Today was a special day, a rest day. This day in Kimberley follows some very busy days where our group covered quite a bit of territory and saw many sites where Australians were during the war. There were quite a few options for our group today with some going to see the ‘Big Hole’, the old diamond mine, while others decided on a day of rest in this five star hotel and relaxed outside in this wonderful weather.
John Howells and I decided to do some more exploring so that we can adjust our tour if necessary. We always look at adjustments that enhance the tour (this is something we do with all our tours). Following breakfast we went into the old town located adjacent the ‘big hole’ and most was part of the commercial infrastructure that supported the mine. Cecil Rhodes’ personal train carriage is parked on a siding at the edge of the town. Some of the small town is original and some has been relocated to show what it was like in 1900. It is very well done, and as it is looked after by the mine, it remains in good condition and is secure.
We walked around the town, of about 10 streets, looked into the buildings, and then as we met Peter Nowlan, who was also in the town, we all decided to go into the old bar and have a coffee. It was good coffee and we sat and chatted for a while in that historic location.
The three of us then visited the shops associated with the ‘big hole’. Met many of our group as they were starting their tour, purchased some goods, returned them to our hotel before heading into Kimberley proper to try and locate the McGreggor Museum.
We had been told that the Museum has a Kimberley siege room with artefacts from that time, so off we went. We decided to walk there, about three kilometres by the signs, but turned out to be much more. On the way we saw the Cecil Rhodes memorial, and a memorial to those who served in the first and second world wars. It was interesting that on the memorial there are a couple of Australians listed. Most likely they were born in South Africa, then migrated to Australia, serving in the Australian Defence Force.
The museum was located in a beautiful, old, big building built by Cecil Rhodes in 1897 to be the Kimberley sanatorium. It was not used for that purpose as in the siege it was used as a hotel and as the Kimberley Club had been taken over as the military headquarters, Cecil Rhodes took rooms there.
Besides the Kimberley Regiment room with artefacts from this regiment that is still on the order of battle of the South African Defence Force and the Kimberley siege rooms, there is a very good general display. This display shows the archaeological history of South Africa and in particular this part of it. The display traces the period from 9,000 BC to the siege and follows the tribes that came and went, the first Europeans, the issues they brought with them and the way they changed the landscape.
The history of the geological changes, terrain, flora and fauna are also well set out over a large. The guide on duty, Frank Higgo was most impressed that we had come so far to visit the battle sites and his museum. We have decided that next year our group will visit this museum as part of our tour.
We said farewell to Frank, made our way back to the hotel where we met a few of our group who were travelling eight kilometres north of town to the flamingo lakes where they found thousands of flamingos. It was a good visit.
Tomorrow I leave the group as Mark Day and I have some matters to address back in Australia. John Howells will continue, taking the group through Belmont De Aar, Colesberg and Bloemfontein before the tour concludes in Pretoria. Mark and I are sorry to leave at this stage.
Colonel Graham Fleeton