A group of inspired Afrikaners met in the vestry of the NG-Tweetoringkerk in Bloemfontein on Saturday 4 February 1939 and founded the Ossewabrandwag. All the people present were sworn in as members, with a solemn oath. They pledged not to rest before the freedom of the Afrikaner nation was reclaimed (freely translated out of the book by Van der Schyff, P.F. 1991.
Die Ossewabrandwag - Vuurtjie in droë gras. Potchefstroom: History Department, PU for CHE).
The Afrikaner has always had the desire for self-government. This desire is embodied in the "Voortrekker trek" out of the Cape Province and the subsequent wars of independence. During the First World War the 1914-1915 Rebellion also voiced this notion of freedom. With the commemoration of the "Groot Trek" in 1938 Afrikaner Nationalism experienced an upsurge that stimulated the establishment of a National Afrikaner organisation, namely the Ossewabrandwag.
South Africa's participation in the Second World War brought a lot of discord. The Ossewabrandwag did not want the South African soldiers to be involved and said that the Germans were not their nation's enemies. A more active group, namely the "Stormjaers" was then founded as an integral part of the Ossewabrandwag. This group was responsible for acts such as the cutting of telephone lines, etc. These acts prevented a lot of South African soldiers from going to the war, because they had to ensure the internal stability of South Africa.
The farm Biddulphsberg was the central place for the activities of the Ossewabrandwag and the "Stormjaers" in Senekal and the surrounding areas. Daan Erasmus, the owner of the farm, played a key-role. Various meetings were held here. "Stormjaers" that were under suspicion and were thus fugitives from the police, were harboured at the farm. Looted fuel (petrol) was buried here in drums. This fuel was used in activities and organisations. Petrol could otherwise only be obtained through coupons. Some of the fugitives were captured here on 18 April 1944 and Daan Erasmus was captured as an accessory.
Thus, advocate Jan Strydom, Jannie Rigter, Johannes Cronje and Stoffel Pretorius ended up in the Bloemfontein prison with Daan Erasmus. They were not charged but were detained. They planned an escape and a revolver was smuggled into the prison. The prisoners were allowed in the courtyard for walking and smoking. Sunday afternoon, 11 June 1944, was the planned day of the escape. Nic Coetzee was in charge of obtaining a vehicle for the escape. He performed his duty, though he had a broken leg, and left the vehicle in the street at the prison and vanished down the street on crutches. The prisoners had by then walked in circles for weeks on end, turning near the trellis door where a guard sat in the "crow's-nest". As usual a black prisoner took coffee to the guard at three o'clock and the followed the following ritual: the trellis door was opened and the prisoner took the guard his coffee, another trellis door was then opened and the coffee was then put down in the "crow's-nest". This was the sign and large Johannes Cronje was right behind the coffee bearer. One hard push with the knee in the back and a pair of large hands on the guard and the keys to the outside were available. Jan Rigter tried to immobilise the alarm, but could not succeed. He then put a helmet on his head, saluted his officer Daan Erasmus, who was calmly smoking his pipe and walked to the waiting vehicle where the others were already waiting. He refused to run from the enemy. That evening the four slept in the Molopo.
Daan Erasmus was advised by advocate Strydom not to escape, because the government would not have a case against him when the others were gone. He was not charged and after a while he went on a hunger strike, he did however drink water. After eight days he was charged and could leave the prison on bail. He was scarcely a few weeks on the farm when a friend informed him that he would be intimidated. He fled to the Western Cape and took shelter at various friends. Finally he went back to Senekal and moved into a ravine, afterwards named "Klein Duitsland" (Little Germany). He hid here for a while with Lother Sittig.
The end of the war brought indemnity and Daan Erasmus could return to his farm and family. It was, however, still dangerous for Lother Sittig, a German of origin, and he stayed behind in the ravine, where he kept himself busy by stacking the erosion ditches with rocks. He only appeared after the National Party won the 1948 election.
Summary written by Borrie Erasmus and translated by Nicolien Erasmus
Ossewabrandwag badge against the rock face of Biddulphsberg
This badge was originally painted against the rock face by Jan Richter, who harboured here while he was a fugitive as a member of the Stormjaers of the Ossewabrandwag during 1942. It was restored by Johan, Nico and Fanie Erasmus in 1982.