The Boer War 1899-1902, Ladysmith, Magersfontein, Spion Kop, Kimberley, Mafeking

B2025

This book is text-based but it does have an interesting photo plate section that includes in the background of one image an observation balloon that gave British artillery a new advantage, and an image of naval guns sent ashore and mounted on carriages. This also provided the Royal Navy with valuable experience that was carried into the man-carrying kite experiments from 1903 and the acquisition of aircraft.

For the military enthusiast, this book provides a very useful bridge from the military environment of the Napoleonic Wars into the global conflicts that marked and marred the Twentieth Century. This book is highly recommended.

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NAME: The Boer War 1899-1902, Ladysmith, Magersfontein, Spion Kop, Kimberley, Mafeking
DATE: 190914
FILE: R2025
AUTHOR: Anthony Dawson
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back
PAGES: 230
PRICE: £19.99
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: British Empire, Orange Free State, Dutch settlers, Cape Province, consolidation, column warfare, commando, cavalry, armoured trains, RN gun teams, naval artillery, observation balloons, Transvaal Republik
ISBN: 1-78159-328-1
IMAGE: B2025.jpg
BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/kul272o
LINKS:
DESCRIPTION: The British Empire expanded rapidly after the conclusive defeat of Napoleon and France. Expansion resulted from a combination of British forces, primarily the Royal Navy, protecting the sea routes for independent traders and trade monopolies. Colonial administration followed on behind. This was different from previous empires, where a ruler sent his armies into neighbouring lands to take them by force and incorporate them in a growing empire, or where a religious faction saw their mission as conversion of the heathen with the active assistance of the armies of those nations that supported the religion.

Where British forces defeated an enemy empire, there was no great urgency to absorb the defeated into an homogeneous colony. In Canada, the French settlers were allowed to continue a high level of autonomy and the Canadian aborigines were permitted freedom of movement in those ways that suited them. Similarly, the capture of Cape Town was a military necessity to safeguard British trade routes, but there was no immediate desire to expand inland to absorb all Dutch settlers or the local aboriginal tribes. However, traders and settlers followed on from Britain, expanding into the hinterland and being seen as a threat by the Boers.

Exactly what started the Boer war is subject to argument. The colonial administration that had become established looked to expand its control and this led to the Zulu Wars. The Boers also saw actions by settlers, administrators and soldiers as a direct threat. As with the Zulu Wars, the British military was unprepared to fight in the conditions that applied in South Africa. Troops still wore the red coats and white helmets that had been in use for hundreds of years in much the same form. Set piece battles in Europe were based on each army being immediately recognizable and for formations to deploy in formal manner. The exception had been in North America and the Peninsula campaigns, where a small number of units were equipped with rifles, dressed in dark green uniforms and used as skirmishers and snipers. They were not well regarded by traditional officers and their success was not copied across the units that made up the British Army. This was in part due to the way in which commissions were purchased and soldiers recruited. It allowed officers to buy their way up the promotional ladder and it encouraged traditional and appearance above effectiveness.

The result was that the British Army was led by officers who frequently lacked any real military skill and knew little or nothing of the terrain. The Dutch settlers facing them were very different. They did not use conspicuous uniforms or have any great desire to fight set piece battles with infantry supported by cavalry, artillery and engineers. They were essentially light cavalry that knew the area very well, rode fast and hard, avoided stronger forces and operated with hit and run tactics. This allowed them to run rings around the British formations and inflict some humiliating defeats.

The author has assembled and extracted from highly detailed despatches written by British commanders and this provides a unique insight into their thinking and the conduct of the war.

By the end of the Boer War the British Army was being reformed and equipped with low visibility clothing as battle dress. Considerable effort went into the improvement of equipment and tactics. The process had begun early in the Boer War and the British Army was almost unrecognisable, becoming a very effective and organized force that was to surprise the German invaders of Belgium and France little more than a decade later. It is not too great a claim that WWI was won because of the lessons learned in South Africa that produced an army of modern professional soldiers.

For the Dutch settlers, the Boer War left them as citizens of the British Empire, their previously independent states having been absorbed into the British colonial system. However, they were still allowed a level of autonomy, retained their language and they were not forced off land they had settled.

This book is text-based but it does have an interesting photo plate section that includes in the background of one image an observation balloon that gave British artillery a new advantage, and an image of naval guns sent ashore and mounted on carriages. This also provided the Royal Navy with valuable experience that was carried into the man-carrying kite experiments from 1903 and the acquisition of aircraft.

For the military enthusiast, this book provides a very useful bridge from the military environment of the Napoleonic Wars into the global conflicts that marked and marred the Twentieth Century. This book is highly recommended.

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