Mafikeng "Place of Stones" - A short history of the town,
Overview of the Siege.- A general overview of Siege.
Day to Day - The day to day happenings of the siege, as described by different people in their diaries.
Important People - Biographies of people that played a role in the siege.
Cultures - More about the cultures involved in the siege.
Logistics - Communication, Food and Money as well as Weapons.
Military Aspects - Animation of certain battles as well as a more detailed description, and the effect it had on the culture.
Today and tomorrow - A Pictorial overview.
Glossary - A short description of uncommon words and pronunciation of some Afrikaans words.
Interviews - Interviews with famous historians.
Remembrance - Lists of names that were knows to die in the war and a place were you can give your remembering to the brave heroes that died in the siege.
Credits - Credits to all the people that helped to make this possible.
|WAR WAS DECLARED by the Transvaal
Government on October 11, 1899 and the opening shots of the war were
fired by General de' La Rey's
forces on an armoured train at Kraaipan, south of Mafikeng. The train was
carrying guns and ammunition meant for Mafikeng. When the siege of Mafikeng began on October 14, 1899, there was a
population of some 1500 whites of widely varying backgrounds and
nationalities, of whom 630 were women and children. There was also a
smaller Chinese, Indian and Coloured community .And about 5000 Barolong in the
Barolong Stadt. The town itself occupied an area of about 1000 square yards laid out
around the market square with the municipal offices in the center. The
station and railway workshops lay on its north. After the
siege began, further contingents were raised amongst the Africans. The Barolong contingent
reached a strength of 500 men. Each
unit was assigned a different section of the defense perimeter of
Mafeking, with Warren's fort and Cannon Kopje being key points in the defense
scheme. Colonel Baden-Powell and his staff occupied Dixon's Hotel
with an adjacent attorney's office as headquarters. Mafeking's
defenders were reasonably well-equipped with rifles (Lee Medford's and the
older Martini Henry single loaders) but were very short of artillery,
having only four antiquated seven-pounders, one one-pounder Hotchkiss, one
2-inch Nordenfeldt and seven Maxim guns. With
regard to food supplies, Mafeking was well prepared to withstand a siege.
It had been expected that a new customs duty would be imposed on goods
entering Rhodesia in 1899 and a large number of consignments were on their
way northwards up the railway line from the Cape. The imposition was
postponed because of the war, leaving Mafeking with large quantities in
transit. These were supplemented as a result of the willingness of Ben Weil,
proprietor of Marking's largest
wholesale business, to take in more supplies on the strength of a promissory
note for £500000 from Lord Edward Cecil, Baden-Powell's Chief
Staff Officer and son of the British Prime Minister. A number of forts were constructed
in addition to Cannon Kopje
and Warren's For and these were connected by telephone to BP's
headquarters. The besiegers numbered between 6000 and 8000 men under the command
of Commandants- Snyman and Cronje. Snymans' headquarters were at McMullen's
farm, three kilometers east of the town. The Transvalers brought
in a 94-pound Creusot gun one of four purchased from France — which
fired a total of 1497 rounds into the town. Altogether 20000 shells of
various weights were loosed on to the defenders. The defenders had an armoured train for which a spur line was
constructed on the north side of the town to strenthen its defenses there.
The first battle took place on the northern side of the town towards Signal
Hill where the Transvalers had a large laager near site of the present
Mmabatho Sun Hotel. On October 27, Captain. FitzClarence led a night
attack on a Transvaal trench just beyond me present golf course. Transvaal
losses were high and in reprisal a heavy attack was made on Cannon Kopje
on October .11, when 800 Transvalers attacked the fort, but were repulsed-
The siege then settled down to a fairly hum-drum, day-to-day routine- The
town was shelled daily and sniping continued with sporadic engagements occurring
from time to time. Sunday was mutually agreed upon as a day of rest. The Transvalers
held their church services and the townsfolk came out of the dugouts and
resumed — for one day in the week — a fairly normal life and tried to
complete the week's domestic chores. The Anglican church continued with regular
church services throughout the siege. One of Baden-Powell's biggest responsibilities
was keeping up the morale of the townsfolk and garrison,
and to this end he organized baby shows, polo matches, concerts and the
like. Lady Sarah Wilson the daughter of the Duke of Marlborough, who was
at Setlagoli when the siege commenced and whose husband was an officer on
Baden-Powell's staff, surrendered to the Transvalers at McMullen's farm
with the request that she be allowed to enter the town. She was exchanged
for a Transvaler at the beginning of December and spent the rest of
the siege in Mafeking. On Boxing Day the garrison attacked Game Tree fort which
stood just south of the present parliament building in mmabatho.
The British lost 26 lives. Rationing was introduced on January 19, when it became obvious
that the siege was going to last longer than initially expected. The daily
ration of bread and meat fluctuated between half to 1 pound per person per
day and the sale of matches and milk was prohibited. Rations were later
reduced even further and the population was forced to eat horse meat two
or three times a week. A locally-made biscuit which contained a high
percentage of husk was also baked and the population even took to frying
locusts — with the verdict that they were "not bad, all the aroma and subtlety of chewing
string". Towards the end of March whisky was fetching a sovereign a
bottle and brandy 7/6d a bottle. It was during the siege that young boys, who had already been formed
into a cadet corps, were first used by the military for running messages
and errands. They proved so useful hat Baden -Powell all conceived the
idea of founding the Boy Scout movement. Postage stamps were printed by the Garrison Mint at the end of
March along with money vouchers to meet the requirements of the
townspeople since there was a great shortage of money in the town. The shortage of artillery was alleviated when the Railway Workshops
constructed a gun nicknamed "The Wolf'. It threw a shell weighing
seven and a half kilograms, a distance of two and a half kilometers with
great effect, A 1792 vintage ship's cannon, found by the military being
used as a garden ornament on Rowland's farm, was reconditioned In the Railway Workshops. Cannonballs were cast for it and it was brought into
service. In April, Commandant Sarel Eloff, the grandson of President Paul
Kruger was sent to Mafikeng from Pretoria with reinforcements which
included a French contingent. Eloff commanded the Barolong Laager outside
Mafikeng and on the 200th day of the siege wrote a letter to BP saying that he had seen
in the Bulawayo Chronicle that the Mafikeng defenders were playing
cricket on Sundays. As life was so monotonous, he proposed that he and his
men should play the Mafeking defenders at cricket and Join them in their
dances — if Baden-Powell didn't mind. Baden-Powell sent a reply stating
that the score to date was 200 not out and that three bowlers — Snyman,
Cronje and Botha — had tried, without success, to get Mafikeng out and
it was high time that the Transvaal put on other bowlers. Snyman, who read
the letter, was apparently not amused. On May 12, Eloff breached the western defenses, came into the Stad
up the Molopo river, and succeeded in taking Warren's fort with 300 men.
He in turn was then besieged in the fort and had to surrender on the
evening of the same day. The Relief Column, under Plumer from the north and Mahon from the
South, entered Mafikeng on May 17. The jubilation in London at the Relief
was such that a new word was coined in the English language ("to
maffick" came to mean "to revel inordinately") But the war dragged on for another two years. A refugee camp was
established in 1901 in Mafeking and a large cemetery to the south west of
the town marks the spot where all the Transvaal non-combatants who died in
the Western Transvaal were laid to rest.