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Long Cecil Gun

TODAY IN KIMBERLEY’S HISTORY 20 JANUARY

UPDATED: 20/01/2020

20 January 1900, Proving, sighting and slight adjustments to the Long Cecil gun (pictured) are made.

DEATH FROM DISEASE RUNS RAMPANT DURING THE SIEGE
Rationing of foodstuffs was not seriously adhered to until the military authorities realized that the siege of Kimberley would not be lifted before Christmas 1899, and a proclamation was issued on 20 December 1899 in that all basic foodstuffs were taken over by the military. Rationing was implemented, complete with ration tickets, and by January 1900 the entire population was on fixed rations, the whites and coloureds receiving the most, then the Indians, with the Blacks receiving the least. Whites and coloureds (per person), would receive a daily allowance of 14 ounces of bread or 10 ounces of Boer meal and flour, two ounces of either mealies or corn, two ounces of rice, 2 ounces of sugar, ¼ ounce of tea, and a half ounce of coffee. Meat was a half pound per diem. Indians were allowed two ounces of mealie meal, 8 ounces of rice, and the same tea, coffee and sugar allowance as the whites. Blacks would receive six ounces of mealie meal, four ounces of corn, two ounces of samp, and tea, coffee and sugar the same as the others. The mine workers would be fed by the mining company.
In fact, at one stage there was a mutiny in the mine compounds as the Blacks within vociferously objected to only receiving one tablespoonful of mealie meal per day. The regular soldiers from the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment were called out and surrounded the compound with fixed bayonets until the uprising subsided. In middle January 1900 each householder had to register the name of every black person living on their property, and get a certificate for each one. Only those with certificates could get food. There was much complaining about the rations in the columns of the Diamond Fields Advertiser, particularly from the blacks, and theft of food became common because of starvation. The lack of basic dietary requirements for the Blacks ensured that disease and death was not far off. Disease ran rampant through the compounds, refugee camp, and townships, and in particular, scurvy. 592 blacks died from this disease during January and up to 15 February 1900, and the six weeks following the siege. Not one white died from scurvy. Other diseases that led to deaths were infantile diarrhoea, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and dysentery.
The chief cause of death during the siege among the blacks was disease. As stated, scurvy was the main cause, followed by infantile diarrhoea and pneumonia. Pneumonia and Tubercolosis were mostly prevalent in the mine compounds. Total black deaths during the siege and immediate aftermath (14 October 1899- 28 February 1900) amounted to 1648. Total deaths from disease in all races during the same period was 1679. It is fairly certain that more died than is officially recorded. Most frightening is the fact that the death rate for black babies was 935 out of every 1000.
The shelling of the town by the Boers accounted for only two known black deaths during the siege, despite the fact that about 8500 shells fell in Kimberley during the siege, including many that fell in the black refugee camp at the racecourse, and even in the mine compounds.

20 January 1900, Proving, sighting and slight adjustments to the Long Cecil gun (pictured) are made.

DID YOU KNOW

Jacob Gamler, a well-known Jewish trader on and around the Diamond Fields, packed his wagon on Friday afternoon 19 January 1877 in readiness for a “smousing” trip to the Orange Free State. The wagon, although light of build, and drawn by four mules was filled with requisites popular among the farming fraternity which he hoped to sell along the way. Among the goods was photographic equipment and apparatus, as Gamler had become a keen photographer and hoped to take some stills of scenery, even, perhaps, some farmhouses and family pictures to sell back to the farmers themselves. Travelling with him was a Koranna named Gert, employed that day as his regular employee had decided to remain in Kimberley.

He left the town late that Friday evening along the Olifantsfontein road that would lead him to the Bosvark Road junction, left to Boshof and right to Jacobsdal, both roads having many farmhouses. He could of course, have then carried straight on to the Vendusie Drift which crosses the Modder river, the road itself continuing on to the Petrusburg region. No matter which way he was going to travel, he was tired before he left Kimberley and had mentioned to some of his friends that he was going to outspan fairly soon for the evening.

Jacob Gamler decided to outspan close to Olifantsfonteinkop; the mules were tied to trees close by; a light meal was eaten and after a cup of coffee, the trader turned into his blanket for the night. Gert did the same, after first checking to see if the mules were safely tied before he too climbed into his single blanket as the evening was very warm.

The sun was already climbing in the east on Saturday 20 January when two travellers, Mr Eagan (aka Higgins) and a friend from Kimberley, who were heading eastwards towards the Modder River in an attempt to hire some workers when they saw in the distance a lone wagon, seemingly overturned. Upon arrival at the scene, they saw the wagon was indeed upset, and the mules and owner nowhere to be seen. Eagan and his companion thought that this was strange and a quick search of the wagon revealed “marks of blood in the vicinity of the wagon”. They then decided to search the immediate vicinity of the overturned wagon and soon came across Gamler’s body with his skull smashed in. The first pool of blood had been close to the wagon, and alongside the pool was a blood spattered rock. Gamler’s body had been dragged off into bushes some twenty metres away from where an obvious crime had been committed. Neither Gamler’s employee, Gert, nor the mules, were anywhere to be seen. Eagan and his friend returned to Kimberley post haste and reported the murder, for that was what it appeared, to the Resident Magistrate who in turn contacted the police.

Messrs Goldsmith and Stone (the former was President of the Jewish Burial Association) were soon on the way to the scene of the crime with a police orderly supplied by Major Lanyon, armed with a letter addressed to the Landdrost (Magistrate) of Boshof because Olifantsfontein fell into the Boshof magisterial district of the Orange Free State, a sovereign state at that time. The police party found the body as described by Eagan, and the local Veldcornet was sent for. Missing from the body, according to his family and friends, were a beautiful diamond ring, a watch and chain, and a considerable amount of money. The Veldcornet, responsible for law and order in the immediate area around Olifantsfontein, was away celebrating Nachtmaal at Boshof, so the Cape Colony police decided to return the body of Gamler to Kimberley for a post-mortem.

This was done by Dr William Grimmer on the Sunday, while unsuccessful attempts were made to contact the relevant authorities in the Orange Free State. The Griqualand police were placed on full alert for the missing Gert, a £50 reward was posted – to be paid upon conviction – and police detective Collins was hot on the trail of the murderer whose tracks had been discovered leaving the scene of the crime. It was not Collins that would arrest the missing Gert however, but a farmer named Rothman.

Gert, after killing Jacob Gamler while he was sleeping by hitting his head with the rock three times, had removed the ring, not one watch but three, and money before departing the scene. He had intentionally gone to Platberg, Adriaan Rothman’s farm, and asked Rothman how he could escape from the police who he knew were searching for him. When Rothman asked him about the murder he gave quite a circumstantial account but said that he admitted to destroying the paper money, and that two white men had stolen all three watches from him. Rothman made a citizen’s arrest and secured Gert before bringing him into Kimberley where he was handed over to the police and incarcerated in the Dutoitspan gaol. Two coloured persons were arrested by the Kimberley police for complicity in the murder, but they were released after admitting they had only taken the watches from a black man along the road.

Gert was not long in Dutoitspan gaol, as the Sheriff of the Orange Free State arrived and he was handed over for transfer to the neighbouring state where he would stand trial for the murder of Jacob Gamler. By 14 February he was in the Boshof gaol awaiting trial, the court case was finally heard by the Free State circuit court on Monday 2 July, and lasted two days. Chief Justice Francis W Reitz presided, State Attorney J.A. Bier prosecuted and Advocate Lagerweij, in spite of his reluctance, defended the prisoner (and made a capital defence, too, according to witnesses).

The court, packed with locals of all races, heard from Gert that soon after Gamler had outspanned, another African, released that very day from gaol in Kimberley, had joined him at the camp. He had told the un-named African that Gamler had “lots of money” and other goods and they had decided to kill him while he slept, Gert throwing a large stone on Gamler’s head first, and then another stone thrown by the second murderer. The unfortunate trader died immediately. The two killers then upset the cart, chased away the mules and spread the wares and goods around the cart in an effort to make it look as if there had been a terrible and tragic cart accident. They had then gone to Kimberley where they shared the loot and parted company, Gert heading towards the Vaal River via Platberg (near Warrenton) where he met up with the man who apprehended him, Adriaan Rothman.

Gert’s companion was never found, and it was Gert’s voluntary confession to the murder of Jacob Gamler that saw the Boshof jury, after a mere seven minutes deliberation, return a guilty verdict. A solemn Judge Reitz pronounced sentence of death, and Gert was executed in the sleepy little Free State village within a month.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

About Steve Lunderstedt

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