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Colonial Pavilions at the Empire Exhibition 1938

Here are two more of my collection of postcards of the Empire Exhibition, Scotland 1938.

The first shows three of the Colonial Pavilions, part of the South African building on left – one of the few “traditional” structures present (rather than the deco/moderne that dominated the Exhibition) – then New Zealand and finally Canada. As ever Thomas Tait’s Tower of Empire is in the background.

This next one is captioned wrongly. It shows the South African and New Zealand Pavilions and not Australia.

Nelson Mandela

There’s not much you can say.

Perhaps the greatest person to come to prominence in my lifetime, almost the only one who set an example of forgiveness.

He was 95 and it was too much to expect he could linger for much longer.

He will be missed in South Africa.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela: 18/7/1918 – 5/12/2013. So it goes.

Goodbye Dolly

Due to being at the game on Saturday and a family night out the same evening I more or less missed the sad news of the death of Basil D’Oliveira.

It’s not given to many sporstmen to affect materially the social organisation of their native (or any other) country – even inadvertently – but that is what Basil D’Oliviera did.

I remember him as a composed batsman, an elegant stroke maker, but it is his contribution to the unwinding of the apartheid regime in South Africa that will be more commented on. There had been protests against that system before but it was the refusal of the then South African government to countenance his membership of an MCC touring party with the certainty that the “coloured” D’Oliveira would have played in Test matches in the country of his birth – albeit for England – that crystallised for many the iniquity of apartheid and its eventual downfall through various sporting boycotts and isolation. For D’Oliviera seemed the epitome of the cricketing ideal, sportsmanlike and dignified on the field, and his banning by the regime an act of extreme petty spitefulness.

His actual age may have been older than many sources quote as he may have given the impression he was younger than he was in order to be chosen to play for England. His wiki entry quotes a source for this.

Basil Lewis D’Oliveira: 4/10/1931-19/11/2011. So it goes.

The Anglo-Boer Wars by Michael Barthorp

The British and the Afrikaners 1815-1902. Blandford Press, 1988. 176p


After coming across two memorials to the “South African War” on my recent trip down south (see two of my five previous posts) I decided to read this book at long last.

While purporting to be a complete guide to the Anglo-Boer disagreements of the nineteenth century, which mainly focused on the differing attitudes of Boers and British to the rights of the majority population of the Cape, Barthorp merely sketches the early history and does not devote much space to the First Boer War – for a good account of which see the book of that title by Joseph Lehmann – and concentrates mainly on the military aspects of the Second rather than the political (which is explored more fully in Thomas Pakenham’€™s The Boer War.)

Both of the conflicts were characterised on the British side by the usual early lack of troops, muddle, disorganisation and, typical of the colonial era, underestimation of the enemy. In both wars the courage of the rank and file British soldier was never in doubt while the Boers were always adept. The political will at Westminster to carry on in the first war was lacking and so peace – with independence for the Transvaal and Orange Free State – came quickly.

Due to the influence of Cecil Rhodes and Sir Alfred Milner the same was no longer true in 1899 and the second war was prolonged. After initial reverses the British began to prevail when Lord Roberts – not long from his triumphant march from Kabul to Kandahar (some areas of conflict never change) – took overall command. Eventually the greater weight of British numbers and materièl as well as increased ability to deal with their more mobile enemy pushed the Boers into avoiding set piece confrontations and to rely on guerilla warfare – at which they were particularly effective. Even Kitchener’€™s blockhouse system failed to contain them.

In this context Barthorp mentions the collection of Boer non-combatants into camps and the subsequent toll of disease and death but does not see this as a great influence on the morale or effectiveness of the Boer commandos, though it was a propaganda calamity for Britain. He notes the eerie similarity of the battles of Majuba and Spion Kop in the two wars – both eminently avoidable battles for the British and both bloody defeats. He also gives General Buller more credit than I have seen him afforded elsewhere.

The book has occasional maps but a few more would have made certain of the troop movements clearer than the text manages.

Like some Boers a few British officers fought in both conflicts. Many of those engaged in the second war (French, Rawlinson, Gough, Ian Hamilton, Smith-Dorrien, Allenby, Mahon, Haig) and one of the Boers (Smuts) went on to have prominent roles in World War 1, though perhaps failing to learn fully the lessons of the up-to-date weaponry employed. A photograph of the British dead in the enfiladed trench at Spion Kop is reminiscent of one of the sunken road at Antietam in the American Civil War. 21,000 of the 450,000 Empire troops who were engaged overall died (62% from disease.) This explains the war memorials. There were 52,000 other casualties. Estimated Boer troop numbers vary from a curiously precise 87,365 to a rounder 65,000, with some 4,000 dead. An additional 20,000 Boers incarcerated in the camps also died.

While gaining independence in 1881 and then losing it in 1902 the Boers could curiously be said to have won in the second case also since in 1910, a scant eight years after the treaty of Vereeniging which ended the Second War of Independence, as the Boers called it, the Union of South Africa (including not only the Transvaal and the Orange Free State but also the erstwhile British dominated Cape Colony and Natal) was granted full independence within the Empire. The Boers swiftly came to dominate it and in 1948 completed the process by leaving the Commonwealth.

Barthorp notes a final irony. That while the Boers’€™ attitudes remained unchanged those in Britain who were most against fighting them in the nineteenth century had political heirs who were most forward in condemning the Republic’€™s policies regarding the black population in the latter twentieth century. (The book was published before the release of Nelson Mandela and majority rule.) He fails to point out the corollary, though. Those in favour of fighting the wars had political heirs who were against any interference with, or even criticism of, the apartheid state.

France 0-2 Mexico

Peter Mokaba Stadium, Polokwane, 17/6/10

The better team (by a country mile) won this game.

A France side which in retrospect was in decline even as long ago as when Scotland beat them twice in the last World Cup qualifiers, had no invention, no spark and looked disinterested.

Mexico by contrast were bright and fluid and constantly looked threatening.

France are out unless they hump the hosts and there is not a draw in the other game (or, if head-to-head results count before goal difference only if Mexico beat Uruguay.)

The TV pundits seemed to think Uruguay and Mexico might collude to draw and thus eliminate both Bafana Bafana and the French.


Would you want to come second in this group?

Okay you would have got through but it would also mean most likely facing Argentina in the second round. (I can’t see Greece beating them to come first in Group B.)

Countdown Over

Big day today.

Especially for South Africa.

African Cup Of Nations

The attack on the Togolese national team bus in Cabinda, Angola which has triggered their government’s decision to order them home is, of course, shocking. My sympathies go to those who have lost their lives or been injured, and to their families.

The shootings do, though, raise a question about why Angola was chosen as the host nation but moreover why, when that country was given the nod, Cabinda was allocated as a venue for some of the games.

It seems that, while elsewhere in Angola is more or less trouble free, Cabinda was well known as a dangerous area. Would it not have been wiser to avoid it?

Still, the milk, not to mention the blood, has been spilt now.

What I will say is this. The absolute necessity after any such event, whether it be terrorist attack, a criminal endeavour or even an act of foreign enemy is to carry on regardless. This is what Londoners did during the Blitz, what Birmingham, Manchester, Warrington and London did after IRA bombings.

Despite the fact that they would not perhaps have been in the correct frame of mind to take part in football matches the Togolese players may have wished to do this. Their government, as is its right, has taken the view that they should not place themselves in more danger.

(Aside:- where does this rate on FIFA’s dictum that governments should not interfere with the affairs of their footballing authorities?)

Togo’s government’s position should not be that of the tournament organisers, however. If the tournament had not gone ahead it would have sent a signal to any group of nutters that they could prevent international sporting events from occurring – or even being scheduled. That is surely not an outcome to be preferred.

The suitability of South Africa to host this summer’s World Cup ought not to be affected by any of this. Yes, Angola borders South Africa but I believe that border is hundreds of miles from where the matches are to take place and security ought not to be unduly affected on that score.

PS. Unlike the past few occasions the African Cup Of Nations does not seem to be available on any of the BBC channels.

Pity. I had been looking forward to it.

Later edited to add:- Angola does not have a border with South Africa. (I was confusing it with Namibia, which does. They’re both up the left side a bit.)

World Cup Finals Draw

No sooner had the tedious process finished than Motty was at it again. England willl win it, he said.

At least Alan Shearer and Mark Lawrenson went for Spain and Brazil – though, historically, Spain have an even poorer World Cup record than England. (Not so in European Championships, of course.)

There was a degree of unseemly euphoria at England’s “good” draw and first place in the group was taken for granted. Already it was so-and-so (possibly Germany, though the likely alternatives, Australia – even Serbia and Ghana – could be tough prospects) in the last sixteen and France in the quarter finals.

Let us be clear about this. The USA are no mugs. They could have won the Confederations Cup last summer. If the USA play to form, England will be stretched to beat them. Algeria beat the African Nations champions, Egypt, to qualify and Slovenia may well spring a surprise.

[By the way, judging by how France struggled to qualify, they will only get to the last sixteen if Uruguay and South Africa are mince. I expect at least one of them to be tougher.]

As for the quarter finals, that will be your lot. Overseas it usually is.

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