Pandering to modern-day sensitivities

I was recently made aware of an entertaining exchange which happened on one of the Boer War Facebook groups. As normal, it began with someone banging away on his little drum of self-pity, moaning about Scorched Earth and ‘the Camps’ again.

This prompted a fellow called Mr Loader to dare to add a bit of reality to the debate:

As you can see, this sparked a rather ill-considered and illogical response from Tinus Le Roux – a man who might be good at re-colouring photos, but is certainly not a historian. Le Roux seemed to be much more worried that delicate souls might take offence, than he was about what actually happened.

Though talking about ‘retribution’ might go down well with the peanut gallery, it is rather a strange way of describing the way that the British authorities housed, fed, educated and provided medical care for the residents of the Concentration Camps which were established during the war. Furthermore, Mr Le Roux doesn’t seem aware (or to care?) that these unfortunates were heartlessly abandoned to their fate by the republican leaders – leaders who were much more interested in continuing their pointless and unwinnable terrorist campaign, than they were in the well-being of their people.

And what is more, Mr Le Roux doesn’t seem interested in the responsibility the bitter-einders had for the Scorched Earth policy. At the Middelburg Conference, General Botha rejected Lord Kitchener’s proposal that all farms be declared off limits – the reason being that Botha was not going to agree to stop targeting and persecuting loyalists and surrendered Boers:

‘I told him that if he continued such acts I should be forced to bring in all women and children, and as much property as possible to protect them from the acts of the burghers. I further enquired if he would agree to spare the farms and families of neutral or surrendered burghers, in which case I expressed my willingness to leave undisturbed the farms and families of burghers who were on commando, provided they did not actively assist their relatives.’

Botha was not going to give up his favourite method of subjugating his own people, however, and rejected Kitchener’s proposal out of hand:

‘I am entitled by law to force every man to join, and if they do not do so, to confiscate their property and leave their families on the veldt.’

When Kitchener asked him how best he could protect the surrendered burghers and their families, Botha callously declared:

‘The only thing you can do is to send them out of the country, as if I catch them, they must suffer.’

So, exactly as Mr Loader rightly states: the Boer leaders had a choice, and cannot escape culpability for the result. That Mr Le Roux attempted to silence him, shows what happens when we are expected to ignore inconvenient historical reality, and instead pander to modern-day sensitivities.

But as ill-considered as Mr Le Roux’s response was, Mr Loader’s comment sparked a truly ridiculous one from this fellow:

Showing he has even less interest in historical reality than Tinus Le Roux, Mr Slippers waves away the various proclamations by the British army on the strength of his claim that ‘you came here to take in the name of your King / Queen’. Mindlessly building up a head of steam, Mr Slippers asked how one would react if ‘South Africa invaded your country, destroyed your towns, burned down farms, captured women and children and murdered them’.

As inconvenient as it is for die-hard myth-lovers like Mr Slippers, the reality is that the Boer War was indeed started by the South African Republic invading British territory (not, as he would prefer us to believe, the opposite), so we know exactly how people felt about that. Similarly, we know that the invading Boers looted and rampaged through the towns they took, so that is also not the ‘hypothetical’ that Mr Slippers pretends it is. Likewise, the invading Boers also targeted farms, looting and stealing animals.

Not only that, but the Boers did indeed steal gold, and didn’t even wait to launch their invasions before they did so: on the 3rd of October – ie. more than a week before they attacked – Kruger’s agents brazenly grabbed a gold shipment worth around £500,000. The Transvaal also seized control of privately-owned mines during the war, and attempted to run them to generate some money until Imperial forces captured (liberated?) Johannesburg. And, most famously of all, Kruger seems to have helped himself to his nation’s gold reserves, before fleeing the scene.

But presumably all those acts of theft don’t concern Mr Slippers.

Of course, Slippers’ nonsense about the British ‘capturing women and children and murdering them’ is just National Party propaganda, and only spewed out when True Believers know they are losing an argument. Displaced / homeless / destitute civilians were indeed housed, fed, and cared-for by the Imperial authorities, but they were not held against their will, and there was certainly no mass ‘murder’.

But Mr Loader is clearly not a man to tolerate Apartheid-era myths, and fired back this response:

As Mr Loader made clear, and despite the utter rubbish the likes of Slippers prefer to perpetuate, the Boer War was not the simplistic case of ‘The Wicked British attacking the Noble, Innocent Boers’ that True Believers love to tell one another. Again, and as Mr Loader suggests, the vast majority of those ‘South Africans’ of Natalian origin (for example) were very much on the side of the Crown, and fought like tigers to resist the Boer invasion.

Or, to put it in a way that even Mr Slippers might understand, ‘The people of Natal did not invite Kruger’s Boers to invade their country. The Boers poured into Natal to take, in the name of their President. To destroy towns, loot farms, and steal whatever they wanted. To trap women and children in Ladysmith, and bombard and starve them’.


  • Stephen Hunt Posted May 28, 2024 2:01 am

    I have Mr Le Roux’s Colourised  Boer War book Vol 1 and I am (or rather was) looking forward to the release of his  Vol 2.

    I was surprised and frankly saddened by his comments because if you look at the Admin Page at the start of the  Boer War Colourised Facebook page, you will see the rules for users, copied below.

    “WELCOME to this page, here a few notes from ADMIN:

    This is a page of historical Boer War photographs being colourised for enjoyment of all.

    Your positive comments discussing the photographs are appreciated.

    Please respect others with your comments by not insulting anyone.

    Please no swearing, racism or hate speech (sorry, but will be banned)

    Please this page is not meant for comments regarding:

    – Moaning about current South Africa 

    – Religious sermons

    – Blaming current governments/nations for things happened in the ABW

    – Problems with your mother-in-law

    Please note sometimes our members do comments in Afrikaans. Please do not see this as rude behaviour towards non-Afrikaans speaking people as we have a multi-language community and the Boers in the Boer War spoke Afrikaans. Please use the “Translate” function to covert any phrase from Afrikaans to English and if still unclear you are most welcome to ask in the comment box or send a personal message to me.

    Aan ons Afrikaans sprekende lede: van die fotos maak emosies los veral van die van ons wat voorsate het wat in kampe was, se plase verwoes was of familielede verloor het. Ek het begrip daarvoor (ook een van hulle) maar probeer asb om kommentare in toom hou en nie op vandag se mense se tone te trap wat ook lede is van hierdie blad nie…dankie!

    Tinus le Roux

    July 2018”

    Clearly Mr Le Roux should practise what he preaches!

    • Niall Beazley Posted May 28, 2024 11:49 am

      Great comments Stephen Hunt. It always surprises me that there are so many who seemingly do not practice what they preach.

  • Niall Beazley Posted May 28, 2024 12:03 pm

    Messrs Le Roux and Slippers must be “loving” the current South Africa and what might transpire from the elections tomorrow. It often amazes me how short lived historical memory can be. We know that Jan van Riebeeck and his three ships arrived in SA in 1652 to establish a trading station for the Dutch East India Company. Few comment on who lived in the Cape prior to 1652 and most current conversations seem to avoid mention of the Khoisan people. The Huguenots arrived around 20 years later with their exodus from Europe. Britain and The Netherlands were at war in 1652 but it was a further 150 odd years before The Dutch ceded The Cape to Britain, 1814. What did the Afrikaner do to those they came across on their Great Treks? I have not heard that many comments about how nicely they treated the locals they met.

  • Stephen Hunt Posted May 28, 2024 11:28 pm

    Thanks Neil, your comments are well argued also. In terms of your final point about what happened to the indigenous people the Boers met on their Great Trek; a couple of blogs ago Chris quoted H Rider Haggard on the Boers…..”one of the cruellest white races in the world”. Say no more!

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