Battle of Blaauwberg brought to life in new book

Friends of Blaauwberg Conservation Area member Dave Honour, left, and author Ian van Oordt.

It has taken Pinelands author Ian van Oordt and his wife, Barbara, 15 years of meticulous research and planning to put together his book, Battle for the Cape 1778 – 1806.

Commemorating the 216th anniversary of the Battle of Blaauwberg, about 20 people showed up at the Eerste Steen Environmental Cabin at Blaauwberg Nature Reserve, on Saturday January 8, and all of them were in awe of the 548-page, A4-size book, which weighs 2.3kg.

A copy was handed over to conservation officer Xoliswe Grangxabe who said she was excited to be the first person at the reserve to get her hands on the “masterpiece”.

The cover features a commissioned painting by local artist Estelle Laubscher.

There are 28 pages of colour illustrations, including paintings of the most prominent people who were in the battle. A further 26 pages are dedicated to maps and 55 to references.

The book describes how the Battle of Blaauwberg was fought on January 8 1806. The British won, the Dutch lost and the result changed the course of South African history.

With an interest in cannons and wooden-ship building, it was in 2006 that Mr Van Oordt really started documenting and researching the historical walks he went on at Blaauwberg Nature Reserve.

He and his wife travelled around the globe to visit archives, with a lot of their time spent in Europe, hunting down original documents to give a fuller picture of the battle.

The most rewarding part of having the book published, he said, was getting feedback from readers, some of whom had discovered that their relatives had been part of the battle.

“I get emotional when readers come back to me and ask for information about the documents and somehow link it to their forefathers.”

Mr Van Oordt said he had collected 8000 photos of original documents from different archives, and his wife had visited Europe again in 2019 to find the last “bits and pieces” for the book.

The lockdown restrictions brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020 had forced him to get the book done, he said.

The book was self-published in September last year.

Mr Van Oordt said most of the 80 copies had already been sold. It was his intention to drive up the value of the book in coming years with a limited printing, he said.

“This book shows the prosperity of our country over the years and how things have changed. This piece of history should live on forever.”

He plans to compile a further book on the subject, describing what happened to certain people in the battle and after.

Battle for the Cape 1778 – 1806 is being sold for R1 500. Contact Mr Van Oordt at 076 174 4091 if you would like a copy.

About 20 people attended the commemoration event on Saturday January 8, including Battle for the Cape 1778 – 1806 author Ian van Oordt, second from right.
Conservation officer Xoliswe Grangxabe and Dave Honour were happy to have a copy of the book.
One of Estelle Laubscher’s paintings in the Battle for the Cape 1778 – 1806.