When the Boer Republics invaded Natal on the north-east coast of what is now South Africa in 1899, they could have been driven out with nominal casualties. Instead, Britain was to lose nearly 9,000 men killed in action, more than 13,000 to disease and a further 75,000 wounded and sick invalided back to Britain. The war ended in 1902 with an unsatisfactory Peace Treaty. The Boer commandoes represented a new challenge to the British Army, practising a mobile form of warfare equipped with smokeless Mauser rifles and modern European field and siege artillery. The British forces did not have the training to deal with this new form of warfare. Perhaps the greatest blunder was the failure in the beginning to take advantage of local advice and capability. The organisation of locally raised Volunteers was designed to meet the threat. They soon demonstrated how the Boers might be defeated and when finally given their heads, they chased the invaders out of Natal at the gallop, while suffering only nominal casualties. When the Siege of Ladysmith was finally raised, the relieving force found the garrison and civilian population suffering from malnutrition and disease.
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Softback, 416 pages