Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Frielinghaus Clan

Just less than a century ago, it would not be a mischaracterisation to claim that the name Frielinghaus possessed a certain je ne sais quoi. With a house in the elegant Matopos at No. 68 Park Drive, they were the embodiment of success.

Main picture: HO Chappie Frielinghaus

Heinrich Frielinghaus, Father of HO

Heinrich Frielinghaus, a wool broker, who worked for a German firm, and who had emigrated from Germany at the age of 16, because he could not condone the militant Prussianism which was about to result in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 was born on 14th November 1852 and died at 68 on the 1st December 1920. He was the husband of Maria Magdalene and the father of Heinrich Oloff, Frederick Victor and Arthur Frielinghaus as well as Rita Rose-Innes. Heinrich was in the wool business in Port Elizabeth

Maria Magdalena Fehrsen had been born in Bonn, Germany, whilst her father, a Swedish Doctor, Fehrsen, was studying to further his career.  In due course she came back to South Africa, where she was educated at the Renish Institute, Stellenbosch, in company with such as the Schreiners, Morkels, Van der Byls, Cloetes, Marais, Brummers, Smuts, and a host of others, whose names already filled the history books – and would continue to do so henceforth.

Frielinghaus’ coat of arms

While she was being educated, her brothers, Jim (?) and John, were practicing medicine in the farming areas surrounding Cradock and Middleburg, Cape.  They thought nothing of riding 30 miles to see a sick patient, and of staying for days while they cared for them. 

In due course, Maria Magdalena Fehrsen went to live in Cradock, where she met Heinrich Frielinghaus. In Cradock all their children were born.  Heinrich Oloff, “Chappie”, followed by Marguerite, Frederich Victor (Fritz) and Arthur.  Shortly after the birth of Arthur the family moved to Port Elizabeth, where Heinrich started his own wool broking firm, Earle & Co, doing brisk business with Germany, England, Italy and Japan.

Being German, the three sons, who attended a private school somewhere near Havelock Street, often had to fight their way home through the piece of open commonage known today as St. George’s Park, dominated by ruffians of English descent.  Sturdy and agile “Chappie”, and gigantic “Fritz” soon taught them a lesson and they were allowed to pass in peace.

The “Three Musketeers” attended St. Andrews College in Grahamstown, where their faces appeared with monotonous regularity in rugby and cricket team photographs, between 1904 and 1909, in company with students such as Harold and Oswald Sampson, Rudd, Boch, Brewster and others.

Theirs was the era between the Boer War and the Act of Union in 1910.  Nobody then foresaw the imminence of the 1914-1918 War (the Great War) but, when it came, Chappie and Arthur joined up at once – and fought in East Africa. According to Francis Brett Young, who was their unit’s Medical Officer, Arthur should have been awarded the M.C. for his part one night in holding the Germans at bay during an encounter with them

Maria Magdalena Frielinghaus frequently used to write to her sons as they fought as Lieutenants in the Royal Rhodesian Regiment, and later, as they fought in France.

Rhodesia Regiment Insignia

Chappie, wounded and gassed, survived to mount a Guard of Honour for King George V, at Buckingham Palace in 1918.  Arthur, taken prisoner at the ferocious battle of “Hill 60” near Ypres, remained in captivity, although he tried twice to escape.  Fritz, after getting water in his ears at Humewood Beach, became almost stone deaf, and was rejected for service.

Maria Magdalena Frielinghaus also wrote to her daughter Marguerite Frielinghaus during 1911/1912, while she was at a “finishing school” in Germany, and while she studied at Dresden, and when, on her return, she nursed in East London – waiting until she could marry Harry John Rose-Innes, who waited twelve years to marry her. (1907 to 1918).  They were married in June 1918, and had only three years of married life together, before she died at age 32, of pneumonia, after giving birth to Marguerite (Rita), in December 1920.

Notification of relinquishing commission in London Gazette dated 12 April 1919

Maria Magdalena (Miemie) wrote to her children to tell of her great sadness at the death of her husband, Heinrich, in March 1921, who died of a broken heart following the death of his only daughter.

Heinrich Olaf Frielinghaus – “Chappie”

Early life

HO Frielinghaus was born in Cradock on April 14, 1888 and moved to Port Elizabeth with his parents, Heinrich and Maria, at the age of six. He was educated at St Andrew’s College in Grahamstown and went on to Rhodes University for a while before going up to Rhodesia to join the Bank of Africa, now First National Bank. Two years with the bank were followed by a spell with a stockbroking firm and a mining house.

Chappie & Eilieen Freilinghaus

It must have been during this period that Chappie met Eileen Webb, born of pioneering Rhodesian stock, who resided in Bulawayo. Then came the outbreak of World War I. Frielinghaus joined the 2nd Rhodesian Regiment and shortly afterwards, he was posted to German East Africa as part of this Regiment. After returning from the East African Campaign in 1917, they were married in Bulawayo and Chappie was off to war again, but this time it was the death-trap of trench warfare in France. Nine months later while crouching in the trenches to avoid enemy fire, Chappie received notification of the birth of his first child. It was sad news. Being a “blue baby”, he had not survived. Given the slaughterhouse that was France, Chappie himself was fortunate not to be a casualty.

Chappie and Eilieen Freilinghaus

After the war Chappie joined his father in his wool business in Port Elizabeth.

Matopos, 68 Park Drive

Lot No. 29, No. 68 Park Drive, known as “Rocklands” was built in 1896 for Mrs. E.H. Townsend. According to Margaret Harradine in her book Cottages on the Hill, H.O. Frielinghaus purchased this house in 1920 but according to Derek Frielinghaus, it must have been prior to 1915 that H.O.’s father, also called Heinrich who purchased it when he relocated to Port Elizabeth from Cradock. His logic is that during anti-German protests in May 1915 arising from the sinking of the American passenger liner, the Lusitania, by a German U-Boat, a rowdy group of anti-German protestors demonstrated outside no. 68. In their rampage they had set the Liedertafel or German Club in Western Road ablaze, razing it to the ground. Their grounds for assuming that Heinrich was German were based upon the fact that he spoke English with a heavy German accent. This small but rowdy crowd soon attracted the intention of the police who on enquiring what all the fuss was about started to laugh. They informed the agitated crowd that the man living in 68 Park Drive had two sons fighting for England in France

Remnants of the German Club after the anti-German protests

If the facts above are correct, then it can be assumed H.O. Frielinghaus purchased it from his father in 1920 when it was altered to plans drafted by Jones & McWilliams and subsequently renamed Matopos. Due to the value of land along Park Drive, it was subsequently demolished for flats of the same name. Fortunately, a reminder has been retained in the form of the original boundary wall and the summerhouse constructed in 1921.

The two photos below were taken about 85 years apart. The shot taken in c1930 shows H.O. or “Chappie” Frielinghaus in the garden and in the other photo are his two grandsons, Pete and Derek, about 85 years later.

Matopos in Park Drive
Matopos in Park Drive with Pete & Derek Frielinghaus

1925 Host to Prince of Wales

During the 13th and 14th May 1925, the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VIII, visited Port Elizabeth. The very popular Prince made a series of tours to the Dominions after the war; the fourth and last in 1925 to Africa and South America. Port Elizabeth was en fete and decorated. The Male Voice Choir was at the station to sing the Welsh nation­al anthem when the Prince arrived, and HMS “Birmingham”, at anchor in the Bay, fired a salute. Thousands gathered to see him. There was a chic welcome, and the Prince was the first to sign the City’s Golden Book. Although a visit to the Snake Park was not part of the organised itinerary, the Prince requested particularly to see it and the famous handler, Johannes Molikoe, and F.W. Fitzsimons, had hurried­ly to be located.

Thousands of schoolchildren were assembled at several points for the Prince to meet them, and all had been taught to sing “God bless the Prince of Wales“. The Prince stayed at the P.E. Club. In the evening there was a reception and ball in the decorated Feather Market Hall and on the way the Prince unexpectedly stopped at the Drill Hall where a boxing tournament for local men and the Navy had been organised by the BESL. The whole visit was a resounding success.

What the history books neglect to inform the reader is what the prince did in the hours during which he was not on official duty. As we are aware, the Prince had an eye for the women, whether married or not and in this case, it was the vivacious Eileen Frielinghaus who caught his eye. Being part of the local gentility, and not part of the hoi polio, they were amongst the local dignitaries invited to attend the ball held in the Feathermarket Hall. One after the other, the young women were presented to the charming Prince who would perform his royal duty by dancing with each for a few turns and asking some trivial question about life at the southern end of nowhere.

Sixty years later, Mrs Frielinghaus would freely admit that the Prince had broken protocol in numerous significant ways with her. Firstly, instead of waiting to be introduced to her, he ignored etiquette and asked Eileen to dance with him. What really got the rest of the females atwitter was the fact that he hogged Eileen by dancing with her all the times and not dancing with anybody else thereafter. Even more flagrantly outrageous was the Prince’s request whether a private party could be arranged after the ball. Chappie, Eileen’s husband, graciously took up the challenge and approached the orchestra to relocate to 68 Park Drive, his private residence, after the ball. In the interim, Eileen dashed home, presumably waking the servants, and prepared the house for the royal guests. Chappie then invited some intimate friends to join them. In a festive mood, the Prince entertained the guests by playing the ukulele. Gussie’s Orchestra must have suitably reimbursed as the Prince only departed at 4am for the P.E. Club where he was staying.

Much later that day whilst having a much-delayed breakfast, a hand delivered letter appeared at their house. It was from the Prince and hand written on the letterhead of the P.E. Club. It profusely thanked them for the hospitality afforded them at such short notice. What strikes one is what enamoured the Prince, apart from Eileen’s charm, was the informality of their party.   

1929 Cricket Tour to the UK

Chappie took a huge interest in cricket. In recognition of his support for the sport, he was appointed as the Honorary Manager of the SA Cricket Team during their 1929 tour of England.

1929 SA Cricket team on tour to the UK with HO as the Honorary Manager

The South African team was noted for their fondness for stealing teaspoons whenever and wherever they could. At the invitation of the Lord Mayor of London, to partake of a formal dinner, the captain H.G. Deane suddenly came to the realisation what might happen if the team did their normal stint and pocketed the priceless teaspoons.

He immediately went to HO and asked him to get permission from the Lord Mayor whether grace could be said in Afrikaans. This was readily agreed to but what came out of the Captain’s mouth was far from a prayer that ever could be. In a booming voice he announced: “As einig een van jou donders ‘n f…n teelepen steel, sal ek jou persoonalik opneuk, Amen”. The team was dumbstruck. Not a voice was spoken as the team members absorbed the import of what the captain had said. Deane had made his point and not one teaspoon was stolen that night.

Signature on cricket tour

Frielinghaus Gate and Stand

Most cricket lovers would be aware of St George’s Park, St George’s Park Cricket Ground, Crusaders Ground or simply Crusaders as it is a cricket ground in St George’s Park. It is the home of the Port Elizabeth Cricket Club, one of the oldest cricket clubs in South Africa, and the Eastern Province Club. It is also one of the venues at which Test matches and One Day Internationals are played in South Africa. It is older than Kingswood College in Grahamstown. The ground is notable for its brass band that plays during major matches, adding a unique flavour to its atmosphere. The ground hosted its first Test match in March 1889 when England defeated South Africa by 8 wickets. This was South Africa’s first Test match. 

Freilinghaus Gate

Even though some might even have heard of the Duckpond end, the majority of spectators today are unaware of who H.O. or “Chappie” Frielinghaus was and why the gates and stand were named after him.

Plaque on Frielinghaus Pavilion

“Chappie” had been a great enthusiast as a player both for the Port Elizabeth Cricket Club and Crusaders. When his playing days were over, he became an administrator of note and was appointed manager of “Mummy” Deane’s touring team to England in 1929. He later became President of the Eastern Province Rugby Union.

The Frielinghaus Stand on the left

On the 16 April 1938 there was great excitement when the new stand at the P.E. Cricket Club ground was opened by H.O. Frielinghaus MPC and named the “Chappie Frielinghaus Stand“. Costing £12,000 and seating between eight and nine thousand people, it was designed by Eaton and Merrifield and built by Murray and Stewart. Owned jointly by the PECC and the Crusaders Rugby Club, it was named in honour of H 0 “Chappie” Frielinghaus, the sitting member of Parliament for Port Elizabeth South.

The Frielinghaus Stand today

It was a magnificent structure for its time and had modern dressing rooms and a fine lounge and was home to the Eastern Province Cricket Union.

His love of cricket and rugby drew him into community service which later expanded in all directions.

He was President of the Port Elizabeth Chamber of Commerce, the Wool Buyers’ Federation, the EP Woolbuyers’ Association, the EP Rugby Union, the EP Cricket Union, the Port Elizabeth Club, the BESI (PE), and the Crusader Football Club.

He was a member of the South African Shipping Board, the Post Office Consultative Committee, the Port Elizabeth Harbour Advisory Board, the Executive of the Chambers of Commerce of South Africa, the South African Rugby Board, the SA Cricket Board of Control, a steward of the PE Turf Club, honorary manager of the SA cricket team to England in 1929 and chief honorary defence liaison officer (PE Fortress Command) during World War II.

Politics

He started off his membership of the United Party in the 1920s. In 1935 he became a provincial councillor for Port Elizabeth South. Thirteen years later the constituency sent him to Parliament. He was an MP for the next 13 years, retiring from politics in 1961.

The story behind the note from Jan Smuts is that HO had received his son’s (Geoffrey) call up papers so he forwarded these to Jan Smuts with a note giving Geoffrey’s POW address and said that he son would be delighted to join up if Jan Smuts could arrange it and gave his POW address. This was Jannies reply to HO ( with out actually saying he would do his best to get Geoffrey out of Italy so he could serve in the army.) Tongue in cheek

Summary

FRIELINGHAUS, Heinrich Oloff (Chappie) b. Cradock 14 April 1888 d. 24 Nov 1968 m. Eileen Webb on 11 April 1917

Occupation: As a young man he was in Rhodesia and after serving in the 2nd Rhodesian Regt in World War 11, he joined Earle and Co here, the firm of wool merchants founded by his father in 1915

Interests: PE Produce Assoc, Harbour Advisory Board. He was a very keen sportsman – rugby, cricket, swimming, Turf Club. In 1929 he was the Hon Manager of the SA Cricket Team which toured England.

Geoffrey and John Frielinghaus

During WW2, Chappies’ two sons, both Lieutenants, served in East and North Africa. One, Geoffrey, was captured at Sidi Rezegh in November 1941 while the other, John, was killed at Gazala on 16th June 1942.

Geoff Frielinghaus as a POW
John Frielinghaus & Peter Sampson – ALAMEIN MEMORIAL Panel 111
El Alamein Memorial

Geoffrey Frielinghaus was a Lieutenant in the anti-aircraft artillery. During the Battle of Tobruk he was in charge of four Bofors guns when he witnessed this dramatic rescue as recounted by his son, Derek Frielinghaus. After witnessing four Hurricanes taking off from the airfield which they guarded, they were disconcerted when only aircraft returned from the patrol. As the gunners personally knew all the pilots and vice versa, there was a natural camaraderie between the two groups. Sorrow turned to elation when two people stepped out of the cramped cockpit of one of the planes. How they managed to both not only fit into such a tiny space designed for only one occupant but also how Bob Kershaw managed to pilot the plane in such circumstances, is unimaginable. But as the saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention”

After the fall of Tobruk, there was no further communication from Geoff apart from a terse telegram from the Union Defence Force notifying them that their son was missing. As his mother, Eileen Frielinghaus, was extremely concerned about his welfare, she naturally feared that he had been killed when Rommel’s Afrika Korps overran the bastion. One day will strolling on King’s Beach she encountered a wounded soldier who informed her that he had seen Geoff alive after their surrender to Rommel’s troops. It was only after meeting this person that she received the attached post cards from the Italian military confirming he was indeed still alive and being held as a POW of the Italians.  

Events at 68 Park Drive during WW11

 These are the post cards that HO & Eileen Frielinghaus received at their home at 68 Park Drive Port Elizabeth bearing the good news that their son Tuppy (Geoff) was still alive after being captured in the battle of Sidi Rezegh on the 23rd November 1941

Below is the German POW (Prisoner of War) ID card showing a rather thin Geoff in the photograph but what is interesting is that he has re-Christened his father from Heinrich Olof to Henry Oliver. Geoff later explained that at that time the Nazis were encouraging prisoners with German ancestry to work for them and spy on fellow POWs. To throw them off the scent, he changed his father’s name so that the Gestapo would assume that the family was long since Angelised.

Sadly on the 15th March 1943 HO & Eileen Frielinghaus received this card from the Red Cross signed by Geoff on the 31st January 1943 that their other son John had died of wounds on the 15th June the previous year.

Geoff celebrated his 21st birthday in the Italian camp and to his great surprise the camp Comandante presented him with a bottle of red Italian wine saying that “a man must celebrate such an occasion no matter where

The 1947 Royal Visit

During the 1947 Royal Visit the PAG (Prince Alfred’s Guards) formed the Guard of Honour with Geoffrey Frielinghaus holding the regimental colours,.

No. 13044, Lieutenant Geoffrey Frielinghaus 1st Anti-Aircraft Regiment
Confirmed as a Prisoner of War in Italy at Campo 47 PM3200 situated at Modena in Italy
Confirmed as a Prisoner of War In Germany at Oflag 5A in Ludwigsberg. His German Prisoner of War Number was 2602.
Arrived as a Released POW at Brighton in the United Kingdom on 15 May 1945. 

Rita & Harry Rose-Innes

Both of the parents of Harry William and Rita Rose-Innes died within two years of each other. Their uncle, H.O. Frielinghaus, adopted both Harry & his sister Rita, and raised them in their home at 68 Park Drive as his children.

Harry William Rose-Innes

In 1940, Harry William Rose-Innes, would join up – to fight those same Germans – and his sister, Rita, served in the Canteen at 42 Air school, where she met her husband-to-be, the dashing Capt. Dennis Glendenning, from Somerset West – who did not wait twelve years to marry her.

Biography of Harry Rose-Innes [From book]

Born in 1919 in Port Elizabeth, Harry Rose-Innes and his sister, Marguerite, were orphaned at an early age and became wards of their uncle, Mr. H.O. “Chappie” Frie­ linghaus, a well-known sportsman and M. P. for Port Elizabeth South for more than 20 years. He attended St. John’s ·College, Johannesburg, Grey High School, Port Elizabeth, and St. Andrews College, Grahamstown, where he matriculated. While serving articles with Hands and Shore in Cape Town, World War 2 broke out, and he joined a Cape Town regiment. He served in East and North Africa before being cap­ tured at Tobruk on June 21, 1942. Taken by sea to Brindisi, Italy, he was imprisoned in Camp 60 outside Lucca, where The Po Valley Break begins. He was repatriated to England in 1945, where he spent some time in Puidersfield Hospital, Wakefield. Here he met an attractive Yorkshire nurse, Margaret Taylor, whom he married in Port Elizabeth in January 1948. They have two children, David and Sally-Ann, both of whom live in Vancouver, B.C. Mr. and Mrs Rose-Innes now live in Johannesburg.

The Po Valley Break

Three patients from a military hospital for prisoners of war at Lucca, Italy, make a daring night escape from a hospital train taking them to a P.O.W. camp in Germany. It’s the start of a flight for freedom that takes them across the River Po and the Plain of Lombardy to the Apennines. For 150 miles the three escaped men tramp through enemy territory, dodging Italian police, avoiding Nazi supporters amongst the Italian populace, and trying to keep one step ahead of German soldiers.

Harry William Rose-Innes as a POW

It’s an escape story with a difference: the human story of three men on the run – their hopes and dreams, the obstacles they encounter and the sheer grit they display in the face of adversity. It’s the story, too, of how lowly peasants in the Italian countryside gambled their lives by showing humanity and kindness to these three strangers from across the seas. Two of the strangers the Italian peasants helped were from South Africa – Harry Rose-Innes of the 5th Battery, 2nd Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Cape Town and “Taffy” Thomas of the 2nd Battalion, Transvaal Scottish Regiment, Johannesburg – while the third was an American fighter pilot, Frank Huff. Theirs is a story that starts in the ancient city of Lucca in 1942 but it’s as fresh as today as the unpretentious style of the author unfolds an adventure story that will be enjoyed by young and old alike.

Sources

Primary source: Derek Frielinghaus

The Writing Desk” by Harry Rose-Innes, an unpublished article

Article by Ivor Markman on Frielinghaus Date and Stand on the St George’s Park website

Port Elizabeth: A Social Chronicle to the end of 1945 by Margaret Harradine (1996, E H Walton (Packaging (Pty) Ltd, Port Elizabeth, on behalf of the Historical Society of Port Elizabeth).

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