Notes from the Past

Mafeking

The Siege of Mafeking was one of those events the emotional impact of which far outweighed its actual military importance.  As a test of wills and a showcase of courage, it was exceptional, and there is no doubt that it was a light shining in the darkness of a black period for British morale during this first confrontation with a new kind of war.

As is almost always the case, the established military forces tried to fight the war with the methods that worked in the previous one, and they were no match for the "new" guerilla tactics of the Boers.  The South African town of Mafeking was besieged by the Boers from Oct. 12, 1899, to May 17, 1900.

Few except the British, South Africans, and a couple of international groups will have heard of the siege.  One of the groups is the Boy Scouts, the founder of which, Lord Baden-Powell, was commander of the defending forces.  The other group consists of philatelists, most of whom, know about the stamps that the war sparked.

Although the photographically produced stamps showing Cadet Sgt. Major Goodyear on the bicycle he used as a messenger and the portrait of Baden-Powell are well known, even many collectors are not familiar with the other stamps used during the siege.  The first of these, overprinted and surcharged "MAFEKING | 1d | BESIEGED," was issued on March 24, 1900.  The basic stamps were those of the Cape of Good Hope and the Bechuanaland Protectorate.  There are a number of varieties, and good forgeries exist.

Mafeking is located some 850 miles northeast of Cape Town, near the border with Botswana. 


- Kenneth A. Wood
This is Philately - Volume Two G-P
Van Dahl Publications 1982
Posted September 30, 2000

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