TOPIC: Albert Wittstock of Brabant's Horse, Frontier L.H, Kalahari Horse and elsewhere!
Albert Wittstock of Brabant's Horse, Frontier L.H, Kalahari Horse and elsewhere! 4 months 4 weeks ago #52709
Albert Christian Wittstock
Trooper, Brabant’s Horse
Private, “H” Squadron, Cape Colonial Forces
Trooper, Frontier Light Horse – Anglo Boer War
Private, Kalahari Horse
Private, 10th S.A.I.
Private, South African Medical Corps – WWI
- Queens South Africa Medal with clasp Cape Colony to 23 Tpr. A. Wittstock, Brabant’s Horse
- Kings South Africa Medal with clasps South Africa 1901 & 1902 to 806 Tpr. A.C. Wittstock, Frontier L.H.
- 1914/15 Star to Pte. A.C. Wittstock, Kalahari Horse
- British War Medal to Pte. A.C. Wittstock, 10th S.A.I.
- Victory Medal unnamed erased
Albert Christian Karl Wittstock (to give him his correct name) was born in Frankfort in the Eastern Cape area of South Africa on 3 March 1879. Also known to the world at large as “Carl” he was the son of Ludwig Wittstock and his wife Louise. As can be surmised from the family names they were of German origin. The family were of farming stock – working the land in the harsh conditions to be found in frontier country – and were necessarily numerous in number with siblings Caroline; Ludwig Carl; Friedrika Wilhelmina; Friedrich Martin; Gustav Friedrich and others to keep young Albert company.
Very little disturbed the idyllic pastoral tranquillity of this remote area but this was all set to change for Carl, his family and their neighbours. Trouble was brewing up north where the two Boer Republics of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal were set on a collision course with Imperial Britain. The causes of the impending trouble were many and not the subject of this work, suffice it to say that Oom Paul Kruger, the State President of the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek (Transvaal) was adamant that the British should be taught a lesson for interfering in his tiny country’s domestic affairs and, after an ultimatum he had set expired on 11 October 1899, the various territories that made up South Africa were at war.
Initially there was no threat to those in the Eastern Cape – they were, after all, far from the action but this wasn’t destined to last and many Town Guards and other more regular units were called into being in order to counter possible Boer incursions. One such was Brabant’s Horse – raised in November 1899 with an authorised establishment of 600 there were two regiments – 1st and 2nd Brabant’s Horse. Wittstock was one of the first recruits completing his Attestation form for enlistment at Kei Road on 9 November 1899. Assigned no. 23 with the rank of Trooper he was one of the founder members of “A” Company of the 1st battalion.
Taking to the field in the Queenstown-Dordrecht district they were frequently referred to in appreciative terms and were especially noticed for their skill at drill and musketry which put them in fighting trim before many others. The regiment was very soon sent to hold various posts, and when General Gatacre went out to attack Stormberg, on the night of 9th December, 160 of Brabant's were intended to join the attacking force from Penhoek, but the telegram was not delivered and they never received word of it. The detachment under De Montmorency did arrive at Molteno on the afternoon of the 10th, and scouted back on the line of the British retreat.
On 22nd and 23rd December De Montmorency and his men had skirmishes near Dordrecht, in which they got the better of the enemy, who had the stronger force. About this time Captain De Montmorency raised his body of scouts, all picked men, who did some very fine work. On the 28th, with some of his own scouts and some of Brabant's Horse, he was out near Dordrecht, but little was to be seen of the enemy. On the 30th, however, there was quite a stiff little fight, in which a party of the Frontier Mounted Rifles was cut off and only rescued the following day. Captain Flanagan's company of Brabant's was said to have done very well. The corps did an immense amount of patrol work throughout January, and Captain Flanagan's company were the first troops in the Queenstown district to gain touch with the Vlth Division, then approaching the Stormberg country from Cape Town via Thebus.
Lord Roberts had in January announced the appointment of Brigadier General Brabant as Commander of the Colonial Division, which included the two regiments of this corps, and under that general they did excellent work in the clearing of the north-east of Cape Colony. On 19 February 1900, after three months service, Wittstock took his discharge only to join the Frontier Light Horse the very same day. Assigned no. 806 and the rank of Trooper he took to the field with them. Based in King William’s Town in the Eastern Cape the Frontier Light Horse’s area of service was No. 1 Division, Cape Colony.
There was no individual attestation forms to complete; there was in its stead a form where “We the undersigned severally agree to join the Frontier Light Horse on the following terms.”
These terms were for a period of 6 months (or less if not required); Trooper’s pay of 5 shillings per day and an allowance of 2/6 per day for those bringing their own horses and saddlery. Rations for man and horse were free. As a unit this corps, called at first District Mounted Rifles, were 3 squadrons strong, and were commanded by Lieutenant Colonel E O Hutchinson. They operated in the Cape Colony during the second phase of the war, and were in numerous little engagements and many pursuits, frequently suffering casualties, as in the Maraisburg district in August and September 1901, and at Wilgekloof in February 1902 and about Somerset East and Jamestown districts in March and April.
Wittstock took his leave of the F.L.H. on 31 May 1902 – the war was over on that day and he had pressing farming matters to attend to. For his efforts he was awarded both the Queens and Kings Medals. Home once more the normality of life returned once more. The world, for the most part, now entered a phase of relative calm. Like most things this peaceful bliss wasn’t destined to last forever.
On 4 August 1914 the world was at war on a hitherto unimagined scale. South Africa, so recently declared a Union of the four provinces and still licking the wound between Boer and Brit, came out on the side of the British Empire against the German aggressor. The first order of business was to invade the neighbouring territory of German South West Africa – the unit Wittstock joined, the Kalahari Horse, was raised specifically for that purpose and was placed under the command of General Berrange. The German South West campaign was an arduous one with many climatic challenges and vast expanses of desert to negotiate. Sand storms and flies were the order of the day and the retreating Germans poisoned the water wells and lifted the railway lines making the task harder still.
Having joined the Kalahari Horse as a Trooper Wittstock was assigned no. 731 and the Dutch rank of “Burgher”. He enlisted on 12 January 1915 and served right through until 8 June 1915 – a month before the German surrender there. Leaving Kuruman in the Northern Cape on 16 March Berrange was with his mounted column consisting of the 5th South African Mounted Rifles, the Kalahari Horse, Cullinan’s Horse and the Bechuanaland Rifles, with three guns and several machine guns.
Two weeks later, on 31 march, he crossed into South West Africa near Rietfontein. His men were enabled to keep marching by an elaborate system of advanced water points established ahead of the column by motor vehicles carrying the water in drums. As the force approached the border the Germans that had been occupying the former South African Police border post at Rietfontein abandoned it and retreated to the post at Schaapkolk on the German side. The guns were brought up and the walls of the German blockhouse shot down capturing the few survivors.
The Eastern Force (for such was Berrange’s column called) then marched on Hasur and then advanced to Kieriis West, where they found their way blocked by a fort, a strongly defended structure in a mountain pass. That too was stormed and the 300 Germans it housed put to flight. From there the Eastern Force linked up with Van Deventer’s Southern Force, a move that probably convinced the Germans to abandon the strongly fortified positions at Aus on the railway from Luderitz Bucht without a fight. From there the combined force went on to attack Kabus and overwhelm the 300-strong German Garrison there.
For his efforts Wittstock was awarded the 1914/15 Star to the Kalahari Horse – a hard to find regiment for a collector. But this didn’t signify the end of the war for him, having taken to the leadership style of Colonel Berrange he decided to follow that gentleman into the conflict in German East Africa.
After a short hiatus Wittstock completed the Attestation Papers for service with the 10th South African Infantry, 3rd S.A.I. Brigade at Potchefstroom on 8 January 1916. Confirming that he was now 35 years old he provided his wife, Alwina Louisa Wittstock as his next of kin. He was now blessed with three children all under the age of 18 showing just how productive he had been in between the Boer War and WWI. Having been passed as Fit by the Doctor he was assigned no. 8157 and the rank of Private. Drafted to the 10th regiment on 7 March 1916 he embarked aboard H.M.T. “Professor Woerman” two days later.
Once in German East Africa the first operations the unit took part in were the forcing of the passage of the Lumi River. From there they pushed on to Mbugwe, at the foot of the great escarpment, and there drove off an enemy force threatening the line of communication from the west. Here in this low-lying and flooded part of the country, they were marooned for several weeks during the rainy season. Cut off from the outside world supplies ran low but they were nevertheless ordered, despite being without supplies, to carry out the difficult task of scaling the sheer heights of Mbugwe which were being held by the enemy. The top was reached, with immense difficulty, shortly before dawn, when the enemy, finding his line of retreat threatened, hurriedly retired.
The next objective was Kondoa Irangi wither the column proceeded still without supplies and with the added complication that the dreaded malaria and black water fever had begun to take its toll on the men. The sick and wounded were left behind to be picked up later. Wittstock too succumbed to illness – on 29 September 1916 at Kadoma he was treated at the Field Ambulance before being transferred to Kilossa on 4 October 1916.
The regiment now formed part of the Central Force which at the end of June 1916 marched southwards for Dodoma, fighting its way through and constantly engaged with the enemy notably at the actions at Kideti and Tshunjo where they led the attack and took the brunt of the strong opposition encountered. The 10th then took full part in some heavy fighting at Kadoma on the way to Kidodi from whence they returned to Uleia at the end of October 1916. For Wittstock the war in the east was almost over. On 25 November 1916 he disembarked at Durban ex H.M.T. “Professor” and was granted recuperation leave from 12 December 1916 until 11 February 1917.
On 16 February at Congella (Durban) he was the subject of a Medical report on an Invalid wherein it was found that he had been suffering from Malaria contracted at Kilossa in July 1916. The Doctors reported that,
“He states that he got malaria in July 1916 at Kilossa and was in hospital for 20 days.
After July he had 5 attacks of Malaria treated at Uleia Hospital – 14 days, Kilossa Hospital 2 days. In December 1916 he was granted 2 months leave, since being on leave he has had Malaria twice.” On the back of this report he was discharged on 21 February 1917 – “Unfit for duty in East Africa.”
For Wittstock the temptation must have been there to call it a day and go back to the farm and his family but not for him the life of a shirker! On 20 April 1917 at Potchefstroom he completed the Attestation form for Voluntary Engagement for service in the South Africa Medical Corps. Now 37 ½ years of age he was described as having blue eyes, light brown hair, a fair complexion and being 5 feet 5 ½ inches in height. He had a mole on the back of his right thigh by way of distinguishing marks about his person. He was once again found to be Fit for service but, on this occasion, it was to be a short-lived affair. Having been assigned no. 1122 and the rank of Private with the S.A.M.C. he was rejected at Potchefstroom after only 10 days service on the grounds that he wasn’t old enough for S.A.M.C. “Union service” – the only explanation possible here was that there was a limit imposed where only those above a certain age were accepted. Armed with a Military Character reference of “Very God” he returned home.
For his efforts he was awarded the British War and Victory medals to go with his 1914/15 Star.
Having done his bit for King and Country Wittstock returned to his farming pursuits in Frankfort. He passed away at the age of 69 years 5 months at Grey’s Hospital in King William’s Town on 17 August 1948; survived by his wife and three children – Helena Auguste Mathilda De La Harpe, Alwina Therese Lingam and Gustav Carl Wittstock.
Albert Wittstock of Brabant's Horse, Frontier L.H, Kalahari Horse and elsewhere! 4 months 4 weeks ago #52711
Great morning read......
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