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Note: Always review your references and make any necessary corrections before using. The set-piece period of the war now largely gave way to a mobile guerrilla war, but one final operation remained. President Kruger and what remained of the Transvaal government had retreated to eastern Transvaal. Roberts, joined by troops from Natal under Buller, advanced against them, and broke their last defensive position at Bergendal on 26 August. Some dispirited Boers did likewise, and the British gathered up much war material. However, the core of the Boer fighters under Botha easily broke back through the Drakensberg Mountains into the Transvaal highveld after riding north through the bushveld.
Under the new conditions of the war, heavy equipment was no use to them, and therefore no great loss. This offered only temporary sanctuary, as the mountain passes leading to it could be occupied by the British, trapping the Boers. Those remaining fell into confusion and most failed to break out before Hunter trapped them. From the Basin, Christiaan de Wet headed west. Although hounded by British columns, he succeeded in crossing the Vaal into western Transvaal, to allow Steyn to travel to meet their leaders.
There was much sympathy for the Boers on mainland Europe. Paul Kruger's wife, however, was too ill to travel and remained in South Africa where she died on 20 July without seeing her husband again. President Kruger first went to Marseille and then on to the Netherlands, where he stayed for a while before moving finally to Clarens, Switzerland , where he died in exile on 14 July The first sizeable batch of Boer prisoners of war taken by the British consisted of those captured at the Battle of Elandslaagte on 21 October At first, many were put on ships, but as numbers grew, the British decided they did not want them kept locally.
Moreover, they already had trouble supplying their own troops in South Africa, and did not want the added burden of sending supplies for the POWs. Britain therefore chose to send many POWs overseas. The first overseas off African mainland camps were opened in Saint Helena , which ultimately received about 5, POWs. In all, about 26, POWs were sent overseas. On 15 March , Lord Roberts proclaimed an amnesty for all burghers, except leaders, who took an oath of neutrality and returned quietly to their homes.
By September , the British were nominally in control of both Republics, with the exception of the northern part of Transvaal. However, they soon discovered that they only controlled the territory their columns physically occupied. Despite the loss of their two capital cities and half of their army, the Boer commanders adopted guerrilla warfare tactics, primarily conducting raids against railways, resource and supply targets, all aimed at disrupting the operational capacity of the British Army. They avoided pitched battles and casualties were light.
Each Boer commando unit was sent to the district from which its members had been recruited, which meant that they could rely on local support and personal knowledge of the terrain and the towns within the district thereby enabling them to live off the land. Their orders were simply to act against the British whenever possible.
Their tactics were to strike fast and hard causing as much damage to the enemy as possible, and then to withdraw and vanish before enemy reinforcements could arrive. The vast distances of the Republics allowed the Boer commandos considerable freedom to move about and made it nearly impossible for the , British troops to control the territory effectively using columns alone.
As soon as a British column left a town or district, British control of that area faded away. The Boer commandos were especially effective during the initial guerrilla phase of the war because Roberts had assumed that the war would end with the capture of the Boer capitals and the dispersal of the main Boer armies. Many British troops were therefore redeployed out of the area, and had been replaced by lower-quality contingents of Imperial Yeomanry and locally raised irregular corps. From late May , the first successes of the Boer guerrilla strategy were at Lindley where Yeomanry surrendered , and at Heilbron where a large convoy and its escort were captured and other skirmishes resulting in 1, British casualties in less than ten days.
As a result of these and other Boer successes, the British, led by Lord Kitchener, mounted three extensive searches for Christiaan de Wet , but without success. However, the very nature of the Boer guerrilla war and the Boer raids on British camps were sporadic, poorly planned, and had little overall long-term objective, with the exception to simply harass the British.
This led to a disorganised pattern of scattered engagements between the British and the Boers throughout the region. The British were forced to quickly revise their tactics. They concentrated on restricting the freedom of movement of the Boer commandos and depriving them of local support. The railway lines had provided vital lines of communication and supply, and as the British had advanced across South Africa, they had used armoured trains and had established fortified blockhouses at key points.
Eventually some 8, such blockhouses were built across the two South African republics, radiating from the larger towns along principal routes. However, they proved very effective. Not one bridge where one of these blockhouses was sited and manned was blown. The blockhouse system required an enormous number of troops to garrison. Well over 50, British troops, or 50 battalions, were involved in blockhouse duty, greater than the approximately 30, Boers in the field during the guerrilla phase. In addition, up to 16, Africans were used both as armed guards and to patrol the line at night.
The Hero in Boer War Fiction
The British also implemented a " scorched earth " policy under which they targeted everything within the controlled areas that could give sustenance to the Boer guerrillas with a view to making it harder for the Boers to survive. As British troops swept the countryside, they systematically destroyed crops, burned homesteads and farms and interned Boer and African men, women, children and workers in concentration camps.
Finally, the British also established their own mounted raiding columns in support of the sweeper columns. These were used to rapidly follow and relentlessly harass the Boers with a view to delaying them and cutting off escape, while the sweeper units caught up. Many of the 90 or so mobile columns formed by the British to participate in such drives were a mixture of British and colonial troops, but they also had a large minority of armed Africans. The total number of armed Africans serving with these columns has been estimated at approximately 20, The British Army also made use of Boer auxiliaries who had been persuaded to change sides and enlist as "National Scouts".
The British utilised armoured trains throughout the War to deliver rapid reaction forces much more quickly to incidents such as Boer attacks on blockhouses and columns or to drop them off ahead of retreating Boer columns.
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