See you in a couple of weeks September 18, 2010Posted by Jenny in Boer War, history, military history, travel.
Tags: Anglo-Boer War Museum, Bloemfontein, Emily Hobhouse, Kruger National Park, Marthinus Steyn, Natal battlefields, South Africa
Tomorrow afternoon I’ll head off for two weeks in South Africa.
The first couple of days, I’ll be attending a conference at the Anglo-Boer War Museum in Bloemfontein about the British concentration camps during the 1899-1902 conflict. Interestingly, the subject becomes one of healing rather than divisiveness when it comes to the unique figure of Emily Hobhouse, a British woman who came to South Africa during the war and did much to improve conditions in the camps. Hobhouse is remembered with reverence in Bloemfontein.
The conference will be a great experience for me to meet others who are interested in the subject I’ve been pursuing now for a while in a solitary fashion: I feel that I will be joining a community.
One of the highlights will be having dinner at a place formerly the residence of Orange Free State president Marthinus Steyn, a man, according to one observer in April 1900, “possessed of dogged courage.” During much of the guerilla phase of the war, he rode about the veld trying to dodge British columns—but he had the famous Christiaan De Wet by his side much of the time.
Like their counterparts of the Transvaal Republic, the members of the OFS government maintained a strict adherence to the formal structure of their administration even after their capital city of Bloemfontein was occupied and they were forced to operate on horseback “in the field.” They scrupulously elected new officers to replace any who were killed or wounded.
I will then participate in a tour of battlefields of the war’s first phase, fought in Natal. The highlights will include Elandslaagte, Dundee, Talana Hill, Ladysmith, Colenso, Platrand, Surprise Hill, Spionkop, and Pieter’s Hill.
I hope to walk up the slope of Spionkop as quickly as did members of the Isaac Malherbe corporalship. Here is a picture of Boer fighters below the towering hill. Its top was the site of a terrible battle.
The photo must have been taken after the battle, to judge by the truncated limbs of the tree.
Following the tour of the battlefields, I will have the opportunity to visit Kruger National Park, thanks to the great generosity of a kindred spirit in Bloemfontein.