ANGLO BOER WAR
THE ANGLO BOER WAR
Johannesburg with its gold mines was the cause of the war and yet it suffered very little military action. The impact of the war fell mainly on the civilian population. When war broke out on 11th October 1899 the gun was fired from The Fort calling all burghers to report for commando duty to their veld-kornet
British subjects had to leave the Transvaal Republic unless they received permits allowing them to stay. The fire brigade pleaded to remain in the interest of public safety. but permission was refused. Permits were refused to the British/”Uitlander”doctors and nurses of the Johannesburg General Hospital. Trains were crowded at Park Station taking the refugees to the coastal ports where camps were set up. Local communities in Durban, East London, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town gave generously imagining their stay would be a sort one. All believed the war would soon be over. Instead many of the refugees were there for nearly 3 years.
Most mines were closed. The mineworkers, mostly black, either returned to their homelands or faced conscription. There were no trains for them, so six thousand Zulus walked back to Natal rather than face forced labour.
Prisoners were released; the Boers to fight and foreigners were dumped unceremoniously over the border in Mocambique. Many foreign men volunteered to fight for the Boers – Irish, Italian, German, Swedes, Americans. Foreigners who had become burghers were called up so there were Englishmen and many Jews in the commandoes.
Most mines were closed, shops barricaded and, with the population drastically reduced, jobs and food became very scarce and the black population as well as the Boer women struggled through years of extreme poverty.
In May 1900 the British entered the town which was surrendered peacefully. The Boers had been given a day in which to withdraw their forces which avoided street fighting and defuse a plot to destroy the mines Garrison troops and the slow trickle back to the town of its residents (the military wouldn’t allow the refugees to return except those in listed occupations because of the food shortages) improved conditions but also meant the establishment of a concentration camp at Turffontein.
Photograph of Sunnyside Park in Milner's Time
Lord Milner who had been largely responsible for the war took up his residence at Sunnyside Park in Parktown as British High Commissioner. Milner disliked Pretoria and wanted Johannesburg as the capital of the Transvaal Colony.
It was from this house that plans were initiated for the rebuilding of the Province and the move towards the formation of the Union of South Africa eight years later. The end of the war brought a new invasion. First the British government officials taking control of the Transvaal Colony and then the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who were retuning home to all parts of the empire. Boer prisoners of war arrived back from camps overseas.
Go to the PLAQUES to understand how deeply the war affected Parktown people.
BATTLE OF JOHANNESBURG TOUR: On the Saturday nearest to 31st May a bus tour is organized which visits sites involved in the Battle of Johannesburg.
FOLLOW THE FLAGS THROUGH PARKTOWN for a glimpse of Johannesburg’s War.
Dennis Adams, Flo Bird and Lorna Jones
This booklet published by the Trust covers a route through some of Johannesburg’s most beautiful and historic suburbs tracking the exploits of early residents in the Anglo Boer War 1899-1902. Many of the houses are identified by blue and white heritage plaques and booklet is profusely illustrated and properly indexed.
It can be purchased from the Trust R65 for a soft cover and R150 for a hard cover. – exclusive of postage.
The majority of the infomation regarding the Anglo Boer War is now kept at The Anglo Boer War Website.
Last Edit : 27/1/2010