Conquest of German Southwest Africa

Loyal Boer Forces, 40,000
General Louis Botha
General Smuts
General Lukin
Colonel Lemmer
Colonel Brits
Colonel Lichtenberg
Colonel van der Venter
Colonel Grant
Colonel Alberts
Colonel Mentz

German-Boer Forces, 10,000
General de Wet
General Hertzog
General Christian Beyers
Colonel S. G. Maritz
Colonel Kemp
Colonel Peinar
Colonel Muller

Aided by the "Prophet of Lichtenberg," Generals Beyers and de Wet had raised a rebel Boer force of 10,000 men in the Western Transvaal and the Orange Free State. To offset this disaffection, 40,000 loyal Boers had answered the call of Generals Botha and Smuts. This loyal army went in pursuit of the main rebel army, commanded by General Christian Beyers. At Rustenberg, on October 27, 1914, the loyalists drove the rebels before them in headlong flight. Two days later the rebels were scattered in little bands and General Beyers became a fugitive. Some of these scattered commanders were defeated by Colonel Alberts at Lichtenberg and again at Zuit Pandrift on November 5, 1914.

Colonel Kemp, with a part of General Beyers' army and large reinforcements, headed for German Southwest Africa, pursued by Colonel Alberts. Beyers, meanwhile, with the remnant of his army and other rebels recruited on the way, entered the Orange Free State, hoping to get in touch with General de Wet's forces. Close in pursuit, a band of loyalists, led by Colonel Lemmer, smashed Beyers' command near the Wet River, taking 400 prisoners.

De Wet's Defeat and Surrender

General de Wet had organized a nondescript army of 2000 rebels in the Orange Free State. This once brilliant cavalry leader, now an old man, could not cope with the new conditions of motor transport, nor could he follow the same tactics which had won him such successes in the Boer War sixteen years before. His first action was at Winburg, where he defeated a small loyalist force under General Cronje.

General de Wet met his Waterloo at Marquard on November 12, 1914. Hemmed in on all sides by the forces of General Botha, General Lukin, Colonel Brandt, and Colonel Brits, numbering 6000, he barely hacked his way through the ring, leaving all his stores of food and ammunition, together with 100 motor cars and wagons, and 250 prisoners behind him.

With a Boer detail in pursuit, de Wet fled up the Wet River valley to Boshof, where his rebel band deserted him. He crossed the Vaal River with only 25 of the 2000 rebel followers he had at Marquard. Then, uniting with a small body of fugitives at Schweizer Renek, de Wet headed for German Southwest Africa, expecting to join Maritz and Kemp. On November 25, 1914, while crossing Bochuanaland, de Wet gave battle to Colonel Brits and lost half of his small command. On December 1, 1914, at Waterburg, de Wet and his band of 52 rebels surrendered to Colonel Jordaan. They were imprisoned at Johannesberg on a charge of high treason.

General Beyers Drowned in Vaal River

General Beyers, leading a little band of rebels in the Orange Free State, was trapped on the Transvaal border, December 9, 1914, by Captain Tlys, and while endeavoring to escape by swimming across the Vaal River, was shot and drowned.

End of the Rebellion

General Botha, early in December, captured 500 rebels in the Orange Free State, and 200 more surrendered to Commandant Kloppers. General Maritz, Colonel Kemp, and the "Prophet of Lichtenberg" won two minor engagements in a surprise attack at Langklip and Onydas, but soon after they were put to flight by the Union forces. Escaping to the German frontier, the rebels made their last stand at Upington, on January 24, 1915, where a force of 1200 under Maritz and Kemp attacked Colonel van der Venter, but were easily repulsed. Maritz then fled into German territory. Colonel Kemp and the "Prophet" surrendered on February 3, 1915.

Natives Robbed and Massacred by Germans

One result of the conquest of German Southwest Africa was the disclosure of Germany's inhumane treatment of the natives. The Hereros, Hottentots and Berg-Damaras numbered 130,000 in 1903, but the infamous Governor von Trotha, pursuing a policy of extermination, had killed all but 37,742 by 1911. Nearly 75 per cent of the natives had been butchered in seven years, and their property confiscated. In 1890, when Germany annexed the country, the Hereros possessed 150,000 herd of cattle, but in 1905, they had been despoiled of all their possessions. In 1907, the Imperial German Government, by ordinance, prohibited the natives of Southwest Africa from possessing any live stock. This was a sample of Germany's plans for the "regeneration of the human race" by "the divinely appointed rulers of Germany.

The South-West Africa Campaign was the conquest and occupation of German South West Africa, now called Namibia, by forces from the Union of South Africa acting on behalf of the British Imperial Government at the start of World War I.

The outbreak of hostilities in Europe in August 1914 had been anticipated and government officials of South Africa were aware of the significance of their common border with the German colony. Prime Minister Louis Botha informed London that South Africa could defend itself and that the Imperial Garrison may depart for France; when the British government asked Botha whether his forces would invade German South-West Africa, the reply was that they could and would.

South African troops were mobilised along the border between the two countries under the command of General Henry Lukin and Lt Col Manie Maritz early in September 1914. Shortly afterwards, another force occupied the port of Lüderitz.

Boer Revolt

However, there was considerable sympathy among the Boer population of South Africa for the German cause; it was, after all, only twelve years since the Second Boer War during which Germany had supported them. Maritz, who was head of commando forces on the border of German South-West Africa, issued a proclamation that

"the former South African Republic and Orange Free State as well as the Cape Province and Natal are proclaimed free from British control and independent, and every White inhabitant of the mentioned areas, of whatever nationality, are hereby called upon to take their weapons in their hands and realize the long-cherished ideal of a Free and Independent South Africa."

Maritz and several other high ranking officers rapidly gathered forces with a total of about 12,000 rebels in the Transvaal and Orange Free State, ready to fight for the cause in what became known as the Boer Revolt (also sometimes referred to as the Maritz Rebellion).

The government declared martial law on 14 October 1914, and forces loyal to the government under the command of Generals Louis Botha and Jan Smuts proceeded to destroy the rebellion. Maritz was defeated on 24 October and took refuge with the Germans; the rebellion was effectively suppressed by early February 1915. The leading Boer rebels received terms of imprisonment of six and seven years and heavy fines; however, two years later they were released from prison, as Botha recognised the value of reconciliation.
The 1915 South-West Africa Campaign.

Combat with German forces

A first attempt to invade German South-West Africa from the south failed at Sandfontein, close to the border with the Cape Colony, where on 25 September 1914 the German fusiliers inflicted a serious defeat to the British troops, although the survivors were left free to come back to the British territory. In March 1915, the South Africans were ready and 67,000 troops, moving in four columns began the complete occupation of the German territory. Botha himself commanded the force that occupied Walvis Bay and Swakopmund in the north of the territory. During the campaign the occupying forces encountered land mines and poisoned wells, as well as some stiff resistance. The capital, Windhoek, was occupied on 12 May, by which time the South Africans had taken over most of the country. An attempt was made to persuade the Germans to surrender at this stage but it was unsuccessful and the campaign continued with the German forces gradually being squeezed into the northwest corner of the territory. They were defeated at Otavi on 1 July and surrendered at Khorab on 9 July 1915.