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Delville Wood Cemetery!


cockney tone
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Ladies & Gents,

Pal's,

a bit of a long shot but somebody may know?

My Grandfather fought in the British Army in the Boer War and I have recently been undertaking a bit of research on the conflict.

I am aware that several of the more, lets say high profile Boer fighters went onto to fight along side the British in the Great War, but it occured to me that many of the ordinary Boer Soldiers may well have served as well and I was wondering if any of them are among the lads in the Cemetery at Delville Wood?

As I say a long shot but somebody may know the answer?

Regards and best wishes,

Scottie.

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Hi Scottie

They didn't have to be high profile to span both Wars, I have a number in my study area who fought in both - none in Delville Wood as far as I can see, though.

Graham

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  • 2 months later...

About 35% of the 1st SAI Brigade were "Boers" as you term them (not the correct term by the way).

I am not really sure what the question is. I think what you are asking is how many were English speaking South Africans and how many were Afrikaans (Boers) speaking South Africans. The Country had already formed a Union in 1910 (8 years after the Boer War). There was still (understandably considering) a large mount of negative feeling amongst the Afrikaans speaking portion of the population toward the Empire.

In fact, after the Great War began, the SA Army had to first suppress a Rebellion (the term used but it was scarcely a rebellion) from portions of the Afrikaans community. This is why the War in German South West Africa was placed on hold from September 1914 to around May 1915.

The term "Boer" means farmer in Afrikaans and Dutch and was a global name incorrectly given to all the Afrikaans speaking people around the Boer War. Obviously, they were not all farmers.

I suppose to explain it in terms you may understand, your question is like asking how many Canadians were Canadians (English) and how many were French. They are all Canadians, just have 2 home languages.

I hope this clears it up.

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As mentioned, many of the dead were Afrikaaners. It is interesting to note that they all served as cavalry in the Anglo Boer War. They were excellent marksmen and indeed still are. I am an English speaking South African. To this day there is a lot of rivalry and baiting between us and the Afrikaaners. But let there be no doubt about the value of having these guys on your side. I served with them in the South African Army and they are valued comrades even to this day....

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Here is a good example of the English/Afrikaans distinction

Stone 1 is a headstone of an Afrikaaner W.A. Groenewald

His Rank is given as Burg or short for burgher which in English means Citizen.

He was a member of the 4th South African Infantry ( Scottish) which was raised in Johannesburg. The ZA INFANTERIE means Zuid Afrikaanse Infantrie....in those days Afrikaans leant heavily on it's Dutch origin.

The other headstone belongs to an English member of the same regiment. Interestingly enough JS Hodge was a pupil at St Johns College.

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What's the significance of the language that the headstones are engraved with?

Being a bilingual country, most (if not all) important messages were listed in both languages.

The inscription "Union is strength" and "Eendracht maak maght" are the same wording, in English and then in old Afrikaans (or Afrikaans of the day). It was the wording on the Coat of Arms of the Union of 1910.

If it were today the Afrikaans would read "Eendrag maak mag"

To be honest, I am a little surprised. I always understood it to say "Unity is Strength" not "Union......" anyway, I don't suppose it matters now and funny how you never REALLY notice something until it is brought to your attention.

The words "UNITY IS STRENGTH" was used as the theme for the new South African flag..... "The central design of the flag, beginning at the flagpost in a 'V' form and flowing into a single horizontal band to the outer edge of the fly, can be interpreted as the convergence of diverse elements within South African society, taking the road ahead in unity. The theme of convergence and unity ties in with the motto Unity is Strength of the previous South African Coat of Arms."

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Pal's,

thank you for your continued interest and posts.

marechalfayolle,

Sorry that i did not thank you for your input before, sadly I missed it!

Fat Frank,

Hope I did not offend but the conflict is generally known here as the Boer war, hence my use of the term.

My question is quite simple, how many of the men in South African Graves at Deville Wood were fighting on the Boer side in the previous conflict? the reason I asked was that I have quite an interest in the Boer war and have been researching my Grandfather's small part in it all and when I next visit Delville Wood I would visit them to pay my respects.

Begards and best wishes,

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Cockney

I live out here and if there is anything I can help you with with please let me know. I will be happy to help.

I am going to the Natal battlefields Ladysmith, Colenso Dundee, etc in december. I am taking my son-in-law who is from UK and whose ancestors were also involved.

Son-in -law did a few years in the Royal Marines.

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Fat Frank, Hope I did not offend ......

Please, no offence taken.

It is just that the circumstances around this are generally misunderstood and I took this as an ideal opportunity to try and clear up some of the misconceptions. It was known as the Boer War as you correctly point out. The much more PC (we all know how important PC is.....) name is the South African War.

To go back to your original question, it would be hard to say how many of the 35% Afrikaans speaking members of the 1st SAI actually took part in the South African War on the Boer side. It would be no doubt that the 35% would "generally" (please don't jump on me for the generlisation) be from Afrikaans stock and the 3rd SAI was raised in Johannseburg (Transvaal and Rhodesia), part of the old Boer Republic. The 2nd SAI was raised in Durban and was raised as "Natal and Free State, Free State also an old Boer Republic.

The strangest would be the Jocks (4th SA Scottish I). Bravo and Charlie Companies were raised in the Transvaal and if I may take a quote from Ian Uys, "Some of the Afrikaners that joined were called "real Scots" because they could speak no English"

There certainly were members (and many references to them in the various books about the 1st SAI and Delville Wood ) and if you think about it, the Supreme Commander of the South African Army and the commander of the army that conquered (is that the right word?) German South West Africa was a "Boer" General. Later, General Smuts (of East Africa and then WW11 and finally Field Marshall and Prime Minister) was also a "Boer" Commander.

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................researching my Grandfather's small part in it ....

If you come this way (SA I mean, not Delville), I will put you in touch with a great Gunner that has ooooodles of info on the War and could take you on a excellent tour. He may even be able to put something together to suit your Grandfathers movements.

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.......the ordinary Boer Soldiers.....

Just going through the names on the graves on the CWGC list at Delville Wood, only 4 stand out as obvious Afrikaner names, Froneman, Groenewald, Taljaard and van Blerk. I have reference somewhere where Groenewald was known to be a bit of a character.

At the inspection by Queen Mary and Prince Albert (King George had fallen off his horse and was unable to take the inspection), the Prince stopped and asked him why he, as a “boer” was now fighting with the Commonwealth. He replied “last time you were wrong, this time you are right”.

Going through the Roll of Honour, the number is much greater but many of the bodies in the wood (583 I think) were never recovered and buried.

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Frank & Parabat01,

thanks for your interesting input, really appreciate it and the kind offer of assistance with my quest.

I am hoping to finally get to South Africa next October and follow my Grandfathers footsteps, he was actually wounded during a little disagreement just below Olphants Nek in January 1901.

Anyway at risk of going off thread and incuring the wrath of the Mods back to the Great War, what triggered my enquiry was I visited some Great War graves from my Grandfathers Border Regiment in Authiulle and it transpires one of them was a veteran of the Boer/South African War so would have served alongside him. This got me thinking that there could well be some South African vets laying in Delville Wood alongside some Brit Vets!

Anyway thanks for your input,

Regards,

Scottie.

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The inscription "Union is strength" and "Eendracht maak maght" are the same wording, in English and then in old Afrikaans (or Afrikaans of the day). It was the wording on the Coat of Arms of the Union of 1910.

The wording on the headstones is actually "Eendracht maakt macht", which I believe is straight Dutch. It's certainly still in use in the Netherlands, and it's the Dutch language version of the motto "L'union fait la force" on the coat of arms of Belgium.

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Cockney

Your granddad was in the cavalry was he?

The British Cavalry was used extensively in that area. It adjoins the Marico area from whence came the noted Gen. de la Rey of rebellion fame. The area is to this day an Afrikaaner stronghold.

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No!

The poor devil was in the Infantry (Border regiment) and had to walk everywhere! :huh:

They had been on an out post on Oliphants Nek for some time but then ventured South with General Clements who under estimated his enemy!

De Le Rey was apparently involved in the skirmish that my Grandfather was injured in!

Regards,

Scottie.

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I know of a few places where skirmishes took place.

There was one site which I have seen near Olifants Nek which was a British Army campsite. One can still see the rings of stones used to hold down the bottoms of the bell tents. It is a good position with access from only two sides and commands a good interlocked field of fire.....

Good luck on your visit. There is a lot of history in the area.

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After years of trying in I think I have pinpointed it?

Middelfontein Farm, which is now on the Thaba Phuti Safari Lodge! (www.thabaphuti.com)

Would love to know the location of your find!

Regards,

Scottie.

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Roger that...standby

I'll dig out my old surveyor's maps of the area and have a look. I have some good information on that area.

The British Soldier, like all others, is a lazy sob when nobody is looking. When striking camp, they had the habit of picking up the entire tent from inside by using the tent pole. This left those rings of stone around the base intact. The British army, being a disciplined orgainisation, and having a drill for everything, laid out their campsites in a particular fashion.

This allowed curious idiots like me to find the rubbish dump in each case. Upon excavating them, several items of huge interest were found. Camphor bottles, cartridge cases, pill bottles and much else have been recovered from these rubbish dumps.

You should read Thomas Pakenhams book on the Anglo Boer War.

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I better PM you as we are straying off the Great War. Would be very interested in any info you could provide!

I have Pakenham's book in pride of place on my bookshelf!

Interesting what you say about the attitude of the Tommy, I have read that the Boers would always visit a campsite after it had been vacated by the Brits and scrounge what had been left, apparently they often recovered live bullets as it appears the Tommies would not bother to pick up bullets they had dropped whilst loading as ammo was plentiful!

Regards,

Scottie

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You should be able to once you reach ten posts! hopefully you will have reached a lily pad by now! :D

Regards,

Scottie.

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  • 6 years later...

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