The Second Boer War

Why did the Boers and Britain go to war in 1899?

Who should win and why? (Boer Farmers vs British Army)

On the one hand, the Boer farmers should win. This is because they are more motivated as they are fighting for their homeland, they know the area well as they have grown up and lived there. As it is their homeland, they will have the support of many locals (South Africans) who also wish for freedom.

Also, the Boers will likely employ tactics such as guerrilla warfare to avoid British weapons.

Furthermore, they will use their abilities of skilled horsemanship and being skilled marksmen to their advantage.

On the other hand, the British are likely to win. This is because the combination of their superior weapons and firepower, with highly advanced training, they are strategically superior.

Also, as they have an extensive imperial empire, they have much better access to financial resources, which they can use to purchase more weapons and ammunition.

However, they will need the support of the British Public, which are supportive of imperialism, especially as it boosts their nationalism.

Who were the Boers?

They were descenders of Dutch Farmers who had settled in the Cape Colony.

After Britain took control of the colony after the 1814 Napoleonic wars, the Boers resented British rule and left the Cape Colony. Between 1835-1840, they left and went to Transvaal and the Orange Free State.

Why did the Kaiser support the Boers?

The Kaiser was following the policy of Weltpolitik as he wished to expand German interests by gaining another colony with support from the Boers.

Activity: Write a speech for Paul Kruger explaining why you have declared war on the British

For years we have seen the British invading and colonising free nations across the globe, slaughtering the peaceful settlers who live there, exploiting them, robbing their land, forcing their people to work.

Is this what you want to happen to our nation; to yourselves and your Children?

No longer shall our actions and choices be dictated by the British!

We will not sit back and let the British walk over us and rob us of our livelihoods.

This is where we began our lives; this is our country, this is our home.

We shall fight for our freedom, the freedom of those who live now and the freedom of generations to come!

Why did the Boer War have significant implications for International Relations?

  1. What was the ’Black Week’ for the British army in the war?

‘Black Week’ was when the Boers laid siege to the towns of Kimberley, Mafeking and Ladysmith and defeated British attempts to relieve them in the battles of Stormberg, Magersfontein and Colenso in December 1899. It was a major shock to the British public who were used to the British Army’s victory.

  1. Why were the Boers such skilled fighters?

British tactics were very effective against poorly armed opponents, however, it was disastrous as the Boers as they had modern rifles with smokeless powder. They were able to snipe at British forces from up to 3.5km away, and as they were highly mobile, adept in fieldcraft and used to living on the high veldt, could withdraw quickly. Furthermore, they were led by highly trained and experienced generals.

  1. What role did subjects from the British Empire play in the conflict?

They sent more soldiers, including those from Canada and Australia, to serve and had 400,000 soldiers involved at one point. Also, many British people at home volunteered to serve in South Africa.

  1. What tactics did the British use to overcome the Boer’s guerilla warfare?

They built stone and corrugated iron blockhouses which were manned by permanent garrisons and connected by telephone and barbed wire fences. They also burnt farms to prevent guerrillas from obtaining supplies, information and assistance. These were also used as a punishment for supporting the guerrilla fighters.

  1. How much did the war cost Britain financially and in casualties?

Including resources and arms, it cost Britain £210 million (£25 billion today) and resulted in 120,000 British and Imperial casualties, including 22,000 British deaths. ⅔ were as a result of disease and inadequate medical supplies.

Why did relations between Britain and Germany deteriorate by 1914?

  • In 1905, the Kaiser stated that Germany supported Moroccan independency to attempt to cause a split between Britain and France, however Britain continued to side with France (due to entente cordiale), even when he sent a gunboat to the Moroccan region to undermine French power.

  • Naval Arms race- Germany began their naval programme, believing it was necessary to protect their trade and empire. They wanted to be respected by other nations and empires, believing that for this, they would need a powerful naval fleet. This worried other empires, so they too started to further develop their Navies. Especially Britain who wanted to maintain the largest naval force in the world.

  • Wilhelm II became Kaiser of Germany and began a policy of Weltpolitik in which he aimed at gaining overseas possessions, such as colonies. They were a new Empire and their late entry to the arms race threatened Britain's strategic and commercial aims.

The Boer War worsened Anglo-German relations:

The Jameson Raid worsened relations because it was an attempt to create an uprising among the British living in the Transvaal and his troops in the British South Africa company. To overcome the setback, the Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain appointed an outspoken imperialist, as High Commissioner of South Africa.

The Kruger Telegram worsened relations because Kruger easily won the Presidential election and was reluctant to allow Uitlanders (British living in the Transvaal) political powers. He demanded that Britain drop its claim to rule the South African Republic and agree not to interfere with SAR internal affairs.

British tactics during the war worsened relations because they made enemies with local civilians. This is because they destroyed and burn the farms and farmland of those who supported the Boer uprising.

The Boer War had profound implications for British foreign policy:

It shook British confidence because the British people and politicians were used to hearing of victories, however, the Boers were so strong and the British lost a good number of battles.

It made Britain feel vulnerable, therefore they wanted to increase protection, so they utilised more soldiers from across the empire and at one point had ½ million stationed in South Africa. They also formed the Entente Cordiale alliance with France.

Three Phases of War

  • October 1899-December 1899

    • The Boers go on the offensive and lay siege to the towns of Mafeking, Kimberly and Ladysmith

  • January 1900-June 1900

    • The British send reinforcements, relieve the sieges and capture Pretoria, the capital of Transvaal

  • August 1900-May 1902

    • The Boers resist the British through guerrilla warfare

Above: An illustration of the Boer War
Information from this page was primarily sourced from information provided to me by my previous teacher, Mr Joshua Tillott.