21 July 2011

The Maritz Rebellion

At the end of the Boer War in 1902, all Boer soldiers had been asked to sign an undertaking that they would abide by the peace terms. Some, like Deneys Reitz, refused and were exiled from South Africa. Over the following decade many returned home, and not all of them signed the undertaking upon returning. At the end of the Boer War those Boers who had fought to the end were known as "bittereinders" ("bitter enders"); by the time of the rebellion, those who had not taken the oath and wanted to start a new war had also become known as the "bittereinders".

The outbreak of hostilities in Europe in August 1914 had long been anticipated, and the government of the Union of South Africa was well aware of the significance of the common border South Africa shared with the German colony of South-West Africa. Prime Minister Louis Botha informed London that South Africa could defend itself and that the imperial garrison could depart for France; when the British government asked Botha whether his forces would invade German South-West Africa, the reply was that they could and would.

South African troops were mobilised along the border between the two countries under the command of General Henry Lukin and Lieutenant Colonel Manie Maritz early in September 1914. Shortly afterwards, another force occupied the German port of Lüderitz.

When the South African government had offered to invade the German colonies, the commander-in-chief of the Union Defence Force General Christiaan Beyers resigned, writing "It is sad that the war is being waged against the 'barbarism' of the Germans. We have forgiven but not forgotten all the barbarities committed in our own country during the South African War", referring to the atrocities committed during the Boer War. A nominated senator, General Koos de la Rey (who's grandmother was Johanna Elizabeth Du Buis/De Buys), who had refused to support the government in parliament over this issue, visited Beyers. On 15 September they set off together to visit Major JCG (Jan) Kemp in Potchefstroom, who had a large armoury and a force of 2,000 men who had just finished training, many of whom were thought to be sympathetic to the rebels' ideas.

Although it is not known what the purpose of their visit was, the South African government believed it to be an attempt to instigate a rebellion, as stated in the Government Blue Book on the rebellion. According to General Beyers it was to discuss plans for the simultaneous resignation of leading army officers as protest against the government's actions, similar to what had happened in Britain two years earlier in the Curragh incident over the Irish Home Rule Bill. On the way to the meeting General de la Rey was accidentally shot by a policeman at a road block set up to look for the Foster gang.

The Foster gang was a group of criminals who operated around Johannesburg and the Rand, during 1914. The gang, led by William Foster, committed various acts of robbery and murder. After a stand off with the police, the gang members and Foster's wife all committed suicide.

At General de la Rey's funeral, however, many Nationalist Afrikaners believed and perpetuated the rumour that it was a government assassination, which added fuel to the fire; this was even further inflamed by Siener van Rensburg and his controversial prophecies.

Jan Kemp, unknown rebel, Manie Maritz at Keetmanshoop in "German West"
General Maritz, who was head of a commando of Union forces on the border of German South-West Africa, allied himself with the Germans and issued a proclamation on behalf of a provisional government which stated that "the former South African Republic and Orange Free State as well as the Cape Province and Natal are proclaimed free from British control and independent, and every White inhabitant of the mentioned areas, of whatever nationality, are hereby called upon to take their weapons in their hands and realize the long-cherished ideal of a Free and Independent South Africa." It was announced that Generals Beyers, De Wet, Maritz, Kemp and Bezuidenhout were to be the first leaders of this provisional government. Maritz's forces occupied Keimoes in the Upington area. The Lydenburg commando under General De Wet took possession of the town of Heilbron, held up a train and captured government stores and ammunition. Some of the prominent citizens of the area joined him, and by the end of the week he had a force of 3,000 men. Beyers also gathered a force in the Magaliesberg; in all, about 12,000 rebels rallied to the cause. The irony was that General Louis Botha had around 32,000 troops to counter the rebels and of the 32,000 troops about 20,000 of them were Afrikaners.

The government declared martial law on 14 October 1914, and forces loyal to the government under the command of General Louis Botha and Jan Smuts proceeded to destroy the rebellion. General Maritz was defeated on 24 October and took refuge with the Germans. The Beyers commando was attacked and dispersed at Commissioners Drift on 28 October, after which Beyers joined forces with Kemp, but drowned in the Vaal River on 8 December. General De Wet was captured in Bechuanaland, and General Kemp, having taken his commando across the Kalahari desert, losing 300 out of 800 men and most of their horses on the 1,100 kilometre month-long trek, joined Maritz in German South-West Africa, but returned after about a week and surrendered on 4 February 1915.

After the Maritz rebellion was suppressed, the South African army continued their operations into German South West Africa and conquered it by July 1915.

The leading Boer rebels got off relatively lightly with terms of imprisonment of six and seven years and heavy fines. Two years later they were released from prison, as Louis Botha recognised the value of reconciliation. After this, the "bittereinders" concentrated on working within the constitutional system and built up the National Party which would come to dominate the politics of South Africa from the late 1940s until the early 1990s, when the apartheid system they had constructed also fell.

Picture: http://streamsandforests.wordpress.com/2010/02/14/deneys-reitz-in-wwi-the-maritz-rebellion/

02 July 2011

De Oosterland

Model of De Oosterland (The Model Shipyard)
The Oosterland (also known as “De Oosterlandt”) was a vessel of 1123 tons and was 160 feet long and 39 feet wide. It was built in 1685 at the Zeeland Yard, in Middelburg, for Amsterdam Chamber of the Dutch East India Company. It was owned and operated by the Dutch VOC company until it sank off the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa in 1697.

She set off for Asia for the first time in November 1685. Bad weather forced her return after only a fortnight, and it was to be February 1686 before she sailed again, eventually arriving in Batavia in five months later. She left for home at the end of that year, and stopped off at the Cape in March of 1687, loaded with cargo including spices as pepper, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and mace.

The Oosterland's second voyage, a very successful voyage of only 2 months and 10 days, from the Netherlands brought her back to the Cape in July 1688. Most voyages from the Netherlands took between 4 and 6 months! This time she carried refugees from France among her 33 passengers, including some Huguenot families who were to become significant in South Africa's later history.

Sarah Avicé
Châteaudun, Orléanais
Jean Cloudon
Condé-en-Brie, Champagne
Jean Du Bus
Marck, Picardie, Flanders
Jean Imbert
Nimes, Languedoc
Jacques Nourtier
Saint-Blaise, Picardie
Jean Nourtier
Saint-Blaise, Picardie
Jean Parisel
Villiers-le-Bel, Ile-de-France
Jacques Therond
Nimes, Languedoc
Pieter le Clerq
Serooskerk, Zeeland
Sara Cochet (wife)
Walcheren, Oost-Souberg
Abraham Zeeland (child 1)
Joost le Clerq (child 2)
Jeanne le Clerq (child 3)
Jacques De Savoye
Aeth, Hainaut
Marie Madeleine le Clerq (wife)
Antionette Carnoy (mother-in-law)
Tournai, Flanders
Marguérite-Thérèse (child 1) 17 years old
Barbe-Thérèse (child 2) 15 years old
Jacques (child 3) 9 months old
Jean Prieur Du Plessis
Poitiers, Poitou
Madeleine Menanteau (wife)
Poitiers, Poitou
Charles (child 1) born at sea
Daniel Nourtier
Saint-Blaise, Picardie
Marie Vitu (wife)
Guines, Picardie
Isaac Taillefert
Chateau Thierry, Champagne
Susanne Briet (wife)
Monneaux, Brie, Champagne
Elisabeth (child 1) 14 years old
Jean (child 2) 12 years old
Isaac (child 3) 7 years old
Pierre (child 4) 5 years old
Suzanne (child 5) 2 years old
Marie (child 6) 1 years old

For six months the ship traded between the VOC's stations in Asia, before returning home in August 1689. Her third trip, undertaken between February 1691 and October 1693, followed a similar pattern.

In July 1694, by now ten years old, the Oosterland left Holland again, this time as one of a fleet of 21 ships. After over a year of trading around Asia, she left Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in February 1697 with a cargo which included diamonds, and again set sail for home, this time in company with four other ships. Eleven people died aboard the Oosterland during her three month voyage to the Cape. It is possible that the quality of the drinking water caused not only these deaths, but also of the illness that struck 35 others of her complement. Having arrived once more at the Cape, in early May, the Oosterland and her companions waited for another dozen ships from Batavia to join them for the voyage home.

On 23 May 1697, a strong north-westerly gale blew up in Table Bay. One ship broke her anchor cables, those of another had to be cut, and the Oosterland was rammed and damaged by her drifting companions. On the next day, when the wind changed, the Oosterland went adrift, and this time hit the sea-bed near the mouth of the Salt River. As soon as she touched bottom, her main mast broke, and the hull began to break up. Of the more than three hundred people on board, only two survived.

Cape of Good Hope
17/05/1686 - 08/06/1686
Karel de Marville
20/03/1687 - 20/04/1687
25/04/1688 - 15/05/1688
Aamoud Scheiteruit
17/03/1689 - 17/04/1689
Aarnoud Scheiteruit
17/06/1691 - 20/07/1691
Aarnoud Scheiteruit
20/05/1693 - 12/06/1693
Pieter van Ede
31/12/1694 - 03/03/1695

All but the last voyage saw the vessel’s port of origin as Zeeland, the last port of origin was Amsterdam to which the vessel never returned.

The wreck of the Oosterland was discovered in 1988 by divers Graham Raynor, Michael Barchard and Christopher Byrnes. They immediately realised the significance of what they had found, and cntacted Bruno Werz, the Maritime Archaeologist based at the University of Cape Town. When the divers showed him photographs of two bronze cannon, found lying on the seabed, he identified them as having once belonged to the Dutch East India Company, and the National Monuments Council were then also informed of the find.

The wreck lay in only 6m of water, a few hundred metres from the entrance of the Milnerton Lagoon, where a combination of strong winds and currents, cold water temperatures and bad visibility, made diving very difficult.

The Oosterland excavation was notable because it was the first proper "maritime archaeology" project carried out in South African waters. The justification for "doing archaeology" lies in its ability to provide information that is not available in the documentary record. In the case of a shipwreck, such as the Oosterland, information can be gathered about what goods were carried on the ships, both as cargo and as personal effects, and also can be seen how they were packed. The complement of crew and passengers had to be self sufficient in both skills and equipment, due to the long periods of time spent at sea. Archaeology can help to learn about the social and technological aspects of this self-sufficiency.

Bruijn, J.R., Gaastra, F.S., Schöffer, I. Dutch-Asiatic Shipping In The 17th and 18th Centuries (3 Vols). The Hague, 1979, 1987
Turner, Malcom. Shipwrecks & Salvage in South Africa, 1505 to the present. Cape Town, 1988
The Huguenots Story (from France to South Africa) By Leon Coetzee and Frans Jordaan