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The Boer War
Episode Four

The Second Boer War

Towards the end of the war, British tactics of containment, denial and harassment began to yield results against the guerillas. The sourcing and coordination of intelligence became increasingly efficient with regular reporting from observers in the blockhouses from units patrolling the fences and conducting "sweeper" operations, and from native Africans in rural areas who increasingly supplied intelligence, as the Scorched Earth policy took effect and they found themselves competing with the Boers for food supplies. Kitchener's forces at last began to seriously affect the Boers' fighting strength and freedom of manoeuvre, and made it harder and harder for the Boers and their families to survive.

Aside from serving as auxiliaries for both sides, the African population had been largely quiet. However, on 6 May a clash occurred that may have signaled to Boer leaders that this was about to change. At Holkrantz in the southeastern Transvaal, a Zulu faction had their cattle stolen and their people mistreated by the Boers as a punishment for helping the British. The local Boer officer then sent an insulting message to the tribe, challenging them to take back their cattle. The Zulus attacked at night, and in a mutual bloodbath, the Boers lost 56 killed and 3 wounded, while the Africans suffered 52 killed and 48 wounded.

The British offered terms of peace on various occasions, notably in March 1901, but were rejected by Botha. The last of the Boers surrendered in May 1902 and the war ended with the Treaty of Vereeniging signed on 31 May 1902. Although the British had won, this came at a cost; the Boers were given £3,000,000 for reconstruction and were promised eventual limited self-government granted in 1906 and 1907. The treaty ended the existence of the South African Republic and the Orange Free State as independent Boer republics and placed them within the British Empire. The Union of South Africa was established as a member of the Commonwealth in 1910.

In all, the war had cost around 75,000 lives; 22,000 British soldiers (7,792 battle casualties, the rest through disease), between 6,000 and 7,000 Boer fighters, and, mainly in the concentration camps, between 20,000 to 28,000 Boer civilians (mainly women and children) and perhaps 20,000 black Africans (both on the battlefield and in the concentration camps). During the conflict, 78 Victoria Crosses (VC) — the highest and most prestigious award in the British armed forces for bravery in the face of the enemy — were awarded to British and Colonial soldiers.



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