I thought it might be of interest to the general membership if we started a thread on Boer-War-related books that members are reading. There's so much out there so hopefully this thread could serve as a reference point.
Commando: A Boer Journal of the Anglo-Boer War by Deneys Reitz.
I've become quite interested in the guerrilla campaign in the Eastern Cape. One of my great grandfathers fled the Rand for Port Elizabeth at the outbreak of hostilities and served in the Graaf Reinet Town Guard and later became a sergeant in the Cradock Town Guard. In reading Commando this time around I was specifically interested in plotting Reitz's movements through the Eastern Cape. But there's so much more to read in this great classic so it was a good excuse to read the entire book again.
The Great Karoo begins in 1899, as the British are trying to wrest control of the riches of South Africa from the Boers, the Dutch farmers who claimed the land. The Boers have turned out to be more resilient than expected, so the British have sent a call to arms to their colonies — and an a great number of men from the Canadian prairies answer the call and join the Canadian Mounted Rifles: a unit in which they can use their own beloved horses. They assume their horses will be able to handle the desert terrain of the Great Karoo as readily as the plains of their homeland. Frank Adams, a cowboy from Pincher Creek, joins the Rifles, along with other young men from the ranches and towns nearby — a mix of cowboys and mounted policeman, who, for whatever reason, feel a desire to fight for the Empire in this far-off war.
Against a landscape of extremes, Frank forms intense bonds with Ovide Smith, a French cowboy who proves to be a reluctant soldier, and Jefferson Davis, the nephew of a prominent Blood Indian chief, who is determined to prove himself in a “white man’s war.” As the young Canadians engage in battle with an entrenched and wily enemy, they are forced to realize the bounds of their own loyalty and courage, and confront the arrogance and indifference of those who have led them into conflict. For Frank, disillusionment comes quickly, and his allegiance to those from the Distict of Alberta, soon displaces any sense of patriotism to Canada or Britain, or belief that he’s fighting for a just cause.
The events of the novel follow the trajectory of the war. The British strategy of burning Boer farms, destroying herds, and moving Boer families into camps weakens the Boer rebels, but they refuse to give up. The thousands of Boer women and children who die in the camp make the war ever more unpopular among liberals in Britain. (In fact, this conflict marked the first use of the term “concentration camp” in war.) Seeing the ramifications of such short-sighted military decisions, and how they affect what happens to Frank and the other Canadians, is crucial to depicting the reality of the Boer War. By focusing on the experiences of a small group of men from southern Alberta, Fred Stenson brings the reality of what it would have been like to be a soldier in this brutal war to vivid life.
The Great Karoo is a deeply satisfying novel, marked by the complexities of its plot, the subtleties of its relationships, and the scale of its terrain. Exhilarating and gruesome by turns, it explores with passion and insight the lasting warmth of friendship and the legacy of devastation occasioned by war.
NOTE: Though a work of fiction some of the people and events actualy served in SA and took part in the events..... Jefferson Davis, the nephew of a prominent Blood Indian chief that is mentioned above was a real person, I have his medals in my collection......
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