Commando: A Boer Journal of the Boer War


One of the most famous first-hand accounts of the Second Boer war, written by a soldier who served on the Boer commandos from the very first to the very last day of that conflict.

More details below.


By Deneys Reitz, preface by J. C. Smuts, annotations by R. B. Wilson

One of the most famous first-hand accounts of the Second Boer war, written by a soldier who served on the Boer commandos from the very first to the very last day of that conflict.

Reitz-who went on to have a distinguished career in the later Union of South Africa-starts out his book with a short description of his upbringing as the son of a President of the Boer republic of the Orange Free State.

From there, the book quickly moves into his recruitment into the Boer forces at the age of 17-after personally receiving permission from Transvaal President Paul Kruger to enrol in the Pretoria Commando.

Deployed to the Natal front, Reitz describes the early Boer victories and the battles in which he took part-including the famous Battle of Spion Kop-and the slow war of attrition as the British recovered from the initial defeats and conquered the Boer Republics.

The Boers however refused to surrender, and instead resorted to guerrilla tactics, harassing the British Army-now twice as large as the entire Boer population of the time-for two more years.

At the height of the guerrilla war, Reitz then describes how he struck south and joined up with Boer General Jan Smut’s invasion of the Cape Colony. That surprise move remained an unmovable threat to the British right to the very end of the war, when the Boers were finally forced into submission after more than half of their civilian population were interred in concentration camps.

This new edition has been completely reset, contains the full original text and the introduction specially prepared for it by Jan Smuts. In addition, it contains 110 footnotes explaining terms, issues, and events for the present-day reader, in addition to the 5 original footnotes added by the author. Finally, this edition also contains short biographies of both the author and the preface writer.

About the author:

Deneys Reitz was born in Bloemfontein, the capital of the independent Boer Republic of the Orange Free State (OFS) on April 2, 1882. After fighting in the Second Boer War (1899-1902), he refused to swear allegiance to the British Empire, and chose exile on the French-ruled island of Madagascar, which lies off Africa’s east coast. After failing to establish himself in Madagascar, he returned to South Africa in 1907, having been invited by his commander and friend, former Boer General Jan Smuts. He went on to found a highly successful law firm, still in existence to the present day, and served with distinction in the Union of South Africa Defence Force in the campaigns in German South West Africa, and on the Western Front in France. Elected to Parliament in 1929, he became deputy Prime Minister of South Africa under Jan Smuts in 1939. As Smuts was often absent from the country during the war years, Reitz was effectively in charge of South Africa during these absences, and for much of the time even when Smuts was back.  By 1943, however, his health had failed, and he was given the less demanding post of ambassador to Britain. He died in October 1944.

Jan Christiaan Smuts (1870-1950) was born in the British-ruled Cape Colony. He studied law at Christ’s College, Cambridge, England, and upon his return to South Africa, he set up a law practice in Pretoria. There he became a citizen of the independent Boer South African Republic (also known as the Transvaal). He soon became a trusted advisor of ZAR President Paul Kruger, and served as State Attorney. Following the outbreak of the war, he served as an officer in a commando unit, as described in this book. After that war, he remained in South Africa, and helped negotiate self-government for the Transvaal Colony, becoming a cabinet minister in that colony under its leader, General Louis Botha. Smuts went on to play a leading role in the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910, and as Minister of Defence, led South Africa’s participation in World War I on Britain’s side. Elected Prime Minister in 1939, he once again led South Africa once again into war on Britain’s side during the Second World War, and was appointed as a British field marshal in 1941. His international stature was such that in 1945, he was a co-signatory to the United Nations Charter. At home, however, his popularity declined, and in the general election of 1948, he was defeated by a rejuvenated National Party. Smuts retired from politics, and died two years later, aged 80.

R. B. Wilson is the pen-name of a former history lecturer at the Rand Afrikaans University (RAU) in Johannesburg.


About the Preface Writer
Chapter I : “Mem’ry’s Tower”
Chapter II : On the Brink
Chapter III : To the Frontier
Chapter IV : We Invade Natal
Chapter V : A Battle
Chapter VI : Ups and Downs
Chapter VII : An Affair at Surprise Hill
Chapter VIII : A Visit to the Tugela Line —Tragedy of the Red Fort
Chapter IX : The Battle of Spion Kop
Chapter X : The Rest of Our Corporalship is Destroyed
Chapter XI : A Campaign in the Free State
Chapter XII : The British Invade the Transvaal
Chapter XIII : Farther Afield
Chapter XIV : New Conditions
Chapter XV : A Successful Affair, and After
Chapter XVI : From West to East
Chapter XVII : End of the ‘A.C.C.’— I Start for the Cape Colony
Chapter XVIII : The Next Stage
Chapter XIX : Farther South
Chapter XX : We Go into the Cape Colony and Meet with a Warm Reception
Chapter XXI : Horses and Men
Chapter XXII : Moss-Trooping
Chapter XXIII : A Long Trail
Chapter XXIV : Calmer Waters
Chapter XXV : The Last Phase
Chapter XXVI : The Lost Cause
About the Author

328 pages

ISBN Softcover

ISBN Hardcover

Additional information

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Paperback, Hardcover