THE CENTENARY OF THE ANGLO-BOER WAR, 1899-1902



SUMMARY

The outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War, 1899-1902, between the two former Boer republics,Transvaal and the Free State, and the British Empire will be one hundred years in the past on 11October 1999. Contrary to popular belief this was not merely a "white man's war" since all the population groups were involved on various levels, There is a growing interest from countries such as Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand as well as some other European countries to be involved in a commemoration of this war. Since such a commemoration will in fact be the first truly international cultural-historical event in the history of South-Africa, official government participation is presently requested. This event, which 100 years ago effected the lives of all the peoples in South Africa and Brittain and its colonies, obviously now has as tremendous tourist potential. For this reason, and with acknowlegement to the Bloemfontein War Museum for the valuable research and work done regarding various cultural and historical aspects af the Anglo Boer War, LOROSAHB publishes various lists from this museum which we hope will generate self-research and, we are sure, will answer many of the enquiries often asked by would-be tourist and amateur historians.

BACKGROUND


The Anglo-Boer War broke out on 11 October 1899 between the two former republics (Free State and Transvaal) and Britain. As the war escalated Brittain brought reinforcements from Australia, New Zealand and Canada as well as some volunteers from other British colonies. The war lasted three years with a very high casualty rate on both sides.

Since the governments of the Free State and Transvaal were both elected by the white population, historians in the. past generalised it by calling it a White Man's War. Apart from the fact that a war cannot be waged in a country without affecting all who lives within the borders, recent archival research has proved that the Black inhabitants of the two republics were affected more than was generally accepted. Both sides used these people as scouts, Iabourers and even, at times armed them and thus using them in a fighting capacity,

The scope of the war was the biggest thus far on South African territory and one of the greatest thus far waged by Britain in Southern Africa. The Boer forces had a potential of 54 000 men but never more than 40 000 were empIoyed at once, whilst the British forces grew to 450 000 at the height of hostilities. Casualties were as follows:

Of special importance is the final phase of the war, after the capitals Bloemfontein and Pretoria were captured and the Boer forces resorted to guerrilla warfare. In an effort to contain the guerillas the British adopted a two pronged strategy: the so-called scorched earth policy and the removal of the Boer women and children to concentration camps. It was during this phase of the war that the suffering of the Black people intensified. Since the farms were destroyed, livestock killed and crops burnt, the farm labourers and their families were taken to refugee camps Since there was also fear amongst the British that those Biack farmers who farmed independently may supply the Boer commandos with victuals or that their livestock might be commandeered, these farmers were taken to concentration camps. As the main reason for the war was the British desire to gain control of the gold mines in the Witwatersrand, there was a need to build a Iabour force with which to reopen the mines as soon as the state of hostilities allowed it. Forced labour camps were introduced and Black labourers were concentrated therein.

The condition in these camps were appalling, Epidemic diseases, malnutrition, insufficient medical care and dreadful sanitary arrangements resulted in the high death rate. In the white camps the death toll rose to 26 370 of the approximately 100 000 inmates. In the Black camps the official British figure was just over 14 000, but recent research proves that a figure in excess of 20 000 deaths among the 120 000 inmates of these camps is acceptable.




Home Page | Tours | Links | Newsletter | Arts | Anglo Boer War