The South African
Military History Society

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging

Military History Journal
Vol 13 No 3 - June 2005


The Battle of Bankkop (Onverwacht)

I found the article by Robin Smith extremely interesting, as I have written about the battle in both my books on the Heidelberg Commando (Heidelbergers of the Boer War and its sequel, Fight to the Bitter End). According to the Times History, Major Vallentin was killed ' ... striving to the last to avert defeat...' while Smith contends that he was hit early in the battle 'as they tried to get the pom pom away'. What is his source for this?

Incidentally, Major Vallentin's medals were sold by Spink in October 1999. I have quoted extensively from his diaries in the sequel, as his viewpoint makes interesting reading. The Boers apparently thought that his troops were the Queenslanders who were responsible for burning down Bethal in May 1901. In fact, those responsible had been the 4th Queenslanders, not the 5th, who were with Vallentin.

In 1983 I visited the battle site and found part of a broken metal grave marker with the words 'For King' on it. Though not a battle relic, it has pride of place in my Knysna office. Mr Smith refers to part of the Hampshire cast-iron cross with the words 'For King and Empire' remaining. My piece was therefore presumably from the Imperial Bushmen or Major Vallentin's former grave.

Mr Smith is to be commended on the article and the detailed maps. It's a pity I never had access to them 20 years ago.

Ian S Uys
Fortress Books, Knysna

Military History Journal, Vol 13 No 2, December 2004, well received ...

May I first compliment you, and your collaborators, on the presentation of the journal, which is excellent, and a fitting memorial to George Barrell, to whom it is dedicated. I see that he was a Mancurian, and went to Manchester Grammar School. I worked for eleven years at Manchester University in the 1950s and 60s, but he will have graduated before my time.

I was pleased with the presentation of the article and the illustrations. You made a very good job of transferring the references into the text... Once again, congratulations on the production, the whole of which I have read with interest. I was intrigued by the letter from John Mahncke on p 78, as there are similar tall stories about U-boats creeping into remote coves on the Welsh coast during the Second World War to take on water from streams. I have always taken them with a pinch of salt.

Emrys Wynn Jones
United Kingdom

Naming of the war in South Africa. A reader responds ...

The letter by David Panagos, 'Naming of the war in South Africa, 1899-1902' (Military History Journal, Vol 13 No 2, December 2004) refers. Paratus, the journal that the SANF/SANDF used to publish, carried an excellent article by Prof Louis Changuion, University of Limpopo, on this issue in February 1999, pp 58-61. Under the title 'To name a war: The war of 1899-1902', the author proposes five categories for the names of wars in general and then discusses the various names given to the abovementioned conflict according to each category.

Prof Changuion mentions the unwritten rule that no country names a war after itself, as this would imply that that country was responsible for the war. According to this rule, the name 'South African War' is unsuitable for use by South Africans, whereas it could be appropriate from a British point of view. However, my perception is that this name is acquiring a status in South Africa that it previously did not have, for reasons of political correctness.

Changuion quite rightly argues that a war is usually declared between two states and that the peace accord is eventually signed by representatives of these same states. This is precisely the situation which exists for the name 'Anglo-Boer War', where the war was fought between Britain and the Boer republics. Without detracting from the contributions and suffering of citizens from other nationalities, as well as those of black people, the war was essentially fought between these two parties.

Among the Afrikaans-speaking community, the name 'Anglo-Boer War' was used in newspaper articles and publications as well as at conferences during the entire three-year centennial commemoration period. In my opinion, it certainly is the preferred term.

Johannes J Retief

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