Day 29: The Scourge of the Kaiserbird

Captain von Erckert, leader of the Schutztruppe, was dead and Simon Koper, his enemy and leader of the Fransmanne, Der Fuchs aller Füchse, was still at large.

It was the year 1908 and during the following years relations between Germany and Great Britain would deteriorate. The German administration did not anticipate that Britain would allow them access to British territory. For this reason no endeavours were made to erect proper tombstones or take the remains back to Namibia. Ultimately memorial stones were erected at the Gochas cemetery and they are still there to this day.

Simon Koper settled at Kgatlwe (the same place as Lokwabe) in Bechuanaland. There he sired two sons, Little Simon and Hendrik. Simon’s wife was taken prisoner during the battle and sent to Windhoek. The name of the biological mother of the two little boys is not known.

Simon Koper’s escape was a huge embarrassment and consternation to the German colonial government. Reams of letters followed between the British High Commissioner and his German opposite number. Eventually Germany agreed to pay Simon Koper an annual pension but subject to two conditions: that he never, ever set foot in Namibia again and also that he would never know the source of the pension money. Britain had to state that it came from them.

1909 contract with Simon Kooper
A copy of the contract according to which Germany would pay Simon Koper and his retinue an annual pension.

 

Koper died on 31 January 1913, five years after the battle and was buried at Lokwabe. His descendants continued to receive the pension from Germany up to the independence of Botswana in 1966.

Wulf Haacke undertook five expeditions in an endeavour to locate the battlefield, and more lately a German group under Carsten Möhle also made attempts in 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2018.

http://www.bwana.de/spezialreisen/expeditionen/erckert-expedition.html

Carsten and I have joined forces and we will depart on 11 October 2019 for hopefully the final expedition to locate the battlefield and the graves.

 

Koosbygraf
In August 2018 I attended the annual International Nama festival at Lokgwabe where Simon Koper was buried in 1913.

 

There is only one person alive today who saw the German graves at the battlefield with his own eyes and who might therefore have some idea of where they were located. This man is Elias le Riche. It was of the greatest importance that he shared this information with us. He did exactly that during our 2018 expedition.

 

This blog is about my book with the title The Scourge of the Kaiserbird and starts with Day 1, posted on 1 April 2018. That followed on “Dag 91: Die Keiservoël Oor Namaland“,  my 91 blog posts about the original Afrikaans version. In October I will be taking an expedition to locate the battlefield described in Chapter 37 of the book. My blogs are currently focusing on this great battle.

The Scourge of the Kaiserbird,” originally published in Afrikaans as “Die Keiservoël Oor Namaland,” is available from all leading bookstores in Namibia, through Namibian Book Market, and in South Africa from Upper Case, formerly Graffiti, in Menlyn Maine. Copies can also be ordered from kosiemarais@gmail.com  It is available on Kindle and worldwide in paperback from Amazon. Visit my Amazon author’s site by clicking on https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07HFTTQ2B where you can also place orders. 

Day 28: The Scourge of the Kaiserbird

On 16 March at 02h00, under cover of darkness, Captain von Erckert’s troops began surrounding the sleeping Namas. The Germans were unaware that the famed Nama leader known, according to Haacke, as Der Fuchs aller Füchse (the wily fox or fox of all foxes) and a small group of men had already left the previous afternoon in search of tsammas. According to Kloppers Koper also took part in the battle and escaped.

erckert01
A map of the battlefield indicting how the Namas were surrounded.

 

Captain Willeke’s troops were deployed in the east and those of Grüner in the west. They were instructed to move to within 1000 metres from the Nama camp. The machine gun unit of Lieutenant Boetticher had to remain on the north-western side, approximately 1500 metres behind the enemy lines. At first light the units had to advance, moving in to the left and right in an endeavour to totally surround the Namas. Grüner’s men were deployed over a distance of two kilometres with distances of 10 to 20 metres between each man. Von Erckert himself would be in the north-east with the 16th Company.

According to later narratives, the Namas were well aware of the Germans but totally underestimated their numbers. Thus they did not attempt a silent exit during the night but instead decided to lie in wait for them. They even dug trenches fortified with tree branches while waiting for the attack to begin.

In the meanwhile Grüner sent messengers to Molentsan to call up the medical unit.

The battle began at 05h15 on 16 March 1908 with the two large companies of Grüner and Willeke moving towards one another. Grüner made contact with the enemy within five minutes. Von Erckert, at the forefront on the north-eastern side, died immediately. It is ironic that his planning of this dramatic attack over several months was terminated in such a way.

Grüner took command.

The machine guns were firing from the north into and between the two columns that were moving towards one another from the east and west. At 06h30 the order was given for a bayonet charge. The Namas fled towards the south where there was least resistance and here Lieutenant Ebinger and ten members of his unit were killed. At least 25 Nama fighters escaped in the midst of the waiting camels and their guards. Because the few soldiers that were guarding the camels did not shoot at them the Namas left them alone.

In the heat of the battle the German soldiers saw a moving oxwagon among the Namas. Later the wagon was gone.

The main camp of the Namas that was situated on a so-called `island dune’ was easily captured. It is presumed that the tem refers to a lone dune entirely surrounded by deep valleys. The German soldiers searched the battlefield thoroughly for casualties and drove all the captured animals towards the island dune. The medical unit arrived at 0900 and established a first-aid post at the north-eastern end of the island dune.

The chief medical officer, Dr Ohlemann, walked across the battlefield and discovered a wounded white man. He left him lying where he was and when he returned later to fetch him, the man had disappeared.

Apart from Von Erckert and Lieutenant Ebinger, altogether 11 German soldiers were killed and a further 19 wounded of which 10 were in a serious condition. Two of them died the next day and were buried at Lang Rambuka; 58 Namas were killed in the battle among them Isaak Koper, Simon’s brother.

Eliesaar, the leader of the patrol that had ambushed and killed Sergeant Jaeger and his men on 3 March, was wounded during the battle. Eliesaar was also involved in the incident when Robert Duncan Jr was shot and killed at Daberas on 5 June 1907. Willie Duncan, Robert’s brother, was one of Von Erckert’s guides. He first interrogated the wounded Eliesaar and then summarily shot him.

Ohlemann and others speculated afterwards that the wounded white man that disappeared was a trader, it was hìs oxwagon they saw and the Namas came and took him away together with several other wounded Namas. How this could have happened remains a mystery. A few Nama women, among them the wife of Simon Koper, were taken prisoner. She was taken to Windhoek as a hostage.

On the battlefield 28 guns, 10 horses, 50 head of cattle and 200 sheep, saddles and household wares were collected.

During that afternoon deep graves were dug and the thirteen battle casualties buried, the two officers in separate graves and the soldiers in a mass grave. On a photograph of the graves a large shepherd’s tree can be seen close to the graves.

erckert08
Captain Von Erckert’s grave left at the back, that of Lieutenant Ebinger on the right at the back, and the mass grave of the soldiers in the foreground.

 

The return journey began at 19h00. The seriously injured were tied to special stretchers and transported between two camels, a totally unsatisfactory manner of transport because one of the wounded fell off the stretcher and was killed in the fall.

erckert20
A camel ambulance. One of the wounded fell to his death from a stretcher like this.

On 17 March they rested near Molentsa Pan. They managed to make contact with Geinab which in turn communicated with Windhoek. Oxwagons were requisitioned from Aranos to go to the aid of the returning troops to care for the wounded. On the evening of the 17th they trekked further and reached the 5 kilometre mark east of Lang Rambuka, the site of the heliograph, at 05h00 on 18 March. Here they they were given water and provisions while the two injured soldiers who died during the journey were buried. It rained during the night and the men were able to collect drinking water.

They reached Geinabvlei, near Grootkolk on 19 March, and the ambulance section departed from there. On 22 March the expedition reached Aranos.

Of the 710 camels only five had to be shot because they fell and sustained fractured bones. Most of the camels were without water for 12 days, and some for up to 16 days.

According to Kloppers, Captain Grüner realised that the care of the wounded was a first priority and the cannon (field battery or pom-pom) would be a burden on the return journey. For this reason they removed a crucial component to render it useless and dragged the canon up a hill and concealed it beneath a large overhanging black-bark tree. Hence the legend of the cannon. Haacke makes no mention of this at all.

This blog is about my book with the title The Scourge of the Kaiserbird and starts with Day 1, posted on 1 April 2018. That followed on “Dag 91: Die Keiservoël Oor Namaland“,  my 91 blog posts about the original Afrikaans version. In October I will be taking an expedition to locate the battlefield described in Chapter 37 of the book

The Scourge of the Kaiserbird,” originally published in Afrikaans as “Die Keiservoël Oor Namaland,” is available from all leading bookstores in Namibia, through Namibian Book Market, and in South Africa from Upper Case, formerly Graffiti, in Menlyn Maine. Copies can also be ordered from kosiemarais@gmail.com  It is available on Kindle and worldwide in paperback from Amazon. Visit my Amazon author’s site by clicking on https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07HFTTQ2B where you can also place orders. 

 

 

Day 27: The Scourge of the Kaiserbird

This blog is about my book with the title The Scourge of the Kaiserbird and starts with Day 1, posted on 1 April 2018. That followed on “Dag 91: Die Keiservoël Oor Namaland“,  my 91 blog posts about the original Afrikaans version. In October I will be taking an expedition to locate the battlefield described in Chapter 37 of the book. My blogs are currently focusing on this great battle.

The trail left by the group of 35 Fransmanne that attacked and killed Seargent Jaeger and his company on 3 March at Kubub, north of Koes, ran straight across Geinab.

Koos
Koos Marais at Geinab, a few kilometres north of Grootkolk. The two locations are not clearly indicated in Haacke’s article. The headquarters of the expedition might have been based at any one of the two places but it is not critically important.

Logic dictates that they would be underway to their leader Simon Koper, leaving the tracks that Von Erckert’s troops would follow on the evening of 12 March when they began their advance at 20h00. Although already 10 days old, the tracks were still visible in the moonlight. At 01h25 on the morning of 13 March the moon set, and because they could no longer follow the tracks, they stopped at a place that Haacke does not indicate precisely. They reckoned that they had by then already progressed 20 kilometres. This coincides with a travel time of just under 4 hours per kilometre. In the early hours of 13 March the columns were on the move once more and after a two-hour trek they crossed the Lang Rambuka pan. In truth, the pan was located approximately 22 kilometres from Grootkolk which affirms that the Germans’ calculations, as reported by Haacke, were indeed correct.

Pan
The Lang Rambuka pan

From Lang Rambuka pan they travelled for another five kilometres and, according to Haacke, erected a heliograph station at that location and thus made contact with the heliograph station at Geinab. Haacke states here that the heliograph station was erected at Geinab but it could be that he is referring to the heliograph station at Verkennerskop, a few kilometres west of Grootkolk. It is also possible that there were heliograph stations at both Grootkolk/Geinab and Verkennerskop because Verkennerskop is more elevated than Grootkolk. Grootkolk and Geinab were not directly visible from the five kilometre point east of the Lang Rambuka pan. The signallers would therefore have communicated with Verkennerskop from this point and Verkennerskop would then relay the message to Grootkolk/Geinab and vice versa.

telegraafstasie
A telegraph station in German Southwest-Africa

Kloppers simply states that the combat troops reached the Rooi Rambuka “between two or three days” after departing from Grootkolk and from there moved on to Tweeling Rambuka. They then moved slightly northwards and reached the “Pollenswa” (Polentswa), following the river bed for some distance before leaving it at the opposite side of “Boerekoppe”. According to Kloppers they were then only a few kilometres from the Nama camp, which might finally have been the battleground, and erected a heliograph there. It is very unlikely that the Germans would have exposed themselves to the Namas by putting up a heliograph on high ground.

Haacke writes about the existence of another report which indicates that contact was made with Geinab from a high dune next to the pan. Whether this pan was Lang Rambuka or another pan, perhaps even Tweeling Rambuka, makes it difficult to calculate further troop movements as well as the eventual location of the battlefield. According to Kloppers the combatants were by now 61 kilometres inside the border of Bechuanaland which, given the total context, might not necessarily be correct.

The construction of the heliograph station and communication network must have taken considerable time in hot conditions because Haacke writes that the troops only moved on at 18h00 from the position where the heliograph station was located. The support division and medical unit remained behind there. The fighting unit moved on for a further 13 kilometres and rested again.

The following day, 14 March, water was provided to the combat unit, and a section of the support troops were sent back to Geinab to replenish rations. The combat unit rested until 17h00 and moved on again at dusk. Two hours later they arrived at a pan the scouts named Molentsan where they discovered traces of an old Nama camp and a tsamma field. Since the camels had been watered eight days previously, on 7 March, they were fed tsammas and the soldiers were also encouraged to eat some.

That night Von Erckert did reconnaissance himself and became lost. He had to use a signal flare to find his way back to the camp. The Namas also observed this signal and knew that the Germans were on their trail. According to later accounts by Nama prisoners the signal made Simon Koper decide to move on the next day to search for new tsamma fields.

Kloppers relates that the Germans made use of the services of Damap, grandfather of Dawid Kuiper. Elias believes that the Namas had been aware for some time that the Germans were in pursuit of them because the Fransman Namas had their own scouts, the Bushmen.

The following morning, 15 March, the Germans found Bushmen tracks, followed them and fired off shots in their direction but the Bushmen managed to escape. The German spies found another old camp and a clear indication of a path of tracks which showed the direction of the Namas’ flight.

During the afternoon Lieutenant Geibel and 12 armed scouts were dispatched to follow these tracks while the main army remained behind waiting for information. In the meanwhile the ambulance unit waited at Molentsan pan.

After approximately three hours Geibel’s patrol discovered another old Nama camp with still warm glowing coals.

At 22h30 a message from Geibel reached the soldiers that were advancing slowly from the rear, saying that the Nama fighters were located approximately 14 to 16 kilometres east of Molentsan pan. The German field troops were by now 2 to 3 kilometres south-west of the Namas whose campfires were visible. Even the lowing of cattle could be heard.

Von Erckert decided to attack the following morning at daybreak. At 00h35 on 16 March he gave the order for the attack to begin.

The Scourge of the Kaiserbird,” originally published in Afrikaans as “Die Keiservoël Oor Namaland,” is available from all leading bookstores in Namibia, through Namibian Book Market, and in South Africa from Upper Case, formerly Graffiti, in Menlyn Maine. Copies can also be ordered from kosiemarais@gmail.com  It is available on Kindle and worldwide in paperback from Amazon. Visit my Amazon author’s site by clicking on https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07HFTTQ2B where you can also place orders. 

Day 26: The Scourge of the Kaiserbird

This blog is about my book with the title The Scourge of the Kaiserbird and starts with Day 1, posted on 1 April 2018. That followed on “Dag 91: Die Keiservoël Oor Namaland“,  my 91 blog posts about the original Afrikaans version. In October I will be taking an expedition to locate the battlefield described in Chapter 37 of the book. My blogs are currently focusing on this great battle.

 

The accounts of Hannes Kloppers in his book Gee my`n man, and Wulf Haacke in his paper Simon Kopper and the Kalahari Expedition of 1908, published in the Journal of the Namibia Scientific Society, 44, 1993/1994, differ from one another. According to Haacke Von Erkert issued an order the day after the six German Schutztruppe were shot to death on 4 March 1908, to begin with the advance.

erckert16
A detachment in one of the river beds. The windmill in the background indicates that this photograph must have been taken somewhere on German territory. Nowhere east of the German border was there a windmill on the route taken by the expedition. Christoffel Brand, a farmer near the Nossob River, supplied water to the Germans during the expedition. It is not unlikely that this photograph could have been taken on his farm.

Kloppers describes it somewhat differently. He says on page 112 that the Germans carried out certain tasks at or close to Grootkolk while they were at their main bases, i.e. Gochas and Aranos, and that they were still busy training the camels. According to Kloppers they would have erected a heliograph station at Verkennerskop, installed a field cannon, constructed pens for the riding and pack animals and hoarded rations. All this was done while they were waiting for the arrival of the large camel patrol. Haacke also mentions that a heliograph station was erected at Grootkolk.

Von Erckert appeared to have been an emotional and impulsive leader, a trait that might have eventually led to his death. The annihilation of Sergeant Jaeger and his men on 3 March probably upset him to the extent that he immediately embarked on his punitive expedition the very next day. In addition it would have been highly unlikely for the Germans to have entrenched themselves for months or weeks on South African (then British) territory, which differs from what Kloppers tells us.

According to Haacke the two divisions, i.e. the Nossob division under Captain Willeke from Aranos and the Auob division under Captain Grüner from Gochas, had trekked from 4 to 11 March all along the course of these two rivers respectively, as far as Geinab or Grootkolk which were a few kilometres apart. Grüner had a shorter distance to go than the 120 kilometres Willeke had to cover but he would at some stage have had to turn directly eastwards, thus moving out of the course of the Auob River, in order to reach Grootkolk.

erckert09
Camels resting somewhere in the Kalahari.

Haacke mentions that 12 March was a day of rest at Grootkolk. This gives a clear indication of the stamina, capacity and endurance of the soldiers and the camels. In theory a camel could cover a distance of 70 kilometres or more a day, whereas Willeke’s men and camels needed seven or eight days to travel the 120 kilometres from Aranos to Grootkolk and then needed a day’s rest there. Grüner’s division had a shorter distance to cover and admittedly over slightly more difficult terrain. This is important when calculating the precise location of the battlefield, as would become clear later. These men and their camels moved slowly, probably not more than 3 or 4 kilometres per hour.

Haacke wrote that the camels had water for the last time on 7 March. This must have been somewhere between the towns of Gochas and Aranos, and Grootkolk. From personal narratives (Hannes Kloppers and Elias) we know that a farmer from the Nossob River, Christoffel Brand, provided water to the soldiers. The date, 7 March, could indicate that the camels drank at Brand’s farm.

erckert19
Enter A German soldier demonstrates how his camel kneels. Note the equestrian saddle.a caption

According to Kloppers 550 camels turned up at Grootkolk, but Haacke described in detail that 710 camels, 23 officers, 373 soldiers, 4 medical officers, 120 Coloureds, who were non-combatant servants, two horses, 5 mules and 11 riding oxen were part of the expedition. There were also four machine guns. Kloppers mentions only one field battery. His sources consisted mostly of personal narratives whereas Haacke’s article is based on dozens of documents.

Haacke mentions that the Willeke division uncoiled a telegraph cable all the way from Aranos, which accounts for the long time spent on the road while Christoffel Brand, the farmer from Auob, denied this in conversations with Hannes Kloppers. He said that the Germans used a heliograph to communicate from Grootkolk to Kowise Kolk in Namibia, and from there further as far as Gochas.

According to Haacke’s description there was telegraph communication between Grootkolk and Aranos. Aranos was in touch with Windhoek and therefore also with Berlin.

There was no telegraph connection from Grootkolk to Bechuanaland. A heliograph station was therefore established, probably at Verkennerskop (Spioenkop according to Elias), which was a few kilometres from Grootkolk.

Another disparity in the Haacke and Kloppers accounts of this history deserves mention here. Kloppers writes that the camels and the troops waited at Grootkolk for 28 days and received further training there while Haacke describes the train of events as set out above, namely that the two divisions began moving out from Gochas and Aranos on 4 March respectively. Kloppers also relates that the fighting unit moved into Bechuanaland on 7 March.

According to Haacke, on the afternoon of 12 March which was a day of rest, a strange and unusual event occurred that allows a glimpse into the life, and possibly death, of Captain Friedrich von Erckert. A group of concerned officers went to the senior medical officer and head of the medical corps, Dr Ohlemann, and requested him to declare Captain von Eckert to be mentally deranged and that he be relieved of his duties. They questioned the motivation of the mission and on this account believed that is was too dangerous. Dr Ohlemann refused.

That evening Von Erckert spoke briefly to his men before the troops left the bed of the Nossob River at 20h00 and moved out in a north-westerly direction. Grüner’s fighting unit went on ahead while Willeke’s troops followed a kilometre behind with medical and other supplies. The soldiers were allowed a ten-minute rest after every hour of marching, an important factor in respect of the locality of the battlefield. This was no hurried pursuit.

The Scourge of the Kaiserbird,” originally published in Afrikaans as “Die Keiservoël Oor Namaland,” is available from all leading bookstores in Namibia, through Namibian Book Market, and in South Africa from Upper Case, formerly Graffiti, in Menlyn Maine. Copies can also be ordered from kosiemarais@gmail.com  It is available on Kindle and worldwide in paperback from Amazon. Visit my Amazon author’s site by clicking on https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07HFTTQ2B where you can also place orders. 

Day 25: The Scourge of the Kaiserbird

This blog is about my book with the title The Scourge of the Kaiserbird and starts with Day 1, posted on 1 April 2018. That followed on “Dag 91: Die Keiservoël Oor Namaland“,  my 91 blog posts about the original Afrikaans version. In October I will be taking an expedition to locate the battlefield described in Chapter 37 of the book. My blogs are currently focusing on this great battle.

The Nama war cost Germany 405 million German marks. Towards the end of the war the liberal philosophy gained the upper hand in the Reichstag in Berlin. The German public was shocked by the cruelty and atrocities perpetrated by General Lothar von Trotha in the concentration camps. Fortunately it had all come to an end except for the troublesome actions of Simon Koper and his followers. There were repeated incidents. The eastern border was destabilised which was an embarrassment for the colonial government. After all the bloodletting and wasted money this little “band” was a real thorn in the flesh.

Koper had entrenched himself with weapons and supporters deep in British territory. The British were naturally not pleased with this but there was nothing they could do because Koper kept himself out of reach in the wilderness and far away from water. However, there was regular correspondence between the German and British authorities. On 24 October 1907 Von Lindquist wrote to the British High Commissioner, Lord Selborne, that the German colonial government were planning to eliminate Koper. Selborne never gave Germany official permission to enter British territory but it is likely that he turned a blind eye.

From their base at Geinab Koper’s men executed several raids on targets along the banks of the Nossob River on the side of German territory. On 7 May the Germans captured three of Koper’s armed supporters at Mukarob after they had stolen a horse. On 5 June, at Daberas near Koes and under the leadership of Eliesaar, they killed Robert Duncan Jr who had acted as guide to Second Lieutenant Nolte on his expeditions. They robbed a wagon at Hoachanas and another one at Kowise Kolk where they also shot and killed four Germans. On 18 January 1908 thirteen of them attacked a drilling team at Nanib and wounded three men.

In mid-1907 the new supreme commander, Lieutenant-colonel Ludwig von Estorff, ordered the commanding officer of the Schutztruppe in Northerm Namaland, Captain Friedrich Von Erckert, to solve the problem once and for all.

erckert14 

Captain Friedrich Von Erckert, leader of the 1908 expedition against Simon Koper.

After the success achieved by Second Lieutenant Nolte and Captain Gordon earlier, Von Erckert decided to also provide camels for his troops. Previously he had retrained camels that were used for transportation purposes, as riding camels and later managed to get hold of more riding camels. He instructed Lieutenant Oberg to have saddles made for the camels and to train them.

Due to a scarcity of water and grazing, general transportation and logistical problems, the Schutztruppe were spread over several outposts in the south-western Kalahari. Their headquarters was first located at Gochas on the bank of the Auob River until it was transferred to Arahoab, Aranos today, on the bank of the Nossob River.

Von Erckert formed two units, the Auob River unit under Captain Grüner and the Nossob River unit under Captain Willeke.

He planned his expedition for March 1908 because the tsamma supply would by then be exhausted, and also to coincide with the full moon to enable them to move during the night and so avoid the daytime heat. They would also be able to follow any trails in full moonlight but in the dark the Namas would not be able to see the dust cloud of the large column.

While Von Erckert was occupied with his planning and Oberg with his camels and saddles, the Germans continued with reconnaissance and the gathering of intelligence. In the course of 1907 Koper’s people were noticed at various locations in the area of the Nossob River. During December 1907 Hendrik Witbooi Jr, son of his legendary father, reported that Koper’s fighters had moved to Molentsa, possibly the location known as Polentswa.

On 3 March 1908 while Von Erckert’s troops were just about ready to move out, Simon Koper’s people made a fatal mistake by attacking a patrol led by Sergeant Jaeger from an ambush at Kubub, north of Koes, and killing all six Germans. The Nama trail leading back to Geinab and further eastwards would later guide the German expedition to Simon Koper’s hideout.

The Scourge of the Kaiserbird,” originally published in Afrikaans as “Die Keiservoël Oor Namaland,” is available from all leading bookstores in Namibia, through Namibian Book Market, and in South Africa from Upper Case, formerly Graffiti, in Menlyn Maine. Copies can also be ordered from kosiemarais@gmail.com  It is available on Kindle and worldwide in paperback from Amazon. Visit my Amazon author’s site by clicking on https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07HFTTQ2B where you can also place orders. 

Day 24: The Scourge of the Kaiserbird

erckert21
The legendary Simon Koper, leader of the Fransmanne or KharaKhoen tribe of Namas. He was never captured or killed during the Nama war but escaped to spend the rest of his days at Lokgwabe in Botswana. When he died on 31 January 1913 he was buried at a site on the outskirts of this little village.

On 31 March 1907 the governor of German South-West Africa, Friedrich von Lindquist, declared that the war against the Namas was over and throughout the country life returned back to normal. Farms were allocated to German colonialists and to farmers, and the country entered an era of growth and prosperity it had never experienced before. Beautiful buildings were erected at Windhoek, Swakopmund, Lüderitz, Keetmanshoop and in other towns. The heritage of that short period, up to the fall of German supremacy in 1915, is still evident everywhere today. The railway line from Lüderitz to Keetmanshoop was completed and there was a great economic upsurge in the south of the country.  Diamonds were also soon to be discovered at Kolmanskop.

The war had decimated most of the Nama and Herero people and those left behind were weary, discouraged and without hope. Most of the German soldiers returned to Germany and now nothing stood in the way of prosperity.

The only surviving leader of the Namas was Simon Koper, also known by the names of Kopper, Kooper or Cooper. He paid little heed to the German peace declaration. His tribe, the !Khara-geiKhoen, was also known as the Fransmanne, literal meaning ‘Frenchmen’, and their traditional land was located in the areas surrounding Gochas. They were however unique in one way. They also roamed eastwards over large areas, even into Bechuanaland to find water for their livestock and to hunt. They were able to survive in this thirstland because they were not dependent on water as long as they were able to find enough tsammas. Tsammas, Citrullus lunatus is a nourishing fleshy fruit that sprouts on the dunes after the late March rains.

 

tsammas
Tsammas, Citrullus lanatus, a fleshy fruit that grows on the dunes. Simon Koper’s people could survive on tsammas alone.

A supply of tsammas provided Koper’s tribesmen and followers with all their nourishment and water needs throughout the year. However, when the tsammas supply was depleted in early autumn they had to resort, like everybody else, to springs and water holes. This rendered them vulnerable as the tracks they left behind could be followed.

After two major battles at Gross Nabas and Haruchas in January 1905 Koper’s !Khara-geiKhoen retreated to the Kalahari dunes where the Germans would never find them. From the vantage point of the dunes they were able to regularly carry out unhidered attacks and raids on German targets.

Second lieutenant Hans-Erich Nolte, a young German officer and a veteran of the Herero war, was transferred to this area. He had been on several expeditions to find Simon Koper’s people but mostly without any success. During one of these expeditions, on 22 March 1905, he attached a letter addressed to Simon Koper, together with a proclamation issued by the infamous General Lothar von Trotha, to a pole at Gagansvlei. Von Trotha was not interested in prisoners of war. All Namas had to leave the country. Those who were caught on German South-West African territory would be executed forthwith.

A year later Nolte left on yet another expedition, this time accompanied by Robert Duncan Jr, son of Robert Duncan, a well-known merchant and pedlar, and his Nama wife. They travelled from Rietfontein, currently the border post between South Africa and Namibia, as far as Twee Riviere. Now they were in effect on British territory and Nolte had to cover up his journey in the guise of a hunting trip. At the time Rietfontein was under the jurisdiction of the British inspector, Attwood, who was to all appearences well-disposed towards Nolte and certainly aware of his real intentions.

Nolte and Duncan followed the dry riverbed of the Nossob River but due to a lack of water were forced to turn back before they could make contact with Koper. They did however managed to find out from another group of Namas that Koper and his followers were somewhere to the north, close to the German border.

Back at Rietfontein he shared this information with Attwood. Soon thereafter a Captain Gordon of the Northumberland Fusiliers turned up at Rietfontein with a camel patrol and Attwood gave him the information. In July 1906 Gordon managed to meet up at Geinab, or Grootkolk, with Koper and his people and took photographs of them.

The camel patrol covered 870 kilometres in 19 days without any access to water. This feat would later form the basis for the German decision to pursue Simon Koper with camels as a mode of transportation. Nolte managed to lay his hands on six camels that were used for transport purposes, and had saddles made for them. In October 1906 Nolte, Duncan Jr and a few others rode on their camels past Gochas as far as Gagansvlei where they apprehended four of Koper’s companions. The prisoners revealed that Simon Koper was at Kuirub Pan, 30 kilometres further to the east on British territory and that he had more than 100 men with him. In December 1906 Nolte was compelled to return to Germany for medical reasons.

Up to now, since early 1905, Koper’s men lived mainly in British territory, i.e. the Union of South Africa and Bechuanaland, but on 3 March Major Pierer of the German Schutztruppe discovered Koper and his followers at Kowise Kolk on German territory. Pierer persuaded Koper to return to Gochas and Koper appeared to agree. Due to the scarcity of tsammas (it was early autumn) his people were spread out over a large area. They only began to move out on 7 March. Koper used various delaying tactics and on 20 March they did an about-turn and moved eastwards towards Geinab near Grootkolk, which was British territory.

Eleven days later, on 31 March 1907, Von Lindquist declared that the war was over. Simon Koper did not necessarily agree.

The Scourge of the Kaiserbird,” originally published in Afrikaans as “Die Keiservoël Oor Namaland,” is available from all leading bookstores in Namibia, through Namibian Book Market, and in South Africa from Upper Case, formerly Graffiti, in Menlyn Maine. Copies can also be ordered from kosiemarais@gmail.com  It is available on Kindle and worldwide in paperback from Amazon. Visit my Amazon author’s site by clicking on https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07HFTTQ2B where you can also place orders. 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 24: The Scourge of the Kaiserbird.com

This is a blog about my book, The Scourge of the Kaiserbird, originally published in Afrikaans as Die Keiservoël Oor Namaland. The first 91 blog posts were about the Afrikaans version.

On 31 March 1907 the governor of German South-West Africa, Friedrich von Lindquist, declared that the war against the Namas was over and throughout the country life returned back to normal. Farms were allocated to German colonialists and to farmers, and the country entered an era of growth and prosperity it had never experienced before. Beautiful buildings were erected at Windhoek, Swakopmund, Lüderitz, Keetmanshoop and in other towns. The heritage of that short period, up to the fall of German supremacy in 1915, is still evident everywhere today. The railway line from Lüderitz to Keetmanshoop was completed and there was a great economic upsurge in the south of the country.  Diamonds were also soon to be discovered at Kolmanskop.

The war had decimated most of the Nama and Herero people and those left behind were weary, discouraged and without hope. Most of the German soldiers returned to Germany and now nothing stood in the way of prosperity.

erckert21
Simon Koper, leader of the Fransmanne, a Nama tribe.

The only surviving leader of the Namas was Simon Koper, also known by the names of Kopper, Kooper or Cooper. He paid little heed to the German peace declaration. His tribe, the !Khara-geiKhoen, was also known as the Fransmanne, literal meaning ‘Frenchmen’, and their traditional land was located in the areas surrounding Gochas. They were however unique in one way. They also roamed eastwards over large areas, even into Bechuanaland to find water for their livestock and to hunt. They were able to survive in this thirstland because they were not dependent on water as long as they were able to find enough tsammas. Tsammas, Citrullus lunatus is a nourishing fleshy fruit that sprouts on the dunes after the late March rains.

tsammas
Tsamma, Citrullus lunatus.

A supply of tsammas provided Koper’s tribesmen and followers with all their nourishment and water needs throughout the year. However, when the tsammas supply was depleted in early autumn they had to resort, like everybody else, to springs and water holes. This rendered them vulnerable as the tracks they left behind could be followed.

After two major battles at Gross Nabas and Haruchas in January 1905 Koper’s !Khara-geiKhoen retreated to the Kalahari dunes where the Germans would never find them. From the vantage point of the dunes they were able to regularly carry out unhidered attacks and raids on German targets.

Second lieutenant Hans-Erich Nolte, a young German officer and a veteran of the Herero war, was transferred to this area. He had been on several expeditions to find Simon Koper’s people but mostly without any success. During one of these expeditions, on 22 March 1905, he attached a letter addressed to Simon Koper, together with a proclamation issued by the infamous General Lothar von Trotha, to a pole at Gagansvlei. Von Trotha was not interested in prisoners of war. All Namas had to leave the country. Those who were caught on German South-West African territory would be executed forthwith.

A year later Nolte left on yet another expedition, this time accompanied by Robert Duncan Jr, son of Robert Duncan, a well-known merchant and pedlar, and his Nama wife. They travelled from Rietfontein, currently the border post between South Africa and Namibia, as far as Twee Riviere. Now they were in effect on British territory and Nolte had to cover up his journey in the guise of a hunting trip. At the time Rietfontein was under the jurisdiction of the British inspector, Attwood, who was to all appearences well-disposed towards Nolte and certainly aware of his real intentions.

Nolte and Duncan followed the dry riverbed of the Nossob River but due to a lack of water were forced to turn back before they could make contact with Koper. They did however managed to find out from another group of Namas that Koper and his followers were somewhere to the north, close to the German border.

Back at Rietfontein he shared this information with Attwood. Soon thereafter a Captain Gordon of the Northumberland Fusiliers turned up at Rietfontein with a camel patrol and Attwood gave him the information. In July 1906 Gordon managed to meet up at Geinab, or Grootkolk, with Koper and his people and took photographs of them.

The camel patrol covered 870 kilometres in 19 days without any access to water. This feat would later form the basis for the German decision to pursue Simon Koper with camels as a mode of transportation. Nolte managed to lay his hands on six camels that were used for transport purposes, and had saddles made for them. In October 1906 Nolte, Duncan Jr and a few others rode on their camels past Gochas as far as Gagansvlei where they apprehended four of Koper’s companions. The prisoners revealed that Simon Koper was at Kuirub Pan, 30 kilometres further to the east on British territory and that he had more than 100 men with him. In December 1906 Nolte was compelled to return to Germany for medical reasons.

Up to now, since early 1905, Koper’s men lived mainly in British territory, i.e. the Union of South Africa and Bechuanaland, but on 3 March Major Pierer of the German Schutstruppe discovered Koper and his followers at Kowise Kolk on German territory. Pierer persuaded Koper to return to Gochas and Koper appeared to agree. Due to the scarcity of tsammas (it was early autumn) his people were spread out over a large area. They only began to move out on 7 March. Koper used various delaying tactics and on 20 March they did an about-turn and moved eastwards towards Geinab near Grootkolk, which was British territory.

Eleven days later, on 31 March 1907, Von Lindquist declared that the war was over. Simon Koper did not necessarily agree.

The Scourge of the Kaiserbird,” originally published in Afrikaans as “Die Keiservoël Oor Namaland,” is available from all leading bookstores in Namibia, through Namibian Book Market, and in South Africa from Upper Case, formerly Graffiti, in Menlyn Maine. Copies can also be ordered from kosiemarais@gmail.com  It is available on Kindle and worldwide in paperback from Amazon. Visit my Amazon author’s site by clicking on https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07HFTTQ2B where you can also place orders.