The origins of the Boer military structure called the commando go back to the 18th Century.  At this time, the Boers needed to be able to raise an army to defend themselves against, attack the local tribesmen or take part in the frequent military skirmishes of the time.  The problem was that they had insufficient funds to pay for a standing army.  The commando system was devised as the solution.  It required that men between the ages of 16 and 60 make themselves available to fight in times of need for the benefit of all in their community.  All burghers were responsible for arming themselves and were expected to have access to a rifle and ammunition.  Those in the Free State from farms were also expected to provide themselves with a horse.

The commando was organised on a regional basis.  The country was divided into districts and districts into wards or wyks.  For example:

District Wards / Wyks
Potchefstroom             Dorp, Vaal River, Boven Mooi River
Ermelo                          Wyk 1, Wyk 2

Each district was required to be able to muster men for the commando.  In populous regions the commando could number 3,000 men whereas much lower numbers were usual in the rural parts of the country.

The commando had a democratic structure and hierarchy.  A Field Cornet was the elected leader of the ward.  If the ward was large, an Assistant Field Cornet could be elected.  The Field Cornets reported into an elected Commandant who was in charge of the commando.  In times of war, a Commandant General or Chief Commandant would lead and co-ordinate a large force.

The Commandant attended to the military aspects of the district and had a civilian counterpart, the Landdrost or Magistrate, who has responsibility for the civil administration of the district.

The leaders of the fighting units led them rather than commanded them.  They had no executive power and could not give orders.  To retain their leadership, they needed to retain the confidence and loyalty of the men in their unit.

Both the Transvaal and the Free State adopted the commando but there were slight differences in their hierarchies:

  1. In the Transvaal, the Commandant General was elected for 5 year periods by a general ballot of all burghers.  There was no headquarters staff but a small civilian staff helped to administer the Commandant General’s duties.
  2. In the Free State, the President was head of the military.  In the event of war, a Chief Commandant would be elected by a vote of the Commandants and Field Cornets.
  3. Both countries could also appoint a Vecht General or Combat General or Assistant Chief Commandant whose role was to command two or more commandos and thus they would report into the Commandant General or Chief Commandant and have authority over their commando’s Commandants.

This gave a hierarchy of 6 levels:


Free State

Commandant General

State President

Assistant General

Chief Commandant

Combat General

Assistant Chief Commandant



Field Cornet

Field Cornet

Assistant Field Cornet

Assistant field Cornet

While this was the structure at the start of the Boer War, changes were made as the war progressed.


# most difficult site to use. No names of pirinoko 2011-05-30 15:59
most difficult site to use. No names of boer woman or families. Is our history only english, sorry
# pirinoko, So rry to hear your commentsdjb 2011-05-30 19:41

Sorry to hear your comments. In what way is the site difficult to use?

You are correct that there are no names of Boer women or families on the site. I am working on a list of Boer prisoners but it would seem that this site will not offer you what you are looking for.

Regards David
# David I was unable to access the siteBrett Hendey 2011-06-07 05:06

I was unable to access the site about the Boksburg Commando book. I wonder if the book is the same as one I acquired several years ago:
'The Incredible Saga of the Boksburg Commando 1899-1902' by George Mills (Boksburg Historical Association, 2000).

# Brett, I tried the link too and see djb 2011-06-07 17:16

I tried the link too and see there is a notice saying the shop is closed. I'll keep trying and if the message persists, I'll remove the link.

Thank you for your alert
# tina45tina45 2012-06-09 08:41
I am trying to find information on my grandfather he was a chief stoker in the boer war 1889 to 1902
When i use the surname search it brings up his name but when i click the link at the end it say page don't exist
# Boer forcesHetta 2012-12-09 11:59
Visit the website of the Boer War Museum in Bloemfontein for more info about Boer forces.
# Looking for Cornelius Jan van Niekerk during Boer 2014-08-17 13:30
Looking for information on Cornelius Jan Hendrik van Niekerk during boer war. Served in the Staats Artillery during Boer War. One of his sons were Gert Daniel van Niekerk born 16 October 1888 (lived in the Volksrus area at a time). Married to Johanna Maria van Reede van Oudshoorn (born 17 June 1891 Please e-mail me at if you have any information that can help
# uninstallsedgepea 2015-01-29 13:48
I am more interested in the boer forces and camps than the information you offer and have tried to uninstall this site but cannot find the button. Please help me it is blocking up my emails.
# Add to ABO listRookie 2015-08-08 16:10
Where do we add a Boer name which is not listed on the roll?
I know of 2 F J Potgieters
-Cmdt of Krugersdorp WIA Harts Hill
ABO in existance
-Cmdt leading the charge at Rooiwal KIA
ABO&DTD sold at Kaplan a few years ago
# Edwards Boer ScoutsAlanT 2016-05-19 19:10
I am looking for information on Edwards, how he started', why he fought for the boers and what happened to him. I understand he may have been with Theron's TVK until Theron was killed and then went on his own as did many of Therons men.
# Piet Retief CommandoAndreRou56 2016-09-01 13:16
My Great Grandfather Burgher Adriaan Roux served in the Piet Retief from 1899 to 1902 yet cannot trace any more here. under search. Thx

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