberley

TODAY IN KIMBERLEY’S HISTORY 25 FEBRUARY

UPDATED: 25/02/2019

25 February 1934, The Cape Corps Gun Memorial unveiled by General Jan Smuts.

DID YOU KNOW

The Cape Corps Association was formed shortly after World War I, with the strongest association being in Kimberley. Their first objective was to raise funds for their memorial, this being finally unveiled by General Jannie Smuts on Sunday 25 February 1934. Smuts had this to say of the Cape Corps:

PT-Cape_Corps_marching_in_Palestine-1934

Cape Corps marching in Palestine

“It is a privilege to be here today and to take part in this great ceremony…. I am here, as a representative of the Government of this country to honour the memory of the gallant men to whom this memorial has been erected…..the great and gallant services which they rendered to South Africa….I shall never forget the hardships they suffered with me….”

In east Africa the Corps had the distinction of capturing both forces of Germans that broke through the British lines.

In Palestine “they had the privilege to take part in one of the most brilliant feat of arms in the whole of the Great War. The Cape Corps was selected to take one particular section of this apparently impregnable front… they covered themselves in glory…”

That was the battle of Squarehill Park of 19 September 1918, a well-recorded action both locally and internationally and available in various forms both book and magazine.

At least 10 000 men had been recruited for the Cape Corps during the war, many from Kimberley, and in fact, at least 25 000 coloured men fought in the South African army during the war.

PT-Cape_Corps_Gun_Memorial_Plaque-1934

The Cape Corps Gun Memorial Plaque

Smuts continued: “…They took their place as brave men by the other brave men in the Great War. More no man could do. The Cape Corps raised by their sacrifice and service and gallantry the self-respect of the whole coloured community in South Africa. The outstanding fact in those years of suffering was that there was no colour distinction. All in suffering, loss and sorrow were knit closely together and my wish and prayer is what was then won will not be lost.

“This monument, established in Kimberley, is a tribute to the part Kimberley played. Many of our best men, not only white but coloured and native as well, came from Kimberley.

25 February 1934, The Cape Corps Gun Memorial unveiled by General Jan Smuts.

DID YOU KNOW
In both World Wars, Kimberley was the depot for the Cape Corps battalions. Official recognition of the coloured soldiers had been subdued for decades during the apartheid era, but it was not always the case. Statesmen such as Cecil Rhodes, JX Merriman, and Jannie Smuts have lauded the Corps and the men themselves. Rhodes himself thought so highly of their fighting skills that in the 1890s he himself raised a corps that fought with distinction in the Matabeleland Uprising of 1896.

The official history of the Corps states that coloured soldiers were already in military service by 1776. By 1781 the Dutch had raised a corps of “Pandalours” which helped defend the Cape against attack and in 1795 the corps saw action for the first time when they fought against the English at Kalk Bay. Their pay was two shillings a month at the time.

The Cape Corps history of World War I 1914-1918 is arguably the most famous of all its campaigns as it was during this war that they fought as combatants in East Africa, North Africa and in Palestine, and they fought exceptionally well particularly at the battle of Squarehill.

The Depot in Kimberley for the training of the two battalions was at the Bultfontein and Dutoitspan Mine areas adjacent to Beaconsfield, and in fact, on one occasion the local inhabitants of Beaconsfield harassed the camp so much that the military authorities had no choice but to send the entire corps on leave. The discipline and restraint of the Cape Corps under severe provocation from the locals was beyond praise. The soldiers on active service in east Africa arrived back in Kimberley on 29 December 1917 and were sent on leave as well, returning to Kimberley in February 1918. The 1st battalion was sent to Egypt in March 1918 and the reserve half battalion on 22 June. Recruiting and training of men in Kimberley continued unabated as it was expected that large drafts would be required in Egypt. Thus it was that the men left Kimberley for Squarehill.

Disaster befell the depot, as it did the rest of Kimberley, during the Spanish Flu epidemic of October 1918 when 169 men of the Cape Corps died and the Depot was temporarily closed.

The Cape Corps Association was formed shortly after the war, with the strongest association being in Kimberley. Their first objective was to raise funds for their memorial, this being finally unveiled by General Jannie Smuts on 25 February 1934. Smuts had this to say of the Cape Corps:

“It is a privilege to be here today and to take part in this great ceremony…. I am here, as a representative of the Government of this country to honour the memory of the gallant men to whom this memorial has been erected…..the great and gallant services which they rendered to South Africa….I shall never forget the hardships they suffered with me….”

In east Africa the Corps had the distinction of capturing both forces of Germans that broke through the British lines.

In Palestine “they had the privilege to take part in one of the most brilliant feat of arms in the whole of the Great War. The Cape Corps was selected to take one particular section of this apparently impregnable front… they covered themselves in glory…” That was the battle of Squarehill of 19 September 1918, a well-recorded action both locally and internationally and available in various forms both book and magazine.

At least 10 000 men had been recruited for the Cape Corps during the war, many from Kimberley, and in fact, at least 25 000 coloured men fought in the South African army during the war.

Smuts continued: “They took their place as brave men by the other brave men in the Great War. More no man could do. The Cape Corps raised by their sacrifice and service and gallantry the self-respect of the whole coloured community in South Africa. The outstanding fact in those years of suffering was that there was no colour distinction. All in suffering, loss and sorrow were knit closely together and my wish and prayer is what was then won will not be lost.

“This monument, established in Kimberley, is a tribute to the part Kimberley played. Many of our best men, not only white but coloured and native as well, came from Kimberley…”

Pictured is the Gun Memorial, the memorial plaque and the Cape Corps marching in Palestine.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

About Steve Lunderstedt

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