Saturday 08th of February 2003 11:33 AM 
 
 
Oranje Vrijstaat Artillerie Corps

Historical Study and Re-enactment Group

INTRODUCTION AND HISTORY
The original corps dates back to 1854 when the Orange Free State gained its independence from Great Britain. Although the corps took part in two wars during the 1860s, it was only after 1880, when a decorated Prussian artillery officer, Captain F.W.R. Albrecht, was appointed in command that it started taking shape. The breech of the gunAlbrecht introduced strict military law, enlarged and trained the ranks and persuaded the Volksraad to import modern field guns. He also replaced the earlier British pattern uniforms with that of the Prussian Guards Artillery.

By the time war broke out in 1899, the corps had grown extensively and consisted of 5 officers and 159 gunners and NCOs, including reservists, some 400 men. These ranks included a 25-man strong military band and a signals and heliograph section. The armament consisted of fourteen 7.5cm Krupp Feldkanone L/27 (1892) breechloaders, five 9pdr Armstrong RML guns, one 3.7cm Krupp L/30 QF, three 3pdr Whitworth mountain guns and three 0.45 (M-H) calibre maxim machine guns.

During the war, the corps soon gained an impressive reputation for itself from both friend and foe alike. They took part in most of the early battles and sieges of the war: Ladysmith; Kimberley; Stormberg; Modderrivier; Magersfontein; Vaalkrantz and Paardeberg being the best known. At Paardeberg, Albrecht, four of his lieutenants and three guns were captured, but the rest of the corps, manning individual guns, stayed in the veldt with the commandos. These gunners, with their limited resources, did invaluable work to keep General De Wet out of British hands during the 'New Model' drives. Even later, after they had lost most of their artillery, the remaining gunners regrouped into mounted infantry units, and fought to the 'Bitter End'.

THE MODERN DAY CORPS
The O.V.S.A.C. is a South African based group with members from Pretoria, Johannesburg and Bloemfontein that strive to research and re-enact the history of the artillery corps of the Orange Free State. Although they were the smaller of the two Republican artillery forces to take part in the War, they do make for some interesting research.

The whole idea started when we were lucky enough to obtain a First World War vintage 87mm Turkish Krupp that only differs in calibre from the 75mm version used by the original corps. It has now been fully restored to its former glory and aptly renamed after the Free State President's wife, 'Tant Tibbie'.

The present day corps was formed with the following objectives:

  • To keep the history of our forefathers alive for future generations, especially this small group of heroes.
  • To battle the local common assumption that all Boers of a hundred years ago were untrained backvelders with no military traditions.
  • To stimulate interest in the history of this period, hoping that more people will become involved in research and even start their own re-enactment groups.

We have extensively researched the uniforms, weapons, ranks and uses of this 'Little Prussia on the Veldt' corps. To date our corps consists of one Lieutenant, one Sergeant, a Bombardier, 5-6 gunners and a doctor and two nurses from the "2nd Ambulance of the German Red Cross". A heliograph and signals team with a corporal and 2-3 men is already in its forming stage and will hopefully be operational soon. Further we have recently obtained an authentic Boer War carriage of an Armstrong limber, which will be restored and used with our Krupp.

Our re-enactors are dressed in Prussian-style field uniforms and our officer and senior NCO in the 'interim' khaki - as worn by the original crews. For comparison, some members dress up in Boer civvies and even British uniform for some events.
Precision cast copies were made of the original coat-of-arms hat badges and South African Police caps were converted to the Prussian blue "mutze". Full parade dress (complete with picklehaube helmets and falling hair plume) is a future objective.

Since no writings (that we know of) exist on the original gun drill, we designed one using original Free State photos, British and Transvaal artillery handbooks and American Civil War re-enactment group sources.

A typical re-enactment weekend consists of camping out 'historically'. Sleeping in old bell tents, eating braaivleis, stormjaers, biltong and captured British bully beef and knock-me-down-stew. The finer details of life on the veldt can only be appreciated fully when one uses and cooks with contemporary items and ingredients!

Then, when the onlookers have gone and all grows quiet at night, we sit around the campfire, sing old songs and tell long forgotten stories.

If you are interested in more detail, want to join, or have any Boer War-related queries, please feel free to contact us at:

kruppgun@yahoo.co.uk

P.O. Box 324
Ferndale, 2160
South Africa

Or locally on:
082 870 4448

 

GALLERY

Our 8.7cm Krupp as we found it, unrestored, 27th May 2000 What she looks like today, 22 Dec 2001
Our 8.7cm Krupp as we found it, unrestored, 27th May 2000.
What she looks like today, 22 Dec 2001.
'Tant Tibbie's' third shot Re-enactors with gun
'Tant Tibbie's' third shot. Re-enactors with gun.
Members of the OVSAC in field uniform. Picture taken at Onze Rust, the farm of the last President of the Free State, M.T. Steyn. OVSAC and Tibbie in the old artillery fort in Bloemfontein. This fort was the base of the original OVSAC from 1854 to 1900.
 
Tibbie firing from the fort to commemorate the Independence of the former Oranje Vrijstaat Republic, 23 February 2002. Since 1854 it was customary to fire a gun salute from the fort on 23 February. Our gun was the first Krupp to be fired from the fort, to commemorate this day, in 103 years (since 1899).
We also do British - Re-enactors dressed in British uniform
We also do British.
Victoria, one of our "German
Red Cross" nurses.

 

 

 

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