The Boer War: How great empires fall?
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Britain was the largest empire in history, spanning six continents on an area of more than 35 million km 2, controlling about a quarter of the world’s population. All the data said that the twentieth century would be a purely British century as was the 19th and 8th centuries ten.
After Britain tightened its grip on Egypt and Sudan, it decided to move on to a new African goal, an African goal with a major European component, South Africa.
Conflict over the Cape Colony
Although the first European sailor to arrive in South Africa was the Portuguese Bartolome Diaz, but the first European colony in South Africa was Dutch in 1652 and they founded the city of Cape Town, known as the Cape Colony.
With France taking over the Netherlands in the Napoleonic Wars in 1795, South Africa became a French colony, and thus an enemy of Britain.
In 1806, Britain decided to occupy the Cape colony and fought a fierce battle with the French forces in Cape Town. The British won and the Cape Colony became a British colony. Since then the Dutch population has suffered greatly from British rule because Britain has made English the official language of the country, and the enforcement of the British Law, and the criminalization of the acquisition of slaves, which was not done by the Netherlands.
Large groups of Dutch peasants migrated north, seeking independence and establishing their own Dutch state deep in the African continent.
There was a series of short side battles between the Dutch and the Zulu tribes or between them and the British. These battles were known as the Boer War I.
The Dutch succeeded in establishing two republics in the far southeast of the African continent, to the north-east of what is now South Africa: the Republic of South Africa (Transvaal) and the Orange Free Republic, and the most important cities being Johannesburg and Pretoria.
Boer War I
It is also known as the First War of Liberty or the First Anglo-Boer War or the Transvaal War, which took place from December 16, 1880 to March 23, 1881 between the United Kingdom and the Boers of the Republic of South Africa, also known as the Boer Transvaal, for not being confused with the contemporary Republic of South Africa.
The war broke out when the British government tried to unify its colonies in South Africa: the Kip colony, the colony of Natal and the Boer republics (Transvaal and the Free Orange Republic). The British government sought to unify these colonies in order to form a federation in South Africa.
In 1874 the British government appointed Lord Carnavon as colonial secretary and soon began negotiating with local administrations for the federal union, but failed in 1877.
Lord Carnavon sent Sir Theophilus Sheiston to force the Transvaal to join the federation, so two delegates from the Boers traveled to London to protest the decision, but their efforts did not succeed. As a result, the Boerion decided to force British troops out by force.
In 1880 Boerion elected Paul Krueger, Piet Joubert, and Britorius as leaders in an attempt to impose national sovereignty and protest the actions of the British government.
The first confrontation took place in the city of Buchestrom on December 16, 1880, when a British garrison invaded the Boer Republic. Four days later, the Boerion defeated a British military convoy that was under the command of Colonel Philippe Anstrotter after they clashed at Brunhorn Stsberwit outside Pretoria.
On February 27, 1881, British forces defeated a mighty defeat in the Battle of Majuba Hill, and Transvaal was granted independence quickly after that date.
After the Boer War I of 1881, a peace treaty was signed between Britain and the two modern Boer Republics, but it was an unstable peace.
Boer War II
After the discovery of gold in large quantities in Witwatersrand (Johannesburg now) in 1886, Britain saw that gold will make the Boer Republic rich and will affect the control of Britain on the southern trade corridors and other colonies on the African continent.
The Boers had a problem: their limited human and material resources did not allow them to extract large quantities of gold from their land, allowing British immigrants and workers to work on their land to extract gold.
Chamberlain demanded that the British immigrants in the Boer lands be granted full political rights, including the right to vote in political entitlements, but his demand was refused, this would lose the Boer control of their new republic, which they narrowly wrested from Britain, but Chamberlain was determined, and began to mobilize his forces on the borders of the Republic of South Africa, whose President Paul Krueger rejected the British threats and gave Britain 48 hours to withdraw its troops or else the war.
On October 9, 1899, Britain rejected the South African deadline and the war began, which is considered to be very easy, as it will only fight a group of peasants armed with guns and who had received no military training, only unorganized militias.
On October 11, 1899, the first attack of the Boers was carried out. The Boers ran into the British territory and succeeded in the siege of Ladysmith and Kimberly, and all British attempts to lift the siege on the two cities failed. British forces suffered heavy losses throughout November and December.
In January 1900, Britain decided to take the matter seriously and began sending the largest army in its history outside the country.
Over the course of successive months, Britain has sent more than 180,000 troops to the war in South Africa, and the Boers have become in a weak situation, as British numerical superiority has become overwhelming, and they can’t arm more than 30,000 or 40,000 fighters at the latest.
The Boers received successive defeats in March, April and May 1900, ending with the occupation of the great cities of their state, Pretoria, Johannesburg, and Bloemfontein.
By September 1900 the British army had occupied the entire Republic of South Africa and most of the Free Orange Republic, but it was not over yet, as the Boers resorted to a long guerrilla war against British troops. The war inflicted heavy losses on the British forces, and the British response was very harsh.
The British response “Scorched Earth”
The British pursued a policy of scorched earth. They burned the Boer farms, killed their livestock, poisoned the well water and transported the families of the Boers from women and children to major camps that lacked the most basics of life. Twenty-six thousand people, mostly women, and children died in those camps.
In March 1902, the last Boer armed groups surrendered and the Treaty of Veringen was signed, under which the entire territory of what is now South Africa was united in one republic under the leadership of the British Crown, and paying compensation to the Boer and giving them some kind of autonomy.
The war ended with a decisive British victory, but the price of victory was heavy and unusual, as whe war cost £ 211 million, equivalent to 202 billion pounds by 2014.
The war ended with 22,000 British soldiers killed and more than 75,000 wounded.
Because of Britain’s immoral actions in the Boer War, many foreign volunteers, particularly from the United States, France, the Netherlands, and Ireland, joined the war alongside the Boers.
That war laid the foundations of the South African apartheid regime, and the Boers (whites) did not forget the Zulu (blacks) were standing by the British in the war against them.
The war ended, but it was the beginning of the end of the British Empire that needed three years and hundreds of thousands of troops, horses and military equipment to subdue some thirty thousand peasants.
- Duxbury, Geo. R. David and Goliath: The First War of Independence, 1880–1881(Johannesburg: SA National Museum of Military History, 1981).
- Gross, David (ed.) We Won’t Pay!: A Tax Resistance ReaderISBN 1-4348-9825-3 pp. 169–174
- Arthur Conan Doyle: The Great Boer War. London: Smith, Elder, 1900.
- Sol T. Plaatje: Mafeking diary: a black man’s view of a white man’s war. Cambridge: Meridor Books; Athens: Ohio University Press, 1990. ISBN 0-85255-064-2 (Meridor) ISBN 0-8214-0944-1 (Ohio UP). Originally published as The Boer War diary of Sol T. Plaatje; an African at Mafeking. Johannesburg: Macmillan, 1973 ISBN 0-86954-002-5.
- Alfred Milner: “The Milner Papers”, vol. II South Africa 1899 – 1905, edited by Cecil Headlam, London: Cassell, 1933.
- H.M. Abbott, Tommy Cornstalk, Longmans London, 1902, (an autobiography of Abbott’s service in the War).
- Droogleever, R.W.F. (ed.), From the Front: A. B. (Banjo) Patterson’s Dispatches from the Boer War, MacMillan, Sydney, 2000. (A completed compilation of the reporter ‘Banjo Patterson’s (1864-1941) dispatches (75 letters and articles sent to Australia during the period November 1899 to July 1900. Patterson was present at numerous engagements including Paardeberg, Bloemfontein, Pretoria and finally the surrender of General Martinus Prinsloo at the Brandwater Basin. These writings give a military and literary insight into events, with comments on the medical crisis in Bloemfontein following its occupation and outbreak of enteric fever) ISBN 07329 1062 5
- George Witton, Scapegoats of the Empire, Melbourne, 1907; republished as George R. Witton, Scapegoats of the Empire, Angus & Robertson Melbourne, 1982., (Witton’s autobiography of his trial and conviction along with “Breaker Morant”). ISBN 0 207 146667
- Field, Kingslet (edt). Book “Soldier Boy” A young New Zealander writes home from the Boer War, compiled by Kingsley Field. Letters written by Harry Gilbert to his family in New Zealand from April 1901. First published in 2007 by New Holland Publishers (NZ) Ltd. ISBN 978 186966 177 9.
- Col. P.L. Murray, (ed.) Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa, Government Printer, Melbourne, 1911. (Rare, but this book lists all Colonial Forces, plus Commonwealth troops’ names, number rank, including nurses rates of pay and promotions. Citations on each serviceman’s /servicewoman’s injuries, illnesses, wounds, killed in action etc. Details the ships on which contingents sailed and returned, the number of horses per contingent despatched to the war, unit establishments, active services and honours, unit patrols and engagements etc. Book comprises 607 pages)
- New South Wales Imperial Bushmen Contingent War Diaryand letters written by the Adjutant, Major David Miller. They tell the day by day story of the deployment in 1900 of this unique unit raised by private subscription in New South Wales.
المصادر الثانوية البحثية
- Byron Farwell: The Great Anglo-Boer War. New York: Harper and Row, 1976. ISBN 0-06-011204-2 (published in the UK as The Great Boer War. London: Allen Lane, 1977. ISBN 0-7139-0820-3).
- April A. Gordon and Donald L. Gordon (eds.): Understanding contemporary Africa. 3rd ed. Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner, 2001. ISBN 1-55587-850-4.
- David Harrison: The white tribe of Africa: South Africa in perspective. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1981. ISBN 0-520-04690-0.
- Denis Judd and Keith Surridge. The Boer War. London: John Murray, 2003. ISBN 0-7195-6169-8.
- Baring Pemberton. Battles of the Boer War. First published 1964 by B.T. Batsford – republished by Pan, 1969.
- Thomas Pakenham: The Boer War. New York: Random House, 1979; ISBN 0-394-42742-4.
- Fransjohan Pretorius : Scorched Earth. Cape Town: Human & Rousseau, 2001; ISBN 0-7981-4192-1.
- Kit Denton, Australian at War: For Queen and Commonwealth, Time-Life Books, Australia, 1987, (pp. 76-163) ISBN 0949118 08 7 (many photos and maps)
- Laurie Field, The Forgotten War, Melbourne University Press, 1979.
- L. Wallace, Australians at the Boer War, AGPS, Canberra, 1976. ISBN 0 642 999391 2 (an important work in re-awaking Australian interest in the Boer War – but hard to locate)
- William (Bill) Woolmore, The Bushveldt Carbineers and the Pietersburg Light Horse, Slouch Hat Publications, Rosebud, 2002. ISBN 0 9579752 0 1 (solid work on the men who served in the ill-fated unit)
- Neil G. Speed, Born to Fight, Caps & Flints Press, Melbourne, 2002. (an Australian Maj. Charles Ross DSO who served with Canadian Scouts) ISBN 0 9581356 0 6
- Craig Wilcox, Australia’s Boer War, Oxford University Press, 2002. (important academic work) ISBN 0 19 551637 0
- William (Bill) Woolmore,Steinaecker’s Horsemen: South Africa 1899-1903, South African Country Life,Barberton, 2006. ISBN 0 9584782 4 4 (solid research by an Australian writer into the men who served in this unit)
- Max Chamberlain & Robert Droogleever, The War with Johnny Boer: Australians in the Boer War 1899-1902, Ligare, Riverwood, 2003. (sound research with maps, drawing and pictures of Australian participants)
- Dave C. George, Carvings from the Veldt: Rifle carvings from Anglo-Boer War, 1899-1902, Northern Rivers N.S.W., 2004. (photographic and historical record of surviving Boer War rifles (in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, UK and USA) and the variety of stock carvings) ISBN 0 646 44043 8