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Saturday, November 01, 2014
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Book Review: A Tourist Guide to the Anglo Boer War

A Tourist Guide to the Anglo Boer War 1899-1902, is an excellent layman’s guide to the bitter conflict between Boer and Brit just over a century ago cross the interior of what is now South Africa. What the book lacks in a thorough index or bibliography (let alone a contents page) it makes up for in detail, anecdotes, historical notes and maps, tourist accommodation and route directions to battlefield and related Boer War sites and sights.

In his (unmarked) introduction Westby-Nunn writes that the guide was compiled with visitors and tourists in mind. "It is not a comprehensive treatise on the war but, rather, an anecdotal compilation of key sites and aspects of the war – one which does assume an initial interest in the story of the war on the part of the reader.

 

Intended largely for the self-drive visitor or tourist, the guide highlights sites and areas of interest throughout South Africa, giving details on the services available in the areas covered, from accommodation, restaurants and touring options through to museums and collectibles. The guide takes a geographical rather than a chronological approach to the sites of the war… Wherever relevant, the guide indicates the existence of national monuments… Also included is a recommended reading list for those who may wish to pursue particular points of interest." The book also includes a most interesting bibliography on other books to consult or read regarding that fatal conflict.

       

Most people expected the war to be short and cheap. It was neither. It cost the British 22,000 lives, a great deal of pride and much treasure. The Boers were no more fortunate. Over 6,000 fell in battle, 20,000 non-combatants died in concentration camps, thousands of farms and flocks were destroyed and the country lay to waste. "It was a war of miscalculation," Schalk Burger, the Boer politician said. But perhaps most unfortunate were the Africans.   

 

The book`s early pages include a useful list of dates and events covering all three fronts, the western (covering operations at Kimberley and towards Bloemfontein), the central (covering the Free State`s southern border and the Eastern Cape) and the Natal front (in the colony of the same name). The book then proceeds post-1994 province by province, starting with the Western Cape, to discuss interesting sites and events and other anecdotes.

 

One entry under the Western Cape entry is an item on veterinary surgeons by Oliver Knesl – a most interesting read. Later follows a biographic note (by Andrew J McLeod) on Lord Methuen, the British "bitter-ender," a battle-by-battlefield account of sites along the N12 highway in the Kimberley area and an account of  Scandinavian as well as Russian volunteers fighting both for and against the Boers. Fascinating stuff!

 

A Tourist Guide to the Anglo Boer War 1899-1902

Compiled by Tony Westby-Nunn

Westby-Nunn Publishers cc, Simon`s Town, 2000

 

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