British logistics in the Second Boer War

British Logistics In The Second Boer War

British logistics in the Second Boer War

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The Second Boer War (1899-1902) involved the British in a global logistics effort. According to the contemporary military writer, Alfred Thayer Mahan, the transportation required by the war in South Africa was “an incident unprecedented, and in its success unsurpassed, in military history.”


Animals were an important part of the supply load, drawn from across the British Empire as well as Europe and the Americas. 360,000 horses out of a total of 519,000, had to be shipped into South Africa. 106,000 mules and donkeys out of a total of 151,000 were also brought into the region for the war. Food was brought from Britain. The British drew upon food reserves that were kept at Woolwich, London, prior to the war. By 30 September 1900, 298,000 water bottles, 41,000 camp kettles, and 384,000 bars of soap had been purchased in Britain and sent to South Africa. With the colleries of the Transvaal unavailable and those of Natal under enemy occupation, there were limited stocks of coal in South Africa. The naval base at Simon’s Town near Cape Town had only a reserve of 13,000 tons at the start of the war. Much of this too had to be transported from Britain. Construction material was sent. Enough was shipped to rebuild destroyed railway bridges along the whole length of the Orange Free State. 118,000 rifles, 8,500 carbines, and 2,300 pistols were sent out between 1 June 1899 and the end of the war. Accompanying these were 139...
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