SCHNEIDER, GRUNBERG and LÉON: Engineer
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Romantic in the 19th-century fort tradition, no shot was actually fired in anger from these several fortifications, built in readiness for the troubles which culminated in the Anglo-Boer War, In 1896 it was decided by the Executive Council of the Transvaal Republic that forts should be built at strategic positions in order that Pretoria might readily be defended. The building of the three major forts was entrusted to HC Wemer with German backing; while Fort Daspoortrand was built on a French system under the supervision of S Lean.
Built in the strictest secrecy, using both Italian and black labour, the forts cost in the region of £50 000 each. Beautifully constructed of stone, with meticulously executed brickwork, they are entered between great posts of stone with typical C19 Eclectic capitals, and guarded by stout armour-plated doors. Within, around the enclosure, battlements vie with stock-pattern late 19th-century woodwork. Tall chimneys and airvents spring from the turf-covered earthworks. Overall, time has given the old structures a patina. The larger forts were fitted with bomb-resistant casemates, ammunition stores and machine shops, as well as other refinements such as telegraph offices - though some of this equipment was confiscated in Cape Town after the outbreak of hostilities.
The forts were armed with Long Toms, and revolving artillery pieces could be mounted on the ramparts in times of need. Manned by the State Artillery, the forts were prepared for action; however, in the end, their only use was as accommodation for Lord Roberts' troops when he occupied Pretoria in 1900.
Fort Klapperkop was restored by the S A Defence Force in 1963 as a military museum and a decade or so later Fort Schanskop was also restored for museum purposes. But Forts Wonderboom and Daspoortrand remain in a state of romantic decay, their usage as remote as that of a medieval castle.
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