Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Commando: A Boer Journal of the Boer War Paperback – October 21, 2016 by Deneys Reitz

For anyone interested in the Anglo Boer War of 1899 – 1902 this is a must read as it gives a unique perspective of the war by a young (Reitz was just seventeen) Boer foot soldier. If you are only interested in war narratives then equally this is a must read. If you are interested in a war adventure then you should also read this book as it is written in a very easy to read style. Written just under a century ago it is well good narration of a terrible war which caused great animosity in between Afrikaners and British which endured for decades and was a foundation for the history of South Africa in the 20th century. The hardship of Boer soldiers in the field and how Kitchener’s scorched earth policy affected the population is well told. But let me turn to South Africa’s first great statesman, Jan Smuts, who wrote the introduction:

“A book was wanted which would give us some insight into the human side of this epic struggle between the smallest and the greatest of peoples. Here we have it at last. There is no strategy and little tactics in this plain unvarnished tale. Wars pass, but
the human soul endures; the interest is not so much in the war as in the human experience behind it. This book tells the simple straightforward story of what the Boer War meant to one participant in it. Colonel Reitz entered the war as a stripling of seventeen years, fought right through it to the end, and immediately after its conclusion wrote down these memories. Of military adventures there is of course full measure. He passed through as varied a record of exciting experiences as have ever fallen to the lot of a young man. Indeed much of what is written in this book with such boyish simplicity may appear to the reader well-nigh incredible. But it is a true story, and the facts are often understated rather than exaggerated.”

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and was sad that I had not read it earlier in my life.

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