Anglo-Boer War Cape Rebels Memorial and Paarl, South Africa
Editor’s Note: The May 2013 issue of Armchair General features the Dispatches department article, “Anglo-Boer War Cape Rebels Memorial” which includes a photo of ACG Editor in Chief, Jerry Morelock, and longtime ACG subscriber, Deetlefs du Toit of Paarl, South Africa during their November 2012 visit to the historic memorial. This article provides readers more information and photos of the memorial and the scenic and historic Paarl region of South Africa.
CAPE REBELS MEMORIAL
Erected in Paarl, South Africa, to honor the Cape Afrikaners who rose up to oppose British aggression, the memorial commemorates the 1899-1902 valiant but ultimately unsuccessful struggle against British imperialism by the Boers, descendants of South Africa’s original Dutch settlers. Although Boer tactical effectiveness (in both conventional and guerrilla operations) and unexcelled marksmanship exacted a heavy toll on the British invaders, Britain’s greatly superior numbers and ruthless countermeasures (scorched-earth devastation and brutal “concentration camps” in which nearly 30,000 Boer women and children died) ultimately prevailed.
The powerfully moving memorial features two life-size, stylized statues (a man and a woman) representing the struggles and suffering of Cape Afrikaner men and women who rose up to resist British imperialism. Additional bas-relief plaques placed throughout the monument grounds dramatically recreate incidents afflicting the Boer population during the 1899-1902 war. The Memorial is located in the same grove of oak trees where Boer farmers and a large contingent of womenfolk first gathered to organize resistance by the Cape Colony Afrikaners in support of the two independent Boer republics (Orange Free State and the Transvaal) invaded by Britain. Cape Afrikaners had suffered cultural and language discrimination under Britain’s rule in the Cape Colony since 1806 when a large military force invaded and defeated the Cape Town–based Batavian (Dutch) Republic and imposed British colonial rule.
Near the entrance to the Memorial is a dedication plaque explaining the Memorial’s purpose and significance. The English translation of the plaque reads:
Loyalty has been deeply incised into the heart of the Afrikaner.
That is because he fears God.
Our brothers that have fallen in the war, with the Bible in one hand and the Mauser in the other, and who had the veld reverberate with the Psalms that they sang, who cannot but honour them?
God and history will take their righteousness.
As far as our sisters are concerned, who have unceasingly prayed, the widows and orphans that suffered for their country; God alone knows what this means.
Those men and women are the descendants of high-spirited Netherlanders, who have with the blessing of God through battle freed victory from the mighty Spain, and of the Huguenots who have shown to the world that faith gives the power to achieve wonders.
The war has established the unity of the Afrikaners of this land.
Earlier we knew that we were brothers and sisters, now we feel it.
That feeling will never die, because the roots of it have been established in our living souls.
British suppression of the Cape Rebels was particularly harsh and brutal since, as British subjects (as opposed to the Orange Free State and Transvaal Boers who were not), they were considered to be “traitors” to the crown. Many Cape Rebels were executed by British soldiers after drum-head courts martial. The Memorial includes a a panel containing period photographs and information about the suppression.
Located in the heart of the Western Cape wine region about 35 miles northeast of Cape Town, Paarl is the third-oldest European settlement in South Africa. Majestic Paarl Mountain, dominated by Paarl Rock (one of the world’s largest solid granite boulders and a mecca for experienced rock climbers) towers over the city, and was first sighted by Europeans in 1657. In 1687, Dutch settlers from Cape Town and French Huguenots fleeing religious persecution in France established productive and highly successful farms in the area – particularly vineyards whose grapes continue to produce some of South Africa’s and the world’s finest wines and brandies.
In addition to the Cape Rebels Memorial, other points of interest in Paarl include the impressive Afrikaanse Taalmonument (monument to the Afrikaans language), the city’s many 16th–19th century buildings and churches in the “Cape Dutch”-style architecture, scenic routes, hiking trails, and numerous vineyards offering wine-tastings. For more Paarl travel information, visit tourismcapetown.co.za/leisure-travel/town/paarl.