The Manchester Regiment Forum

The Boer War => 1899 - 1902 => Topic started by: Dave Naden on August 02, 2009, 06:37:49 PM

Title: Boer War Books
Post by: Dave Naden on August 02, 2009, 06:37:49 PM

If you have been wondering which book is the best source of information, well, I've been asking myself the same question. After doing some research recently, I get the impression that THE TIMES HISTORY OF THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA, 1899-1902, edited by L. S. Amery, 7 volumes, published in 1909 by Sampson Low, Marston & Co. may be the one.

Unfortunately, it appears to be quite rare. I know there is only 1 copy held by Cheshire's Library Service, and thats been in storage since 1999. I've not tried to find a copy in West Yorkshire yet (where I live). I guess many copies may have been sold by the libraries through lack of demand.

Three volumes in PDF format are available for download from various web sites, including THE ANGLO BOER WAR (
Vol. 1 documents the build-up to war, and why it started.
Vol. 6 documents what happened after it had finished.
Vol. 7 contains various indices, the most useful being the list of regimental casualties, which in effect is also a list of the battalions took part, when they arrived and left the theatre of war, and their battle honours. But beware, one of the soldiers I've been researching was a member of the 4th Volunteer Battalion, the Cheshire Regiment, probably only 1 company, who, being such a small unit, do not get a mention.

What I've seen of it so far looks good. Unfortunately, the information I'm really interested in, are the actions that took place. I think Vol. 2, 3, 4 and 5 probably contain descriptions of all the battles that were fought, both large and small, with maps etc.

Do you known of anything better with lots of maps etc?

Title: Re: Boer War Books
Post by: timberman on August 02, 2009, 06:52:22 PM
Hi Dave

The Times History Of The War In South Africa - Complete in 7 Volumes
Amery, L.S. (edits)
Bookseller: McManmon, B.D. ABA,ILAB,PBFA
(Preston, LAN, United Kingdom)
Bookseller Rating: 
Price: £ 350.00
[Convert Currency]
Quantity Available:: 1 Within United Kingdom:
£ 3.35
[Rates & Speeds]
Book Description: Sampson, Low, Marston & Co., London, 1900. Hardcover. Book Condition: Good. Seven volumes 1900-1909. ( Volume 1 is a Second Edition - the rest are all firsts ) The original red cloth is unevenly faded and a little rubbed and marked. The spine of Volume 2 is a little creased.There is some sporadic foxing. A Good set and all volumes collated and perfect with the full complement of 81 maps (6 in pockets), and 96 plates.Volume 5 was edited by Erskine Childers. This set may be viewed by e-mail attachment. Bookseller Inventory # 0072584

Found on this link. Several single volumes for sale.

Title: Re: Boer War Books
Post by: Dave Naden on August 03, 2009, 01:32:15 PM
Price: £350.00


Thanks for your reply, but that price is more than I'm willing to pay. I have paid 3 figure sums for books in the past, and have not made much use of them. So these days, I'm more inclined to use a reference library.


Dave Naden
Title: Re: Boer War Books
Post by: timberman on August 03, 2009, 08:05:11 PM
Don't blame you, some people are asking silly money for some of the books on the Manchester's at the moment.

Timberman :)
Title: Re: Boer War Books
Post by: mack on August 03, 2009, 09:17:26 PM
they can ask for silly money because they know some people will pay it,the fast rising family history industry is responsible,when people find out that their ancestors served in a manchester battalion,the first thing they do,is search for a book and buy it.
i have a personal library,of about 3500 military books,mostly about WW1,but i very rarely buy books anymore,the only books that i intend buying in the future,are roberts book and pete thomas roll of honour for cadishead,when they are published.

i created my own book,by photocopying the pages from the manchester newspapers,thats where most of my info comes from.

mack ;D
Title: Re: Boer War Books
Post by: themonsstar on August 04, 2009, 08:59:53 AM
I have a lot of all old books dealing with the boer war but mainly with WW1, I also have other books which were thousands of pounds, I know what you mean when you say that spending money on books.

I also have a digital camera, which means I've also photographed a lot of books I can cannot take home with me, you could try that it works for me. ::)
Title: Re: Boer War Books
Post by: Dave Naden on August 04, 2009, 06:30:09 PM
I also have a digital camera, which means I've also photographed a lot of books I can cannot take home with me, you could try that it works for me.

...that's an interesting idea. I was thinking of using a photocopier or a scanner.

Today I discovered Leeds Central Library have The Times History..., I'm hoping they have all 7 volumes. I plan to visit the library in the near future.

Regards and thanks

Title: Re: Boer War Books
Post by: mack on August 05, 2009, 12:06:21 AM
i can vouch for roys good camera work,hes sent me a few books that hes photographed

mack ;D
Title: Re: Boer War Books
Post by: Dave Naden on August 11, 2009, 09:53:25 AM
Today I discovered Leeds Central Library have The Times History..., I'm hoping they have all 7 volumes. I plan to visit the library in the near future.


I can confirm the library does have all 7 volumes in the "Gaskell" collection, 6 volumes of 500+ pages plus an index volume of 200+ pages. The books are an excellent source of information. They contain many military disposition maps, even for the relatively minor battles, e.g. Geluk. Many maps are larger than A3 size, making the use of a standard computer scanner impractical. The index, although large, is not as comprehensive as you might think. If you do not find the event listed in the index, try finding it the hard way by date, and you will probably find it.

If you intend to visit the library, you should check the access arrangements first. Although I am a member, I was requested to produce a utility bill with my address as proof of identity. When I contacted the library, I was not told this in advance. So if you are travelling any distance, please beware.


Title: Re: Boer War Books
Post by: teddy on August 14, 2009, 11:37:11 AM

I would agree that the Times History is probably the best general history. It isn't really that rare, but I agree it is not cheap. There is also the Official “History of the War in South Africa” by Maurice and Grant, in 4 vols. with 4 map vols. This used to be very difficult to find and horrendously pricey, but it has been reprinted by the Naval and Military Press and I see a company called Quartermelon have it in paperback for £123, which doesn’t seem a lot to me for what you get. If you want something to consult in the long term, both these histories are worth buying if you can afford it. If you are just after specific snippets, then presumably you will want to borrow them if you can.

Other useful general sources are:
With the Flag to Pretoria (2 vols) and After Pretoria - the Guerilla War (2 vols). This is very well worth having. It's an illustrated history, a bit sensationalist but containing lots of fascinating anecdotes and snippets unavailable elsewhere. A very useful book with a huge amount in it. I’ve seen it offered for huge sums, but I reckon you can get the whole lot for under £100 if you shop around, as it was very popular and lots of them are still around. It’s more at the personal and tactical level than the others.
Cassells History of the Boer War, in 2 vols, a scarce book. I rate it nearly on a par with the Official History, although there is not as much of it. There is a lot of good information in here. Price? It's anybody's guess, but my guess is around £60-70.
Louis Creswicke’s 8-volume history, which is easily available - not as good as Pretoria etc, but worth having for the serious researcher. Don’t pay more than about £60 for the full set.
Black and White Budget - a periodical which came out during the war. There are about 6 relevant volumes, covering other things such as the Boxer rebellion, but with quite of lot of miscellaneous stuff on the War. It weighs a ton and booksellers are keen to get rid of it, so you should be able to get a set very reasonably.

I hope you find this of interest.


Title: Re: Boer War Books
Post by: Dave Naden on August 24, 2009, 10:16:08 PM
...If you are just after specific snippets, then presumably you will want to borrow them if you can.

Hi Edward,

That sums me up!

Thanks for mentioning the other books. If I can't find the answer in one, I now know where to look.


Title: Boer War Books
Post by: ShabySon73 on October 15, 2009, 08:13:19 PM
Ive read two good books on the Boer War, but it was a few years ago...
one is called Goodbye Dolly Gray, but I cant remember the author. The other was by Thomas Packenham, and I think it was just called The Boer War. They both cover the concentration camp issue.
Title: Re: Boer War Books
Post by: sphinx on October 15, 2009, 10:49:55 PM
Goodbye Dolly Gray by Rayne Kruger, pan Books London & Sydney, 1959.
Re-published many times since.

An excellent story of the Boer War
Title: Re: Boer War Books
Post by: Dave Naden on October 12, 2013, 12:01:00 PM

I've recently seen a copy of The Boer War by Thomas Pakenham for sale in The Works bookshop for only £5, a bargain and a book that I would recommend. Initially it concentrates on all the behind the scenes manoeuving that led to the outbreak of the war, which I found interesting, others may not. The remainder of the book narrates the war itself, adding new insights and facts.

Another book I would recommend is The Great Boer War by Byron Farwell. This book narrates the war as you may expect, but without much of the political intrigue.

I've also read Winston Churchill's London to Ladysmith via Pretoria, and Ian Hamiltons March (in one volume). In other word, how Churchill won the war with his mates. His views are that the officers won the war, being superior, as the infantry being imbeciles, were incapable. I nearly threw the book into the bin on more than one occasion because I found it very annoying. But I suppose it has got to be read if you want to understand the war.

Another annoying book (4 volumes) is the History of the War in South Africa 1899-1902 by Frederick Maurice. However he fell ill when volume 3 was part completed, and the history was completed by Harold Grant. Its general opinion of the Boers as being cowards is unjust. How can it be said that 60,000 Boers who fought the whole British empire are all cowards? The statement that British in providing accommodation in concentration camps for 90,000 was an act of charity which no other nation would have granted is simply propaganda. At least 35,000 whites died in those camps of disease, excerbated by a poor diet, while the British army was killing thousands of cattle and sheep with machine guns every month, burning crops, destroying grain etc. The black camp inmates were treated far worse. When you consider the total white population of the two republics was approx. 200,000, it really was total war. Having said all that, it is a very good (but biased) history of the war which I would recommend, particulary for research. To clarify, volumes 1, 2 and part of 3 provide a great deal of information concerning the actions of individual units. The later volumes (Grant) refer to columns only, seldom mentioning which units comprised those columns.


Title: Re: Boer War Books
Post by: Dave Naden on May 20, 2014, 10:10:27 PM
More books hopefully of interest...

As you may know, the Manchester Regiment Archives are held in the Ashton-under-Lyne library. This library holds a copy of...

Diary of the Rough Doings of the 1st Battalion Manchester Regiment During the South African War, 1899-1902, by Major A. W. Marden, DSO and Captain and Adjutant W. P. E. Newbiggin DSO.

I've only read the first few pages of this "private" war diary (it's not the official war diary). It describes the actions of the Manchester's besieged in Ladysmith and later, mentioning those who died, even those who would not be mentioned in the official war diary, the rank and file, Privates etc. It's a rare book.

Another book held by the library will be of interested to those researching their ancestors is...

The South African War Casualty Roll, The Natal Field Force, 20th Oct 1899 - 26 Oct 1899. It lists all those who died in Natal only between those dates, all units including those who served with the Manchester Regiment, i.e. only Regimental Number, Rank, Surname, Initial, Casualty that is Killed, Wounded, Slightly Wounded, Severely Wounded, Place and Date.

A third book, and more comprehensive book held by the library is...

The Boer War Casualty Roll, 1899 - 1902 by Alexander M. Palmer. Copies can be bought via certain auction web sites for approx. £80 (2014). It lists 54,000 casualties (the same number on, i.e. Surname, Initial, Regimental Number, Rank, casualty type e.g. KIA, Place, Date, Remarks e.g. Released (POW) and Unit. In the case of Officers, a brief obituary is also included.

As far as I'm aware, this last book is not held by the library, another £80 purchase...

In Memoriam, Roll of Honour Imperial Forces, Anglo-Boer War 1899 - 1902 by Steve Watt.

It lists approx. 25,000 casualties, i.e. Regimental Number, Surname, Initial, Regiment, casualty type i.e. how died, Place, Date, Interred, Monument, Remarks and a Reference.

As far as I'm aware, the last two books are the best published sources currently available to the genealogist.


Title: Re: Boer War Books
Post by: timberman on May 20, 2014, 10:33:27 PM
The Times History Of The War In South Africa - Complete in 7 Volumes

All 7 volumes can be down loaded here.

Title: Re: Boer War Books
Post by: timberman on May 20, 2014, 10:40:56 PM
Several of the books mentioned in this topic can be found here

Title: Re: Boer War Books
Post by: timberman on May 20, 2014, 11:10:03 PM
One or two more found here :)

Title: Re: Boer War Books
Post by: Dave Naden on May 21, 2014, 11:38:37 AM
Been there, done that !

Thanks for your reply. I downloaded several books from those web sites last year. A search of the web will reveal other books (PDF), including those written by various Boer commanders etc., which also make interesting reading.

All the best

Title: Re: Boer War Books
Post by: Dave Naden on May 21, 2014, 12:17:15 PM
Another book that will be of interest to those researching their ancestors is...

Wally Hyde's Register.

This is actually a burial register similar to those used by many municipal cemeteries here in the UK. Wally Hyde worked for the Public Works Department in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa in the 1960's and 1970's. He was responsible for the maintenance of all the war graves in Natal, hence, he kept a list of all the British war graves in Natal. The reason I mention this book, is that the remains of many British soldiers was exhumed and re-buried during this period. This register records the original burial site, and has been updated in pencil on the adjacent "blank" page to record the new burial place. Other useful notes have been added in pencil to augment the entries.

This register is kept at Doug McMaster's Blockhouse Museum near Ladysmith at GPS -28.525444, 29.746782. When I tried to contact Doug by e-mail, he did not respond. I know he runs an engineering business in addition to the museum, and is probably a very busy man. I doubt if he will respond to any e-mail messages requesting information from the register.

I know Steve Watt copied the register, so it is reasonable to assume the register was one of the sources for his book, In Memoriam.

I guess another source for Steve's book was the records kept by the Loyal Women's Guild (LWG) of South Africa. The LWG was a similar organisation to the Women's Institute here in the UK. The LWG did much good work during the 2nd Anglo-Boer War as nurses in hospitals, concentration camps etc. They also raised funds in order that the grave of every British soldier should be marked by an iron cross. Hence the LWG maintained records of all British war graves (similar to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for WW1 and WW2). Their records are now held in an archive somewhere in South Africa and can be accessed by the public.

To state the obvious, you will have to go to South Africa to view both Wally Hyde's Register and the LWG Records. I would recommend the tour operated by Ian Alexander's War Research Society based in Birmingham. Expensive - yes, but very good. I've been to South Africa twice, the last time in October, 2013.


Title: Re: Boer War Books
Post by: Dave Naden on May 21, 2014, 02:06:12 PM
You may have asked the question, why should I consult Wally Hyde's Register when it was probably used as a source for Steve Watt's book In Memoriam?

The answer is best illustrated by a real example...

6333 Rifleman George Alfred Naden, 3rd Bn. KRRC is listed in Alexander Palmer's and Steve Watt's books, and in several other sources as being KIA on 24 January 1900. Steve also records somewhat confusingly, Interred Spioenkop, Twin Pks, Tugela (3 places !) with the Remark, South of the Tugela (LWG).

The KRRC attacked and captured both the Twin Peaks that afternoon to relieve the pressure on British fighting on the adjacent Spioenkop. The Boers thought they had lost the battle and started leaving the battlefield in large numbers. The KRRC was ordered to retire southwards back across the Tugela River (a controversial order issued by General Redvers Buller). They did so during the night, re-crossing the river at 2 a.m.

The entry in Wally Hyde's Register reads...

Name: Naden, G. A.
Rank: Private
No: 6333
Regiment: 3rd KRR
Date of Death: 24.1.00
Disease: Killed in Action
Where Buried: South of Tugela F34 Nr. where? foot bridge was erected.

The following note appears on the adjacent page...

P.W.D. List G. Narden Top of Spion Kop

6425 Rifleman W. G. Norman, 3rd KRRC was also buried at the same site south of the river.

As was the custom at that time, all rank and file was buried where they fell, and approx. 20 isolated KRRC graves was known to exist on the Twin Peaks. Only the bodies of the KRRC officers was carried back down the peaks to be buried south of the river.

The above information strongly suggests that both G. A. Naden and W. G. Norman was wounded, and carried down the peak(s), back across the river, possibly dying on the way, or when they arrived at the KRRC bivouac. They was both probably WIA and DOW, i.e. not KIA as widely recorded.

The foot bridge was erected by the engineers after the KRRC had forded the river. The location of the bridge is marked on one of the maps that accompany one of the histories. It was located near a bend of the river. The grave site itself was marked for years on South Africa's NGI maps (equivalent to the UK's Ordnance Survey maps), and I think it still is. There are no signs of this original grave remaining today. The remains of these two riflemen now lie in one of the mass trench graves on Spioenkop itself. it pays to adopt the good practice of always checking the original source of information.