Thanks to the existence of these two farms – Nooitgedacht and Koelenhof – Stellenbosch was known as a ‘remounting station’ for the Brits during the war.
The two farms were officially let to the British to use as ‘remounting station’. The letting process was made easier since Cecil John Rhodes was the landlord – he bought both farms early in 1899.
The horses on these farms where, for the largest part, imported from Britain, America, Argentina, Austria, Canada, Australia and India. Between 1 September 1899 and 31 December 1901 the British imported more than 206 063 horses and 91 769 mules to South Africa.
There were other remounting stations in Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth, and Stellenbosch was not alone in receiving horses. However, Nooitgedacht and Koelenhof were exceptionally busy and at one stage more than 1 400 horses arrived per day. Once at the station, the horses were given time to recuperate from the sea journey or from time spent in the field.
According to the article, horses on the front worked very hard: “The need for remount horses was very big because a single cavalry unit (lancers) ‘made use’ of up to 400 horses in a couple of weeks.”
Many artifacts dating to the period when the farms were a remounting station, have been found, especially in the area surrounding the shooting range.
De Hoop (now generally known as Simonsig) used to be a part of the farm Koelenhof and the restored stables are today put to use as farm offices. They also have a wine with the label ‘War Horse’ which refers to this part of the farm’s history.
Interestingly, the author mentions that British officers who couldn’t ‘quite make the cut’ in the field, was often sent to the remount station in Stellenbosch in the hope that they will be of some use. Thus the (negative) term to be ‘Stellenbosched’ was born. Less well-known, but with the same meaning, is to be ‘Nooitgedachted’.
The British also had hands from India to help with the horses. The Indians acted as blacksmiths and helped to care for and break in the horses. Some of these works were buried in the Calcutta forest, where their graves can still be seen. There was even an Indian prince buried on Nooitgedacht. His family made an annual pilgrimage to his grave for many years.
Read more about this fascinating part of our history.