THE BATTLE OF SANDFONTEIN
Sandfontein’s peaceful game reserve was once the site of an historic battle.
Sandfontein - 1914
The Battle of Sandfontein is an important part of Namibia’s history, and some of the sites associated with the conflict can still be visited today.
At the start of the First World War, a battle raged between British forces, backed by the South Africans, and a much larger group of German soldiers. Both sides wanted to control Sandfontein because of its strategic location on the Orange River, and because its wells could provide much-needed water to the thirsty troops.
In September 1914, a detachment of 120 British and South African troops arrived at the Sandfontein wells. Their eventual aim was to push further from here, deep into German territory.
But high mountains surrounded the wells, leaving few effective escape routes, and the troops were very vulnerable to attack.
So it followed that a mass of German troops took up key positions all around the wells, effectively surrounding the British and South African forces.
Battle soon commenced, and after a day-long skirmish in the intense African heat, a white flag signalled the British surrender.
It’s said that at this point, the remaining forces from both sides raced to the wells to quench their thirst together.
In all, 16 British soldiers and 14 German soldiers died. The battle is an important part of Namibia’s history and to this day the owners of Sandfontein maintain the graves of the fallen soldiers.
THE BATTLE OF NORECHAB
The road from Ramansdrift to Warmbad, the summer of 1905 / 1906
The road from Ramansdrift to Warmbad in the summer of 1905 / 1906 saw the Nama, an African nomadic people, pull off many successful cattle raids against the Schutztruppe, the German colonial troops.
This, and the rumour of another hard hitting attack, caused the Schutztruppe to form the No. 12 Kompanie, with a total of 105 men under the supervision of the Hauptmann Friedrich von Erckert.
200 Hottentotts (a name not politically correct anymore) approached the south entrance of the Norechab ravine under cover of night and spread themselves out behind boulders unnoticed. When they attacked the Schutztruppe’s posts at first light however, the Germans were alert and managed to successfully defend against the attack.
Within six minutes the No. 12 Kompanie was, due to von Erckert’s iron discipline, ready for battle.
All “subleaders” (Hunger, von Gaisberg, Pavel and Deininger) attacked immediately.
Evasion tactics of the Nama failed. Shortly afterwards a neighbouring division of the Schutztruppe who heard the gunfire took part in the battle with approximately 30 men.
A battle of several hours ensued, and in the end the Germans beat off the attack thanks to a canon and two machine guns from the neighbouring division.
The Germans counted five dead and seven wounded. Because the Nama didn’t have a chance to give their dead a proper burial and because there’s no written record of their account of the battle, we will only find out the number of their dead through further research.