Private, No. 10687, 4th. Regiment (South African Scottish), South African Infantry.
Killed in Action on 11 April 1918, at Messines Ridge, he was 25 years old.
He has no known grave but is remembered with honour on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.
Grave Reference: Panel 15 – 16 and 16A., YPRES (MENIN GATE) MEMORIAL,
Leper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.
He was the Son of Mr. Gert Petrus and Mrs. S. H. G. van Schalkwyk, of Mountain View, Franschhoek, Cape Province
(there is a transcription error in the CWGC details).
Carel was, like his Father, a farmer, it appears that prior to moving to Franschhoek, they lived on a farm near Malmesbury in what, is now, the Vogelgat Nature Reserve. I have not been able to find a farm or property called Mountain View in Franschhoek.
His Father died in 1933 and his Mother in 1945, they are both buried in the Huguenot Museum, Old Cemetery, Franschhoek.
By an extraordinary piece of luck, I made contact with Dave Van Schalkwyk and his wife Michelle. Carel was his Grandfathers Brother. They have kindly provided the photos of Carel and his Parents, they also visited Menin Gate in May 2017.
Carel enlisted in Cape Town, at the age of 23, on 4 December 1916. He embarked for overseas service at Cape Town on R.M.S. Walmer Castle on 24 February 1917, he disembarked at Devonport (Plymouth) 23 March 1917.
He joined the 4th. Regiment of the South African Infantry (SAI) this was the South African Scottish, raised from the Transvaal Scottish and the Cape Town Highlanders, and wearing the Atholl Murray tartan. They also had a Springbok called Nancy as the Regimental Mascot who served all 3 years in France.
The South African Brigade had been all but destroyed in the savage fighting of 1916, particularly the Battle of Delville Wood.
It was re-constituted and in 1917 the brigade took part in the Battle of Arras, April to May, and in the Third Battle of Ypres, July to November. In the latter battle, in a successful advance at Bremen Redoubt near Zonnebeke, Private William Hewitt of 2nd Regiment won the VC.
Possibly the most impressive feat of arms by the South African forces in the war took place in March 1918, when the Germans attacked in Operation Michael. The brigade fought a staunch defence on the first morning of the attack – 21 March 1918 – at Gauche Wood, near Villers Guislain. By 24 March they had carried out a fighting withdrawal to Marrieres Wood near Bouchavesnes and there held on, completely unsupported. They fought on until only some 100 men were left, yet it was only when ammunition ran out that the remnant, many of them wounded, surrendered.
When the enemy launched their second major offensive of 1918, on the Lys, the South African brigade – now in Flanders – was ordered to counter attack at Messines. It did so, with some success, but the enemy attack was overwhelming and over the next days the fight continued with the South Africans being pushed back from the Messines ridge and up the gentle slope to Vierstraat.
Carel was killed in this action, his body, like so many others, was not recovered and was never identified.
The old brigade was effectively destroyed. 1st, 2nd and 4th Regiments were temporarily merged, while other, British, units were attached to carry on the fight. The composite battalion took part in further defensive fighting, at Mount Kemmel. Later in the summer, it took part in the capture of Meteren, as the British Army executed a successful advance in Flanders.
By the armistice, the South Africans had suffered some 15000 casualties in France, of whom one third were dead.
Carel would have been awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, these appear to have been delivered to his next of kin in 1925.
His parents would have also received, in 1919, the sum £14, 3 Shillings and 6 D by way of the accounts of The High Commission of the Union of South Africa, this being his accrued back pay.