Stories and Traveltips

ID #5000

Mounted Police, Graaff-Reinet, Karoo, Eastern Cape.

Retired farmers recall visits made by the Mounted Police to outlying areas in the Graaff-Reinet district.  I remember how impressed we were as children by the stiff khaki uniforms, the tall pith helmets, buttoned jackets, shiny brass insignia and the gleaming saddles and harnesses.  They were very correct in their behaviour, serious about their jobs and grateful of the hospitality offered en-route.  At most farms there was a stall prepared and ready for use by the police horse, which was usually a handsome, well-groomed animal.

There were police stations at Langfontein, Kendrew, New (Nieuw) Bethesda, Petersburg and Ferndale. Usually a sergeant would be in charge, with a corporal or constable making up the unit.  There was no colour bar in “the mounties” In the event that a thief was arrested, he would be handcuffed and marched on foot to town alongside the Sergeant and his impressive mount.  Frank Sharpe, who eked out a hard living on the remote farm Kaaimansgat, recorded in his diary that one year he had only two visitors, one of whom was the policeman on his rounds.

Bill Voster recalls that the two policemen at Langfontein used to take turns drilling each other, the “werf” serving as a parade ground.  Some of the men stationed there at one time or another include Prinsloo, Cloete, Trant, van Rensburg, Johnson and Grobbelaar. According to James Luscombe, the station was built around 1860. It was subsequently occupied by Bert and Anna Naude and family.  Today it serves as a guest cottage.  Some of the outbuildings still feature the barred windows.

The Petersburg Police Station was named De Barracke. The unit relocated at a later stage to Groenkloof. Jock Olivier recalls that the station at Kendrew was moved from its original site at the railway siding to the Andrew family home.  The last officers he can remember were van Wyk and Botha, whose names are mentioned in connection with Sunnyvale.

Andrew McNaughton remembers Constable Williams, who was incredibly strong.  He used patience, stealth and strong-arm tactics to obtain his information. Sometimes he would eavesdrop among the cottages at night. Suspects he picked up soon realised that they were up against the “strong arm of the law”.   According to David Herold, he was the victim of a prank played by Herbie Herold of “Ordonnantie”. Somehow Herbie trapped a bustard (gompou) and, having diverted William’s attention elsewhere, managed to stuff the big bird into his saddlebag.  Since Williams was most particular about the protection of “royal game”, there must have been some consternation at the discovery of the bird when he got back to the station.

There was a bond of friendship between the farmers and “mounties”.  Once the service was motorised it became less effective and was eventually disbanded in the fifties. Marj Noel.

New Bethesda is on the N9 north of Graaff-Reinet, is on the N9 south of Middelburg, which is at the intersection of the N9 with the N10. ASMounted

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Last update: 2014-05-14 01:43
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.2

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