Digital camera in hand, I diligently worked my way along the neat rows of white crosses, standing stark against the Frankie Brown’s headstone records the fate of a nine-year-old victim of a shell fired into the town by the Boers war memorial in the foreground.
Red-brown soil and the intense blue of an African sky. The line of 24 graves of the men who set out on Boxing Day 1899 to make an ill-fated attack on a Boer stronghold at Game Tree Fort is, even a century later, quite a moving sight. Their names had become very familiar to me and on reading the inscriptions I could bring to mind details of both their lives and their families. Nearby there was the grave of young Frankie Brown, the first white child to die, the son of a refugee family who had come to Mafeking for safety.
He was wounded by an exploding shell as he walked across the town square. Only nine years old, Frankie took several days to die. The most rewarding part of my researches has been contact with relatives of the besieged, often initiated through the internet. I left my ‘visiting card’ on websites devoted to the Boer War, not only appealing for information but offering to provide anybody who thought they might have a relative who was at Mafeking with information from my register. This resulted in several positive contacts. My own Scout history website at www.scouting. milestones.btinternet.co.uk has what I hope is a definitive article on the Cadets at Mafeking, as well as many others on various topics of Scout history. Thanks to the joys of the single-word search, my listing of Cadets has so far brought me into contact with four families – out of the original 24 – and I am also linked, unlikely as it may sound, with two people whose fathers fought alongside Baden-Powell!
The Mafeking Siege Register has grown, and now lists over 1,850 individuals.
The Siege of Mafeking edited by lain R Smith, in two volumes (The Brenthurst Press, 2001; Volume 1 ISBN 0-90907958-9). The latest Mafeking commentary, published in South Africa, costs around £200 and although not without error, is superbly produced, with lavish illustrations.
The Boer War: Ladysmith and Mafeking edited by Tim Coates (The Stationery Office, 1999, ISBN 0-117024-08-2). An inexpensive paperback containing Baden-Powell’s own report of the siege, listing the names of key personnel as well as those killed and injured in the ‘set piece’ actions. Mafeking: A Victorian Legend by Brian Gardner (Cassell, 1966). Although out of print, this commentary on the siege is widely available secondhand at reasonable cost.