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The Kennaway Girls:
An Overview

Keith Tankard
Knowledge4Africa.com
Updated: 14 October 2009
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In early 1857 an immigration scheme brought 2,362 German legionnaires to British Kaffraria in the Eastern Cape.

They were in response to a plan by the Governor, Sir George Grey, to settle a large contingent of married soldiers in the region as a defence in case of war, and as a means to transform the amaXhosa into black Englishmen.

The fact that the legionnaires were mostly unmarried presented a major weakness in the plan. Married men tended to make a more stable population than their bachelor counterparts.

Grey therefore desired to supplement the legionnaires, and so devised another scheme to bring German agricultural families to British Kaffraria.

The Colonial Office, however, saw it as more advantageous to send out large numbers of single women who, it was thought, would provide wives for the military men.

They chose Northern Ireland as the most probable place in which to find such women but even so managed to enlist only 153 to journey to South Africa.

The women set sail from Plymouth on board the Lady Kennaway, reaching their destination in November 1857.

The majority settled in King William's Town, while some journeyed on to Grahamstown. A few remained at East London, and some found jobs in other smaller towns in the Eastern Cape.

Because they were so few in number, however, they were not able to fulfill the role of providing wives for so many bachelor soldiers. Sir George Grey therefore again turned to his plan of bringing out as many German agricultural settlers as he could.

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