03 November 2011 by Chris Marais

Dawn Watch Over Klaarstroom

I am sitting on a rock on a little hill overlooking the village of Klaarstroom in the Little Karoo. Just below me the cops are changing shifts, the lambs are crying out for an early breakfast and the guest house night lights flicker off.

It’s just before dawn and I’ve come to see the glorious Swartberg range come to life with that red-gold light of a new day. These mountains lie as a backdrop to Klaarstroom, Population: Not Very Many.

Back in the days of the South African (Anglo-Boer) War, Boer Kommando leader Denys Reitz and his warrior band rode through here once en route to linking up with Jan Smuts’s column that was making merry hell in the Cape.

Reitz’s lot captured a British messenger outside Klaarstroom and he spilled the beans on where all his compatriots were bivouacked. Yet they still managed to get mixed up with British troops in the main road of the village and had to “beat a hasty retreat”.

“Dogs barked, windows opened and soldiers ran into the street,” Reitz says in Commando, the ground-breaking literary work on the Anglo-Boer War.

Below me are the two little war graves in the grounds of the Church of the Good Shepherd. One of the graves holds the body of Lance Corporal J Boyd of the Imperial Yeomanry corps. Boyd, seriously wounded, had taken shelter in a ravine. Johannes Klue, a Boer soldier, came riding past. He startled Boyd, who shot him. A farmer heard the shot and went to check it out. He found the fatally wounded Klue and took him back to the farmstead where he died. The farmer decided to bury Klue in the ravine, and while preparing the grave he came across the body of Lance Corporal Boyd. He buried both men side by side.

Only later did Boyd’s widow request that her husband be reinterred at the nearest Anglican Church graveyard - in this case, the Church of the Good Shepherd.

Here comes the sun. The war stories fade with the early light. It’s a new day in Klaarstroom…

Category: Culture & History

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