A World at War

During the war years the Club was able to make a contribution to the Union’s effort by giving over the Dormy House to the Mines Engineering Brigade. This arrangement was described in a letter sent by the Club’s President “Buck” Buchanan, to all club members at the outbreak of World War II.

“You will recall the letter I addressed to you on the 15 August 1940 conveying the proposal of your committee concerning the offer for use during the war of the Dormy House and its attachments by the military authorities, in which proposal you were good enough to acquiesce. I am glad to he able to inform you that following your agreement, the offer was accepted, and that since 15 September 1940, the Golf Club has been the training centre for the Mines Engineering Brigade. Under the constitution of the Club, the annual general meeting would normally be held at this time. Your committee, at a meeting held this week, considered the possibility of holding this meeting and have requested me to inform you that with your approval, they have decided in view of the unlikelihood of a representative attendance, for reasons which will be obvious to you, that no meeting be held this year, and that they continue in office until there is a return to peace conditions. If you are in disagreement with the decision I will be glad if you will inform me in writing. Of the active and eligible membership, approximately 48 per cent are engaged in war services.

The course has, however, been well patronised by members and visitors who have been able to do so since the outbreak of the war. A number of members of the services stationed in Vereeniging and neighbouring training centres and others on leave have assisted in its support. Courtesy of your Club has been extended to members of the forces, an arrangement which your committee trust will have your unqualified approval. The course has been maintained in good condition and the staff have carried out their duties with efficiency.”

Mr W.F. Buchanan – Chairman 23 February 1941
Training groups, consisting of 280 to 300 officers and men, were housed and catered for by the Club’s staff. In all, 4600 men passed through Maccauvlei. They obtained their training in the surrounding area where they practised demolitions in the forest and bridged the Vaal River in training exercises.

The courtesy of the course was extended to all members of his Majesty’s forces on service, and also to the Royal Air Force and South African officers and their wives of the Vereeniging Airport.

On August the 8th, 1942, a letter was received from the officer commanding the brigade in which he gave notice and expressed his thanks at the co-operation of the Club’s staff throughout their two year occupation of Dormy House.

When the Mines Engineering Brigade vacated the premises, the Club offered Dormy House to the Red Cross Society as a convalescent home. But the offer was not accepted, and Dormy House was reopened to members in December 1942.

However, the golf course’s links with military history go back very much further – in fact to the Anglo Boer War, when 68 British soldiers were killed in action, in and around the Vereeniging area and are buried in a Garden of Remembrance next to the golf course. They came from all over the world and served with the Royal Engineers, the Kings Royal Rifles, the Queens own Calvary, the Wales Borderers, the New Zealand Mounties, the Gordon Highlanders, the SA Constabulary and the Norfolk Regiment, to name but a few. The soldiers were killed between 1900 and 1902, and were all buried in isolated graves at places where they saw action.

In 1961, the 1820 Settlers organisation decided to collect the remains from these graves situated at Viljoensdrift, Engelbrechts Drift, Klip River, Maccauvlei, Meyerton and Vereeniging, and establish a single military cemetery at Maccauvlei. Small coffins about one metre long were made, the bones were placed in them and they were reburied in graves dug to the side of the 3rd green. It was near this spot that Boer soldiers ambushed a troop train and one of those to escape was the young Winston Churchill, then a journalist covering the war.

On the 12 March 1961, the then Chairman of Anglo American Corporation, Harry Oppenheimer officially opened the Garden of Remembrance. Contrary to military tradition, officers and men agreed to parade together. The parade was taken by RSM Lendrum, of the Transvaal Scottish. In the parade were Bobby Wilson (Lt. Col), Allen Snijman (Major), Harry Oppenheimer (Capt), Rod Metlerkamp (Capt), Max Itzigsohn (Sgt) and many others. In his stentorian tones the Sergeant Major formed them up in front of the clubhouse, and marched them to the graveyard where a service was held. It was a touching and impressive ceremony.

The opening was also attended by the then Chairman of the War Graves Board, Dr AW Kieser, the mayors of Vereeniging, Sasolburg and Vanderbijlpark, representatives from the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and the National Secretary of the SA Legion, Major Eric Edmeades.