The South African
Military History Society

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging

Military History Journal
Vol 9 No 6 - December 1994

(incorporating Museum Review)


by D D Diespecker

[Author's Note: The writings below consist of a transcribed letter of August 1900, together with comments and notes which may help to increase our knowledge of the importation of armaments and other cargoes into the ZAR prior to and during the Anglo-Boer War. If there is a specific perspective here, it is a consequence of my attempts to track my late grandfather, Rudolph Diespecker.

Rudolph was a British intelligence officer; he began his work at some time in 1899, prior to the outbreak of the war. He and his elder brother, Jules, both served in the Field Intelligence Department (FID), once it was formally constituted in July 1900. Rudolph was a special intelligence officer in the Cape from the end of December 1900; he later became Commandant of Willowmore (in May 1901) and of Steytlerville (in July 1901). He is thought to have done security work, data collection and press censorship in Durban and similar work in Lourenco Marques, as well as cargoes purchasing and other duties. He also did security work in the Willowmore area and was largely responsible for organising the defences of Willowmore on 19 January 1901 during the so-called first attack on Willowmore by Commandant Scheepers.(1) After becoming Commandant, Rudolph again crossed swords with Gideon Scheepers in the attack on Willowmore on 1 June 1901. While in the Cape, he also attended military courts as an observer.

The views expressed below are consequences of my search for information on my grandfather rather than the results of focused research. Thus, the Campbell letter was found in the Public Records Office in London only because a private researcher was searching for information about Rudolph on my behalf. My agent noted his name in the letter while scanning wartime documents describing intelligence operations originating at Lourenco Marques. Perhaps there exist relevant and adequate materials describing both British and Boer intelligence operations in Mozambique between 1899 and 1902, but I have seen very little of that. I suspect that not much is known about this particular subject and that very little has been published. The British presence in Mozambique was legitimate, British operations there being covered by a secret treaty, the Anglo-Portuguese Agreement of 14 October 1899. Whether or not the personnel referred to in the Campbell letter knew about this is not known. The treaty is also discussed below.]

When even British firms at Lourenco Marques found the temptation of doing business stronger than their patriotism, it is difficult to expect much from merchants of other nationalities or from Portuguese officials there. Thus, there can be no doubt that, during the earlier part of the war, the neutrality of Lourenco Marques was, in some respects, distinctly benevolent towards the Transvaal.(2)

The text of the letter reproduced below was written by Archibald Campbell.(3) (Interestingly, he may be the person briefly described as a station chief in Petrograd in September l9l4.(4) At the time, he was a major and was recalled in April 1915 after complaints had been made against him - 'lack of tact' and 'assuming unwarrantable authority' - by both the military and naval attaches). In an exchange of telegrams between the Director of Military Intelligence (DMI) Army Headquarters in Bloemfontein and the Assistant Adjutant General (AAG) Intelligence Headquarters in Natal at Ladysmith on 18 March 1900 concerning the distribution of intelligence officers in Natal, a Lieutenant Campbell was described as being at the the capital, Pietermaritzburg.(5)

The addressee, Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur E Sandbach, was Chief Intelligence Officer to General Sir Redvers Buller. On 18 March 1900, as an AAG (I), Lieutenant-Colonel Sandbach was at Natal Army Headquarters in Ladysmith. Buller had been the commander of the 1st Army Corps (ie GOC of the forces in South Africa), but was superseded by Field Marshal Lord Roberts and relegated to Natal after successive British defeats in December 1899 and January 1900. When the Campbell letter was written, the Natal Army was engaged in actions in the eastern Transvaal, close to the Mozambique border. It would be interesting to know by which route the letter was sent to Sandbach. His letters had been taking two to four weeks to reach Lourenco Marques, suggesting that communications were difficult at the time. Although Buller's forces were never closer to Mozambique, Boer forces in the area were thought to have held most of the ground.(6) Perhaps Campbell's letters and despatches reached their destinations more quickly - they may have gone by steamer to Durban and then overland; or they may have been smuggled into the Transvaal by forces which were then operating covertly in the border areas.

Although the letter does not indicate Campbell's rank, he may well have been the lieutenant mentioned in the March 1900 telegrams. The letter is both informal and cheerfully declamatory and there are a number of alterations and corrections; Campbell used acute accents on the words expose, employees and regime. It is a friendly and personal letter rather than a military report, although it summarizes both intelligence and military operations. The style indicates that Campbell was on very friendly terms with Col Sandbach despite their differences in rank. (If he was the lieutenant referred to above, Campbell would have been very much a junior intelligence officer). One possibility is that Lourenco Marques may have been less important than Campbell's letter indicates - at least to General Buller's operations. Although no-one realised it at the time, the second phase of the war was ending (it was mistakenly perceived by many of the British - including British Intelligence - to be the end of the war) and the third phase, the guerrilla war, was about to begin.

The letter reads as follows:

14th Aug 1900.
Dear Col Sandbach,
Yours of the 16th and 29th July have just arrived. I feel most guilty, not to have written you privately and regularly since you sent me here, to let you know how affairs have been going; but now I am going to seize one hour, and refuse absolutely to see anyone until I finish you a letter of respectable length.

I am so glad you are pleased with S & Co. For my own part, I was becoming disappointed at their long-seeming inactivity after the bridge episode; for considerable sums were being spent, with a great deal of anxious worry to us here in Lourenco Marques owing to the delicate work which we have to do in connection with them, and no definite results were forthcoming. [i]

By means of a little false information judiciously spread here, the local Boers were led to believe that after all the K B expedition had landed; so that the British force in the Lebombo has been continually reported at anything between 300 and 2 000 men!! A result which S's well-arranged patrols - as soon as he had been increased and equipped as far as possible to four times his original numbers - helped to confirm; for they have been reported to the Boers, here today and somewhere else tomorrow, in absurdly exaggerated numbers. [ii]

But in addition to S we have had an independent and separate party, working round to the north, by the Sabie River. Owing, however, to the strong border guards sent up from Komati Poort - some 200 in number - they have been unable to reach their objective, and have just returned.

We now intend to send most of them to reinforce S.[iii]

Altogether, the Boer force drawn down the railway and along the border north and south, is estimated at over 1 500 strong, a good proportion of their remaining fighting men! These would not be hard to tackle, with a well-equipped and compact little force, because they are mostly faint-hearted boers [sic) only one degree removed from actual deserters - in a telegram yesterday I named this class "shirkers".[iv]

We have been rather unfortunate here lately with our underground people. The Boer precautions against them are most difficult to contend with; for they make their rules in regard to such gentlemen very carefully, and stick to them consistently, not caring 2d what injustice they may be doing to innocent people, the merest suspicion being usually sufficient to clap a man into "tronk" or put him over the border. Mr Pott, too, is awkwardly - for us - particular in his issue of passports to the Transvaal.[v]

Work here in the shipping and contraband line goes on as fast as ever. Since our success in the Customs and Railway, which has led to a fairly general expose and consequent dismissal of several more or less prominent officials - and recently, of the Director of Customs himself - the Consul-General has been granted at last a much more satisfactory, and in fact a recognised status for his employees and representatives, which enables us now to maintain a closer watch on all cargoes and railway goods traffic. The staff has therefore been lately increased in proportion to the extended scope of their work, and as I myself could not in addition to other duties keep in touch with and personally look after this re-organized and now large "department", Capt Crowe thought it best to hand it over to Mr Diespecker, who has been worklng for us in Delagoa for some months, having been originally appointed by Intelligence Cape Town. He is the sole agent and representative of the Selati Railway Company, and has a good general knowledge of Eastern Transvaal, the Boers, and the Portuguese. Working in company with him is Mr von Dessauer aka Dessauer], a German, and prominent member of the South African League. We all get on capitally together, and I do not think Capt Crowe has much to complain of; a feeling which is thoroughly reciprocated, for he is a thoroughly good man to work under.[vi]

I am today writing for the C G Journal - if he will pass it as correct - a record of the contraband work since his arrival here. If only Capt Crowe had come here earlier, to seize the grand opportunity for doing real valuable work, which Mr Ross so lamentably failed to carry out, the war might have been brought to a close much sooner![vii]

So far as I can make out, with the exception of actual munitions of war, no serious attempt was made to stop the passage of goods which, after a little argument with the authorities, might have been recognized as contraband. Take for example, clothing, boots, bully beef, blankets, grainbags, lubricants; all of which; and several other classes of goods, have been stopped, step by step, since Capt Crowe's arrival! You will see thus, that these results should have been attained many months earlier.[viii]

We have put forward two or three schemes for the blocking of the passage of Transvaal cargoes, but though pressed, the FO [Foreign Office] did not "catch on."[ix]

One of the first was to oblige the British landing companies to stop work; another, to hire all the lighters. Either of these would have paralysed the shipping companies, upset their arrangements, and blocked the port like stuffing in a water pipe for at least two months.[x]

The latest scheme, after considerable delay and loss of opportunities, has been happily taken up. Already 100,000 pounds [stg] worth of provisions has been bought up, and the whole town's stock as well as one or two recent cargoes, have been swept into H B M's larders!

Coming cargoes are being negotiated for.[xi]

Hardly anything is going up to the Transvaal now, and we hear the enemy are at their wits end to know what to do.[xii]

I hope sincerely therefore that at least a new leaf has been turned in the war history of Delagoa Bay, and that Capt Crowe's regime will stand out well against that of his predecessor.[xiii]
Now, I must say good-bye,
with best wishes for General Buller's success,
yours sincerely,
Arch' d Campbell.

P.S. Most of the good men are with S, but I will enquire about others. I am looking forward to hearing how J Forbes fared. Please remember me to Polden. Capt Crowe sends his very Ar' C. [xiv]
kind regards to yourself and
General Buller.'

Notes and Discussion

i. The letter above suggests that Campbell was a poor correspondent and that Sandbach was concerned to know what was going on in Lourenco Marques.
'S & Co' almost certainly refers to Steinaecker's Horse. F von Steinaecker [aka Steinacker] was an ex-squadron sergeant-major, Corps of Guides. He was given the command of six squadrons when the corps was disbanded. Mennes Scouts (one squadron) and Bethune's Mounted Infantry (one squadron) were also formed from the corps in December 1899 when there was an increased demand for scout units. The six squadrons of mounted infantry became known as Steinaecker's Horse (SH). The unit served in the border areas close to Mozambique and began their operations with '... a daring raid through Zululand and Swaziland to the Transvaal.'(7)
The base depot for Steinaecker's Horse was at Pietermaritzburg. Towards the end of the war, when the unit was based at Komati Poort, Rudolph's brother, Jules, on secondment from the FID, was Secretary to Steinaecker. When Campbell wrote to Sandbach, a number of the operations carried out by Steinaecker's Horse were in enemy territory. Steinaecker was later awarded a DSO and ended the war as a colonel. He was later obliged to fight Jules Diespecker, sometime General Manager of Selati Railway, who demanded the return of his house and office, which he had earlier commandeered; 'Selati House' was duly surrendered after Jules had beaten up his former OC.(8)
In a note by Parritt: 'Steinaecker's unit which eventually totalled 450 men served the whole war in the unhealthy regions along the eastern frontier and as well as many casualties caused by enemy action, lost a dozen men eaten by lions and crocodiles.'
The letter implies that Steinaeker's Horse was supported and possibly controlled from the British Consulate in Lourenco Marques (LM). If this was so, it may easily be seen as an example of Anglo- Portuguese cooperation, but it may also be an example of the remarkable political pressure brought to bear on the Portuguese by the British, based on a secret agreement. Thus, although Portugal was Britain's oldest ally, she accepted the pressure as the price for British 'protection'. One of Britain's wartime roles was designed to exclude all outside assistance to the Boers by 'blockade and political pressure.'(9)
The 'bridge episode' may have been a reference to Steinaecker's plan to attack the Komati Bridge - abandoned when the Boers occupied Komati Poort. A culvert at Malelane, 25 miles (40 km) away, was blown up instead and this effectively held up the British advance.(10)

ii. Lourenco Marques must have been a hot-bed of espionage and counter-espionage at this time. Kruger's Secret Service was very efficient and was well funded - the ZAR spent more on its intelligence operations than the British War Office spent on its entire Intelligence Division. The Royal Commission on the War in South Africa was told that, in the three years before the war, the ZAR had spent 286,000 pounds on 'secret service' at a time when the total British Intelligence Division budget was only 20,000 pounds a year, of which about 2,000 pounds was spent on South Africa.(11)
It is therefore not surprising that there were Boer as well as British intelligence officers and agents in Lourenco Marques at the same time. Following an apparently successful British disinformation campaign, the British team, based in the Consulate, was able to surmise what the Boer agents 'were led to believe.' However, Campbell's spirited remarks imply a cosmic overview; either the British intelligence team received remarkably accurate feedback concerning the effects of their propaganda, or Sandbach was being offered some of Campbell's wishful thinking.

iii. Campbell's letter implies that the 'independent and separate party' was controlled from the Consulate. It may have been a small unit, comprising African scouts, or border agents, perhaps led by a white British or Colonial intelligence officer. It is clear from this that Campbell was involved in more than simply running agents in and out of the border areas; control or partial control of military units, as well as logistical support, were apparently additional aspects of the work in the Consulate. Whatever else it may have been, Steinaecker's Horse was a British-inspired force of scouts and mounted infantry, the majority of whom were probably more experienced as 'scouts' than as 'infantry', ie they were a motley and ill-disciplined crew, certainly more identifiable as a guerrilla force than anything else.
When the letter was written, Steinaecker's Horse was operating behind Boer lines and it continued to operate, largely as a semi-autonomous unit, even when General French's flying columns were sweeping the country. At approximately this time (August or September 1900), Republican forces were preparing to initiate the guerrilla phase of the war.

iv. The phrase 'drawn down the railway' probably refers to the Pretoria - Delagoa Bay Railway (the Eastern Line); but it could have applied equally well to the Selati Railway which ran northwards into the bush to the Sabie Bridge from Komati Poort; the Boers used the line to conceal rolling stock.
Either Campbell's estimate of Boer strength was inaccurate, or the numbers were based on misinterpreted information. Prior to the battle of Belfast (Bergendal) which began on 27 August '... Botha's army - estimated at seven thousand men, with twenty guns, including several Long Toms - straddled the main watershed that carried the railway [the Eastern Line] between Belfast and Kruger's HQ farther east.' Bergendal was won only when the two armies of Roberts and Buller were combined against Botha's forces.(12) The Lourenco Marques underestimate of Botha's forces is surprising; a force of 7 000 men would not have been difficult to detect.

v. Campbell's reference to 'our underground people' indicates that the concept of 'underground' was in common usage within the Intelligence Division in 1900. His assertion that British agents or spies were sent into the ZAR from Mozambique is another example of how Britain ignored diplomatic niceties. We might reasonably expect that such agents or spies would have been executed when discovered in the ZAR; that they were merely arrested or expelled is surely an example of Boer tolerance which borders on the compassionate.
Pott, who may have been British or a Colonial, is mentioned in Amery: 'A factor of some importance in determining the general attitude of the port was the great local influence of Mr Pott, who combined the position of leading shipping agent with the functions of consul for the Transvaal and for the Netherlands.'(13)

vi. The phrase 'our success in the Customs and Railway' implies that the Intelligence Department at Lourenco Marques was also a department of dirty tricks and the Portuguese authorities clearly operated under compulsion.
It is also clear that overseas cargoes continued to be brought into Delagoa Bay and landed at Lourenco Marques (and elsewhere in Mozambique). They were then presumably transhipped by rail into the ZAR. This is curious, given that both Johannesburg and Pretoria had, by then, been in British hands for months. Munitions and other warlike stores were therefore being railed over the border in mid-August 1900, at least as far as Komati Poort. This suggests that ammunition and other supplies were being discreetly moved - or smuggled - across the Mozambique-Transvaal border at strategic points. However, Campbell does not appear to have known this. At the time, many units of ZAR rolling stock had either been abandoned or were stored on the Selati Railway (Komati Poort being the Selati terminus).
A primary reason for intelligence operations at Lourenco Marques, surveillance of armaments traffic, was being maintained as late as mid-August 1900; indeed, the staff at Lourenco Marques had even been increased. This reorganised and enlarged 'department' was 'handed over' to Rudolph Diespecker.
Captain Fritz H E Crowe was the British Consul General, Lourenco Marques, and it was he who made the decisions. As a Foreign Office (FO) appointee, he would have had a political edge over the local Portuguese. Diespecker and von Dessauer would probably have been WOs (ID) and Campbell a (British Army) Natal Army appointee.
Diespecker had heen a pre-war resident of Lourenco Marques and he and von Dessauer were friends. Von Dessauer was a also 'prominent' member of the South African League of which Cecil Rhodes is thought to have been the president at the time.(14)

vii. The 'C G Journal' referred to in the letter was the Consul General's Journal, which was apparently written up by his subordinates. Although the precise date when Crowe took up his post is not clear, a commemorative plaque at the present British Embassy in Maputo (Lourenco Marques) indicates that Ross was Consul when Winston Churchill stayed there after his escape from Pretoria in December 1899.(15) Crowe may have arrived early in 1900. Campbell's reference to Ross' failure to carry out valuable work was far from diplomatic, if not indiscreet.
'Contraband' was a popular word in British circles during this period; it was much used in official CO, WO, and ID documents and the British press also used it indiscriminately. Whether it was always the appropriate word is arguable. It means 'anything prohibited by law from being imported or exported; goods imported or exported illegally; illegal or prohibited trade; smuggling; prohibited from export or import.' The British Government, through its Colonial Office, did little or nothing during the late 1890s to stop the imports - when their interpretations of the Pretoria and London Conventions might have supported such interdictions.
When searching an 1897 copy of the The Times, I chanced upon a Parliamentary item, which turned the question into an academic one. It was titled 'Importation of Warlike Stores into South Africa'. In reply to a question, the Colonial Secretary, Joseph Chamberlain, stated: '... I presume he refers to the importation of warlike stores into the South African Republic, of which I am fully aware ... I am not aware that there is any breach of local or international law in the importation of warlike stores into the colonies and States of South Africa.'(16) Chamberlain was not renowned for his political honesty and we may never know when or how those imports became 'contraband.'

viii. Campbell makes it clear that ZAR imports were being stopped after they landed at Lourenco Marques. This implies that Portuguese authorities stood by helplessly while representatives of the British Consul proclaimed certain cargoes to be contraband and forbade their transhipment. In fact, the responsibility to halt the imports lay entirely with Portugal.

ix. We may well wonder why the Foreign Office drew the line at these schemes, because it was party to the interdiction of armaments and contraband. Apparently the Foreign Office was not altogether enthusiastic about blocking Transvaal cargoes and there is some evidence of a high-echelon dispute about this in Britain. According to Pakenham:(17)
'[Buller] wanted the British navy to be ordered to impose a complete embargo - on the import of food as well as arms into the Boer republics - at the Portuguese port of Delagoa Bay. Milner backed him. But the British cabinet would only agree on an arms embargo, and this seemed easy to evade.'
At this time, the war had been in progress for only a few weeks. It was on 1 December 1899 that General Buller had sent a cipher telegram to the War Office which read, in part:(18)
'People here assert that ammunition is being smuggled into Delagoa Bay. Delagoa Bay should, I think, be blockaded absolutely and at once; this would be of more help to us than any number of divisions.'
Armaments had been imported into the ZAR via Lourenco Marques for years and the imports were intensified following the Jameson Raid. Lord Lansdowne, Secretary of State for War, drafted a reply (to be enciphered) on 5 December 1899 which began: 'We cannot blockade Delagoa Bay in full sense of the word without going to war with Portugal.'(19)

x. The development of port facilities at Lourenco Marques was interconnected with agreements between the ZAR and Portugal; some installations were built by the NZASM, the railway company responsible for the construction and operation of the Pretoria-Delagoa Bay Railway.
'To facilitate off-loading from barges, the NZASM built a short stone-clad quay to which an iron jetty, imported from Europe, was attached. This was ready by the end of 1890. During the following year four steam cranes were erected on this jetty and workshops for the assembly of locomotives, goods shed and staff accommodation were established.'
Prior to this time '...the harbour facilities were most primitive. Goods were transferred by lighters or barges from ships to the shore, and, as the barges could not be beached, the goods had to be manhandled to the shore.'(20) It may not be widely known that much - if not all - of the wartime cargoes-handling at Lourenco Marques was facilitated by NZASM (ultimately Transvaal-owned) installations. The operation of barges and lighters had long been a British-dominated enterprise.

xi. Pakenham suggests that the cost of the war exceeded 200 million UK pounds; by mid-August 1900 at least 100,000 UK pounds (or 0.05% of the total cost of the war) had been spent buying up cargoes at Lourenco Marques - the implication being that there would be even more expenditure. A passage in Amery is instructive in this regard:
'Far more effective than the Portuguese measures were the close watch kept on the port by a small British squadron in the offing, which soon convinced firms in Europe that the shipping of contraband would not pay, and the secret buying up by the British authorities of non-military supplies as fast as they were landed.'(21)
A 'close watch' is surely perilously close to 'a blockade' and the 'buying up' of cargoes, secretly or otherwise - on neutral territory - was surely an illegal or piratical act. The phrases 'close watch' and 'some check' in Amery are merely inflated rhetoric. Although ships were searched at sea, merchant vessels completed their passage past British guns and safely entered Delagoa Bay. Once cargoes had been landed, they were examined by the Portuguese officials who undoubtedly had British agents and officials breathing down their necks. Clearly, such 'checking' was a local British onshore discrimination. The Royal Navy had watched nothing more than the successful arrival of cargo vessels; it had not fired any shots in anger.
The British expenditure of large sums of money in Lourenco Marques, if kept a 'secret', would hardly have been secret in that town - all would have known about it; such secrecy would therefore only have applied largely to the British taxpayer, whose money was being expended.

xii. Despite being 'at their wits end', Republican forces persevered and the guerrilla war lasted into May 1902.

xiii. Campbell's hopes may have been realised although little is known of the 'war-history' of Delagoa Bay. Presumably the Crowe 'regime' triumphed (and that of Ross failed) because interdiction (and espionage) was so successfully based on 'political pressure'.

xiv. Forbes is mentioned in the Lourenco Marques May 1900 Intelligence Diary: he led expeditions in enemy territory (one of them from Swaziland), the purpose of which was to destroy enemy lines of communication.

The matter of the 'secret buying up of cargoes' is a curious one; Campbell did not indicate that the purchases were secret although an official British history did. It seems probable, therefore, that the expenditure was secretly authorised by the British Government and that the purchasing of these cargoes was a policy that was concealed from the public at the time. We may also wonder (probably to no avail) where the money went - and who benefited most? Ultimately, the buck will have stopped at a large desk somewhere in Whitehall.

There is also the issue of the 'blockade'. Whether partial or complete, a 'blockade' is the maritime equivalent of a siege and is, therefore, an act of war. Similarly, the stopping and searching of neutral ships on the high seas by the British was arguably a warlike act. No doubt international law and the articles of war were again liberally interpreted. Britain ran the considerable risk of seriously damaging international relations - and of risking war - with those countries whose ships were searched. Pakenham indicates that '...three German passenger ships, the Bundesrath, the Herzog and the General, were stopped and forced into port, and then suffered the humiliation of being searched. The search was negative in all three cases, and this only fed the flames of anglophobia in Germany.'(22)

The Boers had long been concerned at the possibility of being invaded by rail and it was surely within the resources of the British to have destroyed, for example, sections of the Eastern Line or one of the crucial bridges - actions which Steinaecker's Horse had eventually become familiar with (after some carelessness); indeed, the unit came into being because Steinaecker persuaded the British authorities to allow him to attempt to blow up the Komati Bridge.(23) We are also left with another unsolved puzzle: the nature of the work which so fully occupied Campbell that the 'reorganized and now large "department"' was handed over to the intelligence officer, Rudolph Diespecker.

The British operations in Lourenco Marques in August 1900 were comprehensive and had wide implications. When we read Campbell's somewhat indiscreet letter, we can easily begin to discriminate tasks and processes which were clearly espionage and intelligence operations, rather than 'Consular' duties. Military operations were also supported or directed from the Consulate.

Secret agreement between Britain and Portugal
The British Mission (if it may be called that) in Mozambique was authorized by the (secret) Anglo-Portuguese Agreement. It was also known, incorrectly, as the 'Secret Treaty of Windsor'. It was signed by the Marquis of Salisbury, as British Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, and the Marquis de Soveral, Portugal's Foreign Minister, on 14 October 1899. The agreement reads like an annexure or an 'extra clause' to earlier treaties and agreements between the two countries, viz the Treaty of 29 January 1661. The Ancient Alliance is based on treaties dating to the 14th century. A secret article in the 1661 treaty, referring to the Treaty of Marriage between Charles II and Lady Catherine, Infanta of Portugal, shows that Great Britain agreed '... to defend and protect all conquests in Colonies belonging to the Crown of Portugal against all his enemies, as well as future as present.'

The crucial 1899 information is given in these glosses:
'The Government of His Most Faithful Majesty [King Carlos] undertakes not to permit, after the declaration of war between Great Britain and the South African Republic, or during the continuance of the war, the importation and passage of arms and of munitions of war destined for the latter.
'The Government of his Most Faithful Majesty will not proclaim neutrality in the War between Great Britain and the South African Republic.
'Done in duplicate at London this 14th day of October 1899.'(24) Supporting documents indicate that the original draft had been suggested by the Portuguese Minister on 12 October 1899, that Salisbury and Soveral each signed separately at different locations and that Queen Victoria had initialled and approved a copy of the draft.

The political events and processes which led to the Agreement may be read elsewhere, for example in Hammond or Warhurst.(25) It is clear from those accounts that one reason for secrecy was the Anglo- German agreements (also secret) of 1898 which were not advantageous of Portugal. Hammond indicates that Soveral's opportunity (to nullify the Anglo-German agreements) came in the northern summer of 1899, '... when the British forcefully raised the question of the transit of arms and ammunition through Lourenco Marques to the Transvaal.'

'The right of such transit was guaranteed by the Transvaal-Portuguese treaty of 1875, which the British Government, as suzerain, had ratified in 1882; it had not been contemplated, of course, that arms for possible use against the suzerain might be covered by it. But the Portuguese Government pointed out that it would be difficult for them to impose restrictions on the trade in time of peace. If war were to break out between Great Britain and the Transvaal, that would be a different matter and on 12 September 1899, Soveral went so far as to propose - with, he said, the authority of his government - an Anglo-Portuguese "engage- ment" that "would enable England to attack the Transvaal by the Delagoa Bay Railway and to make Lourenco Marques our base of operations. "'(26)

By these actions, neither Portugal nor Great Britain distinguished themselves: the secret treaty of 14 October 1899 was the outcome of secret diplomacy designed to frustrate the ZAR war effort and it was cynically based in a (rather unneccessary) renewal of the Anglo-Portuguese alliance and the questionable use of the 1875 Treaty of Friendship and Commerce between the ZAR and the King of Portugal.(27) Article VI of that Treaty reads:
'His Majesty the King of Portugal reserves the right of prohibiting the importation of arms and munitions of war, and of subjecting the transit thereof to special regulations, but he binds himself to allow the free importation and transit of arms and military stores intended for the South African Republic, and applied for by the Government of that Republic, upon the guarantees necessary to remove all doubt as to their destination being given. (This treaty was signed at Lisbon, 11 December 1875 and ratified by Queen Victoria as Suzeraine [sic] of the Transvaal State; the Ratifications were exchanged at Lisbon, 7 October 1882)'.

The modern history of Mozambique reveals that both the British and the ZAR had coveted the Portuguese territory (so, too, had others, including Germany and Cecil Rhodes) and Lourenco Marques had been a hot spot on more than one occasion in the nineteenth century. However, all of Delagoa Bay was indisputably Portuguese after the July 1875 Marshal Macmahon decision following arbitration.

Understanding the politics and complexity of issues in which the British operations in Mozambique were embedded would necessitate reading and interpreting historical documents of the British Foreign Office, Colonial Office, and War Office; the relevant Portuguese documents; those of the ZAR (especially the papers of Dr W J Leyds) and also official German and French documents. Additionally, it would be essential to see documents describing the origin of cargoes (for example, contraband supplied by Italy, or the USA) and to study books and newspaper articles produced in Europe and North America ...

More recent sources enable us to appreciate that the government of the ZAR was not only well aware of the interdictions officially placed in her way by her neighbour, but that considerable efforts were made by her to obtain the consigned cargoes. The Amery quote above indicates that a 'benevolent' neutrality was expressed by the Portuguese to the Transvaal. That seems undeniable, given the pro-Boer feelings of the Portuguese in Portugal and Mozambique. Amery did not know that the Portuguese Government had agreed NOT to proclaim neutrality, an inaction which theoretically gave Great Britain the strategic and short- term military advantage which she needed in that area. While local British authorities laboured to take what advantage they could, they were opposed, if not frustrated, by pro-Boer support within Mozambique and by the aggressive actions of the ZAR.

Dr Leyds '... succeeded by means of bribery and misleading consignment notes to smuggle through contraband throughout the war and he was still busy with this when the war ended.(27) Goods were smuggled through Inhambane, Quelimane and Beira and transported overland across the border and into the Transvaal. The long-range orchestrations of Leyds were supported locally by Gerard Potts, the ZAR Consul-General in Lourenco Marques (until his exequatur was withdrawn in November 1900). Comprehensive descriptions of smuggling contraband sourced to Leyds' documents and to government archives, principally in South Africa and the UK, are given by van Niekerk.(28)

The Campbell letter provides us with a precis of some British military and intelligence operations in Mozambique. It also points to the very considerable and successful clandestine importation and smuggling of contraband in Mozambique by the ZAR. Campbell's letter to Sandbach makes no direct reference to the Anglo-Portuguese Secret Declaration, and perhaps Campbell had no knowledge of that. Although the secret treaty provides some rationale for political intrigues and collaboration, it begs the wider question of who knew about it.


1. George and Knysna Herald, 13 February 1901; Wilson, H W, After Pretoria: The Guerrilla War, (London, 1902), pp 291-3.
2. Amery, L S, The Times History of the War in South Africa, 1899-1902, pp 102-3.
3. War Office 132/22 XC 24737.
4. Andrew, C, Secret Service: The Making of the British Intelligence Community (1985), pp 297-8.
5. War Office 132/19 XC 15116
6. Pakenham, T, The Boer War (1979).
7. Parritt B A H, The Intelligencers (no date), p 198.
8. Stevenson-Hamilton, South African Eden: From Sabi Game Reserve to Kruger National Park (1937), pp 67-8.
9. Macksey, K, and Woodhouse, W, The Penguin Encyclopedia of Modern Warfare (Viking, 1991), p 302.
10. Stephenson-Hamilton, South African Eden, pp 67-8.
11. Andrew, Secret Service, p 58.
12. Pakenham, The Boer War, pp 454-5.
13. Amery, The Times History of the War in South Africa, p 102.
14. Rotberg, R I, Cecil Rhodes and the Pursuit of Power (1988), p 635.
15. Peter Greeff, personal communication.
16. The Times, 19 March 1897.
17. Pakenham, The Boer War, p 163.
18. W032/8017 XC 20168.

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