Family Photos – just not mine! December 11, 2019
Junk Shop Finds and SA POWs WW2 ! April 13, 2019
RHENISH – Our Century 1860-1960. continued. Weddings! April 7, 2019
A letter sent in for the centenary book by a former teacher at the school Mrs D. LIEBENBERG nee MEIRING
( This is not a pic of any of the weddings mentioned in the book but at least gives an idea of what a 1930’s wedding may have looked like)
” On the staff were three musketeers as they were called, Joyce LOWE, Florence THRESHER and Louise MEIRING – a happy trio always together, playing, but also working hard. And one day the shares in the matrimonial market rose high. There was to be a wedding IN the Rhenish – the first ever to have as hostess the Alma Mater. A young Lochinvar had come out of the West, nay the East, for young Arthur SHAVE of Durban had stormed the Rhenish Heights to claim his bride-to-be, and so on September 7th, 1929, Florence THRESHER and Arthur SHAVE were wed in that charming little Anglican Church on the Braak. Everybody had a finger in the pie. Choirs were trained by our beloved Mrs. LUCKHOFF who mothered us all, and by Miss BROMAN. There the bride, supported by her Musketeers, Joyce and Lou listened to the wedding ceremony. The glory of the reception followed in the garden beneath the old historic pergola of vines . Sweetmeats were prepared, for Hazel PHILLIPS was in charge here, and so impressive was her effort that she later married the bestman, Gerald WRIGHT. Flowers which arrived from homes of pupils were in the artistic care of Aunty Nell, Mrs. SCHULZ, while Miss KRUMMUCK and her housekeeping staff excelled themselves.. It was a wedding never to be forgotten. From the little Juliet balcony before the bride drove away Mrs SHAVE cast her bouquet which was caught by Foster VAN DER BYL who later took Holy Orders and entered the Anglican Church.
Following in Florence SHAVE’s footsteps the next September, Joyce LOWE was taken away as a bride by handsome Eric CHAPMAN. Then true to “must-get-there” tradition, Louise MEIRING followed suite by becoming Dirk LIEBENBERG’s wife on September the 18th, 1931. And for ever after we cherish happy memories of years well spent at our beloved Rhenish”
Having done some research online I find that Florence THRESHER, the first of the “three musketeers” to be married ,was in fact Stella Florence Youle THRESHER. She was the daughter of Frederick Youle THRESHER and his wife Stella Bianca. Florence was born on the 17th of February 1900 in Bloemfontein.
As we know, Florence married Arthur SHAVE at the Rhenish in September of 1929.
The groom was the son of George Codner SHAVE and his wife Georgina nee HOWARD both of whom were born in England.
It would seem that Florence married in to a very well to do family as Arthur’s father’s estate was worth.more than sixty thousand pounds which was a great deal of money in 1932! He owned various properties in Prince Edward Street in Durban, Kinfauns Bellair part of Sea Farm Durban, a factory ( Bellair) and more land on Sea View farm , as well as a half shares in 3 erfs in Springs Transvaal !
According to the Wesleyan Church Natal Parish Registers the couple had a son David Codner SHAVE born on December 21st 1930 and baptised March 21st 1931.I have found one baptism record for a child March 21st 1931 Wesleyan Methodist Natal. One of the Sponsors was a Youle THRESHER, and the other, just showing the friendship continued unabated,was none other than a fellow “musketeer” Joyce Millicent CHAPMAN!
Sadly Arthur George SHAVE died on the fourth of October 1951, aged 53, at the couples home “Longacre in Kenilworth ( Wynberg Distict) He is buried in Plumstead cemetery.
The second Musketeer to be married was Joyce LOWE who was born in Aliwal North on the 8th of May 1902 .
At the age of 28 Joyce pledged her vows to Eric CHAPMAN(27) at St. James’ Church Stamford Hill Durban
Joyce and Eric went on to have 2 children , a daughter Pamela who married Richard HOLDERNESS and a son Paul Dowsett CHAPMAN .
Joyce died aged 61 years and 9 months in Lagden Rd, Maseru, Basutoland, on 2nd March 1964.
The last “musketeer” to be married was Louise Christiana MEIRING who at the age of 28 pledged her troth to Dirk Jacobus LIEBENBERG ( 30, a teacher) The happy couple were both residing in Rondebosch when they were married on the 18th of September 1931 at the DRC Rondebosch.
Amazing what info a small paragraph in a book can help to unearth!! Hope you found it interesting
Thanks for reading – Nikki 🙂
As I have to spend some time in Cape Town, I of course, have been taking myself off to visit used bookshops as and when I can! 🙂
The one I am blogging about here I found in a charity shop, it is battered and dog-eared but that matters not a jot as it was cheap as chips and still contains all the lovely historical names and nuggets that make it interesting for lovers of genealogy and South African history alike.
Before delving into the history of the school the book quotes from a pamphlet dated 1860 and written by H.A.J. B Hammerschmidt a medical man who spent 2 years in Stellenbosch. The pamphlet mentions some of the residents of Stellenbosch at the time and so I will include some of them here.
“In Stellenbosch resides the highly esteemed District Magistrate, D. van RYNEVELD, Esq., also the District Surgeon, J. VERSFELD, M.D., ……….there is a Government Free School under Mr. H. McCLACHLAN’s able guidance, also a very efficient private school of the Rev. F. CARLYON, and besides this there are six other private schools, amongst which the one recently opened by Mr. PRETORIUS may be noticed……..2 spirit distilleries ( Mr. T. FAIRCLOUGH & MR. D. BOSMAN), 3 flour mills ( Mr. W.HUNT, Mr. M. NEETHLING, and Mr. T FAIRCLOUGH), ……..one post office ( Mr. LIESCHING), one auctioneers office ( Mr. WEGE), ……3 fruit-tree nurseries ( Mr. Jan VAN DER BYL, Mrs. Wid. WIUM and Mr. John MARAIS).”
The book then returns to its main aim, that being to inform us about the Rhenish Institute which was responsible for establishing, in 1860, the first boarding school for girls in South Africa. The school began in premises on Alexander Street in the house next door to “Coachman’s Cottage”. It is recorded that at the time the book was written (1960) these premises had been demolished and the place where the school had been was now a vacant stand.
(Coachman’s Cottage Stellenbosch
(Later premises of the Institute)
The first 8 young ladies to attend the school were
The Principal was Miss Bertha VOIGT assisted by Miss PIEPER.
I am off now to see if I can find out online more about about these first Rhenish Girls and their teachers! Will report back in another blog if I do!
Thanks for reading 🙂 x
KNOW YOUR RHODESIA & NYASALAND 2 March 24, 2019
Three-In-One Garden Memorial
The second article I found in this book of articles by The Rhodesian Herald published in 1956 also relates to pioneer nurses in Rhodesia, this time in Mutare. It concerns a memorial situated about a mile and a half on the Umtali ( Mutare) side of the road to Penhalonga. On a small road that branches off to the east at a junction was a sign which read “Pioneer Nurses Memorial”.
The article tells that if one were to follow the sign’s directions a short climb up the road would bring you to a delightfully situated and well-kept garden facing west.
The garden is described as having terraced flower beds, a fine fig tree, and flowering shrubs.
The first memorial in the garden was in the form of a seat made from concrete blocks set in a stone surround, with a metal plaque that reads;
” On this spot Bishop Knight-Bruce’s Nursing Sisters, Rose Blennerhasset, Lucy Sleeman, Beryl Welby, after an arduous up-country walk from the east coast and within a day of their arrival in Mashonaland opened a Camp Hospital and thereby inaugurated Nursing Services in the colony 14th July 1891″
I googled the memorial and Zimfieldguide.com tells me that the seat was constructed under a great fig tree known as the “IndabaTree” Sadly the tree is no longer there. The seat was erected by Rezende Mine in 1941 to mark the 50th anniversary of the nurses’ journey from Beira. ( should anyone reading this want to know more about the nurses’ journey be wanting to visit the site go to http://zimfieldguide.com/manicaland/nurses-memorial where you will find directions and a whole lot more very interesting information )
Another wonderful site worth visiting, to learn more about these intrepid nurses especially Rose Blennerhassett is http://www.blennerhassettfamilytree.com/Rose-Blennerhassett.php. Here I learned that at the time of their trek from Beira Rose was aged 40, Lucy 26, and Beryl 30. Apparently Rose and Lucy wrote a book entitled “Adventures in Mashonaland so that is definitely one to look out for if you are intrigued to learn more!
A second memorial takes the form of a sundial mounted on a stone pedestal. Stuated on the westerly edge of the garden this memorial bears a metal plaque with the following inscription;
Erected in 1950
To the Memory of those who came first.
Col. P. D’Andrada
G.B. Dunbar Moodie
Baron De Rezende
These men were in this valley prior to the occupation of Rhodesia.
In an effort to find out what I can about these men I tuned to friend google! Col. P D’Andrada was apparently a soldier in the Mozambique Company bent on establishing Portuguese claims in Rhodesia by some sort of occupation. He was a compatriot of Baron De Rezende. They both ended up at loggerheads with the Chartered Company. You can read the story in the following PDF.
I will update this as and when I come across info on the others.
There is also a third memorial in the garden in the form of the gate which bears the initials C.J.R and the date 1953. It is a Rhodes Centenary Memorial.
KNOW YOUR RHODESIA & KNOW NYASALAND 1 March 21, 2019
This very informative book published by The Rhodesian Printing and Publishing Company in 1956 encompasses 300 selections from The Rhodesia Herald.
Combining my love of books, history and writing, I thought, before selling it on, it would be interesting to blog about some of the articles I have found amidst it’s pages.
The Story of Salisbury’s Hospitals
This article to be found on page 251 of the book, informs me that Father Hartmann, a chaplain to the Pioneer Column, opened the first hospital in Salisbury in 1890. The hospital consisted of three huts a marquee and a couple of tents situated on land near the Makabusi River. It could accommodate +/- 12 patients and was run by a Dr. Rand and one Police orderly.
(pic of Makabusi River now known as Mukuvisi from http://zimfieldguide.com/harare/mukuvisi-woodlands-wildlife-and-environment-centre)
Father Andrew Hartmann
Wanting to know more of the “Father Hartmann” mentioned above I took to Family Search to see if I could find more details among the records that can be found in their online archives. Yes, my luck was in and I managed to find his death notice providing me with a lot more insight into the man who opened the first hospital. His full name was Andrew Hartmann and he was born in Austria circa 1851. At the time of his death on the 27th of December 1928 he is recorded as being single with his usual place of residence being Hartmann Hill. His occupation was recorded as Priest in Charge. Father Hartmann died at Salisbury Hospital and the death notice records his intended place of burial as Chishawasha Mission.
Perhaps I could find out more about Father Andrew Hartmann by consulting my copy of the Historical Dictionary of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe by R. Kent Rasmussen? Once again I was in luck! This dictionary further tells me that Father Andrew Hartmann a Jesuit Missionary travelled to Bulawayo as a priest in the “Zambezi Mission” of 1888. He then spent two years with a Peter Prestage at “Empandeni” before serving as a Roman Catholic Chaplain with the “BSAC Pioneer Column” On behalf of the Jesuits he accepted a tract of land near Salisbury where he and Prestage founded the Chishawasha Mission. In later years he returned to “Empandeni” where he stayed until 1924.
It seems somewhat fitting that the hospital that Andrew Hartmann originally opened should provide a place for him to spend his last days and that a mission, Chishawasha, also founded by him should provide his final resting place.
Dr. Richard Frank Rand
So who was the Dr. Rand mentioned in the article as being the person who ran the first hospital in Salisbury? I dug around in my bookshelf and eventually found mention of him in my copy of the book Men Who Made Rhodesia A Register Of Those Who Served In The British South Africa Company’s Police. by Colonel A.S. Hickman. Here I read that the person in question was one Richard Frank Rand, a Surgeon Captain with the B.S.A.C. He was born in Essex and educated in Edinburgh, his full title being, Surgeon- Captain Richard Frank Rand, F.R.C.S. ( Eng.), M.D. (Edin.) Rand practised in Jamaica before travelling to Kimberley in South Africa where he met Rhodes who persuaded him to give up his practice in in Johannesburg and join an expedition to Mashonaland as senior medical officer of the Company’s Police. Rand is described in the book as being earnest, studious and sincere with plenty to say for himself whilst having a refreshing and dry sense of humour. He was a member of the first local body, the Sanitary Board established in Salisbury in 1891. He was not however in favour of the Hospital Board, established in 1892, and thus resigned from the service of the Company and became the first Private practitioner in Salisbury. He was resident surgeon at Mother Patrick’s first hospital and was apparently famous for his fever cure known as “Rand’s Kicker”, which was said to be an effective but most unpleasant mixture. Jeannie Boggie’s book Experiences of Rhodesia’s Pioneer Women also mentions “Rand’s Kicker! Apparently a Mr. J Caruther’s referred to it as a beastly mixture that left its nauseous taste for hours afterwards, but was however a sure cure. Mr W.H. Smart of Gwelo asked Dr. Rand why it was called “Kicker” to which the doctor replied “Well, it’s either because people kick so much against swallowing it or the mixture kicked all the fever out of them.”
Later Rand ran a practice from a hut in Pioneer Street where a white house was eventually built behind the surgery. He is said to have been looked upon with great affection by his patients. In his spare time Dr. Rand was a keen botanist whose passion for plants and flowers meant much of his spare time was spent collecting and identifying them. His investigations led to a number of species being added to the herbarium of the British Museum.
(From Men Who Made Rhodesia – Col. A.S. Hickman. Surgeon Capt.Richard Frank Rand is in the back row)
A delightful story concerning Dr. Rand is recorded in Hickman’s book. It tells of how, called to a patient in Mazoe, Dr. Rand rode off with his surgical bag only to find the Gwebi River in full flood. Having decided that it would be best for the horse to swim across while he held its tail , Dr. Rand stripped off, made a bundle of his clothes and bag, and tied these to the horse’s saddle. Both he and the horse did reach the other side, however the horse was slightly ahead and thus got up the steep and slippery bank before the good doctor could! He trotted on ahead with Rand trailing behind in only his hat. One by one the doctor’s boots fell off the saddle. He retrieved them both and arrived at Mazoe behind his horse still wearing only his boots and hat!
By 1894 Rand was reducing his involvement with medicine and had become managing director of the Mount Darwin Syndicate, a mining company. He served in the South African War of 1899-1902 returning to Rhodesia in 1910 but due to deafness hampering his work he returned to England until he once again served with the South African Forces as a Lieutenant Colonel in World War I. He later practised in Hartley until retiring to England where he died at Brightlingsea, Essex in 1937.
Mother Patrick and the Dominican Sisters.
(pic- Experiences of Rhodesia’s Pioneer Women – Jeannie M. Boggie)
In July 1891, Mother Patrick arrived with 4 other sisters and took over the hospital. They moved to new premises at the end of that year. By 1901 the hospital work had become too much for the sisters and Miss Ronaldson took over as matron.
The story of Mother Patrick and her work in Rhodesia is well known but wanting to know more about the other four Dominican sisters who travelled with her I did some internet searching and have learned from information I found online that they were Sister Berchmans Dreier aged 26 ( German), Sister Bonaventura Kaltenstadler, aged 20, ( German), Sister Amica Kilduff, aged 35, of Irish stock but born in South Africa. and Sister Constantia Frommknecht aged 24 ( from St Ursula in Augsburg Germany). They travelled more than 1200 miles by ox-wagon to Fort Salisbury arriving on July 27 1891. they took up their duty at the primitive hospital there on the 1st of August. Amazing how little time they took to recover from such an epic journey! ( info from https://dominicanmissionarysisters.org/about-us/our-story/ )
Family Search gave me more info on some of the Sisters in question.
Sister Berchmans Dreier lived until the ripe old age of 92 and was residing at the Borrowdale Convent at the time of her death on 31st January, 1957. Her death notice tells us that she died at St. Anne’s Hospital and was to be buried at Salisbury Cemetery. She was at the time known as Rev. Mother Mary Berchmans and her surname is recorded as Dreyer.
Sister Amica Kilduff lived until age 89, she died at The Anglesey Borrowdale Road on the 8th of December 1943. Her death notice records her as Catharine Kilduff ( Mother Amica).
According to my copy of Jean Boggie’s book Experiences of Rhodesia’s Pioneer Women the pioneer band of Sisters travelled in a double-size wagon which the troops who travelled with them affectionately named “Noah’s Ark.” They took with them a tent to serve as a chapel and in it Holy Mass was said daily.
There is a description of the first hospital that the sisters arrived at in Fort Salisbury “The hospital consisted of a few wattle and daub huts, which had belonged to Father Hartmann, a large marquee and a few tents, but the only couch for the sick was the damp earth. Calico was used as windows. in place of glass. Huts were erected for the Sisters, but were not completed when they arrived, so for some time they lived in their Noah’s Ark.” The book goes on further to describe the new buildings constructed later in 1891- two wattle and daub wards, two huts for women, and a canvas ward for eight patients. There was also a canvas “house for the Sisters. Both canvas buildings had a corrugated iron roof, supported by posts.
By 1892 the Sisters were terribly overworked at the hospital( 308 patients had passed through the hospital in the first few months of that year) and reinforcements were sent for. Boggie’s book tells us that when eventually brick building were erected to house the hospital a “joyful bonfire” was made of the old thatched wards! In September 1894 the B.S.A. Reports recorded that a new large brick hospital was being erected . According to Boggie’s book this took the form of three sides of a square, had boarded floors, post- mortem room, mortuary, operating theatre, etc. ” So at last dear Mother Patrick was going her rounds in a beautiful new hospital , saying:’Oh, the delight of a wooden floor to walk on; real beds, real windows, and real doors, which actually open and shut!’.”
In 1912 after much debate the new Salisbury Hospital was erected on it’s present site.
By 1956 when the book was published there were a number of hospitals in the capital.
St Anne’s was run by the Sisters of the Little Company of Mary.
The Lady Chancellor Nursing Home for maternity cases had originally started in premises on North Avenue and was named for the wife of Southern Rhodesia’s first Governor.
The Princess Margaret Hospital which was at that time for Coloured and Asian patients only was opened by its namesake in 1953.
CHOO CHOO …. South African Railways Enthusiasts, All Aboard ! November 18, 2018
It seems to me that there are book addicts and train addicts and then there are those who are a combination of both!
There are a few books that satisfy the addiction to both, in equal measure.
The first one I would like to share with you is a delightful little book entitled Historical Railway Postcard Journeys in Southern Africa by David Hind and Michael Walker. This hardback was published in a limited edition in 1996 and has 286 pages plus a fold-out map enclosed at the back.
As you turn the pages you are taken on a pictorial postcard rail journey and the scenes en-route that existed in South Africa at the turn of the century, the stations, the bridges, and the fashions.
The Postcard index of stations records 94 stations from Abbabis to Wynberg and the list of maps contained in the book includes, Southern African Railways 1904. This is the large folded map found enclosed at the back cover. Other maps included in the pages of the book are The Route of the Rand Tram, The Swakopmund- Windhuk Railway and The Beira to Umtali Railway.
The book is illustrated with facsimile reproductions of several hundred old postcards.
What an absolute treat and insight into the South Africa of a bygone era.
Have a look at my sales listing on Bidorbuy for more pics, just click on the BOB button on the top right-hand side of my blog page. 🙂
Elusive Aunty Agatha ! – South African Genealogy/ Family History Look-ups offered. ( From my extensive collection of various Who’s Who of South Africa ( 1912 onwards) Women of SA 1918 Cape Of Good Hope Civil Service Lists 1900 &1908 and many many more SA genealogy related titles.) November 8, 2014
While considering the ultimate question, “How can I combine another of my passions with my business” it suddenly occurred to me that there is a way!
I have been collecting books for many years now especially those that may contain info on South African family history and/or genealogy. My bookshelves are now bulging with various editions of the Who’s Who of Southern Africa with the earliest being 1912, The Cape Civil Service lists for 1900 and 1908. Women of South Africa, more than 50 editions of Africana Notes and News, and BSAP Men Who made Rhodesia amongst many, many ,other scarce and relevant titles.
I love nothing more than trying to help people find out more about their family history. The excitement that an interesting snippet of information hidden away in a dusty old tome can bring to someone who is building their family tree, and the story that goes with it, is always a joy.
Hence I have decided to offer look ups If you are wondering if you can trust me with your hard earned cash, as you can see, if you hit the Bob button on the right of this blog I have been selling books on Bidorbuy since 2008 and am a verified seller with more than 1000, 100% positive ratings, from my customers.
I am excited to get going on this new adventure and hope you are too! J
How will this work and what will it cost?
1.) Simply make an enquiry via this blogs comments section giving me details of name, area, dates etc relating to a specific person, or just a surname if you are collecting information on a particular family name ( This would obviously result in a lot more info) . ( Please do not leave details of living individuals out of respect for their privacy).
2.) I will search through my books and should I find relevant information will answer your enquiry with a quote based on the amount of information I would need to type up ( at a rate of 20c per word and R5 per scanned photo).
3.) Should the quote be agreeable to you
I can accepts payments via EFT or Paypal
How will I receive the information?
Once you have placed your order and paid the agreed amount, I will type up the relevant information and send it to your email address as an attached Word document and/or photo attachment. I will endeavour to get the information to you as quickly as possible. The time it will take me is obviously related to the amount of information I have found.
An example below, with a scan of the relevant head and shoulders photo ( see above), would cost you R17
Extract From 1912 South African Who’s Who
“DE SMIDT, John Pascal Larkins, Magistrate, Rhodesian Civil Service; b. 8th Feb., 1871, at Clanwilliam, C.C.; s. of the late Wm. De Smidt, M.L.A. Educ. Diocesan College, Rondebosch; m. 11th Sept. 1900, Henrietta Eliza Foster; 3 sons. Joined Cape Colony Civil Service Jan., 1890. Transferred to Rhodesia Nov., 1897. Mem. Bulawayo Club. Add., Bulawayo Rhodesia.”
Not Old Prunes …..but Prunitians June 5, 2014
Now here is another of my treasures that I have had stashed away for a while now and am reluctantly adding to my auction listings. (Excuse the noise, it is my family giving me a round of applause !)
BUT before I do let me share a little!
Garnered on a particularly fruitful book buying expedition ( pardon the pun!!) , this book is another of those unprepossessing looking tomes that holds a wealth of history of days gone by, between its covers. I chuckled to myself when I saw the title as I immediately wondered if Old boys from this Rhodesian school were known as Old Prunes but I have since educated myself via friend Google and established that they are in fact known by the far more flattering title of Old Prunitians.
The book is written ( and SIGNED I might add!) by J.B. Clarke who was the headmaster of the school at the time of publication ( 1978). From my cyber- investigations I gather it is a pretty scarce volume which contains, amongst other delights, especially from a genealogists point of view, a Roll of Honour and wonderful name lists for various sports, heads, etc.
I particularly love the entry for “ Attendance Record”
“ H.B. ( Chookie) Watson started school at the tender age of 4 years and 4 days. When he left in May 1932 he had been at Plumtree for 14 years, 8 months and 19 days. Joey Rackham is the runner-up with 13 years and 5 months.”
And in the beginning……. The first school was conducted in a Rondavel in the garden of a Mr Smith before it moved to the Dining room of The Plumtree Hotel which was managed at the time by a Mr. Barclay. It then moved, along with a dozen or so pupils who included children from the , Clark, Van Rooyen, Lees , Roods, Smith and Webster families among them, to the Customs House.
According to an old account book, the school, on its present site, was built in 1902 on Stands 8 and 9 of Plumtree Trading Lots.
The book relates Edgar Lloyd’s description of the building operations he was tasked with!
“ We determined to begin by building huts, and some five huts were planned to be built in a half circle to serve as a nucleus for a school and a chapel for boarders. At first these were to have been quite humble huts. Somehow they grew bigger and finer and proved a more onerous and costly business than we had anticipated. The BSA Co in the person of Mr. Marshall Hole gave permission for us to cut great numbers of poles. These were transported by the wagon of Mr. “Bulala” Taylor, who gave us a good deal of help in those days. We were cast pretty much on our own resources though I got many hints about building from well-wishers and especially from members of the B.S.A.P stationed at Tegwani. John Hallward the Railway Chaplain ( he had succeeded Mr. Foggarty) would appear from time to time in the course of his perigrinations up and down the line……..I can see him in my mind’s eye at this distance of time with his big bulk on a skeleton roof, hammering in nails, which as often as not refused to enter the hard Mopani wood. Then someone told us of the advantages of bit and brace. We finished off speedily all our bits the first day. I can still recall our exasperation and consternation when this calamity happened. I was eager, impatient and impetuous …..(but) big John would say “ This is just part of our day’s work, don’t let us have the lust of finishing it upon us”. He was a big man in more ways than one. He took long views and had the strength that comes from repose and a disciplined spirit…. His wisdom often stood me in good stead.
“We learnt by experience, the right kind of cross pieces wherewith to thread our roofs. The first roof got riddled with borers, the result of the lack of knowledge …..Very early in the work the thatcher took himself off, and I had to thatch for myself as well as train certain raw Barotse…….. I can still see myself at the very apex of one hut…….sewing and beating up the grass…..One learned how to clean grass, tie it in bundles and lay it rightly…….We saw ourselves laying the rude foundations of a great school.”
I never cease to be amazed at the resilience of people living Africa in those early days. We may be grateful that these days, parent’s efforts toward assisting schools, seldom means getting involved in the actual building operations , thatching, plastering with mud or the removal of anthills!!
BUT …. then again, there is something magical about those days and starting things from scratch don’t you think?
I guess that you all know by now that I grow rather attached to some of the books that I find. This one was a very well hidden little gold mine. Its black cover with nothing on it to reveal it’s hidden depths had obviously fooled less pedantic perusers of the shop which was guarding it. Until my particularly probing proboscis arrived to sniff it out that is!
As my eye’s fell upon its pages, my mind did a little victory dance. Inside it had been bound five 1945 issues of a small magazine entitled “Our Prisoners of War” or “ Ons Krygsdevangenes” in Afrikaans.
These publications, produced by The South African Prisoners-of-War Association, were issued to next-of –kin, free of charge. The text is in both English and Afrikaans.
As the granddaughter of a man who was held as an English POW in Oflag VIIB I found the contents of these magazines both heart-wrenching and exciting. Exciting in that they hold details of the circumstances of so many brave men that would be lost forever had publications such as these not been produced. They contain extracts from letters from the camps, photos of missing men, small details that the history books containing only cold hard facts do not provide.
They talk of camp rugby games, friendships formed in camps and give interesting explanations of how the prisoners passed their time.
One heart-warming extract from these magazines was extracted from a letter written by a Pvt. C.D. Humphry , who had taken the time to write and reassure a Mrs. R.V. Dawson of Toise River Cape Province about the safety of her husband.
His letter was dated Dec 11th 1944
“ I am afraid that this letter will be a great surprise and a very welcome one. Perhaps I had better identify myself before continuing. I’m an ex PoW, and only reached home yesterday, after escaping and crossing the German line last month. I have been with your husband Leslie since our day of capture until 23rd October this year. On that date he was safe, well fed, well housed and absolutely fit, and I am certain that you need have no fear of his wellbeing since then.
He, George Acton ( from your district), two other friends and myself found refuge after the capitulation of Italy with some very fine Italians and remained there till the time I set out to try and reach our Forces. Les and the others decided to wait for our Armies and you need have no fear as to their safety.
I met Leslie and George at our first camp in Italy and formed a friendship then. There were four from my regiment, Leslie, George, Bunny Broster and Ralph Galpin and we slept together and kept together through every camp till we went working in April ’43 when Ralph and Bunny were separated from us. Leslie, George and myself worked on one farm for four months. When Italy surrendered, our sentries fled, some just walked out. Fourteen of us hid on a farm, but when it became obvious that our forces would be a long time in reaching us, we decided to split. Leslie, George and myself returned to our original farm, and the remaining two of the “famous five” took refuge nearby; after the area being raided by Jerry we moved, all five, to a very wealthy family.
We were housed on the third floor of the house, had beds and a stove installed. As regards Christmas, we had every imaginable luxury last year, and equal to any Christmas dinner I’ve had, and I am sure this Christmas will see them equally well provided for.
Security regulations forbid me giving you the exact location but when our Forces near them you can expect good news: till then you will have to continue being patient. I can only assure you that Leslie is in comparative safety, perfect health and amply housed for the winter, and when I left him and the others on 23rd October 1944, he was cheerful and naturally very anxious to send all his love to you and his parents”
One can only imagine the scene when Mrs Dawson received this letter. The relief, after a time of not knowing what had happened to her husband. How kind and thoughtful it was of the writer to take the time to send her re-assurance.
I have had a look to see if I can find out any more information regarding the people mentioned in this extract but have so far been unsuccessful. I hope that sometime members of their families will stumble upon my blog and therefore find this wonderful story to add to their family history album.
If you have arrived here and by chance these are your family please leave me a comment.
I will endeavour as time allows to blog around more of the stories/ letters in this book. I can’t help feeling that they need to be recorded for future generations of their families to find.
Update 1 June 2014
Since this post was uploaded Ralph Galpin’s son has left a very interesting comment ( see comments section below this post). He mentioned that his Dad is recorded as having been interned in Stalag IXC. I have therefore added two pics from the book of a group from this camp. The picture above is captioned
“Sent in by Mr. J.C. Smit, PO Box Grootvlei, Transvaal. Group from Stalag IXC. Pte W.A. Smit, third from left. ( standing)
This one is captioned “Group from Stalag IXC Standing fourth from left, Pte Louwrens. Sent in by Ms C.F. Louwrens, Lower Cross Street, Mossel bay
Unfortunately the other men in the photos are not named but I am secretly hoping that Ralph Galpin is among them. Wouldn’t that be amazing!! – Nikki