Flag of a hero
by Herman Labuschagne

Eden Express article, 20 October 2013


Today, exactly 100 years ago my 33 year old great-grandfather wrote a letter to his 26 year old bride. The day was October 20th 1913. “As I write the date,” he said, “it reminds me that today is the anniversary of the Battle at Dundee where I first heard bullets flying about my ears. I wonder whether it shall ever be my lot again to face an enemy on the field of battle and come unscathed out of such a perilous position as I did that day…?”


Len’s daughter, Matie Joubert, holding the Red Cross flag from the Battle of Dundee.


The story of what happened that day was an interesting one. Great-grandfather Len Labuschagne was a lad of 19 years when the first shots of the Anglo-Boer War were fired in Natal. The battle started badly and the Boers soon found themselves under heavy counter-attack. Whilst falling back, his father was shot through the chest. This left him lying under crossfire between the two sides. Seeing this, my great-grandfather grabbed a Red Cross flag from the nearest ambulance and stormed back into the crossfire where he managed to drag his father to the Boer lines without being shot himself. This made him a teenage hero.


Len Labuschagne (Leonardus Johannes), picture taken not long after the Boer war.


His letter continued: “I have not forgotten to be grateful for my escape on that day, and that worst things did not happen to Father or myself. And that our lot was not the same as that of those few who stood with us during the last assault by the enemy.  How much there is to be grateful for, and yet I must often stand ashamed, when I think of my ingratitude to a loving and kind Father and Protector, who has blessed me so undeservedly.”


I still have that flag. When I hold it now, I share his sense of gratitude – today, more than ever before.