General J.H. de la Rey in May 1902: a die-hard Boer opting for peace
General J.H. (Koos) de la Rey was, according to historians, a Christian Afrikaner and a Boer aristocrat. Not only did he play a leading role in the Boer community of the old Transvaal – in the 1890s he was a well-known member of the Volksraad or highest governing authority in the South African Republic – but in the Anglo-Boer War of 1899–1902 he became a Boer general who distinguished himself by leading his burgers in attacks on British military structures and skirmishes on horseback. De la Rey became known as a military strategist of the first rank. In the run-up to the Anglo-Boer War, which started on 11 October 1899, De la Rey tried to avoid this war with Britain as long as he could. After the war became a reality, he gave himself for his country as a die-hard fighter or “bittereinder”: somebody who fights till the bitter end. Apart from his natural military abilities, General De la Rey had a soft spot and a feeling for stressed people. He helped badly wounded enemies and in May 1902, in Boer talks about peace, he listened with compassion to those Boers who had suffered much and pleaded for peace, convincing him that they had reached the end of their tether – literally the end of the bitter end.
De la Rey did not speak much at meetings, but during the peace talks at Vereeniging from 15–31 May 1902, he urged and influenced his people to accept Britain’s peace proposals. In the end, De la Rey and the die-hard fighters among the Boers who had fought for their political independence against British imperialism fought for self-rule under British rule as soon as possible.
De la Rey wanted the Afrikaner people to maintain their identity as a nation in new circumstances and not to be wiped out as a nation through the Anglo-Boer War. He died as a leader and a hero of his people in 1914.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Copyright (c) 2022 Pieter Johannes Strauss