‘Eternal Shame’… complete drivel more like

I was recently made aware of a self-pitying piece of drivel posted on one of the more low-brow Boer War Facebook sites. These places seem to be overwhelmingly inhabited by the lunatic fringe of the AWB: sad, lonely old men who love to swap ghoulish make-belief tales with one another, desperately pretending that the Boers are completely blameless and didn’t really lose the war, as well as blaming all their current woes on the nasty British bully.

The piece in question was called ‘Eternal Shame’ and was written by an especially ignorant fellow called Ken Heath. His rubbish is such an ahistorical flight of fancy, that it really should be to his ‘eternal shame’ that he wrote it, and to the ‘eternal shame’ of the gate-keepers of the page that they approved of it[1].

Anyway, no doubt to the delight of his equally uninformed followers, and certainly to the amusement of those of us who actually know about the war, Mr Heath’s little diatribe immediately descended into nonsense, when he claimed (ludicrously) that the British were ‘unable to win any decisive victories’. Presumably the mass Boer surrenders at Paardeberg and the Brandwater Basin[2] completely passed him by, as did the spineless surrender of both the republican capitals and Johannesburg, and the shattering and scattering of the Boer armies. Despite Heath’s frantic claims, guerrilla warfare (AKA ‘terrorism’) was not the ‘preference’ of the Boers at all – it was a last resort, forced upon them after being soundly defeated in the Conventional Phase of the war.

Banging away desperately on his little drum of self-pity, and with matchless arrogance, Mr Heath then even saw fit to ‘correct’ one of the quotes he used, claiming that though the author had clearly written ‘black refugee camps’, what he really meant – at least in the wacky world of Mr Heath – was ‘black concentration camps’. Perhaps Mr Heath is blissfully unaware that huge numbers of Africans had to be housed, fed and protected from the ‘noble’ Boers he so brainlessly rushes to defend.

With mind-blowing stupidity, the increasingly deranged Heath then asserts that, with the Boer surrender, ‘The British now control the mineral wealth in the richest gold reserve that the world has yet known, having effectively stolen it by force’. Needless to say, and just like everything else he spewed out, this is utter nonsense. The gold mines were privately owned (largely by British investors) before Kruger – with inter-galactic stupidity – started the war… and were still privately owned (largely by British investors) when the war ended. Not a single mine had been ‘stolen’ from its owner[3]. And, more to the point, just four years later, the ‘wicked’ British granted self-rule to the Transvaal (and after pumping a lot of money into the place).

Completely taking leave of his senses, Mr Heath then declares that, in addition to the ‘22,000 Imperial’ troops killed in the war, ‘82,742 colonial soldiers are (sic) killed’. Needless to say, this is just yet more complete and utter fantasy; in reality, total deaths of Imperial / Colonial troops in the war were 20,870[4] – the vast majority of which were from disease (yes, Mr Heath and other such nutters: believe it or not, fit, strong, healthy young soldiers died of disease back then too – not just infants and old people housed in camps).

So why did Mr Heath pretend that an additional ’82,742’ Colonial (ie. Natalian, Cape, Rhodesian, Australian, Canadian and New Zealand) troops died? We have long known that, in their desperation to keep their beloved myths alive, extremists like Mr Heath simply pull numbers out of the air – but this really is next level stuff. In reality, for example, only 518 officers and men of the various Australian contingents died in South Africa – with death from disease being the biggest killer. Total Canadian deaths were 173, and New Zealand’s were 176. By far the biggest number of ‘colonial’ deaths were those suffered from South African / Rhodesian forces – a total of 3,080 officers and men[5]. Those capable of basic arithmetic will see Mr Heath’s claims are thus exaggerated by the small matter of 78,795 deaths. Such is the complete and utter lunacy required to keep National Party fantasies alive.

Running out of steam, and spluttering to a suitably humiliating finale, the laughable Mr Heath then announces: ‘I don’t know how anybody from Brittan (sic) or the colonies could be proud of what they did. The Boers stood up to a bully and punched him back – a David against a greedy Goliath’. In reality, of course, this would be every bit as delusional as claiming poor, innocent Nazi Germany ‘stood up to the bullying Goliath of the Soviet Union, and punched him back’… it really is jolly inconvenient for the deranged Defenders of the Myth that – just like Nazi Germany a few decades later – the Boers were the ones who started the war – a decision which must have been one of the stupidest in all of military history… “Hey – let’s pick a fight with the British Empire – I mean, whatever could go wrong? D’Oh!”

In reality, Mr Heath, there is plenty for people from ‘Brittan’ to be proud of. Let us not forget that the republics Heath so mindlessly champions had franchise laws which made the later Apartheid regime look positively liberal and benign; Kruger’s Transvaal violently discriminated not just against non-whites, but also against English-speakers, Jews and Catholics, as well as still tacitly condoning slavery.

And far from being the ‘David’ of Heath’s adolescent fantasy, the invading forces from these ghastly Boer republics greatly outnumbered the British colonial garrisons in the Cape and Natal when the Boers started the war, arrogantly certain of driving the British from southern Africa completely, and building their much planned-for Empire ‘from the Zambesi to Simons Town’[6]. Instead, Kruger’s farcical invasions were thwarted and foiled by the scattered British and colonial units, and then driven back from whence they came.

Once reinforcements arrived in theatre, Imperial forces then quickly defeated the republican forces in the Conventional War, and went on to win a Guerrilla War 6000 miles from home – achieving victory, indeed, in less than a quarter of the average time of such conflicts in the 20th Century[7]. This despite not enjoying any significant technological advantage, or fielding anything like the troop ratios which modern military planners consider to be required.

More importantly, people from ‘Brittan’ can be proud that the forces of liberal democracy triumphed over the invading forces of an extremist oligarchy which was shockingly racist, exclusionary and backward – even by the standards of the time. It is truly remarkable that people like Mr Heath genuinely seem to lament the fact that Kruger’s squabbling hordes of ill-disciplined looters proved hopelessly unable to conquer British South Africa, and thus failed to spread the corruption, racism, slave-raiding and ineptitude of his crackpot republic still further. How disappointed Mr Heath must be, for example, that – thanks entirely to British victory in the Boer War – the Jews, Catholics and English-speakers of the Transvaal were no longer discriminated against, and non-whites in the Cape Colony could continue to enjoy a colour-blind franchise, rather than being forced to live under the racist tyranny of Kruger’s self-appointed ‘Chosen People’.

The real ‘eternal shame’ here is that simple-minded extremists like Mr Heath – unthinkingly cheered on by epic buffoons like Elsegood – still seek to keep their much-cherished Apartheid-era myths alive.


[1] Given that one of the approving admins is non-other than the spectacularly ignorant John Elsegood, this all makes sense

[2] Over 4,000 Boers capitulated at each action – far greater numbers than surrendered at any British defeat

[3] As Conan-Doyle stated back in 1902: ‘The gold mines are private companies, with shares held by private shareholders, German and French, as well as British. Whether the British or the Boer flag flew over the country would not alienate a single share from any holder, nor would the wealth of Britain be any way greater … how is Britain the richer because her flag flies over the Rand? The Transvaal will be a self-governing colony, like all other British colonies, with its own finance minister, its own budget, its own taxes, even its own power of imposing duties upon British merchandise.’

[4] Hall, The Hall Handbook of the Anglo-Boer War, p.187

[5] Ibid, p.185

[6] Lowry, The South African War Reappraised, p.209

[7] Ricks, Fiasco, p.433


  • CH Posted March 7, 2023 8:06 pm

    It really is sad when people like Mr Heatth can not accept historical reality. Why are these people so wedded to the myths?

    • Bulldog Posted March 7, 2023 8:09 pm

      Yup: they are a desperately pathetic bunch, that’s for sure. Their lives must be terribly empty to need to cling to their comfort blankets of National Party fantasy.

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