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. 

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