Who Relieved Mafeking?
Mafeking, (now called Mahikeng) a town in Northern Cape, South Africa, was relieved by a flying column of British troops on May 17, 1900, after being besieged by the Boers since October 12, the previous year. The news was greeted in London with such scenes of rejoicing that the event added the word “mafficking” to the English language to indicate an uproarious celebration.
The Siege of Mafeking was a 217-day siege battle; the siege received considerable attention as Lord Edward Cecil, the son of the British Prime Minister, was in the besieged town. The siege turned the British commander, Colonel Robert Baden-Powell, into a national hero. The Relief of Mafeking (the lifting of the siege), while of little military significance, was a morale boost for the struggling British.
The siege was finally lifted on 17 May 1900, when a flying column of some 2,000 British soldiers, including many South African volunteers from Kimberley, commanded by Colonel B. T. Mahon of the army of Lord Roberts, relieved the town after fighting their way in. Among the relieving force was Major Baden Baden-Powell, brother of the town garrison commander.
The scene of this epic siege was originally a trading settlement founded after the occupation of the country by the British forces under Sir Charles Warren in 1884. At the beginning of the South African War between the British and the Dutch settlers, or Boers, Mafeking was surrounded by a Transvaal force under General P. A. Cronje.
General Sir Redvers Buller, the British commander-in-chief, decided to relieve Mafeking and two other beleaguered towns, Kimberley and Ladysmith, but his plans were thwarted by a series of defeats in the “Black Week” of the middle of December. When reinforcements arrived under Field Marshal Lord Roberts and General Kitchener, Kimberley and Ladysmith were rescued and the Boers forced to retreat.
Early in May Roberts set out from Bloemfontein for Pretoria, the Boer capital, and on the way he sent a flying column to relieve Mafeking where Colonel Robert Baden-Powell had maintained morale in increasingly difficult circumstances. During the siege he organized the boys of the town as guides, messengers and members of a first-aid corps, thereby releasing men for the fighting. Later Baden-Powell was to become founder of the Scout and Girl Guide movements.