Listen to some of the tracks:
1. All the Pretty Flowers
"Flowers express many human emotions…" - J.E.
British soldiers that came to South Africa to fight in the Anglo-Boer War were led to believe that their enemy was just a band of rugged farmers with no culture. Later they found that some of the towns they occupied were of a most civilized nature with efficient local government, pretty gardens, churches and schools with inhabitants that had Christian, family and cultural values similar to their own. Since draught animals and horses were used for military operations, these along with the fodder to feed them became in short supply. Animals and feed were therefore imported from the colonies and Argentina. Much of the feed contained alien seeds of weeds and flowers which brought to South Africa plants like Khaki Bos (“Khaki” was a nickname given to British soldiers by the Boers) and Cosmos flowers. Even today, these plants can be seen growing in wild profusion all over the country, particularly on old battlefield sites. This song is a reminder of these facts.
2. Rag Tag Army
"To fight for an empire is one thing but to fight for freedom is another…" - J.E.
When the Boer republics took on the might of the British Empire in 1898 it was thought that the conflict would be over within a few months with the Boers being brought to heel. The British army was smartly dressed and were kitted out with the state of the art equipment and fought their wars in a conventional way. The Boers, by their very appearance, unconventional way of mustering men, knowledge of the terrain, passion for freedom, prowess with the superior Mauser rifle, mobility and unending faith were grossly underrated and it took Britain and her Empire much of their resources to bring the war to an end. It was only by the exploitation of the Boer’s love of his family, who were his support base, that made him succumb.
3. A Troopers Diary
"An entry in a diary first becomes a memory and finally, history." - J.E.
A trip to Kimberley prompted me to write this song.
The Boers used the strategy of besieging important British towns to hamper their progress in the war. Those besieged suffered many hardships and in Kimberley I was privileged to talk to an old timer who was a young boy during the siege. He remembered many things like being sent down the mine with his mother to avoid Boer bombardment. From what he remembered about the soldiers and what happened during the siege I have put this song together. It is written through the eyes of a soldier stationed at Kimberley before, during and after the siege.
4. British Tommy Atkins.
"Mervyn was tough! We scrapped in the school yard as boys. Nobody won. We respected each other and then became lifelong friends." - J.E.
Tommy Atkins was the nickname given to the ordinary British foot soldier.
The term was often used by Rudyard Kipling and the name “Tommy” has stuck to him through all wars since then. Ordinary British soldiers are respected for their toughness, endurance, compassion and most of all their humour and ability to smile in the face of adversity. This is a salute in song and how the name came about
5. Johnny Boer
"God controls the bigger scheme of things…" - J.E.
The Scots have always had an affinity with the Boer/Afrikaner nation. Scottish men of the cloth came to South Africa and ministered to the Boers. Many of them married Boer girls hence the many Afrikaners bearing Scottish names. It was in fact Scotsman Andrew Murray that was a founding father of the Dutch Reformed Church. Scottish soldiers during the Boer War were sometimes almost Boer sympathyzers. In this song, a Scottish soldier points out that the Scots themselves went through oppression, the American people went through a civil war, which in fact bound them as a nation and he also shows his admiration for the Boers’ everlasting faith in The Lord.
6. The Hill at Magersfontein
"Do or die…" - Motto of the Highland Light Infantry.
The battle of Magersfontein during the Boer War was probably one of the most humiliating defeats that the British suffered and was one of the Boers’ finest hours. The hill at Magersfontein had to be taken before the relief of besieged Kimberley could be attempted. The Highland Brigade were the main players in the British attack and marched through the night in pouring rain for a morning assault. They were under the impression that the Boers were on the hill but General De la Rey cleverly had them dig in into long trenches at the bottom of the hill. The Highlanders walked into the trap and suffered heavy losses. In those days all commands in battle were given by bugle calls but originally by drumbeats. Young drummer boys were trained as buglers; some were as young as fourteen. This is a true story about Drummer William Milne from the Seaforth Highlanders Regiment who was caught up in the battle, wounded and picked up by the Boers who marveled at his bravery for such young age. Milne died of his wounds and as a mark of respect and admiration was buried with the Boer fallen. This battle was the start of modern trench warfare which was used extensively in the First World war; the brainchild of General Koos De la Rey.
7. The Siege at Elands River
"Never did a besieged force endure worse suffering in the course of the war…" - General J.C. Smuts.
Although not widely publicized, the siege at Elands River at Swartruggens in the Western Transvaal was probably the most gallant stand of any side during the Boer War. Five hundred men were surrounded and blasted by cannon fire by three thousand Boer forces under top Boer strategist, General De la Rey for two weeks without being relieved. The Boers retired knowing the garrison would fight to the last man.
"It’s the cause not the death that makes the martyr…" - Napoleon Bonaparte.
Driving through the town of Machadadorp in eastern South Africa a military cemetery caught my eye. As I walked between the rows of crosses I saw the graves of British soldiers killed at the battle of Bergendal during the Boer war. Later I visited the place where the battle was fought and viewed the monument erected to honour Boer soldiers that gallantly held their position and fought to the last man. As always I was struck by the futility and senseless waste of lives, grief and carnage created by war. What also struck me was the fearlessness displayed by both sides and the hell they went through; that’s what this song is all about.
9. I will lead your wagons
"You’re dammed if you do and you’re dammed if you don’t…" - Unknown.
The indigenous African people were much displaced and affected by the Boer War. Those that were in the employ of Boers remained so and worked as grooms, general servants, scouts, watchmen, spies and “voorlopers”(Those who led the spans of oxen that drew the wagons) Many thousands were sent to concentration camps with their employers and thousands died there. The British showed them no mercy when caught in the field of battle. Those that worked for the British filled similar roles but much to the disgust of the Boers were armed; they were showed even less mercy when caught. During the conflict the gold mines were closed and 7,000 Africans walked en masse from Johannesburg back to their homes in Natal. They were led by a Mr. J. Marwick of the Natal Native Affairs Department. Walking nearly 60 kilometers a day, the journey took nine days with little or no casualties along the way. It was indeed confusing for these people to see white men fighting each other and ironic to think that just over a hundred years later they would be majority rulers of the same land.
10. The Unknown Soldier
"The truth will out beyond the grave…" - J.E.
On visiting Anglo Boer War cemeteries I noticed how well the War Graves Commissions tend these historical sites and document the rank, name and regiment of the fallen. However there are instances, probably due to circumstances at the time, where the graves were marked “Unknown” A certain sadness comes over me when I see this and wonder what the story is behind the poor forgotten souls that lie buried there. This is my song for all unsung and unknown heroes of all wars.
11. The spirit of breaker Morant
"War can bring out the best and the worst in a man…" - J.E.
Breaker Morant was born in England to a poor Irish mother and is said to have been the illegitimate child of English Admiral Morant. He was mentored by a Scottish nobleman who taught him to ride and hunt but after his education emigrated to Australia. The outback called and he became a sheep drover and was said to be the best horse breaker in all Australia; hence the nickname “Breaker”. He was somewhat of a poet and entertainer and enthralled fellow drovers with his songs and prose. He and Banjo Paterson, the composer of Waltzing Matilda became friends but at the outbreak of the Boer War Breaker joined the Australian military and went to South Africa. Towards the end of the war there were pockets of tough Boer fighters in the Northern Transvaal and Australian Bushmen were allocated the task of flushing them out. An ambiguous order from British High Command to the effect of “take no prisoners” was issued and after one of Breaker’s friends was brutally killed and dismembered.(Later blamed on a local witchdoctor) Breaker snapped and executed some Boer prisoners but the deed was witnessed by a German missionary. This missionary was found mysteriously murdered and Breaker and his sergeant, Peter Handcock were implicated. Breaker and Handcock were executed by the British, it is said, to avoid an international incident with Germany but Australian High command were infuriated. To this day Australia has lobbied the Queen to grant a posthumous pardon. In my song I have painted Breaker neither as a villain nor a hero but think that many unfair executions were meted out by both sides.
12. Blessed Angels
"Compassion is a form of love that bridges colour, creed or culture…" - J.E.
The term “Concentration Camp” was first applied to the centers in which Boer civilians were interned by Lord Kitchener to prevent them from giving Boer guerillas logistical support during the latter part of the Boer War. Bad management and poor hygiene made those camps notorious and caused many deaths and bitterness between Boer and Briton. Many Boer prisoners of war were shipped to places like Bermuda, Ceylon, India and St. Helena which separated families even more. An Englishwoman by the name of Emily Hobhouse lobbied aggressively against these measures and was even deported from South Africa by the British authorities. On her death, her ashes were interned in the “Women and Children Monument” in Bloemfontein. There were a total of 65 camps and the total death toll was 27,927. There were also camps for blacks that either worked for or assisted Boers; 64 in all and the death toll was 14,154. My daughter Shelley wrote the lyric for this song imagining, from a woman’s perspective, what it must have been like.
13. Shake hands with De La Rey
"You can respect your enemy if he is courageous, capable and honourable…" - J.E.
This song is based on a true story from the memoirs of a Captain A.W Speyer, DSO, late 4th. Batt. West Yorkshire Regiment, Aide de camp to General Sir Walter Kitchener KB, brother of Lord Horatio Kitchener. Along with an escort contingent of Canadian Mounted Infantry, Walter Kitchener was commissioned to meet respected Boer General Koos de la Rey to discuss and explain the completed peace negotiations. Although General Kemp. De la Rey’s colleague, was not comfortable with laying down his arms, Kitchener was assured there would be no treachery. De la Rey commanded great respect from both sides. I have written this song through the eyes of a Canadian soldier.
14. What in the Hell was it for
"Whimsical decisions made by leaders in higher places can have far reaching ramifications of disruption, tragedy and suffering for the very people they think they are trying to benefit…" - J.E.
There were many factors that caused the second Anglo–Boer war. The Boers had for many years tried to avoid being ruled by the British, trekked away from the Cape Colony, established their own republics but were still harassed by British colonial policy after the discovery of gold in the Transvaal republic. Many say the war could have been avoided had it not been for the stubbornness of Paul Kruger, the abortive Jameson Raid and the imperialism of Lord Milner who, it is said, forced the Boers into the war in order to eventually get control of the gold mines. Whatever it was for, it caused 60,000 Boer fighters to take on 460,000 Imperial soldiers, caused 6,000 Boer military fatalities, 23,000 Imperial fatalities (Mostly through disease), the deaths of 400,000 animals, 28,000 deaths of Boer civilian men women and children in concentration camps, the death of 14,000 Africans in concentration camps and 35,000 Boer prisoners being sent to St. Helena, Ceylon, India and Bermuda. On hindsight it was a futile exercise as I have tried to explain in my song.
15. Run Away
"Sometimes we’ll sigh, sometimes we’ll cry, but we’ll know why ‘cause you and I know true love ways." - Norman Petty & Buddy Holly.
This is a true song story about Private George Frederick Shaw of the Loyal Lancs Regiment who was posted to Ventersdorp during the Boer War. There he fell in love with a Boer lass called Martha Engelbrecht and when the scorched earth policy was implemented by the British, he was ordered to burn her house down. This he refused to do and defected to the Boer side. He was captured and sentenced to death as a deserter and executed in the Ventersdorp cemetery in full view of his lover. ‘Till her dying day she regularly placed flowers on his grave.
16. I married me a Lady
"There ain’t no doubt in no one’s mind that love’s the finest thing around; whisper something soft and kind…" - James Taylor.
Out of the Boer War came many stories of bravery, bloodshed, bitterness and upheaval. There were however tales of romance where men and women from both sides fell in love and were finally married in spite of disapproval. I have heard stories handed down like the concentration camp warder falling in love with an inmate and marrying her after the war and British soldiers deserting and going to the Boer side for the love of Boer girls. This song is a story of how compassion triumphed over prejudice and set an example of how differences can be settled through love.
17. Sarie Marais
"A good song never dies…" - John Edmond.
The song Sarie Marais was adapted from an American civil war song called Ellie Rhee written by Septumus Winner. The Afrikaans words it is said, were written by Petrus Toerien in honour of his wife Susara who’s maiden name was Mare. (daughter of Jacob Mare who has a street named after him in Pretoria). When Petrus went out on commando he would sing this song to his comrades. I have translated this song into English and have sung it in both languages. It is a song that has stood the test of time and is synonymous with the Boer War.
18. We are good friends now
"There’s a little more conversation, a little more conversation,
A battle’s won, a war is lost, I think we’ve cleared the air…" - Albert Hammond.
On the 31st May, 1902 in a large marquee in Vereeniging surrender terms were agreed upon between Boer and Briton and thus the Anglo-Boer war came to an end. It was an emotional time for everyone and a war bravely fought by both sides. After closure of the proceedings, the only words that Lord Kitchener, the British representative, could say was “We are all friends now” In many cases both sides had great respect for one another and it was referred to as “The last of the gentlemen’s’ wars”. Both sides experienced victory and defeat and both Generals De la Rey and Roberts lost their sons in battle. It is ironic to think that a few years later Boer General Louis Botha became the first Prime Minister of the union that came out of the war, that Boer, Briton and African joined hands and fought on the side of the allies in the two World Wars that followed and less than a hundred years later neither Boer nor Briton would have control of the country; it would go to the African who had no political aspirations or direction at the turn of the century.