Conflict Folder

The text below gives a summary of the conflict (i.e war), event or incident that resulted in deaths in the Borough or abroad.  The  names of those who died are listed in alphabetical order on the right.

Incident Folder  Conflict Folder

Details for: Second Boer War

Location: South Africa

Historical Data:

The Boer War was fought between Great Britain and the two Afrikaner (Boer) republics: Transvaal and Orange Free State.

Although it was the largest and most costly war in which the British engaged between the Napoleonic Wars and World War I, it was fought between wholly unequal protagonists. The total British and Commonwealth military strength in South Africa reached nearly 500,000 men, whereas the Boers could muster no more than about 88,000. But the British were fighting in a hostile country over difficult terrain, with long lines of communications, while the Boers, mainly on the defensive, were able to use modern rifle fire to good effect, at a time when attacking forces had no means of overcoming it.

The war began on Oct. 11, 1899, following a Boer ultimatum directed against the reinforcement of the British garrison in South Africa. The crisis was caused by the refusal of the Transvaal, under President Paul Kruger, to grant political rights to the primarily English population of the mining areas of the Witwatersrand, and the aggressive attitudes of Alfred Milner (the British high commissioner) and Joseph Chamberlain (the British Colonial Secretary).

An underlying cause of the war was the presence in the Transvaal of the largest gold-mining complex in the world, beyond direct British control.

The course of the war can be divided into three periods.

  1. During the first phase, the British in South Africa were unprepared and militarily weak. Boer armies attacked on two fronts, into Natal from the Transvaal and into the northern Cape from the Orange Free State; the northern districts of the Cape Colony rebelled against the British and joined the Boer forces. In the course of one week (10-15 December 1899) the Boers defeated the British in a number of major engagements and besieged the key towns of Ladysmith, Mafeking, and Kimberley; but large numbers of British reinforcements were being landed, and slowly the fortunes of war turned. Before the siege of Ladysmith could be relieved, however, the British suffered another reverse at Spion Kop (January 1900).

  2. In the second phase, the British, under Lord Kitchener and Frederick Sleigh Roberts relieved the besieged towns, beat the Boer armies in the field, and rapidly advanced up the lines of rail transportation. Bloemfontein was occupied by the British in February 1900, and Johannesburg and Pretoria in May and June. Kruger left the Transvaal for Europe.

  3. But the war, which until then had been largely confined to military operations, was by no means at an end, and at the end of 1900 it entered upon its most destructive phase. For 15 months Boer commandos, under the brilliant leadership of generals such as Christiaan Rudolf de Wet and Jacobus Hercules De la Rey, harried the British army bases and communications; large rural areas of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State (which the British annexed as the Orange River Colony) remained out of British control. This phase of the war also saw the controversial construction of concentration camps to house Boer non-combatants who had been forcibly removed from their homes in the hope of breaking Boer morale.

The Boer War was finally concluded with the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging in May 1902.

(Source: Stephen Stratford