Foreign Boer Volunteers in the 2nd Boer War

2nd Boer War was a major three years conflict that opposed the forces of the British Empire against the forces of the two Boer republics, the Zuid Afrikaanse Republik and the Oranje Vrij Staat.
What less people know is that in the war participated some volunteers that helped both sides. The british volunteers were essentially people of other british colonies such as Australia and Canada. However we as Boere-Afrikaners will focusing in the boer volunteers. The known total points for a number close to 3000 volunteers which came primarily from The Netherlands but also in a good number from Germany, France and even from the United States of America. Those corps fought in numerous battles playing even a very important and decisive role as in the battle of Magersfontein with the Scandinavian Battalion.

Here in a table with the approximate number of boer volunteers from country of origin

  • Number  Country
  • 2000 Dutch
    550 Germans
    400 French
    300 Americans
    250 Italians
    225 Polish
    200 Irish
    150 Scandinavians
    100 Russians
  • unk. Australians

2825 Known total*

Those volunteers came to the Boer side in the 2nd Boer War with different reasons. Some came because of sympathy with the Boer cause or because of an antipathy with the British Empire. In second situation the best example was the one of the Irish that were been submissed by Great Britain and want to help the Boers that were fighting against it. However others become for another reasons. Some were soldiers that wanted to fight and others were adventurers.
The truth is that no matter the reason because their came to the War or the country of origin those men fight bravely as Boers, as they were protecting there fatherland.

In the begin of the war the volunteers that came to join with the Boers forces were separated and putted in different divisions. However with the development of the war they had a bigger independence and were allowed to form there own divisions such as:
Scandinavian Corps, Italian Volunteer Legion, two Irish Brigades, German Corps, Dutch Corps, Legion of France, American Scouts and Russian Scouts.
However after a disgraced campaign of the Legion of France all the volunteers forces were put under the direct command of General Koos de la Rey.

Battle of Magersfontein and Foreign volunteers

The Battle of Magersfontein was one of most important and known battles in the 2nd Boer War. Here the Boer forces with the lidership of General Piet Cronjé and General Koos De la Rey beated the british forces of Lord Methuen and Andrew Gilbert Wauhcope with the last one being killed in the battle. The Boer victory was achieved primarily thanks to a great strategy of General De la Rey which wasn’t even in battle due to an injury.

Approximately half of the Corps (refer to the Order of battle) was ordered to hold a forward position in the gap between the high ground held by Cronje and De la Rey’s forces during the night of 10–11 December. The rest of the force was entrenched in defensive positions some 1,500 metres (1,600 yd) further north-east. In the early morning hours of 11 December, General Cronje ordered Commandant Tolly de Beer to abandon the outpost, but the order did not reach the Scandinavian section, which was left on its own. Save for seven men, this section was destroyed while holding back the attack of the Seaforth Highlanders, who were in the process denied access between the hills and prevented from reaching the Boer guns.Cronje understood the significance of this stand, and said in a subsequent letter to Kruger that “next to God we can thank the Scandinavians for our victory”.

In the end, Boers won the battle forcing the British forces to do a final retreat. 236 Boers were killed or wounded in battle against 948 british casualties.

The Scandinavian company in Pretoria in 16 August 1899

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1 Comment

June 30, 2013 · 5:13 pm

One response to “Foreign Boer Volunteers in the 2nd Boer War

  1. ABurguer

    I am a bóer and my ancestors were scandinavian and came to south africa in the beginning of the century. Great post.

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