South African Military History Society

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Past ZOOMeetings

Johannesburg's lecture on 8th October was by Robin Smith, talking from KZN on "War and Peace in the Anglo Boer War - starting a war is a lot easier than stopping one".

Robin divided his subject into "Starting the War" in the first and "Ending the War" in the second Zoom sessions. He included covers of many reference books in his slides, a list of which is included later in this newsletter.

He started with Kruger who firmly believed in the justness of his cause against British political interference in the affairs of the Transvaal Republic. These had started with draft peace negotiations after the 1880-81 first Anglo-Boer War, the documents of which contained the word 'suzerainty', removing the Boer Republics' independence in international affairs. While the eventually-agreed document of 1884 removed this offensive-to-the-Boers word, the conditions nevertheless clearly tilted things to Britain's advantage.

The importance to Britain of the sea route around the Cape - two thirds of its trade found the Suez Canal route too expensive - had been enough for the annexation of the republics which led to the first War. When gold was found and the Witwatersrand diggings became profitable enough for capitalists to get interested, British interests were piqued. The foreign prospectors (Uitlanders) with their grievances - including the state dynamite monopoly, liquor laws favouring labour unreliability and the 'unreasonable' wait to get the vote (14 years residency, later reduced to 9) allowed the Jameson Raid to get planned (if not directly financed) with Rhodes' approval. When that was such a disaster the likelihood of armed conflict clearly increased.

Robin showed various documents from both the British and the Republics' governments. Milner met Kruger in Bloemfontein in 1897 but negotiations proved fruitless - Lord Salisbury felt Milner was too 'heated' in his interactions with Kruger. Eventually Kruger's steadfast stand (stubbornness in some circles?) led to the declaration of war in October 1899. By then thousands of troops were on the water from the UK, on their way to fight. Although the British politicians 'despised' the capitalists and the Uitlanders they were happy for excuses to proceed with military action.

In the second Zoom session Robin reported on the many and varied attempts, starting in 1901 seventeen months after it began, to conclude a peace agreement. Some Boer leaders - even brothers of some Boer Generals in the field eg Piet de Wet (Christiaan's brother) and Andries PJ Cronj‚, brother of Piet, were seen as and used the British as possible ways to influence more Boers to surrender. Several Boers were tried and shot for treason for joining peace committees, set up by the British hoping to persuade more Boers to surrender. He mentioned Meyer de Kock, as one, shot for treason after surrendering to the British and captured trying to convince more Boers to do likewise. Another man, named Morgendal, made a justice of the peace after surrendering to the British, was captured by the Boers. When he did not help his captors when they were attacked he was shambokked by an angry commander and then shot. His death from the wound was termed murder by Kitchener.

General Ben Viljoen, seemingly getting too close to the British, was captured by them curiously close to his apparently intended relief-of-command by Gen Botha.

Kitchener and Louis Botha met in Middelburg at the end of February 1901 but as an aide Nicholas de Wet (unrelated to Gen de Wet) had correctly predicted, Milner sabotaged the peace proposals.

June 1901 saw two groups in the field gathering on the farm Branddrift near Villiers for the 'Waterval Krygsraad' - named for a nearby stream. Thirty representatives from each of the Republics voted, 54 for and 6 against continuing hostilities.

As Robin phrased it, peace eventually broke out shortly before midnight on 31 May 1902.

Listen to his ZOOM talk which is accessible from the ZOOM library on the Society's web-site.

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Johannesburg hosting:
Brian Austin's subject on 12th November will be
Radio and the Boer War

Brian will be mentioning the very different reactions to radio by the Royal Navy and the British Army around 1900.

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SAMHSEC - Eastern Cape Branch's next ZOOMeeting
SAMHSEC meeting at 1930 on 9th November 2020
Speaker: John Stevens Subject: The Butcher of the Somme

The meeting will open with the Act of Remembrance.
Participants are encouraged to wear poppies

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SAMHSEC will also hold a Request the Pleasure of your Company Zoom session at 19h30
on the last Monday i.e. 30th November.

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Details of the ZOOM lectures will be sent to all on the master list as usual

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Members with an interesting presentation on any aspect of military history are sought for ZOOMEETINGS. A nominal 20 minute lecture supported by Power Point or similar slides, but not video, is required.

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New to Zoom?

Training sessions are not mandatory but are to help those members who are unfamiliar with this new way of accessing the Society's talks while under Covid-19 look-down.

Johannesburg has had five training sessions so far and will hold more sessions as requested. If you would like to attend a training session please e-mail or

In all cases when you attend a Zoom meeting you need an invitation from the host. Every meeting has its own ID and password. If you are already on SAMHSEC or JNB's lists, you will be sent this information. We are creating a master list of members who have expressed interest, to whom notices of all future Zoom lectures will be sent.

To be added to this existing master list, if you have not yet already done so by e-mail, please e-mail or

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The June 2020 Military History Journal

The massive contribution by former Editor, Susanne Blendulf, is hereby gratefully acknowledged. Starting in 1991 as an assistant editor she took over that role in 1994. When the Ditsong Museum relinquished its role as publisher in 2017 and the Society took that role on, she continued as a contractor despite moving to her native Sweden. The realities of Covid-19 eventually proved too rigorous and Joan Marsh has completed the named Journal within this past month.

The June 2020 Military History Journal will be printed and delivered to the Marsh home on 23 November. Members who would prefer to collect their copies from the Marsh home in Observatory Johannesburg must let Joan know before that date so she can set their copies aside.

The June 2020 Military History Journal will be printed and delivered to the Marsh home on 23 November. Members who would prefer to collect their copies from the Marsh home in Observatory Johannesburg must let Joan know before that date so she can set their copies aside.

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The December 2020 Military History Journal

Joan would like to know if members are preparing articles and news items - preferably with photographs - for the end-of-year issue. The closing date for submission is 31 December 2020.

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List of reference books from Robin Smith
in the order mentioned during his ZOOM lecture

List from Starting a war:
Johannes Meintjies - President Paul Kruger
Elizabeth Longford - Jameson's Raid
Charles van Onselen - The Cowboy Capitalist: John Hays Hammond
Joseph Lehman - Echoes of War - the First Boer War
J S Marais - The Fall of Kruger's Republic
Iain R Smith - The Origins of the South African War 1899-1902
Andrew Roberts - Salisbury: Victorian Titan

List from Ending a War:
Albert Blake - Broedertwis: Bittereinder en Joiner Christiaan en Piet de Wet
Albert Grundligh - Die Hendsoppers en Joiners
translated as -The Dynamics of Treason
General Ben Viljoen - My Reminiscences of the Anglo-Boer War
Carel van der Merwe - Kansvatter Die Rustelose lewe van Ben Viljoen
Andre Wessels (ed) - Lord Kitchener and the War in South Africa 1899-1902 which contains
many letters and is published by the Army Records Society
J D Kestell and DF van Velden - The Peace Negotiations Richard Clay and Sons London 1912

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