BRTISH FORTS ON KOSMOS MOUNTAIN AND KOMMANDONEK
In June 1901 the Lincolnshires built blockhouses, five in all, on Kalkheuvel guarding the entrance to the route through to the Moot, followed by another one at ‘Orange Grove’ (019) on the hill overlooking the farm Klipfontein guarding the exit into the Moot.
Much time and effort at this time was spent in rounding up snipers, ever active. On the morning of 23rd July two companies, which had marched out from Rietfontein (053), were sniped at Scroobys’ Farm (011), but had no casualties. The Scrooby family still live in the area and the barn with Lincolnshire bullet holes has been preserved. On the night of 6th October Pte L Thurgood ‘who was a sentry on a trench at Rietfontein was sniped and severely wounded. His leg was amputated next day from which he died shortly afterwards.
Two men in the Rietfontein cemetery (054) were killed by lightning and in October lightning struck one of the Kalkheuwel blockhouses. ‘Several rifles were damaged, but no men injured’.
Lightning was a real danger to the garrison as the newly designed Rice Pattern forts were constructed of corrugated iron; concentric metal walls filled with small stones to make them bullet proof and covered with a mushroom or tent-shaped metal roof. They cost about ₤16 to build compared with ₤48 for a blockhouse; the Royal Engineers constructed both types. The Lincolns occupied 16 separate blockhouse sites with their HQ at Rietfontein by November 1901; Lt Col Archdale, OC of the Lincolns, who took command in March 1901, was in command of all the outlying posts in the Moot and along the Magaliesberg range, a chain that was to start in August 1901. Most of the forts were to be linked by telegraph.
A great deal of activity occurred in the Rietfontein area after August 1901 when a series of forts was built to guard each nek along the Magaliesburg in order to limit Boer movements North and South of the mountain range. There were 5 forts at Horn’s Nek, 3 at Smit’s Nek, 7 at Silkaatsnek (062). There were 5 at Commando Nek; four of these were stone two story buildings. A handsome zigzag mule track leads up to the single blockhouse on the western buttress. Stone was plentiful and quarried on site. There were between 3 and 7 forts at all the other useful passes along the Magaliesberg such as Castle Gorge and Nooitgedacht. To assist the Lincolns in manning these posts there was a detachment of 200 SA Constabulary, mostly Canadians raised by Baden-Powell. The defenses at Rietfontein itself were probably upgraded by building Rice Pattern forts at the same time. The remains of two forts on Camp Hill and four on ‘Gun Hill’ have been identified. This became essential in order to guard the heavy guns on ‘Gun Hill’ at the western end of the complex. There was one 4.7-inch gun at the eastern end pointing at Silkaatsnek according to a diary description, confirmed by ground survey, aerial photography and a very poor photograph in the Lincolnshire archives. An inscribed piece of shale or ‘slasto’ was found within the gun hill complex and had probably been a topping stone of one of the walls. Along with another two names E B Olive 14 Coy W.D. RA had made his mark [WD – Western District]. I4 Coy WD existed from 1st July 1889 to 1st January 1902. In 1897 14 Company moved from Jamaica to Cape Town. The camp was occupied and the hospital in use until May 1902. º
On April 17th the Officer Commanding Pretoria District visited Rietfontein, Commando Nek, Fort Anderson (039) and South Hill to inspect the defenses. General Barton however got his name attached to the fort guarding the Hekpoort pass, perhaps in a less than complementary way since it is called ‘Barton’s Folly’ (006). It is the only fort in the area complete with (concrete) roof. Orange Grove (named after the local produce of the time) is complete except for the roof. All other forts in the region have been partially demolished after the war in terms of the Treaty of Vereeniging. Forts in the Moot at Skeerpoort and Hekpoort have disappeared.
After the peace Treaty in 1902 much of the metal sheeting, barbed wire and metal posts were distributed to or taken by the surrounding farming community and most of the masonry blockhouses were supposed to be blown up. In our area the one on Kosmos mountain is the most conspicuous. The Broederstroom and Kommando nek ones as well as Barton’s Folly at Hekpoort are still in reasonable condition.