Dundee’s Lost Tales: Where foes rest in peace

Dundee and surrounds is dotted with military graves.  Some are well kept and marked and attract many overseas visitors.

Other graves are less conspicuous. Like the one behind the Wesleyan Church on McKenzie Street.  This was originally known as the Betania Cemetery as the property formed part of the then Swedish Mission in Dundee.

The Wesleyan Church took over the buildings and property in the 1970s.  What is interesting about this little cemetery is that both British and Boers are buried here:  15 British soldiers and four Boers.

According to records at the Talana Museum, most of the British soldiers all died of wounds suffered at the battle of Talana.  They were admitted to the Betania Hospital (now Melusi Mission) but later died.  Among them are two British officers:  Captain PHB Connor of the Royal Irish Fusiliers and 2nd Lieutenant CJ Genge of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers.

Captain Connor was mortally wounded after the crossing the wall which bounds the terrace on Talana (hill).

Also buried there is Trooper R Cunningham of Bethune’s Mounted Infantry who died in May 1900 during the British advance through Northern Natal.

Inscriptions included on the marble crosses include:  erected by a sorrowing mother in loving memory of Captain and Adjutant Frederick Bourne Connor who fell at the battle of Talana, Oct 20th, 1899, aged 37.  Thy will be done.

The following is engraved on the cement obelisk: In memory of those lying here being some of the men killed in action during the battle of Talana 20th October 1899.  And others who died in the Swedish Hospital Mission Dundee during the Boer occupation and of wounds received in said battle. Erected by public subscription in Dundee.

Sadly, there is no information at Talana Museum regarding the four Boers although it is thought they too were wounded in the battle, were hospitalised and later died. Pastor Bill Niemack of the Wesleyan Church says some of the crosses were recently vandalised.

Repairs were carried out but it is unclear what funds are available to renovate military graves.

  AUTHOR
Northern KZN Courier

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