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News - Date: 27 January 2012
Written by: Linda van der Westhuizen / Viewed: 1324
A monument to commemorate the event that sparked the highly controversial "Breaker" Morant saga was recently unveiled.
Lieutenant Harry “Breaker” Morant is a controversial figure and a legend in Australia. He was in command of the largely Australian Bushveldt Carbineer regiment in the Anglo Boer War (1899-1902) at the time when the regiment murdered prisoners of war. The BVC activities and skirmishes took place in the Soutpansberg and the Letaba area. Lts Morant and Peter Hancock were found guilty of murder of 12 prisoners of war and executed before a firing squad in Pretoria on 27 February 1902.
Morant was made famous with the release of the film Breaker Morant in 1980. About two years ago, Morant once again made headlines when Australia requested Brittain to review the case and pardon Morant and Hancock. In November 2010, the royal pardon was officially rejected.
But what event sparked the killing spree of the BVC? The monument that was unveiled on the farm Duivelskloof on 10 December last year gives the answer in granite.
“In the early morning hours of 6 August 1901 the BVC supported by warriors (about 300) from nearby Modjadji, attacked the house of Cmdt Herklaas Viljoen, where members of the Letaba Commando overnighted… Reprisal attacks by the Bushveldt Carbineers led to some controversial incidents, eventually a court martial and the execution of Lieutenants “Breaker” Morant and Peter Hancock,” reads the inscription.
On the BVC side, Captain Percy Hunt and Sergeant Frank Eland died in the attack, now referred to as the “night attack”. On the Boer side, Veld Cornet Barend Viljoen, his brother J.J.Viljoen and G. Hartzenberg died.
Lt Morant blamed the Boer Commando for both the death and mutilation of the body of his friend, Capt Hunt. He swore that from then on they would “take no more prisoners”. Floris Visser, wounded in the night attack, was the first of many victims to be killed.
The monument is in honour of those who died during, or as a result of, the attack on the Viljoen homestead.
The monument was unveiled by Ms Annette van Rensburg, grand-niece of Veld Cornet Barend Viljoen, together with Ms Margaret Barrett, granddaughter of Sgt Frank Eland. Despite the war, the two families have been friends for more than a century. This is the only monument on the Bushveldt Carbineer route to have an English as well as an Afrikaans inscription.
At the unveiling, the master of ceremonies, Prof Louis Changuion, sketched the background to the Bushveldt Carbineers. Mr Charles Leach of Louis Trichardt, assisted by Mr Hansie van Schalkwyk, whose grandfather was present on the verandah during the night attack, gave an overview of how the attack could have unfolded.
The clearing of invader bush surrounding the ruins of the once large Viljoen homestead on land belonging to Mr Piet van Niekerk and the building of the monument were done by Mr Theo Dicke, his son Fritz, and a team of workers from their farm.
This is the second-last monument to be erected on the Bushveldt Carbineers Route.
“The last monument will be erected on Ballymore at the mass gravesite of the eight Burghers shot by the BVC on 23 August 1901. This monument will mark the completion of the objective of providing future generations with granite information tablets detailing the events surrounding each specific site with relevance to the period of occupation of the Zoutpansberg/Spelonken and Letaba areas by the Bushveldt Carbineers. This event will hopefully take place later this year,” said Leach.
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Linda van der Westhuizen has been with Zoutnet since 2001. She has a heart for God, people and their stories. Linda believes that every person is unique and has a special story to tell. It follows logically that human interest stories is her speciality. Linda finds working with people and their leaders in the economic, educational, spiritual and political arena very rewarding. “I have a special interest in what God is doing in our town, province and nation and what He wants us to become,” says Linda.
heritage, monument, war, history