One of the most significant events in the history of South Africa was the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902. Although the protagonists were Britain and the two Boer Republics, the population of South Africa as a whole became embroiled in the war either directly or indirectly.
The War Museum in Bloemfontein does not only give the visitor insight into the Boer War through it`s unique art collection, dioramas and exhibits but also brings the visitor closer to understanding the background against which the war took place.
Although it all happened nearly a Century ago, the Anglo-Boer War still resonates like a drum within the collective consciousness of the people. Books about it continue to pour regularly off publishing presses, memorabilia associated with it are eagerly sought by hordes of avid collectors, and famous battlesites - such as Magersfontein, Colenso and Paardeberg - are visited by thousands of people each year.
The course and development of the war unfolds in front of the visitor as you progress through the museum. You are also afforded a glimpse into the life in the concentration and also prisoner-of-war camps.
The site of the museum is that of the National Women's Memorial, which was unveiled in 1913. The memorial itself is in close proximity to the museum, as are the evocative sculptures of the Burgher Memorial in the grounds.
A particularly interesting exhibit is a collection of tiles, dating from 1900, that depict battles and personalities of the war. They were discovered as recently as 1969 in a cinema in Holland that was undergoing demolition.
Paintings and other works of art occupy the Kestell and Hobhouse galleries, the best-known sculptures probably being those by Anton van Wouw. His works on display here include designs for the Women's Memorial and the wartime group entitled 'Bad News'.
Exhibits in the C F Beyers Hall tell the tragic story of the concentration camps, which achieved notoriety for their high loss of life, especially among women and children. By the end of the war some 26000 Afrikaners and more than 14 000 Black People died in British concentration camps during the war.
The J H de la Rey Hall shows aspects of the domestic life of the republican Boer both in peace and in war. Included here are depictions of the 1914 Rebellion, launched by Afrikaner republicans in the hope of regaining their political and national independence lost in 1902.
A visit to the War Museum is an absolute necessity for anyone who wants to understand the history of South Africa.
Anglo Boer War Museum, Monument Road, Bloemfontein
Tel: +27 51 447 3447 or +27 51 447 0079