After Pretoria – The Guerrilla War

Previous stage : With the Flag to Pretoria

The Boers determined to continue fighting by guerrilla methods, led by Louis Botha, Koos de la Rey and Christiaan de Wet. Kruger was too old to go on commando; he was therefore to travel to Europe to drum up support. The 20-year-old Queen Wilhelmina sent her warship Gelderland to bring Oom Paul from Lorenço Marques to Europe.

“Everlasting Glory”

This card, posted in Berlin 18.Oct.02 celebrates the post-war tour of Europe by the three outstanding guerrilla generals to raise sympathy and funds. Cheering crowds welcomed them in London on 16th August and next day King Edward VII received them on his yacht in The Solent. Thence they went to Holland and a tour of the continent. In spite of their enthusiastic reception they raised only about £105,000.

Published by Ulrich Meyer, Berlin; unidentified artist (CWT Gibichmann?).

The Queen of the Netherlands welcomed Kruger: “Whatever happens, Uncle Paul, there will always be a place for the vanquished at my hearth.”

The French artist Rostro reiterates Wilhelmina’s hospitality shortly before Kruger’s death in Switzerland in July 1904.

Anonymous publisher.

“Her Majesty’s Warship bringing the President of the Z.A.R. to Europe.”

He left his country in tears, never to return until his coffin was brought back for burial at Pretoria.

Published by Mrs. A.M. Amiot of The Hague.

He made a triumphal tour, winning moral support but no actual help; continental leaders were still in awe of Britain and her fleet.

Kruger landed at Marseille. This is his first welcome to Europe.

He went next to Paris, and thence to Belgium and Cologne. The Kaiser would not invite him to Berlin. Kruger withdrew to ever-welcoming Holland.

Publisher: Lacour, Marseille.

“President Kruger’s arrival at Zwolle on 3rd July 1901.”

He spent his final two winters on the French Riviera; then moved to Clarens on Lake Geneva, where he died on 14th July 1904.

Published by La Rivière Voorhoeve, Zwolle, from a photograph by J.A. Eelsingh.

His wife, Tante Sannie, was too ill to travel with him; she remained in Pretoria where she was respectfully treated; she died in July 1901 (Queen Victoria had died in January).

“Queen Victoria and Mrs Kruger.”

Jean Veber drew a vitriolic set of anti-British cartoons for L’Assiette au Beurre. Here he pictures Gezina Kruger trying to draw Queen Victoria across ‘the great gulf fixed’ between heaven and hell (St. Luke ch.16 v.19).

Anonymous publisher.

Roberts returned home, leaving Kitchener to tie up the ends. But already guerrilla action had started. To deal with it, Roberts borrowed from the Spanish example in Cuba in 1898: namely to round up the peasants and leave the countryside barren. When Kitchener took over he found that two things went wrong. First, the country was too large: the commandos still found supplies. Secondly, the camps became overcrowded and unhealthy. Through illness or starvation 26,000 Boers died (including 21,000 children) and 15,000 black people. The policy was not universally popular.

Emily Hobhouse, daughter of a Cornish vicar, planned to visit some camps to bring the women some comforts. She found that they needed not “comforts” but necessities such as soap, combs, clothes and firewood – what use were rations of beef, mealies or coffee if they couldn’t heat water? Her reports were not believed at home and stirred so much trouble in South Africa that she was never allowed to return to the camps; but her work achieved gradual improvement, for which the Boers have always been grateful.

In February 1901 an abortive round of peace talks was held at Middelburg.

When the concentration camps failed to achieve their purpose Kitchener tried the ‘blockhouse’ system. Stone or corrugated iron pillboxes just large enough to hold 6-8 troops were built at intervals of a mile or less to guard the railway lines and to form a ‘net’ in which commandos might be cornered by ‘drives’.

Nevertheless, the guerrillas usually managed to slip away.

Gradually, however, more and more Boers were captured. To avoid the possibility of their being freed by a rising of sympathisers in the Cape or Natal, prisoners of war were sent overseas to St. Helena, Ceylon, India and Bermuda. Prisoners of War were generally well treated; there were few complaints, except for the monotony.

The commandos also had their successes: ambushing troops, cutting railways, capturing supply columns and finally at Tweebosch in March 02 capturing Lord Methuen, the senior British General in South Africa.

It was their last gasp. The commandos, their families and the countryside had suffered enough. Though de la Rey and Smuts were still achieving some success, Botha and the Transvaal leaders believed it was time to negotiate peace. Steyn, de Wet and the Free Staters were for continuing to fight.

Milner held out for the British policy of unconditional surrender, backed by a £3,000,000 subsidy (not enough, of course) to restore the farms and settle debts. Representatives of all the Commandos debated long at Vereeniging and finally agreed on 31st May 1902 to sign the treaty.

Further Reading

Numerous books exist, e.g.:

  • Bound copies of contemporary illustrated magazines
  • Soldiers’ memoirs and diaries (from both sides)
  • Journalists’ dispatches
  • Regimental Histories
  • The Times History of the War in South Africa. L.S.Amery, 7 vols
    Comprehensive! Not easily (or cheaply!) available
  • Modern accounts of battles, sieges etc.
  • Well-researched histories, including the four following:
    • Good-bye, Dolly Gray. Rayne Kruger, 1959. One of the most readable accounts. (Out of print but readily available through e.g.
    • The Great Boer War. Byron Farwell 1976. 494pp; maps and illustrations from contemporary drawings. Full and scholarly.
    • The Boer War. Thomas Pakenham 1979. 659pp; maps and photos. A very full and lengthy work.
    • The South African War. Ed. Professor S.B.Spies, 1980. 415 pp; fully illustrated. Essays by 17 contributors on various aspects of the War, including some less usual ones.