WAR: Angry Boer General to the British: Disarm your Blacks and Fight a WHITE MAN’S WAR!
This is a communication that a Boer General sent to a British General:
‘It is understood that you have armed Bastards, Fingos and Baralongs against us – in this you have committed an enormous act of wickedness … reconsider the matter, even if it cost you the loss of Mafeking … disarm your blacks and thereby act the part of a white man in a white man’s war.’ – General Cronje to Colonel Baden-Powell, 29 October 1899
he Siege of Mafeking: A timeline of events
The siege and battle for Mafeking constitutes one of the most famous, but also one of the most controversial, episodes in British imperial history. Over 217 days, from 13 October 1899 to 17 May 1900, little more than 1,000 totally outgunned and outnumbered European and African defenders, ultimately only surviving on starvation rations and led by Col Baden-Powell, were initially besieged by 8,000 and, from mid-November 1899, a reduced number of around 2,000 Boer fighters, led respectively by Generals Cronje and Snyman.
Whilst this epic struggle made a hero out of the British leader, Baden-Powell, who eventually went on to achieve everlasting fame as founder of the Scouting Movement, his personal role has recently attracted criticism for alleged gross neglect of the Mafeking African population, leading to a significant number of unnecessary deaths from starvation.
As the quote by Gen. Cronje above graphically exposes, the battle for Mafeking also represented one of the first events of the Anglo-Boer War to highlight the deep racial tensions underpinning this conflict; tensions directly generated by Baden-Powell’s equally controversial decision to arm large numbers of his African defenders, which, from the Boer perspective, constituted a gross violation of the sacred principle of fighting a ‘white man’s war’.
Therefore, it was a battle which presented a major challenge to the existing pre-war social order, whereby a white South African minority sought to sustain, in wartime as well as in peacetime, their coercive dominance over a black South African majority.