THE FIRST ANGLO-
Map (South Africa): from www.st.andrews.ac.uk/-
xxxxxAs we have seen, Transvaal -
xxxxxThe conflict that followed in 1880 and ended in 1881, known as the First Anglo-
xxxxxOn route, this small army suffered heavy loses on two occasions. On reaching Laing’s Nek in January 1881, a ridge in the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains, the force was ambushed. Boer riflemen, occupying the hills on either side of the ridge, brought withering fire down upon the British troops. A bombardment of the high ground on one of the flanks, and an assault upon the summit of Brownlow’s Kop, failed to dislodge the Boers, and the British had lost 84 men and over 100 wounded before clearing the ridge. Then early the next month Colley sent a company of infantry to make secure the Newcastle-
xxxxxThese humiliating defeats at the hands of a hastily assembled army of Boer farmers demoralised Colley’s men, but worse was to come. Having advanced close to the Transvaal border, Colley decided to occupy Majuba Hill, a commanding height ten miles south of Volksrust which overlooked a Boer base. After a strenuous night march, a force of some 650 men climbed and occupied the barren hill top on the 26th February. But, having gained this vantage point, little if anything was done to prepare defensive positions, and some stretches of the summit were left unguarded. At first light the Boers, encamped on low ground to the North-
xxxxxThexBritishxdefeat at Majuba Hill brought an end to the war. William Gladstone, returning as prime minister in June 1880, was a staunch opponent of colonialism. He favoured a settlement, and by the Convention of Pretoria in April 1881 the Transvaal regained its independence. Some reservations were made in the agreement, but at the London Convention of 1884 the liberal government modified the terms of the treaty. No mention was made of British suzerainty over the state, nor of Britain’s right to intervene to protect the rights of the native population. Paul Kruger became the new republic’s first president.
xxxxxFrom the military point of view the war was an unmitigated disaster for the British. First and foremost it highlighted the potential of long range, breach-
xxxxxBut the defeat at the hands of the Boers also invoked a great deal of anger amongst the British public. There was a call for revenge, and the stage for that was set in 1886 with the discovery of large deposits of gold in the Witwatersrand Basin near modern-
xxxxxIncidentally, it was in the 1880s that Bechuanaland (on map) a sparsely populated area adjoining the Transvaal, became a British protectorate, due in part to the efforts of the British imperialist Cecil Rhodes. The area was inhabited by the Tswana people from the 17th century, but became the home of the Bantu people in the early 19th century. In 1885 two chiefs of the Tswana people sought protection against constant attacks by the Boers. The government of the Cape Colony, concerned that the territory might fall into the hands of the Germans -
xxxxx…… Likewise the smaller territory of Basutoland, an enclave within today’s Republic of South Africa,came under British protection at this time. The state (arrowed on the map) was founded by King Moshoeshoe I, the leader of the Basotho people, in 1827. In 1843, fearing attacks from the Boers, he received protection from the British, but in 1871, following his death, the territory was annexed by the Cape Colony. In 1880, however, the Basotho rose up against their masters and the kingdom became a British crown colony in 1886. Like Bechuanaland, it gained its independence in 1966, and it was then renamed Lesotho.
The Battle of
xxxxxIt was towards the end of their Great Trek northwards in the 1840s that the Boers in South Africa settled in the Transvaal, an area beyond the River Vaal. As we have seen, by the Sand River Convention of 1852 (Va) the British recognised their right to this territory, but in 1877 (Vb), following a series of disputes they had with the Zulus, the British decided to annex the territory. This brought about the First Anglo-