Susarah Frederika Johanna Magdalena Rall, b5c1d8

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Susarah Frederika Johanna Magdalena Rall (Raal), b5c1d8

Also Known As: "Sarah Raal"
Birthdate: (75)
Birthplace: "Olievenfontein", Edenburg, South Africa
Death: Died in Cape Town, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa
Place of Burial: Cape Town, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Ockert Jacobus Rall, b5c1 and Anna Margaretha Strauss, c6d4e5
Wife of Ockert Jacobus Snyman
Sister of Frederik Jacobus Rall, b5c1d4; Hester Gertruida Jacomina Raal, b5c1d5; David Frederik Rall, b5c1d6; Anna Margaretha `Annie' Raal, b5c1d7; Martha Maria Raal, b5c1d9 and 5 others
Half sister of Gertruida Elizabeth Rall, b5c1d1; Roelof Jacobus i Rall, b5c1d2 and Susara Johanna Josina ii Rall, b5c1d3

Managed by: Private User
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About Susarah Frederika Johanna Magdalena Rall, b5c1d8

Raal, Sarah (Mrs O J Snyman), The lady who fought: a young woman's account of the Anglo-Boer War (Cape Town, Stormberg, 2000), 121 pp, glos- sary. ISBN 0-620-25406-8

A century after the Anglo-Boer War of 1899±1902 conferences, journals, and books proliferate as research makes new material available and previously accepted facts are reappraised. Women's memoirs about war are written for a variety of reasons and readers. Susan Travers has written about her experiences as the only woman in the French Foreign Legion to let my grandchildren know what a wicked grandmother they had'.1 In contrast, Sarah Raal recorded in 1936 that her hope and expectations were that her book would contribute to an awakening sense of patriotism and nationhood in the younger generation, and strengthen the ties which bind us together as an Afrikaner people.' Her she succeeds and few readers will remain untouched by this tale, told in a sober, unembellished manner, of a young Boer woman's experiences during the Anglo-Boer War.

In the well-researched introduction, Anne Emslie gives a vivid overview of Sarah Raal's involvement in this war. Sarah was at first a spectator, but then she became deeply embroiled and was forced to take responsibility for herself. Emslie emphasises Sarah's deep fear and her remarkable courage' in circumstances of hardship and danger. Emslie points out that the Anglo-Boer War broke many previously held rules of warfare and this conflict was waged against the entire Boer population (p 2), both of which are clearly illustrated in this memoir.

Sarah Raal was born and grew up on the farm Olijvenfontein, in the district of Edenburg in the then Republic of the Orange Free State. Sarah, barely in her twenties, together with her parents, a younger brother and sister, remained on the farm when her four brothers were called to do military service against the British. The Raals were accused of having given supplies to the Boers and Sarah's father was subsequently taken captive by the British. Sarah's mother and the two younger children went to the nearest dorp (Jagersfontein), to collect provisions and when they did not return Sarah realised that she would have to fend for herself. The uncertainty of what had happened to her family remained with her for months. This book highlights the courage, but also the fears of this young woman. Tryn, the wife of Sam, a farm worker, was aware of the dangers facing a young woman on her own in the empty farmstead and she moved into the house with Sarah while Sam took over all the responsibility of running the farm. Seven anxious months later Sarah, Sam and Tryn realised that a former farm worker was keeping the British informed of all her movements and the three of them made hurried preparations to leave. The title of the English translation is misleading as throughout this account Sarah relates that she did not plan to actively participate in the fighting. The title is taken from a remark made by Captain Reed, a British officer: Miss Raal, according to this letter you are the lady who fought'. The publishers should perhaps have retained the direct translation of the Afrikaans title: Met die Boere in die veld (With the Boers in the veld'), as Sarah after the war assured the British commanding officer that she had only fired in self-defence (p 121). Her experiences as a prisoner of the British, and an inmate of various concentration camps form the bulk of the contents. After leaving Olijvenfontein Sarah de- scribes the six weeks of living on another empty farm, Boomplaats (where the his- toric battle took place in 1848). Tryn once again took care of her, while Sam looked after the livestock they were able to bring along. Her brothers saw her from time to time when their commando was in the vicinity. Before long the British became suspicious and she was interrogated. She warned her brothers, but was detected and she realised that she would be sent to Springfontein camp. In a lively manner Sarah recounts her experiences in the Springfontein concentration camp and re- lates her shock that Boer women could be friendly with some of the English troops. A strong-willed and stubborn young woman, she and two friends succeeded in escaping from the camp. The detailed description of how this was done makes excellent reading and the translator is to be congratulated on retaining the naivety of the original style. Sarah joined her brothers on commando under Commandant Nieuwoudt as most of the Boer farms had been gutted. The day to day experiences of the Boers in the veld are vividly recalled and Sarah offers some light relief when she laughs at herself for trying to hands up' a steenbok which she in panic mistook for a British soldier. She makes no bones about the fact that she was often terrified. Another important contribution made by this book is the insight offered by Sarah on the state of mind of the Boers. The young burghers realised, for example that the war had disrupted their plans to further their education: How many of them had sacri- ficed good positions and a good living? Could the sacrifice ever be repaid?' (p 52), Sarah asked. Although the young men still had dreams for their future one of the older men reacted: Where do we find the courage to start all over again?' The horror of war is in no way minimised and Sarah wrote that in battle she would laugh and cry at the same time, to fool my brothers ... that there was no fear in me'(p 54). She describes a young English soldier kneeling at the side of his wounded brother crying: Oh, I promised mother I'd look after you, what am I to do now?' Sarah wrote: With that, all my joy disappeared and I cried with the Englishman' (p 55). Her ambiva- lent feelings about the enemy are captured in her horror of coming upon a flock of about 2 000 sheep that had been burnt to death ± the suffering of these animals she found unbelievably cruel. Sarah and her brothers were captured, and she was separated from them. The Boers who had been captured at the same time were shackled and led past Sarah, who then, unbeknown to the British, sang all the news she had in the meantime gathered, although she had problems syn- chronizing the words with the melody! She was marched to Edenburg and there given the opportunity of spending the night with people she knew but had to endure the humiliation of being turned away at the door. After further interrogation, where her impertinent answers angered the Brit- ish, she was sent to Bloemfontein under heavy guard. A friend of their family, the well-known medical doctor, Dr Otto Krause, who had previously experienced being imprisoned by the British, was given permission to take her into his home. Sarah had money sewn into the hem of her dress; she later put this into a bag under her bodice. She and Mrs Krause then devised a plan to sew the money into a pillow, which Sarah would send to Mrs Krause if a crisis arose. Sarah reported daily to the British for questioning. She was still trying to find her mother and one of the interrogators, Captain Reed, became friendly with her. When she was sent to the Kroonstad concentration camp he invited her to write to him if the need should arise. On the train journey to Kroonstad Sarah received neither food nor drink, and upon arrival was questioned further and then taken to the so-called birdcage'. This was an area of 100 square metres, fenced with barbed wire, without a gate, and with a tent in the middle. Under extremely harsh conditions in this solitary confinement, Sarah fell dangerously ill. She was eventually taken to hospital where she nearly died. She then spent the next six months in the concen- tration camp at Kroonstad. Her vivid writing about the daily lives of the inmates adds valuable knowledge to the historical writings on life within a concentration camp. Her quest to find her mother was unceasing and she heard rumours that her family was in the concentration camp in Bethulie. However, it eventually tran- spired out that her father had joined her mother, and that they, together with her brother and sister were in the camp at Uitenhage. Sarah was allowed to join them if she paid her own way. She was accompanied by a guard on the four-day journey by train to Uitenhage, where she was re-united with her family. After 31 May 1902, when peace was declared and the family returned to their farm, general living conditions were appalling, but the money that Sarah had carried throughout the war helped the Raals to slowly regain their financial indepen- dence. Her brothers were held as prisoners of war in India and because they refused to swear the oath of allegiance to Britain they only returned to South Africa 17 months later, when they then rejoined their par- ents and Sarah on the farm. The translation into English of this simple but poignant tale makes good read- ing. After 100 years the ashes from the fires of war are settling and old scores are fading in our collective memory. As a fitting tribute, the publication of this edition is dedicated to the memory of all the women of South Africa who endured suffering and hardship during the Anglo- Boer War'. Dione Prinsloo University of South Africa

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Susarah Frederika Johanna Magdalena Rall, b5c1d8's Timeline

November 6, 1873
South Africa
December 7, 1873
Edenburg, Xhariep, Free State, South Africa
April 4, 1949
Age 75
Cape Town, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa
Cape Town, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa