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THE BOER WARS

Elite Militaria - Friday, October 11, 2013
HISTORY: The Boer Wars (known in Afrikaans as Vryheidsoorloeë "freedom wars" were two wars fought between Britain and the two independent Boer republics, the Orange Free State and the South African Republic (Transvaal Republic). The first was fought from 1880 to 1881, and the second was fought from 1899 to 1902.

The Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), by contrast, was a lengthy war - involving large numbers of troops from many British possessions - which ended with the conversion of the Boer republics into British colonies (with a promise of limited self-government). These colonies later formed part of the Union of South Africa. The Boer War lasted three years and was very bloody. The British fought directly against the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. The bloodshed that was seen during the war was alarming. Two of the factors that contributed to this were: First, many of the British soldiers were physically unprepared for the environment and poorly trained for the tactical conditions they faced. As a result, British losses were high as a result of both disease and combat. Second, the policies of "scorched earth" and civilian internment (adopted by the British in response to the Boer guerrilla campaign) ravaged the civilian populations in the Transvaal and the Orange Free State.

During the Second Boer War, Britain pursued the policy of rounding up and isolating the Boer civilian population into concentration camps. The wives and children of Boer guerrillas were sent to these camps with poor hygiene and little food, although this was remedied to some extent as time went on. The death and suffering of the civilians, according to many scholars, is what broke the guerrillas' will. The "pacification" theory has been repeated many times in warfare since.

The Second Boer War was a major turning point in British history, due to world reaction over the anti-insurgency tactics the British army used in the region. This led to a change in approach to foreign policy from Britain who now set about looking for more allies. To this end, the 1902 treaty with Japan in particular was a sign that Britain feared attack on its Far Eastern empire and saw this alliance as an opportunity to strengthen its stance in the Far East. This war led to a change from "splendid isolation" policy to a policy that involved looking for allies and improving world relations. Later treaties with France ("Entente cordiale") and Russia, caused partially by the controversy surrounding the Boer War, were major factors in dictating how the battle lines were drawn during World War One

The Boer War also had another significance. The Army Medical Corps discovered that 40% of men called up for duty were physically unfit to fight. This was the first time in which the government was forced to take notice of how unfit the British Army was. This led to individual investigations by Booth and Rowntree into the poverty in Britain, and ultimately gave the Liberals ideas on which to base their Welfare reforms, beginning in 1906.