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Bombardment of Ladysmith Anticipated: The diary of a siege

Alan Chalmers, Bombardment of Ladysmith Anticipated: The diary of a siege. Covos-Day. ISBN 0-620-24996-X. February 2000. No electronic version available. External information

Abstract

On 9th October 1899 the Boers gave the British an ultimatum that they withdraw their troops from the borders of the South African Republics. The British refused and two days later the Anglo Boer War commenced. The mounted Boer commandos immediately swept into the British Colony of Natal and pushing back the British troops in only 21 days, they were at the doors of the town of Ladysmith, the last major obstacle facing the Boers before they reached the coast. The British troops, under the command of General Sir George White, were told that their duty was to stand firm in the town and to prevent it from being taken. So began the Siege of Ladysmith. 21000 Boers pitted against 12000 British troops encircled in the town. Into this cauldron arrived the slight, Chaplinesque figure of George Charles Maidment, a British Army orderly fresh from the midlands of England. For more than 100 days, Maidment recorded the events of the Siege. In his diary, the daily tedium, the fighting, the sniping, the lack of food, the disgust at having to eat their own horses, all are described in fascinating detail. And all this against the background of the British attempts to relieve the siege. One bungled attempt after another as the great British army was put through its paces by a bunch of farmers. One failure after another by the British military hierarchy. Some lessons were learnt, others not and the foundations were laid for the devastation to be caused to thousands of "Tommy Atkins" on the battlefields of Europe only some 15 years later.

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