Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wakkerstroom (J 10)

Name: Wakkerstroom

Main Source:
GPS co-ordinates: S 27° 21.337 E 030° 08.444

PLEASE NOTE: If you are travelling from either Johannesburg or Pretoria, please set your GPS to shortest route rather than fastest/quickest route as it tends to direct via major highways and can add as much as 2 hours to your journey! Happy travelling!

Not long after the War of Independence the railway line from Durban to the
Witwatersrand was under construction. It was planned to go through
Wakkerstroom, but a petition protesting against this was drawn up by the
inhabitants of the town.
The ostensible reason for the protest was that the noise from the steam
engines would frighten their cattle and hens and cause them to stop giving
milk and eggs. The soot from the engines, it was maintained, would also
blemish the skins of their wives and daughters. The real reason which no-one
cared to admit to was more likely that the town’s economy depended heavily
on the transport riders and the wagon trains passing through town. Rail
transport was seen as an unwelcome competitor to this.
The outcome of this was that the line was diverted and the present-day town
of Volksrust was established as a border town in 1887. When the town
fathers realised the magnitude of their mistake they tried to get the line rerouted,
but it was too late. As a consolation prize a branch line was
constructed from Volksrust via Wakkerstroom and Amersfoort to Bethal. Even
here the townsfolk would not allow the line to be built closer than two miles to
the town. Today the line has fallen into virtual disuse and the station,
downgraded to a siding in the early 1990s, is know a restaurant and caravan
This was the first of a series of events that contributed to the downturn in the
economic fortunes of Wakkerstroom that were to deteriorate continually for
the next 100 years
The Anglo-Boer South African War (1899-1902)
The Boer forces under Commandant-General Piet Joubert gathered on the
banks of the Sand River at Dassieklip - the farm where the young Tom
Vinnicombe had stayed some 40 years earlier - before invading Natal.
After the initial Boer victories General Sir Redvers Buller led a British force
into the Transvaal and defeated a Boer force at the Battle of Allemansnek.
After this battle the Boers, fearing that they would be surrounded, retreated
from Laingsnek. Buller occupied both Volksrust and Charlestown.
Wakkerstroom itself was not occupied at this stage of the war, although
Ossewakop, known at the time as Voortrekkerkop, was occupied by General
N. G. Lyttleton and the South Staffordshire Regiment. This may have been
because Buller had a soft spot for the Wakkerstroom people who had raised a
Commando to help the British in the Anglo-Zulu war.
In an effort to restrict the movements and contain the Boers forces during the
guerrilla phase of the war the British established several strategically situated
lines of blockhouses. These blockhouses were of three basic types :
stone structures which were single-, double- or multi-storeyed;
structures with stone bases with corrugated iron upper parts - the so-called
Sangar type; and
wholly corrugated iron structures known as Rice type blockhouses.
More than 9 000 blockhouses connected with over 8 000 km of barbed wire or
entanglements were constructed throughout South Africa. More than 130 of
these were located between Volksrust and the Swaziland border near Piet
Retief. These blockhouses were of the Sangar and Rice types.

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