Before we begin relating the events
with which this book is actually concerned, and which
took place, as we have said in the previous chapter,
exclusively in and around the capital, I must ask my
reader to turn his attention for a few moments to
that great mining centre, Johannesburg, “The
Golden City” of South Africa.
If it was hated by the Boers before
the war as the cause of all the unrest in their beloved
country, the unwelcome revolution in the calm simplicity
of their hitherto peaceful life, it is not to be wondered
at that their hatred and resentment had been intensified
by the way in which the war was brought about.
This feeling had risen to its height
of concentrated fury when it became known to the burghers
that the sweeping advance of the British forces in
overwhelming numbers would soon make it possible for
the English to take full possession of those coveted
At the time of the Republican successes
there had been no suggestion that it would be politic
to destroy the mines, but as reverses became more
frequent, and it became evident beyond a doubt that
the British troops were about to cross the Vaal, a
strong section of the Government, supported by popular
feeling, openly advocated the destruction of the mines
as well as the town of Johannesburg. The precedent
quoted for such a course was the burning of Moscow
by the Russians, in order to retard the victorious
advance of Napoleon.
Very soon it became apparent that
the members of the Government who were advocating
this policy were gaining the upper hand, as instructions
were actually given to certain officials of the Mines
Department to make the necessary arrangements for blowing
up the mines. Another section of the Government,
among whom were General Louis Botha and Dr. F.E.T.
Krause, strenuously opposed the carrying out of this
This section eventually gained the
upper hand at the time when Commandant Schutte was
compelled to relinquish the position of Special Commandant
for the Rand, and Dr. Krause was appointed in his stead,
although the circumstances leading to this change had
at first in some measure strengthened those who advocated
destroying the mines. The change was brought
about in consequence of the terrible explosion at
Begbie’s Engineering Works, which had been converted
into a bomb factory by the Government, and where several
persons were killed and many injured.
The cause of this explosion after
investigation was alleged to have been the work of
British spies, and it was only natural that those
persons advocating the destruction of the mines should
avail themselves of this circumstance to further their
scheme, but the bold and determined opposition of
Dr. Krause, supported as he was by the mines police,
a special body of men organised for the purpose of
protecting the mines, had the effect of inducing the
“Destroyers” to mature their scheme in
The probable fate of the mines was
openly and freely discussed in the capital, and I
have a faint recollection of a debating society having
taken for its subject, at this time, the question,
“Would the result of blowing up the mines be
beneficial or detrimental to the Boer cause?”
Many were the pros and cons, and what conclusion was
arrived at I do not know.
At Harmony, mother and daughter followed
the subject with the keenest interest and anxiety,
realising the important effect which the destruction
of the mines would have on the later development of
There were several weighty considerations
which the “Destroyers,” in their thirst
for revenge, seemed to have overlooked entirely.
In the first place, the blowing up
of the mines would have failed in its object of punishing
the mining magnates against whom the resentment of
the Republicans was specially directed, and the chief
sufferers would be innocent shareholders in every part
of the world, members of the middle-classes who had
invested their little all in the fabulously rich gold
mines of the Rand. Another very important consideration
which was discussed by the more thoughtful section
of the community was the probable destruction of the
farms by the British forces by way of retaliation
for the fate of the mines. Could the burghers
have foreseen that the entire country would be laid
waste in any case as the war proceeded, nothing could
have saved the mines. But the devastation of
Boer homesteads was not to begin until a much later
period, and to this fact the “Destroyers”
no doubt owed the frustration of their schemes.
I have to thank friends who were principally
concerned in the matter for the following account
of how the mines were saved and for the interesting
description of the surrender of the Golden City, appearing
in Chapter III.
At this time the British troops were
advancing rapidly. The Boers were panic-stricken,
and had it not been for the determined efforts of the
administration in Johannesburg, chaos would have resulted.
About ten days before the surrender
of the town, the scheme of the “Destroyers”
was unwittingly disclosed through the foolishness of
the man who had been apparently chosen to carry it
out. Judge Kock, who was a friend of Dr. Krause’s,
came over to Johannesburg for the purpose of making
a last and determined effort to destroy the mines.
Being a great friend of the Krauses, he was invited
to stay at their house. In a burst of confidence
he produced a letter signed by a very high-placed
official of the Executive Council, whereby he was
empowered, in indefinite terms, to call for the co-operation
of any military official whom he pleased. He
showed Dr. Krause this letter and requested him to
instruct the mine police and certain other mine officials
to assist him. He was met with a blank refusal,
and a threat that if he persisted in this undertaking
he would be arrested. Judge Kock, or, as he then
styled himself, “General” Kock, had gathered
together a cosmopolitan force of about 100 men.
About this time events were rapidly
changing. The determined advance of the British
forces and the panic-stricken retreat of the Boers
had the effect of encouraging “General”
Kock and his men. Dr. Krause’s hands were
full in attending to the military necessities of the
situation. Urgent messages from Botha and the
President were hourly passing over the wires.
General French, who was advancing on Johannesburg
from the east, had pressed forward to such an extent
that the Boers retreating from Vereeniging were practically
hemmed in by the British columns.
Commandant Krause on the Sunday afternoon
hastily gathered as many fighting men as he could
muster, and with them occupied the hills surrounding
Van Wyk’s Rust, in order to check the advance
of French and give the Boers an opportunity of retreating
safely. On the Monday, while fighting was going
on, he was obliged to leave his men who
by that time had been reinforced by the retreating
Boers for Johannesburg, on receiving an
urgent message that chaos was reigning in town, and
that the goods sheds at the station, where Government
provisions and food-stuffs were stored, were being
looted. On his return order was speedily restored.
Tuesday, May 29th, was the eventful
day in the history of the saving of the mines, as
on this date Dr. Krause personally arrested “General”
Kock and dispersed his band of followers. It happened
in this way.
During the progress of the war the
Government had been working some of the mines, and,
at the time of the rapid advance of the British from
Bloemfontein, instructions were given that all the
gold should be conveyed to Pretoria. The week
before the surrender of Johannesburg, Dr. Krause had
given the necessary instructions for doing this, and
had received a report that all gold had been transported.
Now, it appears that Kock had taken advantage of the
Commandant’s absence from Johannesburg to further
his scheme of destruction, and the first mine he went
to with that purpose in view was the Robinson.
On arriving there he accidentally discovered that
about 120,000 ounces of gold, valued at about L400,000,
were still stored on the mine. He was evidently
so perturbed about this that he momentarily forgot
his purpose, and galloped post-haste with the greater
number of his men to the Commandant’s office.
His men were drawn up outside; he dismounted and found
Dr. Krause in consultation with Commandant L.E. van
Diggelen, the energetic officer in command of the Mines
Police. Kock adopted a threatening and bullying
attitude, and demanded the reason why so much gold
had been left on the mine, and where the treachery
lay. During the course of his angry outburst he
disclosed the fact that he had proceeded to the mine
for the purpose of destroying it, and had discovered
the presence of the gold. It may be mentioned
here that Dr. Krause, in the course of the morning,
had been in telegraphic communication with General
Botha, who was then in the vicinity of Eagles’
Nest, and had informed him that it would probably be
necessary to take violent measures against Kock, which
might lead to bloodshed. General Botha’s
reply was: “I hold you responsible for the
safety of the mines and the town of Johannesburg,
and I leave everything in your hands.”
When, therefore, “General”
Kock disclosed his purpose, Dr. Krause jumped up,
closed the door, confronted him, and, before he could
realise his position, had him under arrest, calling
upon van Diggelen to disarm him. Kock made an
attempt to escape, but he was powerless in the hands
of two determined men. Some time elapsed before
he realised the hopelessness of the situation, as
his last attempt to induce Commandant van Diggelen
to deliver a note to his men outside was met with
a blank refusal. The next thing to be done was
to get rid of these men, who evidently had been instructed
by their “General” not to leave without
him, he probably fearing that something unforeseen
might happen to him. How now to get rid of these
men? The following ruse was adopted: Dr.
Krause took up some telegrams, and, waving these in
the air, rushed out to where they were stationed,
demanding to know who the officer in charge was.
He was met by a confusion of voices calling out, “Where
is our General?” “Oh!” was the reply,
“your General is still in my office, consulting
on military matters, and I have just received information
that the British are advancing on the town from the
direction of the Gueldenhuis. Your General commands
you to proceed in that direction to reinforce the
Boers, who are trying to stop the advance. We
will follow immediately with the rest of the men.
Now! who is in command?” “I am, sir Captain
McCullum.” “Now, Captain,” the
Doctor said, “ride for your life and do your
The ruse was successful, and in a
few minutes not a single man of the band was in sight.
The next question was, what was to be done with Kock.
The following plan was adopted: The arrest took
place shortly before the luncheon hour, and as the
offices were generally closed from one till two, Kock
was detained in the Commandant’s office until
one. All officials were then ordered to leave.
Van Diggelen ordered his dog-cart to be brought round,
Kock was told to step in, and was quietly driven to
the fort, where he was detained by the officer in
During the afternoon General Botha
and his staff passed through Johannesburg, and came
to see Dr. Krause, who reported what had happened.
General Botha approved of and confirmed his action
in every respect. The conference between the
two officers did not last long, and resulted in Dr.
Krause being definitely instructed to remain in Johannesburg
in order to protect the town and its inhabitants, and
to see that all fighting burghers immediately left
for their respective commandos. The same evening
Kock was sent to Pretoria, escorted by several police,
and handed over to the authorities there.
The great danger which had threatened
the safety of the mines was in this way averted.
Before closing this chapter, mention
should be made of the excellent work done by the Mines
Police in the protection of the mines, and in this
connection especially to name Commandant L.E. van Diggelen
and Lt. W. Vogts, the energetic Secretary
of the Force.
The gold found on the Robinson Mine
was on the same Tuesday sent by Dr. Krause to Pretoria
in charge of Captain Arendt Burkhardt and several
members of the Field Police, and was duly delivered
by them to the authorities there.