Friday, 11 November 2022

Gold of the Boer War

The conflict between Britain and the two Boer republics of Transvaal and Orange Free State in South Africa, the second Boer War, began on 11 October 1899 and ended on 31 May 1902. The Boer War (Gold War) was the first war of the bloody 20th century. It pitted the might of the British Empire against a group of Dutch farmers. Boer is the Dutch word for farmer.
The British mobilized an army of more than 500k men from all over the empire to fight the Dutch farmers. This vast army used state of the art military technology. One such weapon was the Maxim machine gun.
Despite overwhelming numbers and the latest killing technology, the Boers fought heroically against the British invaders. The Boers were never able to field more that 60,000 men but they fought tenaciously and displayed amazing courage and resourcefulness to defend their homeland.

The Battle of Spion Kop was fought on the hilltop of Spioenkop along the Tugela River in South Africa from 23–24 January 1900.

Six companies of the 2nd Battalion The King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment marching in column, and at ease, towards Spion Kop.
20,000 British troops faced 8,000 Boers. It was a huge British defeat. The British suffered 243 fatalities; many were buried in the trenches where they fell. About 1,250 British were either wounded or captured. Mohandas Gandhi was a stretcher-bearer at the battle, in the Indian Ambulance Corps.

Boers at Spion Kop, 1900.

The British trench in "the murderous acre" on Spion Kop
In the closing stages of the Anglo-Boer War, Paul Kruger, president of the South African Republic of Transvaal and the face of the resistance against the British, was said to have absconded with all of the riches of his nation when he fled from encroaching British troops in 1900.

In the 1880s Kruger had issued orders that if the British threatened the capital city of Pretoria the entire reserves of the national bank - gold bullion and coins - should be put on wagons and hidden in the African plains. Following his evacuation, Kruger lived out the last four years of his life in exile before dying in Switzerland. Most Boer leadership were killed and the location of the Krugerrand fortune has never been revealed.
The 1902 gold Veldpond also known as the "Pilgrim's Rest Coin" is a coin struck by the Boers on the run from the overwhelming British forces on a makeshift mint set up in the veld (long grass) in the remote region of Pilgrims Rest in the north eastern Transvaal. For many numismatists the Veld Pond is the holy grail of South African coins.

Soft hand-cut dies and an improvised flypress were used to strike about 530 coins in gold. Only a single set of hand carved dies were used - thus the simple design and the poor quality of the coin. The dies were kept under lock and key so the official mintage figures are deemed to be accurate. Genuine Veld Ponds in good condition sell for over US $20,000.