Reconsideration of the Battle of Sandfontein : the first phase of the German South West Africa campaign, August to September 1914

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This thesis investigates the first phase of the German South West African military campaign during August - September 1914, conducted by the Union Defence Force on behalf of the South African government and British Empire. Its primary focus concerns the battle of Sandfontein on 26 September, and it attempts to re-explain and reinterpret events at this military engagement, with the specific emphasis upon trying to enlarge our understanding of why the defeat occurred, revealing the muted controversies surrounding it, and analysing how nearly three hundred UDF troops endured the horror of being trapped and shelled for a full day on a desert koppie. Besides describing, contextualising, utilising, and challenging the older historiography on Sandfontein, which consists essentially of dated patriotic battle accounts, more recent works in military history, including methodologies intended to analyse and explain how men endure in modern warfare, have been juxtaposed with numerous archival and secondary sources. Other issues concerning the first phase of the GSWA invasion, neglected or ignored in earlier historiography, have also received attention. These include the experiences of the force's black members, the white politcal disputes that assisted the shifting of defeat culpability to Afrikaner Rebels, and the colonial police background of Lukin's force which it is suggested, was not entirely suitable for suddenly embarking upon conventional modern war.

Bibliography: leaves 199-212.