Anglo-Boer War skirmishes in and around Klaarstroom, Western Cape
Words and Images by Chris Marais. www.karoospace.co.za
On a stroll around the village of Klaarstroom in the Western Cape, you’ll pass the little Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd.
The two graves you see bear the stamps of buried Anglo-Boer War soldiers, one Trooper Hirschfords of Brabant’s Horse Regiment and Lance Corporal J Boyd of the Imperial Yeomanry Corps.
We’re still trying to find out how Trooper Hirschfords died (readers out there, please help!) but we know the story of Lance Corporal Boyd, who was initially wounded during a skirmish with Boers and took shelter in a nearby ravine.
Johannes Klue, a Boer soldier, came riding past. He startled Boyd, who shot him. A farmer heard the shot and went to check it out. He found the fatally wounded Klue and took him back to the farmstead where he died.
The farmer decided to bury Klue in the ravine, and while preparing the grave he came across the body of Lance Corporal Boyd. He buried both men side by side.
Only later did Boyd’s widow request that her husband be reinterred at the nearest Anglican Church graveyard – in this case, the Church of the Good Shepherd.
In Deneys Reitz’s classic Anglo-Boer War memoir, Commando, the author relates how, having been informed that General Jan Smuts had crossed the Swartberg into the district of Oudtshoorn, his commando makes its way towards the mountain range.
Apart from a rather bizarre encounter with a Cordier up on the slopes of Gamkaskloof (Die Hel), Reitz’s lot captured a British messenger outside Klaarstroom and he spilled the beans on where all his compatriots were bivouacked. Yet they still managed to get mixed up with enemy troops in the British-held Meiringspoort near Klaarstroom.
“The pass was not for us, because it was held by a garrison, but we decided to make use of the road for a while, as preferable to the boulder-strewn country through which we had been toiling,” he writes.
“This landed us in a mess, for we ran into a body of English horsemen. It was too dark to make out their strength, and we were so mixed up with them that no one could shoot. For a few seconds we were milling about, neither side quite certain whether we were dealing with friend or foe, and no one uttered a word for fear of precipitating trouble…we disengaged ourselves and turned back into the rough, while the English clattered away along the road without a shot having been fired.
“After this we went more carefully, and sunrise found us leading our horses up the street of a tiny village standing at the bottom of the pass. Dogs began to bark, and windows to open, and we saw soldiers running to a large building, so we mounted and rode hastily out.”
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