General – Barend Daniel (Ben) Bouwer

General Barend Daniel Bouwer
He was born in 1875 in the Kalahari Desert during the Thirstland Trek, Bouwer grew up in Angola and was educated in Portuguese at Mossamedes. Here he acquired a wide knowledge of African languages. On moving to Pretoria, he became interpreter to the Law Courts. He fought in the campaign against Malaboch, and then joined the Transvaal post office as a telegraphist.
During the Jameson Raid he carried important messages as a dispatch rider. With the Ermelo commando he took part in the Boer invasion of Natal during the South African War, attaining the rank of Veg-Generaal (Fighting General). Under General Smuts General Bouwer fought in the invasion of the Cape, and helped negotiate the Peace of Vereeniging.
He became a prospector, and was among the discoverers of the Rooiberg tin mines in the northern Transvaal. In 1907 he was appointed an inspector in the Transvaal Police. After the establishment of the Union Defence Force in 1912, he served as Staff Officer in Graaf-Reinet until he retired because of ill-health in 1916. In his later years he was a member of the Board of Film Censors.
Bouwer was according to the Boer Army List of British intelligence, the enemy:
“Well built; broad shoulders; 6 ft; 33 years; coarse face; red complexion; dark hair, fair moustache, beard French cut; dark eyes. Wearing dark coat and vest, khaki cord trousers turned into old putte e-leggings. Regimental boots, which he said he obtained from the 17th Lancers at Tarkastad. Regimental felt hat turned up at right side and fastened with 2 stars. Carries field glasses, case marked 17 L and a 17th Lancer carbine (slung) and regulation Lee-Metford in hand. Could easily be taken for an English officer. Speaks English fluently; coarse, savage
expression. Well liked and kind, but strict as to behaviour of his men. A great man for flogging. Does not believe in shooting Natives unless they are armed. Has been wounded in the arm and leg. Single. Came into Cape Colony with Smuts in September 1901 with 70 men. Commando now consists of 58 Transvalers, two Russians, two Irish, two Hungarians, 20 rebels and 25 of Cpl. Smith’s scouts – all armed – and also 100 unarmed rebels. The Russia ns and Hungarians reached the commando through German territory. There is a helio in the commando worked by one Higgs and three dispatch riders under David Malan.”
Bouwers and the commando laid down arms on June 19, 1902.
He died in Cape Town in 1938.
Bouwer’s participation in the Jameson trial:
With the capture of Lotter’s commando it was hoped that there would be a lessening of Boer activity south of Graaff-Reinet but, in October 1901, Cmdt B. Bouwer had left Gen J C Smuts’s.
commando force and moved towards Graaff-Reinet. On 6 October 1901 he clashed at Springvale with the DDF capturing 20 and chasing the rest back into Somerset East. Bouwer then moved off
towards Pearston. After a number of small skirmishes he found refuge and rested his horses in the Camdeboo Mountains.
From November 1901 onwards the main commando activity was concentrated in the north west Cape under Generals Smuts, Malan and Manie Maritz with the Cape Midlands area around Graaff-Reinet relatively quiet, although on 15 December 1901 Kritzinger once more crossed the Orange River and returned to the Cape. The very next day, however, he was wounded and captured at Hanover Road. In mid- December Cmd t Louis Wessels, who had taken over from Kritzinger, moved from Richmond to the Koude- veld and Camdeboo Mountains. While there, Wessels and 20 men entered Murraysburg where the inhabitants welcomed them with open arms. In the new year Wessels returned to Murraysburg for fresh supplies, plundering the store of one Cohen but was soon pursued by Col H A Smith-Dorrien’s column.
Wessels got away and moved in the direction of Bethesda Road where his men burnt down the station building and then on towards Cradock clashing with the column of Col C Warren. At the beginning of February 1902 this commando was successful in capturing a supply train on the Middelburg-Cradock line. Wessels now travelled southwards and then turned eastwards towards Bethesda again. Soon after they w ere in another skirmish near Richmond before proceeding further on to Victoria West. Cmdt Bouwer was meanwhile forced out of the Camdeboo by Scobell and he moved southwards, eventually meeting up with Cmdt Schalk Pypers who was in command of the remnants of Scheepers commando.
From the Victorian Web, we get this account of Bouwer’s participation in the Jameson trial:
Presently the name of Barend Daniel Bouwer was called and the young man rose and walked to the witness stand. Another man, rather untidy and much embarrassed, took his place in a vacant space between the witness stand and the counsel. This proved to be the interpreter and the whole of Mr. Bouwer’s testimony was given in Dutch and was translated by this interpreter. When chatting with me his English seemed so perfect, both in accent and in fluency, that I could not have supposed he was other than an educated Englishman. The young Boer’s manner was modest and pleasing; there was nothing to indicate that rudeness and coarseness which certain chroniclers have attributed to his race; his bearing was that of an intelligent and well-bred man. He spoke in tones so low that it was almost impossible to hear him, and, although [-232-] his speech was perfectly unintelligible, the Attorney-General felt impelled at last to ask him “if he could not speak louder”.
The Dutch vernacular, from the lips of the interpreter, was very harsh and guttural and much interspersed with English. When he asked the witness if he went east or west he said:
“Oost or west?”
Bouwer testified that he was a clerk in the office of General Joubert, Commander-in-chief of the forces of the South African Republic. He knew Sir Jacobus de Wet, the British representative at Pre toria. On December 31st, he had received orders to look up two Afrikanders to take a dispatch to Dr. Jameson; he was asked to define the term “Afrikander.”  “It is a Dutch resident who is entitled to vote,” he replied, in his native tongue, which was put into English by the interpreter. He found one, he said, but could not find two.
“What!” exclaimed Sir Edward Clarke with the savest irony, “You could not find two?”
Bouwer colored with embarrassment at the laughter which this occasioned among the friends of the Chartered Company, and in which the Judge and the Duke of Abercorn and a few of the defendants also joined. Presently Bouwer resumed his story and said that he was ordered to go to Sir Jacobus de Wet and was informed that he was the man to carry a letter which was given him. He was told to place it in Dr. Jameson’s hands and although the British representative did not know where Jameson was, Bouwer was told to ride in the direction of Rustenburg;  Nothing was said about Krugersdorp. Bouwer was accordingly given the letter and shortly after noon accompanied by the one Afrikander who had been detailed to accompany him, rode in the direction of Rustenburg as he [-233-] was ordered. He was asked where he came up with Jameson’s forces and, through the medium of the treble- voiced interpreter, replied:
“Close to the spot called Van Nit Hooriswinkle Spruit, or Van Nit Hooriswinkel.”
“You had best get that right,” said the Attorney-General, and not unreasonably, addressing the clerk of the court; “Have you got it, Mr. Cavendish?”  Mr. Cavendish, who sat at his desk behind the rail which separated the officials of the court from the audience, wrote rapidly for a moment, then critically inspected his work, after which, with something of an air of relief, he replied in the affirmative. This caused another laugh at which the witness and the interpreter smiled deprecatingly. The humor of the incident, failed, as usual, to am use Dr. Jameson.
Van Nit Hooriswinkle Spruit, Bouwer explained, after Mr. Cavendish had finished dotting his “i’s” and crossing his “t’s,” was eighteen miles northwest from Krugersdorp. When he reached the column they had halted; he, the witness, was unarmed and dressed in civilian’s clothes. He asked a sentry where Dr. Jameson was and was told that he was in camp. He was allowed to proceed and met an officer whom he could not identify among the defendants, who asked his name, and was then taken to Dr. Jameson’s house.
“Is that gentleman sitting at the end of the row Dr. Jameson?” asked the Attorney-General.
Bouwer leaned forward an instant, looked down at Dr. Jameson, who turned his face toward the witness that he might be more readily identified.
Then Bouwer replied: “Yes.”
“What did you say to him?” he was asked.
“I said,” replied Bouwer, “I have a letter for you from Sir Jacobus de Wet, and he explained that he spoke English. At the request of the Attorney-General he repeated the statement in English, just as he had made it to Dr. Jameson, and he did this so readily and intelligibly that the Magistrate remarked in rather a surprised tone:
“You speak English very well.”
Bouwer smiled at the compliment, but continued to give his testimony in Dutch.
“Dr. Jameson read the letter,” he went on, “and said he would give me a letter to take back.”
It was written while Bouwer went out to look after his horse and given him when he returned. He had no further conversation with Dr. Jameson, and rode away accompanied by the Afrikander, who was afterwards discovered by a number of men whom they met, and who would not allow them to proceed. Bouwer went back, and this occurrence was reported to Dr. Jameson, who at once mounted his horse and rod e with the witness to the place where he had been detained. Jameson told him that he thought he had been stopped by Col. White, and added:  “If Col. White will not let you go on you will have to go with the troops to Johannesburg.” The Afrikander objected to this, and said that it was not right for the Chartered Company’s forces to st op the messengers on their return; that Col. White had no right either to stop them or keep them prisoners.  At the request of Sir Richard Webster, Col. White rose, tall and broad chested, a man thirty years of age or more, of distinctly military bearing; he was at once identified by Bouwer and sat down again.  “Dr. Jameson spoke to Col. White, Bouwer continued, looking steadily at the defendant, then identifying him.  The Attorney-General next produced a document and asked Bouwer if Col. White had given it to him.
“No sir,” he replied without hesitation, “It was given me by Sir John Willoughby. ”
[-235-] Col. Willoughby was asked to rise for identification, as Col. White had done-a slight, swarthy man, much less soldierly, and rather more embarrassed than Ccl. White had been. Captain Grenfell also rose and was identified as the man who had been with Col. Willoughby at the time Bouwer met him.  The document proved to be a pass which had been given Bouwer and the Afrikander to enable them to go through Dr. Jameson’s lines and it had been signed by Sir John Willoughby. The Attorney-General turned to the Magistrate, after Bouwer had identified the pass, and said that he had in his hand, also, a letter which Dr. Jameson had commissioned Bouwer to carry.
“I will read it Sir John,” he said, and permission being given, did so. It had been delivered to Sir Jacobus de Wet by Bouwer in Pretoria, and was as follows:
“Jan. I, 1896. To Sir Jacobus de Wet, Her Majesty’s Agent at Pretoria:
“Dear Sir: I am in receipt of the message you sent from His Excellency the High Commissioner, and beg to reply, for His Excellency’s information that I shall, of course, obey his instructions. I have a very large force both of men and horses to feed, and as I have finished all my supplies in the rear I must perforce go either to Johannesburg or Krugersdorp this morning for this purpose. At the same time, I must acknowledge that I am anxious to fulfil my promise on the petition of the principal inhabitants of the Rand to come to the aid of my fellow-men in their extremity. I have molested no one, and have-explained to all Dutchmen and all I have met that the above is my sole object, and that I then desire to at once return to the Protectorate. I am, Yours faithfully,
“L. S. JAMESON.!”