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Archive for the ‘Book Excerpts’ Category

Read Pierre Francois Massyn’s Introduction to Springbok Rugby Quiz: 1001 Questions and Answers

Springbok Rugby QuizSpringbok Rugby VasvraSpringbok Rugby Quiz: 1001 Questions and Answers by Pierre Francois Massyn is a fascinating, fun look at rugby history and facts.

The book contains 1001 questions about Springbok rugby from the national team’s first test match in 1891, right up until the present. There are answers for the questions, along with relevant anecdotes, in the back of the book.

Massyn has shared an excerpt from the Introduction to his book on the Springbok Rugby Quiz website. In the excerpt the author writes about his love of rugby and the Springboks that inspire him. He speaks about the personal letter he wrote to Nelson Mandela about the importance of the Springbok emblem, and the effect it may or may not have had on the former president. The book is illustrated throughout with pictures of significant moments and characters of South African rugby.

Read the excerpt:

In 1965 we as a family were having a meal in the Gordonia Hotel in Upington. Sitting on his own, there was an unknown man at his table. “Go and ask that Oom his signature” my father encouraged me. Clutching my father’s Rembrandt van Rhijn’s cigarette box in my small hand, I bravely approached the other guest. Minutes later I proudly returned, with his signature on the back of the cigarette box. Sias Swart’s (Footnote 1) was the first Springbok autograph I had ever obtained. I have since collected a few more. I discovered I somehow had a penchant not only for the stories, but for the statistics as well. As a boy, I began to challenge anybody, sometime complete strangers, to ask me anything about rugby. I always knew all the answers. Players, matches, scores, tries … And to this day I have never stopped reading rugby books or stopped following the matches. This book is the natural progressions of my love for the Game.

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The Faceless Puppeteer Behind the Boipatong Massacre: Read an Excerpt from Gruesome by De Wet Potgieter

GruesomeGrusaamDe Wet Potgieter’s latest book Gruesome: The crimes and criminals that shook South Africa (also available in Afrikaans as Grusaam: Die dade en geweldenaars wat Suid-Afrika geruk het) follows the trail of a number of criminals in South Africa’s history.

The investigative journalist started his career in 1975 and has worked at numerous newspapers, including the Sunday Times and Rapport.

In Gruesome, Potgieter shares stories that the public has never known, for instance the reason why André Stander become a bankrobber, how Gert van Rooyen’s victims are connected to a human-trafficking network and the events that really happened on the night of 17 June, 1992 in Boipatong.

Read the extract about the Boipatong massacre:


* * * * *


Chapter 2
Boipatong, Trust Feed and the Third Force


In 1994, shortly after South Africa’s first democratic elections of 1994, two AK-47 rifles were shoved into Sergeant ‘Pedro’ Peens’s hands, accompanied by the command ‘Get rid of these very quickly, or we shall hang’.

     With the two ‘hot’ rifles in the boot of his police car, Peens was panic-struck. He knew full well he had dynamite in his hands. He pondered what to do with the weapons, his stomach tied up in knots while he paced restlessly trying to work out a strategy. He realised he was on his own now. He dared not ask for advice, as the politics in South Africa had become so dangerously fluid that no one could be trusted any longer.

     Colonel Eugene de Kock, commander of the state-sanctioned death squads at Vlakplaas, had already been incarcerated and was awaiting trial, while policemen and members of the Civil Cooperation Bureau (CCB), the notorious covert unit operating under the South African Defence Force (SADF), had begun to sing like canaries backstage in an effort to save their own skins.

     The dark truths had begun to come to light, and Peens had no idea when it would be his turn in the spotlight. He knew that those two rifles were the key to a horrible, bloody truth that would cost him and many other people dearly should they end up in the wrong hands. He had to act quickly …

The beginning

Early in 1992, during one of the bloodiest periods in South African history, the multiparty constitutional negotiations of the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa) were under way, with the National Party (NP) government and the African National Congress (ANC) as the principal players.

     Prior to the formation of Codesa, the South African president, FW de Klerk, had been trying to put out fires related to the ANC’s continuing allegations of a ‘third force’ at work systematically mowing down the organisation’s supporters in the townships. Gangs armed with AK-47s, pangas and knives were waging a reign of terror on suburban trains. During morning and evening peak times they moved from carriage to carriage, assaulting anyone who looked like an ANC supporter and sometimes throwing them off the moving trains.

     De Klerk was also worried about the ANC alliance’s rolling mass action, which had started off with aggressive demonstrations. Sit-down strikes, boycotts and occupying government buildings would follow, all aimed at destabilising the government.

     The ANC president, Nelson Mandela, accused De Klerk’s government of being behind the faceless third force allegedly responsible for the violence on the trains and in the townships. The growing crisis was driving a wedge between the two high-profile political leaders. After Mandela had walked out of Victor Verster Prison in Paarl a free man after 27 years of imprisonment, he and De Klerk initially had a good relationship. But the mass action, violence and third-force allegations were complicating matters. At the opening of Codesa 1, on 20 December 1991, the two leaders had engaged in a spectacular public quarrel on these issues. Their relationship would never fully recover after that.

     Nevertheless, Codesa carried on – and so did the violence. While the negotiations at Kempton Park in the first half of 1992 were at a delicate stage, South Africa was burning. The country was on a knife-edge and people feared that the ongoing violence would quash peace efforts.

     De Klerk did not have the faintest idea of his security forces’ hand in the bloody violence, and the generals laughed in their sleeves at their president’s dilemma, exploiting his uncertainty and spurring on the politics of blood and violence. Actually, it was just a continuation of the old NP trick: divide and rule.


In the winter of 1992, the Boipatong massacre drove the country to the brink of civil war. Years later, during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) hearings, the deputy chairperson, Dr Alex Boraine, described the night of 17 June 1992 as ‘one of the darkest days in the history of South Africa’.

     A heavily armed band of Zulus, or impis, allied to the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) sneaked into Boipatong that night. Their actions elevated the obscure black township between Vanderbijlpark and Vereeniging to international newspaper front pages and television screens the next day. The fear-stricken residents were, like numerous others in black townships across the country, caught up in the bloody power struggle between the ANC and the IFP, which, in those days, was primarily a Zulu organisation. That night, in the biting winter cold, the people of Boipatong lay in their beds, listening to the invaders entering the dusty streets.

     ‘We were already asleep when we heard them walking and talking in Zulu,’ Dinah Manyika later testified before the TRC. ‘I lay listening as they walked through the streets shouting, “Wake up, you dogs!” The next moment they kicked open my door and one of them said, “Here’s a bitch, kill her!”’ Terrified, Dinah fled outside. When she returned half an hour later, she found her two brothers hiding under the bed. A neighbour took her to where her 47-year-old mother had been hacked to death with pangas. Manyika’s father later died in hospital as a result of his wounds.

     Klaas Mathope recounted how he had fled into the bushes when he heard the Zulus approaching. He sat shaking in the dark, listening to people being hacked to death in the squatter shacks. He also heard someone saying, ‘Zulu, catch him!’ in Afrikaans. When it became quiet, he went back and found his wife’s body. She had numerous gunshot wounds and her intestines were lying outside her ripped stomach. His son, Aaron, had also been killed, while his daughter-in-law later died in hospital.

     Jane Mbongo, a young mother who hid under the bed with her two-year-old daughter, Victoria, had to listen to her husband being stabbed until he died. Afterwards the attackers continued sticking assegais through the bed until Jane crept out. She clutched her child, looking the men in the eye, and then watched as an assegai was driven through the little girl’s body. They stabbed Jane too, and chopped her fingers off.

     In that night’s gruesome massacre, the attackers went from home to home in Boipatong, mowing people down indiscriminately. Some survivors later maintained that white policemen had assisted the Zulus by transporting them there in Casspirs. The final death toll was 45, with many more wounded.

     And somewhere behind all these atrocities sat a faceless master brain. Three days later an irate Mandela suspended all Codesa negotiations with the government, accusing De Klerk of sitting with his arms folded while ANC supporters were killed in numbers. The negotiations were resumed only much later, after De Klerk had undertaken to control the security forces.

     Shortly afterwards the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 765, demanding an incisive investigation into the events and requiring that the offenders be brought to justice.

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“Could this Unobtrusive-looking Couple be Responsible for Murder?” – An Excerpt from Grave Murder

Grave MurderGrave Murder: The Story Behind the Brutal Welkom Killing by Jana van der Merwe tells the story of the heinous murder of Michael van Eck.

In this excerpt, shared by Zebra Press, the police officers investigating the brutal murder “pull an old trick” to try and lure the deceased’s last caller to a place where the detectives could identify them.

Read about the gamble the detectives made, and the surprising way it panned out:

* * * * *

Late on Tuesday afternoon, the team studied the cellphone statements again. This time, Steyn offered to call the last number displayed on Michael’s phone, as if a different caller, much like a different gambler taking over an unlucky slot machine, could twist fate to their advantage.

‘Let’s hold thumbs,’ said Van Zyl.

‘Here goes,’ Steyn said as she punched in the number. It rang. She could not hide her elation as she mouthed and signalled the good news with a thumb’s up. On the spur of the moment, Steyn decided to pull an old trick she and Van Zyl had learnt from their good friend, the respected private investigator Leon Rossouw, from Bloemfontein. It was a trick that had worked time and again to lure possible suspects to the police.

‘Hello?’ said the sweet-sounding voice of a young girl.

‘Hi, I am so sorry to disturb you. This is Dr Mitchell from Casualty at the Welkom Mediclinic,’ Steyn said, making up an identity.

‘Yes?’ the young woman responded.

‘We have a girl here who has just been in a very bad motor-vehicle accident,’ Steyn said, while putting on her most authentic doctor’s voice.

‘We’re going to have to operate immediately, but before we can go ahead we need someone to identify her. Your number was one of the numbers found on the cellphone brought in with her. Can you help us?’

Steyn could hear her heart beating as silence fell between them.

She waited.

‘I’m at Game, but we can come over shortly,’ the girl said.

‘Great, sorry, I didn’t get your name?’ Steyn asked cautiously.


‘Okay, thank you, Chané. See you soon,’ Steyn said, and put down the phone.

Nel realised that the Game store was just across the road from the hospital and that they were still several kilometres away, where they had been searching the area around the dam. She and her colleagues had all heard it over the speakerphone: the girl had said ‘we’.

They dropped everything and immediately made their way to the hospital. Steyn, Van Zyl and Krügel passed St Helena again as they sped in the direction of the Welkom Mediclinic, fearing that the girl, the last person Michael had contacted on his cellphone, would beat them to it and find out that she had been lied to.

Relief flushed over them when they got to the hospital’s casualties area and could not spot anyone who would match the young voice on the cellphone.

‘Good afternoon, Janet,’ Van Zyl said upon reaching the reception desk, peering at the shiny badge on the hospital official’s uniform. Van Zyl showed the woman his ID card.

‘I’m Detective Eben van Zyl from the SAPS,’ he said. ‘We are conducting an investigation. If anyone inquires about identifying a victim of a motorvehicle accident or asks for “Dr Mitchell”, I would appreciate it if you could direct them straight to me and my colleagues. We will be around.’

Van Zyl, Steyn and Krügel waited at casualty, while Nel went off to stand guard at the main entrance. Nel carefully studied new visitors from top to toe, viewing each as a potential suspect as they walked into the hospital through the sliding doors. It was starting to get late.

Five minutes felt like an eternity.

Twenty minutes after she’d arrived with her team, Nel saw them approaching the main entrance.

Coming through the glass sliding doors was a couple. The petite, dishevelled girl was wearing an oversized red hoody and black sweatpants. She looked like a teenager. Her long black hair was pulled back into a bun, and her black fingernails offset against her fair skin made her look so pale, she seemed almost translucent.

Beside her walked a twentysomething, tallish, average-looking bloke. The couple’s hands were tightly entwined as they strolled into the entrance hall at a slow, steady pace, as if they had all the time in the world. Nel observed that they did not stop at the admissions desk or turn towards the wards, but walked straight to the casualty ward. To Nel, this was a sign that this could be the girl who had answered Michael’s last cellphone call. She turned and followed the couple.

Nel joined up with Steyn and Van Zyl and quietly pointed out the couple to them. The three of them watched intently as the young couple approached the reception desk in the casualty ward. While she was talking to a uniformed hospital official, the girl turned her head and made eye contact with the police officers for the first time.

Could this unobtrusive-looking couple be responsible for Michael van Eck’s murder?

No. Maybe. It can’t be, thought Nel.

But she knew.

* * * * *

Related stories:

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How Olive Schreiner Scandalised 1900s South Africa with “Revelations” of Sexual Attraction – Excerpt from Wine, Women and Good Hope

Wine, Women and Good HopeIn her book Wine, Women and Good Hope: A history of scandalous behaviour in the Cape, June McKinnon offers a highly entertaining account of misdeeds and scandals of early colonialists of Cape Town.

In the chapter “Rollicking into the twentieth century”, McKinnon details the booming business of prostitution in the early years of the 20th century. The decent citizenry of the Cape took great offense at any kind of female sexuality, so there were obviously many attempts by the law and by voices of morality to try and rein in the irrepressibly brazen women who walked the streets.

In these sexually repressive times, Olive Schreiner “was branded as being no lady” for admitting that she was sexually attracted to the man who became her husband. That, of course, was not the worst of the feminist writer’s crimes.

Read the excerpt:

* * * * *

Rollicking into the twentieth century

The dawn of the twentieth century brought the start of a new era for the Cape of Good Hope. Tensions that had built up in the preceding century between the British and the Boers finally came to a head with the Second Anglo-Boer War, fought from 1899 to 1902. The war cast a shadow on the country for over two years, and its effect on both the individual and shared lives of the inhabitants of the Boer republics and British colonies would change the course of South African history.

In the Cape, the war generated an influx of immigrants who would help to alter the social dynamics of the region. Although their arrival did have an impact on some of its broader societal issues, including the politics and conflicts in the colony, it also had social consequences that could be viewed as less grand or epic than what is usually associated with war. While many things changed, many other things stayed the same. And in regard to the high jinks that had plagued the Cape for nearly three centuries, the Anglo-Boer War had no less of an influence in diminishing their seedier aspects than any other major event occurring in its history. Indeed, you could say that the war brought this out in full force.

From 1899, a huge number of European prostitutes travelled to South Africa, where a mountain of business awaited them from British Tommies to weary civilians, all in need of a distraction from the dread of war. Russian, British and German, as well as local, prostitutes patrolled the streets and docks, and brothels and pimps flourished. When Kruger sent the Uitlanders packing after declaring martial law in October 1899, the sex trade flooded into Cape Town from the Reef. In 1895, Gold Reef City had 1,000 known prostitutes, and in Johannesburg, which had ninety-seven brothels in operation at the time, the identities of thirty-six French, twenty German and five Russian prostitutes are documented in historical records – and this in addition to the local and foreign prostitutes whose names have not been recorded. As in Kimberley, many prostitutes in Johannesburg also worked as barmaids.1 By 1902, the number of brothels escalated in Cape Town from the Woodstock tollgate to the Newmarket, Mill and Buitengracht streets in central Cape Town, with a total of 400 prostitutes occupying them. Many individuals found new careers as agents, who made bucket-loads of cash by exporting foreign women into South Africa. By 1902, it was estimated that over 400 prostitutes had arrived from Europe.2 However, in spite of its popularity and the nature of the business, inequalities along gender, social and racial lines abounded even in the sex trade, as they do in every other career, reputable or not. During the war, the going rate charged by less reputable white prostitutes was two pounds for a night, while coloured prostitutes earned only ten shillings for the same service. For a quickie, the princely sum of 7s 6d (seven shillings, six pence) was charged.3 To supplement their income, many prostitutes and even their pimps – who benefited from most of the profits their workers made – turned to petty crime.

The worthy citizens of Cape Town complained to no avail that prostitutes had become more brazen in seeking out clients. A common sight in one wealthy suburb was an audacious madam who hired a wagon and filled it with her employees, all of them dressed in garish coloured dresses with low-cut necklines and feathered head-dresses. The wagon stopped whenever a prospective client was spotted, and the prostitutes would loudly announce their specialities to the street at large, regardless of who was in earshot. At Table Bay Harbour, sailors were met by prostitutes, pimps and madams who dished out calling cards with names and addresses of local delights on them.4 In one incident, a gentleman reported to the police that he had been pickpocketed in broad daylight by two prostitutes. The women had accosted him on a busy street in central Cape Town, pretending to need his help. But when this Good Samaritan followed them to a nearby house, they quickly revealed their real intentions and offered him their services, which he refused. He then tried to leave, but they grabbed him by his jacket. Although he finally managed to escape, he later discovered that his wallet, containing a tidy sum of money, had disappeared.5

In 1901, police reported that there were 200 brothels in Cape Town. The Morality Bill was soon passed by Parliament in the same year, which attempted to check the proliferation of these dens of sin. It also prohibited black men from consorting with white prostitutes6 – an issue which the Cape government had been under increasing pressure from the (white) public to deal with. While intermarriage, cohabitation and fraternisation between men and women of different races were not frowned on in many circles during Dutch rule of the Cape, this generally accepted social system was altered somewhat with British rule. Interracial relationships, although not forbidden by law, were not accepted in middle- and upper-class society, and certain white citizens hoped to keep it that way. In 1901, a public meeting to protest such indecent relations, particularly those occurring between black men and white prostitutes, was one of the catalysts that brought about the establishment of the Morality Law. The meeting, which had been organised by several churches, had a huge turnout, with the congregations and clergy from each church attending it. The WCTU had also been forceful in their attempts to end prostitution in the Cape, and ensured that their voices were heard by those who could assist their cause.7 Plain clothes cops were put on patrol to catch unwitting prostitutes in the act of soliciting, but this did not prevent sex across the colour line or the number of sex workers who walked the streets. Pimps and brothel owners had deep pockets, and many bribed the police to look the other way, which made it harder to catch the culprits responsible for the proliferation of the sex industry.

Things got so out of control that police started targeting anyone they could lay their hands on, whether they were guilty or not. On one occasion, a young Russian Jewess on her way home from work was pushed into a cab in Buitenkant Street and taken to the Caledon police station, where she was charged with soliciting. She swore that she was just an innocent bystander, and accused the policeman who had grabbed her of assaulting her, but she was locked up nonetheless. The police had falsely written down her home address as 40 Caledon Street, the premises of a well-known pimp and gangster who ran a gambling den, so it was only after the girl was sentenced in court that her worried family could discover her whereabouts. The close-knit Jewish community in the Cape was outraged by the entire affair and demanded an investigation into the matter and the role the police officer played in everything. What seems most probable is that the police had been using the girl as a means to arrest the gangster in the first place, either to have him pay for a former crime, or to get out of his clutches if he had a hold over them. Cape Town did, after all, have its own complex criminal web, a mafia of sorts with a number of players, including members of the police force, who demanded protection money from brothels, gangsters and pimps. The policeman who had arrested the girl, along with the gangster and his henchman, received minimal punishments by the court, and were soon set free and allowed to carry on with their nefarious activities.8

A burning question I have had while chronicling these events is the paucity of information on rent boys, or homosexual prostitution. It must have existed, but Victorians and Edwardians kept their eyes and ears shut to the love that dare not speak its name. This was a male-dominated society, and anything that threatened to tarnish the idea of what constituted masculinity was to be squashed immediately, as evidenced by the horror and outrage displayed in the Oscar Wilde affair in 1895. In the Cape, male prostitutes must have had a field day with the influx of British soldiers during the Anglo-Boer War.

For many women in the Cape, and in the rest of southern Africa, the twentieth century allowed them to test and sometimes even cross the lines that circumscribed traditional female behaviour and roles. In 1900, a letter written to The Owl – a jingoistic pro-British mouthpiece run by wealthy women for the upper-middle classes of Cape Town’s English-speaking community – exposed how women had begun using the theatre to express their sexuality more openly. In the article, the writer complains that moral standards in the theatres had fallen dramatically based on the way dancers appeared on stage in flowing skirts that billowed up to reveal more than just ankle.9 As in every generation since time immemorial, there were also grumblings about women’s fashion and what was considered appropriate female dress. Working-class girls caused a scandal when they started wearing metal regimental badges on their hats, ribbons and blouses, which, the publication states, was to attract suitors from the Tommies.10 For The Owl, this kind of conduct by girls was frowned on by its editors, whose ideas on female behaviour fell largely into the category of their being seen (in appropriate dress) and not heard. A woman’s role had to be geared towards that of the silent but supportive wife who stands behind her man in the safe space of the family home while he determines his place in the real world. To counteract some of the rebellion displayed by their younger peers, the publication warned young women to start exhibiting more maidenly modesty. If a young man wanted to kiss a girl goodnight at her parents’ front door, even after a few dates, she had to refuse, as this would make her beau more eager to propose marriage.11

At the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries, there were debates in Parliament over whether women should be allowed to take clerical jobs, or to become typists or secretaries – careers previously reserved for men. When it was finally agreed that women could be employed in these jobs, it was with the caveat that they receive less pay than a male colleague performing the same work. Following this, of utmost importance was the passing of a law that all offices be segregated and partitions erected between male and female workers. There was to be no contact whatsoever between the sexes, as it was generally believed that males and females working together would lead to the downfall of a young woman’s integrity. Many young men also risked falling into temptation and being led astray by their female colleagues.12

Author Olive Schreiner was branded as being no lady when she had the audacity to speak up in public about the Boer War and the part women should play in it. A report in The Owl, dated 29 June 1900, provides details of the rally held in Cape Town, which was organised by the South African Conciliation Committee, the members of which were pro-Boer supporters who mostly spoke English. Schreiner was an active member in this committee and arranged and spoke at its rallies and public meetings – a concept that horrified the The Owl’s editors, who were not emerging feminists like Schreiner. The publication was not the only media that criticised Schreiner’s demonstrations, where she would rouse the emotions of women to support the Boers. In November 1900, the Cape Times reported on a rally held by Schreiner in Paarl under the headline ‘More hysterics’, while another newspaper, The Review, described the speakers and their audience as a ‘shrieking contingent’.13 Her speeches were accused of bringing about ‘undignified scenes’, in which females would become overly passionate and ‘het up’, an accusation frequently thrown at women who had the nerve to speak out about anything.14 As the scandalised Sir Henry Cloete revealed in his dealings with the Voortrekker Susanna Smit in 1843 (see Chapter 11), such conduct was considered unwomanly, and against the natural order of things.

Schreiner pushed gender boundaries even further when she admitted to some of her friends that, upon first meeting her husband Samuel Cronwright-Schreiner, she had found herself attracted to him because of his muscled and tanned arms.15 A revelation like this reveals an obvious case of sexual attraction, a sensation no woman in that era should have thought of owning up to or deeming essential to her happiness. Schreiner’s book, The Story of an African Farm, published in 1883, had already caused outrage in its portrayal of a young woman as a sexual being.16 She, unsurprisingly, had a fraught relationship with Cecil John Rhodes, who she met in 1890, and they debated together on a number of social and political issues. Schreiner had become such a popular figure that, in an attempt to limit her influence over some women in the Cape, Rhodes was forced to suffer the company of 100 giggling school girls from Rhenish High, who he invited to tea and a personal guided tour of his estate, Groote Schuur, with the hope that he could steer these girls in a direction as far removed from Schreiner’s feminist, pro-Boer way of thinking as possible. Rhenish High, founded in 1806 as a private school, was known for its innovative teaching methods, and for holding Schreiner up as an example of the New Woman.17 Rhodes probably thought he could persuade the girls against adopting such a radical feminist outlook as Schreiner’s by showing them the advantages enjoyed by traditional English ladies. By 1892 Schreiner chose not to see Rhodes ever again because of his refusal to stop the enforcement of the Strop Bill, which would legalise the flogging of coloured servants for any number of ‘offences’, including the neglect of their duties to their employers.18

In June 1915, thirty-five women volunteered their services to the police force to assist with the apprehension of sex workers on the streets. This was the first time women had been recruited as police officers in the Cape, and the success of this initial group led to the employment of three permanent female police officers in December of 1915. Police authorities had first started taking female police recruitment seriously when some bright spark realised a woman would find it easier to persuade her ‘fallen’ counterparts to repent and be detained quietly.19 Needless to say, the attempt to get sex workers to give up their trades using female cops was a futile one – partly because there were only three female police officers enlisted for the job, but mostly because many fallen women enjoyed plunging into the mounds of cash they were making too much to repent. Nonetheless, policewomen, although so few in number, chalked up a credible number of arrests. Most prostitutes were indeed less likely to resist arrest from a policewoman, and many of them were brought in quietly.20 This had the police board sitting up and taking notice, hence the employment of three permanent policewomen. But it was only in 1923 when a greater number of women were enrolled as police officers, mostly due to the urging of the archbishop of Cape Town, Bishop Lavis, who advocated that women of all colours and creeds be admitted into the ranks of law enforcement officers.21 It goes without saying that this did little to dent the number of women of all creeds and colours practising the oldest profession in the world.

1 Geoffrey Wheatcroft, The Randlords: The Men Who Made South Africa, p. 4.
2 Catherine Knox, Victorian Life at the Cape, 1870–1900 (Cape Town: Fernwood Press, 1992), p. 51.
3 Ibid.
4 Vivian Bickford Smith, Elizabeth van Heyningen and Nigel Worden, Cape Town in the Twentieth Century (Cape Town: David Philip Publishers), p. 39.
5 Ibid.
6 Ibid.
7 Ibid.
8 Ibid, p. 40.
9 SAL, The Owl, 22 June 1900, pp. 396–397.
10 SAL, The Owl, 12 January 1900, p.
11 SAL, The Owl, 25 January 1901, p. 75.
12 CA, CCP 1/3/2, Cape Hansard, Government Debates, p. 170.
13 Ibid., pp. 125–126.
14 SAL, The Owl, 29 June 1900, p. 409.
15 CA, The White Ribbon (Journal of the WCTU), 1915; Karel Schoeman, Only an Anguish to Live Here (Pretoria: Human & Rousseau, 1992), p. 29.
16 Karel Schoeman, Only an Anguish to Live Here, p. 29.
17 SAL, The Owl, 23 November 1900, p. 758.
18 Karel Schoeman, Only an Anguish to Live Here, pp. 23–24.
19 CA, The White Ribbon (Journal of the WCTU), 1915. p. 5.
20 CA, A.1696, Vol. 1/1, ‘Minutes of the Executive Committee Meeting’, 4 October 1906, pp. 3–4.

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The Work of a Police Tracker Dog Explained in an Excerpt from Grave Murder: The Story Behind the Brutal Welkom Killing

Grave MurderZebra Press has shared an excerpt from Grave Murder: The Story Behind the Brutal Welkom Killing by Jana van der Merwe.

The book tells the story of the murder of Michael van Eck, which rocked the sleepy goldmining town of Welkom back in April 2011.

A dismembered, decapitated body was discovered buried in a shallow grave on the outskirts of the local cemetery, and speculation arose that it may have been a “muti murder”, the work of a deranged madman or part of a satanic ritual.

The mystery deepened when a soft-spoken girl-next-door and her intelligent, well-mannered fiancé were arrested.

In this extract, Van der Merwe describes how a police tracker dog named Xander, under control of warrant-officer Fanie du Plessis, aided investigators in finding the deceased man’s body.

Read the excerpt:

* * * * *

Although he could feel the pressure, Du Plessis was not concerned. He needed to give Xander time to settle in, but he did not want him to cross the boundaries and relieve himself, thus contaminating the crime scene. Xander, in turn, was excited and happy to be out of his cage in the vehicle and in the fresh air with a whole bunch of new scents to explore.

Du Plessis took a moment to familiarise himself with his surroundings. He observed the large pool of blood, the colour of which had now turned brown, the drag marks, and the splatters and smears of the bloody struggle that might reveal what had taken place the night before. He was told that the blue rag, which had since dried, allegedly belonged to the missing man.

When required to search for a living individual, Du Plessis would utilise a piece of clothing that bore the scent of the missing person. He would hold it to Xander’s nose and simply instruct him: Soek! (Search!) Xander would then drop his snout to the ground and begin the chase. The dog rarely missed his target. When Du Plessis suspected the victim was dead, he would omit giving Xander the person’s scent. A simple Kry! (Find!) does the trick. The dog was, like Michael, Afrikaans.

In South Africa, where crime is rife and resources limited, police dogs such as Xander have to be skilled for any search-and-rescue scenario – unlike in many first-world countries, where police services can train specialised cadaver-sniffing or tracking dogs who can differentiate between the dead and the living. Under-resourced dog units in South Africa have to train dogs to develop both these skills, but this search would not be an obstacle for Xander, who loved a challenge.

Du Plessis saw the terror in the faces of Michael van Eck’s family and opted to go about his task determinedly. He had seen the vast amounts of blood. Looking at the evidence at hand, and with experience gained over the last two and a half decades, Du Plessis knew exactly how to instruct his dog. He sometimes knew instantly what the outcome would be.

In this case, they were looking for a dead body.

Xander immediately comprehended that playtime was over when his master put on his harness.

‘Time to get to work, Xander,’ Du Plessis said as he fastened Xander’s work gear. Wagging his tail, it was obvious that the dog did not think of this as work.

‘Find!’ Du Plessis prompted. Xander took off with his head in the air, sniffing the soft, warm wind.

The area was vast. Usually Du Plessis would calculate in his head, dividing the area into quarters. Looking towards the open area in the south, he began at a point opposite the Jewish chapel, where more blood and drag marks had been discovered. Against the wind, Xander set off towards the outskirts of the graveyard. Task-driven now, he picked up speed along the worn double track frequented by visitors along the Jewish burial site. Du Plessis kept up, run-walking after his four-legged hunter with another, younger police officer trailing a couple of metres behind.

As Xander approached the pine trees, he picked up momentum. He grew increasingly anxious as he reached the boundary and his handler let Xander run free.

With purpose, Xander came to an abrupt standstill. He began digging decisively, his wet nose brushing a small heap of dry grass and soil. Du Plessis soon heard the distinct, hollow, unsettling sound he had come to know so well over his career. Xander had hit target in less than 10 minutes. Du Plessis knew: the canine’s paws had found the victim’s body.

Du Plessis instructed Xander to stop.

‘That’ll do, boy,’ he said, while rubbing the dog’s furry white head.

He alerted the young police officer who, with a single nod, returned to inform his colleagues. Soon the forensics team gathered at the shallow grave, only covered by grass, leaves and sticks. A number of officers carefully removed the layers to expose pale white skin and what looked like a pair of soiled dark-blue jeans with a metal button.

Du Plessis and Xander did not stay to watch as the police uncovered the shocking discovery. Their work was done.

Du Plessis had stopped sticking around for the sake of his own sanity.

As he neared the end of the cordoned-off area of the crime scene with a panting Xander, he briefly made eye contact with Michael’s parents.

Like a castaway on an island he isolated himself from the others. Focusing on Xander, who was now lapping up some water, he sat and waited, hoping that this would be the end.

It wasn’t. Not by a long shot.

De Ru, camera in hand, accompanied the rest of the forensics team to the cordoned-off area. Only then did he enter to begin strategically contextualising the surroundings of the crime scene and documenting each possible fragment of evidence found at the scene itself.

Using shovels, the police slowly and carefully began to unearth what was hidden underneath.

Shocking even the most hardened police officer, it was difficult to make sense of the scene unfolding before them. The dead man’s blood-soaked blue jeans had been placed on top of his torso. Cautiously, the officials exposed the macabre site, the naked, dismembered and decapitated body of a young adult male gradually emerging with each sweep.

The police had to unpack the grave to take stock of what limbs were present. The head, entire right arm and hand, and left foot were missing. Both legs had been amputated at the knee. Visible pink patches on the victim’s back confirmed that livor mortis had set in. Of course, the police could not know for sure whether this headless body belonged to Michael van Eck, and they hesitated to inform his family of what they had discovered.

De Ru watched as the police put together the parts of the limbs like a puzzle, as though trying to make sense of it. Lying there as if it were a discarded partial plastic mannequin tossed under a tree, De Ru photographed the decapitated torso of the young white male.

The right foot, which was still present, looked superbly clean, almost washed, the toenails neatly clipped and dirt-free. De Ru snapped away as an officer wearing a pair of blue silicone gloves held up the deceased man’s left hand, the palm showing deep cuts, defensive wounds indicating a struggle. Blood had seeped under the neatly cut fingernails and was clearly visible.

De Ru retraced his steps to where the slaughter was probably initiated. He documented the pools of blood at the entrance, the now-dry drag marks, a bloody footprint, the ominous smears of blood on the bright-yellow boom gate, and the crumpled T-shirt. He walked around the Jewish chapel, where he found more blood. Scrutinising the scene around the chapel, De Ru’s trained eye looked beyond the more obvious indications of a disturbance that Ephraim, Daniel and the others had discovered more than six hours before.

He noticed a number of items that could forensically lead the police to the killer or killers and which may potentially link the killer to the crime. After photographing all of the evidence, De Ru dusted the items for fingerprints, as one never knew what might ultimately be relevant. The items included a small, empty condom package, a drinking glass with an elegant black, flowered print, used tissues and a couple of empty glass beer bottles.

The police decided that it would be too traumatic for the family to see the shallow grave. They had to find the missing head first and make sure that they had the ‘right’ body. But what if the head and missing limbs were not in the area? There had to be another way to establish the identity of the victim.

As the Van Ecks were approached by the police, they could tell that the officers had discovered something, although they were not forthcoming with information.

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Shenanigans under British Rule: An Excerpt from Wine, Women and Good Hope by June McKinnon

Wine, Women and Good HopeWine, Women and Good Hope: A history of scandalous behaviour in the Cape by June McKinnon is a romp through the more salacious history of the Cape of Good Hope.

In this excerpt from the book, McKinnon takes a closer look at the generally bad behaviour that characterised the first British Occupation of the Cape from 1795 to 1803.

Some of the interesting characters the author outlines are: Lord George Macartney, Cape governor and irrepressible ladies’ man; Sir George Yonge, the “dirty old man” who succeeded Macartney; and Johannes Pool, who owned the most scandalous theatre in Cape Town.

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* * * * *

Shenanigans under British rule

During the first British Occupation of the Cape from 1795 to 1803, the good Dutch burghers found fault with nearly everything their new English masters did, and with good reason. Many members of British society – whether of the upper classes or not, and notwithstanding the long lines of nobility and royal tradition that painted their history – were determined to have a good time in their new home. And since this home was an English colony, they could see no reason not to behave however they liked with impunity. It’s not as if anyone could stop them.

Lord George Macartney, who took over the governorship of the Cape from 1797 to 1798, had a reputation for delighting in the pleasures his position offered him. A very handsome man, Macartney, at the age of thirty, was the English envoy to the court of Catherine the Great of Russia, which had given him great success in consolidating diplomatic relations with England. It was rumoured this might have had a lot to do with the fact that Catherine enjoyed seeking solace with toy boys, and that Macartney was one of them. Catherine had a reputation for getting what she wanted, and usually used men to achieve these ends. She felt no compunction in murdering her ineffectual homosexual husband to claim the throne in 1762. And, as a monarch, she proved herself to be as good a leader as any king in history. She refused to follow the rules which required she behave like a proper lady, and entertained a steady stream of handsome young lovers in her bed. Those lucky enough to dive under the sheets with were normally rewarded with rapid promotions, social positions and favourable treaties.1

The Dutch community in the Cape no doubt frowned upon the reputation their new leader had brought with him. But, while many of them were vocal and occasionally correct in their estimations of their British compatriots, it should be remembered that there were individuals in the latter group who despised Dutch customs as well, and who would have loved to see their complete disappearance from the Cape Colony altogether. Lady Anne Barnard, who viewed the Dutch as her compatriots only in so far that they were part of the same species, was such an English snob. As Governor Macartney’s wife had not accompanied him to the Colony, he was in need of an official hostess, and Lady Anne was asked to fulfil this duty because of her husband’s reputation. Andrew, in his position as colonial secretary, was only second in command at the Cape to Macartney.2

Lady Anne described Macartney as a ladies’ man who could charm both Dutch and English ladies, many of whom flirted openly with him. He seemed to be faithful to his wife, Lady Jane, and they enjoyed a long marriage, though he never could resist the charms of any pretty woman, particularly if she was a flirt or behaved outrageously in any way. In this small settlement where tensions seethed between men trying to make their way, and among women hoping to further their husbands’ careers, the British governor was a constant target for flattery, and he loved it. The wives and daughters of British officials regularly attempted to use their wiles to inveigle themselves and their families into his good books, much to Lady Anne’s disgust, who saw herself as a paragon of female rectitude.3

Sir George Yonge succeeded Macartney in 1799. A dirty old man, Yonge, as a married man at the age of sixty-eight, still had an eye for the ladies. His wife, Lady Elizabeth, to whom he had been married for thirty-four years, did not live in the Cape with him, and Yonge used this opportunity to acquaint himself with many of the town’s younger and more appealing offerings. There was a lot of delicious speculation about the identity of his official hostess, who he introduced to his companions as his niece, Anne Blake. The alleged niece was married to Yonge’s secretary, Richard Blake, but many knew she was actually a mistress who he kept close by in order to bed regularly. Yonge would dole out large sums of money to the Blakes, most probably to ensure their silence about the affair. The governor also openly pursued a young girl with the surname Van Oudtshoorn, further tainting the reputation he already had at the Cape. It is not known if she encouraged his attentions or spurned them.

Yonge threw many lavish parties and was partial to consuming great quantities of good wine. To assist him in this occupation, he appointed a full time wine-taster and a deputy, and had a small wooden cottage built for them at the entrance to the Castle from which to carry out their duties. He spent liberally on creating new government posts and appointed his favourites to carry out these positions.4 At one point he even established a Department of Agriculture and a farm, both of which cost thousands of pounds to maintain and were a failure. But he really began pushing the limits when he violated a promise made by the British in 1795 that they would not raise taxes in the Cape if the Dutch capitulated and gave up their rule of the region. Macartney had adhered to this agreement, but Yonge increased taxes during his governorship. Although the burghers managed to get this law repealed, it did nothing to endear Yonge to the inhabitants of the Cape.5 He was eventually recalled by the English government in 1801 when his lavish distribution of funds to his favourites, and to the Blakes in particular, was exposed.6

The residents of Cape Town loved entertainment, and one of the few good things Yonge’s government gave them was the town’s first theatre, named the African Theatre, which was built in 1791. In later years the building became St Stephens Church, and is now a national monument which stands on Riebeeck Square.7

Soon, more theatres followed. The actors and performers who worked for these theatres were enthusiastic amateurs, many of them British soldiers or officials on their way to India. No females were allowed on stage as women who trod theatre boards were considered to have lax morals, so young men took on female roles. Mrs Perdita Robinson, an English actress who was the mistress of the Prince of Wales, was held up as a paragon of the typical immoral actress. When matters turned sour between her and her royal lover, she threatened to publish the love letters he had sent her. King George III bought the letters from her for the exorbitant sum of 5,000 pounds to prevent a massive scandal from erupting. This did little to improve the heir to the throne’s already-mired reputation.8

In 1818, diarist Sarah Eaton comments in her journal that despite the very amateur performances held at the English theatre in the Cape, it had the audacity to charge the same prices as one would pay for a box in a London theatre, where professional actors were employed. The English theatre staged shows every Saturday night, and Sarah’s husband, who had been to only one performance, commented that the standard there was lower than those staged in country theatres in England. The dearth of entertainment in the town ensured there were always both Dutch and English bums on the seats, no matter how terrible the performances.9

Johannes Pool caused quite a stir in the theatre world when he arrived at the Cape from Amsterdam in October 1805. A sail-maker by trade, he opened a warehouse named Pool & Cloppenberg in Waterkant Street with a partner. He then set up a theatre at 24 Castle Street which catered to the Dutch crowd.

The Dutch theatre ran shows every fortnight, all of which were very popular. One reason for this was that no money was charged at the theatre door, while many Dutch patrons kept it afloat by buying subscription tickets. To encourage a bigger audience, the theatre began giving away complimentary tickets to English speakers. Its biggest drawcard, however, was the daring innovation of having female actresses on stage. Pool must have had a lot of charisma as he was able to lure young Dutch women to act on stage, all while presenting a repertoire of shows at his theatre which Colonel Bird described in 1822 as consisting of daring farces, all ‘rather too broad for English manners’.10

Pool left Cape Town in 1818 to return to Amsterdam, and by 1822 the Dutch theatre had closed down. According to Colonel Bird, this was because of arguments between members of the theatre’s management, who had taken over from Pool. Bird claimed the theatre’s closure was a sad loss for a place like Cape Town, which had a ‘paucity of amusement’.11

No doubt Pool’s wife, Helena Johanna, as well as their young children, also suffered a loss when Pool left them behind and went back to Amsterdam, never to return. Helena’s surname has not been recorded, but it is almost certain she was of mixed blood. She is listed as running her own laundry business in Roeland Street.12 Pool left her comfortably off when he departed for Holland and must have handed over the warehouse to her. Her death inventory in the Cape Archives, dated 25 November 1832, consists of pages of inventories of tools and hardware in the warehouse, and of fairly expensive furniture in her house. Her only debts were a month’s rental for the warehouse and her burial costs.13

Chapter 8
1 H.W.J. Picard, Lords of Stalplein (Johannesburg: H.A.U.M., 1974), p. 16.
2 Margaret Lenta (ed.), Paradise, the Castle and Vineyard: Lady Anne Barnard’s Cape Diaries ( Johannesburg: Wits University Press, 2006), pp. 5–9.
3 Ibid., p. 26.
4 Ibid., pp. 23–24.
5 C.F.J. Muller (ed.), 500 years: A History of South Africa (Pretoria, Cape Town: Academica), p. 104.
6 Richard Elphick and Hermann Giliomee (eds), The Shaping of South African Society (Cape Town: Maskew Miller Longman, 1984), p. 230.
7 Jill Fletcher, The Story of Theatre in South Africa 1780–1930 (Vlaeberg Publishers: Cape Town, 1994), p. 23.
8 ‘Mary “Perdita” Robinson (1757–1800)’, Regency History (, accessed 27 July 2015).
9 SAL, Journal of Sarah Eaton 1819–1820.
10 Jill Fletcher, The Story of Theatre in South Africa 1780-1830, p. 57.
11 Ibid.
12 J.A. Heese and R.J. Lombard, South African Genealogies (Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council).
13 CA, Helena Johanna Pool Death Inventory, MOOC 8/47.12, 25 November 1832.

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Van Gogh’s Brother Worked Near Germiston – Excerpt from The Unknown Van Gogh by Chris Schoeman

The Unknown Van GoghDie onbekende Van GoghThe Unknown Van Gogh by Chris Schoeman tells the personal story of Vincent van Gogh’s brother, Cornelis aka Cor, the young uitlander who found a home in South Africa.

Aerodrome has shared an excerpt from The Unknown Van Gogh, which is also available in Afrikaans as Die onbekende Van Gogh.

In the extract, Cor arrives in Johannesburg and starts working at the Cornucopia Gold Mining Company south of Elandsfontein (today known as Germiston). The labour was tough and noisy, and he found it difficult to keep up correspondence with his family.

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The work was hard and strenuous, and Cor was on standby day and night in case repairs needed to be done to any of the crushers, pumps or other machinery. He experienced constant interruptions to his leisure time, even on Sundays – conditions that were far from conducive to corresponding with his family, causing him to take as long as three days to complete one letter. The work was also extremely noisy, with the constant rinsing and crushing of the quartz. A visitor to City & Suburban Mine complained about the ‘deafening’ noise in the crushing battery during the extraction process.

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“Dit is donker waar hulle is” – Jana van der Merwe gesels oor Grave Murder (Plus: Uittreksel)

Grave MurderJana van der Merwe het onlangs met Vicus Bürger gesels oor haar boek, Grave Murder: The Story Behind the Brutal Welkom Killing, wat pas by Zebra Press verskyn het.

Grave Murder vertel die verhaal van die grusame moord op Michael van Eck wat in April 2011 in Welkom plaasgevind het.

Van der Merwe gesels oor die skryfproses en vertel dat die skrikwekkende feite haar soms aan depressie laat ly het. Sy sê die boek gaan grootliks oor die moordenaars, Chané van Heerden en Maartens van der Merwe, en hul motiewe: “Dit is donker waar hulle is. Dit is nie ’n plek waar ’n mens te lank wil wees nie.”

“Die slagoffer kon enigiemand gewees het. Die manier waarop Michael se familie van hom beroof is, is bitter erg. Hy was die middelpunt van hul bestaan.”

Lees die artikel en ‘n vertaalde uittreksel uit Grave Murder:

Chané het doodluiters die deur van die kleiner vrieskasgedeelte aan die bokant van die yskas oopgemaak … Nel en Steyn het toegekyk terwyl Chané versigtig haar hande indruk en ’n afgeplatte plastiekkruidenierssak – wat tussen ’n klein pakkie bevrore ertjies en ’n pak suikermielies ingedruk was – van die onderste rak uithaal.

Met groot sorg het sy die plastieksak op die kombuistoonbank gesit en die inhoud daarvan verwyder wat soos ’n plat pizzabasis gelyk het.

Nel het nie eens gegril toe sy kyk wat dit is nie – ’n makabere masker van Michael van Eck se gesig.

Nie almal het die boek met ope arms ontvang nie. Netwerk24 het berig oor Michael van Eck se ma se reaksie op Grave Murder:

Die ma glo nog vas daar was ook ander mense by haar seun se moord betrokke.

Henriëtte is baie kwaad oor die boek en meen dit doen afbreuk aan haar seun se nagedagtenis.

“Ek het haar (Jana) mooi gevra om dit nie te skryf nie … Hoe teer ’n mens op ander mense se smart?”


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AB de Villiers’ Memorable Games and Worthy Opponents: An Excerpt from South Africa’s Greatest Batsmen

South Africa's Greatest BatsmenIn South Africa’s Greatest Batsmen, Ali Bacher and David Williams profile the South Africa’s batting legends – with fascinating details about each man’s background and career, technique and important achievements.

Daily News has shared an excerpt from the book, in which Bacher and Williams focus on AB de Villiers.

In the excerpt, De Villiers is quoted speaking about some memorable games and worthy opponents. He says that he does not like to measure his performance by match stats. They are all right as a reference point, he says, but being part of a good team is the most important thing: “while I’m playing, it’s been a pet hate of mine, people talking about stats. I just think that is missing the plot”.

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Ali put it to De Villiers that he is always visibly confident at the crease, enthusiastic and bustling and restless. “I enjoy showing visible energy at the crease. I’ve worked it out over 10 years – that’s what makes me a better player, and what works for me. It doesn’t work for a player like Jacques Kallis to go running around like I do – but I know if I don’t have that kind of energy, that body language, that confidence, then I’m not going to do well. I have observed and learned from my mistakes. I can’t be calm at the wicket like a Kallis, it doesn’t work for me. I like to show the opposition with my body language: if you don’t get me out, I’m winning the game here.”

Who was the best bowler he ever faced?

“I’ve always said Andrew Flintoff of England, and that’s still probably the case. His stats don’t say that he’s one of the best ever, and he’s had only one or two ‘five-fors’ in his career, but he was such a big-match player. I somehow always seemed to be up against him when the game was on the line. I remember at Edgbaston in August 2008, when we were batting to win the series and Graeme (Smith) got 154 not out. I came in at the match-breaking moment, and I had to face Flintoff.”

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Read an Excerpt from The Unknown Van Gogh by Chris Schoeman

The Unknown Van GoghDie Onbekende Van GoghThe Unknown Van Gogh by Chris Schoeman (also in Afrikaans as Die Onbekende Van Gogh) is the story of the famous artist’s younger brother who made a life for himself in South Africa.

In an excerpt published by The Star, Schoeman introduces Cornelis van Gogh. Cor was a worker at the Centrale Werkplaats in Pretoria who “was sympathetic to the Boer cause”.

At Centrale Werkplaats, Cor helped to repair and produce equipment used in war. He was part of a very skilled team, which he later left for the adventure of participating in the war.

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In Cor’s workshop, cannons were repaired – one such being the “Long Tom”, a 255 millimetre Creusot that had been damaged by the British. Artillery wagons, and even horseshoes were both repaired and manufactured. The workshop staff also equipped four complete ambulance trains, each consisting of a hospital carriage, as well as two ordinary carriages for the staff, five luggage vans and a goods truck. So skilled were the workers that they were even able to manufacture a new Krupp howitzer after an original piece was irreparably damaged by the enemy.

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