The Surrender

The surrender was a heart-breaking moment for all the Boers who had at one time thought that Great Britain could be beaten off. The handful of burghers who were still left in the field were now called "Bitter-enders." They had endured until the bitter end. At the Boer meetings that preceded the signing of the Peace of Vereeniging in Mei 1902, many Boer leaders had reported that large numbers of their men did not have mounts or rifles or ammunition anymore. Food was constantly scarce, and some men were wearing sack cloth and sheep skins owing to a shortage of clothing. These pictures show the surrender of the Wakkerstroom Commando.

It was 2 June 1902 at Wakkerstroom Nek, when the Wakkerstroom commando came to hand in their weapons. Notice the long line of rifle stocks in the centre of the picture. It was a bitterly cold time of winter at this altitude and the men are dressed as warmy as possible.

A British officer oversees the handing in of the Wakkerstroom commando's weapons. Burghers living in the frontier regions were allowed to keep their arms as means of protection against neighbouring tribes.

After their weapons were handed in, each man reluctantly had to take the oath of allegiance to the British crown.This picture shows the burghers without the weapons which had been their constant companions for many months in wind and rain. Men who never shed a tear throughout the entire war, were seen weaping like little children when the end of their cause was announced. Notice the young boy in in the picture. Many boys of as young as even 10 or 12 joined the commandos, since if they were captured by British columns, they were often sent to prisoner of war camps anyway. The son of General Louis Botha himself, was an example. At 12 years of age, he accompanied his father on commando, with his father's faithful assistant, Moos van Buuren, as his caretaker.

General Louis Botha excused himself from the formalities surrounding the post-peace signing affairs, and travelled to Wakkerstroom by train in order to spend his last free night with his burghers in the veld. Accommodation was available in the town, but the Boers preferred to sleep in the bitter cold outside, rather than join the celebrations in Wakkerstroom. A few British tents were pitched, and the general joined his men beneath the stars. They spent the night very quietly and thoughtfully, softly singing hymns, whilst listening to the boisterous sounds of festivities in Wakkerstroom. For many it was still too hard to believe that the struggle was finally over and that all had been lost.

The later Commandant Martin John ("Max") De Beer wrote as follows about Botha's presence: "The unforgettable morning when he came to announce the peace to us was a tragic day for us. 'It is peace,' he told us, 'but our our dear independence has gone to the grave.' Hy was so emotional that he almost could not speak. The anguish of his soul was too great." - "Wyle Kommandant Martin John de Beer.", The Recorder., 14 August 1959., p. 1.

Some were thinking about how long it would be before they would be able to resume the fight for their independence. Most, however, were just glad the war was over, and couldn't see much in the future anymore. Everywhere the question on people's lips were: "Where do we go from here?"

The night was bitterly cold upon the highveld that day. It was colder, indeed, that the temperature suggested.