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Anglo - Boer War 1899 - 1902

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The Hildebrand Monument: Anglo - Boer War 1899 - 1902

By 1901 the conventional war between Britain and the Boer Republics, Transvaal and Orange Free State, had ended with the occupation of Pretoria by the British. The Boers switched to guerrilla tactics, living off the land and harassing British forces wherever they found them. Part of this strategy was to infiltrate Commandos into the Cape Colony to attack the British. This approach explains the presence of a Boer Commando 1,500km from home, at Darling in November 1901. This was the furthest that Boer forces penetrated South, and the closest military action to Cape Town of the War.

During September 1901, Commandos under the leadership of Manie Maritz and Jan Theron, arrived in the Van Rhynsdorp district and joined forces. The decision was taken to attack British forces near Cape Town. After a successful attack on a British military supply column between Lamberts Bay and Clanwilliam, Hildebrand was appointed Veldkornet and was ordered, to take 150 men and conduct a raid south, towards Hopefield and Darling. The rest of the Commando would meet him there after raiding Piketberg.

After The successful occupation of Hopefield, the Commando advanced to Darling on 10th November 1901. A scouting party entered the town on the 11th. They discovered that the Town Guard had withdrawn. The Commando destroyed the telegraph and released the gaol’s only prisoner, a Mr. Loubser. On Monday 12th VeldKornet Hildebrand, with part of the Commando, entered the town and requisitioned supplies, the remainder commandeered horses in the vicinity.

Hildebrand MonumentBritish reinforcements, 500 men under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Crabbe, had arrived by rail at Kalbaskraal and left for Darling on 11th November, arriving in Darling at noon the following day. Hildebrand and his men immediately vacated the town, gathering his forces on the high ground north-east of Klipberg, about 6 km to the north of the town. The British attacked their position, and during the Boer withdrawal, Hildebrand was mortally wounded. His men hid the body of their commander in a porcupine burrow. Later that night they attempted to recover the body, but failed to locate the exact site. A shepherd, Klaas Papier, found the body the next day, the owner of the farm on which the action took place, Mr. G Loedolff, had the body wrapped in blankets and buried on the spot.

A few months later, the body was disinterred, placed in a coffin and given a dignified burial. Later still a white marble headstone was erected. The inscription is in Dutch and reads in translation:

“In Memory of C.P Hildebrand, of Lichtenburg Transvaal, who as Field-cornet in the Commando of Maritz was killed in action here on 12th November 1901, this stone was erected by Afrikaans friends.
1 Tim 6.12.”

In 1937 a decision was taken to erect a monument on the site. Funds were collected and the cornerstone was laid on 16th December 1939; on 16 December 1940 the monument was consecrated. Today the monument and war grave is cared for by the congregation of the Dutch Reformed Church of Darling.

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Article received from Gabriel Athiros, Editor, "The Cape Odyssey"

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