23 August 2011

Namaqualand gallery 1

A little bit (April 1902) of Anglo-Boer War history and images relating to the Copper Railway.

Departing Port Nolloth station, a troop train on way to end the 4 April-4 May 1902 Siege of Okiep by Boers - 12 April 1902 - Springbok Lodge & Restaurant Collection

Col. Harry Cooper, with a substantial relief force, had been dispatched from Cape Town to Port Nolloth, arriving there on the 12th April 1902. They set off immediately by train and travelled as far as they could go.

The Barkly Viaduct in the Anenous Pass in 1902 or later. This picture can be dated in two ways. It shows the viaduct made of timber after being strengthened by extra pillars to carry the weight of the Kitson mountain locomotives. These engines were first introduced in 1890. However, on the right of the picture, an Anglo Boer War blockhouse is visible - this picture therefore was probably taken after the end of hostilities on 31 May 1902. The photo shows a "Special" for passengers, which in this case, was driven by gravity down the Anenous Pass. (original copy provided by HR Moffatt)

The Barkly Viaduct in 1902 or later. Slightly different view and image quality compared to the previous picture. - Nababeep Museum Collection.

BARKLY VIADUCT: Here seemingly a troop train with a Kitson mountain locomotive in charge, going down the Anenous Pass - the Anglo Boer War blockhouse, built of stone, is just visible in the right bottom corner. This picture may have been taken around April/May 1902. - Springbok Lodge & Restaurant Collection

Although the tracks had been torn up in places, the bridges and viaducts that had been guarded by blockhouses were still intact.

Klipfontein - April 1902 - Col Harry Cooper's column on their way to relieve the Boer siege of Okiep - The train is passing in front of the Klipfontein Hotel on left of big tree (compare tree in next picture) - Springbok Lodge & Restaurant Collection

They first encountered the enemy at a place called Klipfontein which was about 45 miles out of Okiep, but the Boers had withdrawn to some higher ground that commanded the railway line.

April 1902 showing English mounted soldiers at the Klipfontein station and hotel. From an account in Deneys Reitz's COMMANDO, it can be inferred that General Smuts, on his way from Okiep to the Peace Conference via port Nolloth, had a "grand luncheon" with the English officers stationed at Klipfontein. Malcolm Dyer Collection (original copy provided by HR Moffatt)

On the 14th, Col. Cooper managed to clear the Boers out of the area by the use of a shrapnel bombardment that caused heavy casualties. At that stage he signalled to Shelton by means of heliograph that he would be in Okiep within two days, but it was not to be. His relief force was again held up at Steinkopf, and it was not until the end of April that the Boers pulled out and retreated towards Okiep.

Back in Okiep, the Boers had captured the Shelton Blockhouse after its garrison had run out of ammunition and a dynamite bomb had collapsed its roof. However, Fort Shelton managed to hold out. Further attacks continued on the 13th, but were repelled by concentrated artillery fire. Bitter fighting continued unceasingly, but the defence held.

Then on the 25th April, General Smuts had to leave the Siege and make his way by special pass through the British lines, as he was required to attend the Peace Conference at Vereeniging. Some mention of his trip on the railway line from Okiep to Port Nolloth is made in Commando: A Boer Journal of the Boer War by Deneys Reitz - first published in 1929:

OKIEP SIEGE April1902: Showing the derailed 'PIONEER' 0-4-2 loco and overturned dynamite truck after a failed attempt by the Boer forces to run an unmanned loco with dynamite into Okiep via the Concordia branch line. Malcolm Dyer Collection (original copy provided by HR Moffatt)

Maritz, who had taken over from Smuts, tried to send a rail wagon packed with dynamite and driven by an unmanned steam locomotive along the railway line into Okiep. Fortunately for the defenders the locomotive was derailed by the barbed-wire entanglements and the dynamite truck overturned.

This 0-4-2 loco named 'PIONEER' - was run unmanned by Boer forces with dynamite load into Okiep - the loco was derailed by barbed-wire and no harm was done - presumably this picture was taken after the incident when the engine had been recovered - Nababeep Museum Collection

The relief column finally arrived in Okiep at noon on 4th May when Col. Cooper, who was the senior officer, took over from Col. Shelton. Shortly afterwards, the dispirited Boer commandos withdrew from Springbokfontein and Nababeep and by the 5th May the area was cleared.
Ten days later the Peace Conference started in Vereeniging culminating in peace being signed on 31st May 1902.


  • Early railways at the Cape - Jose Burman - Human & Rousseau (1984)
  • The Men who would not March - The Surrender of Concordia, Namaqualand, 4 April 1902 by David Thomas published 2011 - Introduction.
  • S.A.MILITARY HISTORY SOCIETY - Durban Branch November 1998 News Sheet No.285

No comments:

Post a Comment