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 (1866-1899) Other 19th Century Battles
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Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan, MI, USA
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Posts: 4288

British have a hell of a time in the Boer Wars!?
Posted on: 4/14/2018 10:04:01 PM
How could a rag tag group of Boers hand the Soldiers of the British Empire, defeat after defeat? Why the Boers didn't even have uniforms!?

First Boer War!

[Read More]

Second Boer War!

[Read More]

The BBC Take on the Boer Wars!

[Read More]

What say you about the Boer Wars,
not among the best of days for the British Empire!?

Be British mate!
MD
---------------
"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

wazza
Sydney , Australia
top 25
E-6 Staff Sergeant
Posts: 455

Re: British have a hell of a time in the Boer Wars!?
Posted on: 4/15/2018 2:06:27 AM
True, but they (Boers) had home ground advantage, Brits did evolve their tactics but it took some cost to relearn what they should have already known from Indian and Afghan campaigns.

In fact I am stumped at the stupidity of some of those earlier Boer War battles and Campaigns.

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
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E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 8288

Re: British have a hell of a time in the Boer Wars!?
Posted on: 4/15/2018 8:45:33 AM
Ironic isn't it that two white "armies" were fighting for control of land that had been occupied for thousands of years by indigenous black populations.

It is also true that thousands of blacks did fight on the British side and on the side of the Boers.

Dave, it was the age of imperialism. The European powers were jockeying for control of areas of the African continent.

Even the US had entered the imperial fray with its war against Spain, resulting in the US taking possession of Spanish held territories that were a long way from the US mainland.

So Britain was determined to establish control over the Afrikaaner countries. They were concerned that the Germans would try to gain control of South Africa and so they committed half a million men in the 2nd Boer War.

The fact that gold had been discovered was pretty good motivation to show who was boss.

So the British squeezed the South African Republic to change the constitution to allow British workers to have a say in how the republic would be run.


Quote:
What say you about the Boer Wars,
not among the best of days for the British Empire!?


Well, the British did win. We can critique the conduct of the war and criticize the reasons for the war but if winning is important in the age of imperialism, then the British did attain a victory over the Boers.

The Peace of Vereeniging in 1902 meant that the South African Republic and the Orange Free State were now under the control of Great Britain.

The text of the treaty is here:

[Read More]

The key points were:

1. The farmers would give up their weapons though people in the Transvaal and the Orange Free State would be allowed rifles for protection but under licence.
2. No civil or criminal charges against the Boers
3. A civilian government would be established and the military government removed as soon as it was practical.

Perhaps the saddest outcome of this peace treaty was that the indigenous black population was left out of the loop when it came to self determination. There was nothing in the treaty that addressed the voting rights of the black people.


Quote:
8. The question of granting the Franchise to Natives will not be decided until after the introduction of Self-Government.


And South Africa became a troubled place fraught with black/white violence eventually leading to Afrikaaner rule and apartheid many years after the Boer war.


Lastly, Great Britain requested assistance from the colonies and former colonies and received contingents from Australia and NZ and from the Dominion of Canada.

These "colonials" were valued for their ability to ride horses and shoot though I am reasonably sure that not all came from the outback of Australia or the prairies of Canada.

Australia in the 2nd Boer War

[Read More]

Canada in the 2nd Boer War

[Read More]




Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan, MI, USA
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Posts: 4288

Re: British have a hell of a time in the Boer Wars!?
Posted on: 4/15/2018 9:59:05 AM
Hi George,

Just what were the final casualty counts for the wars in total, I believe the UK forces really took a toll!?

The Boers were like Daniel Boone & Davy Crocket, quite the crack shots, and the had new German Engineered fire-arms!?

Brits seemed to take them lightly in the 1st Boer War!?

Regards,
Dave

BTW; I see you put Australia, & Canada's part in the 2nd Boer War separately? Is it automatic at this time, if there was a conflict any where in the Empire, that the other members had to contribute arms & munitions? Just how did that work??
---------------
"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 8288

Re: British have a hell of a time in the Boer Wars!?
Posted on: 4/15/2018 11:06:09 AM
According to this BBC site which has published the data, 55, 000 British were killed, wounded or captured.

25, 000 Afrikaaners died in the 2nd Boer War but many of those died in the concentration camps which were poorly administered.

22,000 British soldiers died and 12, 000 black Africans.

But disease took a heavy toll and I don't know how many British or Boers are indigenous Africans died of diseases.

[Read More]


Canada got into it because the British asked the Canadian government under PM Wilfred Laurier to send troops.

Laurier got some pressure from Canadians of English descent to do something and so he agreed to send troops but only if they volunteered to go.

Note that the French vs English conflict that has plagued this country was a factor here. The French-Canadians, led by Henri Bourassa, saw the Boer War as another example of the British imperialism that had consumed the French fact in North America. The French-Canadians did not support the effort.

So PM Laurier was reluctant to order troops to go. BTW, we didn't really have a professional army to send.

But Laurier felt that a volunteer force would satisfy the English Canadians who were keen to support the Empire and would satisfy the French Canadians who wanted no part of it.

So about 8,000 men volunteered including Lt. John McCrae who led 54 men from his town of Guelph, Ontario. We know him, of course, because of his work in the Great War and the famous poem that he wrote there.

Originally, PM Laurier had authorized a token force of 1000 men but as the war continued, another 7,000 weren't hard to find.

Canada raised and clothed and equipped some units while the British paid for others.

Some Canadians served in British units too and in guerrilla type forces like the Canadian Scouts.

The Canadians served as part of the British forces but this was the first time since Confederation that any Canadians had been committed to overseas combat.

McCrae had just graduated from medical school. He did see combat during the Boer war but also made critical comments about the state of British military hospitals during this war.

In his diary, he wrote:


Quote:
"For absolute neglect and rotten administration, it is a model.
I am ashamed of some members of my profession.
Every day there are from 15 to 30 Tommies [British soldiers] dying from fever and dysentery.

Every one that dies is sewn up in a blanket, and four shillings are taken out of the pay for the blanket. The soldier's game is not what it's cracked up to be."


The Australian situation was probably a little different. If I recall their history, Australia was not yet a Dominion when the 2nd Boer War started and as a colony, their political status was different.

One of the Aussies can chip in but I would guess that they volunteered in numbers too as they had many recent immigrants from the UK.

There were Australians living in South Africa and some of those became part of irregular units of the British forces.

The Australians raised their own units, some of which they paid for and some that the British paid for.

I would like to hear how the 2nd Boer War is viewed by the Australians today.

Cheers,

George



Lightning
Glasgow, UK
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E-7 Sgt First Class


Posts: 559

Re: British have a hell of a time in the Boer Wars!?
Posted on: 4/15/2018 4:17:15 PM
I’m keen to get involved in this one but no time this evening. Standby for post in the coming days.

Cheers,

Colin
---------------
"There is no course open to us but to fight it out. Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight to the end."

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 8288

Re: British have a hell of a time in the Boer Wars!?
Posted on: 4/15/2018 5:51:51 PM
Your comments will be welcome Colin.

I wonder how much the Boer war had to do with increasing tensions between GB and Germany. The Boers spoke Afrikaans but Germany was interested in expansion of its colonial empire.

Cheers,

George

Lightning
Glasgow, UK
top 20
E-7 Sgt First Class


Posts: 559

Re: British have a hell of a time in the Boer Wars!?
Posted on: 4/16/2018 11:28:24 AM

Quote:
Hi George,

Just what were the final casualty counts for the wars in total, I believe the UK forces really took a toll!?

The Boers were like Daniel Boone & Davy Crocket, quite the crack shots, and the had new German Engineered fire-arms!?

Brits seemed to take them lightly in the 1st Boer War!?

Regards,
Dave

BTW; I see you put Australia, & Canada's part in the 2nd Boer War separately? Is it automatic at this time, if there was a conflict any where in the Empire, that the other members had to contribute arms & munitions? Just how did that work??
--Michigan Dave


Dave,

No doubt some Boers were absolute crack shots, but the real damage to the British infantry was caused by the rate of fire, rather than the accuracy. The Mausers they used carried 5 round magazines and the Boers had plenty of ammunition for their rifles and their field and siege guns. The Boers probably had superior weaponary deployment at the start of the war, with the British still insisting on firing in volleys as directed by the officer's whistle (they soon recognised the firepower potential of their 10-shot magazine Lee Metfords and Lee Enfield rifles, though), with artillery tactics very much in their infancy also and their best field guns 4.5" naval pieces (deployed on shore on carriages) were outclassed and outranged by the Krupp artillery the Boers employed. Interestingly, the Boer artillery crews were the only professional soldiers in the Boer forces of both republics.

That said, the war did provide several innovations; the British learned the use of terrain and cover to advance in small squads when taking defended objectives and Buller's forces mastered the art of the creeping barrage to get over the Tugela river. Most of the British deaths were caused by disease, with only around five thousand actual combat deaths.

The issue Britain had wasn't that they couldn't or wouldn't win; their weight of numbers and wealth ensured eventual victory. Instead, the longevity of the Boer War in 1899-1902 showed that the Empire found it hard to mobilise large numbers of troops, keep them supplied, keep them moving and keep them fighting. This in turn led to the Army reforms that brought about the creation of the BEF and the Territorial Army. In short, the Boer War taught the British Army the skills that kept it alive in the retreat from Mons.

More to follow later, I hope.

Cheers,

Colin
---------------
"There is no course open to us but to fight it out. Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight to the end."

Phil andrade
London, UK
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E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 3472

Re: British have a hell of a time in the Boer Wars!?
Posted on: 4/16/2018 12:38:50 PM
A quick contribution from me, with the hope of something more substantial later ....

British society was scandalised by the Boer War ( I allude to the second conflict ), because it revealed the appalling state of health among the men who tried to enlist. The poor nourishment and hideous conditions endured by large numbers of the urban population resulted in a high proportion of erstwhile recruits being turned away because they could not pass the physical fitness tests required.

The social welfare reforms that began to improve conditions in Britain from 1906 onwards were in some degree attributable to the sense of shock - and shame - that pervaded as a result of these revelations.

In the war itself, only thirty five per cent of the twenty two thousand British and Empire soldiers who died were victims of enemy action : the toll from disease was another scandal, and, in its turn, also bequeathed a legacy of vastly improved hygiene standards that were to prove invaluable in the years 1914-18.

Regards, Phil

---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 8288

Re: British have a hell of a time in the Boer Wars!?
Posted on: 4/16/2018 3:26:40 PM
It seems that the British army was shocked at the condition of recruits and turned away many because of those physical conditions.

Phil mentioned 1906 and that happened to be just after the Inter-departmental Committee on Physical Deterioration published its report that had been completed in 1904.

We would like to think that the concerns for the health of the nation were not motivated by performance of soldiers during a war but it seems so.

In summary, the study by the committee found:

1. 37% of candidates for service who were examined were found unfit for duty. If those who were clearly unfit for service and were not added in, the total was closer to 60%.

2. The pure magnitude of those rejected, 23,745 out of the 84,402 inspected, shocked the British populace that such a large number could be considered physically unfit. In Macmillan's book, the War that Ended the Peace, she describes the feelings of racial superiority that all of the European states and future adversaries espoused. Britain was shocked that its young men were not shining examples.

3. The committee reported that the children of the working class were born into a hellish life of poverty and poor nutrition. They found that too many were malnourished from birth.


The performance and the general healthiness of the colonial troops who served with the British in the Boer War only highlighted the deficiencies of British youth.

While not a scientific note, in the years after the Boer War, the Australians, New Zealanders and the South Africans sent rugby teams to the UK to compete against the British teams. And they won, more often than not and with a style of play that was innovative and hard nosed and this shocked the British public.

And rugby was the sport of the elite from the best schools and the flower of British manhood was being beaten by the colonials. People noticed.

The committee did recommend:

1. Medical inspections of children in schools

2. Free meals in school for the very poor

3. Motherhood training programmes.

Question: Was there any follow-up prior to WW1 to determine whether these reforms had improved the fitness of the nation.


The British army took note of the number of deaths of soldiers in the military hospitals and generally while on service during the Boer War.

I believe that by the time of WW1, that nearly all British recruits had been inoculated against typhus for one.

As well, the army system for the evacuation and treatment of the wounded and ill had improved greatly in the 13 years since the Boer War.

The following is the report from the Interdepartmental Committee on Physical Deterioration


[Read More]

I suppose that the valid question is whether the physical status of the average British soldier accounted for the first phase of combat difficulties or was it the poor tactics employed that played into the hands of the Boer farmers in the early stages of the 2nd Boer War.

Cheers,

George

Phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 3472

Re: British have a hell of a time in the Boer Wars!?
Posted on: 4/17/2018 2:53:10 AM
George,

Thanks for expounding so well on the points I raised.

There is scope for some fascinating historical research and interpretation here.

I think that in the opening decade of the twentieth century, the British people were becoming very excercised by the fear of imminent war with Germany ; the failures of the war in South Africa exacerbated those fears, and I feel confident that the momentum for welfare reform was inspired in large part by the awareness of the need to make the population more fit to cope with the rigours of war. There was also the impact of prevailing interest in Social Darwinism : the survival of the fittest was a concept that did not sit comfortably on a population that had seen its recruiting pool of manpower exposed as physically feeble.

The relatively robust physique of the Canadians and Australians and Kiwis can only have amplified this awareness. This also reflected the fact that those among the British population who were endowed with decent physical health were more inclined to emigrate anyway : the lure of life in the colonies and Dominons was bound to appeal to the more vigorous youngsters ; and surely this applied to mental as well as physical attributes . The deterioration of the condition of British manpower was a frightening development that had to be dealt with, especially if the cream of the nation’s manhood was being lured away by better prospects overseas. The phenomenal wealth and power of the British nation only served to make this social problem all the more shameful.

To make matters worse, there were eminent British politicians and commentators who had travelled to Germany, and noted how much bettter the physical condition of the people was : the soldiers were noted for their “ grand physique”.

Something grips my imagination and it won’t let go : the parallels between the US Mexican War of the 1840s and the war between the British and the Boers 1899 to 1901. What I allude to especially is the relationship between those two conflicts and the subsequent catastrophes that followed : the American Civil War 1861-65 and the Great War 1914-18. Both the Mexican War and the Boer War were fought at the same time remove from the cataclysmic wars that ensued. Both engendered feelings of guilt and shame among politicians, commentators and even the soldiers who represented the victorious side. In both, territorial aggrandisement and the seizure of mineral wealth were the common denominators. Moreover, in both conflicts the officers who served together in the earlier one were virtual apprentices for the time that they were to serve again a dozen or so years later. There is also an uncanny harmony in the statistical disparities in the loss of life : thirteen thousand American soldiers perished in the Mexican War ; and approaching fifty times that number were to die in the Civil War. In the South African War, twenty two thousand British Empire troops lost their lives, and this total was to be multiplied nearly fifty fold in the war of 1914-18.

I’ll make a few more comments after I’ve brought my beloved her morning cuppa !

Regards, Phil



---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

Phil andrade
London, UK
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Moderator
Posts: 3472

Re: British have a hell of a time in the Boer Wars!?
Posted on: 4/17/2018 7:46:58 AM
Investigating the casualty statistics of the two wars has endorsed my suggestions.

The Mexican War of 1846-48 cost the United States the lives of 12,876 soldiers. Of these, 1,721 were combat dead , i.e. killed in action or died from wounds.

This compares with at least 618,000 dead from the Civil War, of whom a minimum of 204,000 were battle dead.

The Mexican War, then, cost the equivalent of two per cent of the American lives that were to be lost in the huge war that tore the nation apart thirteeen years later.

In terms of combat deaths, the toll of defeating Mexico was lower than one per cent of what the Americans were to lose fighting each other.

The Boer War of 1899- 1902 cost the British Empire the lives of 22,047 soldiers, of whom 7,897 were combat fatalities . The Great War that was to rage a dozen years later cost the British Empire roughly fifty times as many lives ; and the British battle deaths from 1914-18 exceeded those of the Boer War by more than a hundredfold . Note the equivalence in the disparities between the two sets of conflicts .

The divergences need to be considered. Whereas the performance of the US army against the Mexicans was breathtakingly successful, that of the British against the Boers was, to say the least, lacklustre and disappointing .

The conduct of the “ harsh war” against the Boers tainted the British victory with condemnation internationally and domestically. Who could forgive, let alone forget, the deaths of twenty six thousand Boer women and children in British internment ?

And yet, and yet....the subsequent peace bequeathed a remarkable legacy of, not only reconciliation, but amity. In this sense, the Boer War confounds expectation.

When the British and Dominons went to war with Germany twelve years later, the response of South Africa was a testament to real commonwealth identity and mutual support. Obviously, this was not so apparent among the Afrikaner contingent of the population ; but even they sent their menfolk to fight and die alongside British soldiers at Delville Wood and elsewhere in France. I wonder what special diplomatic skills the British displayed that allowed this to happen. Having gained access to the mineral wealth of the southern part of the continent, were the British happy to indulge the Afrikaner people with their freedom to impose strict racial codes on the indigenous black people ? Almost a case of conquest through overwhelming force, followed by a policy of “ throw the bastards a bone” to keep them quiet.

The Peace of Vereeniging enhanced the British Empire and endowed the subsequent development of South Africa with something that modern generations now see as uniquely hideous : Apartheid .

There is, perhaps, a sort of parallel with the Mexican War here, too.

Uncle Sam was aggrandised and enriched in a predatory war against a weak and archaic neighbour . Perhaps this accounts in some degree for the military triumph of the Americans : superior weapons must have impinged here. The Boers certainly enjoyed a technical parity with their foe that had not been available to Mexicans half a century earlier . More to the point, the peace that attested a hubristic and triumphant United States endowed the following decade with a toxic legacy as the House Divided ; Nemesis came with Secession and Civil War.


Regards, Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
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Posts: 7260
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Re: British have a hell of a time in the Boer Wars!?
Posted on: 4/19/2018 11:59:32 AM
In a disastrous week during the second Boer War, dubbed Black Week, from 10–17 December 1899, the British Army suffered three devastating defeats by the Boer Republics at the battles of Stormberg, Magersfontein and Colenso, with a total of 2,776 men killed, wounded and captured.

The events were an eye opener for the government and troops, who had thought that the war could be won very easily.[1] British units were armed with then-modern magazine-fed small arms, the .303 caliber Lee–Enfield and Lee–Metford, and breech-loading field artillery. Boers were armed with the 7mm 1893 Mauser rifle, and fielded German-built breech-loading field artillery.

The British, however, were accustomed to fighting tribal wars with tactics more suited to the Napoleonic era, and had no tactical doctrine in place to fight against a foe also armed with the same modern weapons, and suffered accordingl

Regards

Jimy.
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

Phil andrade
London, UK
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Posts: 3472

Re: British have a hell of a time in the Boer Wars!?
Posted on: 4/19/2018 1:05:51 PM
About a dozen years ago I toured the battlefields of South Africa, visiting both the Zulu and Boer War sites.

They were very atmospheric, and the dramatic landscapes and the powerful folklore made their impact ; but there was one place where I could honestly say that I “ felt the terror “ , and that was Spion Kop .

Regards, Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
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Posts: 7260
http:// 82.44.47.99
Re: British have a hell of a time in the Boer Wars!?
Posted on: 4/19/2018 1:23:36 PM
1,400 men were on the way with two large naval guns. Thorneycroft told Lyttleton, "better six good battalions safely down the hill than a bloody mop-up in the morning."[19] He ordered the brigade to retreat.

At the same time, Buller sent Lyttelton strict orders to recall his troops from Twin Peaks.

When morning came, the Boer generals were astonished to see two burghers on the top of Spion Kop, waving their slouch-hats in triumph. The only British on the kop were the dead and the dying--it was like shooting fish in barrel!!!!

The British suffered 243 fatalities during the battle; many were buried in the trenches where they fell. Approximately 1,250 British were either wounded or captured. Mohandas Gandhi was a stretcher-bearer at the battle, in the Indian Ambulance Corps he had organised, and was decorated.

The Boers suffered 335 casualties of which 68 were dead, including Commandant Prinsloo's commando casualties of 55 killed and wounded out of 88 men.

Regards

Jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
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Posts: 7260
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Re: British have a hell of a time in the Boer Wars!?
Posted on: 4/19/2018 2:17:36 PM
Majuba Hill--another disgrace to British Arms

Amidst great confusion and with casualties among his men rising, Colley attempted to order a fighting retreat, but was shot and killed by Boer marksmen.

The rest of the British force fled down the rear slopes of Majuba, where more were hit by the Boer marksmen, who had lined the summit in order to fire at the retreating foe. An abortive rearguard action was staged by the 15th Hussars and 60th Rifles, who had marched from a support base at Mount Prospect, although this made little impact on the Boer forces.

A total of 285 Britons were killed, captured or wounded, including Capt. Cornwallis Maude, son of government minister Cornwallis Maude, 1st Earl de Montalt.[

Regards

Jim3
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan, MI, USA
top 5
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Posts: 4288

Re: British have a hell of a time in the Boer Wars!?
Posted on: 4/19/2018 5:53:08 PM
Hi Jim,

The UK troops on Majuba Hill certainly did not use the "high ground" to their advantage! Chalk that up to aggressive tactics, great marksmanship, and even though the Boers were fighting up hill the terrain had a lot of trenches, small hills, rocks, and other places, to escape British fire!

[Read More]

Not a good day for the UK Forces, you have to believe their officers were left wanting!?

Cheers,
MD
---------------
"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan, MI, USA
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 4288

Re: British have a hell of a time in the Boer Wars!?
Posted on: 4/29/2018 9:54:06 AM
Also you kind of wonder how motivated the troops were trying to solidify the Empire, as opposed to fighting for your homes, like the Boers were?? What say you? Was motivation a factor?

MD
---------------
"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 8288

Re: British have a hell of a time in the Boer Wars!?
Posted on: 4/29/2018 11:08:13 AM

Quote:
Also you kind of wonder how motivated the troops were trying to solidify the Empire, as opposed to fighting for your homes, like the Boers were?? What say you? Was motivation a factor?

MD
--Michigan Dave


There was external and internal criticism of the British for prosecuting this war.

Germany, quickly assuming the role of Britain's top rival was particularly critical.

I tend to dismiss external criticism given that this was still the age of imperial expansion and colonialism. Germany was involved in those same initiatives.

Within Britain, the concept of Empire was still strong and it was still strong in the Dominions and the colonies.

The concept of imperial manliness was also strong and while Britain favoured a policy of "splendid isolation", it and other countries that would soon fight in the Great War, often felt that in war did a country prove that its men were courageous and fit.

The British were shocked to discover that their soldiers in this war were anything but fit.

A PHD thesis on the concept of Manliness and the English soldier during the period of the Boer War.

[Read More]


As I said, there was some opposition to the war in the UK but I believe that Britain and the Dominions felt that the Boers were due a comeuppance.

Motivation?

When the call went out for volunteers to go to southern Africa as many as 100,000 per month came forward. One presumes that they may have had other reasons to go, other than patriotism but when the government waved the flag, they did indeed volunteer.

This in spite of the efforts of organized groups who passed out pamphlets on street corners whose message excoriated the government for heading to southern Africa just to protect the gold and diamonds available there.

The South African Conciliation Committee was particularly active in trying to stop the war.

Public meetings of the committee were often broken up by crowds of pro-war citizens.

As the war progressed, many Liberals in the UK became critical of the government and the military as the news of concentration camps and the vile treatment of the Boer farmers and their families was reported.

David Lloyd-George was particularly critical.


Quote:
n June, 1901, Liberal party leader Campbell-Bannerman took up the assault and answered the rhetorical "When is a war not a war?" with "When it is carried on by methods of barbarism in South Africa,"


Neutral countries were very critical of Britain and some like the Russians even sent a few men who fought with the Boers.

Australia:

Quite a bit of criticism especially from Irish Catholic immigrants who were anti-imperialists.

Australian nationalism was growing and the execution of two Australian Lieutenants (Breaker Morant and Peter Handcock) did nothing to increase support for the Boer War.


Canada:

Anglo Protestants were very supportive of the war and the fact that Canadian soldiers did quite well over there and medals were won caused people to overlook the negative aspects of the way the war was won.

French-Canadians were fiercely opposed. In fact, much of the opposition to the Boer War externally came from nations or people who had suffered or felt that they had suffered as a result of British imperialism.

In 1914, some of the same leadership of the French-Canadians also vehemently opposed the entry of Canada into the Great War. As a result, very few French-Canadians volunteered.


If you are asking whether the British soldier fought this war with enthusiasm, that's a different question.

They did their duty.

Their performance has been criticized but more contemporary assessments point to the fact that the British soldier proved to be resilient and capable of adjusting tactics to the conditions presented.

The Boers noted that as the war progressed, British tactics and fieldcraft improved.

The British press of the day were very critical of the lack of early success.

But by the end the British had adapted and were using guerrilla tactics of their own to defeat the Boers.

Could that have happened with an army, an army based on a class system, that was not motivated to succeed?

The following is an essay that discusses, "The Learning Curve in the South African War: Soldiers' Perspectives".

The author used letters sent home by the soldiers to determine changes in soldiers' attitudes. Initially shocked that they did not roll over a primitive enemy, the letters indicate that the soldiers wanted revenge for the deaths of their comrades.

I wonder how much that motivates many soldiers who have had to fight a war.

For the average Tommy, discussions of manliness, chivalry and King and Country were less common than discussions of support for one's mates and not wanting to let his small unit down. For the officer class, those concepts inculcated in public school were far more common.

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Cheers

George

Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan, MI, USA
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 4288

Re: British have a hell of a time in the Boer Wars!?
Posted on: 4/29/2018 2:25:33 PM
George,

Of course as far as the two Aussie officers being executed there is the famous movie "Breaker Morant"!

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Back at you,
MD

And for those of you who haven't seen it, the complete movie, BREAKER MORANT !

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great flick!
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"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

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