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After the massacare of Piet Retief and his men by Dingaan on 6 February 1838, a number of Voortrekker camps were also attacked by the Zulu impis. These Voortrekkers appealed to other treks, particularly those of Piet Uys and Hendrik Potgieter in the Orange Free State, for help. Both treks send out commandos to help, including Uys' fifteen-year-old son, Dirkie. During the subsequent Battle of Italeni, Piet Uys was mortally wounded by an assegai while riding to the rescue of two of his cornered men. The rescue party failed.
Opinions of what happened next differ: According to the most common version (mostly told by people who had not been present at the battle), Dirkie Uys was ahead of his father with most of the party when he heard his father ordering one of his men to leave him where he had fallen. Seeing the Zulus closing in on his father, Dirkie Uys turned around his horse, shouting "I will die with my father", and charged. He shot three Zulu warriors, briefly forcing them to retreat, but they rushed at him and stabbed him off his horse. Dirkie Uys fell beside his father, where they were both stabbed to death. This version of events is depicted on one of the historical friezes of the Voortrekker Monument.
South Africa has a deep and significant history, one that is complex and integral to the identity of the modern Rainbow Nation. The Dirkie Uys Monument is one small part of the South African mosaic, a beautiful chapter in the long tale that has brought this country to the democratic, united point that we now enjoy. Dirk Uys and his father, Piet, served together in the Boer War, when the Voortrekkers fought against the Zulu warriors in bloody battles that led to the devastating loss of tens of thousands of British, Boer and African lives. Dirkie was only 15 years old, fighting under the command of his father, when the Zulu impis lured their commando into an attack. Piet was fatally wounded and, as he lay dying, commanded that his men, including Dirkie, flee and save themselves. But his son loyally stayed behind. Unable to leave his dying father at the mercy of the warring Zulu fighters, Dirkie stuck by his side, fighting off as many of the warriors as he could before he was finally killed, laid to a bloody rest next to his father. The Dirkie Uys Monument is situated in Somerset West, less than an hour’s drive outside Cape Town. It commemorates the loss of these two war heroes, but also the loss of the lives of all of the many other men, women and children that succumbed during this turbulent time in South Africa’s history. The monument comprises a stone bench, fashioned after an ox wagon wheel, as well as an ox wagon atop a stone structure bearing the date 1938 to celebrate the centenary of the Great Trek. The monument faces true north and is situated on the large piece of land between two churches (the NG Moedergemeente and the Ou Pastorie Church and Rectory). This is open to the public and there are no charges involved in seeing the monument.
- Ian S. Uys, "The Battle of Italeni", South African Military History Society.
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