During the Anglo-Boer War, Dr J Purvis-Stewart, called the Karoo a “place to see”. He was one of the doctors sent to South Africa in 1901with the Imperial Yeomanry Bearer Company – the first company of its kind raised ever established by private funding. In his biography, Sands of Time, he wrote: “After three weeks’ tedious delay in Cape Town our hospital at last entrained and made its way towards Bloemfontein through the Karoo. This is a high table-land surrounded by koppies, flat-topped mountains of varying heights, peppered with short scrubby bushes and small stones, but without grass. This is a place to see – rivers without water, flowers without scent, birds without song. The railway tracks were bordered with empty bully-beef tins and beer bottles. Here and there was a tin-roofed shack inhabited by a couple, often with about 15 children. At Deelfontein, we visited the already established Imperial Yeomanry base-hospital, staffed by eminent civilian physicians and surgeons and lavishly equipped to the last detail. All their glass and crockery, from champagne goblets down to the most menial sanitary vessels, were emblazoned with the Imperial Yeomanry badge, the Prince of Wales’s feathers. Shortly after we left there our train passed through a storm of locusts. They reminded us a pantomime snow storm, except, as one Tommy said, that the flakes were khaki coloured “to match the troops.” At Norval’s Pont our train crossed the Orange River on a temporary bridge of trestles and pontoons. It replaced the bridge recently blown up by the Boers.
© Rose’s Roundup, May 2012 (No 220)
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