Boer foreign volunteers

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Boer foreign volunteers
Boer-war-volunteers from Finland&Scandinavia.jpg
After the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway and the Russian Empire contributed the second largest number of Boer foreign volunteers in the Second Boer War, from a 1901 photograph of a group of commandos in the Scandinavian Corps
Active1899–1902
Country Kingdom of the Netherlands - Dutch Corps

Union Jack of Sweden and Norway (1844-1905).svg United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway - Scandinavian Corps (Skandinaviens Korps)

Flag of Finland 1918 (state).svg Grand Duchy of Finland - Scandinavian Corps (Skandinaviens Korps)

allegiance= German Empire - German Corps (Deutsches Korps) and Polish volunteers

Flag of France.svg France - Legion of France

Flag of the United States (1896-1908).svg United States - Irish American volunteers in American Scouts

Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg Austria-Hungary - Polish, Hungarian volunteers

Flag of Italy (1861–1946).svg Kingdom of Italy - Italian Volunteer Legion

Green flag of Ireland.svg Ireland - Irish Transvaal Brigade and Second Irish Brigade
(Irish, Australian, Greek, German, Boer, and Italian volunteers)

Imperial Standard of the Emperor of Russia (1858–1917).svg Russian Empire - Russian Scouts and Polish volunteers

State Flag of Greece (1863-1924 and 1935-1973).svg Kingdom of Greece - Greek volunteers in Second Irish Brigade

Flag of Belgium.svg Kingdom of Belgium - Belgian volunteers

 Australia (from 1901)

New South Wales New South Wales (1899–1901)

Queensland Queensland (1899–1901)

Flag of South Australia(1870-1876).svg South Australia (1899–1901)

Tasmania Tasmania (1899–1901)

Victoria (Australia) Victoria (1899–1901)

Flag of Western Australia (1870–1953).svg Western Australia (1899–1901)
Allegiance Orange Free State

 South African Republic

Afrikaner Vryheidsvlag.svg Cape Boers
BranchBoer Army - Boer foreign volunteers
TypeCommandos
RoleGuerilla warfare, scouting, explosives handling
Size5,400+
EngagementsSecond Boer War
Part of the Scandinavian Memorial at Magersfontein, South Africa, in honour of the some 1,400 Scandinavian volunteers who fought on the side of the Boers

Boer foreign volunteers were participants who volunteered their military services to the Boers in the Second Boer War.

Origin[edit]

Although there was much sympathy for the Boer cause outside of the British Empire, there was little overt government support as countries were not willing to upset the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. As a result, no other government actively supported the Boer cause. There were, however, individuals from several countries who volunteered and formed Foreign Volunteer Units. These volunteers primarily came from Europe, particularly the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden-Norway. Other countries such as France, Italy, Ireland (then wholly part of the United Kingdom), and restive areas of the Russian Empire, including Poland and Georgia, also formed smaller volunteer corps. Finns fought in the Scandinavian Corps.

Recruitment[edit]

The influx of foreigners into the country began simultaneously with the war, and it continued thereafter at the rate of about four hundred men a month.[citation needed] These volunteers would have come for a number of reasons, not necessarily because of any sympathy with the Boer cause, including soldiers-of-fortune, professional soldiers and adventurers. Some of the more famous volunteers were:

Ernest Douwes Dekker, Camillo Ricchiardi, Niko the Boer (Niko Bagrationi), Yevgeny Avgustus, Witold Ścibor-Rylski [Wikidata], Alexander Guchkov, Leo Pokrowsky, Major Baron von Reitzenstein, Viscount Villebois-Mareuil and the men of the two Irish commandos, the Irish Transvaal Brigade of John MacBride and John Blake, and the Second Irish Brigade of Arthur Alfred Lynch.

None of the foreigners who served in the armies of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State received any compensation. They were supplied with horses, equipment, and food from the Transvaal government, but no wages. Before a foreign volunteer was allowed to join a commando, and before he received his equipment, he was obliged to take an oath of allegiance to the Transvaal Republic. A translation of it reads:

I hereby make an oath of solemn allegiance to the people of the South African Republic, and I declare my willingness to assist, with all my power, the burghers of this Republic in the war in which they are engaged. I further promise to obey the orders of those placed in authority according to law, and that I will work for nothing but the prosperity, the welfare, and the independence of the land and people of this Republic, so truly help me, God Almighty.

Second Anglo-Boer War[edit]

At the time of the war, the Boers did not have the resources to record statistics about their forces. The statistics available were mainly collected by foreigners and by the testimony of the commanders. Table of foreign volunteers in the Second Anglo-Boer War[1]

Number Nationality
2,000[2] Dutch
1,350:[citation needed]
690
593
59
Scandinavian Corps
Swedes
Norwegians
others
550 Germans
400 French
300 Irish Americans
225[citation needed] Polish
200 Italians
200 Irish
200+ Russian-speaking[3]
unknown Greeks
unknown[citation needed] Australians
5,400+ Known total*

In the early stages of the war the majority of the foreign volunteers were obliged to join a Boer commando. Later they formed their own foreign legions with a high degree of independence, including the: Scandinavian Corps (Skandinaviens Korps), Italian Volunteer Legion, two Irish Brigades, German Corps (Deutsches Korps), Dutch Corps, Legion of France, American Scouts and Russian Scouts.

Foreign volunteer units[edit]

Dutch Corps[edit]

Scandinavian Corps[edit]

The Scandinavian Corps were led by Christer Uggla.[1]

German Corps[edit]

Adolf Schiel led the German Corps.[2]

Legion of France[edit]

However, the free rein given to the foreign legions was eventually curtailed after George Henri Anne-Marie Victor de Villebois-Mareuil and his small band of Frenchmen met with disaster at Boshof, and thereafter all the foreigners were placed under the direct command of General De la Rey.

American Scouts[edit]

The American Scouts were led by John Hassell.[3]

Polish volunteers[edit]

Italian Volunteer Legion[edit]

The Italian Volunteer Legion of Camillo Ricchiardi[4] carried out the capture of an armoured train near Chieveley, Natal. Among the passengers who were taken prisoner was the young journalist Winston Churchill, whose life Ricchiardi spared by pretending not to see him dumping his pistol and dum-dum ammunition which had been declared unlawful on pain of death.[5]

Irish Traansval Brigade[edit]

Second Irish Brigade[edit]

Russian volunteers[edit]

One of the countries where enthusiasm for the Boar cause was the greatest was Russia, where the war was extensively covered by the Russian media and numerous books, articles, plays, pamphlets and poems were published about the war, usually with a pronounced pro-Boar slant.[6] One Russian writer complained: "Wherever you go these days you hear the same story – the Boers, the Boers and only the Boers".[7] The national anthem of the Transvaal Transvaal, Transvaal, My Country was frequently played by Russian orchestras, numerous committees were founded to collect money for the Transvaal, and church services offered up prayers for a British defeat.[8] In countless newspaper serials and novels, the men of the kommandos were portrayed as heroes battling the arrogant British.[9] Such was the popular enthusiasm that inns, restaurants, and cafés were given Afrikaans names and redecorated in the "Boar style" to improve business.[10] The works of the novelist Olive Schreiner were frequently translated into Russian as her books become very popular after she condemned the British.[11] The novelist Leo Tolstoy wrote in his diary: "You know what point I’ve reached? Opening a paper every morning I passionately wish to read that the Boers have beaten the British...I should not rejoice at the victories of the Boers or grieve about their defeats, after all they kill the English soldiers too...I am glad when I read about the defeats of the British, it cheers my soul."[12] The Emperor Nicholas II wrote to his sister: "I am wholly preoccupied with the war between England and the Transvaal. Every day I read the news in the British newspapers from the first to the last line...I cannot conceal my joy at...yesterday’s news that during General White’s sally two full British battalions and a mountain battery were captured by the Boers!"[13] As Britain was Russia's principle antagonist in the 19th century, many Russians naturally sympathised with the Boars."[14]

Yevgeny Maximov on his return from the Anglo-Boer War dressed in the uniform of a Transvaal general

The British historian R.W. Johnson wrote: "Russian conservatives were pro-Boer not only for the usual nationalist, anti-British reasons but because they thought the Boers were like the best sort of Russians – conservative, rural, Christian folk resisting the invasion of their land by foreign (especially Jewish) capitalists."[15] One conservative Moscow newspaper in an editorial stated: "The deep historical meaning of this war is that faith, patriotism . . . the patriarchal family, primordial tribal unity, iron discipline and the complete lack of so-called modern civilisation have . . . become such an invincible force that even the seemingly invincible British have begun to tremble."[16] The Georgian Prince Niko Bagration was in Paris when the war began in October 1899 and despite never having heard of the Transvaal before, recalled thinking "but it felt very much like my motherland and I felt I must protect it."[17] Prince Bagration was greeted in Pretoria by President Paul Kruger of the Transvaal.[18] Yevgeny Maximov, a former officer in the Imperial Russian Army whose career had ended in disgrace after he attempted suicide, volunteered to fight for the Transvaal, in an attempt to extirpate his disgrace.[19] Johnson called Maximov a tragic figure as his dishonorable discharge from the Russian Army owning to his suicide attempt marked him out as a man whose honor could never be redeemed, leading Maximov to volunteer in successive wars in attempts to prove his courage to the world and restore his lost honor.[20] Maximov had previously fought with the Serbs against the Ottomans in 1876-78 and with the Ethiopians against the Italians in 1895-96.[21] Maximov, an excellent horseman and marksman became renowned with the Boars due to his bravery under fire, and was thanked by Kruger in a telegram after the war for showing outstanding courage in combat.[22] Kruger believed that Maximov was representing Nicholas and took him into his confidence, believing that Maximov had the power to make Russia intervene in the war.[23] Some of the Russian volunteers were men of the left like Prince Mikhail Yengalychev, Ivan Zabolotny and Alexander Essen with the latter becoming a Bolshevik who ended his career as the deputy chairman of the Russian State Planning Committee in the 1920s.[24] The leftist Russians volunteered for the Transvaal because it was seen as standing up to British imperialism.[25] 

However, through several hundred Russians who did make their way to fight for the Transvaal, upon arriving they were often shocked by the corruption of the Transvaal government, its state of disorganization, and the casual brutality of the Afrikaners towards blacks.[26] One Russian volunteer, Yevgeny Augustus, wrote that the Transvaal had become "a paradise for adventurers and rogues of all kinds" as thousands of men from all over the world, many of them disreputable, arrived in the Transvaal to fight in the war.[27] The majority of the Russians who fought for the Transvaal were Russian Jews who come before the war to take advantage of the booming economic conditions caused by the Witwatersrand Gold Rush.[28] The largest Jewish population in the Russian Empire was the "Pale of Settlement" which consisted of what is now modern central and eastern Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus, western and central Ukraine and Moldova, so most the "Russian" Jews in the Transvaal did not come from what is now modern Russia. Many of the Russian volunteers who arrived after the war started were antisemitic and refused to serve alongside the Jews already living in the Transvaal who volunteered to fight for their adopted country, leading to the two groups being segregated.[29] Benzion Aaron, a Russian Jewish financier living in Johannesburg who was a friend of President Kruger founded the Jewish Ambulance Corps to take care of the wounded.[30] Two Russian Jewish volunteers, Josef Segal and Wolf Jacobson were renowned for their skills as scouts.[31]

Greek volunteers[edit]

Australian volunteers[edit]

While the vast majority of people involved from British Empire countries fought with the British Army, a few Australians fought on the Boer side.[32] The most famous of these was Colonel Arthur Lynch,[33] formerly of Ballarat,[34] who raised the Second Irish Brigade.[35] Lynch, charged with treason was sentenced to death, by the British, for his service with the Boers. After mass petitioning and intervention by King Edward VII, he was released a year later and pardoned in 1907.

Notable foreign volunteers[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hillegas, Howard C. (1900). "Chapter IX - Foreigners in the War". With the Boer Forces. London: Methuen & Co. p. 257.
  2. ^ Speech by the South African ambassador in The Hague on the 31st of May 1938, during the Dutch Remembrance of the Dead-Day of the Second Boer War. In the Netherlands, there was a special Remembrance Day between 1910 and 1939. This Remembrance Day was held on the 31st of May and was in honour of the Boer/Afrikaner and Dutch dead of the Second Boer War.
  3. ^ Avgustus, Yevgeny (2016). A Russian Fighting for the Boer Cause. Johannesburg: South African Military History Society. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-620-70253-9.
  4. ^ Page of the South African Military History Society on the Italian participation in the Anglo-Boer War
  5. ^ Short biography of Riccardi with details of Churchill's capture (in Italian and English)
  6. ^ Johnson, R.W. (16 July 1998). "Rogue's Paradise". London Review of Books. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  7. ^ Johnson, R.W. (16 July 1998). "Rogue's Paradise". London Review of Books. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  8. ^ Johnson, R.W. (16 July 1998). "Rogue's Paradise". London Review of Books. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  9. ^ Johnson, R.W. (16 July 1998). "Rogue's Paradise". London Review of Books. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  10. ^ Johnson, R.W. (16 July 1998). "Rogue's Paradise". London Review of Books. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  11. ^ Johnson, R.W. (16 July 1998). "Rogue's Paradise". London Review of Books. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  12. ^ Johnson, R.W. (16 July 1998). "Rogue's Paradise". London Review of Books. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  13. ^ Johnson, R.W. (16 July 1998). "Rogue's Paradise". London Review of Books. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  14. ^ Johnson, R.W. (16 July 1998). "Rogue's Paradise". London Review of Books. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  15. ^ Johnson, R.W. (16 July 1998). "Rogue's Paradise". London Review of Books. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  16. ^ Johnson, R.W. (16 July 1998). "Rogue's Paradise". London Review of Books. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  17. ^ Johnson, R.W. (16 July 1998). "Rogue's Paradise". London Review of Books. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  18. ^ Johnson, R.W. (16 July 1998). "Rogue's Paradise". London Review of Books. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  19. ^ Johnson, R.W. (16 July 1998). "Rogue's Paradise". London Review of Books. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  20. ^ Johnson, R.W. (16 July 1998). "Rogue's Paradise". London Review of Books. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  21. ^ Johnson, R.W. (16 July 1998). "Rogue's Paradise". London Review of Books. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  22. ^ Johnson, R.W. (16 July 1998). "Rogue's Paradise". London Review of Books. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  23. ^ Johnson, R.W. (16 July 1998). "Rogue's Paradise". London Review of Books. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  24. ^ Johnson, R.W. (16 July 1998). "Rogue's Paradise". London Review of Books. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  25. ^ Johnson, R.W. (16 July 1998). "Rogue's Paradise". London Review of Books. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  26. ^ Johnson, R.W. (16 July 1998). "Rogue's Paradise". London Review of Books. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  27. ^ Johnson, R.W. (16 July 1998). "Rogue's Paradise". London Review of Books. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  28. ^ Johnson, R.W. (16 July 1998). "Rogue's Paradise". London Review of Books. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  29. ^ Johnson, R.W. (16 July 1998). "Rogue's Paradise". London Review of Books. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  30. ^ Johnson, R.W. (16 July 1998). "Rogue's Paradise". London Review of Books. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  31. ^ Johnson, R.W. (16 July 1998). "Rogue's Paradise". London Review of Books. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  32. ^ Boer War
  33. ^ Craig Wilcox, (2002) Australia's Boer War, pp. 263–266. (a critical exposé of Lynch's activities)
  34. ^ R.L. Wallace, Australians at the Boer War (1976) pp. 381–383, (a summary of Lynch's exploits in the Boer War)
  35. ^ Lynch is a character in a Boer War novel, Antony O'Brien, Bye-Bye Dolly Gray (2006).