just revisited the town again and found lots of new stuff, just be patient I still have to finish Greytown and Bethlehem
Lovely little town, very picturesque when coming in from the north on the R707, I have not come from any other direction yet. Nestled between the hills on the bank of the Vals River with the big church forming a focal point, it just invites for a visit.
The Internet has a few websites dealing with Lindley, this one being the most general I found.
Its geographical position 27.8791°S, 27.9195°E and 1502m altitude.
The town was laid out in 1875 and proclaimed by the Volksraad in 1878. It was named after Daniel Lindley who was the first minister to the Voortrekkers in Natal, Freestate and the Transvaal.
The town saw plenty of action during the Boer War (1899-1902). The most significant being the capturing of the Imperial Yeomanry, a volunteer force sent to South Africa to help in the fight. Details further down.
Another significant event was the destruction of the town in February of 1902 by British forces, a measure to counter guerrilla attacks.
An extract from the SA Military history of what other people thought of the town.
According to Thomas Pakenham, the De Wets' hometown was not a very inspiring place:'Lindley struck people as a depressing place. It was one of those strange, bare little towns, whose presence on the veld was so inexplicable: no visible roads led to it; no fertile fields, let alone trees or gardens, surrounded it; it was just a cluster of tin roofs and a bleak, tall church.' Winston Churchill's eyewitness report was more favourable: 'Lindley is a typical South African town, with a large central market-square and four or five broad unpaved streets radiating therefrom. There is a small clean-looking hotel, a substantial gaol, a church and a school-house. But the two largest buildings are the general stores.'
I don't need to waste ink on this page, the story of the Imperial Yeomanry is told here. I will just add the pictures of the British war graves in the Lindley cemetery and a picture of the two hills between which the Yeomanry were encircled.
The line is dead, although there is talk of re-using it again as part of the infrastructure improvement. This is part of the rail link from Wolwehoek in the north to Arlington in the south. All the station buildings are derelict.
The first NG church was built in 1876, it burned down in 1902 due to war action. A small replica of this church can be seen in the south east corner of the church yard (picture on the left).
A new church was built and inaugurated in 1928.
The other church we noticed was the Methodist church, but there are most likely others, just not found by us.
One of those lovely sand stone buildings.
The British war graves as shown above are in this cemetery. Also of note are some Jewish graves, like every other town in the Free State, here was a strong Jewish community. On this picture one can see the grave stones still standing with one exeption. On a recent visit (Sept 2018) I noticed that all the stones have now been laid flat and are cemented in to foil vandalism. I have seen this done in other grave yards as well.
A few graves of special interest were pointed out to me.
The grave stone is difficult to read, what I can make out is: In Memorian; Mevrouw Louise Laridon; geboren te Waerechen (Belgie); den 27 April 1850; gestorven te velde; bij Lindley (Oranjevrystaat); den 10 Mai 1900; als Verplegster; in die Belgisch-Duitsche Ambulance. Translated: Mrs Louise Laridon; born at Waregem (Belgium); at the 27 April 1950; died in the field; near Lindley (Orange Free State); on the 10 May 1900; as nurse; in the Belgian-German ambulance.
Doing a bit of an Internet research, she was part of a group of medical volunteers made up from German and Belgian personnel. The group arrived in South Africa in January 1900. What is noteworthy is that she died in the field, but we don't know whether through war injury or through sickness.
Her place of birth is Waregen situated in the province of West-Flanders. Just a slight worry here, I assume that Waerechen, as written on the tombstone, is the same as Waregen, which is what Google comes up with when entering the name Waerechen.
The inscription reads: Beloved sons of; John R Wilson; Lieut.Hamish B.B.Wilson; aged 26 years; of the Royal Air Force; who died; on the 18th July 1918; from the effects of wounds received; in a British air raid on Germany; on the 15th May 1918. This has not much really to do with local history, but it pricked my interest into the lesser known history of aerial raids behind enemy lines during Worls War 1 in Europe. Bombing raids were part of warfare from the start of the war, it was done by all participants of the conflict. Mainly directed at disrupting supply lines behind enemy lines but in some cases also deeper into enemy territories throwing bombs indiscriminately to demoralise the enemy. One of the best documented of these were the bombs thrown on London using Zeppelin airships.
The inscription actually talks about sons, plural. The reason is that this is the grave of an other son of the Wilsons, that was Donald B.B.Wilson aged 22 years who died on the 27nd October 1918 in Lindley during the influenza epidemic.
When Hekie van Rensburg bought the mill in the 1950th there was not much, he installed most of the machinery, which included the diesel engine as a primary power source. This is a Ruston & Hornsby Ltd, size 9X Class HR, manufactured in Lincoln England. It generates 65 horse power (40 kW) and runs at 250 rpm. A beautiful machine, it was an experience to see it started and running, see the video.
The mill produces a variety of products, from crushed maize for fowl feed to sifted maize meal to make pap. The real claim to fame for the mill was that it supplied the mieliemeel (maize meal) to make the Pro-Nutro breakfast cerial. It was initially developed at the Lindley dairy in 1959. It is not a well established brand with a variety of flavours.
Mr.van Rensburg is still running the mill, now aged 85 (Sept 2018), he has no plan of stopping. In his own words he will carry on as long as he is still fit and able. This is the way to see you through old age, that is my opinion.
Pieter Daniel de Wet or short Piet de Wet was a Boer Generaal during the Anglo-Boer War fighting for the Free State. Not right through the war, only until July 1900 when he surrendered to the British and became a joiner. That is a person from the Boer forces who joined the British fighting against the Boers still in the field. By many he, Piet, is seen as a traitor and despised, including his own brother, Christiaan de Wet, and by others seen as a rational person wanting to save his people from total destruction. The subject of joiners has certainly caused a rift in Afrikanerdom, felt for many years and even today still causes division.
Piet de Wet was born in 1861 on a farm near Dewetsdorp in the Southern Free State. He and his older brother Christiaan went to farm in the Heidelberg district and whilst there got involved in the 1st Boer War. 1883 he returned to the Free State, married Susanna and settled on the farm Vinkfontein, about 16km east from Lindley. The picture shows the house on the farm Vinkfontein which is most likely the place where he stayed with his family.
Piet was involved in the battle of Bakenkop, which is very near to his house. It has been reported that he was in a position that during a quiet night he was able to hear his children playing. There is also an indication that he was home during June 1900' His 11th child, Esther Jacoba Aletta, was born on 6-Feb-1901. That places him at his house in June the year before.
His most dramatic time was spent in this area, he must have been in turmoil about his coming surrender. At this time he was still trying to convince other fighter that this is the best way out of their situation. He went to see his brother, Christiaan who had become the commandant-general of the Free State forces, on the 19th July. The interview was very short with Christiaan shouting at him 'is jy mal?' (are you mad?). At this time he had already made contact with Lieutenant-General Ian Hamilton, the commanding officer in Lindley, and British cavalry commander Brigadier-General Robert Broadwood in Kroonstad. He offered to surrender with about 1000 men with the provision that they could stay on their farms. This was rejected, but still on the 26 July 1900 he and some members of his staff handed themselves over to the British in Kroonstad.
He carried on trying to get others to make peace with the British by joining the Peace Committee set up by Lord Roberts and by joining the Orange River Colony Volunteers who would help the British with mostly reconnaissance.
After the war he stayed mostly out of politics and concentrated on farming. There are conflicting reports about whether he ever managed to reconcile with his brother. He, Piet, did attend Christiaan's funeral in 1922. He himself died in Lindley 1929.
C.de Wet in his book, Ref 4, describes this as the action at Elandsfontein.
The background to it is that the British forces were moving toward Bethlehem. At Bakenkop they met resistance from the Boers. Quoting directly from the book:
The English were unopposed until they reached Elandsfontein, but there a battle took place in which big guns played the main role, although there was also some heavy fighting with small arms. In this engagement Commandant Michal Prinsloo did a brave deed. I arrived at his position just after the burghers had succeeded in shooting down the men who served three of the enemy's guns. With a hundred men he now stormed the guns, hoping to be able to bring them back with him to our lines. Whilst he charged, I cannonaded the enemy, with a Krupp and fifteen pound Armstrong, to such good effect that they were forced to retreat behind a ridge. In this way Commandant Prinsloo reached the guns safely, but he had no horses with him to drag them back to us. He could do nothing but make the attempt to get them away by the help of his burghers, and this he tried to accomplish under a fierce fire from the English. But he would still have succeeded in the endeavour, had not unfortunately a large force of the enemy appeared on the scene, and attacked him and his hundred burghers. I was unable to keep the English back, for both my guns had been disabled. The nipple of the Armstrong had been blown away, and, for the first time, the lock of the Krupp had become jammed. Had it not been for this mishap, Commandant Prinsloo would certainly have been able to remove the guns to the other side of a ridge, whither teams of our horses were already approaching. But, as it was, he had to hurry away as fast as possible, and leave the guns behind. When the enemy arrived they had outflanked us so far to the north, that we had nothing open to us but again to abandon our positions. We therefore retired to Blauwkop, and on the following day to Bethlehem.
According to the description on the monument, the Boers were firing their guns from Bakenkop and the British from Leeukop. The monument was erected just between the two koppies. For more information the inscription on the monument:
LEEUKOP AND BAKENKOP; On 3 July 1900 Boer Artillery on Bakenkop and nearby kopjes engaged in a lengthy duel with a British battery on Leeukop. In mid afternoon about 100 burghers approached the British ridge unseen through a mealy patch and dead ground. In heavy rain they stormed the ridge, capturing three guns briefly before being driven off by Australian troops. To the memory of the men of all nations who fought here including:
Major H.E.Oldfield, Captain C.E.D.Budworth and the gunners of the 38th field battery RFA and a section of the HAC.
Commandant Michael Prinsloo's storm party and the gunners of the Het Artillerie Corps, OFS.
Captain A.E.M.Norton D.S.O. and the 4th South Australian Imperial Bushmen who retook the ridge.
On top of Leeukop are some ruins of beehive stone huts and other structures. It is a fairly substancial area, best observed from above. The Google Earth picture shows the extend. And this is not the only place where one can find these ruins, moving around with GE they are also on Bakenkop and on other hills.
I was told that tests done on some of the implements found there showed that the ruins were 'active' at around the 14th century. I picked up a piece of pottery, of about 2cm thickness and from the curvature I calculated the pot to be about one meter in diameter.
And something else that struck me about the place is the big oval near the center of the picture, its almost perfect. The two diameters are 38m and 29m. To me this is very interesting, what could have been the purpose of such an accurate layout? And what methods did they use?
Ref 1: Standard Encyclopedia of Southern Africa
Ref 2: "Ons Kerk Album van Hollandsche Kerken en Leeraren", publisher: unknown, printed in the 1920's
Ref 3: Military History Journal, Vol 11 No 6 - December 2000, "THE OTHER DE WET Piet de Wet and the Boer 'Hendsoppers' in the Anglo-Boer War".
Ref 4: Christiaan Rudolf de Wet,'Three Years' War', CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS, 1902