Daniel Dewsnap was one of the British mineworkers who helped to conceal Churchill at the Transvaal and Delagoa Bay Colliery following his escape from Pretoria:
'Dawn was breaking as Churchill stealthily followed Howard across a yard to the winding wheel of the number one shaft. Beside the lift cage he was introduced to the engineer, Daniel Dewsnap, a native of Oldham, the constituency in which Churchill had been defeated in a Parliamentary by-election only five months previously. Dewsnap grasped Churchill's hand and whispered, 'They'll all vote for you next time.' With that the cage door was closed, and the three shot down into the mine.
Two men with lanterns were waiting at the bottom of the shaft: Joe McKenna and Joe McHenry, respectively the mine captain and a miner. The party set off through the labyrinth of workings until they reached a well-ventilated chamber, in which a new and so far unused stable had been built. McKenna and McHenry had brought a mattress and blankets, with which they sought to make Churchill as comfortable as possible. Howard explained that even if the Boers searched the mine, they would not find him. There was a place in one of the tunnels where water touched the roof for a foot or two. McHenry would dive through it with Churchill into the workings cut off by the water, where no one would ever think of looking. Howard handed over candles, a bottle of whisky and some cigars. 'Don't move from here,' was his parting instruction. 'There will be Kaffirs about after daylight, but we'll make sure none of them wanders this way.'
'My four friends trooped off with the lanterns, and I was left alone. Viewed from the velvety darkness of the pit, life seemed bathed in a rosy glow.' Churchill had again lifted his eyes to the future. His long-term ambitions were back in clear focus. 'I saw myself once more rejoining the Army with a real exploit to my credit. In this comfortable mood, and speeded by intense fatigue I soon slept the sleep of the weary - by way of the triumphant ... In spite of his bedraggled condition, Churchil made a great impression on Daniel Dewsnap. 'I never saw such a fellow. He was exhausted, but a drop of whisky revived him. Nothing frightened him. He wanted to get back into the war' he told his grandson. He wrote in the same vein to Tom Harrop, his brother-in-law in Oldham, adding, 'The people of Oldham don't know what a jewel they lost when they threw him out.' He ended his letter: 'Vote for Churchill' (Churchill Wanted Dead or Alive refers)
The next day it was decided to smuggle Churchill out of the Transvaal.
'Howard now brought a new player into the game: Charles Burnham, a local English storekeeper and shipping agent. At a meeting with Howard, Adams and Dewsnap, Burnham suggested smuggling Churchill across the border and all the way to Lourenco Marques in a consignment of wool which was due to go by rail on 19 December. He had six truckloads ready, and by spreading the consignment over seven he could make a hiding place of the fugitive among the bales. His mother would provide food for the journey.
The afternoon before he was due to leave, Churchill was reading Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped. He could readily identify with the emotions and fears of David Balfour and Alan Breck, who had escaped into the glens, although he believed his situation was worse than theirs: 'The hazards of the bullet or the shell are one thing. Having the police after you is another ... I dreaded in every fibre the ordeal which awaited me at Komatipoort and which I must impotently and passively endure if I was to make good my escape from the enemy.'
In this unhappy mood Churchill was startled by the noise of rifle shots close by. He remained in his hiding place behind the packing cases, anxiously awaiting the outcome of what could only be a gun battle between Howard and the Boers. Voices and laughter dispelled his anxiety, and when these had died away Howard came in to explain. There had indeed been a gun battle. The Boer Field Cornet had arrived with the news that Churchill had been captured at Waterval Boven, and to keep him from prying, Howard had challenged him to a shooting match, with a row of bottles as targets. Having won 2, the Boer went away delighted.
At two o'clock in the morning Howard led Churchill to the colliery siding, where the trucks stood waiting. Howard pointed to the end of one truck, and Churchill clambered in, finding a narrow tunnel between the bales of wool that led to a space with sufficient room for him to lie down or sit up. Looking around, he saw he had been provided with a revolver, two roast chickens, some slices of meat, bread, a melon and three bottles of cold tea.
Dewsnap and other British miners were loitering in the neighbourhood, ready to distract anyone who might discover what was afoot. Their presence, rather than diverting attention, raised the suspicions of a Boer detective, Ghert Trichardt, who was well known to the miners. 'Now, Dan, I know what your game is,' he said to Dewsnap, approaching the truck. 'You might as well give him up.'
'Now, Ghert,' replied Dewsnap, 'we have been friends for a long time, but you are not going to stop this business.' With that the detective was ushered away, not knowing quite what was going on. Months later, Dewsnap would tell him the full story.
After several hours, well after daylight had filtered into his hiding place, Churchill felt the bumping and heard the clanging of the wagons as they were coupled to the colliery engine which would pull them to the main line at Witbank station. There was a final jolt, 'And again, after a further pause, we started rumbling off on our journey into the unknown.'
Churchill, who sailed to Durban from Lourenco Marques, did not forget his helpers and commissioned eight watches when he returned to England. Of the eight watches, the fate of six are known: apart from Dewsnap's, two are in museums, two with the recipients' families and one was destroyed in a fire. A coincidence awaited Churchill when he returned to Oldham, flush with newly found fame:
'His hopes must have been bolstered by the reception he received the following day when he entered Oldham in a procession of ten landaus and spoke to an overflowing house at the Theatre Royal. Describing his adventure in Witbank, he mentioned Daniel Dewsnap, who had predicted: 'They will all vote for you next time.' The audience shrieked: 'His wife's in the gallery!' This gave rise to general jubilation, during which the mill girls burst forth with a new music-hall ditty of the day:
You've heard of Winston Churchill
This is all I need to say -
He's the latest and the greatest
Correspondent of the day'
(Churchill Wanted Dead or Alive refers).