About George Wyndham Hamilton Knight-Bruce
References and Sources
- Bishop George Wyndham Hamilton Knight Bruce (1896) 'driven by fever from the missionary fields of South Africa' and afterwards assistant bishop of Exeter.
GEORGE WYNDHAM HAMILTON KNIGHT-BRUCE
Educated at Eton and Oxfort, Bishop Knight-Bruce was ordained in 1876. He ministered in the London slums of Bethal Green before being consecrated Bishop of Bloemfontein in 1886. Two years later, having obtained Lobengula's permission, he walked to the Zambezi River and covered some 1,500 miles visiting chiefs throughout Mashonaland and inviting them to accept 'teachers'. He gained a wide personal experience of the ways of the African people. His work is especially informative on the domestic life, religious beliefs, customs and character of the Mashona people and their subjugation by the Gaza and Matabele. In his book, Memories of Mashonaland, he refers to other missionary bodies in the field, among them the Dutch Reformed Church and the Americans, and outlines the attitudes of the British South African Company towards missions.
He believed in the 'christianising' the natives, prepared them to 'face the world of the human immigration', and justified his conviction by citing the example of Khama who successfully stood up to Lobengula but who 'dreaded the white man's drink more than the assegais of the Matabele.'
After the arrival of the Pioneer Column his ministry was extended to the new white settlements, and in 1891 he became the first Bishop of the new See of Mashonaland. He served as chaplain to the column which marched on Lobengula in1893.
About the Matabele war, he refers to a statement made that his "presence as one of the column forms a very emphatic contradiction'. To this he refers to a letter he wrote home from Fort Charter before the war. 'Here there are already more than thee hundred men - quite the largest congregation of white people in the diocese. The administrator has come, and I have decided to remain with the men; but it is a difficult position, as I must entirely dissociate my doing so from agreement with any action that may be taken in one direction or the other. I have explained to the officials that I am not going as chaplain to the force, but as Bishop of the country in which both the contending parties live, and I wish to do all I can for either of them - for the wounded (should there be any) or for peace.'
Hans Sauer in his book Ex Africa, relates an incident in which Bishop Knight-Bruce's intervention may have had serious international repercussions, had his advice not been followed. The incident occurred in Portuguese territory, east of Rhodesia (during the early 1890's when the B S A Company was in the process of cosolidating the borders of Rhodesie. .....A party under Fiennes was in persuit after a Portuguese force. The folowing is quoted from Hans Sauer's book: "Fiennes never caught up with them, for while still in pursuit he encountered Dr. Knight-Bruce, then on his way from Beira to Salisbury. The Bishop took it on himself to persuade Fiennes to abandon the persuit. The Bishop explained that England was not at war with Portugal, which was our oldest ally, and pointed out to Fiennes that in such circumstances his actions in pursuing and killing Portuguese soldiers in their own territory was highly reprehensible and would certainly lead to unpleasant consequences for all concerned. .....Unfortunately Fiennes listened to these clerical blandishments and returned to Massikessi with his small army, and thus the opportunity of acquiring a very fine and much-needed seaport was lost to Southrn Rhodesia. I have little doubt that if the persuit had been persisted in and pushed to Beira itself, the whole Portuguese force would have surrended and handed over the port to Fiennes. Rhodes never forgave the Bishop for interfering, nor Fiennes for having listened to the Bishop."
.....A rather humorous incident concerning Bishop Knight-Bruce is related in Frank Johnson's book, Great Days. Johnson was the leader of the Pioneer Column into what became Rhodesia. The folowing is quoted from Johnson's book: "As soon as it was dawn, we walked through the bush, and, before we had gone 100 yards, came across the fresh spoor of nine roan antek\lopes ...............As the spoor crossed the trade route, I saw outspanned at the drift a wagon which had not been there the previous day. In a country where white men were few and far between, curiosity, accompanied by an intense desire to speak to any 'white', made us autmatically to move towards the wagon. To my surprise he turned out to be that splendid sportsman, Knight-Bruce, the late Rt. Rev. Bishop of Bloemfontein. He had parted with us at Shoshong, Khama's capital, some 200 miles south, a year ago, but I had not heard that he was on his way back to the Matabele. From his position on the east end of the wagon, I judged he was busily engaged with his early morning devotions. However we were mutually glad to see one another, and, after the first general questios had been put and answered, he asked, 'and where were you going so early in the morning?' I told him of the troop of roan antelope that had passed in the night.. He smiled sadly and quite nicely put it to us as to whether it was the right thing to do to go hunting roan antelope on the Sabbath morning. I am ashamed to say this was the first time I had realised that day was Sunday, but in common honesty I must add that even had I done so it would have made no differencce. I looked a little foolish, I suppose, stammered something about being hardup and roan antelope skins worth 30s each. This argument, however, did not seem to carry much weight with the Bishop, who sat in the wagon wearing a sad disappointed sort of smile. Then I had a brain wave. I put it to the Bishop that, as we had no fresh meat in the camp, it was a matter of necessity to go and kill at least one animal. and, having taken the trouble to get one, it seems a pity to lose the value of the rest of the troop. .....A lightning change took place in the Bishop. Springing to his feet, he called out in his clear, unforgetable voice, 'Edward! Edward! Have we any meat today, Edward? 'No my lord' replied Edward. 'Ah! Ah!' ejaculated the Bishop. 'As we have no meat, Edward, saddle my horse, Edward!' A few minutes later we were all three following the distinct spoor at a hand cater." .....There are three sequels to the story. The Bishop was a fine horseman but he was unfortunately mounted on an excited horse while Johnson and his friend Burnett had well-trained horses. The outcome was that Johson and Burnett bagged the lot while the Bishop, struggling with his horse let off one shot and missed badly. .....Sequel two. A month or two later, Johnson and Burnett passed through Vryburg and was promptly interviewed for news abourt the "interior". Burnett told the story of that Sunday mornining "in a wealth of detail". "In the christian spirit" the story was republished later in Bloemfontein. Sequel three. A year later, Johnson and the Bishop were fellow-passengers on a train from Kimberly to the Cape where the latter opened the story about which he was obviously sore. Johson apologised on behalf of Burnnett and himself. " You entirely misunderstand the point" retorted the Bishop. "I don't care a tuppence for the publication of the fact that I was shooting on the Sabbath, but what cuts me to the quick and makes me feel so badly is that he should have thought it necessary to say that I did not kill one of those roan antelopes!"