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The Australian bushmen were given the job of breaking them, and dazzled the British with their expertise. Out on the veldt, Boer commandos were still skirmishing and attacking. In a fast, savage fight, 19 British officers and of their men were killed or wounded and taken prisoner. Seven guns were lost and the whole of the convoy. Roberts got his army moving again, 45, men, 11, horses, guns and 2, wagons.

Spearheading it was Maj. The Boers, estimated at 1,, occupied positions along the riverbank while artillery covered them from a hill behind. Under heavy fire they pushed the Boers back from the river bank and, after another bombardment of the hill, joined Queenslanders and New Zealanders in clearing the hill.

The division moved on. A young reporter riding with the division, Winston Churchill the future British prime minister during World War II , described how the soldiers lived off the flocks of sheep they drove with them and off chickens and anything else they could find to eat on the deserted Boer farms, while nearly every day there was Boer rifle fire from the front, the flanks or the rear. With Australians leading his spearhead, Roberts now advanced on Johannesburg in the Transvaal. While the New South Wales Mounted Rifles drew Boer fire as a diversion, the Queenslanders crossed the river and held fast on the other side.

It was May Roberts next marched on Pretoria, the capital of the Transvaal, which he occupied on June 4. The army went after them. New South Welshmen and West Australians caught up with the Boer rear guard in the mountains east of the city at Diamond Hill and attacked with bayonets.

It was, however, only a matter of time. The Boers, for all their bush skills, could not long evade the huge number of British, Australian, Canadian and other troops searching the mountains for them. Before long, Commando Commandant Prinsloo and 4, Boers were rounded up. Even so, the Boers were still not beaten. Boer commandos roamed the veldt attacking outposts and supply lines and disappearing to turn up somewhere else to fight again. The commando surrounded the post and during the next two days poured 2, artillery shells into it from the hills around.

Nearly all of the 1, horses, mules and oxen were killed or died of wounds from the shelling, but the troop casualties were very light, since the men burrowed into the rocky ground and stayed down. After the second day the bombardment eased, probably because the Boers realized they were destroying the stores they badly needed, but they kept up intense rifle and machine-gun fire.

During the day, the defenders lay motionless in their holes in the ground, but at night they came out.

Some ran the gauntlet of fire to bring water from the river, while others repaired shattered defenses and dug deeper holes and others went out into the darkness looking for Boer field-gun and machine-gun positions, which they attacked loudly with grenades or silently with knives and bayonets. Many sleeping Boers and even wide-awake sentries lost their lives in this night stalking and attack.

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They were Australian volunteers and though small in number we could not take their position. They were the only troops who could scout our lines at night and kill our sentries while killing and capturing our scouts. Our men admitted that the Australians were more formidable opponents and far more dangerous than any other British troops. On August 8, de la Rey, under a flag of truce, advised the Australians that the whole area was in Boer hands and there was no hope of relief for the post. He offered safe conduct to the nearest British garrison if they would surrender.

It was that, or destruction by his artillery. The offer was refused, and the bombardment began again. During the truce a messenger got through the Boer lines and made it to Mafeking, where he reported that the force was still holding out at the Elands River; it had not surrendered or been taken as was believed at headquarters.

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General Lord Kitchener himself led a column in relief. When the Boers saw it approaching they withdrew, and the column marched into the post in the afternoon of August The Transvaal had now all but fallen, and like the Orange Free State, it was annexed as a colony of Britain. The war had passed through two phases. In the first phase of some three months, British forces of mainly foot soldiers led by incompetent generals were besieged or defeated by highly mobile Boer mounted infantry.

It was a period of bloody fighting in which the only real battles of the war occurred. The second phase was the British offensive, during which British and colonial troops, vastly outnumbering the Boers, smashed and dispersed the Boer forces and annexed their two states. But the war was by no means over. There were still strong Boer commandos at large, led by experienced and successful leaders such as Koos de le Rey, Jan Smuts, Danie Theron, Christiaan de Wet and others. The British held the cities and towns, but a vast amount of territory was left to the commandos, which now broke into smaller groups and began a guerrilla war, intercepting telegraph messages for intelligence, infiltrating bases, making lightning raids on posts and convoys, and sabotaging rail and road communications.

Wearing captured British uniforms, Boers of one command rode into a British cavalry post and opened fire, killing or wounding more than 70 troopers. They took supplies and arms and drove off all the horses. After that success, they often wore British uniforms to get close enough to kill. For greater killing power, they used dumdum and expanding bullets. The Boer soldier only needed to hide his rifle to become a farmer again.

Many were the times when British soldiers searching farms for weapons were shot in the back by a farmer who had reached for his hidden rifle. And many were the times they were fired on from under a flag of truce. When the Boers went into action, almost every civilian in the area was ready to provide them with intelligence, food, shelter, medical help and hiding places.

Field Marshal Roberts put into action his plan to combat this situation. On the ground, blockhouses were built in the squares, each within rifle shot of the next, and barbed wire was strung between them, enclosing the veldt in an interlocking system of armed squares. Then, one at a time, the squares were cleared of Boer guerrillas, and the occupants of farms and settlements were concentrated in camps, their homes and crops destroyed, their wells poisoned, and their livestock slaughtered or driven off.

At the end of November, Roberts handed over command to Kitchener and returned to England. Many Australians took part in this scorching of the South African earth, and many more were in the columns searching the veldt for Boer guerrillas, while others were fighting with irregular units. Under a variety of names, irregular units had existed since the beginning of the war, and now they mush-roomed. They were used mainly on the outer edges of the war, where there was little control. The irregulars fought, as did the Boers themselves, giving and expecting no quarter.

One such unit, working in the rough country north of Pietersburg, called the Spelonken, was the Bushveldt Carbineers. It was a unit of tough Australians, British and South Africans. Harry Morant was born in England and arrived in Australia in He became well-known for his remarkable horsemanship and for his verse.

Boer Wars - New World Encyclopedia

He rode as if he and a horse were one; he could get a horse to do anything it was possible for a horse to do, and he could break the wildest of horses. He was said to be an efficient soldier, skilled in moving and fighting in rough country. When his one-year enlistment ended, he went on leave to England, where he became friends with a Hussar officer, Captain Frederick Hunt. Both returned to the Cape to take commissions in the newly formed Bushveldt Carbineers.

Many books have been written about the soldiers and volunteers from various countries who took part in the Anglo-Boer War of But there has been none on the role of India and Indians in South Africa though India contributed more soldiers and ambulance workers than any of the other British colonies and was a major source of supplies for the British army, while the largest number of Boer prisoners of war were held in camps in India.

The graves of Indian "auxiliaries" who died in South Africa are not known, and the only memorial to them was erected by the Indian community. What is best known of the Indian contribution was militarily the least significant, namely, the work of the Natal Indian Ambulance Corps, a unit of a little over a thousand volunteers who served for less than two months, because it was led by M.

Gandhi who became prominent as the leader of the struggle of the Indians in South Africa against discrimination and later of India for independence. Ramamurthi, an Indian scholar, has recently referred to these files and produced a monograph which deserves the attention of historians. It is not with any pride in Indian participation in this war that I suggest a study of the role of India and the Indians. Gandhi's own sympathies were on the side of the Boers and he expressed great admiration for their leaders and for the heroism of the Boer women.

He justified his action in organising the ambulance corps on the grounds that Indians who claimed rights as members of the British Empire had an obligation to contribute to the war effort. At the end of the war, however, Indians suffered greater oppression in the Transvaal than under Boer rule.

I believe that it is essential to be aware of the participation and suffering of non-white nations and the non-white people of South Africa in the war - which was not merely a duel between two white armies - in order to derive lessons from it and attain true reconciliation. A study of the role of India is a contribution towards that end.

In , when the British government decided to impose its suzerainty over the South African Republic Transvaal , it had only about ten thousand troops in the Cape and Natal. It decided to augment the force by another ten thousand before delivering an ultimatum to President Paul Kruger, and asked the government of India to provide more than six thousand. The military authorities in India were very prompt. The troops arrived in Natal between October 3 and 8, , and were moved to the Transvaal border.

That triggered the war on October 11 when the Boers attacked the British forces and inflicted severe defeats. By the end of the month they besieged Mafeking, Kimberley and Ladysmith. Britain was obliged to expand its forces many-fold in order to relieve the garrisons and then to deal with the guerilla warfare waged by the Boers. The British Force in South Africa was eventually reinforced by no less than , officers and men. Of these, officers and 17, men or a total of 18, came from the British garrisons in India.

Underlying causes

They numbered more than the contingents sent by the other colonies - Canada, Australia and New Zealand though far less than the , troops sent from Britain. There was a tacit agreement between the two sides that only whites should take part in military operations. Neither side wanted to arm the Africans for fear that they might turn their arms against all whites to fight racist oppression. Non-white people from South Africa and India were employed in non-combat operations though working under fire. The British Government initially indicated to India that the Force should be composed exclusively of British troops or volunteers in India.

But the Indian government sent many Indians some from Indian Army units as non-combatant "auxiliaries. A majority of Indians were assigned to field hospitals or used as stretcher-bearers; the remainder were transport drivers, grooms to break in and train horses and private servants.

The force brought with it three complete field hospitals for the British troops from India, and one hospital for the Indians.

The Boer Wars

The personnel of the hospitals were mostly Indian. They included ward orderlies, water carriers, cooks and sweepers, as well as doctors, including perhaps some from the Indian Medical Service. By the end of the war, nearly ten thousand Indians were sent to South Africa as "auxiliaries". They included syces or grooms for the horses, water carriers, washermen, smiths, carpenters, cooks, butchers, bakers, sweepers, and servants of officers, as well as doctors, ambulance workers and stretcher bearers. Indians manned field hospitals and two veterinary establishments.

India sent nearly 7, horses, as well as ponies and mules. It promptly provided various supplies helmets, blankets, coats, tents etc. Some Indian princes, merchants and others, seeking to show loyalty to the British, offered horses, grooms and money. More than a thousand Indian auxiliaries were in Ladysmith during the siege.

The role of the Indian Ordnance Field Park during that siege was particularly noteworthy. The Indian auxiliaries worked under fire during many battles. A large number were apparently killed or wounded in action, but no official figures were published. At the end of the war, the Indian community in South Africa contributed funds to erect a memorial for the troops from India. At the beginning of the war, Colonel T. Gallwey, Principal Medical Officer of Natal, organised a paid Natal Volunteer Ambulance Corps, with a strength of over one thousand, to carry the wounded from the battlefield.

The Indian community in Natal offered to raise an Indian ambulance corps and pay its expenses. The offer was not accepted until the British faced severe reverses and casualties mounted. Gandhi, was composed of "free" Indians and indentured labourers sent by their employers. Its task was to take the wounded brought by the Natal Volunteer Ambulance Corps from the battlefield and carry them to the railhead.

It was not expected to work under fire and was given no combat training. It left for the front on December 14, It reached the field hospital at Chieveley the next day and was immediately employed in carrying the wounded from the battle of Colenso. It was moved to Estcourt on December 17, and temporarily disbanded two days later.