Early pioneers

Henry Hyde

Written by Hugh Solomon, trainee on G8 July 1970

Henry Hyde was very involved with the Greystone course over many years, and so too was his wife Jo. As a local businessman in Estcourt he published a weekly newspaper which I think was called the Estcourt Gazette and had a retail stationery store in the town. Henry and Jo had four children, Edward, Catherine, Elizabeth and Charles. Henry gave of his time to Veld and Vlei generously and served as warden several times. He and Jo emigrated to Australia, and the children are now scattered around the globe.  

G22 December 1976: Back row Darryl Friedman, Trevor Dugmore, Dick Lavers, Chris Davies, Kim Becker, Clive Truter.

Middle row: Iain Kelman, Geoff Ward, Dave Carr, Jo Hyde, Henry Hyde.

Front row: Hugh Solomon, Mark Bischoff, Robbie Bidgood, Theo van der Walt.

I got to know the Hyde family better when I volunteered my services at the G13 December 1972 course to manage the kitchen and food side of things. I thought that my training as an army chef would equip me adequately for the task. It didn’t really, but fortunately I had Jo Hyde in the wings, bringing her much better and broader experience at Veld and Vlei to the fore. An unsung hero was Isaac, the cook (see photo below). I recall that he was employed as a cook at a school boarding-hostel on the Natal south coast, and was available over the holidays to work at Veld and Vlei. He knew his job backwards, and I was grateful to let him take full charge of the cooking operations.

     Isaac the cook at Veld and Vlei, Greystone, Estcourt

Year unknown, mid 1970s

Back row: Jan, Jonathan Harley, Trevor Mundy, __ , Neil Dummer, Rob Benion

Front row: Murray Robertson, Henry Hyde, Alan Webster, Ian Watson, Geoff Ward, Hugh Solomon

Murray Robertson, above photo, is the son of John Robertson who was the headmaster of Treverton College in Mooi River, Natal. Over the years a strong link was to emerge between Treverton College and Veld and Vlei, Greystone. From 1974 onwards the standard 9 class of each year attended a course.

The following photos were taken on G13 December 1972

I recall those old Bergens rucsacs being very uncomfortable!

Some memories of G8

Accommodation was in a row of army-surplus bell tents located on a strip of lawn. Each patrol of eight trainees shared one such tent. Sleeping bags were arranged around the central support-pole of the tent. Built- in groundsheets had not yet come into fashion, so each trainee had a groundsheet allocated to him. It was very crowded in the tent as we also had to find space for our suitcase in there, and a place from which to hang our clothes. The ground was lumpy and hard and made for a difficult night’s sleep. Being winter, it was bitterly cold at night with a white frost on the grass outside.

The showers were in an old cowshed close by. Water was heated by a fire, often stoked by the boys themselves. Hot water was scarce, and didn’t last long. The tail-enders in the shivering queue often had to brace themselves for a hasty wash.

The pre sunrise wake-up call was the sound of a railway sleeper being struck with an iron bar by one of the instructors. It was our signal to leap out of our sleeping bags and dress hurriedly into gym shorts, tracksuits, and running shoes with a towel slung over our shoulders. Patrols lined up in their groups in the dark, and a short warm-up PT session followed, with the warden or instructor on duty call out the commands: the normal star-jumps and running on the spot for example. We were measured on our alacrity to be there quickly, and laggards were quick to realise that a patrol had to work as a team. Once all the patrols were there and ready, we set of in patrols, being timed by our respective instructors for the run down the winding path to the Wagendrift dam. Our breath frosted in the bracingly cold morning air. The sun was barely rising when we reached the edge of the dam some ten or fifteen minutes later. Ice on the moored dinghies hinted at the freezing temperature of the dark, lapping waters. We shed our clothes and dashed naked into the water. It was unnervingly cold! The idea was to get wet, submerge and then scramble out madly for one’s towel and clothes. Ten seconds or less is all one could muster. Thereafter each patrol had to assemble, and was then timed again on the jog back up to Greystone.

There were no flushing toilets at Greystone. These only followed a few years later. My memory of a row of stout gumtree poles over a long open trench has fortunately dimmed over the years. There was absolutely no privacy and using the raw, basic facilities was not for the faint of heart. I was, in 1970, well acquainted with a long drop toilet but this was pushing the boundary a bit too far.

Trainees were given a “recommended clothes list” prior to attending a course, and each item had to be marked with the trainee’s name. Clothes that needing washing were handed in at an appointed time and place and laundered by a team of domestics and then left to dry on the lawns in the sun.

Meals were taken in a veranda off an old farm building. Canvas walls were rolled down in wet or cold weather. The kitchen was at one end, and through a serving hatch the bowls of the daily meals were collected by the individual patrols who served themselves at their respective tables. In the evening trainees would dress in “collar and tie” for dinner. This translated to anything from a school blazer, to a sports coat and tie. It at least meant that trainees showered and changed into fresh clothes. I found, after the first week, that a polo-neck woollen jersey and an army greatcoat sufficed and it was a lot warmer.

Am I correct in recalling paraffin lanterns which we carried to our tents at the end of an evening?

Hugh Solomon G8   

Patrol names



Dick King



Early pioneers

Veld and Vlei office bearers 1975

Officers of the Trust

National President J.R. Case

Vice President J.L. Omond

Treasurer J.L. Maltby

Executive Director J.R. Crossan

Administration Council

C.S. Amoils,              B. Davidson       J.W. Hall        F.E. Meynell               J.C Wash

A.L. McL. Baillie       W.S. Douglas    H.E.T. Hyde   F. Murray-Johnson   A.S. Webster

R. T. Butlin               D. Everett          I.M. Kelman   J. Poppleton              P. Weinberg

B.L. Bernstein          D.W.J. Fanning H.W Kohler    A.R. Sherman             R.P. Willcox

G.F. Cross                 M.B. Gush         J. Kruger        J.H. Stodel                    D.A. Wood 

D. J. Campbell         G.M. Hall           G.G. Meek     H.Tanner-Tremaine    C.J.C. Wynne-Edwards


H. Tanner-Tremaine chairman, C.S. Amoils, W.S. Douglas, D.W.J. Fanning, G.M. Hall, H.E.G. Hyde, I.M. Kelman, H.W. Kohler, G.G. Meek, A.R Sherman, A.S. Webster

Changes lives

I enjoyed my experience on course G8 1970, but I must admit I got more pleasure and satisfaction from the three times that I returned in the 1970s to assist in the running of the camp. I felt more like an Old Boy and I loved the camaraderie. I had matured into the role. Looking back I suspect that some lads attending Veld and Vlei were reasonably happy to be there but soon left the memory behind them, whilst others to this day carry a fondness of thought, and enjoy reminiscing and swapping yarns.  

Let me share the story of my younger brother Neil Solomon. He attended the winter 1972 course, the one which was cut short after ten days because a trainee was diagnosed with contagious meningitis. Neil was slightly built as a schoolboy and wasn’t as robust, sporty or strong as his classmates. At Greystone he found that he had a talent for rock-climbing and for teamwork on the assault course. His light frame but agile upper body strength gave him an edge. It was with rock- climbing that he realised that he was really good at something. It gave him a new found confidence. At Natal University, Pietermaritzburg, he joined the mountain club, and went on to become chairman. He went to Treverton College as a student teacher whilst studying for his HDE, and taught there from 1978 to 1988 and pursued his love of outdoor activity in an educational setting. He put his inimitable stamp on the school by initiating an Outdoor Pursuits Award programme and the Post-Matriculation course, to give Treverton an aspect of education that was missing in his own schooling.  

After leaving Treverton and before moving to Zambia to become the founder headmaster of Chengelo Secondary school Neil wrote a textbook for the school called Reach Beyond which was specifically for the Outdoor Pursuits Award programme.           

I picked up my copy of Reach Beyond recently and he writes “Let me make it quite clear that I would not even be writing this book were it not for Veld and Vlei. It is almost with religious fervour that I extol its magnificent efforts towards helping young people (such as Neil Solomon aged 17 years). Veld and Vlei changed my life – it’s as simple as that.”  Such a testimonial does not get much better.

Neil died in 1997 of a brain tumour and cancer.

Hugh Solomon G8 

Early pioneers

Jack Case

– Jack Case –

Jack Case was born in England on 1 November 1900 and was educated at St Andrews College, Endfield. After qualifying as a chartered accountant he went into commerce and journeyed to Burma to join Burma Oil Refineries and Oil Fields. While out in the far East he organised the demolition of the refineries so that they would not fall into the hands of the Japanese and he took part in the evacuation of the Burmese people to India and walked the 3000 miles of that epic journey. Jack was awarded the OBE for his war efforts and he came to South Africa in 1942 in order to organise a project to produce oil from oil shale.

In 1954 Jack retired from active business life and devoted most of his spare time to Rotary International in the specific field of world understanding, and he travelled extensively throughout  the world talking about Rotary, its aims and its objects. He had been an enthusiastic worker for Veld and Vlei since its inception and was chairman for many years of the Knysna Committee and served on the council and devoted his time to organising fund raising for the Trust. Following his election as President of the Veld and Vlei  Adventure School Trust in 1975 he devoted a tremendous amount of time to the job.




Course G6 – Winter 1969

Stef Coetzee writes:

I attended Greystones winter 1969, sponsored by Alan Webster. I am still in touch with Alan, who lives in Australia.

I was terrified of heights. I recall being stuck halfway up the rock face with ‘muscle bounce’ in my legs, clinging on for dear life. An instructor from Natal University, Mr Garstang, talked me through making it to the top.

I have memories of waking up in Injisuthi cave and being overwhelmed by the rolling mists and beauty of the green hills and valleys of Natal. I still have my ‘most improved trainee’ prize book from back then. 

The camp. Donald Mellar (in his EHS rugby jersey) outside our tent, Ross Patrol.

Greystone from afar – trudging back after first-aid exercise

Ross Patrol returning from an exercise. Washroom on the right, Wagendrift dam in the background

Ross Patrol preparing to set off

Ross Patrol on top of Ntabamhlope

Cathkin, Sterkhorn, Tower, Amphlett

Ross Patrol with the escarpment in the background

Course G30 – Winter 1981

Philip Powell writes:

The winter of 1981 was a transformative experience for me. I have often wished that in later years I’d been able to put something back, to share that unique and character-forming experience with other young people.

I learned invaluable lessons that prepared me for so many future elements of my life experience and I have so much to thank Veld and Vlei for. I was the recipient of an Abe Bailey scholarship award that sponsored my attendance, while all of my fellow Maritzburg College course mates were sent as future school prefects and sponsored by the school. Let’s just say I didn’t fit into that category! My Merit Pass on the course came as a surprise to many teachers at the school. 

In summary, Veld and Vlei had a profound impact on my life and I will remain eternally grateful to the men and women, led by the fearsome and often very grumpy Henry Hyde, who sacrificed their time and effort to make us better people.

Maritz Patrol G30 winter 1981

Sergie, Philip Powell, Jackie, Eddie, Chin

Sagran, Reverend John Uys, Tokkie

Recollections of being an instructor

Rob Birt instructed over several years in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He writes this interesting account of his observations and experiences which certainly encapsulate the essence of Veld and Vlei back then.

I was a final year student at Johannesburg College of Education (JCE) in 1968. The following year I started my geography teaching career at Krugersdorp High School.

I was first introduced to Veld and Vlei through John Hall. We were both at Wits and stayed in the JCE Knockando residence. We also taught together at KHS. John, I think, was inspired by Outward Bound and coming from Cape Town where he went to school at Westerford, he had probably heard about the Veld and Vlei organisation through Outward Bound (Veld and Vlei) at Elgin and Wilderness. I am speculating and cannot verify this.

In the early part of 1968 John introduced me to Cedric Amoils who was already involved in Veld and Vlei, specifically at Greystone, and with Ian Webster, a teacher at Estcourt High School. They were looking for instructors for the July camp and specifically for a map-reading instructor. Being a geography teacher I enthusiastically agreed and joined the local Johannesburg organising committee.

The first camp I went to as a map-reading instructor was in July 1968 at Greystone. I cannot recall the camp number, but the following year in 1969 I again volunteered and joined the G7 camp in December. This was followed up with G9 in December 1970 and again in December 1972 on G13. I have the beer mugs which confirm these dates.

My involvement with Veld and Vlei was a long 54 years ago so recalling details is difficult. However the whole experience on those camps was very rewarding as an instructor, seeing the impact they had on the trainees. As instructors we were able to see the changes in confidence and the emergence of leadership over three weeks. The highlight was ending the course traversing the Berg from Giants Castle to Cathedral Peak. It was a rite of passage and in winter a huge challenge for all of us, instructors and trainees alike.

I recall the typical first day of the three week camp when the trainees split up into groups, given a map and a compass bundled into a bakkie, blindfolded and driven some way away from Greytsone and dropped. They had to make their own way back. It was a baptism by fire but gave them a taste of what to expect.

Each course provided the trainees with a variety of experiences included map-reading, rock face climbing, sailing on the Wagendrift dam, fitness training and developing team work on the obstacle course. In combination it exposed them to the dynamics of working with and respecting the environment, and each other. Cold showers in winter, mastering the challenges of sailing and overcoming fear on a rock face all contributed to their development. The “foofie” slide, climbing net, climbing wall and going through the closed tunnel added excitement to the experience. These all tested individual resolve and an ability to plan and work together; a small taste of what their lives were going to be exposed to after the exhilaration of Veld and Vlei.      

As I said earlier, the changes in so many of the boys who joined the camps was very apparent. They all seemed to leave hugely enthusiastic after the experience, and a whole lot more knowledgeable and confident about themselves and their leadership potential. It was a great grounding for life.

Some of the personalities whom I worked with and who were involved in the Veld and Vlei organisation included Jumbo Swan who lived at Greyston, Iain Kellman, Cedric Amoils, John Hall, Ian Webster and Ray Basson. There were many others who gave up their time to become involved in providing the boys with a wonderful experience. No doubt there are many beer mugs gracing the shelves of pubs of those who had the privilege of being involved with a great organisation. 

I have fond memories of the four camps I attended and have little doubt that they also contributed to my own development as a newly qualified teacher.

Rob Birt found an old box of his 35mm slides and sent these very good photos.

Early Pioneers

John Hall

Submitted by Hugh Solomon G8    John Hall taught at Krugersdorp High School for 39 Years. During many of those years, particularly the 1970 and 1980s John was very involved with Veld and Vlei, Estcourt. I attended G8 in July 1970 and he was the warden of our course.

John matriculated in Cape Town in 1963 where he was headboy at Westerford High School and played for the first team hockey and cricket. After university at Wits and a BA degree he joined Krugersdorp High School in 1969 as a newly qualified teacher, and stayed there, holding positions such as senior housemaster of the girls’ hostel, head of department educational guidance, and senior deputy headmaster.

John was on the administrative council of the Veld and Vlei Adventure School Trust.

Many pupils from KHS attended Veld and Vlei courses at Greystone. The school also formed their own personalised courses at Greystone to promote leadership training and outdoor education. Such courses went under the banner of inter alia Adventure Camp, Boys’ Trip to the Berg, and Prefects’ Camp. John was the driving force behind these initiatives which were very successful.  

Lex Morton from KHS attended course G9 in December 1970. He wrote an article for the school magazine that year saying “We can see the immense value of a movement like this. It is designed to develop those particular qualities of leadership, initiative and so on, which are evident in every human along the right lines. I would recommend this Veld and Vlei course to every boy over sixteen years of age who has the opportunity of attending one”.

I asked Lex Morton 50 years after he had attended G9, to reflect on John Hall the man. He replied: “John was a brilliant history teacher and the history of Outward Bound was well known to him. He had a love for teaching which extended way beyond the classroom and he believed strongly in the growth of the whole soul. Character and leadership development was a passion for him.

He was a hostel master who knew his boys well and he was able to identify those who would contribute and benefit by attending Veld and Vlei. During those years Krugersdorp High had a number of very active and successful service clubs. If John didn’t serve, he certainly had connections because the clubs gave us amazing support.

John was, together with Rob Birt, forever in the Berg. History trips, geography trips, staff team-building etc. He eventually became deputy principal at the school and always preferred his classroom to the office. He became an absolute legend and had a profound influence on the lives of so many students. My three children passed through John’s hands and his influence on them was as great as it had been on me. What I found fascinating was that guys like him and Rob Birt had all these strengths and yet they were youngsters themselves. At a guess I think they were first year teachers when I went to Krugersdorp High School”.