Graham Leslie McCallum

The tree of happiness flowers and fruits most abundantly for the creative man

Private H. Deutchmann / alias Maconochie

While researching Hugh Crawford McCallum who perished in the 1st World War, I happened upon the interesting name of a South African soldier who also lost his life in the Great War. His name is recorded in stone for posterity on the War Memorial at Pozieres in France.

Hugh McCallum, Memorial, Pozieres, France

It so happened that as I was scanning the inscribed names for Hugh McCallum (whose name is also recorded on this memorial) my eye was drawn to the name of a soldier who had also made the ultimate sacrifice –  ‘H. DEUTCHMANN’.

H. Deutchmann


The irony of the name was startling, for it translates into English as ‘H. German’. Immediately below his name – the following is inscribed…  SERVED AS MACONOCHIE  H. W.

Many South Africans of German origin or ancestry experienced anti-German hostility during World War 1. As a result – speaking German in public was avoided so as not to draw attention to themselves and their families. Many disguised their teutonic roots by ‘anglizising’ their names. Even German schools in the Eastern Cape where the Deutschmann family lived were closed.  These German settlers had arrived in South Africa following aided-emigration schemes set up by the British government and Colonial authorities in the the mid 1900’s – and so felt a debt of gratitude for their success and new lives. They had escaped the rampant German nationalism of a unified Germany. Also, many had married the local English and Dutch citizens of the Union. They were as loyal to the British Crown as any other Anglo-South African. It is obvious that many felt no special allegiance to Germany, preferring to side with the British in this conflict. Deutschmann, wanting to serve his country (but aware of the anti-German sentiments) deemed it expedient to hide his true identity. It is for this reason that he gave himself a Scottish surname Maconochie to fit in with the many South African Scots who had enlisted.

Deutschmann’s dilemma made me think of my paternal grandfather, Alexander Ernest McCallum, who also served in 1st World War and was wounded several times between 1914 and 1918. Alexander too was of German extraction. He was called by his second name Ernest (in the German tradition) after his maternal German Grandfather Ernst Thomas Friedrich Zweig. Alexander’s mother Louise Rosine McCallum nee’ Zweig had been born in Germany and had voyaged to the Cape of Good Hope with her parents and siblings from Sindringen Wurrtemberg, Germany in 1861. As members of the ‘Vinedresser German Settlers’ they had become loyal British subjects and had prospered in their new homeland. What Alexander’s mother thought of her son going off to war with her kin back in Germany is any one’s guess, or for that matter what she thought when Alexander was wounded at Delville Wood on the 18th of July 1916 and gassed at Armentieres.

My maternal Great Grandmother, Anna Catharina Seitz, had also come from Germany, and had settled in South Africa as members of the Vinedresser German Settlers. Her brother Carl Joseph Seitz, who was born in Germany, also enlisted with the 1st South African Regiment, C Company. He fought at Delville Wood like my paternal grandfather Alexander Ernest McCallum, and was wounded and captured on the 18th of July 1916 on the same day as Alexander. I am certain that Carl (or Charles as he called himself) did not let on to he’s captors that he was German. Of interest – Carl was able to escape, and managed to make his way back to Britain, returning to his unit. No doubt, been able to speak German had helped his escape.

And this brings me back to Private H. DEUTCHMANN, a.k.a MACONOCHIE, Service Number 10271. Who was this unfortunate young soldier?

He was Herbert William Deutschmann. Born c1893 in South Africa. His father was Frederick August Deutschmann and his mother – Helena Wilhelmina Caroline Albrecht. He was a volunteer, who had initially enlisted in the 2nd South African Infantry Regiment. Later, he was transferred to the 4th South African Infantry. Rank – Private. Service No. 10271.

On the 24th March 1918, Herbert was sadly killed, aged only 25. On that tragic Sunday morning, the South African regiments were holding an area near the northern point of  Marrieres Wood, near the village of Bouchavesnes. Once again the South Africans had been called upon to defend a woodland. In the previous years they had already stoically and bravely defended the woods of Delville and Gauche, suffering appalling losses. This dawn, the  Brigade strength was down to only five hundred after frightful recent casualties. Exhausted from lack of sleep, stupefied with fatigue, poisoned by gas and tortured by a ceaseless bombardment they undertook their onerous task. With limited ammunition they defended their positions all day. Some time around 4:15 in the afternoon, there was a determined German assault on the last 100 troops still standing, many of them wounded and with virtually no ammunition left. In affect, the South African Brigade ceased to be. Many survivors were taken prisoner. The Officer Commanding the 1st Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel F.H. Heal D.S.O. had died alongside his men.

It is evident that Herbert’s body was not recovered. He has no grave nor headstone; only a short recording on the Pozieres Memorial in France to remember him by.

(below) Bouchavesnes and Marrieres Wood after the battle, 1918.

Bouchavesnes, Marrieres Wood

The Deutschmann family had arrived in South Africa, East London on the 13 January 1859, on the 1000 ton ship ‘Wilhelmsburg’ from Uckermark, Prussia. They settled at Berlin in Kaffraria, Eastern Cape as farmers.

Graham Leslie McCallum

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