oa South African Journal of Cultural History - Life in British blockhouses during the Anglo-Boer War, 1887-1902

Volume 13, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1011-3053



Lord Roberts, who was the British commander-in-chief in the field in South Africa from January to November 1900, believed that the war would end once he had captured the capital cities of the two Boer republics. However, long before he handed over the supreme command to Lord Kitchener in November 1900, it was already clear that the Boers were determined to continue their struggle by means of guerrilla warfare after the fall of their capitals. Consequently the war escalated geographically, the British supply lines were threatened and sometimes cut, and completely new demands were made on the conventionally-trained British soldiers. In an effort to corner the Boer commandos, the British in due course built some 8 000 blockhouses of various sizes over the length and breadth of the war zone. These blockhouses were manned by about 85 000 soldiers, including about 25 000 black and coloured blockhouse guards. In this article life in the blockhouses is described and evaluated. Attention is paid to the composition of the blockhouse garrisons, arrangements in the blockhouses, the provision of water and food, the daily routine, relaxation, as well as other aspects of life in the blockhouses.

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