Silence of the Guns: The History of the Long Toms of the Anglo-Boer War

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After the unsuccessful Jameson Raid of 1896 the Kruger government realized how vulnerable the South African Republic was. Four forts were therefore built around Pretoria. For each fort a 155-mm gun was bought from the firm Schneider et Cie in Le Creusot, France. When the Anglo-Boer War erupted in 1899 these guns were taken from Pretoria to be used against the British at the sieges of Ladysmith, Mafeking and Kimberley. After the relief of these towns and especially after the Boers adopted guerrilla tactics, the Long Toms became a burden, because they could not easily be moved about. The result was that the Boers destroyed the Long Toms to prevent the guns being taken by the enemy. Several myths and legends about these four guns had their origin during the war. And, as is so typical with folklore, it is often difficult to distinguish between what is fact and what is fiction about the Long Toms, especially as accounts have come to us through the years by means of oral tradition. Were they really as formidable as the Boers made them out to be? Did they really outclass the British guns – in range as well as in accuracy and effectiveness? And what happened to them eventually? Why are there today no Long Toms to be seen anywhere? How did they disappear? Were they destroyed by the Boers themselves and, if not, what happened to them after the war? Is there, as rumor has it, one lying somewhere in a hidden kloof where it was dumped by the Boers – still waiting to be found? What happened to their remains? Why are the remains nowhere to be seen? Is there still a complete Long Tom somewhere in England?
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About the Author:

LOUIS CHANGUION is a retired history professor and, according to his peers, probably the most knowledgeable person about the history of Limpopo, Polokwane and the surrounding areas of Haenertsburg, Magoebaskloof, Tzaneen, Munnik, Mooketsi and Duiwelskloof (Modjadjiskloof). Changuion is also an authority on the history of the Long Tom artillery guns used by the Boers against the British in the Anglo Boer War of 1899 – 1902. He wrote a number of books on the Anglo Boer War and personalities of that war.

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"In Britain and the U.S., accounts of the Anglo-Boer Wars are largely written from the “Anglo” side, but in South Africa, there is a plentiful literature from the “Boer” perspective. In Silence of the Guns we get a look at one of the better examples of this literature. While focused on the “adventures” of the four 155mm “Long Toms” of the South African Artillery, the book actually gives a fairly good look at the 1899–1902 war from the Boer perspective. This includes military policy and organization (yes, there was such a thing), planning and logistics, and, of course, operations, from the initial Boer offensives and sieges at Mafeking, Ladysmith, and other places, to the stunning victories of “Black Week”, through the British counter-offensive, and on into the guerrilla campaign that followed. Along the way Changuion touches upon military improvisations and innovations, the impact of the war on civilians, battlefield archaeology, and much else. Silence of the Guns will be useful reading for those interested in late nineteenth century military innovation, colonial warfare, and the South African War." (NYMAS Review)

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