The South African
Military History Society

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging

Military History Journal
Vol 13 No 2 - December 2004


Naming of the war in South Africa, 1899 to 1902

...I always prefer using the term 'South African War' when referring to the conflict between Great Britain and the Republics of the Orange Free State and Transvaal between 1899 and 1902. However, because of a suggestion made some time in the 1980s that this war be called the 'Second Anglo-Boer War', it seems that it has become almost mandatory to use it in publications etc. Is that correct? My reason for avoiding the 'anglo-boer war' term is because common sense denies that it was a war exclusively between englishmen and boers. There were Germans, Hollanders and Russians in the Boer forces while the Regular British Army had Irishmen, Welsh and Scots in its ranks in addition to Englishmen. Furthermore, many of the volunteer regiments came from Australia, Canada, and South Africa. Indian syces and grooms served at the Remount camps. Lord Roberts had an Indian Army escort wherever he went. All too often, the services to the British Empire of the Zulu Police on the Zululand border and the Tswana volunteers at Mafikeng have been ignored. In Natal, Mr Gandhi's well-known Indian stretcher-bearers were playing their courageous part in the battles there. They were accompanied by an Ambulance Bearer Unit who were volunteers from the Indian Army. When the Boer commandos moved into the Cape Colony, hundreds of Coloured men played an invaluable role as town and blockhouse guards. All of the above were involved in the war in South Africa.

As for my preferred name, 'South African War', not only is it written in large brass letters on the Monument outside the South African National Museum of Military History in Saxonwold, but I have numerous contemporary books, documents, commentaries and articles using the same term. For some time, I have been wondering if this question has reached a stage where it should be placed on the agenda and discussed by the South African Military History Society.

With best regards
David Panagos, Menlo Park
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The editor welcomes readers' responses to this letter and any other issue related to the field of military history.

The Naval and Military Press Ltd

Congratulations on another excellent number of MHJ - I enjoyed it immensely. I recently learned of the existence of the above organisation in the UK through Cdr Mac Bisset on a visit to Cape Town. It occurred to me that some of our members may not be aware of this facility. You can request to be put on their mailing list by email ( or by snailmail (The Navy and Military Press Ltd, Unit 10, Ridgewood Industrial Estate, Uckfield, East Sussex, TN22 SQE, England). They publish regular lists of books on military history, many of them facsimile reproductions, at reasonable () prices. It costs nothing to be placed on their mailing list, so I have recently enrolled. They sent me two book lists within days.

Best regards
Richard Tomlinson, Port Elizabeth

The hunt for German U-Boat anecdotes

I am a member of the Cape Town Branch of the SA Military History Society and collect anecdotes and stories that support the idea that German U-Boat crews made contact with the local population along the South African coastline from Angola around the Cape to Mozambique during the Second World War. This was done to obtain information, fresh water and vegetables, diesel for the engines, or just to fraternise. So far, I have assembled many stories, a few very funny, others certainly legends or 'tall stories', but some have given me good reason to investigate further. I have been in touch with the U-Boat Archives in Cuxhaven and with U-Boat Officer Associations, but they flatly deny that any such contacts ever took place. Admiral Doenitz's orders were that there were to be 'no contacts with foreign civilians anywhere on land'. The most interesting reports come from Mozambique. This makes sense, since Portugal was neutral and the locals would have seen a good business deal in supplying the U-Boats. I would be most grateful for additional stories or anecdotes on this subject.

Sincerely yours
John Mahncke, Kenilworth, Cape Town
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