Magersfontein is an iconic battle, fought during the South African War of 1899-1902, also known as the Second Anglo-Boer War.
Over 30 years of research informs this book, the first source referenced history about Magersfontein and the other actions, fought in the lead up to this monumental clash. It details the Kimberly Siege and the intensity of combat fought at Belmont, Graspan, and, in particular Modder River, a key battle during the opening months of the war.
No shortage of publications exists on the South African War and Magersfontein. Yet myths perpetuate, legends, ideologies, hand down errors, fabrications, and sloppy research by self-appointed experts. Many contemporary sources regurgitate without analysis, and many recent publications offer no references to sources. None consult the rich and extensive archives in the Kimberley and Bloemfontein museums, instead using stock standard sources, while ignoring Dutch and Afrikaans language accounts, resulting in lopsided narratives.
To address this, the author has used primary sources, never before published diaries, letters, photographs, maps, battle orders, official histories and reports, personal reflections, regimental histories of the war, and survivor interviews, collected over 30 years. The originals being lodged in archives, libraries, museums and private collections in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Australia.
Having walked the killing grounds for over three decades, the author offers insights into the archaeology and topography of the site, also detailing forgotten burial sites of human casualties, from all sides.
Consequently, original findings emerge, with regards to Boer positioning and tactics, a British outflanking maneuver at Magersfontein Hill that almost worked, and Boer counter attacks, and the use of mobility, rather than the previously expounded notion that they sat passively parked in trenches, as most narratives present.
Insights into military commanders emerge, never before published. Importantly, the war between the Generals, which this work uncovers, relying on unpublished recollections of conversations between senior officers from both sides. The loathing between two prominent Boer generals, as too the incompetence of the leading British General, glossed over for 122 years. Captured in this infighting, were loyal, efficient, and brave British and Boer commanders and ordinary soldiers from both sides. Many of whose voices speak through this narrative for the first time, doing justice and testimony to their unique, yet terrifying experiences and observations of warfare, in Victory and Defeat on the South African Veld.