The 2nd Boer War
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There were two Boer Wars, the first taking place between 1880 and 1881. It is the 2nd Boer War between the Boer settlers in South Africa and the British which most people think of as the war which lasted from 1899 to 1902. As in so many places around the globe, the British had a simple aim in South Africa - they wanted to unify it under the British flag. Their desire for unification came to a head when rich seams of gold were discovered  in the Transvaal.


With the discovery of gold, the face of South Africa changed overnight and soon, the simple lifestyles and national identities of the Boer farmers (of Dutch and German descent) who chiefly occupied the South African Republic and the Orange Free State, were swamped by incomers in search of riches. 


From "The Great Boer War"

by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


"The Boers had made great efforts to establish a country of their own. They had travelled far, worked hard, and fought bravely. After all their efforts they were fated to see an influx of strangers into their country, some of them men of questionable character, who outnumbered the original inhabitants. If the franchise were granted to these, there could be no doubt that though at first the Boers might control a majority of the votes, it was only a question of time before the newcomers would dominate the Raad* and elect their own President, who might adopt a policy abhorrent to the original owners of the land. Were the Boers to lose by the ballot-box the victory which they had won by their rifles? Was it fair to expect it? These newcomers came for gold. They got their gold. Their companies paid a hundred per cent."


*Seat of government


The above-mentioned book is a good read and is available in full at

Conan Doyle goes into the myriad causes of the eventual war in great detail with matters coming to a head on Wednesday, 11 October 1899.


Conan Doyle again:

"The outbreak of war was upon October 11th. On the 12th the Boer forces crossed the frontier both on the north and on the west. On the 13th they occupied Charlestown at the top angle of Natal. On the 15th they had reached Newcastle, a larger town some fifteen miles inside the border. Watchers from the houses saw six miles of canvas-tilted bullock wagons winding down the passes, and learned that this was not a raid but an invasion. At the same date, news reached the British headquarters of an advance from the western passes, and of a movement from the Buffalo River on the cast. On the 13th Sir George White had made a reconnaissance in force, but had not come in touch with the enemy. On the 15th, six of the Natal Police were surrounded and captured at one of the drifts of the Buffalo River. On the 18th our cavalry patrols came into touch with the Boer scouts at Acton Homes and Besters Station, these being the voortrekkers of the Orange Free State force. On the 18th also a detachment was reported from Hadders Spruit, seven miles north of Glencoe Camp. The cloud was drifting up, and it could not be long before it would burst."


The 2nd Boer War is one in which should have given the British one of the toughest military lessons in their history. It is the war in which we should have learned about the formidable power that motivates ordinary men fighting in their homeland, for their homeland, for their way of life and for what they believe is a just cause. It is the war in which we should have discovered that all the strategic theory in the world will never beat intelligent appraisal of what is happening round about  on the ground. It is the war in which we should  have learned never again to underestimate an enemy.

To read what happened at Talana Hill go to


Talana Hill

Talana Hill

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Last modiied: 30/05/2007