Barthorp, Michael. The Boer Wars, 1814-1908. Durban: Bok Books International, 1987.
Barthop presents a strictly popular history of the Boer Wars, which he dates from Great Britain’s occupation of South Africa after the war with Napoleon. The only endnotes are explanatory in nature, and the bibliography is limited. This greatly reduces the work’s utility to scholars. Barthop’s primary reference to the actions of the Naval Brigade is to the 250-man unit reinforcing the 9th Brigade under Methuen in 1899, but there are scattered references to sailors sent ashore from various ships taking part in assaults on, and defenses of various positions.
Lady Bellairs, ed. The Transvaal War, 1880. Cape Town: C. Struik (Pty) Ltd, 1972.
This book is a modern reprint of a work originally published in 1885 in the aftermath of the First Boer War. Claiming to act as an “editor” Lady Blanche St. John Bellairs, resident of South Africa and second wife of Sir William Bellairs, compiled accounts based on printed British government documents and newspapers from South Africa without adding any new information or opinion. In this way, she discusses the origins of the war and its conduct. Despite her claims to the contrary, Lady Bellairs does have an agenda – to lionize the heroes of the small garrisons of the Transvaal that held out against the besieging Boer forces. The work lacks the normal scholarly apparatus of footnotes and bibliography, and seems to occupy a grey area between primary and secondary work. The appendices do, however provide extracts from some of the documents the work is based on. These document excerpts and the discussion of the garrisons of the Transvaal make the work worthwhile for scholars who keep Lady Bellairs’ agenda firmly in mind.
Bridgland, Tony. Field Gun Jack versus the Boers: The Royal Navy in South Africa, 1899-1900. Barnsley, South Yorkshire: Leo Cooper, 1998.
Tony Bridgland’s Field Gun Jack is a belated attempt to rescue the efforts of the Naval Brigades landed to support the Royal Army during the Second Boer War from the dustbin of history. To do this he provides a detailed account of the landed sailors’ activities from the moment HMS Powerful was launched in June 1897. Once hostilities commenced, the outgunned Royal Army desperately needed the additional firepower provided by naval guns mounted on makeshift carriages. Field Gun Jack intersperses its operational history with a plethora of quotations from letters and other documents, but suffers from complete lack of notes and an extremely short bibliography that is split evenly between primary and secondary sources. While the details Bridgland provides are useful to the historian, the lack of scholarly apparatus reduces the work’s utility.
Burne, C.R.N. With the Naval Brigade in Natal, 1899-1900. London: Edward Arnold, 1902.
Burne was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, who after serving as a Gunnery Lieutenant on HMS Thetis commanded a battery of 12-pound naval guns during the Natal campaign of General Sir Redvers Buller. With the Naval Brigade is the published version of his journal of service during ten months in South Africa. As such, it describes technical aspects of using naval guns on land, and the transportation of British troops to South Africa. Burne also portrays the reality of camp life, and the conduct of British operations leading to the relief of Ladysmith. While the discussion of troop movements are available in many secondary sources, Burne’s candid discussion of camp life and the technical aspects of naval gunnery are useful for scholars interested in the social aspects of military service.
Carver, Field Marshall Lord. The National Army Museum Book of the Boer War. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1999.
The sources of this unusual work are the letters, journals, and personal papers of the officers and men that served Great Britain during the Second Boer War. All of the items used were drawn from the collection of items donated to the National Army Museum, with the goal of providing the reader the a view of the war in the voices of those who served. As such, it does not deal with the political or diplomatic moves of the war, but with the daily life of the combatants. It is neither properly an operational history, nor a social history, but an amalgam of the two. The Naval Brigades do not receive much space, but their activities and experiences are well represented by the accounts of those who witnessed their efforts, and through the voice of Midshipman James Menzies’ letters home. There are no notes for the historian or student to consult, but there is a short bibliography and a list of those who contributed their documents to the museum. At the very least, this work provides scholars of the Naval Brigades a valuable starting point for research.
Churchill, Winston. The Boer War: London to Ladysmith via Pretoria and Ian Hamilton’s March. London: Pimlico, 2002.
This volume contains two written by Sir Winston Churchill during his service as a war correspondent and as a lieutenant with the South African Light Horse in the Second Boer War, and originally published in 1900. Churchill’s work is perhaps unique in that he presents the plight of prisoners of war in Boer hands, and the challenges of escaping from captivity. The combined texts provide a glimpse at the daily life of a junior officer during the course of the war, but provide little of use to readers desiring the details of any type. The Naval Brigades are scarcely mentioned despite Churchill’s presence at the scenes of their greatest efforts. The overall result is that this work is interesting for scholars interested in Churchill, or in the activities of young gentlemen of the Victorian era, but not to those who need solid information about the wars in South Africa.
Crowe, George. The Commission of H.M.S. Terrible. London: George Newnes, Limited, 1903.
Crowe, Master and Arms on HMS Terrible, follows the new ships’ entire first commission. While the activities of her sailors ashore play a prominent role throughout the text, the first 190 pages cover the Naval Brigades’ activities in South Africa through 1899 and 1900. The remaining portion of the text focuses on Terrible’s voyage to the China and participation in combat there. Although not related to the topic of either the Boer War or the Naval Brigade, Crowe’s discussion of his ships’ commissioning and sea trials are interesting and useful for those not already familiar with the tasks involved. It is critical that readers understand that this work is not a history of either of the conflicts it discusses, rather, it is the history of the ship and its crew. Due to his focus, Crowe pays significantly more attention to the preparation and activities of the Naval Brigade and ships that many other accounts, one interesting example is his description of the Navy’s efforts to prepare sailors for participation in ground combat at the port of Durban. Like Lady Bellairs’ work, Crowe straddles the line between primary and secondary source, but is nonetheless required reading for any historian who needs to understand the Royal Navy’s involvement in the Second Boer War.
Farwell, Brian. The Great Boer War. London: Penguin Books, 1976.
The Great Boer War sets out to present the entirety of the Second Boer War, framing it as an event of the same dramatic consequence as the two World Wars of the twentieth century. While Farwell may not quite succeed in swaying readers to his view of the war, he does present a comprehensive exploration of the political and military aspects of the conflict. In doing so, he devotes more time and space than the average history of either Boer War to the activities of the Naval Brigade. In addition to discussing its use for artillery support, Farwell presents a compelling view of the Marines and sailors of the Naval Brigade gallantly (or foolishly) leading a charge into the teeth of the Boer infantry on the march to Kimberly under Methuen. Farwell provides all of the normal scholarly apparatus needed for serious study of the wars in South Africa, including a detailed bibliography of primary and secondary sources.
Griffith, Kenneth. Thanks God We Kept the Flag Flying: The Siege and Relief of Ladysmith, 1899-1900. New York: Viking Press, 1975.
Griffith focuses on the Siege of Ladysmith, but also provides sufficient space to the causes of the Second Boer War and the early stages of the war. In this preparatory material, Griffith pays special attention to the lack of readiness displayed by the British before the outbreak of conflict, and lays the blame for the fighting on the maneuvering of British capitalists in the Transvaal and the machinations of British Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain. The majority of the text describes the Siege of Ladysmith in detail, providing significant space to the activities of the Naval Brigade’s efforts in counter Boer artillery. The text provides no footnotes or endnotes, but makes frequent and thorough use of primary sources in the form of direct quotations throughout. The extensive bibliography provides a large variety of primary and secondary sources useful to scholars desiring information that is more detailed.
Holt, Edgar. The Boer War. London: Putnam, 1958.
Holt provides little in the way of scholarly apparatus. He provides no footnotes or endnotes, but does include biographical sketches of major participants in an appendix and a lengthy bibliography that consists primarily of outdated secondary sources. Despite the outward appearance, that The Boer War is merely a popular work; Holt does include the argument that the discovery of gold and diamond deposits in the 1870s provides a significant motivation for Great Britain to re-annex the Transvaal region. While naval guns are mentioned as taking part in the appropriate actions, Holt gives them, and their crews, short shrift. As a result, this work is of limited value for scholars or students studying the Boer Wars, whether they hold a particular interest in Naval Brigades, or not.
T.T Jeans, ed. Naval Brigades in the South African War, 1899-1900. London: Sampson Low, Marston & Company, 1901.
Edited by Jeans, a surgeon serving in the Royal Navy, Naval Brigades in the South African War combines the efforts of the officers of various Naval Brigades participating in the Second Boer War. The text is divided into separate parts, ensuring coverage of all aspects of the Naval Brigades’ activities. Coverage extends beyond the Siege of Ladysmith and Methuen’s march to Kimberly to include Bloemfontein and Grant’s thousand-mile pursuit of De Wet. Jeans and his fellow officers intended this account to illustrate the esprit de corps of the Royal Navy under arduous conditions, and to ensure that the Naval Brigades’ actions beyond Ladysmith were remembered. Keeping this in mind, this is a valuable resource for historians of the Royal navy.
Judd, Denis, and Keith Surridge. The Boer War. London: John Murray, 2002.
Due to constraints by the publisher, the endnotes are limited. However, the bibliography is extensive and varied, containing large numbers of both primary and secondary sources of all kinds. Judd and Surridge provide a nuanced narrative of the Second Boer War, complete with diplomatic and political efforts to avoid war. Despite this, the activities of the Naval Brigade are discussed only in light of the Siege of Ladysmith, in which the Royal Navy’s guns provided much needed counter-battery fire against the Boer’s heavy artillery. While this might not prove useful to the study of the Navy’s efforts in South Africa, Judd and Surridge provide a useful interpretation of the start of the war and the guerilla campaigns after its official end.
Knox, E. Blake. Buller’s Campaign: With the Natal Field Force of 1900. London: Jonathan Cape, 1902.
Knox, a Lieutenant in the Royal Army Medical Corps, published his memoir of the British campaign in Natal in 1902. His account focuses on the defense of Ladysmith and the port of Durban against the oncoming Boer forces. Naval brigades play a small role in Knox’s work, but he places them in the context of the overall campaign, which makes Buller’s Campaign valuable for those desiring to understand their employment under field conditions. The appendices provide addition information regarding the function of the Medical Corps during the Natal Campaign.
Laband, John. The Transvaal Rebellion: The First Boer War, 1880-1881. London: Pearson Longman, 2005.
In The Transvaal Rebellion, John Laband combines the political and military aspects of the First Boer War to provide a comprehensive view of its conduct. Particular attention is devoted to the peace process, even before Majuba, and to the continuing potential for conflicts between British South Africa and the Transvaal Republic and Orange Free State. While not focusing on the Naval Brigades, Laband discusses each contingent fighting on land, including sixty men and boys from Boadicea and fifty-eight from Dido. Laband also discusses the roles of a large number of warships and transports of the Royal Navy during the short conflict. The expected scholarly apparatus abound, with a reference list and notes for each chapter, and a lengthy bibliography of both primary and secondary sources for the entire work.
Lehman, Joseph. The First Boer War. London: Robert Hale, 1972.
Lehman provides a thoroughly scholarly account of the First Boer War in its entirety, from the original settlement of South Africa by the Dutch East India Company, through the tenuous peace established in 1881. Rather than focusing merely on the final climactic battle at Majuba, Lehman devotes a significant amount of space to the “beleaguered” and “forgotten” British garrisons of the interior. The actions of the Naval Brigade is mentioned only in passing in reference to larger concerns, though special mention is made of the sixty sailors with the Indian contingent, from HMS Dido HMS Boadicea, who brought their cutlasses, rocket tubes, and Gatling guns with them. The First Boer War relies almost solely on primary sources, including unpublished archival sources from South Africa, the Duke of Cambridge’s papers in the Royal Archives, and the private letters of Wolseley.
James, Lawrence. The Savage Wars: British Campaigns in Africa, 1870-1920. London: Robert Hale, 1985.
James examines Great Britain’s colonial and imperial wars in Africa beyond the confines of the Boer Wars. While James devotes space to subjects such as the growth of British imperialism, technological advances, and the use of native or colonial troops, he all but ignores the use of Naval Brigades to bolster British artillery. The Savage Wars provides all of the expected scholarly apparatus, organizing the moderate number of endnotes by chapter. For sources, James relies on the official records of the Admiralty, Colonial Office, and the Cabinet, in addition to both published and unpublished letters and diaries. The usual list of secondary sources, including Clowes’ The Royal Navy.
Knight, Ian. Colenso 1899: The Boer War in Natal. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1995.
This illustrated popular history of the Second Boer War is almost completely unusable for scholars or students in post-secondary education. It provides no bibliography, and shallow treatment of all issues. While the text incorporates photographs of naval artillery in temporary field mounts, the Naval Brigades are mentioned only as the heaviest artillery available to the Royal Army units to which they are attached.
Nicholls, Bob. Bluejackets and Boxers: Australia’s Naval Expedition to the Boxer Uprising. Sydney: Allen & Unwin Australia Pty Limited, 1986.
This small text focuses on the Australian response to the Boxer Uprising in China in 1900. Despite focusing on China, rather than on South Africa, Nicholls provides useful information about the Australian recruiting process for naval brigades that may increase understanding of their employment elsewhere in the British Empire. Readers interested in issues related to Naval Brigades must navigate the work to location the desired information since it is embedded in Nicholls’ narrative. Nicholls includes photographs, appendices of naval armaments, and personnel statistics, but skimps on the scholarly apparatus. The small bibliography includes a mixture of secondary and primary sources, but provides no footnotes or endnotes. Nicholls’s approach is deliberately popular in construction.
Norbury, Henry F. The Naval Brigade in South Africa during the Years 1877-1878-1879. London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington, 1880.
Norbury served as the surgeon on HMS Active and as the chief medical officer for the forces the Royal Navy operated on shore from 1877-1879. His activities predate the outbreak of the First Boer War in 1880, but his journals are useful for the information they contain related to conditions in South Africa and how Great Britain employed sailors ashore at the end of the nineteenth century. The first sixty-eight pages of texts described the social lives and customs of South African tribes and the climate of the region. The remainder discusses the role of Naval Brigades in the Anglo-Zulu War that preceded the Transvaal War. Norbury indicates that during this conflict, in which two hundred sailors from HMS Active, along with six twelve-pound guns, rocket tubes, and a Gatling gun, bolstered the soldiers of the 88th Regiment, the Navy used Naval Brigades for both artillery and infantry work.
Pakenham, Thomas. The Boer War. New York: Avon Books, 1979.
Pakenham provides a sweeping narrative of the Second Boer War, beginning with political and financial maneuvering in 1895. His primary goal is to correct the flaws of two earlier works: the official British History of the War in South Africa and the Times History of the War in South Africa. The major flaws of those works were a lack of South African sources, lack of attribution of source material, lack of political analysis on the part of the History of the War, and overt partisanship in the Times History. Pakenham makes four arguments as part of his correction: that capitalists chasing profits from gold and diamonds played a key role in the causing the war, that Sir Redvers Bullers’ command must be understood in the context of a greater political struggle, that Africans, not whites, suffered the most during the war, and that Kitchener’s use of concentration camps for Boer civilians actually gave his opponents both motivation and freedom of movement. The story of the Naval Brigades effort is embedded among the operation history of the war, and Pakenham’s work provides important material for understanding their critical role. The Boer War provides the full array of scholarly apparatus, including a comprehensive bibliography. Since it is also based almost exclusively on primary sources, Pakenham’s text is critical for historians who want to gain a detailed understanding of the later of the two Boer Wars.
Pearse, H.H.S. Four Months Besieged: The Story of Ladysmith. London: Macmillan & Company, 1900.
Four Months Besieged is the combined publication of the Daily News’s correspondent H.H.S. Pearce, who arrived in Africa before the outset of the Second Boer War and observed both the start of the war and the Siege of Ladysmith. While covering the siege in intimate detail, Pearce fully describes the activities of the Naval Brigade to counter the Boer advantage in artillery and to defend the encampment from attack. This work is a partisan one, evidenced from Pearce’s praise of the ingenuity of the bluejackets, and his frequent references to “us” and “our”. Despite this, Pearce provides a handy resource for historians needing multiple perspectives on the conduct of the siege.
Ransford, Oliver. The Battle of Majuba Hill: The First Boer War. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1968.
The core of Ransford’s text is a detailed operational history of the British defeat at Majuba in 1881, ending the First Boer War. This is preceded by an overview of the settlement of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, British annexation of South Africa, and the outbreak of war between the Boer farmers and the British Empire. The small Naval Brigade of 120 sailors, who served six small artillery pieces and a battery of rocket tubes, appears only sporadically, appears sporadically through the text. In addition to the expected artillery support, Ransford singles out the small group for the defeat at Majuba because they were unable to wrestle even one Gatling gun to the top. Although Ransford provides some endnotes and short bibliography, the text is primarily aimed at a popular audience.
Nicholas Riall, ed. Boer War: The Letters, Diaries, and Photographs of Malcolm Riall from the War in South Africa, 1899-1902. London: Brassey’s, 2002.
Nicholas Riall compiled this work using the letters, diaries, and photographs of his grandfather, Malcolm Riall, OBE. The result is a biographical and pictorial tour of the Second Boer War. Riall’s letters and diaries mention the Naval Brigade’s guns at Ladysmith and elsewhere, but the overall effort is not particularly useful for most historians, despite the interesting anecdotes and photographs.
Sibbald, Raymond. The War Correspondents: The Boer War. Dover: Alan Sutton Publishing, 1993.
Based on the reports of correspondents for The Times, this text concentrates on examining the big events of the Second Boer War rather than developing a narrative. This allows it to cover both critical items and controversial ones in a relatively small space. Although most of the coverage of the Naval Brigade relates to its use artillery, but unlike most works this is not merely in the context of the Siege of Ladysmith, but also the engagement at Colenso. Sibbald also shows the Naval Brigade engaged in other activities, including the misguided charge under Methuen and reconnaissance work using naval telescopes at Ladysmith in conjunction with the use of balloons for observation. The primary negative aspect associated with the origins and intent of this popular work is the lack of citation and bibliography. Large portions of the reports from South Africa are reproduced, but these do not make up for the scholars’ need for bibliographic details necessary to check facts and arguments.