Day 32: The Scourge of the Kaiserbird

This afternoon Mitsubishi presented us with a beautiful Triton double cab 4×4 vehicle for our expedition which gets underway tomorrow morning very early.

Braam
Braam Faul of Mitsubishi SA hands over the keys to a Triton 4×4 double cab. The vehicle will lead us into the remote Botswana wilderness where we hope to locate the Lost Battlefield.

At long last we are ready. Tomorrow evening the members of this historic expedition will converge on the little town of Hukuntsi where we will meet the local Nama people and listen to a presentation by Carsten Mohle.

We have been planning this mission for months. We are now going to search for and find the battlefield where the forces of Simon Koper’s KharaKhoen and those of the German Schutztruppe led by Captain Friedrich Von Erckert engaged each other on 16 March 1908. Captain Von Erckert was killed by one of the first shots and was buried on the battlefield together with 12 of his fallen men. Simon Koper managed to escape and spent the rest of his days in Lokgwabe near Hukuntsi, a free man, hero to his people.

Readers of this blog will know that the exact location of this battlefield has been lost and many people including ourselves have tried to find it. This time we come prepared with experts, most notably Xander and Ben van Wyk who have imported special equipment to search the area. We are confident that we will succeed.

From Saturday morning we will be out of reach, except by satellite phone, but as soon as we find real evidence we will let the world know. Watch this space.

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 31: The Scourge of the Kaiserbird

 

In less than 36 hours we will be leaving Pretoria and Windhoek for Lokgwabe in Botswana on the great expedition to locate the Lost Battlefield in the Kalahari.

Logo

This will be the 12th expedition of its kind since 1990 when Wulf Haacke first attempted it. Haacke had 5 attempts but never came close. In 2010 Carsten Mohle set out on the first of his 5 attempts and in 2018 I tried twice, once with the legendary Elias Le Riche, the last eyewitness of the graves of the 13 German soldiers buried in the warm Kalahari sand on 16 March 1908.

It has been a hectic few weeks preparing for the expedition. Coordinating the travel arrangements of the members from four different countries had challenges of its own. At last we are ready. On Friday morning the SA delegation will leave Pretoria. We will consist of a team of metal detector specialists and a filming crew, amongst others. Carsten Mohle will leave from Windhoek tomorrow bringing with him Chief Hanse of the KharaKhoen, the tribe of Simon Koper.

We will all meet each other in Hukuntsi on Friday night where Carsten will do a presentation on his work so far. On Saturday morning we will proceed, first to Kaa Gate and then on to Sesatswe, 168 kilometers away on a dirt track, which will be our base for the week. The area is devoid of any kind of human activity and services. Read no fuel, water, nothing. We must be totally self reliant. I have arranged an aeroplane to be on standby for emergency evacuation and our only form of communication will be by satellite phone.

We will spend the entire week working through the area identified by us to be the actual site of the Great Battle. We will be looking for artefacts which could confirm our suspicions. In particular we will be searching for machine gun cartridges. The ultimate prize would be to find the actual graves of the two officers, Captain Friedrich Von Erckert, Lieutenant Oskar Ebinger and the 11 other soldiers.

We hope that the location of the battlefield will bring closure and reconciliation to the German and Nama families and we also hope that in future thousands of interested tourists will visit the area.

Our mission is sponsored by Mitsubishi. I hope to report briefly about that tomorrow evening, just before we leave.

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 30: The Scourge of the Kaiserbird

 

At long last I can tell the interesting story of our own expedition last year to locate the Lost Battlefield in the Kalahari. For various reasons I was constrained not to do so but the embargo has been lifted to some extent.

Wulf Haacke in his seminal article “Simon Kopper and the Kalahari Expedition of 1908 in the Journal of the Namibia Scientific Society 1993/1994 wrote, “Mr E. Le Riche reports (pers.com.) having been at that site twice. On his first visit, when he still quite young, the graves were marked with wooden stumps identified with metal discs cut from ration cans, while on on the second occasion apparently a veldfire had destroyed these markers.”

These two sentences dominated my and Carsten Möhle’s thinking for a long time. We both knew instinctively that our searches would be almost foolish if we did not make use of Elias Le Riche’s knowledge. Elias grew up inside the greater Kalahari Gemsbok Park, which was established by his uncle and father in the 30’s of the previous century.

The problem was that Elias was long retired and now not a young man anymore. Would he even be interested in undertaking such an arduous expedition just to satisfy our fancy whims? Would he still be in decent health? How were we to approach him?

Remember that initially Carsten and I did not even know of each other, yet we shared the same thoughts and questions.

Through a series of chance happenings, a long and detailed story of its own, it happened that I met Elias in Pretoria one day. He agreed to accompany me on a search expedition at some or other stage.

One of the hoops to jump through was to get permission to enter the area. Through another series of events of equal intricacy that also transpired. One fine day last year three vehicles left Pretoria for the Kalahari where we met the officials who would accompany us on our search.

For the next four days we were guided by the legendary Elias Le Riche, former Head of the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park. He took us on the most amazing routes indicating trees where he had camped fifty years ago. He also took us directly to certain sites near Grootkolk where we saw with our own eyes remnants of the 1908 expedition: empty water canisters, bully beef tins, clearly marked “Rindfleisch” even with date stamps. He took us to the few branches left over from the formerly glorious Königsbaum, the big camel thorn tree at Grootkolk into which the soldiers clambered to search the horizon for signs of the enemy and their own distant heliographs. The German Schütztruppe had hammered horse shoes into the tree to act as steps and we even found one of these as well as some ammunition and cartridges.

The unwavering way Elias had led and directed our search gave me a lot of confidence. Eventually after four days we came to a place where he stated that that was where he thought  that the graves were located. Naturally we marked the place and I recorded his words for posterity. Elias speaks in Afrikaans. He says that he thinks this the place where he met a group of Kalahari people who told them that this was the place of Simon Koper. Watch the video.

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.