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 Sunday 24th January, 2015

I have on good authority that my latest book Louis Botha's War has hit the shelves...in South Africa at least. I have reports of them turning up in most bookstores in Cape Town, Johannesburg and even George. The book is so hot off the press it's not yet available online or internationally (although I've managed to procure a few copies for the odd English bookstore here on the Cote d'Azur).

In celebration of the centenary of the Great War, this book is a story about South Africa's first Prime Minister who left his comfortable desk in Pretoria and took to the saddle to lead a rag-tag army against a better equipped and well-trained German colonial force in South-West Africa. With clever tactics and rapid deployment Botha's mounted commandos bamboozled the German command to successfully bring for the British cause the first campaign of the war to a conclusion. Botha's triumph came at time that was sorely needed for the Allies - trench warfare was already obliterating hundreds of thousands of young men and civilian ships in the Atlantic were being torpedoed by the Kaiser's submarines. Botha was seen by the Allies as a latter-day crusader, fighting an unholy enemy from  the back of a horse. He would be described by his friend Winston Churchill as the greatest general he had ever known. 

It was not all plain-sailing for Botha though. The campaign did not start well, as the South Africans were soundly defeated in the opening battle; and, almost at the same time an armed rebellion thundered across the veld in South Africa. The predominantly Afrikaner population were still deeply embittered by the Anglo-Boer War fought just over a decade earlier, and took violent exception to Botha choosing to fight on the side of their most hated foe. The rebellion had to be crushed before Botha could advance on the Germans but it left an indelible mark on the social and political psyche of South Africa and provided furtile ground for the inception of Apartheid laws over three decades later.


As the accomplished author of Blood River, Tim Butcher, who also has just published a book on the Great War entitled The Trigger, states in the foreword to this book:

'You will read a story of derring-do, of troops trekking for days on a diet of biltong and biscuit, of Botha’s indomitable wife rushing north to nurse her husband back to strength during the campaign, of forces who dared to traverse the Kalahari desert in full battle order.

But mostly, you will get to know better a man who, rather like Nelson Mandela later in the century, was willing to adapt, compromise and change, all in the name of peoples putting their differences behind them. Botha’s name might no longer be revered around the globe but after reading this book with its account of his tactical brilliance and political courage in the deserts of Namibia, one could be inspired to think how lucky South Africa has been to sire the greatest of leaders.'