The typical British soldier during the time of the Mafikeng Siege


The typical British soldier during the time of the Mafikeng Siege was taken to represent the British culture. There sure are differences and this is acknowledged.

The British soldiers were from the workers class and known as a Tommy Atkins. The Afrikaans language the popular name for a British soldier soon became known as a “Tommie” or a “Kakie”, “Tommies” as from the above mentioned Tommy Atkins and “Kakie” as from the khaki uniform they wore during the South African War 1899-1902. The British army consisted of the Regular Army and recruits recruited for a specific war. The regular Army were professional officers from the Aristocracy usually Sirs of Lords while the rest came from the worker’s class. These officers usually kept their distance.

Reasons for being a British Soldier were firstly from Patriotism [ Aggressive Nationalism or British imperialism. Placed Unionists Party in Government in 1895] or: The workers class joined the army for unemployment reasons. Every Soldier received 5 shillings per day seven days a week. Adventure and a chance to see the world were good reasons for especially the young to join the army.

The typical British uniform was made of khaki and consisted of the following pieces. Jacket and Trousers – the trousers was tucked in under the knee. Khaki legging. Khaki helmet. Brown boots. Khaki overcoat. Rifle and Bayonet. Backpack. Water bottle. Blanket. Underwear. Socks. Toiletries. Needle work set. These were packed in a bag made of canvas.

Regarding the religion the members of the regular Army belonged to the following churches.
Anglican church 68.6 %
Roman Catholic 17.9 %
Presbyterians 7.5 %
Wesleyan 5,3 %
Other protestant Churches 0.7 %

The general Tommie as from the diaries did not seem to regard religion  as high as the Boers, although they respected their Chaplin. Soldiers that showed their religious beliefs openly were often mocked.
On Christmas day they received traditional Christmas pudding from home as well as tins of chocolates with compliments from queen Victoria. The day was filled with laughter and merriment not to much emphasis was placed on the religious side of Christmas.
The British believed in open confrontation. At first the South Africa veldt was strange to the Tommie and taking aim a problem. Self-preservation was also important.
Little or no initiative was left to the common Tommie and in the case were an Officers was put out of action the troops did not know what to do. Discipline was very strict.
Food-Supplies were always a reason to complain. They usually ate bully-beef or greasy ham and Four heart biscuits. The Tommies did not know how to use food from the veldt although they used fruit from the orchards. Many times a Tommie not knowing prickly pears tucked it in front of his shirt. The fact that they did not always have enough food to eat caused the soldiers to confiscate food supplies.
Drunkenness was a problem to the discipline and ability to the soldiers to fight. Punishment was severe.
The Tommies loved a game of cards and a game they called check that they played with buttons on a check piece of cloth. They also played cricket, soccer and football. Horse racing was also very popular. They also loved obstacle-races. They also loved to play jokes on each other.
Poor hygiene and lack of food caused diarrhea and other related illnesses with high fatalities. There were always mentioned in diary’s that some Tommies were contaminated with lice. medical supplies did not always last long.

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