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 Desertions from the British Army

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barry

barry

Posts : 907
Join date : 2011-10-21
Location : Algoa Bay

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PostSubject: Desertions from the British Army   Desertions from the  British Army EmptyWed Jan 15, 2014 5:08 pm

Hi All,
During the AZW desertions from the forces were commonplace from both the Imperial and Colonial armies.  
Principally those fleeing their duty, did so from the many camps in and around Pietermaritzburg. At this time the gold rush had started on the Witwatersrand and this was just enough cause for the care free and adventure minded souls in the services to flee north and seek  very rich pickings in Kruger's Transvaalse Republiek.  Desertion were not limited to the Pmbg camps however as also there were many  by troopers  posted to the camps on the Natal/Zululand front.
Now the popular escape methodology was to get away from the camp and to change into mufti. Thence travel would be undertaken by foot at night , overland to railway stations on the Ladysmith/ Charlestown line. Once away from the city the train would be boarded and used to travel  to the northern  terminus at Charlestown. On reaching the Natal /Transvaal border , the frontier would be crossed and the coach to Johannesburg would be boarded for the last leg of the journey to their "El Dorado".  Now the distance from Helpmekaar to the Ladysmith railway line was a mere 40 miles and could easily be traversed, unseen, over two nights by these army deserters.
There was one problem with all of this however and that was the Natal Mounted Police who were perpetually on the lookout for  these dodgers  and were quite eager to arrest them and return them to barracks because a 2  Br pound bounty per head was paid to them for the trouble. Flogging and imprisonment was the punishment meted out to those caught and returned.
However, there were a number of very notorious characters who did get through and spent their time north of the border in the Transvaal murdering their opposition and Krugers Police as well as any one else who got in the way of their rampage of murder, gold thieving, bank breaking, and general derring do
Charles von  Onselens book "Masked  Raiders ( of the Transvaal)" makes very interesting reading for those interested in this part of the history. It's ISBN no is  13: 9781770220805

regards,

barry


Last edited by barry on Sun Jan 19, 2014 4:43 pm; edited 1 time in total
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90th

90th

Posts : 9956
Join date : 2009-04-07
Age : 63
Location : Melbourne, Australia

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PostSubject: Desrtions from the British Army    Desertions from the  British Army EmptyWed Jan 15, 2014 10:11 pm

Good one Barry , interesting post .  Salute 
90th
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90th

90th

Posts : 9956
Join date : 2009-04-07
Age : 63
Location : Melbourne, Australia

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PostSubject: Desertions from the British Army    Desertions from the  British Army EmptyThu Jan 16, 2014 1:02 am

A friend kindly sent me the following information .
'' 4th Sept 1878 train service commenced from Durban to Pinetown and extended to Botha's Hill on the 24th March 1879 .
A railroad to Camperdown was established in the beginning of Oct 1880 , finally on the 21st Oct after nearly 5 yrs of intense labour , the rail reached P'maritzburg . The arrival of the railway in P'maritzburg in 1880 was an important milestone in the construction of the Natal main line , this remarkable engineering feat was the first installment at what subsequently became the chief rail artery to Link Durban with the Witwatersrand Gold fields . Work on the 191 km ext to Ladysmith commenced July 1882 and opened June 1886 . Construction of the line was continued in 1888 and by April 1891 it had reached Charlestown near the Transvaal border , the link to J'burg was completed Dec 1895 , fully operational 2 Jan 1896 '' .
Cheers 90th  Salute 
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barry

barry

Posts : 907
Join date : 2011-10-21
Location : Algoa Bay

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PostSubject: Desertions from the British forces   Desertions from the  British Army EmptySat Jan 18, 2014 8:53 am

Hi  90th,
Thanks for that post.
Indeed, the  railway line north from the capital took a many  years  to build because of the cost and engineering challenges created by the rugged Natal terrain.
Travelling north from Pietermaritzburg this track cuts through the Drakensberg  foot hills and thus traverses very spectacular scenery.
Near the northern Natal/Tansvaal border, the railway "pass" at Ingogo ( below Majuba mountain)( Colley's folly) and summiting at Laing's Nek on the border, was a particularly difficult bit of engineering and time consuming.
However, as the line progressed north out of the capital, temporary northern termini  were established at Hilton, Mooi River,  Estcourt , Chievely, Colenso  etc at which places where there were coach houses set up. Once the north bound traveller reached one of these, end of the rail,  termini,  horse drawn stage coaches ran the remainder of the distance, overland, up to the Gold Fields.
Whilst all of this was going on the construction trains hauling ballast,  track, sleepers,  and which ran the line  every day were a  transport medium for those requiring free travel, in either direction, undetected.  Some dodgers even ran south to Durban where they stowed away on ships and sailed to Australia, for instance.
Colonel Bru de Wold ( a noteworthy character often discussed on this forum), was the antithesis of all of this.
He dived overboard  from his Norwegion naval training  ship whilst sailing north out of Durban harbour and swam to the shore , beaching at Umhlanga Rocks  ( to the north of the city) from where he walked, some 170kms,  to Port Shepstone on the south coast  where he started his new very interesting, adventure filled life.

regards,

barry
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