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Thursday, 6 November 2014

Military Monday: Boer War Heroes

In my November theme of  War and Remembrance, I am featuring here  Scottish Borders memorials  to valour in the  often forgotten conflict of the South African Boer War.   

This plaque in the  War Memorial Gardens in Kelso honours  Kelso born Sergeant Donald D Farmer who, at the age of 23,  was awarded the Victoria Cross  for action in the Boer War. 
 Sgt. Donald Farmer VC 1st Cameron Highlanders
The Victoria Cross, instituted in the Crimean War,  is the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.  Donald Farmer went onto serve in the First World War and achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.  He died in 1956 aged 79.  

A longer profile of Donald will feature in a future post, with memories from his granddaughter. 

In  1903, Head of the British Forces, Lord Roberts, unveiled the Boer War Memorial in Wilton Lodge Park, Hawick.  Twenty three men from Hawick and district died in the South African conflict and are named on the memorial. 

The inscription reads:"Erected by all classes of the Borderland in honour of the men of Hawick and district who fell in south Africa in the Great Boer War of 1899-1902 as a memorial of undying regard.

You do well to keep their memories green;  you do well to cherish the example they set, and to offer the only consolation to their relatives and friends that they have not given their lives in vain - that the object for which they fought has been accomplished."  

Background Information  on the Boer War 
The Boer War was fought between the British Empire and the  descendants of Dutch settlers (Boer being the Dutch and Afrikaan word for farme.   Between 1835 and 1845,  the people  of Dutch extract, in conflict with British rule,   moved out of the British  Cape Colony   into the interior of South Africa and established two independent republics - the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. 

The discovery of gold and diamonds led to renewed antagonisms and war erupted.  At first the Boers were successful and laid siege to  the British garrisons at Ladysmith, Mafeking and Kimberly.     The British counter offensive led to the relief of the garrisons and the capture of Boer capital of Pretoria. 

The Boers adopted guerrilla warfare tactics and the the British responded with a "scorched earth" policy, and  the herding of Boer families and synmpathisers into "concentration camps".  These measures were largely responsible for bringing the Boers to the negotiation table.  The war ended with the Trety of Vereeniging with the two republics absorbed into the British Empire, with the promise of self-government in the future. This promise was fulfilled with the creation of Union of South Africa in 1910.  

British lost almost 30,000 fighting men and 78 Victorian Crosses were awarded for acts of bravery during the conflict   Prominent commanders included Lord Kitchener, Lord Roberts and Lord  Baden-Powell. The young Winston Churchill was in South Africa as a newspaper war correspodnent for "The Morning Post".  

2014 Tower of London Ceramic Poppy

Military Monday is one of many daily blog prompts from www.geneabloggers.com
to encourage writers to record their family history.

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