This was the day of the 110th anniversary of the signing of the peace treaty that brought the Boer War to an end. We started the day by going to Melrose House, the site of the signing, where we were allowed to conduct a ceremony in the very room, around the very table that was used 110 years ago for the signing of that peace treaty.
The head of tourism of Pretoria attended our ceremony as did the history and archive manager and the cultural officer of the city, representatives from the Arcadia Hotel and our agents Marie-Jo Mestres and Jean-Pierre Ardinois from Liberty Travel. A representative from Pretoria Press was also in attendance to cover the ceremony, and we believe his column will appear in three local newspapers.
I was MC for the day and John Howells was our production director as it is his intention to produce a video of this auspicious occasion. All those present gathered in the famous dining room, moving to the southern end as the presentations were to be made at the other end of the room.
I thanked all for attending and particularly the City of Pretoria (now called Tshwane), for supporting our event and also thanked the chairman of the board of Melrose House for giving us permission to use the dining room for the presentations. The Australian Chief of the Defence Force sent the following message, I read it to the gathering, it was well received and impressed our guests.
Those who were to receive a medallion were called forward individually to have their medallion presented and placed around their neck. This was carried out by the head of tourism for the city Irma da Costa. As individuals moved forward, we read out the details associated with the service of any ancestor who was here during the war.
Mrs Gaye ATKINSON and Mr Tom ATKINSON
Ms Audrey BULLOUGH
Dr Graham BARKER
Colonel William MOLLOY RFD
Captain Chris STOKES RFD
Mr Barry VICKERY
In Memory Medallions
Mr Norman LANDERS
Mr Norman WOOD
Barry Vickery then played Waltzing Matilda on his harmonica, a fitting conclusion to our ceremony.
Following photo shoots on the front lawn of the house we were given a guided tour of the house by George Drew, who is a volunteer and historian and very interested in what we were doing there. George said that the rendition of Waltzing Matilda just about brought him undone. We then said farewell to George, our guests and Melrose House and went on our way but before we left Pretoria, we stopped in a lovely park for coffee.
The site of the defensive post at Elands River was to be our next stop and our luncheon venue. It took us 2½ hours to cover the distance; we arrived at the river at 13:30. We had our lunch on the grass by the river, and thereafter we went to the site of the action. This defence was one of the most heroic actions of the Boer War, a stand against overwhelming odds.
'The Times' history wrote: 'Every soldier who saw the place afterwards expressed surprise that they could have held out so long and it is, therefore, the more creditable to them to have done so when every hope of relief seemed entirely cut-off, while at a time when surrenders and retreats were not sufficiently rare.'
We then visited the cemetery that is on the position and viewed the graves of those lost all those years ago. There is a small heritage walk set out in the area that gave an indication as to the location of various defensive positions. This walk was enjoyed by all. Before we returned to our coach for the run into Mafikeng.
Colonel Graham Fleeton