- Title: The Anglo-Boer War in 100 Objects
- Text: War Museum of the Boer Republics
- Photos: War Museum of the Boer Republics
- Cover: Simon Richardson
- Publisher: Jonathan Ball Publishers
- Date: 2017
- Format: Hard cover
- ISBN: 978-1-86842-767-3
The War Museum of the Boer Republics is situated in Bloemfontein. Some three years ago I visited this museum, spending most of the day there, making discoveries about the Anglo-Boer War. Of course, my interest was vast. My paternal grandfather joined the fighting in the latter days of the war when their farmstead was burned down by the English. He was only twelve. A great-grandmother on both my mother’s side and on my father’s side were incarcerated in the camps. The great grandmother on my mother’s side lost all her children to the camp, and her husband to military casualties. She started a new family after the war. I grew up with stories of the Anglo-Boer War from personal experience, and an ambivalence to the English with the mix being contempt and tolerance which the foreword to the book describes as “shaped the Afrikaner psyche for generations”. I am the third generation. This is true.
I was so excited so see this book, and when I got my hands on it, I dropped other, more important work, to browse through it. The single most famous picture of the Anglo-Boer War is the one sent by Emily Hobhouse to the British papers of the emaciated seven year old Lizzie van Zyl. The story of this photograph is to be found on page 200. The two objects on the facing page are of a watch chain made of the hair of a five year old girl, and three small “frozen Charlottes” or “penny dolls” – little porcelain dolls taken to the camps by children.
The objects are divided into various themes and each gets a chapter. They are named – War Clouds Gather, Initial Battles and Sieges, Black Week and the Fall of the Republics, Mauser vs Lee-Metfore: Two fighting forces and their weapons, Medical Services, The War’s Cast of Characters, The Guerilla Phase, Scorched Earth, Prisoners of War, Peace and the Post-War Years.
As a child I remember the cannons in Joubert Park, survivors of the Anglo-Boer War. I wonder if they are still there? My parents told me they were the Boer Long Toms, discussed on pages 100 and 101. They may or may not have been. I doubt that my parents were well informed about these things.
An interesting tidbit is that X-rays were made known to the world by William Rontgen in 1896. By the time war broke out in 1899, both the Volkshospitaal in Pretoria and the Johannesburg Hospital already had x-ray machines.
The War’s cast of characters starts with Paul Kruger, and MT Steyn, the famous Christiaan de Wet, Louis Botha, Koos de la Rey, Count de Villebois-Mareuil with the British characters being Lord Roberts, Lord Kitchener, Lord Milner, Winston Churchill and Emily Hobhouse.
All round this charming book unlocks a lot of information about the Second Anglo Boer War. It is easy to read and most accessible.
The publicity for the book says: “The Anglo-Boer War in 100 Objects brings the victories and the tragedies, the full extent of the human drama behind this war – to life through 100 iconic artefacts.
While a Mafeking siege note helps to illustrate the acute shortages caused by the siege, a spade used by a Scottish soldier at Magersfontein and the boots of a Boer soldier who died at Spion Kop tell of the severity of some of the famous battles.
The book follows the course of the war but also highlights specific themes, such as British and Boer weaponry, medical services, POW camps, as well as major role-players on both sides.
The text is interspersed with striking historical images from the museum’s photographic collection. A further 200 secondary objects have been included to help tell the story of a conflict that left an indelible mark on the South African landscape.”
The Anglo-Boer War in 100 Objects is highly recommended for all people with an interest in the subject.