11.10.

1899: The Boer War – Tiny Statelets Fight a Mighty Empire

1899: The Boer War – Tiny Statelets Fight a Mighty Empire
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 11 October 1899
  • Many people who would later become famous participated in the Boer War. For example, young Gandhi lived precisely during that time period, in South Africa. The young Winston Churchill also came to Africa during the war, where he worked as a war correspondent. Even Arthur Conan Doyle, author of Sherlock Holmes, was a volunteer physician on the British side.

This date in 1899 marked the beginning of the Second Boer War in South Africa, in which the locals (the Boers, mostly of Dutch descent) led a war against the British colonial empire.

It was a battle akin to that of David and Goliath, because the Boers had only two tiny statelets in South Africa, and were fighting the largest colonial empire in the world (at that time, the British colonial empire spanned around 20 million square kilometers, an area larger than today’s Russian Federation).

Interestingly, it was the Boers who had declared war on the British, rather than vice-versa. Indeed, the Boers even conducted the first attack in the war.

The most powerful Boer leader was Paul Kruger, who had a very specific appearance (he had a massive build and wore a beard similar to that of Abraham Lincoln).

On 12 October, only a day after the war, the Boers attacked the British at Kraaipan. They won and captured the local British garrison. These early Boer victories were a humiliation for the British, considering the odds involved.

It is not widely known that many people who would later become famous participated in the Boer War. For example, young Gandhi lived precisely during that time period, in South Africa (he actually spent 21 years of his life in the country). He served as a volunteer in a unit of medical vehicles.

The young Winston Churchill also came to Africa during the war, where he worked as a war correspondent for the Morning Post. He was captured by the Boers, and later wrote two books about the event.

The famous Nobel Prize winner Rudyard Kipling, author of The Jungle Book, also spent some time in South Africa during the Second Boer War.

Even Arthur Conan Doyle, author of Sherlock Holmes, was a volunteer physician on the British side.

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