Walkerville, South Africa ... Gauteng's Best Kept Secret!
The Eikenhof link to the great Boer Commander Danie Theron
Although we have not quite fathomed the link between the Greyling, Neethlingh and Kamffer families, our research into the history of Kommandant Piet Kamffer has lead us to other interesting historical findings.
The Neethlingh family owned a large portion of what is today Eikenhof. Christiaan Neethling is widely acknowledged as the founder of Eikenhof. The little cemetery on the Jackson’s Drift side of the Eikenhof four way stop (corner of the M28 and R554) was their family burial site. It was his daughter, Hannie that brought Danie Theron to the area.
Danie Theron was born in Tulbagh in the Cape on the 9th of May l872. The cottage in Church Street is now a B&B and historical museum. Young Danie was educated by his stepbrother, who was a teacher. He lived in the Orange Free State before moving to the Transvaal as a child. He later became a citizen of the Transvaal (Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek). He was an attorney, with his practice based in Krugersdorp. He became involved in politics and was a supporter of General Piet Joubert, although being very loyal to President Paul Kruger. When Moneypenny, the Editor of The Star, wrote derogatory articles about President Kruger and the Boers, Danie Theron went to see Moneypenny and insisted that he retract his words. When Moneypenny refused, Theron beat him up. His fine was quickly collected and paid by his fellow countrymen. Theron also infiltrated The Rand Club to gather information about the Reformers and the planned Jameson Raid.
In Eikenhof, he became known as the young man who had fallen in love with Hannie Neethling. Tragically both Hannie and her sister died after contracting pneumonia. Both daughters were buried in the family cemetery at Eikenhof. Danie Theron planted cypress trees on her grave. Unfortunately the trees had to be removed when they became infected with a virus a few years ago. It is sad that the little cemetery is private property and therefore no public funds may be spent to maintain or upgrade the site where one of the great heroes of the Boer war lies buried. Some of our local ward members did manage to raise sufficient funds to have a wall built around the cemetery.
During the Anglo Boer War he was frequently in this area. His scouts caught wild horses at Olifantsvlei and they collected flour from the mill at Eikenhof. He regularly visited Hannie's grave; and it was during one of these visits that they fought a group of English soldiers close to the Neethling homestead.
On 25 February, 1900, during the Battle of Paardeberg (not our local Perdeberg Mountain) Captain Danie Theron bravely crossed the British lines and entered Cronje’s laager in an effort to co-ordinate a breakout. Theron, initially travelling by bicycle, had to crawl for much of the way, and is reported to have had a conversation with British guards before crossing the river. Cronje was willing to consider a breakout, but felt it necessary to put the plan before a council of war. The following day, Theron sneaked back to De Wet at Poplar Grove and informed him that the council had rejected the breakout. Most of the horses and draught animals had been killed, and the burghers were worried about the safety of the women and children in the laager. Additionally, officers had threatened to stay in their trenches and surrender if Cronje gave the order to breakout. On 27 February, despite a passionate plea to his officers by Cronje to wait just one more day, Cronje was forced to surrender. The humiliation of surrender was made worse because this was Majuba Day.
This was one of the main turning points of the war for the British.
On 2 March a council of war at Poplar Grove gave Theron permission to form a Scout Corps, consisting of about 100 men, to be called the “Theron se Verkenningskorps” (Theron’s Scouting Corps), and subsequently known by the initials TVK. Curiously, Theron now advocated the use of horses rather than bicycles, and each member of his new corps was provided with two horses. Koos Jooste was given command of the Cycling Corps.
Theron achieved certain notoriety in his remaining few months. The TVK was responsible for destroying railway bridges, and captured several British officers. As a result of his endeavours, a newspaper article on 7 April, 1900 reported that Lord Roberts had labeled him “the chief thorn in the side of the British”, and had put a bounty on his head of £1 000, dead or alive. By July, Theron was considered such an important target that Theron and his scouts were attacked by General Broadwood and 5 000 troops. A running battle ensued, during which the TVK lost eight scouts killed, and the British lost five killed and 15 wounded. Theron’s catalogue of deeds is vast considering how little time he had left. Trains were captured, railway tracks dynamited, prisoners freed from the British jail; he had earned the respect of his men and his superiors. They set free approximately 70 Boers who had been jailed at VanWyksrust prison; they derailed an armoured train at Kliprivier station and got enough rations, arms and ammunition to carry on fighting.
On 4 September 1900, in the Gatsrand area, near Fochville, Commandant Danie Theron was planning an attack with General Liebenberg’s commando on General Hart’s column. Whilst out scouting to discover why Liebenberg was not at the agreed position, Theron ran into several members of Marshall’s Horse. During the resultant fire fight, Theron killed three and wounded the other four. The column’s escort was alerted by the firing and immediately charged up this hill, but Theron managed to avoid capture; finally the column’s artillery, six field guns and 4.7 inch naval guns, were unhitched and the hill bombarded. The legendary Republican hero, only 28 years old, was killed in an inferno of lyddite and shrapnel. The British patrol buried him in a shallow grave nearby. Eleven days later he was exhumed by his men and reburied on the Wolfaardt’s farm at Elandsfontein.
Three years after his death, in 1903, he was again exhumed and reburied in Eikenhof next to his beloved Hannie Neethling. He had always expressed his desire to be buried near his deceased fiancée should he die in the Anglo-Boer War. The headstone was erected by his comrades after collecting money from their meagre resources after the war, and bears the following inscription: (translated)
He's not here; yet still he leads them: The young warriors of many battles.
On learning of Theron’s death, De Wet said: “Men as lovable or as valiant there might be, but where shall I find a man who combined so many virtues and good qualities in one person? Not only had he the heart of a lion but he also possessed consummate tact and the greatest energy … Danie Theron answered the highest demands that could be made on a warrior”1. South Africa remembered its hero by naming their School of Military Intelligence after him.
Locally he is honoured and remembered in the Laerskool Danie Theron (both the old school at Eikenhof, and the new school in Kibler Park), and the Danie Theron Nederduitse Gereformeerde Church. A piece of bomb shard similar to the one that caused his death was displayed at the primary school in Eikenhof for many years. Both the local primary school and church were named after him. The Danie Theron Laerskool first occupied a small corrogated iron building before moving to a brick building, and then in the 1980's moved to much larger premises in Kibler Park.
|(© 2008 Walkerville South Africa - design by EVP Designs|