It was just a dot and a name on the map on our way to Wupperthal — Englishman’s Grave, “Hmmm… I wonder what that could be”. The Cederberg mountains have many charms, and of course any one who drinks as much rooibos tea as I must be intrigued to see the only place in the world where it is commercially grown. Leopards, caracals, and bonteboks guard these hills, and of course our friend the dassie (previously seen here) is known to wander around its rocks.
The lonely tomb sits beneath the protective shade of a guarding tree. Lt. Graham Vinicombe Winchester Clowes was killed in a skirmish with Boer commandos January 30, 1901 and buried here. He and his men had arrived in South Africa in just enough time to join in the Battle of Magersfontein. It had been thought that the Boers were encamped on the massive Magersfontein koppie. Three miles away, the Highlanders camped and waited for the early morning light to attack.
Advancing on the point having just marched through a pounding thunderstorm, the men’s advance was interrupted by a terrific sound, described by one as the sound of a dam bursting: the crack of thousands of Boer rifles. The commando was not encamped on the prominence, but in a camouflaged trench a hundred feet in front of it. The British suffered over 900 casualties that day, to just 200 Boer dead, and the British advance stopped dead in its tracks.
Lt. Clowes survived the horrors of Magersfontein but was then killed a year later in the small-scale actions in which the Boer commandos were particularly skilled. Devastated by the death, his mother travelled from Hertfordshire to have the gravestone constructed and placed. For many years after Lt. Clowes’s death, his mother would make the five weeks’ journey by sea to the Cape to make the pilgrimage to her son’s grave on the anniversary of his death in the searing heat of the January sun. The day we visited a sprig of fynbos rested on the soldier’s grave, so someone must remember Lt. Clowes still, or at least have the Christian decency to honour his memory.
IN SACRED AND LOVING MEMORY OF
GRAHAM VINICOMBE WINCHESTER CLOWES
1st BATTN THE GORDON HIGHLANDERS
SON OF THE LATE WINCHESTER CLOWES OF HITCHIN HERTS.
KILLED IN ACTION NEAR THIS SPOT ON 30TH JANUARY 1901
At least Lt. Clowes has a splendid view from his resting place.