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The Characters

Some of the biggest names of the 20th Century were involved in the Anglo-Boer War.  These include:

  • Sir Winston Churchill - War correspondent

  • Mahatma Gandhi - Stretcher bearer

  • Jan Smuts - Boer Commander

  • Lord Herbert Kitchener - Chief of Staff

  • Louis Botha - Boer Commander

  • Sol Plaatjie - Translator in Mafeking

  • Robert Baden-Powell - Mafeking commander

  • Emily Hobhouse - Activist 

  • Rudyard Kipling - Correspondent 

  • JP McGowan - Dispatch rider 

  • Cecil John Rhodes - de Beers owner

  • Sarah Wilson - First female war reporter

  • Joseph Chamberlain - British politician

  • Breaker Morant - Australian soldier 

  • Sir Redvers Buller - British CIC

  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - Author 

A number of factors led to the  Anglo-Boer War including British imperialism and republicanism, the discovery of gold, tension between the uitlanders in Johannesburg (mainly English speaking) and Boers in Pretoria. The First Anglo-Boer War in 1881 led to defeat for the British but they wanted to control South Africa and unify the region under British rule. 

 

But the Orange Free State and the Transvaal maintained their desire for independence. The Boer republics were therefor a threat to the British Empire. 

After a series of negotiations, war was declared by the Transvaal and Free State Republics after an ultimatum to the British expired on 10th October 1899.  

Political and social issues
Weapons

Boers :

At the start of hostilities Boer commandos were fairly well equipped and was required to bring a horse, saddle, rifle, ammunition and food for eight days upon mobilisation.   Rifles used included Mauser carbines, Krags (both of which were magazine rifles) and Martini- Henry single shot rifles that had been converted to smokeless powder. The Model 95 Mauser was bought in large quantities by the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. 

British : 

A combination of small arms were used but had the advantage of most rifles being in a single caliber, .303.  Empire forces used Martini-Henry rifles and carbines, Lee-Metford and Lee-Enfield carbines and rifles. While the pistol situation was slightly better among the Empire forces there was also quite a variation. Webleys, Smiths, Colts and Mausers were all used to some extent.

The Forces

The Boers had about 33,000 soldiers, and decisively outnumbered the British, who could move only 13,000 troops to the front line at the start of the war. The Boers army operated as companies of independent commandos. 

The British mobilised 180 000 men by 1900 making this the largest ever sent overseas. 

This war is split in two phases.  The first was dominated by a highly mobile Boer army which was roughly the same size as the British army. 

The second phase saw the British bring in tens of thousands more troops while the Boer numbers went into decline for a number of reasons. 

Newspaper headlines
GEN. CRONJE'S FORCES ATTACKED.; Pretoria Reports Fighting in the Vicinity of Schaltz Nek.
 

There'll be more details entered here as I get hold of the newspaper concerned

 

December 10, 1899

Harvard University Crimson:
Opinions of Members of the Faculty on the South Africa Conflict.
 

Assistant Professor A. C. Coolidge says: "I believe that the Uitlanders have had many causes of just complaint, that the policy of the Boers has often been short-sighted and that England is acting as any other great power would probably act in her place. I sympathize with the Boers because they are fighting heroically for their national existence and for the right to govern their own land.

 

January 1900

The Times 
 
MP W. Burdett-Coutts

“…hundreds of men to my knowledge were lying in the worst stages of typhoid with only a blanket and a thin waterproof sheet between their aching bodies and the hard ground, with no milk and hardly any medicines, without beds, stretchers… with only three doctors to attend 350 patients. In many of these tents there were ten typhoid cases lying closely packed together, the dying with the convalescent, the man in his crisis pressed against the man hastening to it.”

 

1900

Quotes

     Take a community of Dutchmen of the type of those who defended themselves for fifty years against all the power of Spain at a time when Spain was the greatest power in the world. Intermix with them a strain of those inflexible French Huguenots who gave up home and fortune and left their country for ever at the time of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The product must obviously be one of the most rugged, virile, unconquerable races ever seen upon earth.

— Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, London

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     You have to remember that although Gandhi and Churchill only met physically once, their paths crossed again and crossed again all over the globe, from London and South Africa and India and back to London. In fact, I discovered that during the Boer War in 1899 they literally passed yards from each other on the battlefield.

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© 2019 by Des Latham

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