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Rob Milne
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During the past 110 years the ghosts of a British Army Officer and a Nurse have been seen meeting under the old Bluegum trees (near the stump of a burnt out pepper tree) at Waterval Onder. The Officer is reputed to be Lt. John Lawlor who died of wounds received sometime after the Battle of Bergendal, and who is buried in the small British cemetery nearby. He supposedly fell in love with his Nurse, Maria, and they used to meet under the old pepper tree before he succumbed to his wounds on 31st August 1900.

Later Maria was either killed by a Boer shell, or committed suicide by jumping over the nearby Falls that tumble from Waterval Boven to Waterval Onder. However the little railway village was not taken by the British until 31st August 1900, which would have given the ghostly couple no time to fall in love and meet under the pepper tree in real life.

It seems likely that Lt. Lawlor was the mounted officer who was badly wounded by a sniper when he was on his way down the track to take the village the day before he died of his wounds (see Lone Sniper). Had he been wounded at the actual Battle of Bergendal on 27th August 1900 he would have been cared for by the Field Ambulance adjacent to the Battlefield and buried in the small British cemetery there (as was Capt. W. Steward who died of his wounds on 30th August 1900). It is interesting that Lt. Lawlor’s old tombstone records his death on 31st August 1900, but the new headstone has the date of 30th August 1900.

Whatever the true story may be, it must be the ghost of some other British Officer who is seen under the Bluegums meeting with his faithful Nurse.

Lt. Lawlor’s grave in the small military cemetery at Waterval Onder. He was fatally wounded by a lone Boer sniper after the Battle of Bergendal as he rode down the pass to the hamlet. His ghost reputedly appears under the giant Bluegum trees near Krugerhof re-uniting with his Nurse, Maria.

Lt. Lawlor’s grave in the small military cemetery at Waterval Onder. He was fatally wounded by a lone Boer sniper after the Battle of Bergendal as he rode down the pass to the hamlet. His ghost reputedly appears under the giant Bluegum trees near Krugerhof re-uniting with his Nurse, Maria.

 

ROB MILNE

Rob MIlne

Rob Milne was born in Johannesburg in 1953 and educated at St. David's Marist College and the University of the Witwatersrand. From an early age he spent most of his free time in the veld exploring the South African battlefields with his father, developing a keen interest in the Second Anglo-Boer War, archeology and geology.

Rob Milne
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