Welcome, Guest
Username: Password: Remember me

TOPIC: Bgr Edward Meyers, Heidelberg Commando

Bgr Edward Meyers, Heidelberg Commando 6 years 1 month ago #14596

  • Brett Hendey
  • Brett Hendey's Avatar Topic Author
  • Offline
  • Senior Member
  • Senior Member
  • Posts: 2854
  • Thank you received: 564



Some unusual information emerged from the research that started with the acquisition of the ABO awarded to Edward Meyers of the Heidelberg Commando.

Meyers had an inauspicious start in life in 1878 as an illegitimate son born in Hopetown, Cape Colony, which was one of the centres of South Africa's "Diamond Rush" in the 1870's. His mother was Cape Dutch and his father was apparently of German Jewish stock. Although his parents subsequently married, they apparently paid a heavy price for their indiscretion.

Edward later settled in Heidelberg, Transvaal, and joined the Heidelberg Commando in 1899. He served in the Natal Campaign and took part in the Battles of Modderspruit, Colenso, Platrand and Spioenkop. He was wounded, probably at Spioenkop, and later captured at Heidelberg.

He was sent as a Prisoner of War to India, first to Ahmednagar, near Bombay, and later to the Gobindghar Fort in Amritsar in the Punjab. There he met, and in November 1902, married an English spinster. There cannot be many instances of church marriage registers giving the groom's "Rank or Profession" as "Boer Prisoner of War".

Edward and his wife, Mabel, returned to South Africa in 1903 and settled in Heidelberg. They later moved to Johannesburg, where Edward served briefly in the Transvaal Police. They raised seven children.

In July 1949, when Edward was 71 years old, he claimed his ABO, which must be close to a record for tardiness.

His date of death has yet to be determined.

I will follow up this post with a fuller account of Edward Meyers' life and times.

Brett
Attachments:
The following user(s) said Thank You: djb

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

Bgr Edward Meyers, Heidelberg Commando 6 years 1 month ago #14597

  • Brett Hendey
  • Brett Hendey's Avatar Topic Author
  • Offline
  • Senior Member
  • Senior Member
  • Posts: 2854
  • Thank you received: 564
Edward Meyers

Edward Meyers was born on 2/2/1878 in Hopetown, Cape Colony, the son of Frederick Johannes Meyers and Elizabeth Jacoba Daniellina van Coller.

Hopetown was, and still is a small farming town on the south bank of the Orange (Gariep) River in a remote part the old Cape Colony. In1868, the first diamond in South Africa was discovered on a farm near the town. It was the 23 carat ‘Eureka’. Hopetown became the centre of South Africa’s ‘Diamond Rush’ and it boomed. Although the search for diamonds soon moved north of the Orange River to the Kimberley district, Hopetown remained an important stop on the way to the new diamond fields. The boom for Hopetown came to an end in 1884, when the railway line to Kimberley was completed.

The first remarkable record of Edward Meyers’ life was that he was baptised on 19/2/1878 as Edward van Coller by Dominee P J A de Villiers of the Hopetown Dutch Reformed Church (DRC). There were no witnesses to the baptism. The father’s first name was spelled incorrectly in the Baptismal Register (Frederik), which was changed to ‘Fredrik’. This spelling was also incorrect and later documentation gives it as ‘Frederick’. This indicates that Edward’s father was also absent from the baptism. It seems certain that Edward was born out of wedlock to a Cape Dutch (Afrikaner) woman, which at that time and in that place would have meant great disgrace for her. However, she and Frederick were subsequently married and Edward took his father’s surname. Frederick and Elizabeth went on to have three more children, all daughters, Johanna, Josephine and Paulina.

Frederick Meyers was born in Graaff Reinet, Cape Colony, in about 1845, the son of Ludwig and Maria Meyers. While Edward’s baptism by the Hopetown DRC Dominee indicates that Elizabeth van Coller was one of his parishioners, the same was probably not true of Frederick Meyers, since he is likely to have been Jewish. ‘Meyers’ is a German Jewish surname and the forenames of both Frederick and his parents are also, although not exclusively, German. ‘Edward’ is not typically either a German or a Jewish forename, but it is evidently a family name linked to the South African Meyers’, since it is recorded both before and after the Hopetown Edward was born. Also, it was the first name given to one of his sons. It was apparently because of his surname that Edward Meyers was listed on the South African Jewish Rootsbank website in the category “SA Jews in Boer War” as “possibly Jewish”. There were few Jews in rural South Africa in the 19th Century and by the end of the Century there were only 200 verified names of “Boerejode” who served on the Boer side during the Anglo-Boer War (Saks 1995).

Elizabeth van Coller belonged to a family that features prominently in the history of Hopetown and today there is still a ‘Van Coller Street’ in the town. In the latter quarter of the 19th Century, the Hopetown van Collers included Paul Johannes, who was an Attorney, Conveyancer and Justice of the Peace. He must have been a man of substance and importance in the town. He was born in Graaff Reinet in about 1843 and the closeness of birthdates and coincidence of birthplace suggest that Paul van Coller and Frederick Meyers knew one another. Another link between the two families is the fact that one of Paul’s eight children was named Johanna Meyers van Coller. ‘Van Coller’ was, and still is an uncommon surname, so it is likely that Elizabeth was related to Paul van Coller, and it was he who was the link between Elizabeth and Frederick. Certainly, some influence must have been applied to the local DRC Dominee to baptise Elizabeth’s illegitimate son.

The only other known record of Frederick and Elizabeth is in the former’s Death Notice. Frederick died in the Kimberley Hospital on 3/5/1908, aged 63 years. His occupation was given as ‘Labourer’ and he died leaving no property and no will. The disgrace that linked these two people in 1878 seems to have dogged them for the rest of their lives. By contrast, the son of Paul van Coller who shared his forenames went on to become an important doctor, soldier and farmer in South Africa (Obituaries, 1935).

In 1897, when he was 19 years old, Edward Meyers settled in Heidelberg in the South African Republic (ZAR or Transvaal). On 30/9/1899, when the start of the Anglo-Boer War was imminent, he was called up by Commandant Danie Weilbach’s Heidelberg Commando. He served as a Burgher with the Roodekoppen Ward under Field Cornet S B Buys. His Form “B” Application for the Angloboereoorlog Medal (ABO) was approved on the surprisingly late date of 20/7/1949, 29 years after the medal was instituted and when Meyers was 71 years old. The reason for this late application is unknown. By the time the application was submitted, both Weilbach and Buys were dead, and it was supported instead by J A Dönges of Heidelberg and a former Sergeant in the Staatsartillerie named Muller.

Meyers served in the Natal campaign and was present at the battles of Modderspruit (Pepworth or Ladysmith) (30/10/1899), Colenso (15/12/1899), Platrand (Wagon Hill/Caesar’s Camp) (6/1/1900), and Spioenkop (24/1/1900).

The Battle of Modderspruit was fought north-east of Ladysmith and was one of the preludes to the complete investment of Ladysmith by the Boers. The Heidelberg Commando supported by two “Long Tom” cannons of the Staatsartillerie occupied Pepworth Hill. The Heidelbergers rode forward to meet the British infantry advancing from Ladysmith and, after a fierce clash and many casualties, the British retreated. The Heidelberg Commando suffered its first casualties of the war and five men were killed, three of whom were from the Roodekoppen Ward.

The next action to involve the Heidelberg Commando was the Battle of Colenso on 15/12/1899. The Heidelbergers and Krugersdorp Commando occupied the high ground overlooking Colenso. Intense fire from them forced the British to abandon their guns which had been advanced to the south-east of the town. Courageous attempts to retake the guns failed, as did the attacks of the Irish Brigade and Mounted Brigade on the British left and right flanks respectively. The British suffered heavy losses and retreated to their former lines. The Heidelbergers lost one man killed by shellfire, while three men from Roodekoppen were wounded.

The key to the British defences in the southern part of Ladysmith was the hill known by the Boers as Platrand, and as Wagon Hill/Caesar’s Camp by the British. The Boers launched a major assault on Platrand in the early hours of 6/1/1900. The Heidelbergers together with the Wakkerstroom and Utrecht Commandos attacked the eastern end of Platrand (Caesar’s Camp), where the main opposition was from the Manchester Regiment. A fierce close-quarters battle lasted throughout the day and the Boers finally retreated under cover of a heavy thunderstorm that broke in the late afternoon. The Heidelbergers lost 22 men killed in this battle.

The Heidelbergers next took part in the Battle of Spioenkop on 24/1/1900, which was one of the bloodiest battles of the Boer War. Again much of the battle was at close quarters and it lasted throughout the day. The Heidelbergers occupied Aloe Knoll on the British right flank and were responsible for most of the Lancashire Fusiliers’ casualties during the battle. Both sides withdrew from the battlefield and the Boers alone returned the following day, thus claiming a decisive victory over the British. Seven Heidelbergers were killed or died of wounds in the battle. Two more died later from shooting accidents on the hill.

In his Form “B”, Meyers did not claim to be present in any other actions after Spioenkop and the next record of him is his capture by the British. A translated entry on his Form “B” reads:
“…. after I was wounded I went to India as a Prisoner of War and returned at the beginning of 1903.”
This terse entry glosses over another eventful period in Meyers’ life.

It is possible that Meyers was wounded at Spioenkop and took no further part in the war in Natal. The Heidelbergers were heavily engaged in the Battles of Vaalkrans (5-7/2/1900) and Tugela Heights (12-28/2/1900), and it is unlikely that Meyers would have omitted to mention them on his Form “B” had he been present. It was later recorded that he had a scar on the inside of his right leg and this may have been evidence of his war wound. His Form “B” did not include a claim for the Lint Voor Wonden (Wound Ribbon).

After the Siege of Ladysmith was lifted, the Boers retreated back through northern Natal and into the south-eastern Transvaal. Meyers probably rejoined his Commando there and he was captured at, or near Heidelberg on 2/11/1900. There are no known records of the circumstances of his capture.

Meyers was transported to India on the Hawarden Castle and lodged in the Ahmednagar Camp in the hill country east of Bombay. Nothing is known of Meyers’ stay at Ahmednagar. The next record of Meyers is late in 1902 and it places him in Amritsar in the Punjab, 1800 km north of Ahmednagar. The Gobindghar Fort in Amritsar served as a prison for Boer POW’s, so Meyers was evidently transferred there on an unknown date.

The “next record” referred to above is a surprising one. The Marriage Register of St Paul’s Church, Amritsar, records the marriage on 28/11/1902 of Edward Meyers, Boer Prisoner of War, to Mabel Lilian Lincoln, Spinster. Mabel was evidently a resident of Amritsar, where her father, Robert Lee Lincoln, had died on 10/8/1894, aged 40 years. Witnesses to the marriage were Herbert Bertram, H G Lincoln and John Fox, while the ceremony was performed by H W Griffiths, Archdeacon of St Paul’s Church.

Nothing is known of how the couple met, how their courtship was managed, and who approved the marriage of a Boer prisoner, who was due for repatriation to South Africa, to a presumably British spinster of Amritsar. After the war had ended on 31/5/1902, the restrictions on the movement of prisoners may well have been relaxed. Gobindghar Fort is only a mile or two away from St Paul’s Church, which prisoners may have been permitted to attend, and that may have been where the couple met. After their marriage, the travel costs of the ‘war bride’ would have been another hurdle that faced them. However, whatever problems had arisen in the relationship were solved, since Meyers, presumably accompanied by his new wife, returned to South Africa in 1903.

The Meyers’ settled in Heidelberg, where Edward was employed as an Articled Clerk by Attorney A van Driels & Agency. They had two sons, Frederick Ludwig (born 11/2/1905), and Edward William (born 28/7/1907). Frederick was still unmarried when he died aged 59 in 1964, while Edward died aged 61 in 1968.

The next record of Edward Meyers comes in 1910, when he joined the Transvaal Police (TP) as a Constable (No. 2382). The only hint as to why Meyers wanted to join the TP was an entry in his 1/2/1910 application form admitting to a debt of “Roughly £20 to £30.” He may have needed a secure public service position to deal with his debt.

Edward went on to serve for 2 years and 29 days before being discharged on 29/2/1912 due to his “Unsuitability for police duties”. His record of service does not reveal the nature of his ‘unsuitability’. His character was given as “Good” and he was trained in “mounted & foot duties” and musketry. There were no charges of misconduct against him and his only medical problem was a strained leg muscle, which he got while playing cricket when he was off-duty. While a fall in weight from “about 12½ stone” to “10 stone 5½ lbs” could simply have been due to a more active life-style, rather than a sign of ill-health, Meyers did take a large number of days leave on full pay. A total number of 63 leave days were logged under the headings of “Occasional”, “Vacation”, “Sick” and “Urgent Private Affairs”. Whether or not this was regarded as excessive is not known, but the pattern of 1, 2, and 3 day spells of non-vacation leave may reflect a lack of dedication to the job.

Little is known of the Meyers family after Edward left the TP. He had been stationed in Johannesburg, where his address was given as 33 Rockey Street, Bellevue East, Johannesburg. It seems likely that he remained a resident of the Transvaal and his address given in his Form “B” in 1949 was 56a Juta Street, Braamfontein, Johannesburg. His sons Frederick and Edward also resided in the Transvaal at the times of their deaths in 1964 and 1968, respectively.

The estate papers of Frederick and Edward reveal that five more children were born to the Meyers’. They were Bertram William, William Ludwig, Charles, Muriel and Lilian Elizabeth.

The death notices of Edward Meyers and his wife have not been traced.


REFERENCES

Obituaries, Dr P J van Coller, S A Medical Journal, August 24 1935; The British
Medical Journal, September 7 2935.

Saks, David Y. 1995. Three ‘Boerejode’ and the South African War. Military
History Journal 10 (2).

Various files from the Cape Town and Pretoria Repositories of the South African National Archives.

Internet records, including those of the Anglo-Boer War Museum, Bloemfontein and SA Jewish Rootsbank.

Brett Hendey
7/10/2013

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

Bgr Edward Meyers, Heidelberg Commando 6 years 1 month ago #14599

  • Frank Kelley
  • Frank Kelley's Avatar
  • Offline
  • Senior Member
  • Senior Member
  • Posts: 6445
  • Thank you received: 824
Hello Brett,
What a super ABO, I must double my efforts to get one to the Heidleberg Commando, I've had a few chances in the past, but, have not seen very many really down the years, it appeals to me greatly, years ago, I read Ian Uys's book and became interested, it is a medal that has thus far eluded me, never mind, we shall have to see about getting one!
Kind regards Frank

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

Bgr Edward Meyers, Heidelberg Commando 6 years 1 month ago #14604

  • capepolice
  • capepolice's Avatar
  • Offline
  • Senior Member
  • Senior Member
  • Posts: 924
  • Thank you received: 253
Hello Brett,

As Frank says, what a superb ABO. You have really put a fascinating story together which really does the man and the medal proud.

Look forward to seeing the medal at our next get together.

A most enjoyable read.

Thanks for sharing it with us.

Cheers
Adrian
Part time researcher of the Cape Police and C.P.G Regiment.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

Bgr Edward Meyers, Heidelberg Commando 6 years 1 month ago #14638

  • Brett Hendey
  • Brett Hendey's Avatar Topic Author
  • Offline
  • Senior Member
  • Senior Member
  • Posts: 2854
  • Thank you received: 564
Frank & Adrian

Thank you for your comments. There are still many unanswered questions about Edward Meyers' life, so he will not be joining the 'cold cases' yet.

Regards
Brett

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

Bgr Edward Meyers, Heidelberg Commando 6 years 1 month ago #14640

  • Frank Kelley
  • Frank Kelley's Avatar
  • Offline
  • Senior Member
  • Senior Member
  • Posts: 6445
  • Thank you received: 824
The mere thought of that makes me smile, I'm rather surprised, that you, of all people, actually have any cold cases!

Brett Hendey wrote: Frank & Adrian

Thank you for your comments. There are still many unanswered questions about Edward Meyers' life, so he will not be joining the 'cold cases' yet.

Regards
Brett

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

Moderators: djb
Time to create page: 0.518 seconds
Powered by Kunena Forum