Boer Mauser

Although the Boer Mauser is almost identical to the Spanish Mauser Model 93, there are minor differences. The Boer Mauser has often been referred to as a Model 95, Model 96 or Model 97, depending on the date inscribed on the receiver. The model’s designation is more an indication of date of manufacture than of design differences. There are only very minor differences between different batches of Mausers purchased. Ludwig Loewe in their correspondence refer to the Boer Mauser as the Mauser System Model 93/95. As so many countries adopted similar rifles, with only slight variations, perhaps it is best we refer to these rifles as the Boer Mauser Model 95/96/97, as the case may be.

Let us briefly consider this rifle from a technical point of view.

The action (receiver, trigger mechanism, bolt stop, bolt and magazine) consists of only twenty-five parts, as opposed to the thirty-one of the German Mod. 88. The receiver is milled from a single piece of forged steel and is bridged over at the rear to offer firm resistance. It is the same width throughout, unlike many subsequent models. On the front edge of the receiver bridge there are two notches into which the cartridge clip (holding five rounds) can be inserted and fixed. These cartridges are stripped into the magazine by downward pressure on the top round. The empty clip is ejected as the breech is closed by the front end of the bolt.
The one-piece bolt has dual-opposing locking lugs on its front end, which cam into recesses milled in the receiver ring, securely holding the bolt against the breech end of the barrel, when closed. The right lug, (bottom one when bolt is closed) is solid, and the left (or upper) lug is slotted for the ejector to slide through to make contact with the cartridge rim when the bolt is drawn to the rear. On the left side of the receiver there is a longitudinal ridge over which the slotted left locking lug slides. This ridge, riding in the ejector slot, helps to guide the bolt when moved backwards or forwards providing a smoother action.

The bolt face is partly recessed enclosing about sixty percent of the cartridge rim; the left lug projects forward, forming part of this recess. The bolt face is square underneath, unlike many other Mod. 95 Mausers. The tang, rear of the receiver and top of the magazine-well, are cut accordingly, to accommodate this squared portion of the bolt. This shape conforms to the earlier Model 93’s because of the belief that it provided securer cartridge feeding, as well as a smoother action, as the
squared corners run in corresponding grooves in the bottom of the receiver. However, later Model 95’s had a round bolt face as it,vas realised that there was no real advantage. The bolt face of the Boer Mauser is thus unusual and characteristic in that its bottom is square.

The extractor is of the long spring type lying on the right side of the bolt. It is attached to the bolt by means of a ring which turns independently of the bolt and cannot be displaced. This ring is not complete; the ends forming hooks which slip into recesses in the extractor spring, holding it in place. The front end of the extractor has a lip machined into it, which rides in a groove around the bolt-head. The extractor does not rotate as the bolt is turned. The hook (of the extractor)
holds the cartridge firmly in the bolt-head until it is ejected. This useful innovation makes sure that once a cartridge is picked up from the magazine, it will stay attached to the bolt-head until ejected. This feature prevents a cartridge being pushed out of the magazine, and while lying loose in the receiver, another round being picked up, thus causing double feeding and irksome jams in the heat of
battle.

The bolt handle, at the rear of the bolt, is forged as part of the bolt. Except for some rifles from the last batches of Free State Mausers the bolt shaft on the Boer Mauser rifles is straight but on the carbines and sporting Mausers it is bent. As many Boers preferred the turned down bolt handle, they were inclined to modify their rifle bolts accordingly or replace them with the interchangeable carbine bolt.
The right rear of the receiver bridge is cut in such a way that when the bolt stem moves up against it, it provides initial camming power to the extractor. The firing pin is joined to the cocking piece by means of a series of interrupted lugs. The cocking piece is surrounded, except on the bottom, by the bolt sleeve which screws into the bolt body. A cam on the cocking piece projects through this slot in the bolt sleeve and this cam catches the rear edge of the trigger sear when the bolt is closed. Tile firing pin is surrounded by a coiled main spring, which is compressed between the bolt sleeve and a ridge on the front end of the firing pin. As suggested, the action is cocked when the bolt is closed. Tl1is characteristic, that a Boer Mauser cocks on closing of the bolt, as opposed to the Model 98 which cocks as the bolt handle is lifted on opening, is one of the easiest ways of differentiating between these two models Tile trigger has a typical double stage let-off, and is arranged in such a way that the rifle cannot be fired until the breech is fully closed. Tile reason for this is that there
is a small projection on the forward arm of the sear, which enters a corresponding slot in the bottom of the bolt only when the latter is turned fully closed. Tile safety-catch is of the wing or flag type and is situated on top of the bolt sleeve. When swung to the left the rifle is in the “fire” mode. In the upright position, the rifle is safe; the bolt can then also be opened and the bolt sleeve unscrewed for
further disassembly. In this upright position the magazine can be unloaded without fear of firing off a round. With the safety swung to the right the bolt is locked in position within the receiver and the rifle is safe. The bolt stop is attached to the left side of the receiver and is hinged at its rear. Tl1is same device serves both as bolt stop and cartridge ejector.

Tile magazine box and trigger guard form one piece. Tile floor plate of the magazine is detachable and the cartridge follower, unlike many other Model 95’s, is beveled at the rear. Thus, the bolt can be closed over an empty magazine without having to depress the follower manually.

Boer Mauser carbine showing removable foresight protector.

Tile stock is of the straight hand type and consists of one piece. Tile receiver and barrel are held firmly to the stock by means of two screws through the front and rear ends of the magazine guard plate. Tile barrel is further held in place by two barrel bands. Tile front band has a bayonet lug at the bottom. Two flat spring
catches, behind and below each band, keep them in place. Ludwig Loewe-made
Boer Mausers, have a first or lower barrel band with longer swivel extensions. Tile
swivel being held in place by means of a screw. On most D.W.M.-made Boer
Mausers, this band does not project as far below the rifle, is more rounded, and the
swivel passes through the lower end of the band without being held in place by
means of a screw. On some Boer War photos this aspect helps with identification.
Tl1ere is a wooden guard over the barrel extending from the receiver to the lower
band, permitting free handling of the rifle even if the barrel is heated by continuous
firing. The front sight is dovetailed into a ring (surrounding the barrel) which is
screwed arid soldered into place. The rear sight is of the ladder type and has two
notches. One, with ladder flat, is marked 300, for distances up to 300 meters while
the other notch is on the ladder slide for distances from 400 to 2 000 meters. On
the Boer Mauser carbine the ladder is marked from 400 to 1 400 meters.

The front sight has a hole through the sight block, for the attachment of a foresight
protector. These protector wings were unpopular and most carbines are found
without them today. Apparently, in the heat of battle, a person could easily, by
mistake, take aim over  of the sight protector wings, instead of the true sight

mauser2.JPG (6470 bytes)

Brass muzzle and foresight protector.

To summarize, the carbine differs from the long rifle as follows:
I. Sights – as mentioned.
2. The bolt handle is turned down – ex factory.
3. The barrel length is only 456 mm in length as opposed to 738 mm of the
rifle. Unlike the Spanish Mod. 95 carbine, the stock does not extend to the
muzzle.
4. The rear barrel band has a swivel affixed to its left side. There is also a sling
swivel and ring attached to the left by means of screws through the
stock fastening into a plate on the opposite (right) side. This arrangement
ensures easier slinging on horseback.

Boer Mausers do not have a thumb cut-out in the left receiver wall (with the
exception of some Plezier Mausers) nor a third safety lug behind the bolt stem as
found on other Model 95’s.

This might be the opportune place to mention some other minor differences. On
some Boer Mausers the bolt knob is round and meets the bolt stem at right angles,
on others the bolt knob goes smoothly over to the bolt stem. Another minor
variation is found with the rear trigger guard screw. On some it is flush with the
surrounding metal while on others the screw hole is countersunk and offset.

By looking at but one example of all the different types which will be described in
more detail later, these variations can be tabulated as follows:

TypeBolt knob/stem sharp angleBolt knob/stem round angleScrew hole counter sunkScrew hole not counter sunk
O.F.S  1895 L.LX    X
O.F.S  1896 L.LX    X
O.F.S    1897 D.W.MX    X
O.F.S  D.W.M   X  X 
Z.A.R.L.L             A SeriesX   X 
Z.A.R.L.L           B Series   X  X 
Z.A.R D.W.M   X   X
Z.A.R         Carbine L.L  X   X 
Z.A.R        Carbine D.W.M   X  X 

in conclusion it can be said that at the time of the Boer War, the Boer Mauser was
one of the best (if not the best) bolt action rifles available. Its shortcomings are few
but the following two points are worthy of mention.

The action is not quite as strong as its successor the Mod. 98.
No provision is made to divert the escape of hot gases rearwards in the
event of a primer rupturing, later Mausers had gas escape vents in their
bolts.

For those interested, a complete list of specifications as published in a
contemporary Mauser catalogue is provided below.

SPECIFICATIONS

Particulars of the Mauser Magazine Rifle, Pattern 93 to 95,
and the Mauser Carbine, Pattern 93 to 95.
A. Rifle
Caliber………………………………………… 7 mm
Length of rifle (without bayonet) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . , 1235 mm
Weight of rifle with empty magazine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 kg
do, of bayonet (376 mm length), without scabbard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 400 gr.
Length of barrel …………………………………. 738 mm
4 concentric rifling, twist to the right, with one
revolution in ………………………………….. 220mm
Length of twist of rifling in caliber . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31,4 mm
Angle of twist of rifling in caliber . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5ø42’30”
Depth of the rifling. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0,125 mm
Width of the rifling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3,9 mm
Length of the line of sight, measured from the
fixed sight ………………………………….. 642,8 mm
The sight has 2 notches, and is graduated up to . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2000 m
The wooden guard reaches from receiver to lower band.
The Breech mechanism is that of a bolt system with 2 vertical
studs forward.
The Magazine lies in the middle of the stock, and is not visible, the cartridges are
stripped into it from the clip, and lie zigzag.
Weight of the empty clip for 5 cartridges . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 gr.
Weight of cartridge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24,8 gr.
Length of cartridge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78 mm
do. of cartridge case . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56,5 mm
Weight of bullet ……………………………….., ,2 gr.
Length of bullet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30,8 mm
Length of bullet in caliber . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4,4
Largest diameter of bullet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7,25 mm
Powder (smokeless, in leaves)
Weight of charge ………………………………… 2,sgr
Proportion of charge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4,48
Sectional weight of the projectile in grams per cm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29,1
Muzzle-velocity…………………………………… 728m
do. 25 m from the muzzle …………………………… 700m
(Barometer = 728 mm; Thermometer = 16øC.; Hygrometer = 409b)
Gas Pressure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3100 – 3300 kg
Number of revolutions of bullet in the first second . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3200
Working effect of the bullet at the muzzle . . . .’. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 303 M. kg
Velocity of recoil . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2,04 M, kg
Effect of recoil . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8,15 M, kg
Penetration of the bullet, 12 meters from the muzzle
in pine………………………………….. 138 to140 cm
in beech…………………………………… 72 to 78 cm
in ice ……………………………………….. 160 cm
Vertical height of trajectory
at 500 meters distance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . , . , 1034 mm
at 550 meters distance …………………………… 1295 mm
at 600 meters distance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1696 mm
Results of firing (3 series of 20 rounds each)
Spread
Height Width
m m
at 200 meters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0,154 0,126
500 meters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0,440 0,280
900 meters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,183 0,830
1200 meters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,863 0,930
1 500 meters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3,333 1,787
2 000 meters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6,277 1,533
Total range at an angle of elevation of about 30ø above 4 000m
Danger zone
against infantry (1,7 m height) . . . . . . 600m
against cavalry (2,5 m height) . . . . . . . 700m
Velocity of fire, with aim . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 per minute
do. mechanically . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 per minute
B. Carbine
Length, without bayonet . . . . . . . . . . . . 854 mm
Weight without bayonet (magazine empty) 3,25 to 3,5 kg
Bayonet same as with rifle
Length of Barrel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 456 mm
Length of line of sight . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 357,3 mm
The sight has 2 notches, and is graduated up to 1 400m
Muzzle-velocity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 665 m
do. 25 m from the muzzle . . . . . . . . . 640 m
(Barometer = 726 mm; Thermometer = 19øC.; Hygrometer = 30fb)

No treatise on Boer-Longarms is complete without mention of the scarce and
sought after Plezier or sporting Mauser. These rifles were ordered by both
Governments for sale to the burghers. They were thus never intended for general
issue and were strictly speaking not military rifles. Although they were more
expensive than other Mausers, there was a steady demand for these beautiful rifles.
They also served as presentation pieces by Governments to deserving officers or
officials. Many were also bought privately through arms agencies with the result

that it is impossible today to distinguish between officially and privately bought
specimens. More about this later on; at this stage let us consider their
conformation. These rifles can be regarded as semi-custom-made pieces, and minor
differences do exist. In general they have a semi-pistol grip stock, with a schnabel
fore-end and a cheek-piece. The pistol grip and fore-end are checkered

mauser3.JPG (13404 bytes)

Two spoiling Mausers. Note differences e.g. cheek piece and
checkering.

 
In length they are somewhat shorter than the long rifle; the octagonal barrel being
34mm shorter (688 mm in length from receiver ring to muzzle) with sporting sights.
Some have a thumb cut-out in the left receiver wall, others not. The bolt handle
is also bent down like that of the carbine and some Free State rifles. The foresight
has protector wings and is windage-adjustable

mauser4.JPG (7642 bytes)


Fore- sight of sporting Mauser.

The rear sight, a smaller neater version of the military type, is marked up to 1 100
metres . These rifles often have an oval silver escutcheon inlaid into the
right side of the . Here inscriptions of presentation pieces, owners’ names or
initials etc. were often beautifully engraved . All iii all, a rifle that is a
smart eye-catching sporter, firing the same round as the military rifle and carbine
.

MARKINGS ON BOER MAUSERS

The inscriptions on the left receiver wall differ from batch to batch as purchased
by the Boer Republics and these markings will be dealt with at length later on.

Serial numbers are to be found, stamped in full in the following places:

i.Left side of receiver ring
ii.On the barrel just in front of I.
iii.On top of the shaft of the bolt handle
iv.On the stock just below I.
v.On the front of the trigger guard/floor plate
vi.On the cleaning rod.

The last two digits of the serial number are stamped

i.On the rear sight
ii.Magazine cover
iii.In some models on the safety-catch and bolt sleeve.

Ludwig Loewe factory proof-marks, consist of a ñ 4 mm high crowned Gothic L,
and are stamped on the following places:

i.On bolt stem (on carbines this mark is on the shaft near the bolt knob)
ii.Below the serial number on receiver ring
iii.On top of barrel just ahead of receiver ring. A larger ñ 12 mm high
crowned Gothic T is stamped on the right side of the .

D-W-M- rifles have factory proof-marks with an ornate B inside a ñ 3 mm circle:

i.On the top of the bolt knob
ii.Below serial number on receiver ring
iii.On top of the barrel.

A larger +- 9 mm version of the circled B is stamped on the left side of the .

Apart from these marks, a variety of small inspection marks are found on parts
such as screws, plate and bolt stop. These marks take the form of stars,
Maltese crosses, cross in a circle, four pointed stars, etc.. As yet no definite pattern
has been discerned.

While on the subject of markings, this may be the opportune place to describe
“markings” that are special to Boer War rifles in general, namely the vast array of
calligraphy so often found on the woodwork. These vary through a wide spectrum of markings from initials very crudely scratched out, to exquisitely carved names, crests, etc. The artistry found on some examples is superb and may cover the greater part of the stock. Usually this calligraphy is limited to. initials, names, birthplaces, home towns or Commandos.

LEE-MEDFORD AND LEE-ENFIELD

Lee-Medford and Lee-Enfield Cavalry Carbines. Technical information

In parallel with the introduction of the later Medford rifles a cavalry carbine was also underdevelopment being approved as the Mk.I in June 1894. Although in essence a shortened rifle the carbine differed from the contemporary rifle in a number of significant ways. Foremost amongst
these was a reduction in overall length of almost ten inches with a corresponding saving in weight of nearly two pounds. A further major change involved the incorporation of a safety catch similar
in type to that which was to be shortly reintroduced into the design of the infantry rifle resulting in the Lee-Medford Mk.II* referred to above.

Other differences related to the bolt where the lever was bent forward with a flattened knob, shallower magazine with capacity reduced to six cartridges and provision for a sling in the form of a sling-bar on the fight hand side of the butt. A swivel was also attached to the butt socket but was subsequently removed.

Further distinguishing characteristics were foresight protecting wings mounted on the fore-end cap with a wooden hand. guard over the barrel between it and the rear sight. As in the case of the Mk.I
and Mk.I* Lee-Medford rifles provision for unit markings was provided in the form of a marking disc. Finally, as a weapon intended primarily for short-range use, the volley sights were dispensed
with, while the rear sight was graduated to two thousand yards as opposed to nineteen hundred in the case of the rifles.

In common with other arms in production at that date provision was made for a clearing rod. This was, however, carried internally within the fore-end under the barrel with its head protruding from
a hole bored in fore-end cap.
.
This design resulted in a popular, handy and streamlined weapon which with its successors waste serve throughout the Boer War. Upon introduction of Enfield rifling the carbine design was advanced with the Mk.I Lee-Enfield cavalry carbine being approved in August, 1896. Apart from the improved rifling further minor changes were introduced into the first of the two Lee-Enfield cavalry carbines The most obvious of these was the elimination of the sling-bar and the introduction of a leather rear sight protector attached by the usual screw on either side of the fore-
end. This change was retrospectively applied to the existing Lee-Medford cavalry carbines.

The final pattern change applied to the Lee-Enfield cavalry carbine related to the dropping of the clearing rod in August, 1899 when, along with the Lee-Enfield Mk.I rifle, the carbine was advanced to the Mk.I* configuration. Since the clearing rod of the Mk.I is entirely enclosed within the fore-end, the two patterns of the Lee-Enfield cavalry carbines are more difficult to
distinguish than the equivalent rifles. However, provided the original fore-end cap has been retained the clearing rod hole clears the rarer Mk.I. Obviously a post  1899 date of manufacture indicates a Mk.I*. Unfortunately the “*” is not always easily distinguished as such being generally indicated in the form of a dot.

Boer War service of the Lee-Medford and the Lee Enfield  The outbreak of hostilities saw the British regular infantry almost entirely equipped with the Lee-Medford rifles Mks. I*, II and probably to a limited extent the Mk. II *.

Although they had been in production for some four years, very few Lee-Enfield had reached the troops, but rather accumulated in reserve to the extent of some two hundred thousand rifles. It
was only upon the commencement of war when they were required to arm reservists, colonial contingents and the Imperial Yeomanry that Lee- Enfield were issued in any number. This generally took place shortly prior to embarkation or even upon arrival in South Africa.

To the horror of their users and subsequent consternation at the War Office it was found that the new Lee-Enfield had defective sights and shot eighteen inches to the right at five hundred yards. Under the usual South African battle conditions a true aim thus ensured a miss! It was , to quote Sir Henry Blackenbury, “An awful blow, just at the moment when we were beginning to take this new weapon into use, to find that this mistake had been made”

Upon investigation the “mistake” was found to relate to an over-compensation for bullet drill on the foresight of the Enfield sealed pattern rifle and a most unimaginative acceptance test. Provided
a rifle grouped its shots within a specified area when fired from a sight-testing machine it was considered fit for use by her Majesty’s forces. The necessity of the same group having to conform to the point of aim had apparently not been appreciated !

Although the problem was soon rectified in manufacture and also by issuing troops in the field with new rear sight leaves having V-notches cut o,03″ lea of center, one cannot but speculate on how many Boers owed their lives to this defect in the opening months of the war!

On account of their almost universal issue by the end of the Boer War it serves little purpose to identity individual units who were armed with Lee-Medford or Lee- Enfield, or indeed when changes, if any, took place. There were, however, certain trends which are relevant and should be
examined.

The early arming of the British Regulars with Lee-Medford of the Mk.I* and Ii patterns disconfirmed by both contemporary photographs and an examination of bullets recovered from
battlefields dating from the early stages of the war where Medford rifling predominates. These were obviously the rifles which accompanied the first divisions to South Africa. However, from
the very start they were supplemented by the Lee-Enfield issued to the reservists and yeomanry to the number of some thirty-one thousand. This presence is also confirmed by battlefield finds.
When one considers that many of the British and also the Colonial volunteers in the Canadian forces and certain of the Australian and New Zealand units were similarly equipped with Lee-Enfield, Reynolds’ estimate of sixty-five thousand in South Africa by early 1900 is not
unreasonable.

On a similar basis an analysis of total forces less reservists, yeomanry and officers suggests that the number Lee-Medford in South Africa could have been in the region of one hundred and forty thousand. This figure does not include the Lee-Medford in the possession of colonial forces.

The report of the Royal Commission records that excluding arms carried by troops on embarking from England nearly one hundred and eighteen thousand rifles and eight thousand, five hundred
carbines were dispatched to South Africa over the three year period commencing  June1899. These figures include the Lee-Enfield rifles issued to certain colonial force upon arrival in South Africa.

When one considers the Large stock of Lee Enfield in storage at the start of the war and the finding of the Royal Commission that ” The supply of rifles during the war was adequate and
satisfactory,” there is little doubt that the vast. majority of these rifles and carbines were Lee-Enfield of the Mk. I and I* patterns. Circumstantial evidence does exist, however, that some obsolete weapons were probably included for guard duties.

This ever-increasing supply of Lee-Enfield is reflected in both photographic and 1 >written records which indicate a gradual replacement of Lee-Medford by Lee-Enfield and in some instances
progression from Martini-rifles through Lee-Medford to Lee-Enfield. This latter trend. is particularly evident in the equipping of certain colonial regiments and in some instances units such as the National Scouts and Black Auxiliaries. “

The Lee-Medford and Lee-Enfield carbines similarly saw wide-spread usage being carried by British mounted units ranging from dragoons to yeomanry. They also appear to have been popular
amongst colonial volunteers and such irregular units as the National Scouts and Black Scouts. Magazine carbines even appear to have had an enthusiastic following amongst officers in infantry
regiments where the wearing of a sword and Sam Brown belt had proved rather risky. The wise consequently wore the uniforms and carried the weapons of privates to avoid the unhealthy
attention of Boer sharpshooters!

Under South African conditions, however, some of those armed with cavalry carbines appear to have been disadvantaged by its relatively short range of accuracy which according to the report
of the Royal Commission was optimistically limited to about twelve hundred yards. An official comment is of interest: “Consequently the cavalry when armed with it were at a great disadvantage in meeting Boers. The Boers only had to keep two thousand yards away from our cavalry in the hills and they could shoot them down with impunity or surround them. Practically it may be said that no advance could be made through a hilly country by cavalry armed with this weapon. After the relief of Ladysmith, the cavalry were served out with infantry rifles and this made an enormous difference in their efficiency. Before that they were practically useless in hilly country and couldn’t do the duties of cavalry or mounted infantry.”

Experiences in the trenches during the Siege of Mafikeng

A trench or shelter were 5ft deep, 6ft wide and long enough to accommodate the number of people allocated to each. It was covered with corrugated iron, on which  sandbags and clay were heaped. The air and light came in through unglazed openings at the top of the sides. It were used to take cover from enemy fire or the brave could  shoot from it on the enemy.

The Sister’s trench.

The trench prepared for the Sisters was in the Hospital grounds, adjoined to the Convent. It was 50 ft long and connected with the convent by an open trench, deep enough to conceal a person walking upright.

Below: The trench between the Convent and Hospital

Experiences in the trenches:

Part of a letter from sister Stanislaus to her brother

(It is thought that this letter was written early 1900)

“…Trench life was hard on some of the Sisters, others bore it’s inconveniences with no ill effects. Miss Hill, Matron of the Hospital, offered Rev. Mother a room for typhoid fever patients, but it was afterwards decided to house the fever stricken in a down-stairs room in the Convent, which was considered somewhat safe.

On a Saturday evening when the patients were nearly all in the height of fever, very heavy rains fell. As the roof (what is left of it after the shell damage) is quite perforated with bullets, the rains poured through to within a few inches of the beds. After the rains ceased, the African servants dried up the place.

The next excitement was when, on the following Wednesday the big gun was turned on the convent three times. The feelings of the patients, unable to move, can hardly be guessed when the signal from the look-out room sent all active persons rushing to places of safety .

Rev. Mother who was in charge of this section told the patients she was not leaving them. If God willed it, nurses and patients would die together. Then with a fine assumption of prophecy born of her faith and trust in God  she said “We shall all be safe”.

Fortunately two of the shells fell in the garden, the other passed over the look-out room taking a piece of the roof.

A few nights after that, the patients were disturbed by volley after volley falling on the roof. The British Maxim got into action. Rev. Mother Teresa was sure the Boers were behind the convent. This was the only occasion she was known to lose her never-failing calm. She feared for the patients and was glad to seek the safety of the Hospital.

Accidents from the shelling were not so frequent as one would imagine.

The look-out room at the Convent had a telephone connection with a redoubt in the center of the town. In the redoubt was placed a church bell( St. Anthony’s Catholic Church) “Nomine Antonia

The quarters of the town were numbered. When the look-out officer, described with his telescope, that a particular quarter was threatened, word went to the bell ringers who struck out the required number of “Antonia” But the enemy soon became aware of this warning, changed the direction of the gun and “Antonia”   pealed it’s notes in vain.

How did we employ ourselves when not on duty in the Hospital . During the day we slept, if we had done night duty in the wards. We slept even if there was bombing, so accustomed we got to it, and so pleased we were to rest, knowing that others have taken over the hard work of the day. If there was time to spare we sewed for the garrison. The only fine work done was point lace. It was difficult to keep it spotless in our clay surroundings. The rest made Red Cross flags pennants, haver sacks etc.

Every morning almost, we were awakened by the click-clack of rifle-fire, followed by the boom of cannon. The faint tinkle of the alarm clock was drowned on the day of its immersion in thetrench flood. It never recovered.

Deprivation of Holy Mass and the customary religious exercises was felt by us. On Sundays, all the Sisters except during the fever epidemic were freed from hospital duty. This heaven sent day of mental relaxation coming every week, preserved the sanity of the whole garrison at least the civilian part of it (soldiers thrive in wars’ alarm, they say). As religious it was to us, truly Heaven sent. So was our work in the Hospital. We were performing one of the works of Mercy, something which seemed to be out of reach in this new country. Seeing Christ in His sick members, that was joy for our souls. There was freedom from the cramped restraint of the narrow trench, when we could walk in the hospital wards and corridors. Out work kept us active, usefully so, and got us beyond the clay walls.

The men used to play cricket and even football on Sundays. Concerts were also held in which Baden Powell took part. Short drives into the country even, were possible. Lady Sarah Wilson ventured too far, once and was held as a prisoner until arrangements were made with the Colonel for an exchange.

“T’was nearly a dear basket of eggs, Mother” This heading was seen in a newspaper. We were surprised to find the Mother was our Mother Teresa. She was described as coming from town after buying the eggs. The facts were these. There were three hens at the Convent, the remainder of the pre-siege fowl-run. These we had decided to keep until the severest pangs of hunger compelled us to sacrifice them. They supplied an egg a day. Mother Theresa knew where their nests were and went to fetch the contents. They were nourishing light food for some invalid. She thought she kept under close cover, walking through the connecting trench. But a sniper saw the moving figure. She was within an ace of being struck. Perhaps the shot was meant for the soldier who passed her at the moment. It was he who called out quite unperturbed, “Twas nearly a dear basket of eggs Mother”.

Some of the scenes in the Hospital will give an idea of how the shell wounded suffered. Often they implored the doctors to take their lives. They tore off the bandages in their frenzy of pain, exposing the maimed limb with its serrated flesh; sometimes gangrened. the odor was often so offensive, that those patients had to be isolated.

One brave man was blinded for life, though everyone was stricken with sorrow for his loss, he bore his ill fortune bravely.

I saw the death of a small boy today, the one who was wounded in the Women’s Laager a few days ago. His parents are inconsolable.

Towards the end of the Siege the garrison suffered from hunger. The flour supply was at an end. The bread, made from a substitute, was so coarse and hard that it could hardly be eaten. Even so, it was rationed. Meat became so scarce, that a helping of horse flesh was welcome. Cooks in the redoubts were few and firewood was difficult to get.

When we returned to the Convent in April (1900), we were able to send whatever could be spared to the warn-out men in the forts not far from us. They were most uncomplaining. When there was nothing solid to send, they were delighted to get an urn of coffee colored slightly with condensed milk. We had been allowed to keep the supplies we had put in, which with economy lasted quite to the end. We were allowed, too, a ration of fresh meat, as nurses. This was a saving of our own store of tinned stuffs which we were pleased to give up when things came to the worst.

When the rainy season was over in March, the Colonel had part of the Convent, three rooms patched up for us. The shelter had become unhealthy, it was thought. “Death by shell fire, or death by fever differed only in the length of suffering”, it was said. The Sisters went to the Hospital for their nursing duties of course, taking care to use the connecting trench.

Though the guns were turned on the town almost daily, the Convent was not again struck.

The Siege of Mafikeng: Boer

The Afrikaner people or Boers are descendants mainly from Europe and with them they brought the European culture, religion and temperament.

All white males between 16 and 60   were commanded to take up the rifle for war. They did not wear uniforms, but the same clothes they wore daily on the farm. The officers could not easily be distinguished from the Burghers for this reason. Sometimes three generations of the same family  ended op on commando.

Most of these people had strong Calvinistic backgrounds and believed that their cause were just before God. This was illustrated when Steyn entered his manifest with the words “to the God of our fathers we commit the justice of our cause”.

The Boers did not distinguish between religion and politics. It was not uncommon that they sang patriotic song in their church services in the veldt. From the diaries of some of the Boers we learn that they believed that nothing will happen to them against the will of God. They identified the “Afrikaner Volk” as the same as the Israel of the Old Testament. After a military success or after danger was over, they often said a prayer of thanksgiving. The Bible was for most Burghers a source of inspiration. This we know from the many Bible texts, especially from the Old Testament they used in officers telegrams and Boer diaries. They were regularly visited by ministers of religion while on commando and regarded Sunday as sacred and a day of rest. It is often mentioned by foreigners that regular prayer meetings where held in the evenings. Unfortunately there were also those who where non-believers and many a minister of religion wrote in their diaries of their concern.

The Boers usually respected other people’s property but raided shops and houses of people who didn’t believe in their cause.

The Boers were not heavy drinkers, but they sometimes misused liquor and always appreciated a bottle of Whiskey or Brandy as a present.

Discipline was a problem, mostly because the Boers came from a pioneers background and used to look after themselves. They were used to taking their own initiative and was reluctant to follow orders. Taking leave to see what is going on at home and absence without leave was the most general problem. Lack of discipline was always punished.

In the beginning of the war many Boers took luxuries like stoves and beds with them on their wagons which hindered their movements. One of the reasons why some of the the Burghers clung to their possessions where because their houses and farms where burnt down.

To the Boer at home or on commando his horse was his best friend.

The Boers on commando and at home enjoyed their sport e.g.. box, rugby, cricket, athletics etc.

New Year was a special day of festivity. They made music and did “Boeresport”. In the evening they joined in prayers and sang patriotic and religious songs.

The women and children helped on the farms and in the house and were very loyal to there husbands. Most women were very brave and patriotic.

A British Soldier during the siege of Mafikeng.

The typical British soldier during the time of the Mafikeng Siege was taken to represent the British culture. There sure are differences and this is acknowledged.

The British soldiers were from the workers class and known as a Tommy Atkins. The Afrikaans language the popular name for a British soldier soon became known as a “Tommie” or a “Kakie”, “Tommies” as from the above mentioned Tommy Atkins and “Kakie” as from the khaki uniform they wore during the South African War 1899-1902. The British army consisted of the Regular Army and recruits recruited for a specific war. The regular Army were professional officers from the Aristocracy usually Sirs of Lords while the rest came from the worker’s class. These officers usually kept their distance.

Reasons for being a British Soldier were firstly from Patriotism [ Aggressive Nationalism or British imperialism. Placed Unionists Party in Government in 1895] or: The workers class joined the army for unemployment reasons. Every Soldier received 5 shillings per day seven days a week. Adventure and a chance to see the world were good reasons for especially the young to join the army.

The typical British uniform was made of khaki and consisted of the following pieces. Jacket and Trousers – the trousers was tucked in under the knee. Khaki legging. Khaki helmet. Brown boots. Khaki overcoat. Rifle and Bayonet. Backpack. Water bottle. Blanket. Underwear. Socks. Toiletries. Needle work set. These were packed in a bag made of canvas.

Regarding the religion the members of the regular Army belonged to the following churches.
Anglican church 68.6 %
Roman Catholic 17.9 %
Presbyterians 7.5 %
Wesleyan 5,3 %
Other protestant Churches 0.7 %

The general Tommie as from the diaries did not seem to regard religion  as high as the Boers, although they respected their Chaplin. Soldiers that showed their religious beliefs openly were often mocked.
On Christmas day they received traditional Christmas pudding from home as well as tins of chocolates with compliments from queen Victoria. The day was filled with laughter and merriment not to much emphasis was placed on the religious side of Christmas.
The British believed in open confrontation. At first the South Africa veldt was strange to the Tommie and taking aim a problem. Self-preservation was also important.
Little or no initiative was left to the common Tommie and in the case were an Officers was put out of action the troops did not know what to do. Discipline was very strict.
Food-Supplies were always a reason to complain. They usually ate bully-beef or greasy ham and Four heart biscuits. The Tommies did not know how to use food from the veldt although they used fruit from the orchards. Many times a Tommie not knowing prickly pears tucked it in front of his shirt. The fact that they did not always have enough food to eat caused the soldiers to confiscate food supplies.
Drunkenness was a problem to the discipline and ability to the soldiers to fight. Punishment was severe.
The Tommies loved a game of cards and a game they called check that they played with buttons on a check piece of cloth. They also played cricket, soccer and football. Horse racing was also very popular. They also loved obstacle-races. They also loved to play jokes on each other.
Poor hygiene and lack of food caused diarrhea and other related illnesses with high fatalities. There were always mentioned in diary’s that some Tommies were contaminated with lice. medical supplies did not always last long.

The Siege of Mafikeng

September is Heritage month in South Africa. For this reason I have decided to post these articles of the Siege of Mafikeng. It was originally entered into the Think Quest web design competition back in ’99 when we were still in High School. Myself, my brother and sister designed the website and we placed among the first 3 places for that competition in South Africa. You can view the original project here. All 3 of us are still active on the web. I have my blogs, my sister has the most amazing photography page find it here. My brother is a real world traveller you can find his blog here. His blog is not very up to date as they are in Peru at the moment. I hope you enjoy this series. Thank you again for my brother and sister for the great journey of discovery that it was to get all the information. Enjoy reading this about the history of our hometown.

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.

Mafikeng place of stones

Mafikeng lies along the Northern bank of the Molopo River, 298 km west of Johannesburg, at the altitude of 1 278 meters above sea level. Today it is the center of the thriving Molopo district – but it was once the lush and scenic home of cast herds of game witnessed by travelers early last century. One writer reported seeing a single herd of 1500 zebra and wildebeest at Mareetsane, about 48 km south of Mafikeng. The cast herds attracted early man to the area – as evidenced by the pre-Bushman ruins and the many artifacts to be found in the area.

The town in only one and a half kilometers from the center of the Barolong stadt, traditional capital of the Tshidi Barolong tribe. It was here that the Molema section of the tribe settled in the early 1850’s while the senior section of the tribe under Montshiwa remained at Machaneng in the Kanya district.

Subsequently Montshiwa moved to Sehuba and then to Molema’s town which was then re-named Mafikeng- “the place of stones’ – set as it was amongst great rock outcrops on the banks of the river. Chief Montshiwa prohibited the felling of trees and the plains became well-forested – so much so that Sir Charles Warren, traveling to Mafikeng in 1881, described it as the prettiest village he had seen in his travels.

By the early 1860’s, the Transvaal Republic was expanding westwards beyond the boundary fixed in 1854 and had established two republics – Goshen, at Rooigrond on the Transvaal border, and Stellaland at Vryburg. The Transvalers were laying out farms along the Molopo and this brought them in conflict with the Barolong. In 1865 the western Transvalers demanded hut tax, or alternatively, labourers from the Barolong – but these claims were rejected by Molema on the grounds that the Barolong were not subject to the Transvaal. By 1882, a near state of war existed between Montshiwa and the Transvaal, and in 1885, after giving due warning to Gey von Pittius, the president of Goshen Republic, Montshiwa sent 300 armed men to occupy Rooigrond. As a result, the High Commissioner, Sir Hercules Robinson, sent Reverend John Mackenzie to restore peace and order.

During the previous year, a treaty had been signed between Montshiwa and rev Mackenzie, whereby Montshiwa formally ceded jurisdiction of his country to the Queen’s Government. By this treaty all land north of the Cape Colony, west of the Transvaal and east of meridian 20E, became a British sphere of influence. However, the signing of the treaty had no effect on the men from Goshen and the fights and raids continued.

Things came to a head inn July 1884 when 300 Goshenites raided Barolong cattle posts north west of Mafikeng and drove off over 3000 head of cattle. The Barolong attempted to recover their cattle and in the subsequent fight lost 180 men while about 50 Goshenites were killed. among the Barolong dead were two whites who had assisting them -Christopher Bethell (whose grave is still to be found in Mafikeng) and Nathan Walker.

Rev Mackenzie was replaced as Commissioner Cecil Rhodes who spend two days at Rooigrond discussion peace terms with Gey von Pittius and Commandant Piety Joubert -the Transvaal’s special Commissioner for Bechuanaland. Soon after Rhodes’ departure, Montshiwa signed a very unfavorable peace treaty with Gey von Pittius and Joubert.

This was September 1884, just three Months after Montshiwa was supposed to have been taken under British protection. President Kruger then issued a proclamation placing Montshiwa and his subjects under the control of Transvaal.

Ten days later Kruger Withdraw his proclamation but the Goshenites continued with their plans to divide Montshiwa’s country amongst themselves.

Sir Charles Warren Had been appointed Special Commisioner for Bechuanaland to restore order , re-instate the Chiefs in their lands and hold the country until it’s density was decided. He arrived in mafekeng on mirth 19,1885 and on the same day the Goshenites retired to Transvaal. On March 23 a proclamation was issued providing for civil and criminal jurisdiction over the territory. During April and May, Warren visited the chiefs of what is now Botswana and persuaded them to place themselves under British protection.

Warren offered to help Montshiwa by erecting a chapel for his Wesleyan subjects to replace the one built by Molema and wrecked during the war of 1881-1884 against the Goshenites. Three Barolong regiments made bricks and supplied unskilled labour while the Royal Engineers did the masonry and skilled work. The church was opened on December 5, 1885 and continued to be in use until recently.

A Balloon Corps was attached to the expedition and the trial ascent made at Mafeking was the first in Southern Africa.

On August 13, Warren’s force was withdrawn and replaced by a detachment of mounted police. Forts had been constructed by Warren on the northern and eastern sides of the Barolong town and Sir Hercules Robinson gave permission for the establishment of the town of Mafeking close to these forts- although Montshiwa wanted the town built at Rooigrond.

The town was laid out with mathematical precision by the Royal Engineers in 1885. A magistracy was established at the town as a stabilizing point for the control of the area. The forts known as Warren’s fort and Cannon Kopje are still standing to this day. Cannon Kopje is so named because the Goshenites used to fire a small gun from this strategic “high” point into the Barolong Stadt during the early skirmishes.

On Sept 30,1885, the southern portion of Bechuanaland was constituted into a Crown Colony known as British Bechuanaland Protectorate. Mafeking remained the seat of government of the Bechuanaland Protectorate until 1965 – making the Protectorate the only country in the world with its capital outside its borders.

The first meeting of the Mafikeng Village Management Board was  held on December 29, 1886. Meanwhile, in 1890, a body known as the Water Syndicate had laid on regular water supply to the town from the Malelane Springs and from nearby wells. In 1894 Mafeking suffered an outbreak of smallpox. The s of fighting were paid for by the imposition of a special property tax. The railway line from Cape Town reached Mafeking in the same year.

Rinderpest hit the country with devastating effect in1896. Theresulting livestock carnage pushed prices sky-high and the humble donkey sold for £10 while a mule fetched £50.Fouroxen belonging to the municipality had to be destroyedandthe Government paid £15.10,0 in compensation.

Another unwelcome visitor at this time was the notorious Scotty Smith who — just for a lark — stole 100 horses destined for the BSAP from what is now the marketsquare. He returned them four days later, however, muchto the relief of the officer in charge.

Meanwhile landmarks continued to be erected many of which survive to this day. A public library was startedinMafeking in 1896 and the Victoria Hospitaland St Joseph’sConvent were opened in 1899.