Stories and Traveltips

ID #4123

No end of a Lesson, Anglo-Boer War, South Africa.

Britain marched into the Anglo-Boer War in the spring of 1899, confident that it would all be over by Christmas. However, as Rudyard Kipling was to write, the comparatively small band of volunteers from the Republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State were to give Queen Victoria’s proud British Army “no end of a lesson”.  It was to prove the longest, bloodiest and costliest war fought by Britain since 1815.

During the three-year conflict:

•    The Boers besieged the British in the strategic towns of Ladysmith, Kimberley and Mafeking (Mafikeng), dominating headlines around the world.
•    Some of the first conventional battles were fought during the war and one of the biggest battles ever fought in Africa – until the Falklands conflict, the biggest in the southern Hemisphere – took place at the battle of Thukela (Tugela) Heights.
•    The Boers demonstrated that by discarding conventional warfare for guerrilla tactics, small groups of mounted men (commandos) were able to confound British strategists and prolong the war beyond the expectations of the opposing generals.
•    Many of the tactics adopted by the Allies in the Great War (1914-1918) were developed and honed on the battlefields of the Anglo-Boer War.
•    Names such as Winston Churchill, Baden-Powell, Lord Roberts, Field Marshal Lord Kitchener, Sir Redvers Buller, Paul Kruger, Generals Jan Smuts, Piet Joubert, Koos de la Rey and Louis Botha, form parts of the rich tapestry of the conflict. War records reflect the triumph and tragedy of famous battles such as Talana, Spioenkop, Colenso, Thukela Heights, Elandslaagte and Vaalkrans.
•    The war was not simply a clash between British and Boers on South African soil.  It was a war of ideas and visions, and men and women from many nations sailed to take up arms or to serve in ancillary roles.  French, Germans, Italians, Hollanders, Russians and Irish fought on the side of the Boers, while the British brought in troops from Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
•    Thousands of Boer women and children died in concentration camps set up by the British as part of their scorched–earth policy to contain the Boer guerrillas, the first time that such tactics were adopted. Visits to memorials to those who perished in, amongst others, Bloemfontein (Vrouemonument) and Mafeking remain emotional experiences. Emily Hobhouse’s name is frequently mentioned in this regard and she remains, quite rightly, a cherished figure in the Afrikaans community. AONoend

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Last update: 2014-05-14 14:14
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.5

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