I have visited Fort Klapperkop in Pretoria three times. The first was when I was in primary school and we went of an outing to Pretoria and the fort was part of the experience. At that time it was still a Military Museum and I do recall climbing over the military vehicles with much enthusiasm.
My second visit happened on 30 December 2008, and the fort was closed for the Christmas break. I only got as far as the main gate. And my final visit was on 16 August 2009, which is what this retro blogpost is about
One of four forts (Schanskop, Klapperkop, Daspoortrand and Wonderboompoort) constructed in 1897 to protect Pretoria against attacks. It was handed over to the ZAR Government on 18 January 1898. Unlike Schanskop, Fort Klapperkop was surrounded by a moat. In February 1898 a Long Tom was mounted here, but removed in October 1899, its final destination being Ladysmith. The fort was equipped with electricity, heliograph, telegraph and a telephone. It was surrendered to the British with the fall of Pretoria, and from then on were manned and armed until 1902 by the Imperial Army.
The 4 forts were handed to the Defence Force in 1921 and declared National Monuments in 1938. Schanskop and Klapperkop served as military museums but they were closed in 1993 and the forts were purchased by the city council. Fort Schanskop was purchased by the Voortrekker Monument from the city council in June 2000 and was subsequently restored.
Like many of these old forts this one feels like it was really a waste of money, certainly the “enemy” that it was meant to protect against did not have to fight a pitched battle against it, and realistically it was more lip service to paranoia by the ZAR government than anything else.
The structure is beautifully maintained and on the day I was there I did not see too many visitors. Admittedly that could be because the access road is quite a killer! My poor little car struggled to raise itself up to the crest of the hill where the fort is.
The view of Pretoria from the fort is quite spectacular in parts, and at night it must be especially good.
Living in a fort like this as part of the garrison must have been very tedious, and I am sure those stationed here must have felt very frustrated by being so close but so far from the lights in the distance. the ZAR government were particularly afraid of the threat posed by uitlanders in Johannesburg and I was quite sad that you could not even see that city from the fort,
There are a number of interesting exhibits at the museum, especially artillery pieces like the “Long Tom” below
The weapon is a replica of the Creusot siege guns bought from France by the Boers and used extremely effectively during the Anglo Boer War.
Down below the battlements the rooms have been more or less restored to what they may have looked like during their occupation or house exhibits pertinent to the forts.
I could not help wondering whether the soldiers stationed her were ever chased down the hill with tar poles, or sent to weed the moat?
You can bet that bored soldiers were kept very busy by their superiors, for this is the nature of military service irrespective. You can bet some lazy bugger wangled himself a job operating the fumigation machine.
The problem with static defences like this is that any enemy worth his salt will go around your fort and isolate you very easily and starve you out.
Or will wait till nightfall and sneak up to your nice secure main gate and knock…..
The fort is an interesting place to visit, one of those really strange places that we have in South Africa which don’t quite make sense. But then we are viewing them with hindsight instead of as things were at the time when they were built. Unfortunately though, once you have seen Klapperkop there is no real reason to return, and that is a tragedy because there are only so many potential visitors.
Two other items of interest do exist at the site, the first is Class 6B- 537, formerly from the CGR and Imperial Military Railways.
When I was there she was looking very dilapidated, but was cosmetically restored not too long ago. How they got her up the hill I do not know.
The other oddity is a single decker tram (Brill?) that was in a very poor condition. I believe she may have been cosmetically restored as well.
And that was Fort Klapperkop in a nutshell, or was it a coconut shell?
© DRW 2009 -2018 Images recreated 08/03/2016