The Black Week of December 10-17, 1899. The thinly stretched colonial forces of the British Army have just lost nearly 3 000 men in the defeats of Stormberg, Magersfontein and Colenso. They are currently no match for the Boers.
The call goes out for “8 000 men who can ride well and shoot straight” in order to overcome the veld skills of the South African farmers.
A new cavalry force, The Imperial Yeomanry, comes into existence. During this bitter colonial war, more than 35 000 men join the 177 Imperial Yeomanry companies.
A small group of British high society ladies raises the money to fund a hospital for wounded and sick Yeomanry soldiers in South Africa, staffing it with a hand-picked selection of top doctors and medical personnel.
The site of the new hospital is a spot in the Karoo veld next to a railway siding called Deelfontein, not far from De Aar and near enough to the theatre of war to be accessible by train.
Within the first few months of 1900, Deelfontein has been transformed. A massive tent town has sprung up around a superb medical facility.
Today, little remains but the railway line, a few slabs of concrete and a graveyard holding the remains of soldiers and staff. And a great Karoo legend.
- Karoo Roads – Tales from South Africa’s Heartland by Chris Marais & Julienne du Toit will be available as a First Edition Author-signed Print Book from November 2020 at R350 including taxes and counter-to-counter Postnet service. To order, contact Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org and she will put you on the list.
- Opening image of Deelfontein Camp – Cover image of Yeomen of the Karoo. Photo courtesy of Van Dyk ABO Trust Collection.