General de Wet: a study in incompetence

Ignoring the inconvenient fact that they lost the Boer War, those on the lunatic-fringe of Far-Right Afrikanerdom love to claim that their ‘heroes’ were all amazing Generals, and I was recently asked if I bought into the myths around Christiaan de Wet. We all know that True Believers have no interest in historical reality, but to pretend that de Wet was some sort of military genius takes a special sort of stupid – in reality, his war record was one of almost unbroken incompetence, punctuated occasionally by cowardice.

Desperate as always to keep the myths alive, Pakenham pays scant attention to de Wet’s abject failure at Wepener, for example. While he devotes two entire chapters (35 pages) to Buller’s defeat at Colenso,[1] the 16-day battle at Wepener gets just nine lines and Pakenham somehow even manages to present de Wet’s thrashing as some sort of victory.[2] Prof Nasson takes a similar line, paying little regard to the salient fact that de Wet’s repeated efforts to take the town were broken up, driven off and completely thwarted: for some reason the fact that de Wet was able to flee before being encircled by the relieving troops[3] gets frantically spun into a triumph by Nasson.

Though certainly problematic for Defenders of the Myth, the siege of Wepener was actually an epic of the war. Situated against the border with Basutoland, Wepener was an inconsequential settlement. Units of the Colonial Division had first moved into the area in late March 1900, and busied themselves disarming surrendering Boers and rounding up local troublemakers.[4] Though Wepener was a place of absolutely no strategic value, de Wet’s irrational desire to strike a blow against loyalist colonials[5] appears to have blinded him to more sensible and practical targets like the railway or the bridges over the Orange River. Had he not wasted his time and resources in attacking Wepener, there would have been nothing stopping his commandos from sweeping into the Cape Colony and causing merry hell with Roberts’ supply lines, thereby putting a halt to his advance and perhaps even threatening the British position at Bloemfontein.[6] Instead, and with the Boer lines collapsing to the north, de Wet mustered between 8,000 and 10,000 men with ten or twelve guns and struck against the strategically worthless target of Wepener.[7]

Even a furious Kruger signalled that this would achieve nothing,[8] recognizing de Wet’s action for what it was: a significant strategic blunder.

With the approach of de Wet’s formidable force, the decision was taken not to hold Wepener itself, but to fortify positions in the hills just outside of town, the siting of these defences being supervised by Major Maxwell of the Royal Engineers. As well as Maxwell’s small party of sappers, the Imperial forces defending the position consisted of elements from the 1st and 2nd Brabant’s Horse, the Cape Mounted Rifles, Driscoll’s Scouts, the Kaffrarian Rifles, and a company of the Royal Scots Mounted Infantry. The total force was somewhere between 1,700 and 1,850 men with seven guns (including a pair of obsolescent 7-pounders and a ‘Hotchkiss gun of French manufacture, which had been presented to the 2nd Brabant’s Horse by Mr A. Beit’[9]) and six Maxims. The garrison was thus overwhelmingly made up of loyalist South Africans, with Colonel Dalgety of the Cape Mounted Rifles as the officer commanding.

On 4 April a party of Boers—under a German officer—entered Wepener under a flag of truce to demand the Imperial surrender. They were sent on their way, but not before Colonel Dalgety, with admirable showmanship, had offered to accept their surrender instead.[10] Incredibly, the supposedly dashing de Wet then wasted another five days dithering before attempting an attack on the Imperial positions,[11] five days which Dalgety used to further improve his position, and which relieving forces spent marching to the rescue; another inexplicable blunder by the ‘great general’.

The Boers finally commenced their bombardment on the 9th and it was not until the 10th that de Wet attempted to assault the British positions; fierce fighting raged throughout that day and into the small hours of the 11th. All de Wet’s assaults were repulsed with heavy loss and no ground was gained. Though the onslaught had been intense, all the federal attacks were broken up and driven off by the Imperial defenders, some with the bayonet. 36 hours of attacks against a heavily outnumbered foe had not gained de Wet a single inch of ground. A defender recalled one of the initial assaults:

‘Our men allowed them to get right in and then opened fire at fifty yards. Every man had his bayonet fixed and ready, and at the word they went for them. In less than an hour it was all over, and the Boers were beaten back, leaving 300 dead. It was pitiful to hear them crying. They have not the heart of a school-girl, and they cannot stand a beating.[12]

Though the figure of 300 dead should be taken with a large pinch of salt, there can be little doubt that the republicans suffered severely; and this carnage was the result of just one assault in one sector on one day of the battle. It is also worth pointing out, by way of comparison, that the British lost just 143 men killed at Colenso, a defeat considered so costly and humiliating as to be worth multiple chapters in the so-called definitive histories.

As well as the constant sniping and bombardment, and the nauseating stench of putrefying horse carcasses, four days of incessant rain added to the defenders’ misery, filling their trenches with water and transforming the battlefield into a quagmire. So small was the area defended that troops in some of the more exposed Imperial positions were unable to leave their trenches at any time during the siege. These men survived on cold food and fresh water brought to them by work parties that crawled forward under cover of darkness.

An officer of Brabant’s Horse remembered the siege:

‘We fought all day and all night. The big gun and rifle fire were almost deafening, and as we were entirely surrounded, it was pouring in on all sides, a continuous hail of shot and shell. Towards afternoon they directed all their gun fire to one spot, and blew to bits the schances of the CMR [Cape Mounted Rifles], thus leaving them unprotected, and in the night they attempted to take the position by assault. Although the CMR were very considerably outnumbered, the Boers were unable to attain their object. They had not reckoned of the opposition of, undoubtedly, one of the finest regiments in the whole world, as the CMR are.[13]

De Wet appears to have had no coherent plan other than to drive his reluctant men directly onto the Imperial trenches. The bitter fighting:

‘…continued through the ensuing days and even at night, the Boers once storming right up to the British trenches at 2am to be beaten off at bayonet point. Nor did a four-day downpour of rain stop their persistent attacks under the lash of de Wet who did not hesitate to use his leather thong [sjambok] to enforce obedience to his will.[14]

It is difficult to find any tactical brilliance to admire in de Wet’s bull-headed approach, and despite his efforts, the republicans were unable to capture and hold any ground whatsoever. The gallantry shown by the garrison was remarkable, as was their resilience to the never-ending pressure. The defenders did not just grimly man their trenches, but maintained an impressive aggressive spirit and even sallied forth to capture one of the Boer guns. In the words of one Imperial officer who kept a diary during the siege:

‘In the Crimea, twenty-four hours on and twenty-four hours off was considered hard work. My men have been ten days in their trenches without leaving them, wet to the skin oftener than not, and day and night exposed to shrapnel, not able to raise their hand above without getting a bullet through them, and yet not a grumble is heard.’[15]

While not as famous or lengthy as the sieges at Ladysmith or Mafeking, in many ways the defenders at Wepener had an even rougher time of it. The Boer attacks on the first two days were every bit as intense as anything in the more renowned sieges, with many of the Imperial troops in place and under fire for the entirety of the action.

With more units arriving from all over the Empire, Roberts was ready for a general advance to clear the remaining Boer forces out of the south-eastern Free State, and one column was specifically tasked to relieve Wepener, fighting its way toward the beleaguered garrison from the south. This column was made up of the balance of the Colonial Division—about 1,200 men and two guns under Brabant—together with half of Hart’s brigade: two and a half battalions and a Royal Artillery battery. The combined relief force was perhaps 4,000 men in total, with Hart in overall command.

De Wet had told off about 1,300 men and two guns under Froneman to oppose this advance, and the federals made their first attempt to stop Hart’s southern column at Rouxville. Froneman’s commandos were driven out of that town on 15 April. His forces then made another stand at Boesman’s Kop, some 20 miles south of Wepener.[16] An over-enthusiastic sally by the Boers saw a group of about 60 leaving their positions to attack Hart’s scouts, thus exposing themselves to the rifle fire of the main body and being shot down in detail. Though never able to get to close quarters and destroy these blocking forces, Hart’s men persisted in driving the republicans before them, with Froneman’s units disappearing into the night on the 24th. The siege was lifted by Hart’s command the following day, with de Wet ‘who saw the net closing in on him, and lost not a moment in escaping from it’[17] fleeing north.

So here was a battle which lasted 16 days, involved around 15,000 troops in all, and which was fought at a time when de Wet’s large force was urgently needed elsewhere. Despite a fivefold advantage[18] de Wet completely failed to dislodge Colonel Dalgety’s small force, and then retreated in the face of a relatively small relief column.

When faced with the facts of Wepener, there is little to support the notion that de Wet displayed any signs of greatness: it was an action which should never have been fought and which he really should have been able to win easily. Worse still, his nonsensical decision to waste his time at Wepener instead of striking at British supply lines allowed trainloads of Imperial troops, ammunition, and supplies to flood unhindered into Bloemfontein, ready for the march on Pretoria.

For some reason, however, Wepener is not remembered in the same light as Colenso or Magersfontein, and, despite the heavy defeat he suffered and the total lack of strategic understanding he displayed, de Wet is not regarded as a blundering incompetent as are Methuen and Buller. Pro-Boer propaganda has ensured that de Wet’s victory at Sanna’s Post is always granted enormous attention while his defeat—for that is most certainly what it was—at Wepener is simply brushed under the carpet.

And it is not as though his modern-day fanbois can even claim that Wepener was a one-off: in July 1900, de Wet – in a moment of complete strategic stupidity – then brainlessly led the remnants of the Orange Free State’s forces into the Brandwater Basin, an area of the OFS on the border with Basutoland, and which – to anyone capable of reading a map – was a blatant trap. With Imperial forces approaching, and realising he had made the mother of all cock-ups, de Wet behaved like a rat fleeing a sinking ship, and ensured that he was in the only group that broke out before the encirclement was complete – shamelessly leaving around 4,500 of his comrades behind to be captured[19]. That he retained any sort of command position after his ineptitude and cowardice at the Brandwater Basin says a lot for the competition.

A few months later, in late October 1900, de Wet united with other Boer leaders, including General Liebenberg, to throw some 1,500 men against the small railway town of Frederikstad, 15 miles north of Potchefstroom. Again, and just as at Wepener, de Wet bit off rather more than he could chew. Major General Barton’s column was present in the town and fought off several days of poorly coordinated attacks by de Wet,[20] with Barton’s lone 4.7-inch naval gun proving invaluable. After five days, and with the approach of an Imperial relief column, de Wet’s battered forces fled, leaving behind a considerable number of dead and captured. De Wet also parted company with General Liebenberg whom he tried to blame for the débâcle.

The following month, de Wet’s commando was literally caught napping near Bothaville by men of the 5th MI—an action described on the town’s website today as a ‘rare defeat’ for him. The website fails to mention, however, that de Wet’s laager was attacked by a much smaller contingent (initially just 67 men of the 5th Mounted Infantry and two guns of ‘U’ Battery RHA against de Wet’s 800 men and six guns) or that de Wet showed little inclination to inspire his force, instead fleeing just moments into the action along with much of his panic-stricken commando and President Steyn.[21]

In his desperation to save his own skin, de Wet simply left those who could not join the rout to their fate. Imperial reinforcements duly arrived and, after a gallant resistance which saw 25 of their number dead on the field, the Boers surrendered: 130 burghers were taken prisoner and all six of de Wet’s guns, a pom-pom, a Maxim and a large haul of supplies and ammunition were captured.[22] De Wet’s supporters claim he only fled to ‘save’ President Steyn, and that he was soon back in action. Running away just as fast as Steyn did seems like a strange way to guarantee the President’s safety, and ‘being back in action’ a few weeks after a drubbing does not mean it was not a drubbing. One who fought in the action, Sergeant Jackson of the MI, had a rather more logical take on de Wet’s unseemly desire to run away, commenting that the general ‘was the first to clear as usual’.[23] Far from being heralded as a ‘Great General’, any Imperial officer displaying such dereliction of duty (cowardice?) would undoubtedly have faced a court martial.

A few months later, on 6 June 1901, a patrol of mounted infantry under Major Sladen rode down and captured a Boer convoy near the village of Reitz. Sladen’s haul was 100 wagons and 45 prisoners; he then sent a party back to report it to his commanding officer, Colonel De Beauvoir de Lisle, who was some way off with the rest of the column.[24] Meanwhile, Sladen moved his prisoners and the wagons into a kraal on a farm called Graspan and awaited reinforcement.[25] A Boer galloper quickly brought this news to where de Wet, de la Rey, and Steyn were encamped, prompting them to lead some 500 Boers against Sladen’s command, which had by then been reduced to about 100 men:

‘With forty-five Boers [the prisoners] to hold down, and 500 under Fourie, de Wet and de la Rey around them, the little band made rapid preparation for a desperate resistance; the prisoners were laid upon their faces, the men knocked loopholes in the mud walls of the kraal, and a blunt soldierly answer was returned to the demand for surrender. But it was a desperate business. The attackers were five to one, and the five were soldiers of de Wet, the hard-bitten veterans of a hundred encounters … But the men who faced them were veterans too, and the defence made up for the disparity of numbers … Once more, as at Bothaville, the British Mounted Infantry proved that when it came to a dogged pelting match, they could stand punishment longer than their enemy.[26]

The battle raged for four hours. With his attacks repulsed, de Wet resorted to trying to recover the wagons. Even this ended in failure when the relief column galloped into view and the Boers lost them for a second time that day.[27] Major Sladen’s remarkable defence—or, if you prefer, de Wet’s remarkable failure—is not even graced with a name.

On 18 December 1901 de Wet once again came a cropper in an action called Tiger Kloof Spruit when he endeavoured to ambush a column made up of 1st and 2nd Imperial Light Horse, and about 300 men of the 11th Imperial Yeomanry near Bethlehem. The officer commanding this force was 63 year old acting Brigadier John Dartnell of the Natal Police—the veteran of the Indian Mutiny who had safely guided Yule’s battered 8th Brigade south from Dundee at the very start of the war—and found himself suddenly set upon by no less than seven commandos. The CO of the 2nd ILH recalled the ambush:

‘He suddenly saw the enemy riding out of the Tiger Kloof Spruit, where they had been concealed [in the long grass]. They formed up in line like a British regiment and charged us over the flat ground. I galloped through a long hollow in front of us, dismounted my men and lined the crest of the ridge, at the same time shouting: ‘Now, 2nd ILH, you have the chance of your lives!’ We opened fire at the approaching enemy and soon checked them. [the closest they got was 150 yards.] A few took refuge in a little stone kraal on our left front, and others swerved to our right and worked round our flank. I noticed a high ridge on my left front which commanded my position and quickly sent Captain Jack Duff with his squadron to occupy it. Only just in time, for he sent a message back that about 500 Boers [an exaggeration] were riding up to occupy the position, but on seeing him and his men and no doubt concluding that the position was strongly held, returned to the valley.’[28]

It is not, perhaps, unreasonable to suggest that a ‘great general’ would have thought to occupy this critical high ground from the start. Nevertheless, de Wet tried to press the attack (mainly against the 1st ILH) for another four hours, but ultimately had no choice but to break off the engagement. He later bemoaned the cowardice displayed by his men, perhaps to deflect the blame for the failure:

‘I saw that only one-third of my burghers were charging. The others were keeping under cover, and do what I could, I could not drive them out… Everything went wrong… when the burghers who were charging the English discovered that the greater part of their comrades had remained, they turned round and retreated… So I thought it best to retreat, swallowing my disappointment as best I could.[29]

Even all these defeats pale to insignificance when compared to de Wet’s greatest folly. Boer agents had long been fomenting unrest in various areas of the Cape—most notably Graaff-Reinet and Worcester.[30] In late 1900 it was decided to invade to spark an uprising by these elements. De Wet’s initial attempts were thwarted by the flood waters of the Orange and Caledon rivers, but two of his lieutenants, Kritzinger and Hertzog, managed to slip into the colony with about 2,000 men, nearly all of them oath-breakers.[31] These bands roamed about, outrunning their pursuers but otherwise not achieving a great deal. What they did manage was to sufficiently alert the British so that, when de Wet did finally get his force of 2,500 men, four guns and (mind-bogglingly) over 100 ox-wagons[32] through the Orange River on 10 February 1901, they were ready for him.[33]

It had taken three days to get this unwieldy force over the river[34] and so clearly had de Wet telegraphed his intentions that one of his commandants, Piet Fourie, said that the General was out of his mind.[35] Fourie was right: de Wet’s ill-conceived invasion proved an unmitigated disaster. Imperial patrols picked the invaders up almost immediately and began shadowing and harrying them. On the 12th, a squadron of Imperial Light Horse took up a blocking position and, after a short skirmish, de Wet was forced to change direction and head toward Philipstown, a village reckoned to be ‘one of the most disloyal between Cape Town and the Orange’.[36] The garrison of Philipstown comprised just 23 of the oft-maligned Imperial Yeomen and four black gaol warders who were pressed into service. Under the command of the steady and courageous Lt. Munn, they took up defensive positions in the gaol on the edge of the village—ready to take on some 400 of de Wet’s men.[37] Gallopers were sent to alert a patrol of Victoria Bushmen who were known to be nearby, but in the meantime the diminutive garrison held off 15 times their number for many hours.

Once again the defence of Philipstown proved the enormous advantage then enjoyed by a defending force, be they Britons or Boers—something totally overlooked by many writers whenever the British were the ones being ‘humiliated’ by a smaller force. Even when the Victorians arrived, they only numbered 60 men, but quickly seized a commanding hill and held de Wet’s men in check, frustrating their every effort. After twelve hours of fighting, a British column appeared from the west, and the Boers withdrew.[38] Foiled by a couple of dozen Yeomen, and with Imperial columns closing in all around him, de Wet’s invasion had failed utterly within 48 hours.

From then on it was merely a case of survival. Colonel Plumer’s men fell on de Wet’s rearguard on the 14th, as 20 wagons were abandoned by the fleeing republicans. On the 16th, Lieutenant-Colonel Crabbe’s column caught up with them near Houtkraal, where his pair of 15-pounders accounted for 65 Boer casualties:

‘The Boer leaders fled helter-skelter, and we captured 100 ox-waggons and carts, also a spring waggon and an ambulance waggon containing 100,000 rounds of rifle ammunition, 6,000 pom-pom shells, several boxes of 15-pounder ammunition, and 30 prisoners in a tattered state, some of them shoeless. Our casualties were two officers of the 3rd Dragoons, one officer of the Australian Bushmen and one private wounded. It was discovered that de Wet, finding himself headed in the chase, had bolted, leaving the fighting to his lieutenant Froneman, with a thousand men, a pom-pom and a 15-pounder, who had been sent against Hopetown on the Orange River colony border. Abandoned by his chief, this poor fellow lost all but a few carts, hundreds of his distressed horses being abandoned in the flight.[39]

Another account describes:

‘…the broken Boers fled in a panic-stricken stream… Everything that would lighten their flight was cast away, and for eight or ten miles the veldt was strewn with blankets, clothing, arms and ammunition. Even the saddles were stripped off, and they rode bare-back to lessen the weight on their horses.[40]

Imperial intelligence agents kept the columns on de Wet’s trail for 300 miles as the raiders desperately sought a way to scurry back over the Orange River. On the 22nd Plumer—who had outrun his supplies and driven his men to the point of exhaustion—caught de Wet at Disselfontein. A handful of troopers on the best horses charged the straggling rabble, causing sheer panic. As usual, de Wet ensured his own escape but left behind all his guns and ammunition, and 102 prisoners.[41] Desperate to salvage something from the raid, or perhaps just save his own skin, de Wet then simply abandoned his unmounted men to their fate and pressed on. These unfortunate foot-sloggers were later caught by the horsemen of the Scottish Yeomanry as they tried to cross the Orange in a small boat—ten were shot dead and 37 captured.[42] De Wet and the shattered remnants of his invasion force finally found a drift over the flooded Orange and reached safety on the 28th but not before, in a fittingly chaotic finale to the tragi-comic farce, 30 of his men drowned during the crossing.[43]

Less than three weeks earlier, he had led 2,500 bittereinders into the Cape. After a headlong flight, those that made it out did so by the skin of their teeth. In the rout, hundreds of their comrades were left behind, either dead or captive. Their guns, transport, and many of their horses were lost. De Wet had been:

‘…crushed by superior numbers, worn down by men as inexhaustible as himself, warred against by the rivers, until his mere escape from such odds seemed a military miracle. His error lay rather in the initial strategy of his campaign; in the advertisement of his intentions by the despatch of Kritzinger and Hertzog in advance; by the delay in supporting his forerunners until his opponents had ample time alike to comprehend the warning, to reduce his detachments to impotence, and to prepare for himself. His own undisguised and dilatory march from the Doornberg had but intensified the rashness of his passage of the Orange. Not for one moment had Cape Colony been in danger; and if the exertions of the British columns in pursuit of him had been almost superhuman, it was rather in the fervent hope of capturing his person, the highest prize in South Africa, than of foiling his campaign, the futility of which had been apparent from the first.[44]

De Wet’s only real achievement during this crackpot invasion – and during the war in general – was in evading capture; hundreds of his men (indeed, thousands at the Brandwater Basin) were not so fortunate. Other than proving himself an adept escapologist with a burning desire to save his own skin, de Wet brought little else to the party. At best, he was a partisan / bandit chief with a strong instinct for self-preservation, perhaps; but it is beyond ridiculous to declare him to have been a ‘great’ General.


[1] Pakenham, The Boer War, p.207–241

[2] Ibid, p.395

[3] Nasson. The War for South Africa, p.189

[4] Amery, The Times History of the War in South Africa, Vol. 4, p.57

[5] Pakenham, p.395

[6] Amery, Vol.4, p.56

[7] Maurice & Grant, History of the War in South Africa 1899‒1902, Vol.2, p.316

[8] Ibid, p.314

[9] Ibid, p.315

[10] Creswicke, South Africa and the Transvaal War, Vol.5, p.54

[11] Maurice & Grant, Vol.2, p.316

[12] Creswicke, Vol.5, p.54

[13] Ibid, p.58

[14] Kruger, Goodbye Dolly Gray, p.281

[15] Creswicke, Vol.5, p.63

[16] Amery, Vol.4, p.66

[17] Maurice & Grant, Vol.2, p.324

[18] Ibid, Vol.2, p.319

[19] Selby, The Boer War: A Study in Cowardice and Courage, p.207

[20] Amery, Vol.5, p.13

[21] Maurice & Grant, Vol.3, p.487

[22] Ibid, Vol.3, p.488

[23] Jackson, A Soldier’s Diary, South Africa 18991902, p.152

[24] Conan-Doyle, The Great Boer War, p.635

[25] Amery, Vol.5, p.288

[26] Conan-Doyle, p.636

[27] Ibid, p.637

[28] The Marquess of Anglesey, A History of the British Cavalry 18161919, Volume 4, p.259

[29] Ibid, Volume 4, p.260

[30] Maurice & Grant, Vol.4, p.61

[31] Ibid, Vol.4, p.63

[32] Gilbert, Rhodesia & After, p.191

[33] Maurice & Grant, Vol. 4, p.90

[34] Gilbert, Rhodesia & After, p.191

[35] Stevens, Complete History of the South African War, in 1899‒1902, p.390

[36] Gilbert, Rhodesia & After, p.182

[37] Ibid,, p.184

[38] Ibid, p.188

[39] Stevens, p.392

[40] Gilbert, Rhodesia & After, p.202

[41] Maurice & Grant, Vol.4, p.85

[42] Ibid, Vol.4, p.88

[43] Stevens, p.395

[44] Maurice & Grant, Vol.4, p.90


  • Colin Ross Posted January 11, 2024 12:27 pm

    Were De Wet and Sir Harry Flashman ever seen in the same room together? I think not, ye blagggards.

  • Peter Dickens Posted January 11, 2024 1:52 pm

    The chief Afrikaans broadcaster on Radio Zeesen – the Nazi propaganda radio station during WW2 – Dr Eric Holm, personally recalled Adolf Hitler’s admiration for Christiaan de Wet and his tactics during the Guerrilla campaign of the Boer War … so there’s that.

    • Bulldog Posted January 11, 2024 2:33 pm

      Well – that pretty much says it all!

  • James Grant Posted January 12, 2024 1:12 pm

    You’ve got to laugh at these blokes – a great general? What? De Wet was nothing better than a semi competent terrorist, and one who got his arse handed to him time and time again by the Poms. His only real skill was being able to run away faster than his men.
    Great General? Bloody coward, more like.

  • Peter Dickens Posted January 21, 2024 5:25 pm

    Proof is always to be found in the pudding. Christiaan de Wet’s strategic and operational military abilities (and his abilities as politician) are best summed in the disastrous campaign he leads in 1914 – the Boer Revolt is hopelessly under-resourced, entirely inadequate on all facets of operational and strategic command – he even falls flat on a tactical level, his campaign and ‘hunt’ lasts mere months and its over – and he is completely ill advised politically. You can read more on it – The Boer Revolt in Perspective, follow this link:

    • Bulldog Posted January 22, 2024 8:36 am

      Like most of the other much-cherished myths, the NP fables around De Wet are very much what certain people desperately want to have been true, rather than anything based on historical reality. For some reason, it is still important to these chaps that De Wet was the greatest General ever, just as it is vital to them that the Boers ‘won every battle’, ‘invented guerrilla warfare’, ‘almost bankrupted the British Empire’, ‘invented trenches and barbed wire’, ‘were outnumbered a thousand to one’, and all the other nonsense they come up with.
      It really is a jolly strange psychological condition to be afflicted with.

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