I imagine that when Mark Zuckerberg set up Facebook, he thought it would be a fun distraction for bored office workers, a place where people could share pictures of their dinner or their cat, a handy tool to help organise reunions, or – most commonly of all, no doubt – a means for people to have another crack at seducing an old flame from High School. He probably had no idea that, as well as all those things, it would also be used by True Believers in their frantic desperation to keep National Party myths staggering on a bit longer.
Though I am not on Facebook, and indeed dislike everything about it, I was recently made aware of one particular character who – no doubt feeling very proud of himself for pretending to have found the ‘smoking gun’ – has been ‘wowing’ one of the FB Boer War sites with a little graph he has drawn. Apparently this graph shows that the British reinforced their garrison in South Africa (shock! horror!) as tensions rose in 1899, and an invasion of Imperial territory by the Boer republics looked increasingly likely.
To any normal, educated person capable of logical thought, this would be somewhat unremarkable. Why on earth wouldn’t any semi-competently-run nation increase the garrison of a territory which is likely to be attacked? It is blatantly and blindingly obvious that this would be a logical course of action by any nation which wanted to defend its territory, subjects and interests, as was pointed out to this poor, deluded, straw-clutching, fellow.
His response was:
Mr Pretorius – as is usual for such types – is resolute in his determination to only show one side of the story, as was also quickly pointed out to him by a Mr Lund (who, as you can see, also helpfully explained to him what the word ‘garrison’ actually means).
Why, one wonders, did Mr Pretorius pretend that an increase of the British garrison was some sort of proof of aggression, without troubling himself to show just how much it was still outnumbered by the rapidly-mobilising, and sabre-rattling Boers? Why did he feel the need to hide that fact? What, one might ask, is his agenda – for it is certainly not the study of history.
It is also worth noting that, by the time Kruger launched his lunatic attack on the British Empire, the scattered British garrison in the region was still only around 20,000 strong, whereas Kruger’s invaders fielded somewhere between 50,000 and 60,000, and – this really should be the clincher when it comes to apportioning blame – the Boers were the ones who attacked.
Mr Pretorius also conveniently leaves out that estimates by the War Office had reckoned on Britain needing to field some 200,000 men in the event of war with the republics – so if that, as he pretends, was London’s plan, they only had 10% of the men in theatre that their own military planners thought necessary.
Mr Pretorius then posed a truly idiotic question, demanding to know why, after the Boers had started the war by attacking and invading British territory, the British conquered and annexed the republics.
Someone responded thus:
As a Mr Beazley pointed out, Mr Pretorius genuinely seems to think that it was perfectly acceptable for the Boers to launch their long-planned invasions, attacking British territory, and annexing huge swathes of land in a looting binge… Despite all that, however, in the warped imagination of Mr Pretorius, the British were still the baddies, because as soon as they had the Boers fleeing and on the run, their victorious divisions didn’t stop at the border of the republics.
Does Mr Pretorius really think that the defeated Boers should have been able to run away back into their republics, and that would be the end of the war? Does he imagine the British army should have just stood on the border, shaking their fists and gnashing their teeth, like some sort of frustrated Sheriff in The Dukes of Hazzard, his pursuit thwarted because the good ole boys have made it across the county line?
Of course, Mr Pretorius’ argument is ridiculous in so many other ways too, one of which being that the British almost immediately granted self-rule to the former republics, and then independence to the new nation of South Africa. So his fantasies of Britain being deviously determined to snatch them really are ludicrous… and even more so, given that Mr Pretorius then wants us to believe that being invaded by Kruger’s Boers was somehow part of Britain’s Machiavellian scheme:
It is abundantly obvious that Mr Pretorius is not very knowledgeable when it comes to military history, but surely even one as poorly-read as he must be aware of a conflict called ‘The Second World War’. In this apparently little-known affair, Nazi Germany and her Axis partners invaded nations all around them – just like Kruger’s Boers had 40 years previously. Towards the end of a long and bitter war, these invading Axis forces were finally driven out by the Western Allies and Soviet forces, and Germany and Italy etc were then – wait for it – themselves invaded.
After the final victory, the Western Allies occupied their allotted portions of Germany, running them under military governors, for the next four years. Even after the establishment of West Germany in 1949, the Allied powers retained the right to keep occupation forces and enact administrative duties in the nation. Indeed, it was not until 1955 – ten years after the Second World War – that West Germany became a fully sovereign state. And even then, the Secretary General of NATO, General Hastings Ismay, quipped that the Alliance was set-up to ‘to keep the Soviet Union out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.’
Of course, that portion of Germany which fell under Soviet occupation was retained as an occupied puppet state for even longer still, only really gaining freedom in 1989.
With all this in mind, and unless he is an absolute hypocrite, presumably Mr Pretorius also thinks that the Allies were the guilty party in the Second World War, that they were entirely responsible for the war, and that they had a some sort of nefarious ‘ulterior motive’… all because they didn’t stop their armies at the borders of Nazi Germany, and instead went onto to occupy their would-be invader for a few years? Is he really so demented as to think that this Allied counter-invasion serves as ‘proof’ that poor old, misunderstood Hitler was the innocent party all along?
Who knows, perhaps Mr Pretorius will even draw another of his little graphs, showing how the British army responded to the growing threat in Europe in the months prior to the war, introducing limited conscription in April 1939, and then implementing the Military Training Act the following month. Thus the British army expanded as war in Europe grew more likely, which (in the fevered mind of Mr Pretorius, at least) presumably ‘proves’ that Britain – and not Nazi Germany – was the villain of the piece.
Such is the utter lunacy these die-hard True Believers have been reduced to in their increasingly laughable attempts to defend their much-treasured myths. It is quite clear that, if anyone has an ‘ulterior motive’ here, it is Mr Pretorius.
 Kruger had dispatched units to the border of Natal in early September
 Churchill, My Early Life, p.228
 The Transvaal was granted Self Rule in 1906, and the Orange Free State the year after
 Hastings Lionel Ismay, 1st Baron Ismay KG, GCB, CH, DSO, PC, DL (1887 – 1965), long serving British General and Diplomat, who served as the First Secretary General of NATO
 This got an extra 34,500 men into training – significant, given that the peace time regular army was only 224,000 men
 This introduced 6-months of compulsory military training for all 20-22 year old men