Not all toffs are bad

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a cracking war history – in fact one of the most exciting books I have ever read concerning war – called “The Great Boer War”.

Here is an extract concerning such a toff, who was not only toff, not only a hereditary peer, but also a politician. I quote verbatim:

The action had cost us, altogether about seventy men. Among the injured was the Duke of Norfolk, who had shown a high sense of civic virtue in laying aside the duties  and dignity of a Cabinet Minister in order to serve as a simple captain of volunteers.

You can download this most exciting history of the Boer War, where Sir Arthur shows a high regard for the enemy and reports them with considerable fairness, from The Gutenberg Project. In fact, the first paragraph of Chapter one has this say about the Boers…

Take a community of Dutchmen of the type of those who defended themselves for fifty years against all the power of Spain at a time when Spain was the greatest power in the world. Intermix with them a strain of those inflexible French Huguenots who gave up home and fortune and left their country for ever at the time of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The product must obviously be one of the most rugged, virile, unconquerable races ever seen upon earth. Take this formidable people and train them for seven generations in constant warfare against savage men and ferocious beasts, in circumstances under which no weakling could survive, place them so that they acquire exceptional skill with weapons and in horsemanship, give them a country which is eminently suited to the tactics of the huntsman, the marksman, and the rider. Then, finally, put a finer temper upon their military qualities by a dour fatalistic Old Testament religion and an ardent and consuming patriotism. Combine all these qualities and all these impulses in one individual, and you have the modern Boer—the most formidable antagonist who ever crossed the path of Imperial Britain. Our military history has largely consisted in our conflicts with France, but Napoleon and all his veterans have never treated us so roughly as these hard-bitten farmers with their ancient theology and their inconveniently modern rifles.

I was brought up as a child among these bastards, but I love them!



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