The Jameson Raid

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The Jameson Raid

Artist's impression of the Jameson Raid /

Artist’s impression of the Jameson Raid /

One hundred and five years ago something happened in South Africa which has now largely been forgotten. The incident probably arose because of the remorseless and unnecessary need of the British to expand an already overlarge Empire.

On December 29, 1894, Dr. Leander Starr Jameson (1853 – 1917), who was an administrator in the British South Africa Company, led an armed band of 470 mounted men (whites of course) from Bechuanaland into the Transvaal. The intention was to advance 180 miles to Johannesburg, there to join the non-Boer European workers known as the Uitlanders, in their attempt to overthrow the government of Paul Kruger.

The plot failed, mostly because the Uitlanders failed to revolt. All Jameson’s force was captured only four days after crossing the frontier from British Bechuanaland.

The Raid had important political consequences: Cecil Rhodes (the great colonialist) was forced to resign as Premier of the Cape Colony, because he was up to his neck in the conspiracy. The Boers (white Dutch South Africans or Afrikaaners) discovered they were less able to deal with British forces than they had supposed. This might have been because they were falsely encouraged by the infamous ‘Kruger Telegram’ which led them to believe that they would have German military support in crushing an British attempt at invasion.

Back in Britain, a Parliamentary Inquiry exonerated the Colonial Secretary, Joseph Chamberlain, from participation in the conspiracy. Much later, evidence was produced that strongly suggests that he knew a great deal about the supposed revolt in Johannesburg, if not of the actual raid. We will never know the truth, a phrase inevitably connected with politics. For instance, will the world ever know the truth about the totally unexpected defeat of one leading Spanish political party by another in the general election of 2004?

Dr. Jameson served a prison sentence in Britain for his organisation and leading of the raid, but later he returned to South Africa and, founding the grand British tradition of ennobling people after first throwing them into jail . . . the good doctor became Premier of Cape Colony from 1904 – 08. He was made a Baronet in the honours list of 1911.*

* Archbishop Makarios of Cyprus, and Nelson Mandela of South Africa both served sentences of varying lengths in prison before being made President of

By | 2011-01-25T17:30:03+00:00 January 25th, 2011|African History|3 Comments

About the Author:

‘Dean Swift’ is a pen name: the author has been a soldier; he has worked in sales, TV, the making of films, as a teacher of English and history and a journalist. He is married with three grown-up children. They live in Spain.


  1. Philipp January 25, 2011 at 5:34 pm - Reply

    Wonderful story. Funny that life can give you a thrashing at the beginning, and then give you the most desired dream you had ever wanted…

  2. Chris Ash June 14, 2011 at 6:22 am - Reply

    Why does the author feel the need to say ‘whites, of course’?
    Actually, the fact that the invasion force was all-white was actually very unusual. During the Zulu War, the British had huge numbers of black allies. Similarly, when the Rhodesians went to war with the Matabele in 1893, there were more black allies than white Rhodesian troops.
    Could this have just been a throw-away remark inspired by political correctness?

  3. Dean Swift June 14, 2011 at 4:13 pm - Reply

    Mr. Chris Ash: I think the only accusation that has never been levelled at me during fifty years of journalism is that any piece of mine is ‘politically correct’. I have, on the other hand, been subjected BY the politically correct to a great deal of abuse. Perhaps the phrase ‘of course’ is unnecessary and immaterial. For that I apologise.
    Dean Swift.

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