There were two Boer Wars 1880 – 1881 and 1899 – 1902, fought between the British Empire and the the two independent Boer Republics, the Orange Free State and the Transvaal of South Africa. It was the first military clash of the C20th and the Boers fought with guerilla tactics. The British response was swift. Lord Kitchener, the new British Commander ordered a ‘clean up’ and livestock, crops, homesteads and villages were killed and burnt. Women and children were herded into camps. The beginnings of the horrors of C20th warfare had been set in history.
Conflict between the British and the Boers:
- During the Napoleonic Wars, a British Expeditionary force landed in the Cape Colony and defeated the Dutch forces there, at the Battle of Blaauwberg.
- After the war Britain acquired the colony and encouraged settlement by British people which put them at odds with the Dutch settlers.
- The Boers became fed up with British administration and migrated away from the British on ‘The Great Trek’ and eventually established themselves at settlements, the Orange State and the Transvaal.
- Britain recognized these in 1852 and 1853 but annexed them in 1877, which led to the first Boer War.
- In 1887 diamonds were discovered at Kimberly and there was a mass migration from all over the world to the borders of the Orange State.
- In 1886, gold was found in the South African Republic an dit made the Transvaal rich and powerful but they could not exploit the gold themselves and allowed foreigners, mainly British to immigrate and as numbers grew so did conflict.
- British Government insisted that the migrants be afforded full voting rights in the Boer States, they wanted to bring the states under British control and of course they wanted control of the gold mines.
- No settlement was reached and the result was the second Boer War.
- Many British and Colonial Regiments were involved in the Boer Wars, look at artefacts you may have such as cap badges to see if they carry the dates 1900 – 1901.
- In your family tree or family history you will probably have someone who fought in the Boer War searches can be difficult but there are some sites that can help you
- Of the 22,000 British and Colonial troops that died only 6000 of them died in conflict the rest succumbed to illness and it was this fact that stirred the British Government to take a look at the more general state of the health of the army and of the population as a whole.
- For more useful curated resources and sources take a look at Intriguing Family History to help bring context to your family history
- Use the links to provide more depth to your research, the following YouTube has some amazing Boer War footage