On the outskirts of town is a signpost “Engelsman Se Graf” pointing the way to "The Englishman's Grave." Nearby in the veld is the grave with iron railings and a small marble cross which marks the grave.
An “Englishman’s Grave” brings people to Merweville. And, yet, even this important milestone of history is not right. The man, Lieut Walter Olifant Arnot, actually was an Australian who came to South Africa to fight with the British forces during the Anglo-Boer War. Once here he found circumstances quite different to what he had been led to believe. The Boers were not the hostile savages of whom he had been told. He developed a sympathy for them and in a fit of deepest depression died by his own hand on April 16, 1902. By then, the war was officially over. Saddened by his grief the people of Merweville vowed to look after his grave forever and they do.
Soldiers returned to Australia as the result of wounds or illness and after their recovery went back to South Africa to complete their term of service. Lord Kitchener made an order to the effect that any person declared fit by their home base were to return and finish the time signed on for. In the case of Walter Arnot (S A Bushmen, Rhodesian Field Force Artillery) he returned to South Africa.
It appears that he originally embarked with the SA Bushmen early in the war, was transferred to the New Zealand Battery of the Rhodesian Field Force Artillery from whence he was invalided home in October 1900. He subsequently re-joined the SA Bushmen so as to receive the 1901 service clasp after recovery from his illness.
W O Arnot was appointed 3rd Lt in the SA Bushmens Corps. From memory they went through Biera thence by train. At one stage, those with Artillery experience were asked to volunteer for the Rhodesian FF Arty. Arnot did so and as has been said, finished up in the NZ battery, covering quite a lot of ground. In short he got a massive bout of malaria and copped rheumatism as well and was sent home.
In Adelaide he was involved in the pay disputes for the Bushmen and also in a nasty personal affair in which another Bushman accused him of being perpetually drunk and abusive, also stating that he was thrown out of the Bushmen Corps and had to join the artillery to avoid being sent home. Anyway, back home in Adelaide his name was on the medal roll for presentation by the Duke. Those presented on that occasion had their medals engraved with block Capitals.
Back to South Africa – Interviewed in Cape Town – Appointed to Field Intelligence.
He did not want to take part in burning any more farms because the Boers he met had always welcomed him and taken good care of him. He could not see them as the enemy. For this act of insubordination - or downright mutiny - he was ordered to head for the nearest railway siding, about 50 kilometres away, and return to Cape Town to be court martialled.
Arnot's commander ordered him to take a donkey cart, a guide and small escort and head towards the railway line.
Knowing he faced almost certain disgrace, or even the possibility of sharing the fate of Harry "Breaker" Morant and ending up in front of a firing squad.
It was late morning when the donkey cart approached Merweville and stopped for a short break. Arnot still had his weapon, and when he stepped off the cart his companions did not suspect anything. He'd often hunted birds when he got the chance, and, according to the men with him, they assumed this is what he was going to do. Instead, with the sun high overhead, he leaned across the rifle and pulled the trigger.
The subsequent inquest into his death found he had killed himself in a fit of "temporary derangement of the mind, probably due to nervousness."
His widow requested that a cross be placed on, and that an iron railing be erected around his grave.
Saddened by his grief the people of Merweville vowed to look after his grave forever, and they do.