The South African War
Original and Contemporary Sources 

"IT was on the morning of October 12th, amid cold and Mist, that the Boer camps at Sandspruit and Volksrust broke up, and the burghers rode to the war. Some twelve thousand of them, all mounted, with two batteries of eight Krupp guns each, were the invading force from the north, which hoped later to be joined by the Freestaters and by a contingent of Germans and Transvaalers who were to cross the Free State border. It was an hour before dawn that the guns started, and the riflemen followed close behind the last limber, so that the first light of day fell upon the black sinuous line winding down between the hills. A spectator upon the occasion says of them: "Their faces were a study. For the most part the expression worn was one of determination and bulldog pertinacity. No sign of fear there, nor of wavering...."

Arthur Conan Doyle, The Great Boer War, London, 1901

My interest in Robert Baden-Powell, Founder of the World Scout Movement, has led me many places.  A respected officer in the British Army, it was at the Siege and Defense of Mafeking during the South African (Anglo-Boer) War that he made his name and first gained public recognition.  In researching B-P's role and the events at Mafeking, I came across a chapter by one of my favorite authors, Arthur Conan Doyle.  That was enough to move me to read his entire book on the War, The Great Boer War. Encouraged by Robert Wotton's elegant website, the South African War Virtual Library, I began to seek out other original and contemporary sources on the War. As October 11, 1999 marks the Centennial of the start of the South African War, I thought it might be worthwhile to share some of my finds with readers of the Pine Tree Web. I plan to publish several of these books in their entirety and provide significant excerpts from others. It is my hope that the reader will find these materials of interest and that they will contribute to the memory of these important events.

Links to Resources on the Pine Tree Web.

From: Richard Harding Davis, With Both Armies in South Africa, 1900

Davis, editor of  "Harper's Magazine," was one of the world's leading war correspondents at the time of the South African War.  As an American, he had the unique opportunity to see the war first-hand from both the English and Boer perspectives.
Biography of Richard Harding Davis
Table of Contents
Chapter I: "With Buller's Column"
Chapter II: "The Siege of Ladysmith"
Chapter III: "The Relief of Ladysmith"  
Chapter IV: "My First Sight of the Boer
Chapter V: "Pretoria in War-Time"
    Chapter VI: "President Kruger"
    Chapter VII: "The English Prisoners"
    Chapter VIII: "The Night Before the Battle"
    Chapter IX: "The Battle of Sand River"
    Chapter X: "The Last Days of Pretoria"

From: Arthur Conan Doyle, The Great Boer War, 1902.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, was the model for his own character "Dr. Watson." He dedicated his medical skills, serving as a volunteer with the British army during the South African War. Conan-Doyle was knighted for his services during the war. He wrote the first edition of  "The Great Boer War" in 1900, updating it as the war progressed.  The "final" edition was published after the end of the war in 1902. 

Preface & Table of Contents

Chapter I: The Boer Nations

Chapter II: The Cause of Quarrel

Chapter III: The Negotiations

Chapter IV: The Eve of War

Chapter V: Talana Hill

Chapter VI: Elandslaagte And Rietfontein 

Chapter VII: Battle of Ladysmith

Chapter VIII: Lord Methuen's Advance

Chapter IX: Battle of Magersfontein

Chapter X: Battle of Stormberg

Chapter XI: Battle of Colenso

Chapter XII: The Dark Hour

Chapter XIII: The Siege of Ladysmith

Chapter XIV: The Colesberg Operations

Chapter XV: Spion Kop

Chapter XVI: Vaalkranz

Chapter XVII: Buller's Final Advance

Chapter XVIII: The Siege And Relief of Kimberley

Chapter XIX: Paardeberg

Chapter XX: Roberts' Advance on Bloemfontein

Chapter XXI: Strategic Effects of Lord Roberts' March

Chapter XXII: The Halt At Bloemfontein

Chapter XXIII: The Clearing of The South-East

Chapter XXIV: The Siege of Mafeking

Chapter XXV: The March On Pretoria

Chapter XXVI: Diamond Hill—Rundle's Operations

Chapter XXVII: The Lines of Communication

Chapter XXVIII: The Halt At Pretoria

Chapter XXIX: The Advance to Komatipoort

Chapter XXX: The Campaign of De Wet

Chapter XXXI: The Guerilla Warfare in the Transvaal: Nooitgedacht

Chapter XXXII: The Second Invasion of Cape Colony.

Chapter XXXIII: The Northern Operations From January to April 1901

Chapter XXXIV: The Winter Campaign From April to September 1901

Chapter XXXV: The Guerilla Operations In Cape Colony

Chapter XXXVI: The Spring Campaign From September to December 1901

Chapter XXXVII: The Campaign of January to April 1902

Chapter XXXVIII: De la Rey's Campaign of 1902

Chapter XXXIX: The End

Map Index

Map: Northern Natal (231k)

Map: Orange River Colony, Southern Part (328k)

Map: Orange River Colony, Northern Part (287k)

Map: Southern Transvaal (345k)


From: Robert Baden-Powell, Lessons from the Varsity of Life, 1933.

Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scouting Movement, gained a world-wide reputation for his defense of Mafeking during the South African War. He relates the story of his experiences in his autobiography. A first-hand recollection from a key participant.
Table of Contents
Chapter VII: The South African War
Baden-Powell Home Page on the Pine Tree Web
From: L. S. Amery, The Times History of the War in South Africa, 1900-1909.
Leopold Amery was a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. In 1898, he joined The Times as a journalist, serving as a war correspondent in South Africa. He became chief correspondent for The Times during the war, and edited the seven volume, The Times History of the War in South Africa (1900-1909). Later, he was to have a distinguished career as a Member of Parliament, of several Conservative Cabinets (as First Lord of the Admiralty and Colonial Secretary). He is generally considered author of the Balfour Declaration.
    A short biography of Leopold S. Amery (1873-1955), editor, The Times History of the War in South Africa, 1900-1909.
    Preface and Introduction.
    Volume II: Chapter VII: The Breakup of the Army Corps—Mafeking.Cronje and Baden-Powell.
    Volume IV: Chapter XVII: The Siege of Mafeking.
    Map to Illustrate the Siege of Mafeking. (425k)
    Map of South Africa specially prepared for The Times History of the War in South Africa, 1899-1909.
From: Christian Rudolf de Wet, Three Years' War, 1903.
Christian de Wet was famous as commander in chief of the Orange Free State forces in the South African War. 
Biography of Christiaan de Wet
Publishers Notes on Three Years War
Table of Contents
Preface: C. R. de Wet
Chapter I: I Go on Commando as a Private Burgher
Chapter II: Nicholson's Nek
Chapter III: Ladysmith Besieged
Chapter IV: I am Appointed Vechtsgeneraal
Chapter V: The Overwhelming Forces of Lord Roberts
Chapter VI: Paardeberg.
    Chapter VII: The Wild Flight from Poplar Grove.
    Chapter VIII: The Burghers Return Home
    Chapter IX: Sanna's Post
    Chapter X: Four Hundred and Seventy Eight English Taken Prisoner at Reddersburg
    Chapter XI: An Unsuccessful Siege
    Chapter XII: The English Swarm Over Our Country
    Chapter XIII: Our Position at the End of May, 1900
    Chapter XIV: Roodewal
    Chapter XV: I Make Lord Kitchener's Acquaintance
    Chapter XVI: Bethlehem is Captured by the English
    Chapter XVII: The Surrender of Prinsloo
    Chapter XVIII: I am Driven into the Transvaal
    Chapter XIX: I Return to the Free State
    Chapter XX: The Oath of Neutrality
Frederick Sleigh Roberts, Lord Roberts, Forty-One Years in India, London, 1897.
Lord Roberts arrived in South Africa in December, 1899 as Commander-in-Chief South Africa. After reversing a series of English defeats, he captured both Pretoria and Johannesburg. Defeating the organized Boer forces in the field, he returned to England in January, 1901 for a triumphant reception. Lord Roberts commanded the British forces in Afghanistan during Baden-Powell's service in 1881-1882. He was later to become the Commander-in-Chief in India (1885-1893), in the South African War (1899-1902) and, finally Commander-in-Chief of the British Army (1901-1904). For much of Baden-Powell's active military service, Lord Roberts was among the highest ranking and most respected officers of the British Army. He became known as "Kipling's General." Beloved by the soldiers more than almost any other commander in British history. He died when visiting Indian troops in France in 1914.
Background and Biography 
Table of Contents  In preparation
Chapter XIII-XIX. "The Relief of Delhi (Indian Mutiny), 1857
Lord Roberts in the South African War 
Lord Roberts, Honours and Decorations  

From: C. R. B. Barrett, History of the XIII Hussars, 1911.

Baden-Powell began his military career with the13th Hussars. The Regiment served in South Africa while Baden-Powell was at Mafeking and on service later in the War.
Excerpts from Chapters XXXVI-XLI: The South African War.
    Chapter XXXVI: The South African War, 1899-1900.
Chapter XXXVII: 1901.
    Chapter XXXVIII: South African War - 1900 B Squadron.
    Chapter XXXIX: South African War, April 3 to July 27 1901. In preparation
    Chapter XL: South African War, July 27 to December 31, 1901. In preparation
    Chapter XLI: South African War, 1902. In preparation
    Map of Area of Operations, 13th Hussars

From: Major-General Roger Evans, The Story of the Fifth Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards, 1951.

Baden-Powell commanded the Fifth Dragoon Guards in India just prior to their departure.
Chapter V: The Last of the Gentlemen's Wars—And After, 1899-1914
H. W. Wilson, With the Flag to Pretoria: A History of the Boer War of 1899-1900,1900-1901.
Published at the end of the first year of the war, With the Flag to Pretoria is "Illustrated mainly from photographs and authentic sketches taken in South Africa. The two volume collection is in large format. The photos and sketches are by military men and some of the leading news illustrators of the day.
Table of Contents. In preparation
Mafeking: Chapter III: "The Investment of Ladysmith, Mafeking, and Kimberley" Excerpt: "Condition of Affairs on the Western Frontier" 
Change in Command: Lord Roberts: Chapter XI: "The Nation under Defeat"
Mafeking: Chapter XXV: "The Relief of Mafeking"
Mafeking: Chapter XXVI: "The Siege of Mafeking"
Howard Hensman, A History of Rhodesia, 1900.
This is perhaps the earliest history of Rhodesia and was written by a well-known author on military affairs. Howard Hensman had been an eyewitness to key events of in the 2nd Afghan War including the Battle of Charasia and the Storming of Takht-i-Shah near Sherpur on December 12, 1879. He published The Afghan War of 1879-80 in London in 1881. His descriptions of the battles in Afghanistan remain vivid today: "The enemy muster in great force and have 16 standards flying, .... (They) are of quite a different standard to those we have hitherto had to deal with. They stood up boldly to their flags, and waved their rifles and knives in derision at each shot." He closes his History of Rhodesia with a chapter on the Siege of Mafeking.
    Chapter XX: Events at Mafeking.
Map or Rhodesia, 1900 (William Blackwood and Sons, London for the British South Africa Company)
Commander Charles N. Robinson, R.N., Celebrities of the Army, 1902.
In 1902, Commander Charles N. Robinson, R.N., edited and published Celebrities of the Army, a collection of portraits and short biographies of senior offices and major heroes of the South African War. These include Baden-Powell and several officers with whom he served in India and Africa both before and during the war. The portraits are quite elegant and are presented along with biographical information. Included are portraits of:
Major-General Robert S. S. Baden-Powell, "The Defender of Mafeking."
    Brevet Major Lord Edward H. Cecil, "Chief Staff Officer at Mafeking During the Siege."
    Field-Marshal Lord Roberts of Kandahar, V.C., etc., "Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief the Forces in South Africa.
    Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel H. C. O. Plumer, "Commanding at Tuli, Rhodesia."
    Lieutenant-General Sir Baker Creed Russell, G.C.B, "Commanding Southern District."
    Lieutenant-General Sir Frederick Carrington, K.C.B., "On Special Service in South Africa."
    General Sir H. Evelyn Wood, V.C., "Adjutant-General to the Forces."
    Major-General Lord Kitchener of Khartoum, G.C.B., "Chief of Staff, South African Field Force."
    Field-Marshal Viscount Garnet Wolseley, K.P., etc., "Commander-in-Chief of the Army."
Other Links to Resources on the South African War.
From: A. B. "Banjo" Paterson, Happy Dispatches, 1934.
"Banjo" Paterson's  "... links with The Bulletin prompted the Sydney Morning Herald and The Argus to send him as a war correspondent to the Boer War in South Africa in 1900 and 1901. His vivid and exciting reports were well received. In 1901, Paterson accepted another commission, to report the aftermath of the Boxer Rebellion in China. He went from there to London, where he renewed his friendships with Rudyard Kipling and other people he had met in South Africa. Some of these experiences are remembered in his war memoirs, Happy Dispatches, published in 1934.
Table of Contents
Biography of A. B. "Banjo" Paterson: "Who was the "Banjo?" 
Robert Wotton, South African War Virtual Library.
The "South African War Virtual Library" is the best and most important place to start any research on the South African War.  The introduction describes the purpose and intent of the site: "This site is not intended to be a definitive historical account of the South African War, but rather an archive of easily accessible and concise material concerning the unfortunate period between 1899 and 1902. Similarly, it isn't intended to be a new historical 'front', but instead an organised amalgamation of a wide variety of available material." For anyone interested in the South African War, this site is a must visit.
Home Page of the South African War Virtual Library
    The South African Constabulary in the Anglo-Boer War by Keith Dixon and provides an excellent overview of the formation and actions of the S.A.C. during the South African War.
    The complete "Review of the South African Constabulary: 1900 to 1908" by Colonel R.S. Curtis, Inspector-General of the S.A.C. has been transcribed by Keith Dixon and is published in the "South African War Virtual Library."
The Guardian Unlimited (formerly The Manchester Guardian) has published a series of historical articles including several relating to the South African War. They include:
    30 January 1900:  The Battles of Ventner's Spruit and Spion Kop
    2 March 1900:  The Relief of Ladysmith
    18 June 1900:  Fighting near the Maritsani
    23 January:   Death of the Queen
2 June 1902:  Conclusion of Peace
From: Military History Journal of The South African Military History Society, December, 1970. Edited by Selby Webster.
Linden Bradfield Webster's Reminiscences of the Siege of Mafekingis a first-hand account of the Siege of Mafeking. The editor notes: "Mr. Webster still retains many vivid memories of what took place during the eight months that Baden-Powell and his small force held off the overwhelming might of the Boer Commandos."
From: Solomon T. Plaatje, Native Life in South Africa, Before and Since the European War and the Boer Rebellion (1913) and excerpts from The Boer War Diary of Sol. T Plaatje (1973). Solomon Plaatje was a politician, journalist, human rights campaigner, novelist and translator at the turn of the previous century.
    Excerpts from The Boer War Diary of Sol. T Plaatje (from an exhibit at the McGregor Museum, Kimberley, South Africa)
    Chapter XIX: Armed Natives in the South African War

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Last Modified: 4:57 PM on March 20, 2015