Author: War Museum of the Boer Republics

Publisher: Pen & Sword, Frontline Books, 264 pages, 250 illustrations

Published: October 2018 (Great Britain Edition)

Price: £25.00

ISBN: 9781526734037

The resurgence of interest in the Anglo-Boer War during its centenary years of 1999-2002 had become overshadowed recently by that of the Great War. That said, this South African campaign still attracts interest across the globe, in particular South Africa and the UK. The country is a popular holiday destination amongst ‘Uitlanders’ and the battlefields of the Boer and Zulu Wars are attractions. 

This stunning new book provides a rich-illustrative record of the Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902, and unlike others, focusses mainly on the Boer Republic as opposed a British centric approach. What a perfect way to tell the story of this bloody war than through a wide-range collection of objects that are associated with it.

The book does an excellent job describing the lead up to war from the early white-settler history of Cape Colony when it was founded by the Dutch, taken by the French and during the Napoleonic Wars taken by the British in the dash for Empire. Dissatisfied Dutch settlers trekked inland to setup the Orange Free State and later another state named Transvaal. With the discovery of Gold and Diamonds, this attracted many outsiders who wanted to make their fortune. The first Anglo-Boer War of 1880-81 and then the Jameson Raid of 1895-96 had been the early warning signs of a much bigger period of unrest to come.

Telling the story of the Anglo-Boer war through 100 iconic objects, supplemented by an additional 150 other objects, including historical images, is a great idea. The objects, most of which are in the collection of the excellent War Museum of the Boer Republic in Bloemfontein, tell the bitter story of this conflict. With descriptions of battles and sieges, weapons, medical services, individuals, the guerrilla phase and what followed in the scorched earth policy are fascinating, if not heart-retching, to read. From hats to horses, balloons to blockhouses, Mausers to Metfords, Churchill to Conje, all give an enthralling, often personal, insight into this war. There is the tragic story of Jurgen Nieman told through the objects of his gravestone and blood stained clothing; a sword taken from a British soldier during the battle of Spionkop; an inkpot taken from Piet Cronje’s desk by a British soldier after Paardeberg and a fascinating story of how most of President Steyn’s dining set was returned by Lord Roberts.

This book brings history alive! Highly recommended. 

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