The Boer War 1899-1902

Dutch: Tweede Boerenoorlog (Second War of Liberation) 





 Causes of the Boer War


The rapid influx of British and other foreigners to exploit the diamond riches of the Boer Republics was a major factor in the war



Boer War Footage (1899). This montage is from the second Anglo-Boer War which was fought between the British Empire and the Afrikaans-speaking Dutch settlers of two independent Boer republics, the South African Republic and the Orange Free State. It ended with the conversion of the Boer republics into British colonies.



Video on the Boer War


The Boer war was fought between Great Britian and the two Boer republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State in South Africa, from 1899 to 1902. Boers were the Dutch population of South Africa. The word Boer comes from the Dutch word for farmer. In the 17th century the Dutch East India Company began to use the Cape of good Hope as a way station for ship sailing to asia .

The first Dutch settlement in South Africa was made at Capetown in 1652 by about 80 Hollander led by Jan van Riebeeck.In 1707, the  Dutch East India Company forbade further immigration from Holland due to disputes among the settlers.


In the 18th century, the Boers advanced toward the north, reaching the Orange rive to the northwest and the Great Fish river to the east .Here they meet the Bantus, and began a long conflict with them .The rule of the Dutch East India Company was ended in 1795, when the British seized the Cape of good Hope  in order to prevent the French from seizing it .In 1803, the British returned it to Holland, but took it again a few years later . At this time the dutch numbered about 15,000.


Read On Commando

by Dietlof Van Warmelo 1901

for free at Project Gutenberg


The Rhodes Colossus Striding from Cape Town to Cairo
Punch, December 10, 1892. Rhodes , achieved wealth and power from his Kimberly diamond mines, planned a railway from the Cape to Cairo, to be run through British held territory, but it was never accomplished .



video - Reenactment of a Anglo-Boer War Battle

(Mafeking) Edison 1900



"Scorched Earth" (Anglo-Boer War) documentary (2000, South Africa)
This 2000 documentary, "Scorched Earth," tells the story of the destructive policy that was used by the British military during the Anglo Boer War 1899-1902 and the human tragedy that followed as a result of the concentration camp system. A documentary which crushes all preconceived ideas about the Anglo-Boer War. The film looks from every possible angle at the tragic impact of the war on the lives of ordinary people. It focuses on Britain’s merciless “Scorched Earth” policy and the concentration camps for Afrikaner women, children and black people, as well as the way it shaped the collective South African psyche and politics of the twentieth century.


The British had trouble with the Boers from the beginning of their rule in South Africa. In 1816 there was a rebellion by the Boers against the British. In 1820 about 5,000 British settlers came to South Africa. In 1834 slavery was abolished in the British Empire. The Boers felt the compensation given them by the British government was inadequate. In 1835 hundereds of Boers left the Cape, beginning an exodus that would continue for a decade, called the "Great Trek', seeking land where they would be free of British rule .Those who made the trek were called voortrekkers .The Boers formed settlement beyong British rule in the Orange Free Statte and the Transvaal. In 1872, the colony was granted autonomy, the Boers were able to control the local administration.The First Boer War (1880–1881), also known as the "Transvaal War," was a relatively brief conflict in which Boer settlers successfully resisted a British attempt to annex the Transvaal, and re-established an independent republic.



Breaker Morant Boer Commando Attack



Breaker Morant,

dramatic account of the true story of the court-martial of three soldiers attached to the Bushveld

Carbineers, a guerrilla warfare unit of the British army that operated during the Boer War


Commando: A Boer Journal of the Boer War,

by Deneys Reitz,well written account of a commandos  present at virtually every

major event of the war. He would fight for Britain in WWI.



Cut off and alone, this is an excerpt from Commando, our award winning short film set

during the Anglo-Boer War, based on the journal written by Deneys Reitz.


1886 Gold Rush



In 1886, large deposites of gold were found in Transvaal, leading to a gold rush such as the American Gold rush in California. The area became flooded with outsiders (Uitlanders). The Boers began to feel overwhelemed by these outsiders . The president of the Transvaal, Paul Kruger taxed the Uitlanders heavily and denied them political rights, afraid the Boers would lose control of the state.At this time, there were approximately 30,000 white male Boer voters and potentially 60,000 white male Uitlanders.The Boers built a railway to Delagoa Bay in Portuguese East Africa to have access to a port not controlled by the British.



Paul Kruger


The war most commonly referred to as the "Boer War" is the Second Boer War.Known in in Afrikaans as the Boereoorlog or Tweede Vryheidsoorlog ("Second War of Liberation"). The Boer War was occasioned by the British protests against the Transvaal governments treatment of Uitlanders (foreigners), most British nationals , who entered the area after a gold strike.


The Jameson Raid 1895


The Jameson Raid ( New Year weekend of 1895-96) was an attemped coup by members of the British South Africa Company ( headed by Rhodes). A group 470 British  cavalrymen led by Dr. Leander Starr Jameson, Rhodes assistant,  went raid on the Transvaal Republic. Jameson's force was tracked from the moment that it crossed the border and first encountered resistance very early on January 1 when there was a very brief exchange of fire with a Boer outpost.They expected the Uitlanders to rise up and overthrow the Boer republic, but they did not rise up and the raiders were defeated and surrendered on Jan 2.


The Boer government later handed the men over to the British for trial and the British prisoners were returned to London.Jameson and was sentenced to 15 months for leading the raid. Rhodes was forced to resign his post as prime minister of the Cape colony. The Transvaal government was paid almost £1 million in compensation by the British South Africa Company.Paul Kruger used this money to buy artillery and rifles from Gernany. The Kaiser had praised the Boers for their actions, raing anti-Boer and anti-Greman sentiment in the UK.


British anti-war riot in 1899 before the war


British declaration of War,  October 1899


British naval gun fires at Boer linesat Magersfontein in Dec, 1899


Britain claimed that they had never given up control of the Boer Republics, and Kruger insisted they were completely independent .

In September 1899 Joseph Chamberlain (the British Colonial Secretary) sent an ultimatum to the Boers, demanding full equality for those uitlanders resident in the Transvaal. President Kruger, seeing no other option than war, issued his own ultimatum, giving the British 48 hours to withdraw all their troops from the border of the Transvaal, failing which the Transvaal, allied with the Orange Free State, would declare war against the British.


The rejection of the ultimatum followed and war was declared.The Orange Free state associated itself with the Transvaal. Hostilities began in October 1899, with one force of Boers occupying Mafeking and another Kimberly .The news was greeting with an upsurge in patriotism in Britian. The British expected to dipatch the Boers as they had other colonial peoples. The were in for a rude shock in the early months of the war .In one week in December, 1899, known in the UK as the 'Black Week' the British lost  three battles  with thousands of British soldiers killed. A new British commander, Lord Roberts, recovered the initiative in 1900 and copied the Boer Kommando methods .


Boers at the Siege of Mafeking. From Sept 19, 1899 to May 1900, 8,000 Boer troops laid siege to around 2,000 British troops .The Boers decided that the town was too heavily defended to take, they moved most of their force away in Sept, 1899 and the remainder in May when a British relief force was approaching .The relief of Mafeking led to wild rejoicing in Britain .



Goebbels approved this movie which describes the Anglo-Boer war and the history of the Boers. It was shown across Europe. It shows the deceit of the English and their despicable treatment of the Boers. This is a prelude to The Battle of Blood River which we are celebrating. This week you will learn more detailed Boer history than 99.9% of Boers know. You will learn more history than most South Africans know about South Africa. After this movie, we'll dig into the Great Trek, the many battles that came from it and the formation and fall of some of the Boer Republics they created.


Blockhouses and concentration camps to control insurgents had firist been used by the Spanish against Cubans.

A British blockhouse in South Africa.


Christiaan de Wet, one of the most successful Boer guerrilla leaders who concentrated on attacking British supply lines after 1900. de Wet abolished the Boer use of wagon train so the commandos would be more mobile. He survived the war and died in 1922. Afrikaans kommandos, they adopted guerrilla raiding tactics, which gave the word commando its modern sense of specialised raiding forces.

 The Boers were armed with new Mauser rifles purchased from the revenues of the gold and diamonds mines


The war had three distinct phases. First, the Boers mounted pre-emptive strikes into British-held territory in Natal and the Cape Colony, besieging the British garrisons of Ladysmith, Mafeking and Kimberley. The Boers then won a series of tactical victories at Colenso and Spion Kop against a failed British counteroffensive to relieve the three sieges. Second, after the introduction of greatly increased British troop numbers under the command of Lord Roberts, another, and this time successful, British offensive was launched in 1900 to relieve the sieges. After Natal and the Cape Colony were secure, the British were able to invade the Transvaal and the republic's capital, Pretoria, was captured in June 1900.


The British moved civilians to civilians into concentration camps to prevent them from aiding Afrikaan guerillas, and set up block houses to prevent the movement of guerillas. Over 26,000 died in concentration camps.


Finally, beginning in March 1900, the Boers engaged a protracted hard-fought guerrilla warfare against the British forces. This lasted a further eighteen months, during which the Boers raided targets such as British troop columns, telegraph sites, railways and storage depots. In an effort to cut off supplies to the raiders, the British, now under the leadership of Lord Kitchener, responded with a scorched earth policy of destroying Boer farms and moving civilians into concentration camps.


train wreck caused by Kommandos. A young Winston Churchill, working as a

correspondent was captured on a train and was imprisoned in a POW camp in Pretoria


The campaign had been expected by the British government to be over within months, and the protracted war became increasingly unpopular especially after revelations about the conditions in the concentration camps (where thousands died of disease and malnutrition). The demand for peace led to a settlement of hostilities, and in 1902, the Treaty of Vereeniging was signed. The two republics were absorbed into the British Empire, although the British were forced to make a number of concessions and reparations to the Boers. The granting of limited autonomy for the area ultimately led to the establishment of the Union of South Africa. The war had a lasting effect on the region and on British domestic politics. The war, known as the last British imperial war, was the longest (almost three years), the most expensive (over £200 million), and the most disastrous of all wars for Britain between 1815 and 1914.


The Treaty of Vereeniging in 1902 ended the war. By this time the British had 300,000 troops in South Africa .

Many of the Boers referred to the war as the second of the Freedom Wars. The most resistant of Boers wanted to continue the fight and were known as "bittereinders" (or irreconcilables) and at the end of the war a number of Boer fighters such as Deneys Reitz chose exile rather than sign an undertaking that they would abide by the peace terms. Over the following decade, many returned to South Africa and never signed the undertaking. Some, like Reitz, eventually reconciled themselves to the new status quo, but others could not.





Anglo-Boer War Museum


Spanish American War


Sino Japanese War


Franco Prussian War


French and Indian War


Taiping Rebellion


Korean History


Japanese History