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I’ve been reading abt the Boer War.  The book’s so good I started reading it again when I’d got to the finish.  Malign political intrigue by our man for the colonies and horrendous blood ‘n’ guts for the tommies.

One thing I’ve learned is that the Boers’ Great Trek (1835) was on account that Britain had just passed the anti-slavery laws and they were afraid they’d be denied the natural order of things (ahem).  So they legged it inland to enjoy their fun uninterrupted. 
That attitude pretty much accounts for the next 155 yrs in S.Africa.

I’ve also learned a little abt 19th C military tactics.  Viz. battle begins with an artillery exchange.  When the opposition’s artillery has been knocked out the infantry advances until they’re close enough for a bayonet charge.  Then the cavalry go in to chop the fleeing enemy to pieces.

The Boers, not having been to Sandhurst, didn’t stick by these rules and there was a run of v.bloody defeats for the Brits.
Seems they didn’t teach Sun Tzu at Sandhurst, nor Lao Tzu or any other Tzu who could’ve made a difference.

An impressive amount of derring do among the officer classes, even if they were useless at organisation.  When the infantry were pinned down the General, at the back, would get off his horse, dash up to the front and shout out “Come on chaps, I’m your General, won’t you follow me to the enemy lines.”  At which they’d reply “Alright then guvnor”.  
There were a few battles after which, when they went to collect the bodies the one nearest the enemy line and most full of holes was the General.

So, good career prospects if you were an officer and lucky.  A lot of officers weren’t lucky.
Very high casualty rate for the time.  (insignificant compared to WWI)  And more tommies died from typhoid than died in combat, they could thank the disorganisation for that.

In the end they (we) won through weight of numbers.  The Boers had a small population and Brit had an Empire to draw upon.  The Boer states were pacified and annexed to the Crown.

Names we’ve heard of (WWI).  Kitchener, French and Haigh (then a Col).

Two names we haven't heard of but should.
Emily Hobhouse, a philanthropist who took herself off to S.Africa when she heard about the concentration camps, established by Kitchener, to see what they were like.
And, the Fawcett Commission, set up when the Govt could no longer resist the public outcry from Hobhouse's report.

The Fawcett Commission was composed entirely of women !! They visited the camps and confirmed the horrrors reported by Emily Hobhouse. High mortality from disease, no sanitation, insufficient food and inadequate accommodation. Their recommendations to remedy the situation were adopted and in a few months, the mortality rate in the concentration camps was lower than in Glasgow.
(though by then 32,000 people had died in the camps.)


A stand out feature compared to today.  A lot of the top brass and Parliament had sons in the army.  The General who was sent out to command the “second phase” of the campaign, Roberts,  learned that his son had been killed there, shortly before he set sail.

But then, in those days Govt was by aristo dynasties.  To judge from Chips Channon’s diaries, that state prevailed until the end of WWII.

I’m sparing you Baden Powell, the hero of Mafeking.  An utter shit then. (I’m being polite.)


Rankers' views 70yrs later "Johnny Boer, he used to shoot niggers like you'd shoot a dog."
and, “it was all for the goldmines”. 


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