Fort Haynes and the fight at Chief Chingaira Makoni’s Kraal

Why Visit?: 

The battle at Chief Chingaira Makoni’s kraal and stronghold was one of the few set-pieces in the 1896 Mashona rebellion, or First Chimurenga where the Mashona forces had the option of setting the location and where Col. Alderson’s forces set the time of the engagement.

The few set-piece battles probably include this at Chief Makoni’s kraal, that at Fort Harding and Chief Chikwakwa / Headman Gondo’s kraals near Goromonzi and at Chief Mashingombi’s / Headman Chena’s kraals near Hartley Hill.

For the rest the actions are mostly skirmishes in Mashonaland.

Col. Alderson was criticised by Earl Grey for not establishing more forts and breaking off the engagements early; but as he reminds us often in his book, he was uncertain of the supply situation in Salisbury with the telegraph line being constantly cut.

There is still controversy around Chief Chingaira Makoni’s death by firing squad. Feelings were running high as 117 settlers had been killed in Mashonaland out of a population of 2,737. The military discipline instilled by professional soldiers such as Col. Alderson, calmed the situation down.

Visit the marble memorial to Capt. A.E. Haynes Royal Engineers surrounded in a metal railing. A few metres to the east within a low stone wall are the metal grave marker to Pte Smith Vickers 3rd Battalion Kings Royal Rifles and the marble memorial to Pvt William Wickham 1st Battalion Royal Irish Regiment. 

 

How to get here: 

From Rusape take the A14 turnoff to Nyanga: Drive 7.5 KM and turn left onto the gravel road with a signpost for St Faith’s mission. 10.4 KM pass the turnoff on the right for the farm owner, Mr Vitalis, whose property is adjacent to the farm that Fort Haynes is probably situated on. 10.6 KM cross the Nyamasvitsvi River, 11.9 KM stop just short of the cattle grid and before the road turns left for St Faith’s Mission. Park the car and follow a path for 220 metres through some gum trees on the left. Cross over a fence which is lying on the ground and bear right along a firebreak accessing Captain Haynes’ grave which is 15 metres from the firebreak in a group of trees just west of the fence line dividing the farms.

Fort Haynes is described by Col. Alderson as being 350 metres away along the Nyamasvitsvi River. In fact, the nearest point for the Nyamasvitsvi River is 800 metres away. However, 350 metres due south, in the same direction as the river, is a small homestead and this may be the site of Fort Haynes, although I have not yet investigated.

A rounded granite gomo with telephone towers on the summit might be the site on Col. Alderson’s map which has Chief Chingaira Makoni’s picket marked.

I still have not identified Chief Chingaira Makoni’s kraal amongst the kopjes on the right-side of the A14 going towards Nyanga and I have not yet matched up Col. Alderson’s  sketch of Chief Chingaira Makoni’s kraal, looking southeast from the north side of the kraal, but will update this articlewhen I do.

GPS reference for Captain Haynes grave: 18⁰30′31.54″S 32⁰12′59.09″E

In June 1896 the Mashona Rebellion or First Chimurenga broke out.

Four companies of mounted infantry were sent from Aldershot in England destined for Matabeland arrived in Cape Town on 19th May 1896. Their destination was now switched to Mashonaland and they set off by sea to Beira. From there they took the train 170 miles to Chimoio and then travelled by wagon and horseback with the first of the troops reaching Umtali (now Mutare) on 19th July 1896.

This force of 380 mounted Infantry was under the command of Col. E.A. Alderson and their five month campaign is told in his book With the Mounted Infantry and the Mashonaland Field Force 1896

Chief Chingaira Makoni posed a major threat to the communications between Mutare and Harare with his kraal and stronghold some seventeen kilometres northeast of present-day Rusape. The telegraph line had already been cut and there was no communication between Mutare and Harare for 48 days.

On the 28th July 1896, the Mashonaland Field Force comprising 230 mounted infantry, 39 Royal Engineers, 14 Royal Artillery, 48 West Riding Regiment, 17 Scouts and 92 volunteers (Total of 440) with two Maxim guns and two seven-pounders left Mutare.

They avoided the Devil’s Pass, where they anticipated an ambush, by using the O’Reilly’s Road and on the 2nd / 3rd and 4th August laagered on the Nyamasvitsvi River where it was crossed by the main road and close to the four, or five huts locally known as the “new police huts.”

In the afternoon of the 2nd Col. Alderson had a meeting with Chief Native Commissioner Taberer and Native Commissioner Ross and decided upon a night attack on Chief Chingaira Makoni. The imminent attack was kept secret and at 1.45am on the 3rd August, Alderson’s forces fell in as silently as possible before Col. Alderson addressed them all and told them the object of their preparations was an attack on Chief Chingaira Makoni’s stronghold and they began their night march.

They marched in the formation below in case they were ambushed and detoured away from the main track to avoid one of Chief Chingaira Makoni’s military posts (the picquet marked on the map above) which had been placed on a prominent rock near where the track ran to his kraal. 

They had brought one Maxim gun and the two seven-pounders, but they were each being pulled by two instead of four mules, and it slowed the force’s movement down. At 5:15am Native Commissioner Ross, who was acting as guide, thought he had miscalculated the distance and they might not be there by daylight.

A few minutes later, Ross said it was alright and they were at point X on the plan. Capt. Jenner was sent with the Rifle Company Mounted Infantry, the Umtali Rifles and the Maxim gun to the south of Chief Chingaira Makoni’s kraal at E and Col. Alderson took the Irish Company Mounted Infantry, the engineers and the two seven-pounders to the west at B and Jenner was told not to commence firing until the seven-pounders opened fire.

A celebration had been taking place and the sentries on duty to the south east of the kraal at A did not hear the forces moving around them. Col. Alderson’s force at 5:50am was 750 metres from Chief Chingaira Makoni’s kraal and looking down on it. They saw it occupied a strong defensive position surrounded by a dry-stone wall topped with thorn bushes and containing around 300 pole and dhaka thatched huts. The seven-pounders opened fire with direct hits on their intended targets and in a moment the kraal was in Col. Alderson’s words “like a stirred up ant’s nest.”

Alderson’s forces moved forward in the face of return fire and Private Mackey was wounded with the seven-pounder shields being hit repeatedly by rounds. Capt. Jenner’s Maxim gun opened up on the south side. By 7:30 Alderson’s troops have only 180 metres of open ground between them and the wall around Chief Chingaira Makoni’s kraal. Jenner’s men charge with fixed bayonets and when they were 180 metres from point F; Alderson had his men charge to point C so that the combined forces reached the wall around the kraal simultaneously.

Chief Chingaira Makoni’s defenders retreated to the caves and shots from there killed Capt. Haynes and Private Vickers who were clearing the inner walls about 8:30am. Alderson was now faced with choices:

(1)    Send men into the caves where they would be at a disadvantage? No, too dangerous.

(2)    Blockade the caves and starve the Mashona out? There had been no news from Salisbury and Alderson believed he should ascertain the situation there as quickly as possible.

(3)    Dynamite the caves? No, they were too extensive.  

So by 2pm the same day, Alderson’s forces evacuated the kraal having set it on fire and marched back to the Fort on the Nyamasvitsvi River with over 500 captured cattle, sheep and goats. Alderson considered Chief Chingaira Makoni’s casualties amounted to about 200 men. 

Alderson’s casualties included Capt. Alfred Ernst Haynes, Royal Engineers; Private Smith Vickers, Kings Royal Rifles; Private Williams Wickham, Royal Irish Regiment; killed and four wounded. Those killed were taken back and buried on the 4th August near the Nyamasvitsvi River “in a well-chosen site under two spreading trees, about a quarter of a mile from Fort Haynes.” The grove of trees was still standing in May 2016 when visited by the author.

Col. Alderson says: “Poor little Haynes was, as I have already said, killed inside the kraal, after having gallantly led his men over the wall. In him we had suffered an irreparable loss. With his bright keenness, his fertile brain, and ready resource, he had already made himself invaluable. Apart from his professional value to me, I never met a man whom I grew to like so much in so short a time. Both the privates killed were good useful men, whose loss we could ill afford.”

Captain Haynes marble memorial is surrounded by a still intact metal railing. The epitaph reads: IN MEMORIAM. CAPTAIN ALFRED ERNEST HAYNES, ROYAL ENGINEERS. BORN JULY 27 AT HAMPSTEAD LONDON. KILLED IN ACTION NEAR THIS PLACE AUG 3 1896. “FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH”

The east side of Captain Haines memorial has the following epitaph: ALSO PT VICKERS, 3rd BATT, KINGS ROYAL RIFLES.  The west side epitaph reads: ALSO PT W. WICKHAM, 1st BATT, ROYAL IRISH REGT.

The two privates are buried within in a low walled enclosure a few metres east of Captain Haynes grave which is obscured by a heavy growth and which I failed to spot on the first visit. 

The epitaph on Pte Smith Vickers metal grave marker reads: FOR QUEEN & EMPIRE. SMITH VICKERS KRR 3.9.96. The date inserted by the Gregory Iron Foundry in Cape Town is incorrect and should read 3.8.96. 

The epitaph on Pte William Wickham marble memorial reads: IN MEMORIAM. PTE WILLIAM WICKHAM 1st BATTn ROYAL IRISH REGIMENT, SERVING WITH THE MOUNTED INFANTRY, KILLED IN ATION AT MAKONI’S KRAAL, AUGUST 3rd 1896. ERECTED BY THE OFFICERS, NON-COMMISSIONED OFFICERS AND MEN OF THE IRISH COMPANY, MOUNTED INFANTRY

Pte Smith Vickers iron grave marker resulted from the lists drawn up by the Guild of Loyal Women (GLW) in 1908-9 which were drawn up in turn from lists drawn up by the BSAP and was presumably supplied with the incorrect date to the Gregory iron foundry in Cape Town where it was cast.

The marble memorial for Pte William Wickham was presumably the result of a collection made by the men of the Irish Company of the Mounted Infantry; this was not done for Pte Smith Vickers.

Surname

Initials / Name

Number

Rank

Unit

Command

Status

Date of Death

Haynes

Aubrey Edward

5231

Capt

Royal Engineers

Mashonaland Field Force

KIA

3 August 1896

Vickers

Smith

n/a

Pte

3rd Bn King's Royal Rifle Corps

Mashonaland Field Force

KIA

3 August 1896

Wickham

William

8075

Pte

1st Bn Royal Irish Regiment

Mashonaland Field Force

KIA

3 August 1896

Interestingly there is no mention of who paid for and commissioned Capt. Haynes’ memorial; I believe the BSA Company paid for the metal fence enclosure. 

Col. Alderson writes: “We arrived back at the laager just before dusk, and found that the men left there had made good progress with the building of the fort which was to be established there, and which poor Haynes had designed the previous day. The fort was naturally christened Fort Haynes.”

The fort designed by Capt. Haynes was built near the Nyamasvitsvi River and became the main depot for road garrisons with the existing police huts were converted into a hospital for the sick and wounded. No plan seems to exist of the Fort and there are no drawings in Peter Garlake’s comprehensive article on Pioneer Forts in Rhodesia 1890 – 1897.

The severely wounded included:

Surname

Initials / Name

Number

Rank

Unit

Command

Mackey

W

4231

Pte

Royal Irish Regt.

Mashonaland Field Force

Broad

R

7825

Pte

2nd Bn Rifle Brigade

Mashonaland Field Force

Young

D

n/a

TPr

Umtali Rifles

Mashonaland Field Force

Slightly wounded included:

    

Surname

Initials / Name

Number

Rank

Unit

Command

 

Lock

H

7256

Pte

3rd Bn King's Royal Rifles

Mashonaland Field Force

 

          

Col. Alderson and his mounted infantry left soon after for Harare and Chief Chingaira Makoni reoccupied his stronghold claiming that the victory was his.

A rough sketch of Chief Chingaira Makoni’s kraal stronghold sketched from the north side of the kraal looking south east. From Col. E.A.H. Alderson’s With the Mounted Infantry and the M.F.F. 1896

A chain of fortified posts was established at Devil’s Pass, Headlands and the Marandellas Hotel (now Marondera) both of the last two named being south of their present locations.  These were garrisoned by local volunteers and the Mashonaland Field Force under Major C.W. Watts.

No. of men

Unit

Post

Kilometres from Salisbury

 

 

Salisbury

0

70

Matabeleland Relief Force

Marandellas No V Fort

83

30

Umtali Rifles

Headlands No IV Fort

142

50

Det. 2 / West Riding Regt.

Fort Haynes No III Fort

176

50

Det. 2 / West Riding Regt.

Devil's Pass No II Fort

197

50

Det. 2 / West Riding Regt.

 

 

70

Umtali Rifles

Umtali No I Fort

248

30

Matabeleland Relief Force

 

 

350

 

 

 

Negotiations with Chief Chingaira Makoni continued, but proved drawn out. On the 18th August news was received in Salisbury from Fort Haynes that he would surrender if his life was spared. The Council in Salisbury comprising Judge Vintcent, Sir Thomas Scanlon, Mr Duncan and Col. Alderson accepted these terms. Major Watts was asked to go from Umtali to Fort Haynes to accept the rifles and ammunition surrendered, or to attack his kraal again if he failed to surrender, and by the 26th August there were 230 men at Fort Haynes.

Chief Chingaira Makoni sent a message on the 27th saying he would surrender the next day; but failed to appear and on the 30th August Major Watts marched from Fort Haynes at 1:30am taking the same route as was taken by the forces on the 3rd August.

Chief Chingaira Makoni’s kraal was occupied at daybreak without opposition, but there was firing from the caves and these were blockaded until the 3rd September when he was captured, or surrendered to save his followers from starvation. It was Major Watts’s initial plan for a regular trial in Umtali. The Administrator in Rhodesia for the BSA Company between 2nd April 1896 – 5th December 1898 was Earl Grey and he had stated that he would accept Chief Chingaira Makoni’s surrender providing; “on his being brought before a court of justice and fairly tried he was not proved to have been directly connected with any murders.

Native Commissioner Ross was opposed to this plan as he argued there was a real risk of Chief Chingaira Makoni escaping which would set the whole district into a blaze, and that the safety of Umtali (now Mutare) itself might be endangered. In fact, Chief Chingaira Makoni’s son and two of his senior advisers did manage to escape and Watts’s plan for a trial in Umtali was rapidly discarded and a court-martial was quickly convened to try Chief Chingaira Makoni for “armed rebellion.”

In spite of Chief Chingaira Makoni’s assertion that he was innocent of being a rebel; his reply being: “it is all very well to call me a rebel, but the country belonged to me and my forefathers long before you came here.” He was found guilty of armed rebellion and of having caused the murder of the three traders and was sentenced to be shot.  A telegram was sent to Earl Grey by Major Watts to confirm the sentence, but as the nearest telegraph Office was at Umtali, this had to be taken by native runners.  Native Commissioner Ross argued that any delay in waiting until permission was received would be prejudicial to security and the sentence was carried out on the morning of the 4th August. Chief Chingaira Makoni was placed with his back to a grain bin within his kraal at Gwindingwi and died with a courage and dignity that brought admiration from all who were present.

An officer present said: “I know of nothing grander than Makoni’s death, than the quiet way in which he spoke to his people, and told them to abstain from further resistance; for himself he only begged that he might be buried decently in accordance with local tradition and said “and now, you shall see how a Makoni can die.

This action caused controversy even at the time in 1896 when passions were running high and Captain Watts was suspended and brought to Salisbury under arrest on 18th September, where he was to appear before a court of enquiry on charges of cruelty. He was acquitted on the grounds that the rebellion justified actions that would not be permitted in peacetime. One of the Umtali Volunteers wrote: “our CO Major Watts is a perfect devil” but the popular sentiment amongst the whites was probably expressed in a letter by George McDougal who fought with the Umtali Volunteers in the Marandellas area (now Marondera) and wrote to his family in Scotland that: “the enemy are always ready to pounce upon small parties unarmed and torture them to death. It is such dastardly conduct on their part that makes the white man so bitter against them here.”

However this view is balanced by the view of an old Shona man who said to “Wiri” Edwards, Native Commissioner at Marandellas: We saw you come with your waggons and horses and rifles. We said to each other: “they have come to buy gold, or it may be to hunt elephant, they will go again. When we saw that you continued to remain in the country, and were troubling us with your laws, we began to talk and to plot.”

This execution continues to be controversial with a number of sources alleging that Chief Chingaira Makoni’s head was hewed off as a trophy and is kept in a British Museum and the Chieftainship itself continues to excite debate.

I did not identify Chief Chingaira Makoni’s kraal on my first visit, but there are a number of clues which need following up on another trip. Col. Alderson said that there was a picket on the top of a rock underneath which the direct track from their laager site at Fort Haynes to Chief Chingaira Makoni’s kraal ran around which they detoured and on his map the laager site, picket site and kraal site are in a straight line going north east from the laager site.

 

Acknowledgements

P.S. Garlake. Pioneer Forts in Rhodesia 1890 – 1897. Rhodesiana Publication No. 12, September 1965. P37-62

V. Somerville. Mashonaland Branch Outing to the Rusape Area. Heritage of Zimbabwe. No. 10, 1991. P99-101

T. Tanser. Chief Makoni and the Shona Rebellion 1. Heritage of Zimbabwe. No. 10, 1991. P105-111

Tim Tanser for general directions.

E.A.H. Alderson. With the Mounted Infantry and the Mashonaland Field Force 1896. Books of Rhodesia reprint. Bulawayo, 1971

R. Hodder-Williams. Marandellas and the Mashona Rebellion. Rhodesiana No. 16 July 1967. P27-55

 

When to visit: 
All year around
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