Deneys Reitz (1882 - 1944) MP

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Birthplace: Bloemfontein, Oranje Vrijstaat, Bloemfontein, Motheo, Free State, South Africa
Death: Died in London, United Kingdom
Occupation: South African High Commissioner in London
Managed by: Zoe Jeffery
Last Updated:

About Deneys Reitz

Deneys Reitz (1882—1944), son of Francis William Reitz, was a Boer soldier, South African soldier in the First World War, and politician.

While in exile in Madagascar he wrote about his experience of the Boer War, so that, when it was eventually edited and published in 1929 as Commando: A Boer Journal Of The Boer War, it still had the freshness and detail of an account written soon after the war. Not only is the account very well written and an important source for the Second Boer War, but his family connections (his father was State Secretary of the Transvaal) and sheer luck provide for a unique account because he was present at virtually every major event of the war.

Second Boer War

At the age of 17, while visiting his father in Pretoria at the start of the war, the Field-Cornet's office refused to enlist him as being too young to fight. He met his father with the President of the Transvaal, Paul Kruger, who took him straight to the room of the Commandant-General Piet Joubert. Joubert personally handed him a new Mauser carbine and a bandolier of ammunition. He and one of his brothers then joined the Boer forces "by virtue of having thrown our belongings through a carriage window and climbing aboard".

After a string of Boer defeats in set-piece warfare and the British capture of Pretoria, Reitz was one of the fighters who remained in the field. He joined General Smuts who decided to conduct guerrilla operations, not in the territories of the Boer republics, but in the Cape Province. They faced immense difficulties, both from British forces and from nature, and when the majority did break through to the Cape they were on their last legs.

Battle of Elands River

On 17 September 1901, Smuts' commando encountered the 17th Lancers in the vicinity of Tarkastad. Smuts realised that the Lancers' camp was their one opportunity to re-equip themselves with horses, food and clothing. A fierce fight, subsequently to be known as the Battle of Elands River took place with the Lancers being caught in a cross-fire and suffering heavy casualties. Stunned by the onslaught, the remaining Lancers put up a white flag. Reitz encountered Captain Sandeman, the Lancers' commander, and his lieutenant Lord Vivian among the wounded. [1]

In his book Commando, Reitz recounts how Lord Vivian pointed out his bivouac tent and told him it would be worth his while to take a look at it. Soon, Reitz, who that morning had been wearing a grain-bag, riding a foundered horse, and carrying an old Mauser rifle with only two rounds of ammunition left, was dressed in a cavalry tunic and riding breeches, with a superb mount, a Lee-Metford sporting rifle, and full bandoliers.[2] Reitz reports that he met Lord Vivian again in London in 1935, on excellent terms.[3]

At the end of the war, after remarkable adventures, Smuts' commando had made itself a relatively comfortable base in the west of the Cape Colony and was besieging the garrison of Okiep, Northern Cape.

Defeat and exile

Reitz formed part of the negotiating delegation from his commando, given passage to meet the delegates from the other commandos still in the field. He reports that "nothing could have proved more clearly how nearly the Boer cause was spent than these starving, ragged men clad in skins or sacking, their bodies covered in sores, from lack of salt or food, and their appearance was a great shock to us, who came from the better-conditioned forces in the Cape." Reitz's father was among the signatories of the surrender, but only in his official capacity; he refused to sign himself and was given two weeks to settle his affairs in Pretoria before leaving the country. Deneys felt that he had to stand by his father and so also refused to sign. He left for Madagascar with his brother, where they eked out a living convoying goods by ox-transport "hard work in dank fever-stricken forests and across mountains sodden with eternal rain". In his spare time there he wrote Commando, dated 1903 but not published until 1929.[3]

Return to South Africa, active service, and public life

On the advice of his wartime commander, Jan Smuts, he returned to South Africa in 1906. The malaria he had contracted in Madagascar had so severely affected his health that he collapsed unconscious upon his return to South Africa. He was nursed back to health over three years by Jan Smuts' wife, Isie. He then returned to public life. In 1914 he helped Smuts suppress the Maritz Rebellion in the Free State, and he served on Smuts' army staff in the "German West campaign" (in the German colony of South-West Africa) and in the "German East campaign" (in German East Africa) where he rose to command a mounted regiment. On the Western Front during World War I he commanded the First Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers until he was severely wounded early in 1918. He returned to active service to lead his men to the Rhine after the Armistice. He continued in public life as a Member of Parliament, Cabinet Minister, Deputy Prime Minister (1939-1943), and South African High Commissioner (1944) to London. His principles during his political career included loyalty to General Smuts, loyalty to the British Empire as guarantor of South African freedom, and harmony between Dutch and English South Africans. He opposed the Ossewa Brandwag organization, which planned to take control of South Africa as soon as Britain had been crushed.[3]

He is buried south of Mariepskop approximately 10 km east of the Blyde River Canyon in Mpumalanga, South Africa at 24°20′22″S 30°32′10″E / 24.33934°S 30.53618°E / -24.33934; 30.53618Coordinates: 24°20′22″S 30°32′10″E / 24.33934°S 30.53618°E / -24.33934; 30.53618.

Published works

Three volumes of an autobiography

"Commando: A Boer Journal Of The Boer War", first published in Great Britain in 1929, ISBN 0-571-08778-7 "Trekking On", dealing with the Boer War through World War I, and "No Outspan", which covers life in South African politics between the wars and concludes with him as Deputy Prime Minister of South Africa. Also published in one volume:

"The Trilogy of Deneys Reitz", by Deneys Reitz, Wolfe Publishing Co., 1994 (Reprint), ISBN 1-879356-39-2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deneys_Reitz

References

1.^ Reitz, Deneys; JC Smuts (2005). Commando: A Boer Journal of the Boer War. Kessinger Publishing. pp. 336. ISBN 1417925841, 9781417925841. http://books.google.com/?id=x7kxEb_wEZYC.

2.^ Commando. Deneys Reitz. London 1929. No ISBN

3.^ a b c No Outspan. Deneys Reitz. Faber and Faber, London, 1943. No ISBN.

From 'A concise history of Port Beaufort & White Sands (also known as Witsand) including Family Trees White Sands & Port Beaufort' written by John McGregor - no ISBN -------------------- God father of Conrad Mentz Thesen Meldal-Johnsen.

Deneys Reitz (1882—1944) was a Boer Commando, South African soldier and politician and son of Francis William Reitz.

While still in his teens, Deneys Reitz served in the Boer forces during the Second Boer War. As a commando he fought in both the first conventional phase of the war and the second guerrilla phase. In the latter he accompanied Jan Smuts on raids deep into the Cape Province, he continued to fight to the "bitter end", and then went to live in Madagascar rather than sign the undertaking which every Boer soldier was called upon to sign, that he would pledge allegiance to the British flag.

While in exile in Madagascar he wrote about his experience of the Boer War, so that, when it was eventually edited and published in 1929 as Commando: A Boer Journal Of The Boer War, it still had the freshness and detail of an account written soon after the war. Not only is the account very well written and an important source for the Second Boer War, his family connections (his father was State Secretary of the South African Republic) and sheer luck provides for a unique account because he was present at virtually every major event of the war. For instance, while visiting his father at the start of the war and being too young to fight, the President of the Transvaal Paul Kruger spoke to him and gave him special permission to do so; subsequently the Commandant-General Piet Joubert personally issued him with a new Mauser carbine and a bandolier of ammunition.

On 17 September 1901, Smuts' commando encountered the 17th Lancers in the vicinity of Tarkastad. Smuts realised that the Lancers' camp was their one opportunity to re-equip themselves with horses, food and clothing. A fierce fight, subsequently to be known as the Battle of Elands River took place with the Lancers being caught in a cross-fire and suffering heavy casualties. Stunned by the onslaught, the remaining Lancers put up a white flag. Reitz encountered Captain Sandeman, the Lancers' commander, and his lieutenant Lord Vivian among the wounded.

In his book Commando, Reitz recounts how Lord Vivian pointed out his bivouac tent and told him it would be worth his while to take a look at it. Soon, Reitz, who had been wearing a grain-bag and using an old Mauser rifle with only two rounds of ammunition left, was dressed in a cavalry tunic and riding breeches and armed with a Lee-Metford sporting rifle. Reitz thanked Vivian and indicated that he did not feel justified in taking them. Reitz recorded Vivian's reply:

"It's the fortunes of war, boy just the fortunes of war. You can't worry about such things, they just happen. If you don't take them, somebody else will. Besides, if I give them to you they will be a gift - which is better than loot"

This story has a sequel. In his introduction to the 1983 Jonathan Ball edition of Commando, Thomas Pakenham recounted the following story:

Forty years after the Battle of Elands River, in 1943, when Reitz was South African High Commissioner in London, he met Lord Vivian again. Vivan appeared at South Africa House in London, carrying a brown paper parcel, and was taken to Reitz's office. He told him that they had met before in less auspicious circumstances, and perhaps he would recognise what was in the parcel. He then placed on the desk Reitz's old Boer War Mauser rifle - with his name carved on the butt, and with all the scratches and cuts made by his knife when he had cut his biltong, still visible. Reitz was absolutely speechless.

That the Mauser rifle Reitz had discarded during the battle was returned to him in England is not disputed. However, it could not have been returned to him by Lord Vivian in 1943 as claimed because Vivian died in 1940!

On the advice of his wartime commander, Jan Smuts, he returned to South Africa in 1906. The malaria he had fought with in Madagascar had so severely affected his health that he collapsed unconscious upon his return to South Africa. He was nursed back to health over three years by Jan Smuts' wife, Isie. He then returned to public life. In 1914 he helped Smuts suppress the Maritz Rebellion in the Free State, and he served on Smuts' army staff in the "German West campaign" (in the German colony of South-West Africa) and in the "German East campaign" (in German East Africa) where he rose to command a mounted regiment. On the Western Front during World War I he commanded the First Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers until he was severely wounded early in 1918. He returned to active service to lead his men to the Rhine after the Armistice. He continued in public life as a Member of Parliament, Cabinet Minister, Deputy Prime Minister (1939-1943), and South African High Commissioner (1944) to London.

He was buried south of Mariepskop approximately 10 km east of the Blyde River Canyon in Mpumalanga, South Africa at coordinates 24° 33' 56"S, 30° 53' 37"E.

Published works

Three volumes of an autobiography

"Commando: A Boer Journal Of The Boer War", first published in Great Britain in 1929, ISBN 0-571-08778-7

"Trekking On", dealing with the Boer War through World War I, and

"No Outspan", which covers life in South African politics between the wars and concludes with him as Deputy Prime Minister of South Africa.

Also published in one volume:

"The Trilogy of Deneys Reitz", by Deneys Reitz, Wolfe Publishing Co., 1994 (Reprint), ISBN 1-879356-39-2

Bronne:

  1. Doop - https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/DGS-004763116_00325?cc=1910846&wc=MM1Q-BCK:n265632898
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Deneys Reitz's Timeline

1882
April 2, 1882
Bloemfontein, Motheo, Free State, South Africa
August 6, 1882
Bloemfontein, Motheo, Free State, South Africa
1944
October 19, 1944
Age 62
London, United Kingdom
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