There has been wide-spread disbelief over the desecration of the Hollander Corps Memorial at the Elandslaagte battlefield, about 40km outside Dundee.
Durban-based tour guide Ken Gillings – a regular visitor to the area – said he was appalled to discover the vandalism while visiting the battlefield.
Other tour guides said that the destruction of monuments is ongoing, and are at a loss as to how to bring those responsible to book. Many of these memorials are in isolated areas.
Those who took to commenting on Ken’s Facebook page had this to say:
Christopher Ash: Disgraceful.
Colleen Joy Gray: My great-great-great-grandfather, Hendrik van Cittert, is mentioned on that memorial…
Charles Ross: This is sad. And the heritage of our country will most likely be destroyed until nothing is left.
Rita Hayes Hayward: Nothing in this world is sacred any more. Everything is cheap, even lives.
Filomena Tristao: A crying shame ! There is no respect or pride, which is sad. Heritage and history should be protected and preserved in our country.
The Hollander Corps:
When the Anglo-Boer War began, there were several foreign nationals in South Africa who formed themselves into various corps. One of these was the Hollander Corps, comprising Dutch and Belgian citizens, which was established in September 1899. Their full name was ‘The Corps van Nederlanders en Oud-Nederlanders’. It was formed by Dr HJ Coster, a former State Attorney (who was supported by C Gars de Jonge) and comprised two sections, known as the ‘Afdeling Velddiens’ and the ‘Afdeling Garnisoendiens’. The former was led by BG Verselewel de Witt Hamer (a member of the Volksraad), and the latter by JM de Bruijn (a lecturer at the Telegraph School in Pretoria). Jan Lombard was elected as Commandant of the entire Corps.
The Corps’ overall strength was 450 men, of which 150 served in the Afdeling Velddiens. Members of the Afdeling Garnisoendiens were allowed to undertake service in the field if they wished to.
The Afdeling Velddiens was divided into sections of 25 men each, and they were commanded by Dr HJ Coster, CG de Jonge, K van Rijsse, JC Goldman, W Nijenes and one Lesturgeon.
During the Battle of Elandslaagte, the Hollander Corps occupied the koppie to the left of the road as one approaches the battlefield. They fought with distinction to such an extent that during the Devonshire Regiment’s advance on what is termed Battle Ridge (the main feature of the battlefield), four companies were diverted from the main attack to counter the heavy fire from the Hollander Corps’ position on the koppie.
During the final phase of the Battle of Elandslaagte, several of the Hollanders must have moved across onto Battle Ridge, because when the Boer resistance waned and Colonel Ian Hamilton and his troops moved forward to take the burghers prisoner, Dr Coster shouted out, “Surrender be damned; liever sterven!” (‘rather die’), and led a counter-attack. This almost resulted in the British attack failing, but the men were rallied by Hamilton and the advance was resumed. Dr Coster and many Hollanders were killed at this stage.