Good and bad memories

Your stories from the Anglo-Boer War are very interesting, but it is noticeable that they all stress the brutality and inhumanity of the British.

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This is hardly likely to improve relations between the English and Afrikaans sections of the South African white community who, in the present environment, need to stick together. I was born only 25 years after the end of that war and came in contact with many ex-combatants from both sides. I attended a bilingual primary school where I made friends with Afrikaans children; some friendships lasted for many decades.

My best friend during the first 14 years of my life was the son of a man who fought under General Botha. We kids also played ‘Bok-bok’, ‘Kennetjie’, ‘Slang’, etc. Your stories imply that the Boer troops were all angels of proper and honourable behaviour and were punished. To modern people the idea of children being flogged is barbaric. A hundred years ago it was regarded as normal. An Afrikaans friend once remarked that it was strange that we could be friends after our grandfathers tried to kill each other.

I pointed out that this was completely untrue. My grandfather who was of direct 1820 Settler stock, was a prosperous farmer in the Free State when the war began. He contributed towards Boer funds but refused to join the Commandos, saying that he would not kill either his neighbours or his countrymen. After Kitchener introduced the ‘scorched earth’ policy, my grandfather saved many Boer farms by interceding with the local British commander.

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Why do you only tell of the bad things that were done and none of the good ones?