From Boatsheds to Battlefields My Goal

The book From Boatsheds to Battlefields covers Bernard Leffler’s life story from a happy childhood in Cape Town to enlisting in the First World War from Southern Rhodesia and seeing action at Delville Wood.

Today is the 17th of July 2018 and I have let slip a number of potential anniversaries for the publishing of this book.

My aim is to have the whole book on by 15th of  September 2018.

Battle of Delville Wood, 14 July – 15 September 1916

Positions on 14 July 1916

The Battle of Delville Wood was an operation to secure the British right flank, while the center advanced to capture the higher lying areas of High Wood and Pozières. After the Battle of Albert the offensive had evolved to the capture of fortified villages, woods, and other terrains that offered observation for artillery fire, jumping-off points for more attacks, and other tactical advantages. The mutually costly fighting at Delville Wood eventually secured the British right flank and marked the Western Front debut of the South African 1st Infantry Brigade (incorporating a Southern Rhodesian contingent), which held the wood from 15–20 July. When relieved the brigade had lost 2,536 men, similar to the casualties of many brigades on 1 July.[32]

My Grandfather, The Author

Bernard Meredith Leffler is my Dad’s Dad, he was born in 1890 and married my Grandmother in 1928. He would die of pneumonia on my Uncle’s 21st birthday in 1951. I never met him and know very little about him or my Dad’s Mother Margaret Gardner Leffler.

I am thrilled to have his writings and in particular his book From Boatshed to Battlefield. I am looking forward to giving his story to family and friends as well as members of the world wide web. Most of all I’m looking forward to comments, stories, and feedback that I hope will reveal more of the character of Bernard Leffler.

My Dad, William Fredrick Van Blommenstein MacIntyre Patrick Leffler, is the eldest of three children. He was born in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia in August 1929, his brother, Michael Leonard Leffler was born 18 months later on Valley Farm, Pretoria, South Africa and a sister, Mollie, who was born a few years later, would die of pneumonia three years later.

Here is a photograph of the three children with their nanny on Valley Farm, Pretoria, South Africa around 1935.

Dad, Mike, Molle farm with guns

Dad and Uncle Mike were well read, loved poetry, rugby and cricket. They had an in-depth knowledge of both World Wars. My Dad told us how he and Mike had newspaper cuttings on their bedroom walls, following the different battles and tactics.

My Uncle Mike built a Rondavel at Thomas Moore School, Kloof which became the centre of a wildlife sanctuary. His Rondavel is similar to the one Bernard Leffler is standing in front of for a photograph in the Farmer’s Weekly. Uncle Mike inherited his father’s love of the bush and wildlife.

CU photo of Bernard Leffler

My Grandmother, Margaret Gardener Wilson, travelled from Dumbarton, Scotland, to marry Bernard in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia in 1928. Legend has it that she had all her teeth removed before she set off for Africa arriving with a set of golf clubs to become a tobacco farmer’s wife. When my mother met Margaret in 1955 her Scots accent was still very strong.

Margaret Gardener Leffler

Margaret also wrote articles for the Farmer’s Weekly and became an expert poultry farmer.

Bernard Leffler Dad and Mike school

My Grandfather with his sons; Patrick on his left and Michael on his right.

Bernard Leffler’s parents were William Fredrich Leffler and Alice Van Blommenstein. William was a well-respected Registrar of Deeds throughout South Africa and a renowned organist. Alice came from a large ancient Holland family. They had six children and their home was always open to friends and travellers.

And now for the story…



I would like to introduce you to my Grandfather, Bernard Meredith Leffler.

Bernard Leffler writer

Four years ago my Mother gave me a pile of yellowing, delicate paper dating back to the 1930s with the words “as the eldest you can be the custodian of the family history”.

In amongst the pile of papers was a book in my Grandfather’s handwriting titled From Boatsheds to Battlefields. The book opens with his experiences fishing and mountaineering in Cape Town as a schoolboyThe story takes you on his journey to  Delville Wood where the South Africans managed to hold off the Germans from 15 July – 3 September 1916. He was captured and held Prisoner of War until September 1918.


I will set-up the Website to provide a central location for the family to share stories and photographs from the past and the present for the generations to come.

A Blog will provide the forum for Grandad’s book as well as an informal way of publishing photographs, stories, comments and links from friends and family on a daily basis.

The Podcast will be the reading of Bernard Meredith Leffler’s book From Boatsheds to Battlefields, written around the 1930s, by his Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren.

I have decided not to change his language or his opinions to suit our present politically correct environment but rather keep the language and expressions as a reflection of the time in which it was written.

Apologies and warning in advance to those readers who might be offended.