I share the documents on this page in the hope that others will find some value in the many thousands of hours of work I (and others) have invested in creating them.
My personal memoir entitled Shaking Hands with Billy is now available for online ordering. Click here for a televised interview. I have removed all other reference to this book from my website, other than a few of the short stories used as text boxes (see My Short Stories page).
My Family History is long and complex. I have tried to make sense of it by thinking of each major family surname as an individual strand in a larger rope. Each strand consists of the male line, ending in a female whose name is then changed on marriage as is the custom of our culture. This means that my main strand is Turton, which ends with my daughter Melissa; my second main strand is Jordaan, which ended with my mother Heather Kathleen; my third main strand is Cloete, which ended with my maternal grandmother Ethel Hendrina; and my fourth main strand is Pistorius, which ended with my paternal grandmother Alice Hope. So one can work backwards from the present tracing the different strands to the earlier van der Merwe's, the Botha's, the Viljoen's etc etc. These main strands are depicted visually in the following files:
Click here to download the PDF of the Turton Family Strand
Click here to download the PDF of the Jordaan Family Strand
Click here to download the PDF of the Pistorius Family Strand
Click here to download the PDF of the Cloete Family Strand
Click here to download the PDF of the Botha Family Strand
Click here to download the PDF of the Van Der Merwe Family Strand
Click here to download the PDF of the De Bruyn Family Strand
As a scientist I am interested in the processing of complex data in order to get a reasonable solution that is understandable to ordinary people. In my professional work on hydropolitics I have developed a methodology that enables data to be contextualized in an effort to help the user of that data to understand what dynamics were at work in a given historic context. This I have applied to my own Family History. In the following files I have married together two separate datasets - my Genealogy and the known history of my country - in order to understand the settings in which my family lived over time. This yields a product that has different utility to different users. The files dealing with post 1975 period go into great detail about the Armed Struggle phase of our history and will thus be of interest to scholars and veterans alike.
The first file of my Family History deals with the Pre-1700 Period. This includes the pre-European settlement phase in southern Africa, but also goes into detail of the very first settlers to arrive in the Cape. My family genealogy starts in this time with the Cloete family strand that arrived with Jan van Riebeek. This era also sees the arrival of the first French Huguenots, which became an important part of my ancestors in the form of the Jordaan family. The first known autopsy was performed in this period, significantly on a relative of mine - Charles Marais - who was murdered by a Khoikhoi man named Edescha in 1689. More significantly the autopsy was performed by another relative of mine - Jean Prieur du Plessis - the local surgeon. This era is one of great violence with many murders having taken place. These were all recorded in great detail by the Dutch East India Company, who seemed to be obsessed by record-keeping. One gets an insight into the difficult life of slaves at this time, some of whom become relatives of mine. I am proud to be able to tell part of their until recently silent story 12 generations later. This act of story telling empowers me and dignifies their former suffering and bondage. Click here to download the PDF file:
The Period 1700 - 1799 is characterized by disease, mostly Smallpox, which disrupts family life and sends survivors scattering far and wide. Records show great suffering, but also great courage in the face of adversity, mostly driven by the ravages of Smallpox. Part of the Cloete family is wiped out in this event and the survivors go wandering into the desert where they start a whole new clan - the so-called Baster Cloete's. The Jordaan family is also affected by this. This period sees the rise of the Trekboer lifestyle when the settlers start to emulate the ancient Khoikhoi survival strategies, yielding a number of peculiarities, most notably what I call Trans-generationalism. This arises when individual women become two different generations on a formal geneological chart and is caused by the death of a husband, leaving the wife stranded in a lonely and hostile place. So many death records coincide with marriage records of the widow who typically gets married to her second (or even third) husband on the date of her former husbands' funeral. There is also a coincidence of death records of a mother, often in her teens, and the birth of her child, indicating death during child-birth. The end of this era sees the first contact with the amaXhosa people and the start of the racial tensions that persisted until the advent of democracy in 1994. Click here to download the PDF file:
The Period 1800 - 1885 sees the Trekboers in full swing as they range far and wide across the frontier. It also sees the onset of the Xhosa Wars, which become a century of bitter conflict, with each new war more extreme than the earlier one. This ends in Total War that leads to the eventual destruction of the Xhosa nation as a functional entity after the Great Cattle Killing of 1857. Running parallel with this is the rise of Zulu nationalism, resulting ultimately in the Mfecane, an event of great destruction in which non-Nguni tribes were decimated, cattle taken and female survivors were given a choice - become an incubator of future Zulu warriors or face the consequences! Into this maelstrom comes the first British settlers, arriving in waves starting with the 1820 Settlers, but including the Turton and Pistorius families in subsequent waves. This era also sees the Great Trek, pushed by the increased hegemony of the British, but also pulled by the depopulation that had arisen from the Mfecane. This era sees the destructon of the amaZulu by the Imperial British at the Battle of Ulundi in 1879, where they are crushed as a coherent nation in much the same way as their amaXhosa brethren were two decades before. This is an "interesting" period of our national and family history, but also one of great uncertainty punctuated by events of extreme violence. I believe that this era gave my family much of the character that they display today - great resourcefulness, general suspicion of outsiders and a strong belief in family values and symbols of identity. Click here to download the PDF file:
The Period 1886 - 1910 sees extreme turmoil triggered by the discovery of mineral wealth, most notably gold but also diamonds. This initiates great social instability as families move, as wealth is created and lost, and as the extreme violence of the Second Anglo Boer War sweeps across the troubled land like a tornado of great destruction. This tragic event sees the first use of Concentration Camps by the British in an attempt to prevent the Boer guerilla fighters from beating the British (known as Bitter Einders - those that choose to fight to the bitter end), supported by a brutal Scorched Earth Policy, the combination of which literally decimates the entire Boer population (10% are killed as a result, mostly non-combatants and mostly in the Concentration Camps as farms are razed to the ground, livestock is confiscated and the women and children are driven into custody). It also sees the tragic fragmentation of the Afrikaner nation into three factions that seem unable to be reconciled even to this day: the Joiners (those who capitulated early and joined the British aggressors in destroying the remaining recalcitrant Boers); the Hensoppers (those simply capitulated and stopped fighting, but fell short of actually joining the "enemy" in their quest to crush their own nation); and the Bitter Einders (those who elected to fight to the very bitter end). Parts of my family are in each of these three camps, the most notable being the Botha clan, family of General Louis Botha (related to my Maternal Grandmother), who was a renowned Bitter Einder. This is a sad perod of family history, leaving a rich legacy to be explored by tourists, but also a fascinating one, filled with stories of resourcefulness, dignity and the will to succeed in the face of adversity. To know more of the British Concentration Camps click here and here and here and here. To know more about the Australian angle to the Second Anglo Boer War click here. To download the PDF file click here.
The Period 1911 - 1974 is a relatively uneventful one for our family history dominated by the post Anglo Boer War reconstruction, based mostly on the expansion of mining and infrastructure to sustain that mining. The two World Wars see South African involvement in various forms, with many of my family fighting in the Western Desert, most notably during the Battle of Al Alamein, in which the Cloete and the Turton family had members active. This is also the period that sees the birth of both Afrikaner Nationalism and African Nationalism in response to the marginalization of the respective communites by the British Imperial overlords, who were focussed only on the extraction of the great mineral wealth of this country. This is an era of plunder of our national resource wealth by the British, who were rejected in 1961 when South Africa became a Republic - seen as a triumph of Afrikaner Nationalism - and the supression of the black population under the policy of Apartheid as victim became perpetrator. During this period the Armed Struggle is born, starting the slow but steady slide into anarchy, eventually engulfing my entire generation in one form or another. To download the PDF file click here.
The Period 1975 - 2011 is a very complex one for our family history, dominated in South Africa by the Cold War that was being waged in the southern African region. Embedded in this larger global conflict are many local wars, including the Second War of Chimurenga in Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe), the Mozambican and Angolan Wars of Liberation, the Namibian War of Liberation and the South African War of Liberation, known as the Armed Struggle. Given that I was directly invloved in this period, serving in a number of different roles over time, I have covered this era in great detail. This period is extremely interesting, because it sees the demise of the Cold War, with the last battle of that larger war being fought in the upper reaches of the Okavango River Basin - the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale - the accurate history of which has yet to be written. This battle, fought over two years as a series of skirmishes of differing intensity and magnitude and one final big battle, saw a South African force engage a combined Angolan, Russian (part of the force disengaging from Afghanistan) and Cuban force in which they were outnumbered 10 to 1. It also saw rapid changes in military tactics and strategy, and is a remarkable crucible of learning for scholars interested in such matters, specifically Special Force tactics. The final Battle of Cuito Cuanavale was bigger than the Battle of Al Alamein, and yet very few people are even aware that it took place at all, with none but the veterans seeming to show the slightest interest in the event (click here for an insightful Cuban version of the event). This period also sees the ending of these various wars as the USSR collapsed, creating space in which negotiations could rapidly end local wars in some countries (South Africa and Namibia), but not as speedily in others (Angola and Mozambique). The triumph of this period is CODESA, which laid the foundation for a democratic, unified and relatively peaceful country, united under one flag and one constitution. Given my unique insider involvement in many of these wars and processes - as a combat soldier, intelligence officer in a Special Operations team and later academic and scientist - I have tried to record the details as accurately as I am able to, conscious of my potiental loss of objectivity by virtue of my close involvement. This file has now grown so large and complex that I have split it into two smaller files. The first deals with the period 1975 - 1986, which is mostly about the external conflict. The second deals with the period 1987 - 2011, which transitioned as an external conflict into an internal conflict after the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale. The latter period now starts to show an alarming trend that some are starting to call the early phases of a possible genocide. Having lived through such violent times I no longer consider this to be the lonely call by alarmists, and am starting to consider this to be a real possibility, driven by a breakdown in political leadership, a loss of respect for the rule of law and a general breakdown in the police and military forces, now weakened by endemic corruption and inapropriate leadership. While the data is still unclear, we can pose a new set of questions: If this is a Genocide, then what is an approriate response under international law? If it is not a genocide, then is this simply a slow slide into anarchy as law and order breaks down and murders increase, even as the capacity of the state to respond decreases? The answer is not certain, but this is a new trend that deserves to be monitored more closely. Click here to download a PPT presentation on the topic that gives some statistics and presents my hypothesis on what we might be witnessing.