LOOKING BACK OVER A THOUSAND POSTS

This is my thousandth post since I tentatively began my blog in December 2013. Apart from trawling through my archives or wanting to find out more about me, the three posts that have attracted the most views since then have surprised me. This might be an appropriate time to tell you how they came about:

The most viewed post is Weeds with a History (https://somethingovertea.wordpress.com/2015/06/09/weeds-with-a-history/) published in June 2015. While only ten bloggers have ‘liked’ it and it took three years before anyone responded to it (thank you Joy!), the post about three of the most common invasive weeds in South Africa (Khakibos, Blackjacks, and Cosmos) has been viewed nearly eight hundred times. Are viewers interested in weeds, or does the ‘with a history’ attract their attention? It came about as a result of one of our many travels through this country when we were climbing up Yeomanry Kopje outside Lindley in the Free State to view the graves of British soldiers buried there during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902). As we walked through the inevitable swathes of Khakibos in the long grass it struck me then that these weeds had not existed in this country prior to that war. Having researched the subject, I gave a short talk on it at the Eastern Cape branch of the South African Military History Society. The interest shown there encouraged me to publish the post.

Following close on its heels – and closely related to it – is War Horses: the role of horses in the Anglo-Boer war (1899-1902) (https://somethingovertea.wordpress.com/2016/04/21/war-horses-the-role-of-horses-in-the-anglo-boer-war-1899-1902/) published nearly a year later. I have long been familiar with the Horse Memorial in Port Elizabeth, having first seen it as a child, but visiting the Horse Memorial on the campus of the Weston Agricultural College in KwaZulu Natal brought home to me the role that horses have played in war and in the Anglo-Boer War in particular. This post is very basic – written while I was feeling passionate about the topic but had not yet researched it deeply. Only nine bloggers have ‘liked’ it and Nature on the Edge is the only one to have responded (thank you Liz!), yet it has been viewed nearly seven hundred times. My interest in the topic grew and the more I found out about the role played by horses, the more I wanted to disseminate this. Thus I have since expanded it and addressed the Military History Society, The Grahamstown Historical Society, our local U3A and Friends of the Library – incorporating poetry and a variety of illustrations to embellish the message.

Surprisingly, the third most viewed post is on the topic of Flying Ants (https://somethingovertea.wordpress.com/2016/11/09/flying-ants/), also published in 2016. Although only four bloggers have ‘liked’ it and only Summer Daisy Cottage responded, it has been viewed close to four hundred times. We actually used to receive rain three years ago and I happened upon the alates emerging from the ground, having been alerted to this by the interest shown by a variety of birds in that particular section of the garden. I thought it would be interesting to record what was happening. Perhaps most of the viewers need to look up ‘flying ants’ for their school projects!

 

A REVIEW OF 2018

The statistics provided for our blogs make interesting reading, particularly as I look back on another year of posting about this or that. That most of my viewers are from South Africa pleases me, for it is my home audience after all. The United States of America and the United Kingdom provide the next most viewers – although the spectrum of viewers from all over the world is exciting, for it is good to know that what I post has a broad appeal.

I am intrigued that the top search term remains black jack plant.

It is thus not surprising that the most popular post is Weeds with a History, which was first published in 2015. It received seven views then and 323 views this year! This post came about as a result of a trip we did through the Free State at a time when the Cosmos flowers were blooming; we had walked through the veld to view military graves and returned covered in Black Jack seeds; and had inadvertently crushed Khakibos underfoot, which released a particularly fragrant aroma I have always associated with my childhood in the Lowveld.

All three of these weeds came to this country as a result of feed brought in for the British horses during the Anglo-Boer War.

The next most popular post is War Horses: the role of horses in the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902). This was posted in 2016 after a trip to KwaZuluNatal during which we visited the horse memorial at the Weston Agricultural College. Even though I was familiar with the well-known horse memorial in Port Elizabeth, I found this a particularly moving experience and felt compelled to research and write about the role horses played during this war.

It was viewed 49 times in 2016 and 297 times this year, which encouraged me to conduct further research and to write about this topic in greater detail to present as a talk to three very different audiences.

What has taken me by surprise though is the popularity of the post on Flying Ants, which was also published in 2016, gaining an initial nine views then and garnering 233 this year – simply an observation of what was happening in my garden!

What about the posts published in 2018 then? Blackjacks tops the list – this is a more in-depth exploration of these weeds which came about as a result of the popularity of the search term. My short story, Poor Uncle Kevin couldn’t go to the party – based on my son’s dog which died this year – came second, with National Bird of South Africa – the Blue Crane – coming third.

Thank you to everyone who has taken time to read my posts, to those who have become followers, and especially to those who have liked and commented on my posts. This has been a wonderful way to connect with readers and has enriched my blogging experience enormously.

I hope you will all enjoy a happy festive season.

WAR HORSES: THE ROLE OF HORSES IN THE ANGLO-BOER WAR (1899-1902)

Horses played a vital role during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902). Such was the demand for them that a large number of horses were imported to South Africa by the British from all over the world, including 50 000 from the United States and 35 000 from Australia – most of them landing in Port Elizabeth. A variety of breeds of horses were used during the war, including English Chargers and Hunters from England and Ireland as well as Australian Walers bred, ironically, from an original shipment of Cape Horses in the 1700s. The term ‘Waler’ was first used in India in 1846 in reference to the horses that had come from New South Wales.

At first glance these large animals appeared to be superior to the hardy Boer horses that were no larger than the average pony. These horses were also descendants of the famous Cape Horses of the 18th and 19th centuries. Some Boers used Basuto Ponies that were well adapted to the rocky, mountainous terrain and were known for their endurance despite their small stature. The Boer horses were exceptionally hardy and nimble for they were used for hunting as well as tending cattle in all types of terrain and weather conditions; proving to be reliable and well suited to the environment the war was fought in.

Of course war horses were workhorses, being used as mounted infantry horses, gun horses, and cavalry horses. Not only were horses ridden by soldiers, they were also used to pull gun-carriages – sometimes through muddy battle grounds or over rough, uneven terrain as well as having to ford rivers and streams. Horses and mules were also required to pull heavily laden transport wagons.

A horse’s life expectancy was around six weeks from the time of its arrival in South Africa. Sixty percent of the horses died in combat or as a result of mistreatment. Apart from being killed by bullets or shell fire in battle, other reasons for their demise included:

  • The failure to adequately rest and acclimatise horses after the long sea voyages prior to their arrival.
  • The rough terrain of South Africa, including boulder-strewn hills, which the imported horses were unused to.
  • Exhaustion and dehydration as a result of horses being ridden over hundreds of kilometres in all kinds of weather with little or no respite.
  • Many horses sustained injuries to their fetlocks and hooves – there was not always the time or opportunity to treat the animals with the care they had been used to.
  • Imported horses – unlike those used by the Boers – were unused to surviving on the veld grass, which is all many were exposed to for food for much of the time. The larger size of the British horses made them more dependent on fodder that had to be imported in great quantities from places such as Mexico. [See WEEDS WITH A HISTORY June 2015].
  • Overloading the horses with unnecessary equipment and saddlery.
  • African Horse Sickness.
  • Horses were occasionally slaughtered for their meat, such as during the sieges of both Ladysmith and Kimberley.

The number of horses killed in the Anglo-Boer War was unprecedented. When one considers that over 300 000 of them died during active service – not counting the horses on the Boer side – one can begin to appreciate how important these animals were in that conflict. The war lasted for 970 days, which amounts to about 309 British horses dying a day. The Boer horses also died in in their thousands, many ridden to exhaustion. Not unexpectedly, dead horses were not buried but tended to be left where they fell.

Because their lives depended on their mounts many soldiers formed strong emotional bonds with their horses. That horses were held in high regard by the men who worked with them is evident from the two horse memorials that have been erected in South Africa.

Only three years after the end of the Anglo-Boer War, the first Horse Memorial was unveiled in Port Elizabeth on 11th February 1905 to commemorate the horses which had suffered and died during that war. The inscription on the base reads:

THE GREATNESS OF A NATION
CONSISTS NOT SO MUCH IN THE NUMBER OF ITS PEOPLE
OR THE EXTENT OF ITS TERRITORY
AS IN THE EXTENT AND JUSTICE OF ITS COMPASSION

ERECTED BY PUBLIC SUBSCRIPTION
IN RECOGNITION OF THE SERVICES OF THE GALLANT ANIMALS
WHICH PERISHED IN THE ANGLO BOER WAR 1899-1902

This fact seems to have been missed by members of the EFF who vandalised the monument on 6th April 2015 by toppling the kneeling soldier in front of the horse – offering it water from a bucket.  This picture was published in The Herald 14th September 2015:

Horse Memorial Port Elizabeth

NOTE: On 7th May 2016 I was reliably informed by a resident of Port Elizabeth that the Horse Memorial has been repaired and is back to its former glory.

The other South African Horse Memorial is situated in the grounds of Weston Agricultural College in KwaZulu-Natal. It was unveiled on 31st May 2009 and is dedicated to horses, mules and other animals that perished serving men in war. Weston was the site of the British Army’s Number 7 Remount Depot, in service from 1899-1913. An estimated 30 000 horses and mules are believed to have been buried on the farmlands in the area. The memorial has been designed in a horseshoe shape, mounted by an obelisk-shaped monument created out of old horseshoes found on the farm. The inverted horseshoes of this centrepiece are in keeping with the tradition at a cavalryman’s funeral, where his boots are reversed in the stirrups on his horse.

Horse Memorial Weston

The structure is topped with a specially crafted bronze statue of a horse.

horsememorialdetail

Three examples from the remembrance plaques clearly demonstrate how the war horses were regarded by the men they served:

  • Natal Field Artillery Established 1862: To the horses that served the guns and other animals in the supply chain.
  • The Light Dragoons: In memory of gallant horses of the 13th, 18th and 19th Hussars that perished during the South African Campaign 1899-1902.
  • The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery: In honour of horses that faithfully served during the South African War 1899-1902.

horsememorialplaques