Commandant Hendrik Frederik Prinsloo and His presentation sporting Mauser Rifle

Commandant Hendrik Frederik Prinsloo and His presentation sporting Mauser Rifle

By Richard Henry, Curator, DITSONG: National Museum of Military History

Figure 1: Commandant Henrik Frederik Prinsloo Ref: Wikipedia.

Family life.

Hendrik Frederik Prinsloo was born on 10 May 1861. He was the eldest of three brothers; the others were Bill and Chris. The family farmed in the former Eastern Transvaal area of Carolina. Prinsloo married Cecelia Maria Steyn at Middelburg on 28 April 1884.

Military service

All burgher men between the ages 18 and 60 had to be ready for military service when needed. Prinsloo and the other burghers of Carolina area form a veld cornetcy of the larger Lydenburg Commando.

In 1885, Commandant Schalk Willem Burger was elected to lead the 1 400 strong Lydenburg Commando. In 1887 when Burger became a member of the Volksraad, the Lydenburg Commando men elected DCJ Schoeman as their new leader. In 1890 Prinsloo’s son Hendrik was born and a few years later two daughters. In 1895 the veld cornetcy of Carolina was made a full (but small) commando under Commandant David Johannes Joubert. Prinsloo was elected as one of the veld cornets. The Carolinas were mobilised to quell the Jameson Raid in 1896 and fought in the war against Mphephu (1897-98). From August 1896 the new 7mm Model 1896 Mauser rifles became available for purchase from the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (ZAR). Joubert had to ensured that his commando was as far as possible armed with the new Mauser rifle.

Commandant Prinsloo

When Joubert became a member of the Volksraad, he too had to resign his commission as he was not able to occupy two paid positions simultaneously. Field Cornet Prinsloo, a disciplined, 37-year old, man of action, was elected commandant of the approximately 450 strong Carolina Commando in 1898. He continued to ensure each man had a functional rifle and sufficient ammunition. Not all the men could afford their own horse. The three field cornets, AJ de Lange, WH de Villiers and Andries Viljoen ensured the same level of preparedness for each of their wards.

The war starts

The Carolina Commando was mobilised on 4 October 1899 for the Anglo-Boer War and together with the Lydenburg Commando were placed under General Schalk Burger. About 200 men on the Carolina Commando were deployed to the Swaziland border, many of the men walking as they had no horses. Prinsloo’s trusted coloured agterryer “Mei” followed the commandant and was responsible for the care of his horse, mule cart and other possessions. He was also responsible for all domestic chores such as fire making and cooking. Young Hendrik went with his father to the Swaziland border where his father gave him a shortened Mauser carbine. As the men were, young Hendrik was also tattooed with burgher commando number. (Young Hendrik’s story will be told in a later article). The rest of the Carolina and Lydenburg commandos left for the Natal front by rail on 17 October 1899.

After finding no British forces on the Swaziland front Hendrik Prinsloo and his men left for Natal at the end of November 1899. Young Hendrik was told to stay behind on the farm with his mother and two younger sisters. He was to do dispatch riding under the instruction of the local landdrost and or postmaster, carrying messages and later the sad news of an injury or death of the burghers to their respective families.

Figure 2: Ref:

The Natal front

While Prinsloo’s men were patrolling the Swaziland border, the other Carolina Commando men were engaged in the Battle of Modderspruit on 30 October, where they suffered a few losses. Later after crossing the Tugela River, they attacked Winston Churchill’s train at Chieveley and then invested the village of Weenen. On 22 November, they attacked the Town of Mooi River before retreating back over the Tugela River to their positions around the besieged town of Ladysmith. On 6 January Prinsloo and his commando carried out a feint attack on the town of Ladysmith in order to prevent British forces from sending reinforcements to the British held Wagon Hill and Caesars Camp. These positions, on the southern outskirts of the town, were then attacked by the Boers. To the Boers this battle was known as Platrand.

The Battle of Spioenkop

General George White, besieged in Ladysmith, was unable to break out. Food in the town was rationed. To relive Ladysmith, the British Commander-in-chief General Sir Redvers Buller, had delayed his attack while he built up his forces and equipment and moved his ponderous wagon trains. All this slow movement was watched by the Boer Commander, Gen Louis Botha, who withdrew men from Ladysmith to strengthen his defensive line. Botha entrenched men and placed a couple of guns on the high ground (Ntabamnyama) to the west of Spioenkop. He also sited his other guns in range of the Spioenkop summit. When Buller had about 30 000 men at his disposal, he could delay no longer. He decided on a left flanking attack to relieve Ladysmith. Buller allocated this task to his second-in-command, Lt General Sir Charles Warren. Warren had at his disposal, 11 000 infantry, 2 200 cavalry and 36 field guns. His plan was to take the high ground (the 430 m high Spioenkop) which was situated in the middle of the Boer defensive line. From this vantage point Warren would use his artillery to pound the Boer positions before sending in the cavalry and infantry to rout the Boers.

At 19:30 on 17 January, the first British wagons crossed the Tugela River at Trichardt’s Drift and the last wagons at 22:00 on 18 January – 26 hours later. As soon as the infantry was across the river they moved towards Spioenkop. Warren wanted to place field artillery on the southern lower slopes of the Ntabamnyama high ground, some 2 300m from the Boer main trenches. This area turned out to be too small for the number of guns Warren had and it was also badly situated for the task at hand. After three days of engagement the British were driven back by the Boers on Ntabamnyama.

Spioenkop consists of four high point features, the main summit, a slightly lower hill called Conical Hill to the north, Aloe Knoll 40m lower than the summit to the east and Twin Peaks about 2 000m further east. The Germiston Commando had occupied Conical Hill with the Carolina Commando laagered on the lower slopes of Twin Peaks. A small piquet of 15 Boers from Vryheid Commando was stationed on Spioenkop summit. The summit’s western and south-eastern faces were precipitous and the easiest way to top was by a long spur running south-westwards which rose in a series of easily climbable terraces.

Warren sent 1 800 men under the command of Major General Sir Edward Woodgate to take Spioenkop. He commenced his attack at 21:00 on 23 January. The mountain was covered in mist. They reached the summit at 04:00 without a shot being fired. There they were challenged and fired at by the Boer piquet and suffered a few casualties. The piquet quickly withdrew and informed the rest of the Vryheid Commando that the English were on the summit. Woodgate’s men started to entrench. The trench in a boomerang pattern covered a distance of about 400m in the centre of the small summit. They could only dig down about 40cm before hitting rock. When dawn came Woodgate realised his entrenched positions had a limited field of fire and could be fired at from both Conical Hill and Aloe Knoll.

Figure 3: Boers at the base Spioenkop: Ref

General Botha ordered General Schalk Burger to drive the British from the crest. The Boers sent back word for reinforcements and shortly before daybreak over 500 Boers were gathered at the foot of the hill.

Commandant Prinsloo the hero at Spioenkop

Prinsloo decided to send Corporal Abraham Smit and 25 burghers of the Carolina Commando to reconnoitre the situation. He then selected the positions from which his artillery could cover the crest while remaining out of range of enemy fire. A further 60 Carolina burghers and about 80 men from Boksburg and Heidelberg Commandos were sent to assist Corporal Smit who had taken up position on Aloe Knoll, about 400m east of Spioenkop proper. They were separated by an easily negotiated saddle. These men moved stealthily to within 200m of the British positions. Prinsloo and his two brothers soon joined them, along with another 50 men of the Heidelberg Commando.

A further 300 men from Pretoria, under Commandant Opperman, climbed the hazardous north-western face which brought them in close range of the British. Using fire with movement, the Boers came to the crest of the hill and fired from both the eastern and north western sides at the British. The Boer rifles and artillery subjected the British to prolonged accurate fire from two sides. The British did not know which side of their inadequate trench walls, to shelter from. At about 8:30 General Woodgate was killed and his deputy panicked. Communications between the mountain top and Warren’s headquarters were slow and confused with different officers thinking they were in command. The British situation deteriorated and casualties mounted with some hand to hand fighting taking place on the hill top. Since it was the middle of summer, men on both sides suffered from the heat and lack of water. At about 13:00, 120 men of the Lancashire Fusiliers surrendered and were taken prisoner. A Boer victory was at hand.

British reinforcements did eventually arrive but these just replaced those killed or injured. The British total force on the summit remained at about 1800 men. A separate British attack on Twin Peaks at 17:00 drove the Carolina men off this important feature. The British brought up artillery which fired from the east at the burghers, taking their toll. Prinsloo suffered shrapnel wounds to his head, and his eyes were affected but he continued to direct his men’s attack on the British positions. As evening approached, some Boers quietly slipped away from the battle. The situation for both Boer and Brit was very dire. The uninjured Carolina men remained at their posts.

At 18:30 Thorneycroft, the appointed British commander on the hill top, sent a message to Warren that his situation was critical and that they had no water and were running short of ammunition. Before he received his new orders, not to surrender, he conferred with his officers and at 20:00 a decision was taken to retreat. At 20:20 he withdrew his men down the same route they had come. Many of the Boers had by now also descended the hill. Prinsloo detailed men to watch the summit and these men reported to Prinsloo when the British retreated. In the meantime, Buller unexpectedly withdrew his men from Twin Peaks. In the early morning of the 24 January, the Carolina men re-occupied Twin Peaks and to General Botha’s surprise he saw Boer men waving their hats from the top of Spioenkop. Over the next three days the British forces withdrew back across the Tugela River.

There are differing reports as to the number of killed and injured in the battle on both sides. Botha instructed Commandant Pretorius to make an accurate account of the killed. He reported 650 dead soldiers on Spioenkop and estimated a further 554 had been wounded. The Boers had also taken 120 men prisoner. The official Boer casualties are 58 dead and 140 wounded. Of these, the brave Carolina men suffered 55 casualties out of the 88 men who fought the battle.

Figure 4: Some of the 650 British soldiers buried in their own trenches on the summit of Spioenkop Ref:

Recognition for his action at Spioenkop

After the battle of Spioenkop, General Schalk Burger was recalled to Pretoria. Hendrik Prinsloo also travelled to Pretoria to have his facial and eye wounds treated. While in hospital he was visited by President Paul Kruger who presented him with a beautiful custom made sporting Mauser rifle for his brave actions at Spioenkop.

Figure 5: Mauser rifle 

The Sporting Mauser

When the first official consignment of 100 sporting Mausers arrived in Pretoria in February 1899, these rifles were already a popular and desired rifle both in the Transvaal and Orange Free State. The ZAR therefore ordered a further 400 in April 1899 and prospective owners had to put their names on a waiting list. They were ordered by both Boer governments for sale to the burghers at a tidy sum of £7.10.6. These rifles could also be privately ordered through and firearms agents. The 400 sporting Mausers arrived on 15 July 1899. The sporting rifle presented to Commandant Prinsloo in February 1900 was from this batch as it bears the serial № 818.

Figure 6: The inscription

The sporting Mauser fired the same cartridge as the standard 7mm military Mauser rifle. The barrel was octagonal and 34mm shorter than the standard rifle. The sights were marked up to 1 100m. The left side of the butt had a cheek piece and the pistol grip and fore-end were chequered. Often on the right side of the butt was an oval silver escutcheon inlaid into the butt. Here presentation inscriptions or the owner’s names or initials were often beautifully engraved. It was intended that Prinsloo would have Kruger’s presentation engraved on the silver plate.

While he had the ear of President Kruger he gained authority to purchase horses for future use by the Boer commandos. Remember, many men had to walk to the Swaziland border as they had no horses. He could also foresee that his commando would need fresh horses should they be wedged between the fever stricken Lowveld and the advancing British.

Prinsloo was collected at the hospital by his wife Cecelia and his young son Hendrik. He spent three days at home on his farm and during this period he managed to purchase 600 horses. His son aged just ten was instructed to take charge of one of the two depots with 300 horses to be posted on Prinsloo’s lower farm. He was to get the required food for the horses from the landdrost, with assistance and instructions from the postmaster of Carolina and or an old man Mr Bain Harris.

Prinsloo returns to the battle front with his new rifle

The Carolina Commando, because of their high casualty rate at Spioenkop, was held in reserve. However, from 5-7 February they were involved in the battle of Vaalkrans when Buller tried for the third time to relive Ladysmith. Prinsloo missed this battle as he was still in Pretoria. He had returned in time for the fourth attempt by Buller to relive Ladysmith. In this attempt, the British attacked in strength in a coordinated way. Momentum was gained and the Boers were driven off the hills at Cingolo, Monte Cristo and finally Hlangwane. At Pieter’s Heights, Prinsloo led the Carolina Commando against Barton’s Brigade in some extremely heavy fighting. The Carolina’s were forced to retire on horseback, chased by the British cavalry. The Boer positions crumbled and they retreated in some confusion towards the Natal border. Boer morale was at a low due the news of the relief of Kimberley and Cronje’s surrender at Paardeberg. On 28 February Ladysmith was finally relived.

 Figure 7: Lord Dundonald’s cavalry pursuing the Boers at the end of the Battle of Pieter’s Heights.

The Carolina Commando then withdrew to the Biggars Berg and took up a position near the present town of Dannhauser, where they regrouped. Bloemfontein fell to the British on 17 March and the Boers adopted a policy of guerrilla tactics in tandem with continued conventional resistance. On 19 March Joachim Christoffel Fourie was appointed Assistant Field General to supersede General Schalk Willem Burger. Some men of the Carolina Commando were involved at the battle of Elandslaagte on the 9 April 1900.

The Carolina Commando then withdrew to the Biggars Berg and took up a position near the present town of Dannhauser, where they regrouped. Bloemfontein fell to the British on 17 March and the Boers adopted a policy of guerrilla tactics in tandem with continued conventional resistance. On 19 March Joachim Christoffel Fourie was appointed Assistant Field General to supersede General Schalk Willem Burger. Some men of the Carolina Commando were involved at the battle of Elandslaagte on the 9 April 1900.

Figure 8:  General Joachim Christoffel Fourie, 1 February 1845 – 7 November 1900 Ref:

The British continued to advance while the Boers retreated. On 8 May General Buller advanced and the Boers, while offering resistance were forced to retreat. Field Marshall Roberts entered Johannesburg on 30 May 1900 and Pretoria on 5 June. President Kruger had left Pretoria by train for Machadodorp on 29 May. From there he moved to Waterval Onder in late June 1900.

The Carolina and Lydenburg commandos meanwhile defended Botha’s Pass where on 6 June an engagement occurred. On 8 June the British shelled the Boer positions in force. General Joachim Fourie was forced to withdraw to Allermans Nek. On 16 June Field Marshall Roberts issued a proclamation regarding the burning of Boer farms. The erection of blockhouse had already started.

On 23 June General Joachim Fourie attacked Platrand Station, hallway between Volksrust and Standerton, where he again suffered casualties. For several weeks the commando remained in the vicinity of Amersfoort, returning to their respective districts on the 20 July.

After the British had captured both capital cities, they believed the war was certainly near its end. With few targets left, the British commander focussed his efforts on capturing the towns along the Mozambique Railroad, which he believed were key components for supplying the Boers. Once the British advance on Belfast began, the Carolina Commando took up positions on General Joachim Fourie’s farm Welgevonden, north of the town of Carolina. They waited for the British to arrive via Volksrust, Amersfoort and Ermelo.

The Witrand is a plateau which gradually drops down to the Klein Komati River. On 21 August the British fought the Carolina Commando in the area and sustained 36 casualties, while the Boers had three burghers injured. After this there were many skirmishes in the area. The British suffered 74 men dead and wounded on 23 August. On 27 August, the British broke through at Berg en Dal on the railway line. With the British now behind the Carolina men, they were forced to retreat eastwards towards Waterval Onder where President Kruger was living.

Figure 9: President Kruger’s house at Waterval Onder (Mpumalanga Province) – now a museum.

Waterval Onder is below the Elands waterfall and Waterval Boven is above the falls. It was an important railway station. It was from here that the trains had to be pulled up the steep incline or lowered down the incline using a cogwheel engine. The rail carried a rack which fitted the cog wheel of the engine for positive contact with the rails.

Commandant Prinsloo, to ensure the safe passage of President Kruger from Waterval Onder to Lourenco Marques, retarded the British by destroying the cogwheel mountain rail between Waterval Boven and -Onder. He then took up strong defensive positions with his commando on the southern mountains of the railway line at Dwaalheuwel, supported by some Boer artillery. His position was so strong that reinforcements had to be sent to dislodge them. President Kruger left the Transvaal on 11 September for Mozambique and later the Netherlands. General Schalk Willem Burger (ex Lydenburg Commando Commandant) became the sixth president of the ZAR on Kruger’s departure on 11 September 1900.

General Fourie’s burgher force now consisted of about 500 men of the Lydenburg, Carolina, (General DJ Joubert and Commandant HF Prinsloo), Standerton and Ermelo (Commandant Grobler) commandos. Lieutenant General Sir John French advanced on Carolina and the Boers harassed his column by firing their pom-pom gun at the British. While General Fourie attacked French’s column, about 70 men of the Carolina and Ermelo commandos who had no horses were attacked and had to retreat. General Fourie returned to consolidate his men. His force, along with the horseless men withdrew to positions on Nelshoogte. Hendrik Prinsloo thought this a bad idea and asked General Fourie to be excused while he returned to his farm on 11 September 1900. He took with him his brother in law John Groenewald and Commandant Hans Grobler from the Ermelo commando. They were to collect horses to replace some of the worn out horses and for those unsaddled men.

General Fourie was shelled by British artillery at Nelshoogte, while the British infantry advanced up the steep kloof to the top of the Boer defended ridges. General French was eventually able to encircle the Boer left flank and the burghers had to retreat down the south of the Nelsberg with the loss of several men and quite a few wagons with their supplies. Wards 1 and 2 of the commando returned to Leliefontein under General Fourie and Commandant Prinsloo. Ward 3 remained in the area below Sewefontein under the command of General David Joubert. Those burghers who were near their farms were authorised to return to their farms to see their families and refresh while they remained ready to be called up.

Continued attacks on the Delagoa Bay Railway forced the British to remove the Boers from the Klein Komati River area. General French with a force of 3 000, including 16 guns, left Machadodorp on his first sweep to remove Boers from the highveld.

On 14 October 1900, a British squadron of cavalry along with about 20 Afrikaans “joiners” (National Scouts) arrived at Prinsloo’s farm looking for Commandant Prinsloo. Cecelia his wife and three children were questioned and their household was plundered. Their possessions were packed on their wagons and set alight. The family, however, remained on the farm, for now. That night, Hendrik Prinsloo with the assistance of his batman “Mei” got through the British cordon around the home and was able to speak to his wife and find out if she and the children were fine. The following day General Fourie and Commandant Prinsloo attacked the British Column moving on the road to Lake Chrissie. General French’s column lost about 100 men, 320 horses, many oxen and 55 transport wagons. As in the past, Generals Fourie’s headquarters were posted on Leliefontein (in the present area of Nooitgedacht Dam). He maintained look out positions on the high ground to warn off the British advancing to attack. In the early morning of Tuesday 6 November 1900, Major-General Horace Lockwood Smith-Dorrien left Belfast with 250 cavalry, 900 infantry, 8 guns and a Vickers Maxim (pom-pom) section, bound for Carolina.

Figure 10: Major-General Horace Lockwood Smith-Dorrien Ref:

Smith-Dorrien’s force included the Canadian Mounted Rifles, the Royal Canadian Dragoons, and a section of “D” Battery Royal Canadian Field Artillery with two 12 pounder guns. The Dragoons consisted of only 95 men but they had with them a horse drawn model 1895 Colt Automatic Machine Gun. This air-cooled machine gun fired .303 rifle ammunition loaded in 250 round cloth belts at a cyclic rate 400 round per minute to a distance of 2 000m.

Figure 11: Colt machine gun probably assigned to the Victorians of the Australian Regiment, 14 March 1900

At approximately 8:30 the Boers attacked Smith-Dorrien’s strong column, inflicting a few casualties. Fourie’s men continued to shadow the British but slowly retreated until they came to positions on the high ground and their camp at Leliefontein. Here after repeated unsuccessful British attacks by the infantry, the 250 strong British cavalry eventually were able to attack the left flank of Fourie’s men, which forced the Boers to withdraw towards Carolina. The British camped in the area vacated by the Boers.

The Battle of Leliefontein 7 November 1900

That night General Fourie called a meeting of all the Carolina and Ermelo commando officers. They decided to attack Smith-Dorrien’s force at Leliefontein in the morning. The Ermelo burghers would advance on the left to outflank the British, while the Carolina men would charge the British on horse-back in a frontal attack. This tactic although initially foreign to the Boers, had been proven to be successful in the previous months. Men previously at home arrived to reinforce Fourie.

That night the British rightly thought that Boer reinforcements were on their way. Smith-Dorrien therefore decided that his force was not strong enough and that in the morning he would return to Belfast, traveling north along the Klein Komati River towards Witkloof. This unexpected British movement ensured that the Ermelo Commando missed the British in their flanking attack.

To cover the withdrawal of Smith-Dorrien’s column, the 95 men of Royal Canadian Dragoons (with their Colt machine gun) the two 12 pounder guns of “D “Battery, all under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Lessard of the Dragoons. The Dragoons deployed in a line four to five kilometres across with the two 12 pounder guns and Colt machine gun in the centre of the line.

General Joachim Fourie and the Ward 1 burghers advanced along the Boesmanspruit and then turned in the direction of Witkloof. Commandant Hendrik Prinsloo of Ward 2 advanced over Nooitgedacht crossed the Klein Komati River. When he got there he saw that General Joachim Fourie had already started his attack. Commandant Prinsloo then ordered his men to attack. The two 12 pounder guns of “D “Battery open fire at the Boers. General Fourie and Commandant Prinsloo mounted a series of attacks on the Canadian line in an attempt to inflict damage on the retreating British column and to try and capture the two 12 ponder guns which were commanded by Lieutenant Edward Bancroft. Lieutenant Hamden Cockburn and a few men at the most critical moment held off the Boer attack which allowed the two guns to get away. The Dragoons’ adjutant Lieutenant Emsley was killed and the Dragoons lost a further 31 men out of their 95 compliment, some of the men surrendering. Prinsloo ordered his batman “Mei” to remove the bolts from the rifles of the prisoners. The engagement continued ferociously until 11:00 that morning. After this the Boers regrouped and formulated a new plan to capture the guns.

Figure 12: Sergeant Edward J Holland. VC.

A new frontal attack of 200 burghers went in at 14:00. The men, with General Joachim Fourie and Commandant Hendrik Prinsloo in the lead, charged the Canadians, firing from their saddles. The 12 pounder guns under threat of being captured a second time, were withdrawn. Fourie and Prinsloo saw the guns leaving the battle and chased after them. The Canadians had however left the Colt machine gun to cover their withdrawal. The attacking Boers rode into an ambush arranged by 12 men under the command of Lieutenant Richard Tuner. Tuner was shot three times. Sergeant Edward J Holland, who commanded the Colt machine gun, opened fire when Fourie and Prinsloo were close by pouring a steam of bullets at the burghers. The Boers quickly dismounted but General Joachim Fourie was killed instantly while still mounted. Commandant Hendrik Prinsloo was hit while trying to dismount and his horse was riddled by machine gun bullets. Prinsloo’s adjutant Jan Grobler was severely wounded. The Colt machine gun was still in danger of been captured by General Fourie’s men, so Sergeant Holland calmly removed the gun from its carriage, burning his hands on the hot barrel and rode away with the machine gun tucked under his arm. The Dragoons position was eventually taken by the burghers and Sergeant Holland’s men were captured. Owning to a lack of leadership, the burghers did not continue their attack on Smith-Dorrien’s column. The bravery of the Royal Canadian Dragoons allowed the rest of Smit-Dorrien’s column to successfully retreat to Belfast unhindered.

FIgure 13: Lieutenant Richard Ernest Turner, VC.

General Joachim Fourie’s body was taken to his wife Aletta on his farm. Commandant Hendrik Prinsloo’s remains were taken to his wife Cecelia for burial. His mule drawn cart and his sporting Mauser rifle were also taken to his family. In a report for the War Office, General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien paid high tribute to Commandant Hendrik Prinsloo’s soldierly and humanitarian qualities and said the Boers through his death had lost the “De Wet of these small commandos.” General Louis Botha sent an official despatch to President Steyn and General De Wet in which he wrote that “Our cause has lost a very brave and loveable officer.”

A few days later the commando assembled and General David Johannes Joubert was elected their leader. The burghers now operated in small independent groups, some of whom joined General Louis Botha and assisted at the attack on Belfast on 7 January 1901. They also assisted General Botha’s attack on Smith-Dorrien’s Lake Chrissies camp on the 5 and 6 February 1901.

To try control the movement and the resupply of the Boer commandos, Kitchener believed that they should remove or destroy anything that might provide the Boers with sustenance or assistance. This meant the systematic burning of any farm that belonged to a burgher serving in any of the commandos and interning of his family. The internment of Boer women and children to concentration camps started in late 1900. In February 1901 an Australian mounted contingent force, arrived at Commandant Prinsloo’s farm. His wife, Cecelia and her three children were loaded onto wagons and their farm house burnt. While looking for valuables they noticed the presentation sporting Mauser rifle and his mule cart with Hendrik Prinsloo’s personal belongings. Captain RD McKenzie captured these and kept the rifle for himself. He later had his initials and name engraved on the silver oval plate on the right side of the butt. He took the rifle back with him to Australia.

Cecelia Prinsloo and her children were transported to the Barberton Concentration Camp close to the Swaziland border. This camp was comparably small (2 000 people) and was efficiently and cleanly run.

Lieutenants Hampden Zane Churchill Cockburn and Richard Ernest William Turner as well as Sergeant Edward James Gibson Holland were awarded the Victoria Cross on the 23 April 1901 for their actions at Leliefontein.

On the 7 November an annual service has been held at the spot where General Fourie and Commandant Prinsloo fell. The spot had a granite stone erected on it which reads “Hier is die Helde Geval. Gen, J C Fourie en Komdt H.F Prinsloo, het hier gesneuwel, tewyl hulle die Boere-magte heldhaftig anngevoer het teen Genl. Sir H.L SmithDorrien op 7 Nov. 1900.”

In 1925, on the request from General Smith-Dorrien to Captain McKenzie in Australia, Commandant Prinsloo’s sporting Mauser was returned to his son, then Captain (late Colonel) Hendrik Prinsloo. The rifle was immediately claimed by the gallant men of the Carolina Commando. It was hung under the photograph of Commandant Prinsloo in the Carolina church hall.

In 1950, № 5 gun, one of the two relived guns formed part of a monument in Ottawa, to commemorate the saving of the guns on 7 November 1900. It was later removed to the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Ontario, where it resides today.

In 1964, the sporting Mauser rifle was taken down from display and cleaned and restored by General Smuts’ son-in-law, Colonel Weyers who continued to farm on Smuts’ farm in Irene after the Field Marshall’s death. The rifle was then presented to the Africana Museum in Johannesburg later in the year.

Commandant Prinsloo’s son Colonel Prinsloo requested that both the sporting rifle and his own personal Mauser rifle which he used as a child in the Boer War, be transferred from the Africana Museum to the South African National War Museum (now DITSONG: National Museum of Military History). This was completed in October 1965.

FIgure 14: Gun № 5 used during the Battle of Leliefontein, 7 November 1900,displayed at the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa. Ref:



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  • Prinsloo, H.F. Colonel. “Two Boer War Mausers and their Story” in The Journal of the Historical Firearms Society of South Africa Vol 3 No 6, December 1965.


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