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Fire|Safety|transport
Fire|Safety|transport
fire|safety|transport

Broekman the bantam

20th January 2023

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy

     

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There are some stories which are quite old, as in more than 100 years old, and which deserve to be told, but which actually have no real value. It’s all very well telling a story about what happened in a battle, or about how somebody crossed a river, or how a new dwelling was created, but few people go to the trouble of writing down the simplest story of what happened to ordinary people at an ordinary time.

As a result, these stories get forgotten, as do the photographs and letters that represent them, and one ends up in a situation whereby one has photographs of a group of people but has no idea of who they are or what they did.

I thought I would just record a very basic story which has been told in my family (or at least remembered in my family) for over 100 years, if only for the purpose of producing some sort of interest, which might amuse others.

This is the story of Aunty Jill and Broekman the bantam. Aunty Jill was my father’s cousin and Broekman the bantam was her pet. This is how the story goes. Aunty Jill was born in 1894. She lived with various people. (This should not be mistaken.) She used to go on holiday to various places and she always took along her bantam. Broekman was a bantam with some reputation. He had quite a fierce nature and was deeply fond of Aunty Jill. There was a degree of humour associated with a young girl who used to trail around with a bantam.

In 1900, the Boer War had broken out. It so happened that Aunty Jill was staying with some relatives in Mafeking, which was besieged and the British had Robert Baden-Powell as commander of the troops. (Baden-Powell was later to become the founder of The Boy Scouts.) Essentially, he had a problem in the fact that there were a significant number of children and women who were in the besieged town. The town could not support everybody with adequate food for any length of time.

It was considered impossible for the women and children to be transported out of the town using ox wagons. The English did not believe that the Boers could be trusted to transport the civilians to safety without using the civilian transport to convey additional supplies back into the town on their return. Thus, a plan was hatched whereby the English would transport the civilians out of the town using trains, which would cover the distance to safety quickly.

This idea was set in place. The civilians, including Aunty Jill, duly departed, but had not gone more than a couple of miles when the Boer forces realised what was happening and immediately opened fire. The train came to a halt. The passengers all took cover within the carriages and, importantly, Broekman the bantam was greatly startled and jumped out of the window and started to run from the train.

Aunty Jill jumped out of the carriage in pursuit and ran after him. Thus, the Boers and the English were faced with a picture of a little girl chasing a bantam in the middle of a gunbattle, which very soon came to an abrupt end. Aunty Jill kept running after the bantam, which was soon caught by one of the Boer resistance who jumped off his horse and carried the chicken back to the train and helped the child back inside.

After that, nobody had the stomach to restart the gunbattle and so the train departed and the passengers arrived home safely.

Broekman survived for another few years and then departed to the land that occupies all bantams when they end their lives. Aunty Jill had a safe life, but not a terribly good one. Her first husband died at the Battle of Verdun and her second husband disappeared in the Second World War. The story of Broekman the bantam still lives

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

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