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8th August 2003Scandinavians in No 1 Column
By Peter Ewart
The recent thread on NNC/NNH nationalities has reminded me of something which has had me baffled.

A contemporary Norwegian missionary account claimed there were quite a few Danes in "the English army." The author of the account was a member of a missionary family which evacuated Zululand before the war and, on the January panic, retreated further from the Lower Tugela & became holed up in Stanger with many other civilian refugees.

They had witnessed the coastal column advance a few weeks earlier & presumably knew what "the English army" looked like. However, I find it hard to picture the Buffs or the 99th with much of a complement of "hardy norsemen" so I wonder if the Norwegian author was referring to the Durban Mounted Rifles, or the Alexandria/Stanger/Victoria MRs, all of whom I believe hung around Stanger/Lower Tugela for some weeks? There were certainly SOME Norwegians and Danes in this column & Durban did have a Norwegian population at that time, whereas PMB apparently didn't.

I've perused some of the lists of the DMR etc in the Red Book but not come across that many obvious Scandinavians, nor any of the one or two surnames mentioned by the missionaries.

Any clues or ideas, please? Thanks.

8th August 2003Peter Ewart
Sorry - not a genuinely contemporary account but one written years later by an eyewitness who recalled the Danes & spoke to them.

10th August 2003Paul Naish

There was a Dane named Larsen with Schermbrucker operating with Number 4 Column under Wood.
He was killed in action outside Luneburg.

10th August 2003Peter Ewart
Thanks, Paul. Yes, I'd forgotten about him - another Dane, even though he served in a different column.

I've visited his memorial on the road near Luneburg, shared with Johann Filter, the local missionary's teenage son. At least, I presume Larsen was a Dane. The potted history produced by the German community which still thrives at Luneburg claims Larsen as a German, although I suspect that may be the result of a presumption that, because he was serving in Schermbrucker's Kaffrarian Rifles, composed of Germans, then Larsen must be one too.

It's obviously a Scandinavian surname, but I wonder if it is recorded anywhere that he was conclusively Danish? I think the only detailed account of his death which I've read is in Knight & Castle's "ZW Then & Now", from which I conclude the poor chap was unlucky in his choice of commandant & got a bit of a raw deal!

The Luneberg history, translated from German, describes both Larsen & Filter as murdered. Interestingly, it also comes up with a different figure for the number in Schermbrucker's force - some accounts give about 40, others more, but this version quotes 112. It does say they were Hessians "who had been sold to the British by their ruler." (Presumably many years earlier, as they had served in the Crimean War as part of the "Krimlegion" & settled in Kaffraria after that war). I think I've read somewhere that they took part in the 9th Frontier War, too. I still haven't acquired any of the recommended works on the irregulars and volunteers, so ought to put that right.

I can't remember whether Larsen & Filter are buried in the Luneberg cemetery or in the vicinity of the monument, nor even whether Larsen's body was actually ever recovered. The cemetery does contain the two fatalities who were part of the force which blew up the Tafelberg caves and buried some of Mbilini's people alive - Sgt Smith & Cpl Pomfrett.

There are one or two errors in the German account. For example, it says the British Ntombe casualties were buried in Luneburg cemetery, whereas there is a British cemetery at the drift - unless they refer to some of the voorloopers or missing, perhaps recovered later.

Getting off the subject!

11th August 2003paul naish
Peter - Just selecting one or two points you raised. Heinrich Filter was killed not far away from the monument you saw.A cairn and a steel croos marks the spot where he fell.He is buried at the Luneburg cemetry together with the civilian Surgeon Cobbin, Moriarty & the two gentlemen culled whilst blowing up Mbelini's cave.
Larsen's body wasn't found if I recall correctly. I have Schermbruckers account of the incident which I will forward on to you.
Also some literature on German involvement in the Frontier Wars.
Yours aye, Paul.
12th August 2003Peter Ewart
Many thanks, Paul. It seems that Filter therefore has three different memorials in the vicinity, assuming his grave is marked.

You refer to him as Heinrich. Knight & Castle call him Johann. Perhaps both names were used. According to the little Luneburg history, his father, the missionary Pastor Filter, was J.H.J.

Will look forward to the material you mention - very many thanks!

12th August 2003paul naish
Peter - Just to round off the Heinrich Filter story. Go to pages 113,201, 202 and 213 in "Blood on the Painted Mountain"
Yes, there are two marked spots commemorating Filter. the first is the memorial you saw, then there is his grave in the Lutheran Church cemetry at Luneburg. Finally there is the unmarked cairn with the cross I referred to earlier. This is on a nearby farm (no signposts) of which I have a photo somewhere.
Filter was earlier on Hlobane Mountain acting as an Interpreter for Wood's No: 4 column. he escaped the slaughter and arrived home 3 days later through country infested by the enemy. His parents had presumed he was kia. Their joy was shortlived as he was killed a few days laterfollowing up a band of horse-thieves. The cairn marks the spot where he fell.
He was credited for mortally wounding Mbelini.
14th August 2003Peter Ewart

Thanks for all that (& for further info received direct). By some unfathomable omission I had never acquired "Blood on the Painted Mountain" despite having been meaning to for years. Got hold of a nice copy during last 24 hours - have only dipped but am impressed that it deals with the whole northern theatre & the wider picture, not just Hlobane & Kambula. Much more detail on Larsen & Filter, too, than appears in the Luneburg booklet.