Unravelling the Rand Revolt Casualties

One of the many thousands of questions that I have asked myself since I started photographing war graves was: “How many people were killed during the Rand Revolt?” The assumption being that you actually knew what the Rand Revolt of March 1922 was.  I do not recall learning about it in school, although I only took history for the first 2 years of high school so may not have gotten there yet. I really started to learn about it when I started the war grave photography and even then (and even now) I never could figure out what it was all in aid of. At the end of the day all that happened was many people lost their lives, the status quo remained unchanged for a while, neighbours and work colleagues looked at each other with suspicion, dead were mourned, jobs were lost, the damage was repaired and Jan Smuts would see his government fall as a result of his actions. 

As I have mentioned on numerous occasions; I only see the lost lives and rarely the circumstances that led them to lose their lives. It may sound callous but with almost 100 years between the events of 1922 and now that is really the only way to deal with this. 

The biggest problem is that there was no unified casualty list published that I have been able to find, and the accepted death toll was:

Military 43
Police 29
“Revolutionaries” 11
“Suspected Revolutionaries” 28
Innocent civilians 42
Total 153

Towards the end of June I started to look up the death notices of the known casualties and investigate all potential deaths in 1922 that happened in and around the province of “Transvaal”. It became evident that there was no way that the table above was even close. Fortunately, those killed in the revolt had their death notices endorsed accordingly. The example below is taken from one such death notice. 

Once I started on the mission I started to fill in as many gaps as I could, including such data as occupations, cause and date of death and final burial place.  It does make for gruesome reading though because the 42 innocent civilians really had nothing to do with the mobs that seemingly were armed with weapons of mass destruction!  A brother and sister were both caught up the fighting and were both killed on 10 March 1922.  

Alic and Dora Zackey. Image courtesy of Sarah Welham Dove

The question I would like to ask is: what made one a “Revolutionary”? and what gave them the right to butcher innocent people in the name of their cause? I will grant the following: not everybody that lost their lives was killed by a “Revolutionary”, some were killed by the military or by police. 

There is also a lack of information as to how the African mineworkers were treated in the revolt; especially when you consider that the role of African miners and unskilled White miners was part of the problem in the first place. I was only able to pinpoint 10 African casualties (of which three were policemen) but who knows how many bodies were found and reburied as an unknown without making the connection to the revolt? 

It is reasonably easy to pinpoint the areas involved in the strike: Johannesburg, Fordsburg, Benoni, Brakpan, Dunswart, Brixton, Crown Mines and  Jeppe. Even today you can find buildings that still survive from that era and famously the municipal toilets in Fordsburg even had bullet holes until recently.  You will however struggle to find memorials and literature about the revolt, but you will find realms of rhetoric sprouted by the Marxists that had a foot in the door. This was not only about miners, it was about Capitalism vs. Marxism, randlords vs. labour, civilians vs. the government. 

After completing my task I was able to positively identify a total of 178 casualties of the Rand Revolt. Most of which are buried in Brixton, Braamfontein, Primrose, Benoni and Boksburg cemeteries. The final list is at my  Rand Revolt Casualty List page at all@sea.  It is probably one of the more comprehensive lists out there because it is backed by those all-important death notices. 

Many people helped to complete that page too: Sarah Welham Dove, Terry Cawood, Ronnie Lovemore,  Peter Moss, Alan Buff and those who put pen to paper so many years ago. I do recommend reading all the Rand Revolt related pages at the Heritage Portal, and  I also hope that at some point all of those names will be on the lists of the South African War Graves Project too. But things being the way they are this personal project has now reached its conclusion and will be laid to bed unless I find anything new. 

No longer forgotten, the casualties tell their own tale, of good and bad, and everything in-between.  And once again I cannot help coming back to  my all-purpose analogy about the warden/guard/policemen/Gestapo chief/KGB operative/inquisitor coming home at night after a hard day beating and torturing and remarking to his wife and children that he had had a good day.  I am sure the likes of Long, Spendiff and Fisher all felt the same way. 

DRW 2020. Created 11/07/2020


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Call An Ambulance!

This past week has seen some scary developments in my life, and an incident that was frightening and interesting at the same time. 

I have been ill with what appeared to be a UTI related complaint and it started last week Monday. By Wednesday I felt that I really needed to see a doctor and following tests I was prescribed antibiotics. However, the weekend was a roller coaster of fevers, chills, and general malaise and I was still feeling poorly by Monday and phoned the doctor on Tuesday. After examining me I was advised to go to the A&E at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done due to transport limitations. An ambulance was called for me and I barely got home in time when they arrived.  I was then taken to the hospital, arriving just before 17H00. 

Due to the covid-19 protocol face masks were mandatory, and everybody was well hidden behind their masks, but there was a brisk efficiency about the place. After being tested for covid-19 I had blood taken and a chest x-ray. A doctor examined me and they decided to admit me after starting an intravenous drip. That was somewhat of a surprise, but I was in trouble at that point and until we knew what was causing my problems all that we could do. So up to the 9th floor, we went and after being allocated a bed I was plugged into more antibiotics, an ECG was taken and I was settled in for what was to be a long night. In my disorganised rush to pack a bag I had left out the important stuff and my decongestant was one of them. Breathing was difficult because of the mask, blocked nose, and fogged up glasses. I also had the pillow from hell and spent a restless night counting minutes and fighting the pillow. No sleep was had. 

The next morning, after a breakfast of what may have been cardboard and milk the doctor arrived. The tests had revealed no obvious cause of the problem and the antibiotics had made me feel very much better although I still felt wobbly at the knees. Outside it looked cold and wet and the view was not exactly inspiring as you can see below. 

Then the long wait started; at that point, I was told I was going to be moved to the 7th floor and that was changed to being moved to the discharge lounge. There are limited ways to get to Tewkesbury from Gloucester so I really needed to be aware of the timing. A sign in the discharge lounge stated that there was a 2-3 hour wait for medication and if I ended up waiting too long there was a chance that I would miss the last bus back home. In my chaotic bag packing I had neglected to pack cash but fortunately had my bank card with me if I needed to call a taxi. Eventually, just after 2.30, I left, clutching more antibiotics and hoping to get to the bus station in time to catch either the 14H45 or 16H00 bus. The last time I had been in Gloucester was in 2018 and they had been seemingly endlessly working on the bus station so hopefully, by now that had been completed. I never really understood the orientation of the bus station relative to the town and station so I was also stumbling into the dark. On the image above you can see the railway line running from left to right with the tip of the platform on the right. The bump in the background is called Robinswood Hill.  

As I walked out the driveway of the hospital I was finally able to see the place completely and naturally, I took a pic or 2. The ward where I spent the night was on the right-hand side of the building on the top floor and was behind one of those pairs of triple windows. 

The hospital is a sprawling complex hospital that was rebuilt in the 1960s and eventually incorporated a new 11-storey tower, the work on which started in 1970 and was completed in1975. You can see the age of the building on the inside, it has a certain institutionalised look about that was common to construction around then. What really ticked me pink though was the toilet on the ward. When last did you see a toilet with a cistern and pull chain? Mr Crapper would be proud. The toilet is not dirty though, it is just marked by limescale and age. 

The walk to the bus station is not a long one but naturally, I missed the 14.45 bus. That gave me an hour to have a snack and frankly I was hungry. The new bus station looks kinda snazzy but its a cold clinical place. 


Note the social distancing markers on the floor: they are the reality of how things are at the moment with the covid raging.  The town is much quieter than I can remember it, and many business are still closed, and there is a definite feel of desolation here, although just maybe I was feeling maudlin or something. I passed the time reading my kindle (thank goodness I had remembered to pack it) until the bus arrived and I was back home by 17H00. I had to smile as I took in the chaotic heaps I had left behind in my rush to get ready for the ambulance collection. Had I had more time I probably would have made a better job of my preparations, but I was rushed and my brain was sluggish on Tuesday, and hopefully I am now on the mend. The test results did not show anything abnormal, and thankfully the covid swab was also negative. But I do not know whether this is a short reprieve I am having or the start of another long journey that I must undertake. Time will tell I guess. 

In all my dealings with the staff at the hospital, I was met with professionalism and courtesy. The staff were amazing and I was very surprised. The two paramedics were professional and caring and the poor harassed doctor took it all in his stride. Their working conditions must be extraordinarily difficult at the moment, but they are doing their best. I wore a mask for 2 days and it was incredibly difficult to deal with especially if you wear glasses and suffer from xerostomia. They go through this very working day. I do find that the disposable masks are much more comfortable than the cloth masks that are being sold and I need to replenish my stash. I also need to make up a proper emergency bag for the future and have a checklist nearby. 

The one person that I can thank the most lives in Staffordshire and I met him way back in 1981 in the army. He is a tower of strength and was prepared to drive down to Gloucestershire to help. I sincerely hope that things do not reach the stage where he has to make some long-distance calls on my behalf. 

And that was my July so far. I have 14 days worth of antibiotics and had a good night’s sleep. Let us hope that it only gets better from here.

DRW 2020. Created 09/07/2020


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Unlocking Lockdown

It has been quite some time since my last mutter about Coronavirus and lockdown, and quite a few things have changed. For starters some of the shops have re-opened and that was good news, however the inconvenience is considerable what with queues, people hiding behind masks and screens, mysterious arrows pointing in unwanted directions and of course the previously empty pavements suddenly swarming with people and I had to walk in the street on occasions to avoid large groups filling the complete pavement. I do however understand the need for things like this, it is the new normal I am afraid, until we can get a handle on this virus. Unfortunately I do suffer from poor hearing and many of these interactions are incredibly difficult for me. I even explored having a takeaway but would have to phone in my order and presumably hide until it was ready for collection. I tried to buy new safety shoes the other day too and sure as eggs are eggs so did everybody else in the shop (7 at a time please). I also attempted to buy a piece of wood for my bedside table but it was made so complicated that I did not go ahead with the purchase. I am afraid that I am not the only one in this boat, many people are just not going to visit the shops or even attempt social interaction. 

On my reading list this past week was a book about the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic and it made for interesting and chilling reading. More people died from Spanish Flu than the total number of cases and deaths from covid-19. While gravehunting in South Africa I noticed that a years deaths would take up roughly a page and a half in the cemetery register. However, when it comes to 1918 suddenly there are 4 or 5 pages just for October! The book I read had a chapter on South Africa and the Flu and it seemed to peak in Cape Town and the mines in Kimberley and Transvaal were badly hit.

“Writing in the Conversation Africa in March 2020, emeritus professor Howard Philips, a historian at the University of Cape Town, said South Africa was estimated to have been “one of the five worst hit parts” of the world.

Philips specialises in the social history of medicine and has written two books on the Spanish flu’s effects on South Africa. He told Africa Check that the official death toll released by the government in 1919 was 140,000 to 142,000. This was for 1918 and 1919.  But the unreliable way the figures were calculated meant this toll was probably low, Philips said.

“There was no comprehensive death registration system in South Africa in 1918. There was supposedly for whites, but for Africans in [the Cape province and Transvaal] there was no requirement to register deaths,” he said.”  (AfricaCheck.org)

In other news it was announced that Tewkesbury  has had no active Coronavirus cases since May 24. At that point there had been 182 cases up till then. Hopefully this will continue though because all it takes is one infected person to walk down the street or go to work.   

The numbers game continues. Worldometers reports the following: There are 9 622 238 Cases worldwide with 487 339 deaths. The USA still tops the charts with 2 477 876 cases and 124 485 deaths. The UK has seen a slowing in cases and deaths and while still at number 5 has 307980 cases and 43230 deaths.  South Africa has been climbing the charts though, it is currently at number 18 with 11796 cases and 2205 deaths. These rankings are for total cases, and look differently when total deaths is considered.: USA – 1, Brazil 2, UK – 3, South Africa – 25. The situation in South Africa is very difficult because of socio-economic conditions and often incomprehensible regulations. A report at Mybroadband.co.za stated:

“Liberty Fighters Network (LFN) and Reyno De Beer will be arguing in the High Court today that they believe that since of this morning Wednesday, 24 June 2020, the lockdown regulations are unconstitutional and invalid and that effectively the Lockdown is legally over.”

Naturally this will get fought out in the courts, and huge amounts of money will get spent and eventually it will probably be settled out of court and the only ones who benefit will be lawyers. 

And that is it in a nutshell. Today it is supposed to be 32 degrees outside but I suspect we missed most of the heat at work. I remember those 37 degree days in Johannesburg in Summer, and the thunderstorms that often used to build up, apparently we are in for some of those too tonight too. 

Till next time… stay 2 metres away.

DRW © 2020. Created 25/06/2020


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OTD: Start of the Korean War

On this day; 25 June 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea, signifying the start of the Korean War. As wars go this has become a forgotten one and in spite of having ended on 27 July 1953 the region has never really become safe. The North, governed by a dictatorship is constantly sabre-rattling against its more prosperous southerly neighbour. 

Following the end of the Second World War, Korea was liberated from the Japanese invaders that had occupied the region since 1910. The United States and the Soviet Union agreed to divide Korea into two occupation zones due to concerns of ‘spheres of influence’. and a temporary internal border was created in 1948 between North and South Korea based on the 38th parallel – the circle of latitude that is 38 degrees north of the equator. The Northern part becoming a Marxist state under the dictatorship of Kim Il-sung and propped up by the Soviet Union, while the South was led by Syngman Rhee and propped up by America. 

Following the invasion, The United Nations (UN) Security Council responded and called on all members to help the South. American quickly sent forces to support the country followed by further UN support of troops from 17 countries including Australia, Canada, France, the Philippines, Ethiopia, Turkey, New Zealand, South Africa, Colombia and Great Britain. By early September 1950, the South Korean and UN forces were facing defeat as North Korean forces pinned them against the southern coastal port of Busan. In response on 15 September 1950, the United Nations Commander General MacArthur ordered an amphibious landing at Incheon, a port halfway up the Korean peninsula, behind enemy lines. The landing allowed UN forces to make rapid progress north during the autumn of 1950, nearing the Chinese border by November. Alarmed by the proximity of South Korean and UN troops to their border China entered the war, sending forces into North Korea pushing the UN Forces back into the south.

Fighting stalled in early 1951 and armistice negotiations began. For the next two years troops faced a stalemate near the border, in trenches a little more than a mile apart they faced extreme conditions of cold and hot weather. Finally, in July 1953 an armistice agreement was signed, but there was no peace treaty.  To this day the Korean War has not officially ended and tensions still run high between North and South Korea and US forces remain in the south serving along one of the most heavily militarised borders in the world. (https://www.britishlegion.org.uk/stories/the-korean-war) 

P51 Mustang

F-86 Sabre

South African involvement was limited to a SAAF fighter squadron, with 50 officers and 157 other ranks of 2 Sqn SAAF sailing from Durban on 26 September 1950. This initial contingent was commanded by Cmdt S. van Breda Theron DSO, DFC, AFC and included many World War II SAAF veterans. The squadron was deployed as one of the four USAF 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing squadrons flying P51 Mustangs and later converted to USAF F-86F Sabre fighter-bombers. The South Africans lost 34 SAAF pilots killed with eight taken prisoner. 74 Mustangs and 4 Sabres were lost. Pilots and men of the squadron received a total of 797 medals including 2 Silver Stars, the highest US military award given to foreigners, 3 Legions of Merit, 55 Distinguished Flying Crosses and 40 Bronze Stars. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_African_Air_Force#Korean_War)


In South Africa I am aware of two Memorials/Rolls of honour. The first being at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

The other is at the South African Air Force Memorial at Bays Hill in Pretoria.

The names of those killed in the conflict are also remembered on the memorial wall.

The dead are buried at the The United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Korea  in the City of Busan, Republic of Korea,  It contains 2,300 graves and is the only United Nations cemetery in the world. 

Sadly tension ebbs and flows on the tenuous border between North and South Korea, and there is a massive wealth gap between North and South. It is unlikely that they will ever be reunited and there is always a small chance that a major war could break out there at any time. The sabre-rattling continues, with China always in the background ready to lend massive military support to the dictatorship of Kim Jong-un. The war has never been forgotten in Korea, but elsewhere in the world it has faded into memory.  

DRW © 2020. Created 24/06/2020 


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Remembering Pauline

War Grave photography can be a very rewarding experience, with highs and lows, and many times you are left shaking your head or just feeling angry with what you see. My post today is one that finally had closure for me after many years. 

I was “responsible” for many of the original photographs that we have on the South African War Graves  website that covered the cemeteries and memorials in and around Johannesburg and a few other places in Gauteng. I found it very satisfying to do and it did help me when I was suffering from an extreme case of “cabin fever” in 2011 and 2012. Unfortunately though, many casualties had slipped between the cracks when the South African Roll of Honour was being compiled. Apparently the person responsible for that job was stricken with Spanish Flu and passed away, and the unfinished ROH was adopted and the files of those who had not been processed were stuck on a shelf. 

In 2012 we started the record card project in an effort to photograph as many of the WW1 record cards as possible. The end goal is to submit the names of those who had slipped through the cracks to the CWGC and ultimately to have them added to the ROH.  When Ralph and Terry started to submit names for inclusion to the CWGC, one of the graves I went to find was that of PAULINE HERMIONE EMILY PAFF, a Probationer Nurse with the South African Military Nursing Service. She died of pneumonia and influenza, at Johannesburg Hospital on 20 October 1918 and was omitted from the ROH.

She is buried in Brixton Cemetery in the “EC” section (“English Church”) although that does not necessarily mean that the grave would be easy to find. Brixton is a big cemetery and there are very few grave numbers/markers and no real coherent plan of what is where. I do know the cemetery quite well and because I photographed the war graves can identify a section based on known graves.  Pauline’s grave was close to the fence of the Jewish section and a few graves close to where I was stung by a bee in 2009. By the time I left South Africa in 2013 no headstone had been erected although she had been approved for inclusion in the ROH and on the CWGC lists for South Africa

This past week Sarah Welham Dove was able to send me a photograph of her headstone and I was finally able to get closure over this grave. Pauline has been remembered and no longer does she rest in an unmarked space in a cemetery that is rapidly deteriorating due to indifference. 

I am also hoping that in the intervening years a headstone has been erected for Chris Charles Doak in Braamfontein too, although there was a dispute about where he was buried. He was somewhat of a troubled chap and died as a result of an overdose of morphine. Hopefully one day I will be able to display his grave here too. Irrespective of whether they died by misadventure or through no fault of their own each is important, and that is why we were out there taking the photographs. 

Rest n Peace Pauline and Chris and all those who we are still waiting for an answer on. 

Gravesite in 2008

DRW © 2020. Created 21/06/2020. Thanks to Sarah Welham Dove for the image.


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