The Havenga Family

Memoirs of a Delville Wood Veteran

MY EXPERIENCES WITH THE SOUTH AFRICAN BRIGADE DURING WORLD WAR I

Chapter 1 - Enlisting, 2nd attempt, Boarding School, 3rd Time's a Charm

Fetched home from Potchefstroom military base twice by his mother who told them her son was under aged, he gets sent to boarding school where he hatches a plot…  (A work in progress – just when I thought I’d checked everything relating to my Grandfather, a new set of documents has left me searching for new answers – Richard Havenga.)

Havenga, DJ; Pte 8660. D company 2nd South African infantry

As narrated by Daniel Jacobus Havenga, 16 August 1965.

Sometime in early 1915, I was at school and the war was on and my mates were being recruited for war service right and left. The newspapers were full of the deeds and misdeeds of the horrible German Kaiser and I felt that I should also contribute to the overall effort to curb this ambitious man.  So, although still at school and very young, I signed on and was sent to Potchefstroom. My mother learned of this and immediately journeyed there and succeeded in having me discharged.

Original Enlistment Form dated 25 November 1915

Very soon after this she proceeded on holiday and I appealed to and persuaded my dad to accompany me to the magistrate of our village, who was also the local recruiting agent, to give his permission for me to enlist.  

Once again I left for Potchefstroom, but my mother became aware of this and again journeyed to Potchefstroom to fetch me back. I was then sent to a boarding school where she thought the discipline would prevent me joining up again.

Boarding School

The determination to go on active service could not be dampened. As Mom had to have a weekly letter from me written every Sunday, I decided to write several scores of letters which were to be numbered consecutively and it was my plan to hand these letters to one of my school chums to post weekly.

Grey College Headmaster 1915

The principal of the college learned of my intentions and summoned me into his study, where the canes there exhibited made me realize that there was no extra clothing stuffed in the seats of my pants, for I felt certain my bottom would be very sore before I left there.

When he heard my story, he instructed me to fetch him the letters. I wish it was possible to record the expression on his face as he struggled with this problem so foreign to his nature.  In the end, in a voice which must have been foreign to him he said, “My lad, God forgive me, I should not be guilty of anything like this, you are too young but if they will accept you, join up – they require lads like you at the war. I will post your letters!” Believe it or not!

Being sturdy, I was accepted although I gave the wrong age. So off I went to Potchefstroom again. My mother was receiving letters from me from the school when I was already overseas.

Potchefstroom - 3rd time!

We knew we were booked there from the type of training and manoeuvres we were being drilled with, attack and counter attack, close quarter bayonet fighting, sawdust bags being the enemy, but our attributes were to be real bloodthirsty; at all times just murder the enemy.

We only endured a few days of grueling training, we were young and enthusiastic so were delighted when early in 1916 we were entrained for Cape Town where we boarded a Castle Boat which had been converted to a troopship. The ship soon edged away from the dock with no streamers down the sides but practically everybody on the shore in tears.

Original Attestation Form dated 27 November 1915

Acknowledgements

Thank you to the the many people who made this tribute to my Grandpa Daniël Jacobus (aka Donald James) Havenga possible.

Notable Links

The tribute website by Duncan Price and the historical blog by Dr Anne Samson are worth reading, please click on the links and take a look.