University of Botswana History Department

Boer War Pages, no. 3:
Reports in The Times

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Reports in The Times (London) newspaper on the Boer War in south-eastern Botswana,

including the Battle of Crocodile Pools, 17 January-24 February 1900. [NB what became the Bechuanaland Protectorate Police was at that time temporarily part of the British South Africa Police and was therefore included among 'Rhodesian field forces' in accounts of the war.]

Fri Oct 13 1899, page 5 columns b-c:

Lobatsi Oct 11: Assistant Commissioner Surmon from Gaberones says Boer ultimatum expires tonight, and hostilities expected tomorrow (Thursday 12th). Boer camp [at Manwane or Gopanestad] 9 miles from Lobatsi, and have fortified hills overlooking station. Native refugees arriving there from Transvaal.

Mafeking great fear of attack. Unconfirmed report that Boers have arrangement with Chief Linchwe (Mochudi) 'under which he will take up arms against the British'.

Sat Oct 14 p.7a:

October 13: Boer attack on armoured rain at Kraaipan south of Mafeking. Boer laager under Commandant Schwartz at Maanwane, 9 miles from Lobatsi. War opening with Boer strategy of advances into Natal and Bechuanaland.

Weds Oct 18, p.5a-b:

Pretoria report that Transvaal forces have cut the railway between Lobatsi and Aasvogel Kop [Otse].

Thurs Oct 19, p.5a-b:

Boers captured Lobatsi 'village' (station and telegraph office), and 'Several Kaffirs are reported to have been killed'. Marico commandos under Commandant Cronje.

Sat Oct 21, p.7b:

Transvaal source claims Thursday 12th morning 500 men from Cronje's forces cut railway at Kraaipan, and Marico commando attacked Ramatlabama.

Sat Oct 28, p.7b:

Bulawayo Oct 23: 'A large Boer commando is threatening Khama's country. The chief Linchwe remains loyal.'

Mon Oct 30, p.5d:

Oct 14: Lieut. Llewellyn [armoured train] holding off Boers north of Ootse.

Oct 16: 'Linchwe is loyal, the presence of troops and the results of recent actions having revived his confidence.'

Oct 17: Armoured train has ventured as far south as 7 miles north of Lobatsi. Separate report of skirmish of Boers [with train] 3 miles south of Crocodile Pools.

Tues Nov 1, no pagination or column:

War Office (London) confirms skirmish at Crocodile Pools Oct 17th.

Mon Nov 6, p.5d:

Oct 27: Llewellyn [train] has retired [north] from Mochudi, while Boers retired south [!]

Thur Nov 9, p.5c:

Phoney report of Plumer [with Rhodesian forces at Fort Tuli] having reached Asvogel Kop [Otse].

Wed Nov 15, p.5a

[Bulawayo?] Oct 31: report received by runner from Mafeking via Mahalapye, that Cronje objects to Baden-Powell arming natives at Mafeking. Powell says for self-defence.

Thur Nov 16, n.p.

Bulawayo Nov 3: Armoured train finds railway bridge broken just north of Mochudi [Mochudi Road station - i.e. Molotwana]. Basuto scouts [Protectorate Native Police] report that Boers have gone back to Sikwani [Derdepoort] to fetch waggons to collect loot.

Bulawayo Nov 6: Armoured trains have retired to Mahalapye station base. 'The chief Linchwe, who was at first loyal, is now thought to be wavering.'

Mon Nov 27, p.7d

Bulawayo Nov 15: 'The railway is bringing a number of natives from Khama's country who had left the Rand.'

Tues Nov 28, p.5a

Transvaal republic protests in Paris (France) against British use of armed natives, e.g. 100 'armed Kaffir auxiliaries' with British against Boers in skirmish near Mafeking on October 18th. So 'the British Government commits the unpardonable crime of arming blacks against whites in the struggle unjustly forced on the South African Republic'.

Wed Nov. 19, p.5a

Kuruman mission station church successfully defended against 500 Boers by Magistrate with 20 natives and 30 half-castes.

Fri Dec 9, p.5c

Col. Holdsworth left Mochudi Nov 24th for Sequani [Sikwane/ Derdepoort] where Boers are in laager. Surprised enemy. Killed 8 including a Potgieter. [No mention of BaKgatla by The Times]

Nov 28: Boers have destroyed railway bridge at Crocodile Pools.

Mon Dec 11, p.7c

Mention of native sharp-shooters in defence of Mafeking.

Weds Dec 13, p.7b

British forces from Rhodesia have advanced via Mahalapye to find Gaberones abandoned by the war. Repairing railway as they proceed.

Thurs Dec 21, p.5b

War Office acknowledges Boers attacked Khama's men at Selika on Nov 27, and Linchwe's village near Sikwane on Nov 30.

Thurs Dec 28, p.3d

Mochudi Dec 13: Much rain in the past few days. British troops are assembled at Mochudi [Molotwana], awaiting repair of rail bridges before advance to Crocodile Pools. Troops making a dam [at Molotwana?]. Boer patrols pester railway repair team in armoured train, and are greeted with a Maxim-gun.

Captured Boer mail shows 20 out of 90 Boer men were killed by Holdsworth's force in Sikwane laager [on Nov 25th].

Boers have concentrated at Crocodile Pools, with 2 cannons and 2 machine-guns, and 'intend making a firm stand there.'

The natives of Kanye [BaNgwaketse], Molepolole [BaKwena] and Moshupa [BaKgatla-baga-Mmanaana] are 'much irritated at the presence of the Boers, and are very anxious to attack them and drive them back into the Transvaal.'

Mon Jan 1, p.5c

Transvaal report Dec 29: heavy fighting between Boers and natives for 7 hours at Derdepoort. 2 Boers killed, 7 wounded.

Sat Jan 6, p.5b

Bulawayo Dec 31: Boer garrison at Sikwane 'reported to have been considerably reinforced'.

Mon Jan 15, p.5c

Mochudi Jan 5: Railway bridge previously repaired 4 miles south of Gaberones now a smoking ruin again. Boer patrols around Gaberones led to [second] British withdrawal to Mochudi advance post.

Thurs Jan 18, p.5c

Milepost 1016 [miles from Cape Town on railway] near Mochudi, dispatch via Beira Jan 11: Col.Plumer has arrived here with advance party of Rhodesian forces from Fort Tuli.

Estimated 200 Boers at Sikwane, 30 miles south-east of Mochudi. Crocodile Pools gun emplacements under German artillery officers. Enemy provisions reported low.

Fri Jan 19, p.5c

Mafeking via Mochudi runner Jan 3: Baden-Powell & Goold-Adams have deposed Chief Wessels because he spread rumours that military wished Barolong to become slaves.

Mon Jan 22. p.5d

Mochudi Jan 12 (via Beira Jan 15): Boer patrol appeared this morning while dark 1 mile north of Gaberones station. Tried to capture station but frustrated by two armoured trains.

Bulawayo Jan 15: Plumer's [Flying Column] now at Gaberones. Replacing some Bulawayo volunteers (under Col.Napier) who returned home after finishing 6 week contract.

Gaberones Jan 14 (via Beira Jan 15): Col.Plumer's recce this morning shows Boer position one mile south of Crocodile Pools station [siding), and railway bridge over Metsewapani [later given as Metsemaswani] badly damaged. German volunteer Liebold from Bulawayo has deserted to Boers.

Gaberones n.d.(via Beira Jan 16): During last night Col.Plumer led mounted troop in the rain as far south as destroyed bridge over Metsewapani, which could not cross as in flood. Another bridge 3 miles south of Gaberones has been rebuilt. Boer camps at both Crocodile Pools and Sikwane.

Wed Jan 24, p.5c

Gaberones Jan 17: Boers fired 16 shells at armoured train [north of Crocodile Pools] from 5,800 yards. Cycle patrol discovered Boers on Basuto Kopje this morning, so Basuto Kopje and neighbouring hill occupied by Col. Boodle's mounted infantry this afternoon.

Sat Feb 3, p.5c

Gaberones Jan 20: Action with Maxim-gun against Boers on neighbouring hills. Crocodile Pools Jan 23: Rhodesia Regiment patrol recce'd Boer laager this morning.

Sat Feb 10, p.7d

Gaberones Jan 31: Artillery battle at Crocodile Pools 4,300 yard range between forces of Col.Plumer and Commandant Eloff.

Gaberones Feb 4: British claim to have silenced Boer guns at Crocodile Pools today.

Thur Feb 15, p.3a

Gaberones Feb 9: 600 enemy at Crocodile Pools. Gun battle continues: Plumer now with 12-pounder. Boers occupy line of kopjes near the Pools. Plumer has today established advanced camp 5 miles south of Gaberones.

[Kimberley relieved Feb 16th]

Thur Feb 22, p.5d

Gaberones Feb 12: Failure of Major Bird's night attack on Boers near Crocodile Pools. Father Hartmann (Catholic) and Archdeacon Upcher (Anglican) sent by Plumer to retrieve British bodies from Boers.

Fri Feb 23, p.5c

Gaberones Feb 16: Artillery bombardment continues between British on Basuto Kopje and Boers at Crocodile Pools. Small hill between the two sides referred to as "Spitzkop" temporarily occupied by the Boers.

Gaberones Feb 17: Over last 2 to 3 days Boers at Crocodile Pools have been reinforced from Boers besieging Mafeking. Linchwe has sent 800 [BaKgatla] men to defend borders against Boers.

Mon Feb 26, p.5c

Gaberones Feb 16: Another bombardment and skirmish today. Boers at Crocodile Pools reinforced by 4 regiments of Kalifen's tribe [BaHurutshe of Ikalafeng, from Dinokane].

Thurs March 8, p.5c-d

Plumer's camp Feb 25: Patrols this morning confirmed that Boers had abandoned their positions at Crocodile Pools in the night, and have retreated towards Lobatsi. Tonight Plumer's men occupy old Boer positions on both sides of the railway line at Crocodile Pools. The Matsemaswane bridge is repaired, and so armoured trains can almost reach Ramoutsa. Boer troops said to be suffering from enteric fever. British troops have erected cairn to Maj.French where he fell [during Bird's night attack on Feb 11th-12th].

Wed March 14, p.5c

Bulawayo March 5: Plumer has warned Sikwane [Derdepoort] Boers that he cannot be held responsible for attacks on them by Bakgatla if they continue to raid the Bakgatla. Linchwe has captured 6 waggons, 140 horses, and killed several Boers [at Kaye Pits/ Kayesput south of Derdepoort].

Bulawayo March 6: Plumer occupied Lobatsi on morning of March 5th, meeting no opposition. Railway has now been repaired to 2 miles north of Lobatsi.

Thur March 15, p.5b

Plumer's camp at Lobatsi: Boers now in laager at Gopani's town [Manwane] 10 miles east of Lobatsi, according to Plumer's recce'd yesterday. 'Gopani's people [BaHurutshe] profess pleasure at the advent of the British.'

Sat March 17, p.7c

Reports of clashes over cattle and food, and deaths between Boers and natives [BaTlhaping], at Taung south of Mafeking.

Mon March 19, p.7d

No place, datelined March 14: Boers have retired from Sikwane back to Rustenburg [leaving district to BaKgatla].

Tues March 20, p.5a

Mafeking March 10: News that Cronje is disarming his native allies for 'having exceeded their orders by murdering women and innocent children instead of confining themselves to making war on dispatch riders and cattle thieves.' Followed by news of Cronje's surrender to British in Orange Free State.

Fri March 23, p.3a

Lobatsi March 15: British armoured train from Lobatse on March 13th ventured towards Pitsane Poltoko [between Lobatse and Mafikeng, made famous as base for the Jameson Raid], ambushed by Boers awaiting the train with a gun on a curve in the line. Boers nearly captured the train's Maxim-gun. By March 15th the enemy had retaken the railway to within 4 miles of Lobatsi.

Lobatsi March 16: Boer forces from Mafeking under Gen. Snyman now advancing on Lobatsi.

Lobatsi March 16 second report: Enemy has attacked Lobatsi with artillery on ridge 4000 yards SE of British camp. But 'Our right flank is protected by the chief Bathoen, who has warned the Boers not to enter his territory. It is improbable that they will do so. Since their ill-advised raids on Linchwe the Dutch have a wholesome dread of the natives.' Enemy now destroying railway south of Lobatsi: believed to be no Boers left at their Ramatlabama main camp for the Mafeking siege.

Sat March 24, p.7a

[First time that Plumer's Flying Column is the lead story on the Foreign News pages] Despatch from Plumer dated March 16 [sic-should be 15 see below], Lobatsi:
Boers advanced this morning from Goode [sic] siding and met 'Sharp little engagment' with Lt.Col. Bodle's advanced force, which then retreated back to 'our main position'. British forces (BSA Police & Rhodesian Volunteers) suffered 2 wounded, 2 taken prisoner (including Lt. Chapman), 2 others missing probably captured.

Second engagement in afternoon when Plumer's force was shelled from a ridge on their left front. 2 killed: Lt. Tyler and "one native".

Bulawayo March 19: Correcting earlier report in issue of Mon March 19, p.7d. Plumer's vanguard [armoured train] only reached 6 miles south of Lobatsi to camp on March 14th. Boers attacked and drove Boodle back to Lobatse on March 15th, and shelled camp killing Lt. Tyler. Then artillery duel at 2000 yard range. Plumer retired under darkness that night back to Crocodile Pools, and his base-hospital was moved back to Gaberones.

Mon March 26, p.5b

Mafeking March 14: Boers have resumed shelling again to prove that not all had gone to Lobatsi. Baden-Powell 'has appointed a board of officers to enquire into the native question' [unwillingness to share military food supplies with BaRolong].

Weds March 28, p.5b

Mafeking second dispatch March 14: Baden-Powell has retrained Barolong from trying to capture the Boers' big gun. Feelings are high among Barolong men against Boer murders of their women and children. [BaRolong now feature large in newspaper reports of the garrison's offensive actions against the enemy]

Thurs March 29, p.5b

Mafeking March 16: Board on native food supply at Mafeking. Boers are building up base camp at Ramatlhabama, to prepare offensive against Plumer's Column through Pitsane Potloko.

[No mentions of Plumer's Column avoiding Lobatse by diverting to from Crocodile Pools/Ramotswa to BaNgwaketse protection at Kanye in April-May, nor of Kanye as destination of refugees expelled from Mafikeng by Baden-Powell.]

Mon May 21, p.6d-e

Crocodile Pools March 18,'With Col. Plumer's Column in Bechuanaland' [publication presumably delayed by WO censorship: account of Crocodile Pools and retreat from Lobatsi with diversion to Kanye.].

Plumer's "Rhodesian field forces" number 700 in total.

"...for some time past the authorities have been quietly accumulating large quantities of provisions and other stores at Kanya, about 60 miles to the westward of here" in preparation for relieving Mafeking.

"[At Crocodile Pools] For fully six weeks the main body of our troops occupied one ridge-a line of koppies to the north of the Metsimasuane bridge; while another ridge has been held by the enemy. Both ridges command the railway..."

"On the ridge occupied by the Boers a strongly-fortified laager has been constructed, as well as a system of schansjes [trenches] which were brought up to within 700 yards of our outlying pickets; but on February 26 the Dutchmen somewhat suddenly evacuated this coign of advantage....Our scouts completely lost sight, and as our Intelligence Department advised Colonel Plumer that there was not a Boer between him and Mafeking, an advance on Lobatsi-about 45 miles from the besieged town-was ordered, the armoured train being first dispatched to Pitsani-Potlhogo (the memorable sopt where the Jameson raiders mobilized in 1895) to repair the railway and telegraph lines. Ultimately our base and hospital, with rations for 30 days, were transferred to Lobatsi railway station. At the same time a column of 300 men with three guns were sent to the west in the direction of Kanya, with the object, it may be presumed, of conveying to Mafeking the accumulated stores already referred to; while Colonel Bodle of the British South Africa Police, with 150 men and a Maxim, was ordered to occupy Pitsani..."

At 6am on March 13 two columns set out. Bodle reached 20 miles south of Lobatsi when he was overtaken by messengers from Plumer, with orders for 3 guns and squadron under Capt. MacLaren to return to Lobatsi - which they reached after a night march on the morning of March 15. The Lobatse camp heard firing from the south and then saw Bodle's men retreating towards them in a hurry.

"From the plain intersected by ridges, such as those between Mochudi and Gaberones, the kopjes rise in numerous and lofty masses, and for a considerable distance the district is distinctly mountainous with the railway running through ravines. Indeed, a more picturesque spot is not to be found between Bulawayo and the Hex River Pass in Cape Colony."

Col. Plumer "had, in fact, been drawn into a trap" because of the "mistake" of his intelligence officers. Bodle made a well-executed retreat-covering his moving wagons by "a crescent with a stiffening at the horns" of his men. But Boer scouts ahead of his retreat pounced on 4 of Bodle's men as they passed through the bushes, taking them prisoner. The main Boer party followed in Bodle's wake, destroying the railway. British guns shelled Boer herds of cattle at up to 3 miles distant.

By 5pm on March 15 the Boers were 2500yards from Lobatse camp, pouring their fire into the cattle and horse lines. Tyler was killed by a shell in his tent. Then darkness came and firing ceased until the next day (March 16), when an artillery battle commenced at dawn firing 2320 yards. After that there was silence for the rest of the day. The British/ Rhodesian forces may have hit one of the Boer guns, as much smoke and dirt was kicked up around it.

"At sunset the men were ordered to move under cover of darkness. Colonel Plumer with the mounted men moved off towards Kanya, while the remainder of the force entrained at Lobatsi and fell back on Crocodile Pools, the men having had scarcely anything to eat for 48 hours. But our difficulties were now over and the success of the retrograde movement which had been suddenly forced upon us was now complete. On the following morning (March 17) the armoured train again patrolled steadily in the direction of Lobatsi and beyond Ootsi siding, where it was shelled by the Boers, who had evidently taken very little time in occupying the position we had been obliged to abandon. Indeed, as our rearguard marched out they must have marched in. We are now occupying the old Boer laager [at Crocodile Pools] where, for the first time, we are in a position of practically absolute safety. What will be the next move remains to be seen.

[No other stories noted for the rest of the year 1900.]

Mon Aug 5, 1901, p.6a-b

'Kaffirs and the War' (SEE ORIGINAL NEWSPAPER): Both British and Boers dependent on native scouts for intelligence.

[Followed by correspondence on letters pages.]

Wed Aug 29, 1901, p.8b

Report of interview with ex-President Paul Kruger by Irish Nationalist M.P., W.Redmond [carried in The Freeman's Journal, Sat Aug 17th]. Kruger responds to Chamberlain's suggestion that Boers were using black auxiliaries: 'Early in the war, at Derdepoort, natives armed and led by Englishmen attacked our camps and murdered some women and children, and carried others away. The Swaziland Kaffirs did the same thing, instigated by the British. We never used armed Kaffirs. It has always been against our principles to use a black man against a white.'

General Sir Revers Buller (Government House, Farnborough, Hampshire) responds: It is true that Linchwe raided the Transvaal, and may have involved whites in his raid, 'but I am positive that it was absolutely untrue to suggest that the raid as made could in any sense be attributed to the action of the British Government: 'it is absolutely false to say that during those [first] twelve months [of the war] the English ever used armed Kaffirs.'

Sat Sept 28, 1901, no pagination:

Lord Roberts responds that he 'believes armed natives have never been used for fighting purposes.'

Mon Sept 23, 1901, p.8a:

War Office (London) press release on 20 cases of 'Shooting of Natives by Boers' in the Rustenburg District.

Fri Dec 27, 1901, p.3a

Report of large Boer commando attack on Linchwe's Bakgatla in the Pilanesberg, who had rustled 60,000 Boer cattle. 'Linchwe has appealed to the authorities to be allowed to defend his people and to recover his cattle.'

Mon March 17, 1902, p.5c

Petition of 'native committee' signed by 1,479 people to Deputy Commissioner Bloemfontein, Orange River Colony, for onward transmission to the Secretary of State for the Colonies - asking for their rights as British subjects, including freedom to own land, equal education, and representation in Parliament.

Sat March 29, 1902, p.5f

Letter from P.L. Gell referring to recent London parliamentary debate on British use of armed natives (March 21, p.5f). Justifies arming coloured people including the Barolong at Mafeking who share British citizenship, and Basuto, Bakgatla and Bamangwato with a right to defend themselves against Boer attack. But thinks Linchwe went too far in capturing Boer women and children, whom he then handed over to the Rhodesian forces.

Sat 25 Oct, 1902, p.6a

Letter from E.J. Nankiwell criticizing the account of the 1852 Boer attack on the BaKwena at Kolobeng [and Dimawe] in Kruger's memoirs.

See also Page 1: Outline of the Boer War (Ka Ntwa Ya Maburu) in Botswana and Page 2: the Battle of Derdepoort


  1. Crocodile Pools is the name of the stream that joins the Ngotwane river from the east near the later Ngotwane railway dam. The Transvaal-Botswana border which runs north up the middle of the Ngotwane river, turns east at this point, following the course of the Crocodile Pools stream and thence straight along some hill ridges towards Tlokweng/ Kopfontein border-post. The western end of the dam wall is where President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia was treated to his first sighting of South African soil, in the 1960s, hence it is known as 'Kaunda's View'.
  2. Basuto Kopje is believed to have been named in memory of Trooper Chere of the Protectorate Native Police, the first official British casualty of the war in Botswana. Travelling south on the railway from Gaborone it is the first hill and ridge on the right, just after the first large railway bridge. From the old gun emplacements on the hill, the ridge occupied by Transvaal artillery can be seen in the distance to the south-east (stretching along the back of the Crocodile Pools stream). Spitzkop presumably refers to the isolated small hill on the left just as the railway crosses the Metsemaswane river, where the gun emplacement was covered by a water tank eighty years later.

Some further Reading on the war around Fort Gaberones and the battle of Crocodile Pools

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