The First Campaign Victory of the Great War: South Africa, manoeuvre warfare, the Afrikaner Rebellion and the German South West Africa Campaign 1914-1915. Antonio Garcia
Reviewed by Jim Graham
The First Campaign Victory of the Great War by Antonio Garcia is published by Helion, and has 208 pages including index and an extensive bibliography. There are six very clear maps and ten photos as well as numerous graphs. This is an interesting book but it is not a book for the casual reader. It is very well researched and impeccably footnoted but that just means that, for example, the epilogue is four pages long, has a half page photo and fourteen footnotes and only about two and two thirds pages of text. This is a book for the academic rather than the wargamer as it spends more time on the theories of what happened than on what happened. I’m not suggesting that that a wargamer can’t or shouldn’t read it, just be aware that you aren’t getting purple prose about the derring do of wild colonials. What you do get are getting sub chapters headed: “Relative Deprivation Theory” and beginning “Relative deprivation theory stipulates ‘the primal causal sequence in political violence is first the development of discontent, second the politicisation of that discontent, and finally its actualisation in the violent action against political objects and actors.’” The book clearly began life as a PhD thesis or dissertation, which isn’t a bad thing but it does narrow down the target market.
Having got that out of the way; the book sets out the situation in the run up to the war in Southern Africa, bearing in mind the Boer War had only been brought to a conclusion in 1902. It covers the war The British fought in German South West Africa and the Afrikaner Rebellion and the links between the two. The forces are covered but not in any detail though there are good maps of the various campaigns.
The military situation is covered in broad terms but the mainly in the context of various theories rather than as a narrative of the action. Everything is broken down and discussed in academic terms, which means it is quite stilted and doesn’t flow. There are also too many graphs, usually illustrating what the text has just told us and if I was cynical I would suggest they were initially used to pad out the dissertation.
Overall this is an interesting book which covers a pair of campaigns which are overshadowed by events in Europe but which had a lasting impact on the Great War. They take place at a time when everyone’s attention was centred on Europe and when relatively small forces made a disproportionately large impact on events. Garcia obviously knows his subject but covers it in a way that is overly academic for a mass market release. We get little of the motivations of Botha and Smuts for example, both had been Boer leaders at the turn of the century but now put down the rebellion by their fellow Afrikaners. The book covers two very interesting conflicts but not in a way that is very useful for a wargamer.