xxxxxAs we have seen, the British suffered a humiliating defeat in the First Anglo-Boer War of 1881, allowing the Boers to regain control of the Transvaal. The opportunity for revenge came with the discovery of vast gold deposits south of Johannesburg in 1886. This led to a large influx of fortune seekers, and these Uitlanders (foreigners or outsiders) posed a threat to the Boer government. Restrictions were imposed on their right to vote and take up permanent residence, but this only exacerbated the situation. In 1895 the foreign workers in Johannesburg planned a resurrection and Cecil Rhodes, then president of the Cape Colony, planned an attack in support of them in order to bring about the overthrow of the Transvaal government. He figured that Britain could then take control of the country, together with the Orange Free State, and his own gold mining company could benefit from the new finds. But the “Jameson Raid”, led by Rhodes’ right-hand man Leander Starr Jameson, was launched prematurely. The small army was harassed by the Boers and finally forced to surrender at Doornkop, some twenty miles short of Johannesburg, early in January 1896. In Britain this aroused strong antagonism towards the Boers and towards the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II, who congratulated the Transvaal government on their success. Eventually, after a number of failed attempts to persuade the Boers to give equality to British subjects in the Transvaal, the British government - clearly determined to regain control over this lucrative area - made unacceptable demands upon the Transvaal president, Paul Kruger, and the Second Anglo-Boer War broke out in October 1899.

THE JAMESON RAID  1895 / 1896  (Vc)


Surrender: published in the French newspaper Le Petit Parisien (1876-1944) in 1896, artist unknown. Wilhelm II: detail, by the English portrait painter Arthur Stockdale Cope (1857-1940), 1895 – Royal Collection, UK. Kruger: 1879, photographer unknown. Jameson: by the Irish studio photographer George Charles Beresford (1864-1938), 1913 – National Portrait Gallery, London. Mashonaland: date and artist unknown, contained in The British South African Colonial Historical Catalogue and Souvenir of Rhodesia, Empire Exhibition, Johannesburg, 1936-1937. Shangani Patrol: by the Scottish painter Allan Stewart (1865-1951), 1896, contained in South Africa and the Transvaal War by Louis Creswicke, published 1900 – The Project Gutenberg. Map (Rhodesia): from Raid: date and artist unknown. Grave: by photographer Geoff Cooke.

xxxxxAs we have seen, by the First Anglo-Boer War, ending in 1881, the Boer state of Transvaal regained its independence, lost in 1877. From the British point of view it was an humiliating defeat, both from the political and military point of view. The liberal government, led by prime minister William Gladstone, - a man opposed to colonialism - was prepared to let matters rest, but for many in high places and in the public at large, it was a defeat that needed to be avenged.

xxxxxThe opportunity to do so came five years later when large gold deposits were discovered in the Witwatersrand Basin and other areas just south of modern-day Johannesburg. This brought a large influx of fortune seekers into the Transvaal - many from Britain - and this seriously undermined the stability of the country. The Boers found themselves outnumbered two to one by these Uitlanders (foreigners or outsiders) and they feared that such a situation would provide yet another opportunity for the British to seize control of the country. They had good cause for such fears, particularly as London at that time was the capital of the world’s gold trade, and these new deposits posed a serious threat to the city’s financial status.

xxxxxTo meet this crisis the Transvaal government imposed severe restrictions upon the new comers. For the majority of them, the right to vote and the right to obtain permanent residency were withheld, and the income from this new, lucrative industry was heavily taxed. But this policy only served to make matters worse. The new-comers strongly objected to such treatment and opposition mounted. In the gold-rush town of Johannesburg - where the Uitlanders were in large numbers - there was open talk of insurrection, and a plan was drawn up to seize the armoury at Pretoria. As we have seen, for Cecil Rhodes, then governor of the Cape Colony, this was an opportunity not to be missed. In mid-1895 he conceived of a small private army, recruited by the British South African Company, which, by marching on Johannesburg when the rising took place - ostensibly to “restore order” - would spark off a general uprising and bring about the overthrow of the Transvaal government. That country and the Orange Free State could then be formed into a federation under British control, and his De Beers Mining Corporation would be free to take over the gold mining industry based in Johannesburg.

xxxxxFor this purpose an armed column, made up of some 600 men and reinforced by a number of machine guns and some light artillery pieces, was assembled in Rhodesia, the British colony to the north. Placed under the command of Leander Starr Jameson, Cecil Rhodes’ right-hand man, it was stationed at Pitsani on the Transvaal border, ready to move once news of an uprising in Johannesburg had been received. But Jameson waited in vain. A dispute had broken out between the foreign workers in Johannesburg as to what form of administration would replace the Boer government once it had been overthrown. Eventually Jameson, growing impatient , decided to go ahead with the proposed invasion, believing that he could spearhead the insurrection on arriving at Johannesburg. He sent a telegraph message to Rhodes telling him of his intention and, receiving no immediate reply, cut the telegraph lines on the morning of the 29th December 1895 and led his small army into the Transvaal.

 xxxThe “Jameson Raid”, as it came to be called, was a complete failure. He hoped to be in Johannesburg within three days, before the Boers had had time to mobilise, but he failed to cut the telegraph line to Pretoria, and, as a result, the Boers were able to keep track of the invasion force from the moment it crossed the border. On the 1st January 1896 Jameson found the road blocked at Kurgersdopr and, following a brief skirmish, was forced to make a diversion. Thexnext day he came face to face with a large Boer force, equipped with artillery, at Doornkop, a ridge some 20 miles west of Johannesburg. There was no possibility of success. After some hours of resistance, he was forced to surrender and taken prisoner (illustrated).  

xxxxxJameson was imprisoned in Pretoria, and then returned to London for his trial. At the end of February 1896 he was found guilty of leading the raid and sentenced to 15 months in prison, but he was released in December on health grounds. By way of compensation the Transvaal government was paid a sum close to £1 million by the British South Africa Company. Cecil Rhodes, the man who had planned the raid, was forced to resign as prime minister of the Cape Colony and that brought an end to his political career. The part played in the affair by the British colonial secretary Joseph Chamberlain was also questioned. He had known of the plan, but at his trial Jameson did not implicate him, and he was subsequently cleared of any wrong-doing by an investigation conducted by a select committee of the House of Commons. In the Transvaal the leading members of the Reform Committee, which had been scheming on behalf of the Uitlander population, - including Colonel Frank Rhodes (brother of Cecil Rhodes) - were charged and found guilty of high treason for collaborating with Jameson. They were sentenced to death in April, but released two months later on the payment of heavy fines.

xxxxxIn Britain, the outcome of the raid created a great deal of anti-Boer feeling, and lit the fuse for the Second Anglo-Boer War. Indeed, for many it was seen as a just cause for war. Jameson was regarded as a hero, a brave upholder of the British Empire and the rights of the individual. And there was, too, a great deal of animosity towards Germany. After the surrender of Jameson’s raiding party, the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II (illustrated), had sent a message to Paul Kruger, the Transvaal prime minister, (the famous “Kruger telegram”) congratulating him upon his victory. There was talk of Germany providing the Boers with arms, and of the need for Britain to reassert its authority before it was too late. Indeed, the failure of the raid only served to highlight the fact that the plight of the Uitlanders remained and had to be addressed.

xxxxxAs we shall see, after some unproductive negotiations, in September 1899 the British government - clearly determined to regain control over what was now a profitable area - delivered an ultimatum to Paul Kruger (illustrated) demanding the immediate enfranchisement of all white Uitlanders. There was no possibility of compliance, and the Second Anglo-Boer War broke out in October 1899. It was to prove a long and bloody conflict, and one which was to have important consequences for the future of South Africa and the British Empire.

xxxxxIncidentally, British anger and fears concerning the “Kruger Telegram” were well founded. As we shall see, following the Jameson Raid, the Transvaal bought a great deal of military equipment from Germany, and this served them well during the Second Anglo-Boer War. And the Kaiser’s interest in south-east Africa (Germany already had colonies in the west, south-west and east of the continent) was followed in 1897 by the first of Germany’s Naval Bills, clearly designed - as the War Office saw it - to challenge Britain’s supremacy at sea. In a matter of a few years, German ambition to play a part on the world stage was to lead to British reconciliation with France and Russia, the formation of two armed camps on the continent (The Triple Entente and the Central Powers) and, eventually, the First World War of 1914 to 1918. ……

xxxxx…… The Jameson Raid had an indirect effect upon the affairs of the neighbouring state of Rhodesia, the two territories of Matabeleland and Mashonaland which were combined and named after Cecil Rhodes in 1895. The withdrawal of the white police force from this state to take part in the raid encouraged the natives to take up arms against the British South Africa Company and, as we shall see, this led to The Second Matabele War of 1896.



Leander Starr Jameson

xxxxxThe Scotsman Leander Starr Jameson (1853-1917) went to school in London and trained as a surgeon at University College Hospital. He gained a reputation for his work as a doctor, but, because of ill-health, in 1878 he went out to Cape Colony in South Africa to benefit from a warmer climate. There he struck up a close friendship with the diamond magnate and politician Cecil Rhodes, and numbered among his patients the statesman Paul Kruger and Lobengula, the King of the Matabele. In order to assist Rhodes in his colonial ambitions and his search for gold, in 1888 he persuaded Lobengula to grant Rhodes mining rights in Mashonaland, a territory north of the River Limpopo. In 1890, anxious like Rhodes to consolidate British rule throughout South Africa, he abandoned his medical practice and led a pioneer column to open the way to Mashonaland and claim this area for the British South Africa Company. This alarmed Lobengula. He invaded Mashonaland to prove his authority over the region and, as we have seen, this caused the First Matabele War of 1893. Jameson directed the campaign and the British force, small but well armed, won the conflict. Matabeleland was then annexed for the British crown. Jameson was now seen as a colonial statesmen of stature, but then came the Jameson Raid of 1896, a foolhardy attempt, as we have seen, to invade the Transvaal and trigger off a national uprising against the Boer government. Its failure landed him in prison, but after his release he returned to South African politics. He served as prime minister for the Cape Colony from 1904 to 1908, assisted in the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910, and was then a member of the Unionist Party for two years. Before returning home he was created a baronet. Despite the debacle of the Jameson Raid, he remained highly regarded for his patriotism, the quality of his leadership, and his work in consolidating Britain’s hold over the greater part of South Africa.

xxxxxLeander Starr Jameson (1853-1917) was a doctor by profession (known to his close friends as “Doctor Jim”), but later in life he became a colonial administrator and statesmen in South Africa. He was born in Edinburgh, where his father, Robert William Jameson - known for his reformist ideas - was editor of the Wigtownshire Free Press. During his early years the family moved to London, living in Chelsea and then Kensington. He attended Godolphin School in Hammersmith, and then trained as a surgeon at University College Hospital. After qualifying he gained a reputation for his medical skill and his lectures on anatomy, but he fell ill from over working and eventually decided to settle in South Africa, where he hoped the warmer climate would assist in his recovery.


xxxxxHe set up a practice at Kimberley in 1878, and it was not long before he came to know the leading political figures in the Cape Colony. He numbered among his patients Paul Kruger, the South African statesman, and the Matabale chief Lobengula - who honoured him with the title of InDuna, meaning Advisor - and he struck up a close friendship with the politician and diamond magnate Cecil Rhodes. It was in order to assist Rhodes in his colonial and business ambitions that he persuaded Lobengula to grant what came to be known as the Rudd Concession (Rudd being one of Rhodes’ agents) in 1888. This simply allowed the British to carry out mining operations on the land situated between the Limpopo and Zambia Rivers. In return Rhodes provided the Matabele chief with a monthly payment, a large number of rifles, and a steamboat on the Zambesi.

xxxxxIt was on the strength of this agreement - reached in large measure by the good offices of Jameson - that in 1889 Rhodes founded the British South Africa Company. The following year, Rhodes having become prime minister of the Cape Colony, Jameson decided to abandon his medical practice and support Rhodes in his colonial ambitions. Like Rhodes, he was anxious to consolidate British hold over the whole of South Africa before others - be it the Germans, Portuguese or Boers - seized valuable territory. He therefore agreed to take command of a pioneer column made up of 180 volunteers and 200 armed police, charged with the task of clearing a way through Matabeleland and taking control of Mashonaland, an area thought to be rich in gold deposits. Beginning in the July, the expedition made good progress despite the difficult terrain through which it had to force a way over a distance of some 425 miles. It entered Mashonaland, setting up forts en route, and in September, having established Fort Salisbury, raised the union jack (illustrated) and claimed the territory for the British crown - in the guise of the British South Africa Company. In 1891 Jameson was appointed administrator of Mashonaland, the traditional home of the Shona people.

xxxxxBut the activities of the Company, whilst in accordance with its charter - granted by the British government - went far beyond the Rudd Concession of 1888, and this alarmed Lobengula. In order to assert his authority over Mashonaland - a tributary state - in July 1893 he mounted an invasion of the territory to bring to heel a dissident chief in the area of Victoria. This gave Jameson the opportunity he was looking for to extend British control even further. On the grounds that to take no action would undermine his authority with the Mashona and he would lose their loyalty, he ordered Lobengula to withdraw his troops and, when he refused to do so, sought support for action from Rhodes and the home government. Having received approval, he prepared an army to invade Matebeleland.

xxxxxAs we have seen, the First Matabele War of 1893, in which Jameson assumed direction of the campaign, gave the British total control over Matabeleland. The forces of the British South Africa Company, though heavily outnumbered, had a decisive advantage in firepower. Victory in the battles of the Bembesi and Singuesi Rivers, achieved by the effectiveness of the Maxim machine gun and the rapid-firing rifle, convinced Lobengula that further resistance was futile. He fled with his army into the bush after burning Bulawayo, his capital, to the ground. Jameson, in order to bring the conflict to a speedy end, ordered a march on Bulawayo and then, having learnt of the whereabouts of Lobengula, sent out a column to capture the king. This resulted in the loss of the Shangani Patrol in the December, - when an advance guard of some 30 men was surrounded and slaughtered (illustrated) - but in January 1894 Lobengula died, and the Matabele (Ndebele) laid down their arms.

Click Map to EnlargexxxxxFollowing the death of Lobengula, Jameson was appointed the first administrator of Matabeleland and, on returning to Britain at the end of the year, along with Rhodes, was feted as a hero. On his return to South Africa in the spring of 1895, the two territories of Matabeleland and Mashonaland were officially named Rhodesia in honour of the architect of British imperialism.

xxxxxBut Jameson’s reputation as a colonial diplomat, though not irreparably damaged, received a severe blow, as we have seen, with the infamous Jameson Raid, defeated in 1896. It was originally intended to be made in support of a revolt among the discontented Uitlanders of Johannesburg - those foreigners (or outsiders) who had flooded into the Transvaal in search of gold - and thereby trigger off a general uprising against the Boer government. But despite the fact that no revolt took place in the city, Jameson nonetheless launched the invasion in December 1895. It was, as it proved to be, a foolhardy miscalculation on his part. The armed column, made up of some 600 men and supported with only a small amount of light artillery, was harassed from the time it crossed the border, and forced to accept a humiliating defeat at Doornkop five days later on the 2nd January 1896. Jameson was captured, sent to England for trial, and sentenced to fifteen months imprisonment, though he was released earlier due to ill-health.

xxxxxThis debacle resulted in deep embarrassment for the British government, particularly as it was alleged that the Colonial Secretary had known and approved of the raid, and it also soured relations with Germany following the famous “Kruger telegram”, but nonetheless the conduct of Jameson during his trial won him a great deal of support. He stoically accepted blame for the raid, implicated no others, and won approval for what the public saw as his commitment - be it over zealous - to the well being of the Uitlanders (many of them British) who were denied their basic rights by the Transvaal government. Indeed, as we shall see, it was the continued plight of the Uitlanders which was to bring about The Second Anglo-Boer War of 1899.

xxxxxJameson took no part in this second conflict with the Boers, but on his return to South Africa he became leader of the Progressive Party in Cape Colony in 1903 and, following the party’s success at the polls, served as prime minister from 1904 to 1908. After the founding of the Union of South Africa (The Cape, Natal, Transvaal and Orange Free State) in which he played a part, he was a member of the Unionist Party from 1910 to 1912, and before returning home was created a baronet. He died in London in November 1917 and was buried in a vault at Kensal Green cemetery, but after the end of the First World War his body was taken to South Africa and buried at Malindidzimu Hill (World’s View) in Matabo National Park, some 25 miles south of Bulawayo, alongside the grave of his close friend Cecil Rhodes. This granite hill was designated by Rhodes as a resting place for those who had served Great Britain well in Africa.

xxxxxIncidentally, the British writer and poet Rudyard Kipling, himself a fervent patriot and imperialist, was a great admirer of Jameson and got to know him on his visits to South Africa. He applauded his personal qualities, such as his courage, dignity, and stoicism, and let it be known that his famous poem If “was drawn from Jameson’s character”. The line: If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, aptly sums up the way Jameson handled the furore which followed the Jameson Raid, a disaster of his own making. ……

xxxxx…… According to some accounts, after the Jameson Raid it was the wealthy diamond trader Barney Barnato who negotiated with his friend Paul Kruger, the Boer president, and managed to get all his pals released from prison and sent to England for their trial. ……

xxxxx…… Jameson’s unusual first names came about from an incident which occurred on the morning of his birth. His father was walking along a stretch of canal or river on the day his twelfth child was due to be born when he slipped and fell into the water. A passer-by, an American traveller named Leander Starr, fished him out and, to show his gratitude, his father named his new son after him!