The Fortification of Pretoria
After the failed Jameson raid of 1896, a former French Artillery Officer, L Grunberg recommended to the Government of the ZAR that Pretoria be safeguarded by suitable fortifications. His suggestions were approved, chiefly due to the fact that a chart, detailing the approaches into Pretoria, railway links, and the placement of defensive installations had been found in possession of a British Officer. Grundberg was instructed to design and build Fort Daspoort, and two German Engineers, OA van Dewitz and HC Werner draughted the plans for three other Forts: Fort Schanskop, Fort Klapperkop and Fort Wonderboompoort. In addition they designed the “Centrale Magazijn” and the “Groen Magazijn”. These plans were approved by State President SJP Kruger on 16 March 1896, and a commission consisting of Commandant-General PJ Joubert, Lieutenant-Colonel HP Pretorius, Captains PE Erasmus and FJ Wolmarans, Lieutenant PC Paff and City Engineer E Lutz were appointed to supervise building operations.
The Construction of Fort Schanskop
The German Firm, Krupp, was in charge of building the Schanskop, Klapperkop and Wonderboompoort Forts. Fort Daspoortrand was built by the French Firm Scheider, Grunberg and Léon. The building contractor, HC Werner, commenced building operations on Fort Schanskop in May 1896. The labour force consisted of 400 white, and a large number of black men. They worked day and night, and by December 1896, though not quite finished, the Fort was ready for occupation by 50 men. Strategically, it was placed so that attacks from the south (Johannesburg) could be averted. This five-cornered fortification was also capable of meeting attacks from other directions due to a system of rotating guns on its walls. The Fort was officially handed over to the ZAR Government on 6 April 1897, and was visited by President Kruger the following day.
Water and Electricity
Schanskop was self-sufficient as to their water and power requirements. In the casemate “Machine” a paraffin engine connected to a dynamo provided the Fort with electricity. In addition to ordinary, domestic lighting, spotlights were also in use. In the casemate “Ammunitie” a reservoir, constructed from lead had been installed. A pump station situated in the Fountains Valley provided water. Lieutenant Paul Constant Paff of the State Artillery was placed in charge of the water and light installations of the Pretoria Forts. On the evening of 23 November 1897 gunshots from Schanskop thundered over Pretoria in celebration of the commissioning of the Fort’s electrical facilities, and on the Day of the Covenant, 16 December 1897, a number of rockets were also launched into the air from the fort. After completion of construction these forts were regarded as the most modern forts in the world.
Armament and Communication
Armaments of choice, Mountain Artillery, was put on order whilst the building of the Forts was still in progress. The choice of guns proved to have been very wise, as these guns provided outstanding service on the battlefront. Garrison ordnance was effective only in the forts. In 1899, Fort Schanskop had one 155 mm siege gun, or Long Tom, and two 3.7 cm maxims with 500 rounds of ammunition. The garrison consisted of one officer and 30 servicemen of the Transvaal State Artillery. Initially it was the artillerists who manned the Forts, whilst 100 of them were being trained in the operation of mountain artillery. The complement of men and their arms were, however, never quite sufficient. Fort Schanskop was connected by means of open (above ground) telegraph wire with the artillery camp in Pretoria, and telegraphically with Johannesburg. The various forts could communicate by means of heliograph. One of the fort’s casemates was specially adapted for the Transvaal Field Telegraphy.
The Occupation of Pretoria
On 5 June 1900, Lord Roberts occupied Pretoria, without any resistance. The Forts had previously been disarmed and not one shot was fired. The first military train, with a section of the State Artillery aboard, had left Pretoria on 28 September 1899 bound for the Natal border. This group consisted of 60 men with 6 guns, 8 ammunition wagons and 105 horses. On 11 October 1899, about 400 allergists under the command of Piet Joubert crossed the Natal border. On 4 June 1900, to the consternation of the citizens, British Forces bombarded the Forts surrounding Pretoria during the entire afternoon. Eventually only one person, in each of the Forts, remained to surrender. Fort Schanskop was bereft of arms as the two maxims and the Long Tom had been taken to the Natal front. During the occupation the British regarded the Forts as Crown Property, and saw to it that they were properly manned and armed. Fort Schanskop was occupied by the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and Fort Klapperkop by the Royal Scottish Fusiliers, right up to the end of the war.
After the Anglo-Boer War
The two Forts, Schanskop and Klapperkop, were left vacant and neglected after the war, and was handed over to the Government of the Union of South Africa in 1922. The Forts were used only for signal and observation purposes, and after they were declared as historical monuments in 1938, the Defence Force retained their right of use. In 1957, the Minister of Defence, Advocate FC Erasmus decided that Fort Schanskop be transformed into a museum. No funds were available, and five years later it was proposed that preference be given to Fort Klapperkop as it was in a better state of repair than Fort Schanskop. In 1966, Fort Klapperkop was opened as the first Military Museum of the South African Defence Force. Schanskop followed twelve years later.
First Restoration Phase: 1970 – 1974
As additional display space was required, the SADF Directorate Military Museums decided to restore Fort Schanskop as an extension of Fort Klapperkop. The work commenced in April 1970 and was concluded in 1974. The Fort had been badly neglected and vandals had also contributed their mischief. The walls were marred by graffiti. The steel doors and shutters were missing and had to be replaced. One of the remaining steel doors of Fort Wonderboom, an example of what was required at Fort Schanskop, was used to produce these replica doors. The inner court was overgrown with weeds, and the steps to the right of “Keuken”, as well as the windowsills, were in such a state of disrepair that they had to be replaced with “fire-water sandstone”. The first step was to clear the inner court and the upper level of weeds and brush. An earth wall to accommodate a neat footpath was constructed, and the wall itself lined with slate. Work proceeded steadily and four years later the fort had been restored to all its former glory.
Second Restoration Phase: 1974 – 1978
Schanskop had been completely restored by 1974. New steel doors and shutters together with a ventilation system had been installed, footpaths laid out and a new garden established. It was ready to do service as a Museum. But it was not waterproof and with the first rains the floor was soon ankle-deep in water. A second restoration exercise to mend the leaks involved the removal of the slate on the upper terrace. Excavations were carried out and canvas sheets used to prevent rainwater from entering the area of operations. The stone wall on the top terrace was taken down and each individual stone numbered to ensure that it was later replaced exactly in its original position when the wall was rebuilt. On 29 March 1978, Fort Schanskop was opened as the 5th Military Museum of the South African Defence Force. The ceremony was presided over by Lieutenant-General AJ van Deventer, SSAS, SM, and Chief of Staff Finance.
Other points of interest
On the upper terrace a canon with the name Susanna can be seen. It is a 6 pounder ships canon that is mounted on the front axle of an ossewa. The canon is fully functional and is fired on the first Friday of each month at noon and at various other special occassions.
At the entrance a scale model replica of the Trek Monument that was built in Tanganyika, Tanzania can be seen.
The Danie Theron Memorial is just to the right.
At GZ you also have a panoramic view over the City Of Pretoria.
An entrance fee is payable at the Voortrekker Monument gate but no additional fees are payable to visit the fort.
Entrance times are from 08:00 to 16:00 every day except 25 December.
To claim this cache you must include in your log a photo of yourself (optional) or your device at any point of interest in the fort. Make sure to include your caching name and date of visit in the photo (be creative!). Logs not meeting this requirement will be deleted.
Virtual Rewards 2.0 - 2019/2020
This Virtual Cache is part of a limited release of Virtuals created between June 4, 2019 and June 4, 2020. Only 4,000 cache owners were given the opportunity to hide a Virtual Cache. Learn more about Virtual Rewards 2.0 on the Geocaching Blog.