Here lies Bobo

Sergeant Woodward’s grave lies in a dusty forgotten cemetery, but there is something strange about the resting place of this Scottish  soldier.

For you see, Woodward has two graves, that would have been side by side if it wasn’t for a memorial in between.

Woodward’s graves are in the Kloof cemetery on the outskirts of the town of Heidelberg.

The two graves of Sergeant Woodward on the left and right of the memorial in the center

And his story is just one of those quirky tales that bounce around small towns, told to outsiders by amateur historians and tour guides.

Heidelberg use to be simply that small dorp that lay on the route to Durban, now as one tour guide puts it, this town is the “bedroom of Joburg”.

Many of its inhabitants make the 50 odd kilometre trek to the big city, everyday to work.

The town has also gone arty, with a collection of antique shops, coffee houses and a pole dancing studio.

But back to Sergeant W Woodward and his two graves.

It was around August 8, 1900, the Boer war was almost a year old and the Brits were finally getting the upper hand.

Woodward was attached to a Scottish regiment responsible for scouting the area and the story goes he was sent on a dangerous mission and failed to return to his unit.

A search was mounted and after much inquiry an English unit found a skeleton.

They believed the remains to be those of Woodward, after documents belonging to him were found with the corpse.

The skeleton was brought to Heidelberg where a full military funeral with military honours was given.

A metal cross was erected, over Woodward’s first grave.

Months past and in another area, another unit was also actively looking for Woodward.

During their search they picked up a lead. They heard a story of how two Boers were seen bludgeoning to death an English soldier with an axe and pickaxe handle. The murdered man’s skeleton was found in a shallow grave and it was decided that this was Woodward.

Those who handled Woodward’s second skeleton, were probably a little puzzled. The sergeant remains appeared little robust, with a heavy set brow and those teeth, well.

In another time a sight of those fangs would have resulted in a stake through Sergeant Woodward’s heart.

But then to a genteel Victorian officer, Woodward was a Scot, who probably came from a part of the Highlands were men are hairy and known to sport heavy brows.

The skeleton was taken back to Heidelberg, where a new garrison had replaced the Scottish regiment that Woodward once belonged too.

For a second time Sergeant Woodward was given a full military funeral, to the sound of bagpipes and crying ladies.

So who lies in the Scottish sergeant’s second grave?

Years later the rumour was that the murdered victim was not Woodward but a large pet baboon.

The story is that the owner of the Suikerbosrand farm, killed his large pet baboon before fleeing ahead of the advancing khakis. He buried the beast in a shallow grave.

Then someone spun a couple of British troopies the yarn of a murder and shallow grave.

When Woodward for second time was lowered into the grave, there were probably a couple of sniggers from the local Boer population.

For the first time ever a baboon was given a military burial with full military honours.

About Shaun Smillie

Journalist, with a love of bones, fossils and other things dug up. Fisherman and occasional beer maker.
This entry was posted in south african history, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Here lies Bobo

  1. pam says:

    Well done Shaun I like that.

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