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Cornelis (Kerneels) Janse Wessels

TODAY IN KIMBERLEY’S HISTORY – 4 NOVEMBER

4 November 1899, General C.J. Wessels (pictured) demands immediate surrender of Kimberley.
4 November 1927, City Hall architect Fergus Carstairs-Rogers MBE, dies.

DID YOU KNOW

Cornelis (Kerneels) Janse Wessels (11 June 1842 – 10 October 1914)

He was a farmer in the Hoopstad region and represented the region as a Member of Parliament of the Republic of the Orange Free State for 20 years. He was a Veldkornet in the second and third Basotho wars and rose to command the Hoopstad Commando. At the outbreak of the Anglo Boer War in 1899 he was Hoof Kommandant of the OFS forces and was in command of the Boer forces that besieged Kimberley from 14 October 1899. He retired from the position on 31 December 1899 and was replaced by General Naas Ferreira.

PT-Cornelis_Janse_Wessels-Gravestone-1914

CJ Wessels Gravestone

Deported as a Prisoner of War to India he returned in 1902 to South Africa and his farm “Witpan” in the Wesselsbron region.

The town of Wesselsbron in the Free State is named after him.

“On the morning of 4th November, it was reported from the Premier Mine that a flag of truce, accompanied by a large party of the enemy, was approaching the redoubt there; instructions were sought. It was at first thought that an attack was about to be made on the post, but, if this had been the original intention, the Boers changed their minds; before the party had come within range of our guns, the main escort halted and the flag of truce came forward with a small staff. Instructions were sent to the O.C. (O’Brien) that the parlementaire should be taken, with the usual precautions, to the military Headquarters (in Lennox Street). This was done. The parlementaire was the bearer of a communication (in Dutch) from Head Commandant Wessels, of the Orange Free State, to Kekewich, who was called upon to surrender Kimberley unconditionally. Wessels, in his ultimatum, which expired at 6 a.m. on Monday, 6th November, requested Kekewich, should he not accede to the request therein contained, to remove all women and children from Kimberley. It was further intimated that the Boer Head Commandant was willing to receive into his camp Afrikander families, who might desire to leave Kimberley.

“Kekewich had from the earliest days of the siege recognized that Rhodes occupied an exceptional position, not only by virtue of his rank as a Privy Councillor, but also by reason of the high offices he had held under the Crown; he had, therefore, ever been willing and ready to consult him on all matters which affected the defence of Kimberley on the civil, as distinct from the strictly military, side. Consequently, after the notice (which it was intended to publish in the local newspaper) announcing that a demand for the surrender of Kimberley had been received from the Head Commandant of the Boer Forces had been drafted, Kekewich sent a staff officer to the Sanatorium Hotel, with instructions that the draft was to be shown to Rhodes. An officer accordingly went off there and placed the draft notice before Rhodes; the latter, after reading the document, stated that he did not approve the terms of the notice as drafted. Rhodes thought that it would be unwise to make the announcement that the ultimatum contained a request for the removal of all women and children from Kimberley, such an announcement might, he said, cause unnecessary alarm; he agreed, however, that the special invitation to the Afrikander families should be published, expressing, at the same time, strong views on the subject of the differentiation in the treatment offered to the two classes of the white population. The draft was accordingly at once modified in such a way as to conform with the views on the subject expressed by Rhodes’ who signified his approval of the alterations made and of the final draft. This was taken back to the Kimberley Club, where Kekewich was at the moment; he approved of the alterations made at Rhodes’ suggestion. The Editor of the Diamond Fields Advertiser, as was his wont, called at the Press Censor’s office (in the Kimberley Club) during the afternoon, and he was shown the draft notice approved by Rhodes, and also the translation of the ultimatum and, indeed, the original document too. Authority was given for an announcement to appear in the paper that a “flag of truce” had come into the besieged town from the Boer headquarters; the announcement appeared in the issue for 6th November. Next day, a fair copy of the notice relating to the “ultimatum was sent to the Diamond Fields Advertiser in normal course; it was published, together with a “leader” on the subject, in the issue of the 8th. So it will be seen that Kekewich made neither a secret nor a mystery of the communication received by him from Head Commandant Wessels at the time. Three weeks later, the Kimberley troops, during one of their sorties, found a copy of the Volkstem, a Dutch newspaper, in the enemy’s trenches and brought it into the town with them. The paper was sent to the Intelligence Office and was found to contain the full text of the correspondence between Wessels and Kekewich. By this time the public had grown accustomed to the Boer shelling, and, the military authorities having reason to believe that the actual text of Wessels’ ultimatum had become widely known in the town, Kekewich decided that nothing was to be gained by keeping from the public the actual terms of Wessels’ ultimatum and his reply thereto. In these circumstances, the copy of the Volkstem in question was sent to the Editor of the Diamond Fields Advertiser and he was given authority to reproduce the correspondence, should he so desire; he took advantage of the offer and the copies of the letters in question were published in the issue of the paper for 28th November.”

From the publication: Kekewich in Kimberley by WAJ O’Meara.

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Aeon Computer Kimberley

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