Communication during the Siege of Mafikeng

As the saying goes if you want to do something you will do it. On the last day of April a patrol from Mafikeng came across a letter addressed to Baden-Powell, attached to the abandoned railway line.

To Colonel Baden Powell., I see in The Bulawayo Chronicle that your men in Mafeking play cricket on Sundays and give concerts and balls onSunday evenings. In case you would allow my men to join in the same it would be very agreeable to me as here outside Mafeking there are seldom any of the fair sex and there can be no merriment without their being present…

Wishing you a pleasant day,  I remain your obliging friend.             S. Eloff. Commandant of Johannesburg Commando

And the reply-sent under the white flag:

Sir, I beg to thank you for your letter of yesterday……I should like nothing better-after the match in which we are at present engaged is over. But just now we are having our innings and have so far scored 200 days, not out, against the bowling of Cronje, Snijman, Botha…and we are having a very enjoyable game.

 I remain yours truly  R.S.S. Baden Powell

Letters send to Baden-Powell by different Boer Generals.

Part of a letter from sister Stanislaus to her brother


Newspapers were widely read by all and even during the siege they continued printing newspaper. Journalists from all over the world were send to SA to cover the war and the Siege. 

Heliographs were the most commonly method used by both sides to communicate. It consisted of a small mirror that was turned towards the sun at intervals . The length and intervals between flashes was used as a type of Morse code.

Native Runners were used all over the country between regiments.

Telephones were in use and the enemy usually tried to cut the telephone-lines. Baden Powell had a good network going in Mafikeng which him served well.

A Very humorous incident that proved of great creativity when a person from the Boer-laager who was very thirsty for Whiskey filled a canon shell with sand and a letter requesting Baden Powell if he could not spare a bottle of whiskey. During a skirmish the letter was delivered by canon. The next day a bottle of whiskey was delivered.

Diaries were kept by different people and today we can read and learn from their experiences. Unfortunately many diaries were written afterwards and is not always very objective.

One wonders how all the letters and information reach the outside world and can only stand in astonishment realizing mans’ need for communication.


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