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Kimberley, siege of

Kimberley, siege of. Episode during the second Boer war (1899–1902). Kimberley was a diamond town of 50,000 inhabitants on the westernmost railway line in South Africa. From November 1899 it was defended by about 1,000 troops under Colonel R. G. Kekewitch with 3,800 irregulars (largely De Beers's employees), and besieged in a haphazard fashion by about 7,500 Boers. The presence of Cecil Rhodes in the town made British attempts to relieve the siege urgent, resulting in disasters at Modder River on 28 November and Magersfontein on 11 December (part of ‘Black Week’). The relief of Kimberley was finally accomplished in spectacular fashion by the cavalry division under Major-General John French on 15 February 1900. In 124 days Kimberley had lost 35 soldiers and 5 civilians killed, 99 soldiers and 24 civilians wounded, with many more dead of disease. Rhodes, who had fallen out with Kekewitch, obtained his dismissal.

Stephen Badsey

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