DODGES IN AFRICA|
Our Role in It's History
by Craig Dodge
Our role in the history of this troubled
continent is small and perhaps in itself
insignificant, but what I have found is that
we were there at least one crucial event.
A brief geography lesson... South Africa occupies the southern portion of Africa stretching from the Atlantic to the Indian Oceans. Along its northern borders is (from West to East) South West Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe (where I grew up) and Mozambique. Sitting on top of Zimbabwe is Zambia, (where I was born). The whole region is confusingly referred to as southern Africa.
The first settlers to South Africa arrived around 1700 from The Netherlands. Their mission was to set up a small colony to provide Dutch ships with supplies on their way to India and the Far East. The descendants of these settlers now form a distinct people known as Afrikaners or Boers. They largely occupied the Cape of Good Hope peninsular, slowly spreading East and North through what is now the Cape Province.
Trouble in the Netherlands in the late 1700's and early 1800's resulted in Britain annexing the Cape at the turn of the century. The Netherlands didn't complain, feeling that the Cape settlement was more trouble than it was worth. Large numbers of British settlers arrived in 1820, including ancestors on my mother's side and on the side of my wife, Les.
The Boers and the British did not get on, with the Boers feeling oppressed by the British. They as a body moved north establishing the Orange Free State and the Transvaal republics. This situation continued for sometime, until the discovery of the largest gold fields in the world at the Witwatersrand resulted in men, like the then Cape President Cecil John Rhodes, eyeing the republics greedily.
In 1895 Rhodes hatched a plan to seize control of the region. He sent in a man called Leander Starr Jameson and a band of 600 volunteers (one of whom was a newly arrived settler called James Horsfield Dodge, who had recently left his home in Stockport to start a new life in the turbulent region) to encourage rebellion amongst the British living in these republics, with the intention of it giving him an excuse to intervene and seize control.
It was poorly planned and the 'Jameson Raid' was easily stopped by the Boers. James Dodge survived the raid, more than can be said for most. The raid, although a failure, was critical to the future of the region, as the German premier sent a letter of congratulations to the Afrikaner President. This resulted in growing British suspicion about Germany's intentions in the region and increased tension between the British and the Afrikaner republics. By 1898 full-scale war had started (known as the Boer War), victory for Britain resulted in the annexation of the Afrikaner republics and the fulfilment of Rhodes' plans.
While James was fortunate enough to have survived the raid and married a girl called Nellie Smith who in 1898 gave birth to my grandfather James Matthew Dodge, the story in the family is that James Matthew was an orphan. How James Horsfield and his wife Nellie died I have yet to discover.
The Jameson Raid is an event we all learnt about at school and I was thrilled to discover that the Dodges were there, making it all the more personal and real.