Military History Tours On Tour - Boer War in South Africa 8 June 2016
This was our last day of the Military History tour. We set out from Bloemfontein at 0800 and headed for the site of Grootvallier farm, near the Vet River, not far from Winberg where Ronís father took part in a charge that killed five Boers and captured eleven. Near Winberg we also passed a major Voortrekker Monument.
Our next stop was the Sand River, site of an attack on 7 May 1900 where Davidís great uncle Adam McAllister took part in an opposed river crossing that resulted in him received a gunshot wound to the leg. A wound that would eventually see him invalided home.
Our next stop was Kroonstad where we were able to spend some time in the British War Cemetery, the only one, apart from the smaller one below where we found original metal crosses. There are many Australian graves there.
From the cemetery we drove into town and marvelled at the beautiful Church, duly protected by a strong metal fence, and the unprotected Town Hall and information centre. Sadly the hall is showing signs of decay, and vandalisation on the outside; inside it is not so bad and is being renovated.
At the Town Hall we met local Dries Otto who took us to the Concentration Camp Cemetery. Dries is one of seven locals who maintain this link with the past, raising money and giving up their time to maintain this link with a dark past for future generations. This Cemetery is particularly moving, the size reflecting the scope of the tragedy it commemorates. The condition of the stone slate and marble is a tribute to Dries and his committee.
A value add was a visit to the Kroonstad Museum. It is officially closed, preparing for a move to the Town Hall when its renovation is complete. It was opened as a favour to our group and proved to have a worthy collection of artefacts and a clear display of the history of the area. Future visits to the Town Hall will prove interesting where it can be displayed in all its glory.
Our last stop was to the small British cemetery in a park near the outskirts of Kroonstad. John H noted there were fewer crosses than there had been in the past; Dries confirmed that there had been some theft of these relics of the past that can fetch a pretty penny on the scrap metal market.
Then a long drive to our hotel at Johannesburg Airport and a fond good bye to Pieter who contributed so much to our South African experience. Tomorrow we go our separate ways. Roland and Ron will accompany John H to the Kruger National Park; David and Sid will fly home; John L will be off to find more treasure in South Africa.