I’ve often thought it would be fun, just for a day, to see the world through the eyes of a True Believer. How bizarre it must be to be cursed with an uncontrollable urge to twist and turn, and tie oneself in knots, in a fevered – and increasingly pathetic – attempt to keep the old National Party era myths alive. We will probably never fully understand why Defenders of the Myth greet any troublesome historical facts with their trademark mental gymnastics, and why they have an instinctive need to start entertaining us with hysterical screams that up is down, and black is white. I am sure there is a psychology thesis in there somewhere, just waiting to be written.
To try and understand just how totally unhinged these people are, imagine, for example, a Japanese version of a True Believer. This would be someone who, upon learning that, back in December 1941, the Japanese launched an attack on the American fleet at Pearl Harbor, and invaded British Malaya and the Philippines, doesn’t think, ‘oh, that’s interesting – I didn’t know that’, but instead instantly, and frantically, tries to completely deny historical reality.
Presumably the first, knee-jerk, reactions of such a character would be: “how can I deny that the Japanese attacked the Americans?”, and “how can I pretend that these weren’t real invasions?” and “I think I’ll stick my fingers in my ears, and just repeatedly scream that the poor innocent Japanese only ever wanted to be left in peace, and were the blameless victims of American aggression, and that they only ever wanted to take up ‘defensive positions’… all of which just happened – by pure coincidence – to be inside someone else’s territory… and… gold… and… err… and…”
Of course, you’ll never actually meet a fellow who would say any of that, but, when it comes to the Boer War, you’ll encounter such people at most braais in South Africa on any given weekend. The various Boer War Facebook groups are also full of such bizarre types, as a recent exchange re-confirmed.
After someone posted a link to a blog article in which I compared Putin’s plans to annex the Ukrainian territory he has invaded, with Kruger’s annexation of the British territory his forces had invaded, the usual suspects unthinkingly swung into action, desperate as ever to deny facts, and keep their myths stumbling on a bit longer. Not content with trotting out their normal nonsense that an invasion is not a real invasion… but only if the Boers do it, they are now tying themselves in knots, pretending that an annexation is not a real annexation… but only if the invading Boers announce it.
Completely undeterred by such troublesome things as ‘facts’ and ‘references’, one especially deluded fellow decided to spew out the following rant:
Clearly Mr Warwick is new to the subject, but did not feel that his complete and utter ignorance should get in the way of humiliating himself online.
For a start, my – fully referenced – article clearly showed that the Boers did annex huge swathes of captured territory, and, what is more, I provided numerous quotes which proved that this was the whole point of their invasions. And, yes: they were indeed ‘invasions’, not – as Mr Warwick would have it – ‘advances into the Cape and Natal’. I doubt even Mr Warwick would describe the German invasion of Poland in 1939, for example, as ‘a German advance into Poland’, so why try to hide behind such weasel words when the Boers are the invaders?
As for the Boers’ strategy, let us trust to the words of the man who – with the help of German staff officers – drew it up: a certain Jan Smuts. Writing in 1952, Smuts’ son (and biographer) confirmed that his father told him he had ‘a careful plan drawn up’ which envisaged:
‘the Boers to strike down swiftly at Durban and the other ports upon the outbreak of hostilities, in order to prevent the British landing reinforcements. That phase completed, the mopping up of troops in the country would begin’
You will notice there is no mention of the poor, innocent Boers only ‘taking the initiative to force British troops to meet them at defensive positions of their choosing’. The reason for this omission is that Mr Warwick’s claims are total nonsense, as he quickly goes on to prove; by pretending that Kruger’s cunning masterplan was ‘only’ to ‘advance’ into British territory to take up ‘defensive positions’ at Colenso and Magersfontein, all the unfortunate Mr Warwick does is confirm he has absolutely no concept of the events and timeline of the Boer War.
Alas, for Mr Warwick and his farcical, self-serving, theory, the Battle of Colenso was only fought after the arrival of British reinforcements forced the invading Boers to give up on their plan to get to Durban, and, following the Battle of Willow Grange, they retreated back to the Tugela River (dragging many wagon-loads of loot with them). Similarly, over on the western front, the invading Boers only dug-in on the Magersfontein position in early December, after being driven back there after their string of defeats at Belmont, Graspan, and Modder River the month before.
So the luckless and laughable Mr Warwick can be effortlessly proven incorrect on all points, and this was pointed out to him online – as was his distinctly cavalier (if rather convenient) decision not to bother referencing any of his preferred fantasies. Of course, an honourable man with a genuine interest in historical reality would take this on the chin, and accept that he really doesn’t know anything at all about the conflict… but that is not how True Believers operate.
Instead, as you can see, the increasingly ridiculous Mr Warwick continued to lurch amusingly from one self-made disaster to the next, rather reminding one of a cross between Mr Bean and Frank Spencer. Completely undeterred by inconvenient historical reality, he doubled-down on his claim about the Boers not having any sort of strategy (perhaps he has references which refute Smuts’ statement, a statement that completely contradicts his position… but don’t hold your breath).
He also seems to have a very limited grasp of the English Language, as his claim that my writing is ‘pithy’ is not the insult he hoped it was: the Cambridge Dictionary describes the word as meaning: ‘explaining an idea cleverly in a few words’. The Collins Dictionary uses the description: ‘short, direct, and full of meaning’. I shall happily accept the (unintentional, I’m sure) compliment – though I don’t think for a moment that Mr Warwick has actually read any of my books.
But then came the really funny bit. Clutching at his pearls, and perhaps finally realising he had backed himself into a corner and feeling utterly desperate, he suddenly spat out my favourite of all his many ill-considered remarks; apparently his panic-stricken desperation to preserve his much-cherished myths is such that he resorted to squealing that ‘Ash’ is – horror of horrors! – ‘not even a South African’!!!
It would seem that the somewhat frazzled Mr Warwick is completely unaware that ‘South Africa’ did not exist as a nation until 8 years after the republics lost the Boer War. Either way, his suggestion seems to be that only a South African should be ‘allowed’ to write about the Boer War – due to the ‘problems’ in the country (which was created 8 years after the conflict ended). This is rather strange for all manner of reasons, not least of which being that virtually all the major histories of the war have been written by non-South Africans: Conan-Doyle, Churchill, Pakenham, Maurice, Amery, and Farwell, for example. Indeed, really the only exception is Rayne Kruger’s ‘Goodbye Dolly Gray’.
It is also unclear why the ‘problems’ which he claims South Africa has today should prevent people writing history books and blog articles about events that happened 120 years ago. It would seem to be a tacit admission that I am correct, but – for some sort of bizarre and unexplained political reason – he doesn’t want the (ahem) ‘established’ version of events to be exposed as the rubbish it is.
Also, it should go without saying that, despite whatever God-complex he might have, Mr Warwick does not get to decide which nationalities are ‘allowed’ to write about a given war. Does he also take to Facebook to decree, for example, that only Russians are ‘allowed’ to write books about the Second World War? Or that only Belgians are ‘allowed’ to write about the Great War? How, one wonders, does he decide which nationality is permitted to write about each given war? What, indeed, goes on in that brain of his?
Even after the sheer stupidity of this statement was pointed out to him online, he nevertheless kept digging, kept spewing out rubbish, and kept embarrassing himself:
Blissfully unaware that all he was achieving was to turn himself into a rather entertaining figure of fun, the hapless Mr Warwick then confirmed that he knows just as little about the Royal Historical Society as he does about the Boer War. In reality – ie. not the surreal fantasy land inhabited by Mr Warwick – Royal Society Fellowships are: awarded to those who have made an original contribution to historical scholarship, typically through the authorship of a book, a body of scholarly work similar in scale and impact to a book, the organisation of exhibitions and conferences, the editing of journals, and other works of diffusion and dissemination grounded in historical research. Election is conducted by review and applications must be supported by someone who is already a Fellow.
Given his complete and utter ignorance of history, his inability to think logically, and his penchant for just making things up, I cannot see Mr Warwick being awarded such a Fellowship any time soon – though he certainly qualifies for recognition in the field of comedic entertainment.
 I was going to write ‘discussion groups’, but it seems these groups do not permit discussion if it challenges Apartheid-era myth: see my blog post on this subject
 Jan Christian Smuts by his son, p. 90, quoted in O’Connor, A Short Guide to the History of South Africa, 1652-1902
 And that’s ‘Mr Ash’ to you, Mr Warwick
 Needless to say, there are, however, many hundreds of memoirs and other minor works, like Breytenbach’s Apartheid-regime approved rubbish
 Or the English language