Allenby, a Study in Greatness: The Biography of Field-Marshal Viscount Allenby of Megiddo and Felixstowe, G.C.B., G.C.M.G

By Archibald Wavell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
THE SOUTH AFRICAN WAR (1899-1902)

I
THE COMING OF WAR

THE Boer War marks a turning-point in our history. It was the climax of British Imperialism, of the time -- the last time -- when we were aggressively sure of ourselves and of our destiny. Though it is not, perhaps, an episode of our history in which we have reason to feel great pride, politically or militarily, yet it is certainly not one of which we need be ashamed. That two stiffnecked peoples, with a background of past quarrels and injustices, might come to a proper respect for each other, and thus to union, a war was practically inevitable; and it had in the end healthful consequences both for South Africa and for the British Army. No more of its origin and course will be related here than is necessary for the understanding of Allenby's part in the operations.

Since Allenby had left South Africa, nine years earlier, friction between Briton and Boer had developed a heat at which fire was bound to occur before long. The discovery in 1885 of gold on the Witwatersrand -- the low range of hills that forms the watershed of the great South African plateau between the Orange and Limpopo rivers -- had brought an influx into the Transvaal of so great a body of gold-seekers and their satellites that they soon came to outnumber the other whites in the Transvaal. These 'Uitlanders,' as they were termed, the great majority of whom were British subjects, formed a serious problem for the narrow, suspicious Dutch farmers and their stubborn, Biblical old President, Paul Kruger. The Boers grumbled that their country was

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