An Alien refused for War


Written and researched by David Bohl, with the kind help and documents supplied by World War 1 historians worldwide.

Hubert was born 7th March 1892 in Howick, Natal, South Africa and came to Manchester to gain his degrees in Medicine. Sometime just before the Great War he crossed paths with the Aliens and played a few games in the 1913-14 season.


Dr. Von Mengershausen took his M.B., Ch.B. in 1915, at Manchester, and the M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P., London, in 1916. For a time he acted as House Surgeon at Ancoats Hospital, and returned to South Africa late in 1916, and was immediately gazetted as Captain in the S.A.M.C. To his great regret, he was unable to serve overseas. On the termination of his military service he was appointed to the Crown Mines Benefit Society, and held this post for some two years.

He was for some time Acting Superintendent to the General Hospital, Johannesburg. He then proceeded to Europe, where he remained for some time. In 1924 he married Miss Lister, of Pietermaritzburg. In 1925 he commenced practice at Pietermaritzburg, where he continued until his death.

Von Mengershausen was a keen sportsman, and achieved some fame as a cricketer, and was a member of the team brought out under the auspices of Sir L. Phillips.

A colleague writes:-

"Von Mengershausen's death came as a great shock. He had been playing his favourite game, golf, on the Umkomaas links, and was seven up on bogey, an amateur record for that course when he complained of cardiac pain. He continued to play, however, and when putting collapsed quietly on the green."

"He was the younger son of Dr. Julius von Mengershausen, formerly District Surgeon of Howick, a well-known Natal practitioner. Hubert received his education at Hilton College, proceeding from there to the Natal University College, where he took a science course. In 1910 he went to Owens College, Manchester, where he graduated M.B. He served as resident at Ancoats Hospital, and when the war broke out applied for a commission in the R.A.M.C., an application which, to his great regret, was refused because he had a German surname. He came out to South Africa, and at once volunteered for service with the Northern Rhodesian column, receiving a commission in the S.A.M.C. After his war service he was for some time at the Crown Mines at Johannesburg, and subsequently bought Dr. Dickenson's practice, a death vacancy, at Pietermaritzburg. In 1921 he went back to Manchester for post-graduate work in obstetrics and gynaecology, and held an appointment at the Southern Hospital for Women."

"Mengershausen was a quiet, diffident gentleman, popular with his patients and his colleagues, whose respect and trust he earned by his loyalty and fairness. He was essentially a sportsman, imbued with the traditions of sportsmanship. He had played as three-quarter for Hilton and for his University in Manchester. As a cricketer he was well known in Natal and had played both for Natal and for the Southern Transvaal as wicket-keeper. He was one of the best amateur golfers in South Africa. In his profession he took an active and knowledgeable interest, serving for some years as President of the Natal Inland Branch. He was keenly interested in Toc H work and was Honorary Medical Officer to the Pietermaritzburg Branch of that organization. He married Miss Nancy Lister of Pietermaritzburg, and had two children, a boy and a girl.

South Africa Medical Journal (August 26th 1933)




The Aliens broke the spell which has remained so long on their homeland at Clubmoor by a brilliant 25 points to 3 victory. Southport were weakly represented, their team including eight reserves, Twy being absent from the pack, and Gifford much missed at half-back. Aliens opposed them with an exceptionally strong combination, which included Hessey-Anderson, the Lancashire half-back, and Von Mengershausen, Manchester University and ex-South Africa three-quarter. Aliens asserted themselves early, as after three minutes H. Anderson obtained from a five yards' scrum, and eluding Grimshaw, Wainwright and Mackintosh "docked" safely. Later Anderson's astuteness enabled Ellis to slip through unmolested. After dominating the scrum the Aliens heeled out to Anderson, who artfully enabled the veteran Croston to get in near the posts, Bishop later cleverly negotiating the major points. Following a line out, Trist also traversed the Southport lines. Von Mengershausen engineered a bright venture, and parted to Croxford, who worked the oracle once more. Aliens thus had 19 points to their credit at the interval.

Olympic resumed with the wind in their favour, and soon managed to catch their hosts napping. Following a five yards' scrummage Grimshaw got away with oval to Baldwin, who got home smartly, and thus scored Southport's solitary try. The homesters, however, continued to dominate, and further tries came from Anderson and O'Donnell. The outstanding feature of the game was Anderson's irrepressibility.

Post 4th Jan 1914


Kwazulu-Natal, HOWICK, St Luke's Anglican Church, Cemetery



1901 L.J King 103* Garrison

1904 E.L Trafford 109* Standard CC

1906 D.K Pearse 100* Mr Patterson’s XI

1909 H.M von Mengershausen 108 Michaelhouse


THE LANCET 8 January 1916




Appendix -

The Family History

Julius von Mengershausen (1846-1920) was the first medical doctor to practice in Howick, a stalwart member of St Luke’s Anglican Church, and who had the house Ilmenau in Bell Street built. There is a display devoted to him and his family in the Howick Museum.

At Ilmenau in 1894

Back row - Fritz, Clem, Helma, Clara

Middle row - Ronie, Julius Martha

Front row - Hubert and Norma

Von Mengershausen’s life and work are the central focus of three books created by two of his great-grandchildren, Sue Helm Davies and John Job.

"It really all began back in 1904 when my great-grandfather requested the family tree, including the grant of arms copied — in a leather-bound book — be sent out to him in Howick in the then Colony of Natal," says John Job who lives in Johannesburg. The text — handwritten — was in a mixture of Latin and German.

"I did Latin at school and in 1960, when I was 15, I reckoned I was good enough to have a go at translating it." Accordingly, Job’s mother organised a photocopy of the book. "In those days photocopying was not the exact science it is today and it was a dark copy. I managed to get a quarter of the way through and then let it rest there."

Meanwhile, in 1985 Von Mengershausen’s great-granddaughter Sue Helm Davies — unaware of Job’s youthful endeavour — began working with the original book at her home in Pietermaritzburg. "But it was largely indecipherable," she says. But she persevered and managed to translate and transcribe the entire contents. This material constitutes Book One. She then went on to research the children of Julius and his wife Martha, and these genealogies became Book Two.

She says that it was inevitable that she and Job would eventually meet up and when they did "I inspanned [S.A term to harness] him to write Julius’s biography, and then one of his wife Martha. There were conflicting accounts of their parents’ lives written by two of their daughters and these anomalies needed tidying up."

In Germany, the roots of the Mengershausen family can be traced back to the 14th century. "There are also some references dating back to the 12th century, but they can’t be linked up," says Job who visited locations associated with the Mengershausens in Germany in 2005.

Julius von Mengershausen was born on February 16, 1846, in Clenze, where his father was a Lutheran pastor. Following the death of his father a few months after his birth, young Julius was brought up by his maternal grandparents in Bevensen, where he loved to walk and play on the banks of the river Ilmenau that ran through the city. He studied at Luneberg University and became a pharmacist, subsequently serving during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871) as a medical orderly. Shortly after the war, he decided to come to South Africa.

The reasons for Von Mengershausen’s choice are somewhat obscure according to Job. "There was a story that he had a weak chest and came out for his health, but around that time a great many Lutheran missionaries set off into the world from Germany. He was adventurous throughout his life, and perhaps as a young man felt he should go out into the world and see what he could make of himself. At the time, Europe was spewing out people into the new world in the United States as well as into the British and other empires."

Von Mengershausen arrived in Durban in 1872, and was briefly employed at a chemist’s shop in Pieter­maritzburg before being fired because of his poor English. He then went to Port Elizabeth where he became a surgeon dresser at Port Elizabeth Hospital and later surgeon superintendent, a post that probably involved supervising the operating rooms in the hospital. There he met another German pharmacist, Max Wilhelm, subsequently marrying his daughter, Martha, herself a trained dispenser, in 1874. Shortly afterwards, they had twins who sadly died within days of each other, about six months after their birth.

The couple then decided to return to Germany to enable Von Mengershausen to further his medical studies, and he duly completed a doctor’s degree and returned to South Africa to take up a government district doctor’s position in the Cape Colony.

In 1880, he became doctor to the Boer forces fighting in the First Anglo-Boer War (1880-1881). "According to his daughters, he was hijacked by the Boers and forced to serve under them," says Job, "but his daughters were fully Anglicised by then and that he had been on the Boer side was not acceptable. In fact, he responded to a call from International Red Cross to assist the Boers because they had no doctors attached to their forces."

Von Mengershausen was present at the Battle of Majuba, where the Boers defeated the British in a victory that led to the end of the war and the retrocession of the Transvaal.

The war over, Von Mengershausen returned to the Eastern Cape via Durban, where he learnt of a vacancy for a district surgeon’s post at Lions River. He applied and was accepted, holding the post from 1881 to 1902.

He and Martha arrived in Howick in late 1881 along with three children, staying temporarily at the Howick Falls Hotel, then in rented accommodation prior to the building of a double-storey family home, which also included a ward for patients on the second floor. This was completed in 1886, and named Ilmenau after the river that had played such an important role in his childhood. It was occupied by the Von Mengershausens until 1912. Under its roof, eight of their children grew to adulthood. Five were less fortunate.

House calls were a feature of Von Mengershausen’s working life. On one occasion, he was called out to mend a broken bone in Nottingham Road. It had been raining for days and rivers and streams were in flood. Job describes how he had to cross a stream that "had become a raging torrent, in front of the injured person’s house. Julius had to strip off his clothes and swim across with his horse. Having crossed the torrent after being washed some distance downstream, Julius set the broken bone successfully."

Less happily, in 1892, Von Mengershausen broke his collarbone in a fall from a horse, and while convalescing decided to visit a sister in Madras, India, signing on as a ship’s doctor to facilitate the trip. He would do so again in 1907 and 1910 out of a sense of adventure, and also possibly to have a break from his onerous routine in Howick. In the early 1900s, he also took a three-year posting to Ingwavuma in northern Zululand, as a means of bolstering his pension before retiring from the Natal Colonial Service.

Von Mengershausen sold his private practice and dispensary for £300 in 1912 and having leased Ilmenau went on a European trip with Martha, visiting the United Kingdom and Germany. On their return they lived briefly in Durban before coming back to Howick.

The Von Mengerhausens were a popular Howick family and they all attended St Luke’s. Von Mengershausen, a notable tenor, sang a key role in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Trial by Jury, produced as a fund­raising venture for the church

He continued to do the occasional locum and in 1920, aged 74, went off on another voyage as a ship’s doctor. On the return leg from India he suffered a fatal cerebral Haemorrhage on October 11, 1920, and, as the plaque in St Luke’s records, "was buried at sea off Colombo." His wife Martha died 19 years later, aged 84.

Their house Ilmenau was later home to many doctors and, more recently, the setting for the Afton Restaurant. Today it is once again occupied by a doctor.

(The Witness

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