The Story of Wolraad Woltemade

Posted on May 23, 2017 by Jerrilee.
Categories: health, history, military, riding.


Statue depicting Wolraad Woltemade near Woltemade train station, Cape Town.

On the morning of 1 June 1773, near mid-winter in the southern hemisphere, a sailing ship named the De Jonge Thomas,[2] was driven ashore in a gale onto a sand bar at the mouth of the Salt River in Table Bay. Many lives were lost as the ship started to break up but a substantial number of survivors were left clinging to the hull. The stricken ship was not too far from dry land and many sailors attempted to swim ashore. Most of those who did so perished; the water was cold and the current from the nearby Salt River too great. Except for the very strongest swimmers, those who headed for the shore were carried out to sea.
A crowd of spectators stood on the beach. Some came to watch, others to try to help and yet others were hoping to loot the cargo that was being washed ashore. A detachment of soldiers was in attendance, to keep order amongst the spectators. Corporal Christian Ludwig Woltemade, the youngest son of the elderly Wolraad, was amongst those standing guard. As daylight came, Wolraad left his home on horseback, taking provisions to his son.
As he reached the beach, Wolraad was filled with pity for the sailors marooned aboard the wreck. Seeing that nothing could be done by those on the beach, he mounted his horse, Vonk (“Spark” in English) and urged the animal into the sea. As they approached the wreck, Woltemade turned the horse and called for two men to jump into the sea and grasp the horse’s tail. After a moment of hesitation, two men threw themselves into the water and did so, whereupon Woltemade urged the horse forward and dragged them to shore. Wolraad rode out seven times, bringing back fourteen men. By this time he and his horse were exhausted, but at that moment, as they rested, the ship began to collapse. Wolraad once more urged his horse into the water but by now the desperation amongst the sailors was tremendous. Seeing this as probably their last chance to escape before the ship was destroyed, six men plunged into the sea, grabbing at the horse. Their weight was too much for the exhausted steed; all were dragged below the waves and drowned.[3]
Woltemade’s body was found the next day, but the horse was not found.
Of the 191 souls on board, only 53 survived and of these 14 were saved by Woltemade.
Thanks to Wikipedia for photo and story

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