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George Clarke Musgrave website - Boer War in South Africa To War in
South Africa

War with the Boer is now Inevitable ...
Buller's forces charge - thumbnailBuller's forces charge
I have left America and I am now making my way to South Africa where, with luck and a fair wind, I should arrive with the British by mid-month It is too early, at this date, to record the history of the war that is now inevitable. We live in an age, however, when interest is ephemeral, and, unless one is content to write for reputation alone, a work must be published during the height of public interest to command relevance. Thanks to electricity and newspaper enterprise, the author who has gathered his material in the field, at the risk of life and health, and at personal expenditure of energy and money, is now able to erect very readable works around the slender fabric of cables and brief despatches - hence the inclusion, here, of my notes and observations at the outbreak of war ...

Towards a Library of Truth ...
Correspondents in South Africa - thumbnailCorrespondents in South Africa
As with each of the wars that I have known, the inevitable press falsehoods, distortions and exaggerations are now masquerading as the truth. From their cosy armchairs and offices in London and New York, the architects of our history are already penning the works that will become the school-books for our children. The self-important politicians and entrepreneurs are already forming the versions of reality that will best suit their corporate interests. Now, more than ever before, in this time of increasingly rapid and ever more efficient communications, it falls upon the writers ho have travelled to the field, witnessed the battles and felt the pain of those who are dying, to build their library of truth - that is why I have made available my notes, thoughts and experiences as the war unfolded ...

Turning the Tide of War ...
Burial party in South Africa - thumbnailBurial party in South Africa
In every war there comes a critical period when the tide turns. This is triggered sometimes by the outcome of a particular battle; sometimes by the unknowing and often uncaring intervention of ignorant politicians; sometimes by the life and death decisions of generals. In our conflict with the Boer, this period came early, just two months from the outset, and was primarily characterised by the arrival of General Sir Redvers Buller as supreme commander. His early successes in the field were soon followed by three crushing defeats, with many hundreds of men lost, killed and captured. This led to Buller's ultimate subordination and demotion but it was his leadership, battle-skills and bravery in the face of these adversities and the way in which he was able to lift the minds of his men that put us back on the path to victory. This is December 1899 and in my notes for the month I have attempted to chronicle the events of these critical days and the ways in which they brought about the turning of the tide ...

A Force to Finally Defeat the Boer ...
Surrender of Cronje - thumbnailSurrender of Cronje
It is too simple and too quick a judgement to cast blame and recrimination for the crushing losses of an entire army on to the shoulders of one man; particularly when that man is the very one that can lift his men from defeat to victory. The British government, though, took the defeats at Stormberg, Magersfontein and Colenso badly and, with Kimberley, Mafeking and Ladysmith still under siege, saw this as the nadir of General Buller's career, sending in Lord Roberts as his replacement, together with yet more troops amounting to some 180000 men with further reinforcements being sought. It is widely reputed that this will be the largest force Britain has ever sent overseas and, in my diary notes for January, a number of observations suggest that, regardless of who is Commander-in Chief, this must be the force that finally defeats the Boer ...

Kimberley and Ladysmith are Relieved - Majuba Day is revenged ...
The Relief of Ladysmith - thumbnailThe Relief of Ladysmith
Whether it was the crushing deteats of January that changed the course of the war will, perhaps, never be known. What is certain, though, is that in February every man shared a morale so high that it brought an angel to every shoulder, and a confidence so great that it added the worth of an extra battalion to every conflict. Lord Roberts was rampant in the Orange Free State; General Buller strode the Natal as a giant. In just two weeks of brilliantly planned and heroically fought actions, the siege of Kimberley is broken; Cronje surrenders at Paadeberg; the Tugela Hills are won; Ladysmith is relieved and Botha's army is fleeing to the north. The happy coincidence that these successes synchronised on February 27th with the anniversary of Majuba Hill, wiping out a dishonour of nineteen years' standing felt throughout the British Army, will doubtless feature in the newspapers of the day more highly than the catalogue of courageous leadership and individual heroism that made them possible. My diary notes for the month are included here to provide the fine detail so easily missed when viewing the broad sweep of history ...

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