Bits & Pieces

An unusual coin unearthed.

heller2In 2007 a resident in Edward Street dug up his garden for paving and found a coin the size of a 5c piece amongst the rubble. After cleaning, it turned out to be a very unusual German 5 Heller (Wilhelm II – Tabora Emergency Coin) struck in brass.

Extensive enquiries revealed that these coins were struck while the General Oberst Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck of the Imperial German Army was busy fending off the attacks of the allies in the East African Offensive under the South African military leader, General J.C. Smuts in 1916.

heller1Smuts led a force of 300,000 soldiers over the mountain slopes of Mt Kilimanjaro and rugged African bush. Vorbeck had just a few thousand troops. Almost surrounded by the enemy, there was a dire shortage of every day items, including brass ingots, so the besieged Germans melted down a 4.1″ brass gun taken from the German Cruiser the SMS Konigsberg that was earlier scuttled in the Rufiji river delta after being sunk by the Allies.

A rudimentary stamp was used at the Tabora “mint” to produce these coins struck crudely out of “gun metal” – resulting in a rough finish. Some 302,000 of the relatively uncommon 5 Heller “gun metal” coins were manufactured in brass and produced, mostly of the thick, oval-base crown variety.


SMS Konigsburg

SMS Konigsburg

How the coin ended in Richmond Hill remains a mystery but it’s believed that one of Smuts’ troops must have lived in the suburb and brought the coin back from the front only to lose it in someone’s garden!

After verification, the Richmond Hill coin was donated to a museum.



Killer gang sleepover.

Contrary to popular belief, Richmond Hill has had it’s fair share of rascals over the years.


22 Dickens Street

22 Dickens Street

Benjamin Bennet describes in his book “Destiny comes too soon” (1955) how a mob of six youngsters (3 men and 3 women) arrived from Benoni on Friday 5 June 1954. Their self-proclaimed leader was Pieter Short. They moved into a rented room at 22 Dickens Street where they stayed for the weekend.

During this time they met a local, one Henry Griesel who joined the group. Over the course of the weekend they stole petrol from cars in Walmer and broke into a furniture store, stealing bedspreads.

Their intention was to rob people who walked the streets alone at night, but this plan was foiled when the store burlary was discovered and they had to flee the city.

Less than a week later Short and Griesel were arrested in Durban after clubbing a lone pedestrian to death in that city.

The engagement of a future State President.


17 Mackay Street

17 Mackay Street

The Port Elizabeth office of the Non-profit Organisation,  Alliance Francaise is located on the corner of Mackay and Raleigh Streets.

During the 1940’s this house at 17 Mackay Street was a boarding house with one of the boarders as B.J. Vorster, later Prime Minister, then State President but finally disgraced for his role in the Info-Scandal.

Whilst a boarder, Mr Vorster and his girlfriend of the time, Ms Tini Malan, announced and celebrated their engagement in this house on 24 August 1940.

A year later they were married in Worcester.

A hidden love letter

farmers1farmers2When a resident in Callington Street went into the ceiling of his house recently, he was surprised to find an old love letter and old supplements to the Farmer’s Weekly.

The letter is dated November 1921  and the supplements March 1918.

The author of the letter is clearly distressed about the way she is treated by her lover. The irony is that the supplements (three years after the letter) are advertisements for engagement rings.

Did the documents relate to each other? One will never know.