ID #2723

Knysna Fort, Knysna, Garden Route, Western Cape.

News of attacks on Willowmore and Avontuur in January 1901 by Boer commandos resulted in the declaration of martial law in Knysna and the formation of a town guard. It was mobilised in less than half an hour on February 27, after a body of men were reported to be approaching the bridge.  Fortunately, these turned out to be a party of mule drivers from Pacaltsdorp near George.  A curfew was imposed. The books and assets of  the Standard bank were sent by sea to Mossel Bay for safekeeping and some of the people, including the minister of the Dutch Reformed Church, were arrested on various pretexts.

On March 1901, command of the Town Guard was taken over by Major William Anstruther Thompson of the Royal Horse Guards. The town guard was drilled twice daily – the local tradesmen happily closed their stores to enable themselves and their staff to participate. 

In August 1901 a 270-strong Boer force under Commandant Gideon Scheepers moved westwards through the Langkloof and met a British force that was based at Uniondale.  A battle took place between Avontuur and Uniondale on the farms Bellvue and Gold Diggings.  There were casualties on both sides and a number of the British wounded were treated by the Boers.  In appreciation, the British commanding officer invited the Boers to fetch field ambulance equipment from their Uniondale base. The commando spent the night in Avontuur, riding westwards towards Molenrivier early the next morning.

This was the closest that the war reached Knysna. By the end of the war the Knysna Home Guard numbered 167 members and included a mounted troop.  Major Thompson remained in Knysna until the end of the year, after which he was transferred to Pretoria. But he left behind a memorial in the shape of a stone fort on Verdompskop overlooking the town that is locally referred to as Thompson’s Folly. He appears to have been an enthusiast of mediaeval military architecture because the fort resembles a small English castle.  It never saw a shot fired in anger. It is probably the southernmost fort dating from the Boer War. An enthusiastic group of volunteers formed a committee dedicated to preserving the fort.  Knysna is on the N2 east of George, which is at the intersection of the N2 with the N12. Turn into the hospital grounds at the traffic light in Main Road and park behind the hospital.  Follow the signs to the fort. BIKnysna

Contct:            Ian Uys (Chairman) or Melanie Groenewald (Curator)
+27 (82) 452 8134 cell Ian
+27 (445) 82 5066 extension 220 telephone Melanie

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Last update: 2011-01-03 17:30
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.3

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