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Published:  2016-06-04 Views:  892
Author:  Fanie
Published in:  Harties Heritage/Erfenis
BRITSE FORTE

HOEV: OPNAME VAN BESIENSWAARDIGHEDE Nr 039

HEHA: SURVEY OF HERITAGE SITES No 039

 

BRITSE FORTE “ANDERSON” EN “SOUTH HILL”

DATUM 1901

SAEA BESKERMING (60jr) nee

VERKLAAR nee. GELYS nee

GPS data:X 27.54.10 Y –25.46.01

RIETFONTEIN JQ485 JQ, GED 63

PAD: Draai wes uit K27 (R511) op Saartjiesnek tussen kruiskoppie en treinspoor. Dit is die ou grondpad oor Saartjiesnek na Meerhof. Alternatief: uit toegangspad na Meerhof draai uit na links.

EIENAAR / KONTAKPERSOON: Derick Erasmus 

 

Nadat lord Roberts in Junie 1900 Pretoria ingeneem het, was sy taak afgehandel want, soos hy en die Britse regering gedink het, was albei hoofstede van die twee Boererepublieke toe verower. Roberts is teruggeroep en Lord Kitchener is in sy plek gestuur om die nodige “opruiming en afronding” te doen. Dit was egter ‘n misgissing want die Boeremagte het hergroepeer en die twee jaar van guerella-oorlog het nog voorgelê.

Kitchener moes dus sy uitgebreide stellings en verbindingslinies vanaf Pretoria tot in die Kaap en Natal op een of ander manier teen gedurige aanvalle verdedig. Ook wou hy die Boere se beweging aan bande lê.

 

Die eerste stap was om op koppies en in passe of by brûe stewige forte of blokhuise van klip te bou. Hiervoor het hy ‘n magdom klipkappers en messelaars ingevoer en die eerste aantal forte is nogal indrukwekkende netjiese bouwerke met dik klipmure, mooi houtvensters en stewige deure en luike van 12mm dik staalplaat. Die forte was meestal dubbelverdieping met ‘n beton boonstevloerblad en ‘n sinkdak bo-oor die tweede verdieping. Baie het plankvloere op die onderste verdieping gehad en almal was van skietgate op alle strategiese plekke en skietgleuwe op die boonste verdieping voorsien wat hulle soos middeleeuse Europese kastele laat lyk. Hierdie romantiese voorkoms was egter nie die doel van die forte nie maar wel hulle praktiese militêre waarde. Maar hierin het die klipforte gefaal. Hulle was te duur en het te lank geneem om te bou en daarby was hulle nie teen kanonvuur bestand nie. In díe opsig was die Boere se forte rondom Pretoria met hulle grondwalle beter.

 

Die tweede soort fort het dubbele sinkplaatmure gehad met ‘n klipgruisvulling tussen die twee lae. Die konstruksie was netso bestand teen geweervuur terwyl die koste en oprigtingstyd baie minder was. Die eerstes van hierdie forte was vierkantig of agthoekig en later het ene Rice die sogenaamde “Rice Pattern” forte uitgevind wat rond was en nog makliker om op te rig.

Die forte is per telegraaf met die hoofkwartier verbind wat in hierdie omgewing die Baden Powell-kamp op Rietfontein was. Verder is die forte deur ‘n sig-sag gang met doringdraadversperring aan weerskate verbind. Aan die doringdraad is blikkies gehang wat ‘n geraas gemaak het as iemand snags daarteen sou raak. Daarop sou die troepe van weerskante met die gang af skiet. Die sig-sag het dus verhoed dat die wagte mekaar skiet.

 

So het die Britte oor die hele land uteindelik ‘n forte-en-draadheining-stelsel opgebou wat derduisende ponde gekos het, baie troepe in beslag geneem het en tog nie baie effektief was nie want die Boere het óf ‘n gekonsentreerde aanval op een fort geloods en dan met gebuite amunisie en voorrade deur die linie gebreek, óf net eenvoudig die linies vermy en hulle aanvalle elders uitgevoer.

 

Dis interessant om daarop te let dat in die vredesverdrag van Vereeniging ooreengekom is dat die Britte die forte en drade sou verwyder. Dit is maar halfhartig nagekom. Die plaaslike bevolking het egter na die oorlog die verlate forte geplunder en veral die sinkplate gebruik om hulle afgebrande huise te herstel. Die klipmure is nooit afgebreek nie, gelukkig nie, want dit is nogal glad nie ‘n ontsiering van die landskap nie.

 

In ons omgewing is die fort bo-op die Kosmosberg (kyk 094) die opvallendste. Daar is ook op Kommandonek naby die pad ‘n goed behoue klipfort en by Broederstroom naby Klipdrif (019). Die fort op Hekpoort (006) is nie net skilderagtig en goed behoue nie maar hy is beroemd weens sy verkeerde plasing en heet “Barton’s Folly” omdat hy deur generaal Barton se toedoen daar gebou is. Van die sinkplaatforte op Silkaatsnek (062), Baden Powellkamp (053), Witwatersberg agter Meerhof (039) ens. Het net nog swak herkenbare kliphope oorgebly.

 

“Fort Anderson” met Hartbeespoortdam in agtergrond.

 

Areal view of “Fort Anderson” with Hartbeespoortdam in background.

 

BRITISH FORTS “ANDERSON” AND “SOUTH HILL”

DATE  geological and 1955

SAHRA PROTECTION (60yr) no

DECLARED MONUMENT: no. LISTED: no

GPS data: X 27.54.10 Y –25.46.01

RIETFONTEIN JQ485 JQ, GPORTION 63

ROAD: Turn-off left off access road to Meerhof.

OWNER / CONTACT PERSON: Derick Erasmus

 

On 31 December 1900, the X Regiment of Foot [Lincolnshires] relieved the V Regiment of Foot [Northumberland Fusiliers] at Rietfontein (see 053). The Lincolnshires’ regimental diary states that they took over certain positions, one of which was named ‘South Hill, 2miles {3.3km} south’ indicating a hilltop on the Witwatersberg range of hills some 560ft. [170m] higher than the Rietfontein camp and overlooking it. A round Rice pattern fort was discovered at this position next to the survey beacon. The view not only covers the Moot between Horn’s Nek and Skeerpoort, but a large arc of broken country to the south, a well known haunt of Boer snipers threatening the supply road between Pretoria and Rietfontein. The Lincolnshire records also mention ‘Fort Anderson [or Crocodile]’ alongside the name of South Hill.

 

Following the mule track downwards towards [as we supposed] Rietfontein it turned to run along the contour of the ridge and eventually led to the foundations of an elongated octagonal block house overlooking a loop of the Crocodile River. A fork in the mule track led to the foundations of a third, roughly rectangular blockhouse, ‘Fort in-between’ for lack of a name, situated on a path passing through a gap in the ridge, but overlooked by it on either side. Possibly this fort had been abandoned or resited as Fort Anderson; only two forts are ever mentioned there. The re-supply route to Rietfontein descends from Fort Anderson down to and through the Good Shepherd Mission where it also forms the driveway and may then have followed the present road that passes between ‘Gun Hill and ‘Camp Hill’ of BP’s HQ camp to Ifafi.

 

It is unusual for a fort to be given a personal name. The forts were probably constructed by the Northumberland Fusiliers in December 1900. Neither the Northumberlands nor the Lincolnshires had an officer named ‘Anderson’ nor was there a member of the Royal Engineers in the area at the time. A member of the Northumberlands, who had been wounded at the battle of Nooitgedacht in December 1900, mentions one possible claimant to the honor, in an article in the Fusilier Regimental Gazette of 28 February1901. He says that ‘on the 18th [five days after the battle] a convoy of 26 of our wounded arrived {at Rietfontein} from Nooitgedacht. Mr. Anderson, our scripture reader, {had} returned to Nooitgedacht with the first convoy on the 15th and remained with the wounded till the return of the last convoy on the 18th December, having rendered valuable aid to many of our wounded during that period’. The sentiment of the troops is confirmed by an entry in the diary of trooper JGB Clayton of Kitchener’s Horse, himself a survivor of Nooitgedacht, who wrote, ‘On arrival [14th December] the ambulances had been emptied and dispatched back to fetch the remaining wounded, of whom a great majority had been left behind – to minister to whose service a couple of doctors and a civilian Bible Reader, temporarily attached to the Northumberland Fusiliers, had remained behind. The gallantry of this act cannot be underestimated when it is known that they were under fire most of the time from both sides.’ Mr. Anderson seems a likely candidate for this tribute from the remnants of the Fusiliers building the forts. To date, M<r Anderson has not been identified. Being a layperson he may have been a member of an organization such as YMCA.

 

Lightning was a real danger to the garrison and forts as the newly designed Rice Pattern forts were constructed of corrugated iron; concentric metal walls filled with small stones to make them bullet proof and covered with a mushroom or tent-shaped metal roof. They cost about ₤16 to build compared with ₤48 for a blockhouse; the Royal Engineers constructed both types.

 

The Lincolns occupied 16 separate blockhouse sites with their HQ at Rietfontein by November 1901; Lt Col Archdale, OC of the Lincolns, who took command in March 1901, was in command of all the outlying posts in the Moot and along the Magaliesberg range, a chain that was to start in August 1901. Most of the forts were to be linked by telegraph.

 

A great deal of activity occurred in the Rietfontein area after August 1901 when a series of forts was built to guard each nek along the Magaliesburg in order to limit Boer movements North and South of the mountain range. There were 5 forts at Horn's Nek, 3 at Smit's Nek, 7 at Silkaatsnek (062). There were 5 at Commando Nek (094); four of these were stone two story buildings. A handsome zigzag mule track leads up to the single blockhouse on the western buttress. Stone was plentiful and quarried on site. There were between 3 and 7 forts at all the other useful passes along the Magaliesberg such as Castle Gorge and Nooitgedacht (007).

 

To assist the Lincolns in manning these posts there was a detachment of 200 SA Constabulary, mostly Canadians raised by Baden-Powell. The defenses at Rietfontein itself were probably upgraded by building Rice Pattern forts at the same time. The remains of two forts on Camp Hill (053) and four on ‘Gun Hill’ have been identified. This became essential in order to guard the heavy guns on ‘Gun Hill’ at the western end of the complex. There was one 4.7-inch gun at the eastern end pointing at Silkaatsnek according to a diary description, confirmed by ground survey, aerial photography and a very poor photograph in the Lincolnshire archives.

 

Information and photographs by permission of prof Ian Copley whose work is based on research in British military archives.

 

Who was Anderson? Very few forts were given a name. However, the nearest fort at Hekpoort, a few miles further to the west was called ‘Barton’s Folly’. Today it is the best preserved of all the forts in the area.

Clayton, of Kitchener’s Horse, at the battle of Nooitgedacht mentions the heroism of a ‘civilian bible reader, temporarily attached to the Northumberland Fusiliers.

Mr Anderson ‘our scripture reader’ is also mentioned in connection with the battle. Attempts to obtain further information about him have been unsuccessful.

.

After a grass fire it was noticed that the mule track between South Hill and Fort Anderson forked towards a small gap on the southern side. This led to a third fort with a more substantial and square shape. As there was no mention of a third fort it became known as ‘Fort – in – Between’ Perhaps it was another folly as it is overlooked on two sides.

Ground plan of Fort Anderson