Second Boer War records database goes online

British soldiers cross a river during the Boer War circa 1900 Thousands died during the Boer War

A comprehensive database containing the records of more than 55,000 British soldiers killed, captured or wounded in the Second Boer War has gone online.

Between 1899-1902, Dutch-speaking settlers and soldiers from the British Empire fought battles in South Africa.

The records also suggest around 12,000 soldiers died from disease, while one was eaten by a crocodile.

The information has been published on the fee-charging genealogy website Ancestry.co.uk.

Deaths

The catalyst for the Second Boer War (also sometimes referred to as the South African War) was the discovery of gold in Transvaal - an area controlled by the Dutch-speaking Afrikaner settlers - who were also known as Boers.

Thousands of British people settled in the area, resulting in tensions over who should control the gold mining industry.

The war, which began on 11 October 1899, raged for more than three years, until the British eventually wore down the Boer resistance.

The British soldiers tried to cut off supplies to the Boers, destroyed farms and crops and introduced concentration camps where thousands of Boers died, many as a result of malnutrition and disease.

The operation involved the biggest deployment of British troops since the Crimea, involving half a million soldiers, including volunteers from Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

At least 25,000 Afrikaners died in the war, most of them in concentration camps. The war also claimed 22,000 British and 12,000 African lives.

Start Quote

They detail a dark and regrettable period of history, but one that should never be forgotten”

End Quote Dan Jones Ancestry.co.uk

This set of records details the injuries of 23,000 British soldiers.

The records show that dysentery, typhoid fever and intestine infections were common, while some soldiers met with more "unusual fates".

Up to 86 soldiers were killed or injured by lightning - with the records showing two struck dead within minutes of each other during a storm in Stormberg, near to Cape Town.

One soldier was reportedly eaten by a crocodile at the Usutu River.

The website sourced the details from the Naval and Military Press, with each record detailing names, military details and date and place of death, injury or capture. Some records have more information than others.

Key characters

The site's international content director Dan Jones said: "These records are a stark reminder of the atrocities of a conflict that is often eclipsed by wars that took place closer to home.

"They detail a dark and regrettable period of history, but one that should never be forgotten."

He said the records were particularly significant to historians as British soldiers who fought in the conflict would not have appeared in the 1901 England and Wales census because they were fighting overseas.

Significant characters whose details can be found on the database include Gen Sir Walter Norris Congreve.

He was awarded the Victoria Cross for defending an abandoned gun emplacement during the Battle of Colenso and rescuing a fallen comrade, despite his own gunshot wounds.

The site offers a 14-day free trial although some of the records are available elsewhere online.

Other databases include the Roll of Honour website maintained by volunteers in the UK and the Anglo Boer War site created by David Biggins.

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