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Boer guerrillas during the Second Boer War

5 little known facts about the Boer War

Boer guerrillas during the Second Boer War (colourised)

The Boer War is also known as the South African War or the Anglo-Boer War. It was a conflict that raged throughout the British Empire and the Boer Republic between 1899 and 1902.

Here are some of the lesser-known facts about the war.

1. The most scarred soldier was British

Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart, a war veteran, had one eye and one hand. He fought across three conflicts, survived a prisoner of war camp and even a plane crash. He fought in the Boer War, World War I and World War II. During his time, he was also shot in the skull, ankle, leg, hip and ear. He was often seen by his troops pulling a pin out of a grenade with his teeth, before sending them over the trenches with his one good arm.

His actions were especially notable during the Battle of the Somme. He's one of the most scarred soldiers in Britain and when he signed off his autobiography, he wrote: ‘Frankly, I had enjoyed the war.’ He’s reached a high level of popularity with historians and musicians, with Swedish heavy metal band Sabaton releasing a song about him last year, called The Unkillable Solider.

2. A German spy profited from British ship explosions

Fritz Joubert Duquesne lost his family during this war. He also lost his farm, and this led to him becoming a German spy as a way to make some money. He travelled the world under various aliases in an attempt to go under the radar. He was imprisoned by the Portuguese once, and the British three times.

He became a ringleader for Germany, sabotaging British ships with concealed bombs. He sometimes took out insurance policies on the ships he sabotaged and then filed claims for damages.

3. Concentration camps were rife during the Boer War

There is a lot of evidence to suggest there were concentration camps in Spain, Great Britain and the US. Over 100,000 civilians had to relocate to concentration camps and a lot of them suffered and perished from starvation and disease. 20,000 Black Africans died in concentration camps, where they were sent to stop them from supplying the Boers.

4. Vincent Van Gogh’s younger brother was a war veteran

Vincent Van Gogh had a brother who died during the Boer War. Not much is known about him, but it is known that he committed suicide in South Africa during the height of the war. He is also the subject of a biography written by Chris Schoeman - which was released in 2015.

5. Admiral Walter Cowan attacked an Italian tank with a revolver

Admiral Walter Cowan was one of the oldest soldiers in World War II and he was also a veteran of the Boer War. He was captured at Bir Hakeim and during this time, he was armed with only a revolver. Even with a poor weapon, he unleashed an attack on the crew of a disabled Italian tank and emerged victorious.