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DUWISIB CASTLE, A GERMAN CASTLE IN SOUTHERN NAMIBIA
Built in 1909 by retired Schutztruppe Captain Hansheinrich Von Wolf, the castle stands on the high ground looking south-wards onto a ...

 

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Duwisib Castle a history

Residence of the Hansheirich & Jayta von Wolf

     

Hansheinrich von Wolf

Hansheinrich Von Wolf

 

Hansheinrich Von Wolf was born in Dresden on 11th January 1873. The son of Ernst Von Wolf who was a Major General in the Royal Saxon Army. The Von Wolf family were a respected and noble Saxony family, but Hans-Heinrich was not a Baron, as is often reported. In November 1890 he joined 1st Royal Saxon Field Artillery Regiment No. 12 as an Ensign. In August 1891 he was promoted to Second Lieutenant. Hans-Heinrich traveled to Egypt in 1896 where he traveled into the desert with a camel caravan. He was maturing to be a most handsome man who stood 1.98 meters tall.  1898 saw his further promotion to First Lieutenant. In 1899 he was detailed to the Military Equestrian Academy at Hanover. In 1900 he served as Lieutenant with 4th Field Regiment No. 48 Mounted Section at Konigsbruck near Dresden. Later in the year he was returned to the Military Equestrian Academy at Hanover as a Riding Instructor and in 1901 was promoted to Captain, 4th Field Regiment No. 48 Konigsbruck near Dresden.

 

xGertrud Woermann Beached

The Gerturd Woermann

Beached north of

Swakopmund

German South West Africa was plunged into a state of war in January 1904 when the Herero tribe rose up against the German occupation of the country. The Nama tribe also joined in the liberation struggle the following year. The uprisings soon proved to be a serious threat to the German settlers and military alike. The Colonial Military Force known as Schutztruppe suffered several early defeats. Far away in the Fatherland young men were answering the call to Active Foreign Service and Hans-Heinrich applied to be retired from the Royal Saxon Army and at the age of 31 years volunteered for service in the Colony of German South West Africa by mid October was appointed as Commander 2nd Reserve Battery in the Schutztruppe. On 26 October the steam ship 'Gertrud Woermann' sailed out of Hamburg carrying 25 Officers, 376 NCO's and men along with 300 horses. On 19 November the ship stranded on the beache 10kms north of Swakopmund. The Ship Vineta was close by and offered assistance. Von Wolf arrived in Swakopmund on 20 November from where he was quickly dispatched to Gibeon-Kranz, then for a short time to Maltahohe, from where he again moved to serve at Gochas as Commander 5th Battery.

 

Active Service: On 17 May 1905 Captain Von Wolf leading a patrol consisting of 28 Schutztruppe were engaged in battle at Kowes on the Auob River about 30kms south of Gochas. The enemy, the Franzmann Hottentots were lead by Captain Simon Kopper, an experienced bush fighter, and were a far superior force both in manpower and weaponry. The German patrol soon lost several officers and cavalrymen and it became apparent to Von Wolf that the most pragmatic action would be that of a planned hasty withdrawal in order to avoid a total disaster, leaving behind a field gun and weighty ammunition. German soldiers or civilians who were taken prisoner by the native forces were known to suffer from a slow and agonizing death. A following enquiry exonerated the Captain of any misdeeds and he returned to active duty where, on 25 September, he once again engaged in battle with Simon Kopper's forces at Aubes - 15km south of Gochas, and again at Zwartfontein, north of Gochas on 13 October. The Captain must have performed his duties to the satisfaction of his superiors, for on 2 November 1905 he was awarded the Royal Prussian order of the Red Eagle, 4th Class with Swords; and on 27 January 1906 -  the Royal Saxon order - Knight's Cross 1st Class with Swords.

 

Jayta Von Wolf

Jayta Von Wolf

Return To Germany and Marriage: On 16 April 1906 having received permission for home leave after receiving wounds in action Hansheinrich sailed from Swakopmund on the imperial mail steamer 'Professor Woermann'. The beginning of October saw his retirement from the Schutztruppe and rejoining his 'old' regiment in the Royal Saxon Army as Battery Commander 2nd Field Artillery, Regiment No.28. The dashing young officer returned from Colonial duties was a welcome addition to the social circuit of Dresden where he was soon to become romantically involved with the step daughter of the American Consul General. On 8 April 1907 Hansheinrich and Jayta Humphries were married, and on 25 April they departed from Hamburg on the mail ship Windhuk, bound for Swakopmund - South West Africa

 

Return to South West Africa: On 25 May 1907 the newly wed couple arrived at the port of Swakopmund where shortly after they boarded the train to Windhoek and booked into the KaiserKrone Hotel. Hansheinrich, though not a Baron by birth had a desire to become a Land Baron in the fledgling Colony and made application to the Government to purchase several farms within the of Duwisib totaling about 140,000 hectare. The application was treated with an amount of skepticism and he was granted Schwarzschaf- Duwisib as two lots of land totaling 20,000 for which he paid an average of 40 pfennig per hectare. He immediately submitted further application to purchase more land.

 

Duwisib Castle: The recent experience of the native uprising from 1904 - 1907 and the remoteness of the farm must have influenced the couple's decision as to the type of home they wanted when they commissioned the well know South West architect Wilhelm Sander to design for them a castle. Measuring 35 x 31 meters and built from locally quarried stone; equipped with heavy reinforced doors and small windows it can be seen that the building designed to withstand a siege. Sander incorporated the all of the comforts of a modern house. The plumbing and sanitation fittings along with steel and woodwork, cement and lighting all had to be shipped in from Germany and then be transported from Luderitz a further 300kms by oxen wagon. Hansheinrich and Jayta lived on-site in tents as did the construction team. The society girl proved to be a perfect match for the colonial military man, turned rancher, and settled into the outdoor life with ease. They both took an active part with the construction of the building and Hansheinrich planted the palm tress that can be seen in the courtyard to this day. By mid year the castle was taking shape. 

 

The small, but impressive 'knight's' entrance hall had two fireplaces, a singer's gallery and beneath it a wine cellar. To the left was a reception room and dining room. The master bedroom lay to the right of the entrance hall and had a direct access to a bathroom that it shared with one of the family bed rooms that was accessed from the rear courtyard. Hanging on the east wall of the Knight's Hall are two beautiful examples of a cavalry saber and a military dress sword that were presents from his brother in law and are engraved ' Horst Von Metzsch S/L Hanheinrich Von Wolf '

 

A Visit to Germany: The land matter became protracted and the end of 1908 saw the couple back in Germany lobbying the Imperial Colonial Office in Berlin for a further 150,000 hectares of which the Government granted 30,000. The Von Wolf's made use of this visit to choose a selection of suitable furniture for their planned home at Duwisib.

 

Return to South West Africa: On 17 March 1909 the mail ship Windhoek sailed from Hamburg carrying the Von Wolf couple along with furniture and building supplies for their new house. They disembarked at Luderitz and trekked to Duwisib where considerable progress had been made. Mid 1909 witnessed the opening celebrations of Duwisib Castle in the form of a festival to which many of the colony's prominent society attended.

 

Duiwisib Castle - The Farm:  Throughout the early years of the Colony horses and mules had been shipped in through the ports of Luderitz and Swakopmund. Von Wolf saw the Schutztruppe and the Colonial Police to be a lucrative market for locally bred stock. By early November had stocked the farm with 95 Hereford cattle, 18 mules and donkeys, 600 Merino sheep, 10 pigs and 60 chicken. With his expert knowledge of horses he began to build his breeding stock and brought in 72 horses of which 38 were mares of value; 9 were thoroughbreds.

Hansheinrich also took an active interest in local affairs and in 1909 was elected to the District Council of Maltahohe and the 'Landesrat', an advisory assembly to the Colonial Government.

The farm continued to grow and by 1911 the herd was up to 350 horses and he had been wise to see the opportunities of breeding the 'black gold' Karakul sheep. His flock had grown to 8,500. In 1912 he was elected to represent the farmers by sitting on the first Railways Council.

 

28 June 1914: It was on this morning while traveling in motorcade through the streets of Sarajevo, the capital city of Bosnia Herzegovina, that Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie were assassinated by Gavrilo Princip a Serbian nationalist. The date was significant for it is the anniversary of the 1389 battle of Kosovo when the Serbs were defeated by the Moslem Turks. Serbia had regained its' independence from the Ottomans in 1878, but had been annexed by Austria-Hungary in 1908; an action that had only served to fuel Serbian nationalism. On 28th of July 1914 the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on 'Little Serbia' thus setting off a chain reaction that would plunge the countries of Europe and eventually the United States of America into total war.

 

The Last Voyage: On 1 August 1914 Hansheinrich and Jayta boarded the mail ship Gertrud Woermann at Luderitz bound for Hamburg via Swakopmund. On 3 August the ship sailed from Swakopmund into a world of uncertainty. The following day the British Government, having received no timely response from Germany for the cessation of hostilities, declared war. The German merchant vessel known to be a transporter of military personnel took evasive action and diverted its' course to Brazil in order to avoid capture by the British Navy. It was through a series of clandestine moves that Hansheinrich eventually managed to make his way back to Germany and The War.

 

During the early part of 1915 Captain Hansheinrich Von Wolf reported for duty with his former regiment. He was promoted to rank of Major and was drafted to Flanders where he received minor wounds. Before he had fully recovered he was posted to France as Battery Commander of the Reserve Infantry Regiment N0. 242. On Monday 4 September near to the village of La Foret,  Hansheinrich Von Wolf died from wounds received in the Battle of the Somme.

 

Jayta Von Wolf: Following her husband's death, Jayta moved from Dresden to Munich where her stepfather served as Consul General. She later moved to Lake Teger where she lived in a villa. Her movements in diplomatic circles brought her into contact with Erich Schlemmer who was the Consul General to the King of Siam. Late in the turbulent 1930's Jayta wisely moved to live in Zurich, Switzerland. In 1946 she returned to the USA and lived with her parents in Summit New Jersey. In her later years, whenever asked about the time she had spent in the German Colony of South West Africa she would smile and reply, "Ah! That was a very interesting experience, you know."  Jayta died in the early 1960s.

 

 

I wondered what this was all about?

There is a small un-interesting room that leads from the Singer's Gallery. It's directly above the entrance door and has a small balcony. The outlook is over the mountain range to the south, and I suppose many people just wander in have a look at the view and wander out. However, if you look above you'll find a mural painted on the ceiling. There is a scene showing a Zeppelin. The man is holding what could be an ice-pick-axe. The white streak to the right of the air-ship is just cracked paint. At the time Duwisib Castle was built the Military Zeppelin was at the forefront of aerial technology and was representative of Germany's technological prowess. It is likely that the Von-Wolfs had seen such an airship whilst in Germany, and thought they would bring a first world memory to Africa with them. Within a period of 100 years, scientific advancements have seen the

 

Airship replaced by propeller and then jet powered aircraft, rocket power and men landing on the Moon, the Hubble Telescope, and deep space probes travelling far beyond the outer reaches of our solar-system.

 
 

Acknowledgements and further reading: GV6, H4, P2     ►   Duwisib Castle 1  

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