Cape 'Rebel' in Anglo-Boer War

Author: A.M. van Rensburg (b4 c2 d1 e6 f5 g5 h3 i2)
Webmaster: M.A. van Rensburg (b4 c2 d1 e6 f5 g5 h3 i2 j1)

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As with Scheepers, an attempt was made to disguise these men’s grave site. Harrison continues, "Three were shot and buried not very far from where my squad of prisoners were erecting fortifications, and the latter asked the next morning to be shown the spot where they were buried. I took them and showed them but there was no mound left – we used to level it off as you would bury a dog. A few days afterwards it was found that someone had put a ring of stones round the places of their burial."

Commandant Gideon Scheepers, he surrendered
10 October 1901, he was executed 18 January 1902
Preller published "Scheepers se Dagboek"

Photo taken secretly of Gideon Scheepers being tied to a chair
According to http://www.oocities.org/Eureka/7064/Cat1.htm these photos were taken by Ivie H. Allen,
he requested permission from the martial law authorities to photograph Scheepers’ execution,
but this was strictly forbidden. He nevertheless accompanied the military procession to
the execution ground three miles out of Graaff-Reinet. Standing between
the two rows of guards with a small Brownie camera under his coat, Allen had just enough space
to photograph the execution without being seen by the officers. All three photos are published in Preller's book

Photo of execution of Scheepers, he has just been shot by a firing squad
and his body is slumping backwards

The effects of the Anglo-Boer War on Graaff-Reinet were traumatic to say the least. It left deep scars and the divisions within the community were exacerbated by a number of trials which had taken place in the town. From April 1901 the trial of rebels and captured Boers accused of atrocities were in the hands of the military authorities. Two of the best known trials held in Graaff-Reinet were those of Lotter and Scheepers. Although many of those accused were sentenced to death in Graaff-Reinet, the death sentences on only eight men, including Gideon Scheepers, were carried out in Graaff-Reinet. (Boers executed in Graaff-Reinet: 19.8.1901 - Petrus Jacobus Fourie, J B L van Rensburg, L F S Pheiffer; 26.8.1901 - D F Olwagen, J W Nel; 7.10.1901 - J H Roux; 18.1.1902 - Cmdt Gideon Scheepers; 14.2.1902 - J F Geldenhuys.). Look at report in Graaff-Reinet Advertiser, 14.10.1901.

In 1908 seven of these eight men's graves were dug up, Scheepers grave could not be located. On 1st December 1908 they were buried in a mass grave in the kerkhof of Graaff-Reinet. On 2 December a memorial was erected in honour of them on the corner of Donkin St and Somerset St, this was on private property. Both the Town Council and the NG church did not want to provide a place for the monument, they were more concerned about healing the deep divisions within the community. Never the less 2 600 people attended this occasion. See photo of the monument above.

According to Ms Hermi Baartman, Head of Graaff-Reinet Museum. The photo of the mass grave, for many years did not have any names on them. A few old "oomies" who called themselves the 'Cradockstraatbegraafplaaskomitee' worked towards getting a little plaque for each of these men with their name and date of death engraved. Ms Baartman assisted them with the information. When they were originally executed and buried they were placed in shallow graves at the entrance of the town. Note there is one missing person from this grave - Gideon Scheepers.

This monument is at Donkin st, Graaff-Reinet in memory
of those who were executed by the English

Johannes Meintjies, Sword in the Sand: The life and death of Gedeon Scheepers. On 10th July, [Actually 14th July, 1901] says Conan Doyle: "General French, surveying from a lofty mountain peak the vast expanse of the field of operations, with his heliograph calling up responsive twinkles over one hundred miles of country, gave the order for the convergence of four columns upon the valley in which he knew Scheepers to be lurking." It seems as if the British were unaware that Scheepers could easily read their heliographic signals. From an intercepted letter from Scheepers the British knew that his commando at that time consisted of 240 men, of whom forty were Free Staters and the rest Colonial rebels. "Crewe, Windham, Doran, and Scobell each answered the call," Conan Doyle continues, "but the young leader (Scheepers) was a man of resource, and a long kloof up the precipitous side of the hill gave him a road to safety. Yet, the operations showed a new mobility in the British columns, which shed their guns and their baggage in order to travel faster. The main commando escaped, but twenty-five laggards were taken. The action took place among the hills thirty miles to the west of Graaff-Reinet.

Johannes Meintjies, Sword in the Sand: The life and death of Gedeon Scheepers, p. 215, Meanwhile the Botha Commitee had been active in Graaff-Reinet and their work had led to permission being granted for the exhumation of Boer soldiers shot there. These were P. J. Fourie, J. van Rensburg and L. F. S. Pfeiffer who were executed on 19th August, 1901; Daniel Olewagen and Ignatius Nel on 26th August, 1901; Johannes Hermanns Roux on 7th October, 1901 and Jacobus Francois Geldenhuis on 14th February, 1902. It was discovered that the unslaked lime which had been thrown over the corpses and then watered had formed a hard crust around the bodies instead of destroying them, and had preserved them so well that even the bullet holes were still discernible.

Private correspondence Ms Hermi Baartman, head of Graaff-Reinet Museum
Private contact Mr Roelfie Pienaar, owner of Palmietfontein.
Private correspondence David and Taffy Shearing,. (Shearing's information is based on Gideon Scheepers' list of his commando - first list no 21 - in the War Museum of the Boer Republics, Bloemfontein. AG2095, OPB 3/5 no 29 and AG2062 - all in the Cape Archives, Cape Town. So het Hulle Gesterf. Archives Year Book 1962 - Rebelle Verhoor in Kaapland by JH Snyman). david.taffy@pixie.co.za http://www.sawar.co.za/
Private correspondence Jean le Roux
Special thanks to Kobus van Rensburg who supplied extra information
Special thank to Nico Vermaak vermaak@icon.co.za who supplied some of the photos of the people and information on this case.
Colonel Sir John HALL, The Coldstream Guards, 1885-1914, (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1929)
G Jordaan, "So het Hulle Gesterf: Laaste ure van diegene oor wie die doodvonnis uitgespreek en voltrek is in die Kaapkolonie gedurende die oorlog van 1899–1902. Kaapstad,", HAUM, Kaapstad, 1941
Graham Jooste en Abrie Oosthuizen, "So het hulle gesterf", (HAUM, Kaapstad, 1941)
Hoe Zij Stierven
A de V Minnaar, Graaff-Reinet and the Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), Military History Journal - Vol 7 No 3: http://rapidttp.com/milhist/vol073am.html,
Dutch Article on Gideon Scheepers http://www.nzaw.nl/s01021820.pdf
Original Gideon Scheepers Material, http://www.oocities.org/Eureka/7064/Cat1.htm
JA Smith, Ek Rebelleer
J H Snyman "Rebelle Verhoor in Kaapland gedurende die Tweede-Vryheidsoorlog met Spesiale Verwysing na die Militere Howe (1899-1902)" 1962 Archives Year Book for South African
Original Gideon Scheepers Material http://www.oocities.org/Eureka/7064/Cat1.htm
Graaff-Reinet Advertiser, 14 October 1901
JG Scheepers Strydom, Kaapland en die Tweede Vryheidsoorlog, (Kaapstad, 1937)

Depot KAB
Source AG
Type Leer
Vol No 2078
System 01
Ref 62
Part 1
Description Anglo-Boer War and High treason: Rebel prisoners of war: Van Rensburg, JJ; Cronje, G and Griessel, J. Re: Warrants of apprehension served on.
Starting 1902
Ending 1902


Original Gideon Scheepers Material http://www.oocities.org/Eureka/7064/Cat1.htm
Photograph Album: IMPRISONED BOERS AT GRAAFF-REINET, and The Scheepers File of the Intelligence Department, 52 pages, oblong quarto, thirteen original annotated photographs by Ivie H. Allan of Graaff-Reinet pasted down on typical black album paper, the photographs are in good condition with crisp detail & have not faded, they are all large (20 x 15 cms); included in the album are two roneoed pass forms, three original death-cell letters & a 33 page hand-written diary written in ink on official paper with embossed colonial coat-of-arms & which is pasted down at the back of the album, a De Wet proclamation (in Dutch, with an English translation) & a letter (English translation) from President Steyn to General Kritzinger are also included, the whole is bound in blue embossed paper covered boards with string back, Graaff-Reinet, 1901-1902.

The album divides into two parts: the annotated photographs & the original type- and manuscript material.

The Photographs: These are individual & group portraits of members of Boer commandos imprisoned at Graaff-Reinet between 1901 & 1902. These men had all been captured during the guerilla operations in the Cape Colony. A key clearly identifies each man. Many of the men were photographed under sentence of death & while awaiting execution. There are revealing individual portraits of Commandants Gideon Scheepers & Hans Lotter. The photograph of Scheepers was taken on the 17th January 1902, a day before his execution, while Lotter was photographed early in September 1901, shortly after his capture – his shirt is shown stained with numerous blood spots from a wound he sustained. Five group portraits portray 93 of Lotter’s men, including one of his officers (D.C. Breed) who was also executed in October 1901. This is the only photograph of Breed known to exist, but copies of it have been reproduced elsewhere. Three under-age boys (all shown & identified) were sentenced to be flogged.

Scheepers’ patrol of about 18 men under the command of Lieut. Isak Liebenberg (which was captured at Onbedacht in the Camdeboo in mid-1901) all appear. No fewer than ten of these men were executed in various Cape Colony towns: Liebenberg himself, Van Vuuren, Olwagen, Toy (a Swede), Pfeiffer, Van Rensburg, Nel, Roux, Veenstra (a Hollander) & Fourie. Lieutenant Liebenberg, eighteen years of age, was hanged at Aliwal North in January 1902. The small group portrait, in which he appears with ostrich feather in upturned hat, is an excellent study (though very slightly damaged). This photograph has never been published & may be the only one in existence.

Isak Liebenberg, only 18 years old
Found guilty main wintesses against him
by Tobias du Plessis and Frans Steenberg

Also featured in the group photographs are Lieutenant Mike van Wyk, executed in the veld near Colesberg on the 12th September 1901, and the celebrated Field-Cornet Willie Louw, shot in the same town on November. A wounded Max Teinert is shown with arm in sling. A German, he was one of the Five Swimmers who escaped from Ceylon & made their way back to the Boer forces in South Africa. Also shown is an effeminate-looking John Momberg, formerly of Scheepers’ commando, who was pardoned & in return gave crucial (but false) evidence against his former leader.

The thirteen photographs portray almost two hundred men – some in various stages of distress & anxiety – photographed outside their prison cells. A number of them – especially Lotter’s men - are wounded & sport bandages around the head & arms in slings. Often they are clad in the travel-stained clothes in which they were captured. The photographs of Scheepers & Lotter are much larger, showing more physical detail than the cropped versions which are usually seen. The set of photographs as a whole, in their grim realism & unforgettable detail, capture (as few books can) the heroic as well as the tragic & deeply divisive nature of the Boer War. Portraying at least 15 men shortly to be executed under martial law, they are both a prelude & a monument to the extravagent blood-letting engaged in by Captain Edwin Tennant. This man, chief Intelligence Officer at Graaff-Reinet, was the scourge of the Republican-led rebellion in the Cape Colony. He died in a motor-car accident in Johannesburg shortly after the war.

The Diary: Kept by Commandant Gideon Scheepers between the 1st October 1901 and the 18th January 1902, the day he was executed just outside Graaff-Reinet. The first few entries record his experiences on commando while critically ill. Compelled to surrender on the 10th October, he was nursed back to health at the British military hospitals of Beaufort West, Noupoort and Graaff-Reinet. His trial under martial law commenced at Graaff-Reinet on the 18th December 1901. He was visited in prison by General John French, British commander in the Cape Colony. Sentenced to death on the 17th January 1902, his sentence was immediately confirmed by Lord Kitchener & carried out the next day.

The photo of the trail of 'rebel' van Rensburg Ms Hermi Baartman head of the Graaf Reinnet Museum gave the writer the following back ground to this photo: Dit is op Kerkplein geneem, deur William Roe, 'n fotograaf wat in Grt werksaam was van 1859 tot 1916, toe hy dood is. Ek dink stellig die drie tot--doodveroordeeldes is die eerste drie op regs, die ander twee is in die kakie uniforms van Town Guards. Die ander bedremmelde klomp is heel moontlik van die plaaslike Arikander wie se lojaliteit teenoor die Britse Kroon onder verdenking was. Hulle is dikwels aangetree om ooggetuies te wees van die vonnisoplegging, om hulle sodoende tot nuwe denkrigtings te oortuig. Dit was altyd 'n dramatiese, angswekkende en onvergeetlike formaliteit. Moontlik was hulle almal saam met die drie in die tronk.

Die omstanders was ook dikwels mense wat moontlik simpatie met die Boeremagte gehad het, en dagvaardigings van die magistraat ontvang het, om die seremonie by te woon. Dan het jy die gewone nuuskierige agies gehad, wat net vir die sports alles gade geslaan het.

Daar was ook Van Rensburgs wat heel gewillig in die District Mounted Troops gedien het, of goeie Town Guards was. Dit was immers hulle plig teenoor die Kolonie. Partykeer was die pa aan die een kant, die ma en dogters aan die ander kant.

Van Fourie op die Foto weet ek dat hy verklaar het dat hy nie eintlik wou 'n Kaaps Rebel word nie, maar sy kwaai en oordonderende vrou het hom gedwing om by die boeremagte aan te sluit.

In ons argief is daar 'n storie van 'n jong meisie, 16 jaar oud, wat in ou Helen Murray (van Reinethuis se Murrays) wat die storie versprei het dat een van hierdie drie nie heeltemal dood was toe hy toegegooi is nie. Sy is voor die kwaai magistraat gebring, onder huisarres geplaas en uit die Midland Seminarie geskors.

VAB TYPE Aanwins REF A119 DESCRIPTION Renier-versameling. +????Korrespondensie met Renier i.v.m. J van Rensburg.





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