Tumult and confusion are the words best used to describe the introduction of the twentieth century at the southern end of the African continent. The new century was heralded throughout the world with fanfare and trumpets and the blaring of horns, but at the bottom end of Africa it was accompanied by gun-fire and death. There was hatred and a desire to kill. British troops and volunteers from the Empire were landing at the seaports on the shores of southern Africa for the purpose of expanding the Empire at the expense of a handful of unruly Boers, on whose territory gold had been found. A pretext for war was hatched [the foreigners on the gold-mines were not being treated fairly] and Britain saw her opportunity to grab another country. The jingoes in London needed more land, more heathens to educate, more pagans to convert and more markets; but above all, gold. For three years these unworthy Boers – unworthy to have been so lucky as to have gold discovered on their land – fought to stave off the power of the Empire. After an initial Boer assault and advance the British recovered their equilibrium, and in less than a year their forces took over most of the two Boer republics and invaded Pretoria, the capital of the Transvaal Republic. To all intents and purposes the war was over – so thought the British.
They had never anticipated that their problems were only about to begin. Nobody had given a thought to the possibility of a prolonged guerilla war. The Boers mounted their horses and went into the countryside, to territory that they knew well, amongst a populace that were their own people – their own relatives and friends, who could feed them and supply them with horses and a place to rest. From here they could stage forays against the enemy and could come back and hide on the farms, unrecognized. No uniforms. No distinctive markings, they looked just like everybody else and spoke the same language that the British could not understand. It was hard for the British to recognize who was friend and who was foe. And the Boers inflicted tremendous damage. In fact, they went on commando deep into the Cape, which was considered safe British territory as Britain had occupied the Cape since the early nineteenth century. Here the Boers attacked their military outposts, supply stores and ammunition dumps mostly by night, making matters very difficult for them. They were a thorn in the side of the occupying forces, and reinforcements from the Empire were constantly called for. The Afrikaans-speaking farmer had been trying to evade British rule ever since Holland had asked England to protect the Cape of Good Hope for them from Napoleon. England took over and never left. They sent a series of governors to run the affairs of the Cape, but for the most part, they were disliked as they introduced unpopular taxation and freed the slaves. They were constantly interfering in the lives of the people who had left Europe for those very reasons –government and church interference in their lives.
In 1836 and thereabouts the Boers tried to get out of the grip of the English governors, so they trekked eastwards and northwards from the southern tip of Africa. They had a spirit of freedom and were not afraid to face the unknown, but above all. They did not want anyone demanding taxes and telling them what to do. The Great Trek consisted of a number of large groups of trekkers, who passed up through the eastern Cape and Natal, and finally ending up in the Orange Free State and the Transvaal where they set up their own republics, far from the British influence, only to find out in later years that they were still being followed by the British.
The family of Dirk du Plessis never left the Cape Province. They could trace their ancestry to the French Huguenots. They came to South Africa as a result of religious persecution in France