Wiki warning

As so many people seem to consider Wiki to be the fount of all knowledge, I was interested to see this story in the Daily Telegraph:

The most telling part of the article is:

Mr Sanger [one of the co-founders of the site] said the website had strayed from its original mission, committing it to “neutrality” and allowing site contributors to have a free exchange of ideas. “Now, especially over the last five years or so, Wikipedia has changed quite a bit,” he said. “Now if you [public users] make any edit at all, you will be sternly warned if not just kicked out,” he said. Asked if he thought Wikipedia could be trusted to give truthful information, he replied: “Well, it depends on what you think the truth is.”

This is certainly my experience with the site. I tried to make edits to the Boer War page, attempting to correct this ridiculous description of Roberts’ invasion of the republics:

They relieved the three besieged cities and invaded the two Boer republics in late 1900. The onward marches of the British Army, well over 400,000 men, were so overwhelming that the Boers did not fight staged battles in defence of their homelands.

Perhaps needless to say, but this is utter poppycock.

For a start, Imperial forces captured Bloemfontein on 13 March 1900, and Pretoria on 5 June 1900, so quite how that equates to the counter invasion only starting in ‘late 1900’ is anyone’s guess.

Secondly, describing Kimberley, Ladysmith and – especially – Mafeking as ‘cities’ is a little far-fetched.

Thirdly, the notion that the British had ‘well over 400,000 men’ in the field at the time is utter nonsense.
The true figure was less than half of that: ‘By the beginning of April 1900, eleven infantry divisions, including the VIIIth (not all landed) were under Lord Roberts’ command. Of these, four were in Natal.’ A British infantry division of the period had 11,000 officers and men.
Another account reports that the pre-war garrison: ‘…was augmented by 55,000 on the arrival of the First Army Corps. Late in December came the Fifth Division of about 11,000, under Sir Charles Warren, followed by the Sixth Division of 10,000 men. The Seventh and Eighth Divisions of 10,000 men respectively were shortly to increase the forces at the disposal of Lord Roberts, together with some 2,000 additional cavalry, 10,000 yeomanry, 9,000 volunteers, seven battalions militia, drafts for regiments at the front amounted to 10,000, and about 20,000 local forces. The naval brigade was composed of about 1,000; so that in all, roughly established, we were on the eve of putting 184,000 men into the field.’
While, in his history of the siege of Mafeking, Brian Gardner claims that there were only 107,726 regular British troops in theatre at the time of relief of that town in May 1900.

And lastly, the Boers fought several ‘staged battles’ in defence of their homelands: Poplar Grove, Driefontein, Botha’s Pass, Alleman’s Nek, Doornkop and Six Mile Spruit, for example, as well as attempts to block the British advance at the Vet River and the Zand River. All of these battles were Boer defeats, and thus apparently do not fit with the narrative Wiki is desperate to push.

My attempts to correct this paragraph were rejected, and Wiki has now blocked me from making edits. Clearly someone is determined that this garbage should remain up there, and that the myths should continue to be spread.

1 Comment

  • Douglas Mason Posted July 18, 2021 2:00 pm


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