DE JAGER, Matthys Johan 1
- Born: Jan 23, 1872, Beaufort West. Cape Province, South Africa. 1 2
- Marriage: VAN NIEKERK, Martha Maria
- Died: Oct 2, 1939 aged 67 1
1. Historical. 2 An E-mail received from Alwyn Smit on the 30 Apr 2007
It is a pity that my about the life of general Matthys Johan de Jager, my grandfather, is in Afrikaans. As you know he was born in Beaufort-West in 1872. Then his father (Petrus Jacobus de Jager) went to the Diamond Fields as a Law Agent. There three of my grandfather's died as well as his widowed aunt in 1881. Petrus then came back to B-West and then he left for the Transvaal. Matthys Johan joined the Transvaal State Artillery and when the ABW broke out, he was in charge of the first Battery, but he never himself used the Long Tom. He wrote the necessary exams and was caught in battle as Captain de Jager near Ermelo in January 1902. At the time Martha Maria (his wife) was held in Merebank Camp near Durban with her two kids Hester Cecilia de Jager and Petrus Jacobus de Jager (he received his grandfather's name). Matthys Johan was then sent to St Helena where he wrote his memoirs. He must have been a very intelligent man, because all the dates mentioned in his memoirs are correct! On his return from St Helena he farmed with a certain Grey near Ermelo. (He always wanted to farm!). But then generals Louis Botha and Jan Smuts sent him a message to come and see them in Pretoria, because they thought he was wasting his lief on the farm! At first he didn't want to go, but then Martha Maria persuaded him to go as they had very tough times on the farm. He then joined the old Transvaal Police in 1907 I think and was stationed in the Waterberg. In 1911 he was part of the Souyh African Contingent that went over to London for the coronation of King George V. Of this trip I have a photo album full of pictures and the ship's logs with the daily mileage etc. Very interesting stuff and absolute Africana! Also the signatures of almost all that went there. From England he went to France and Belgium to select dogs for the police school in Pretoria. He decided on Dobermann Pinchers and brought them to Cape Town. From there to Pretoria. This were the very first Dobermanns in Southern Africa! And this the reason for my mother (Marguerite Irene Smit/Meiring/Oosthuizen \endash née De Jager) for only keeping Dobermann dogs almost all her life! Then Botha and Smuts asked him to join the army at Voortrekkerhoogte in 1912. He was there during the Rebellion and then Botha and Smuts sent him to the newly established Tempe Camp at Bloemfontein. I have several pictures of the camp during the early days. Then after the German Southwest Africa campaign he was sent to Windhoek to take charge of the police as well as the army. In 1917 he was the leader of the forces that went up to Ovamboland (known as the Ovamboland Expedition) to stop the fights among the tribes and Mandumi the one tribal leader. I have a thick photo album full of postcard pictures about the whole trip! After Mandumi was shot by the Portugese soldiers or the Ovambo's themselves, they offered him a young Ovambo girl as a second wife! He had quite a problem in persuading them that he already has a wife at home! Martha Maria often joked about this!!! Smuts wanted to give him a farm for free "for everthing that he had done for government and his country through all the years," but he did not accept the offer. He was of opinion that the Germans etc would say that he got a farm for free from government and he didn't want that at all! So he told Smuts: Okay than, I'll go and find a farm I like, but then I'll pay to the last penny for it! And that is how he bought the farm Excelsior near the airport on the road towards Gobabis on the Botswana border. When he died in 1939 he still owed £3000 on the farm! What I still have, is an elephant tusk that
was given to him by Jannie Smuts! I had to register the tusk some years ago and it now has a registration number burnt into it. He later became the chairman of the Land Committee of SWA and he also started a political party, having the simpathy of all the Germans behind him. (He always tried to fight for their rights and keep them in SWA. He said their skills were important for the building of the country etc). He became ill in 1938 and after being treated by various doctor's they in the end decided to send him to a specialist in Cape Town. (We can only guess that he had cancer of the Old Man's Glands, because the doctors never said anything. You know how it was in those days!) Matthys (Mat) Gustav de Jager went to the station at Beaufort-West to see his dear cousin (nephew? I always get this mixed up!). When he came at the door of the compartement, he just turned around without saying anything and left the train. Matthys died on the train between B-West and Laingsburg. It was if the son of B-Wes came back to die there! Amazing! His corpse was sent from Cape Town to Windhoek where he had a full military funeral. I have many pictures of the funeral too! A pity that you can't read the book about him! He had one great full life!!! And never a dull moment!
Hope you have some kind of picture of the life of Matthys Johan de Jager!?
(The English is giving me some problems my friend!)
He received the DSO DTD for his effeorts as fiurther described by Alwyn Smit
Distinguished Service Order yes. And Dekorasie vir Troue Dienst. The Dutch version of the DSO. He had eight medals in all. All kept at the Pretoria Museum. I saw it some six years ago, all polished up specially for me… in a huge vault …and then my camera didn't want to work! But the feeling I got standing there… looking at the medals on the white tablecloth and all alone by myself…. I can't describe it to you! Sacred moments it was!!!!!!!!!! I still have the minitures however!!!! Got it from my mom.
Matthys married Martha Maria VAN NIEKERK, daughter of Gerrit Jaobus VAN NIEKERK and Unknown. (Martha Maria VAN NIEKERK was born on Apr 9, 1873 in Bloemhof District 1 and died on Sep 17, 1953 1.)