A fellow called Peter Dickens writes an excellent blog called ‘The Observation Post’, which is well worth taking a look at: www.samilhistory.com. Mr Dickens writes on a variety of conflicts, but I find his articles about the Boer War especially interesting, as he methodically dismantles the Apartheid-regime myths which still surround it – myths which are still deeply cherished by a certain type of small-minded extremist today. Indeed, as excellent as Mr Dickens’ articles are, the comments they inspire from various True Believers are more entertaining still.
Our first example is an ill-considered rant by a someone called ‘Edwin’; you’ll notice that, despite their passionate, Klippies-fueled ignorance, such people must, deep down, be ashamed of perpetuating National Party propaganda, so they are rarely brave enough to give their full name:
We shall perhaps never know why ‘Edwin’ is so proud of his (completely unreferenced) claims of Afrikaans ladies murdering their babies. While I have no doubt that one or two mothers did – for whatever reason – murder their own new-born, this must be one of the most bizarre boasts I have read about the Boer War, and certainly not something I would be bragging about. Unless, for some inexplicable reason, ‘Edwin’ heartily approves of infanticide?
One also has to laugh at his use of listing the soldiers as ‘British, English…’. Clearly poor ‘Edwin’ is as pig-ignorant of Geography as he is of History.
And as for his recommendation of Pakenham’s woefully bad, anti-British nonsense, well his drivel has indeed been unthinkingly lapped up by the faithful since his make-belief was published over 40 years ago. The God-awful tome was recommended by none other than the Afrikaner nationalist and notorious white supremacist, the late Eugène Terre’Blanche, founder and long-time leader of the Neo-Nazi AWB party. Claiming Pakenham’s work to be as good as Shakespeare,[i] Terre’Blanche assured his equally-thick-headed followers that the book was ‘not part of any English conspiracy’,[ii] no doubt approving of the way Pakenham skips over the mass murder of hundreds of black Africans by Boer commandos and instead concentrates on the important business of bashing the wicked British officer class.
One reviewer, writing 30 years after its release, about the impact Pakenham’s book had had on the subject wryly commented, ‘It is seldom that a newcomer to a field of history has such an immediate and lasting impact as Thomas Pakenham did with his book The Boer War’,[iii] noting the author had hitherto only written a travel guide to Ethiopia, and a history of the Irish rebellion of 1798—hardly qualifications for becoming some sort of overnight ‘world authority’ on the Boer War. Worse still, as another reviewer noted, was that ‘While his survey of the sources is impressive, Pakenham is not above creating details when they are unavailable’.[iv] But why should inconvenient facts get in the way of sensationalism, as:
‘Pakenham however knew how to write a best-seller… ironically but sadly, it is probably true that had he written a fair and balanced account rather than attacking the founder of scouting, his book would have commanded much less attention.’[v]
Of course, people like ‘Edwin’ have no interest in reading a ‘fair and balanced account’ of the Boer War. And as well as displaying a blatantly anti-British bias, Pakenham was also arrogant enough to feel qualified to write a book on military history, despite not having a military background. It is perhaps no wonder therefore, that, in addition to details he felt obliged to ‘create’, Pakenham’s work is packed with absolute howlers. His declarations really should be taken with the huge pinch of salt.
Then there is the truly surreal nonsense offered to us by someone so cowardly, that he did not even dare to use his Christian name when he posted his rubbish:
One could, just about, describe the First Boer War as a War for Independence – though, more correctly, it should be called ‘a War fought to re-establish the chaotic, incompetent and corrupt rule of a tiny, self-appointed ‘Chosen People’ of recently-arrived Bible-Bashing settlers, who felt they had a God-given right to lord it over the majority’ – though this is perhaps not quite as catchy, and doesn’t have the same self-serving ring of victimhood to it.
Someone who was directly impacted by this (ahem) ‘war for independence’ certainly didn’t share ‘Boer’s’ self-pitying views:
‘it fell to the missionary John Moffat to try to explain to the African chiefs in the Transvaal that they would no longer enjoy British protection or equality before the law. Moffat described how, ‘for the most part there was the silence of despair. One gentle old man, Mokhatle, a man of great influence, used the language of resignation, ‘When I was a child, the Matabele came, they swept over us like the wind and we bowed before them like the long white grass on the plains. They left us and we stood upright again. The Boers came and we bowed ourselves under them in like manner. The British came and we rose upright, our hearts lived within us and we said: Now we are the children of the Great Lady. And now that is past and we must lie flat again under the wind—who knows what are the ways of God?’’[vi]
Writing about the ‘80/’81 war, the missionary and scourge of the Boer slave raiders, the Reverend John Mackenzie[vii], agreed: ‘The Transvaal rising was not dictated, as was believed in England, by a love of freedom and preference for a republic rather than a limited monarchy. It was inspired by men who were planning a policy which would banish the English language and English influence from South Africa. Their action was a blow directly dealt against freedom, progress, and union of Europeans in South Africa’.[viii]
And as the Rev Mackenzie feared, with the ‘80/’81 rebellion successful, and the Boers back in power in the Transvaal, no one would suffer more than the Africans who — it is often forgotten — made up the vast majority of the ZAR’s population. A distraught Henry Rider Haggard[ix] argued that these poor fellows deserved ‘some protection and consideration, some voice in the settlement of their fate’:
‘They outnumbered the Boers by 25 to one, taking their numbers at a million and those of the Boers at 40,000, a fair estimate, I believe … as the lash and the bullet have been the lot of the wretched Transvaal Kaffir in the past, so they will be his lot in the future … after leading those hundreds of thousands of men and women to believe that they were once and for ever the subjects of Her Majesty, safe from all violence, cruelty, and oppression, we have handed them over without a word of warning to the tender mercies of one, where natives are concerned, of the cruellest white races in the world.’[x]
And if the First Boer War is certainly nothing to be proud of, to pretend that the 1899-1902 Boer War was a ‘War for Independence’, really does require a special sort of stupid. Indeed, it must be the only ‘war for independence’ in which the nation in question was already independent at the start, and which caused the war by invading its neighbours. So, if the spectacularly stupid ‘Boer’ really believes that the Boer War was a ‘war for independence’, then one must assume he also thinks the Second World War was a German ‘war for independence’ too.
One can only laugh with pity at his other claim, ie. that the Boer Wars were – at least in what remains of his fevered, Brandy-addled mind – ‘the Gold Wars’. An entertainingly remarkable claim, given that the First Boer War was fought five years before gold was discovered on the Witwatersrand, and also given that, at the time of the 1899-1902 Boer War, these gold mines were overwhelmingly owned by foreign, mainly British, investors[xi].
So ‘Boer’ is apparently mentally-subnormal enough to believe that the war was fought because the British wanted to ‘steal’ gold mines from… err… British investors? And the technique HM Government used to achieve this nefarious aim was… err… to be invaded by the Boers? And then, the British having won the war, they choose not to seize a single gold mine off anyone? And finally, and this really should be the clincher, London granted self-rule to the Transvaal just four years after victory?
It is not surprising that one as utterly ignorant as ‘Boer’ also screams that the wicked British were after ‘diamonds’ too… this despite South Africa’s diamond mines of the period overwhelmingly being in British territory – indeed, the capture of the Kimberley diamond mines was one of the war aims of the invading Boers. No less than President Steyn of the Orange Free State admitted exactly this to the Austrian War Correspondent, Count Sternberg:
‘…their first object was the annexation of the diamond fields. This war made possible the attainment of their wishes’.[xii]
And if we’re not being amused by a cretin like ‘Boer’ pretending an invasion of Natal (and Cape Colony, and Zululand…) is a ‘War for Independence’, then we can enjoy being entertained by ‘Gert’ (another one too cowardly to use his full name). Gert is clearly a man so outrageously stupid that he cannot quite wrap his head round the fact that the British ‘never accept the blame’ for being attacked by the Boers. I wonder if poor, deluded ‘Gert’ also lies awake at night, wondering why Polish people ‘never accept the blame’ for being invaded by Germany in 1939.
Of course, when ‘Gert’ isn’t humiliating himself by failing to understand who is ‘to blame’ for the Boer War, he is making up ghoulish claims about ‘kids being buried alive’ – something which has, apparently, just ‘come to light’: which is a rather novel way of saying: “Gert has just pulled it out of his arse”.
[i] Sunday Independent, 21 December 1995
[ii] South Africa’s Post-Boer, Boer War, Nasson
[iii] Thomas Pakenham and the Boer War: a fresh look after thirty years
[iv] Victorian Studies, vol. 24, no 3 (Spring, 1981), p.356.
[v] Thomas Pakenham and the Boer War: a fresh look after thirty years
[vi] Mason, The Birth of a Dilemma: The Conquest and Settlement of Rhodesia, p.110
[vii] John Mackenzie (1835 – 1899), born in Scotland, Mackenzie joined the London Missionary Society in 1855, and worked with the Great David Livingstone. He was a passionate opponent of the slave trade, a champion of African rights, and an implacable enemy of Boer racism and expansionism
[viii] Fitzpatrick, The Transvaal from Within, p. xiii
[ix] Later, Sir Henry Rider Haggard KBE (1856 – 1925). Though more famous for his works of fiction, such as ‘King Solomon’s Mines’ and ‘She’, Haggard served on the staff of Sir Theophilus Shepstone, Special Commissioner for the Transvaal, at the time of the annexation and regretfully short period of British rule
[x] Creswicke, Vol. I, p.103
[xi] Scholtz, Why the Boers lost the War, p.151
[xii] Sternberg & Henderson, My Experiences of the Boer War, p.86