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Cronje's Surrender to Lord Roberts (1900)


Main image of Cronje's Surrender to Lord Roberts (1900)
35mm, black and white, 59 feet
Production CompanyPaul's Animatograph Works
ProducerR.W. Paul
PhotographyWalter Beevor

British cavalrymen escort the Boer General Piet Cronje in a covered wagon following his surrender.

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By 1900, R.W. Paul had sent two of his cameras to cover the Anglo-Boer War, one of which was operated by Walter Beevor, better known as Surgeon-Major Beevor RAMC (Royal Army Medical Corps) of the Scots Guards. Beevor accompanied one of the first regiments to set sail for Capetown, and the film historian John Barnes quotes Paul's memoirs in acknowledging that "he was able to get about a dozen good films, including one of the surrender of Cronje to Lord Roberts."

This is the film in question, and it captures, or rather glimpses, one of the key figures of both Boer Wars. General Piet Cronje (1836-1911) became notorious after his forces besieged the British garrison at Potchefstroom on 16 December 1880, an act that triggered the First Boer War (1880-1, also known as the Transvaal War). Sixteen years later, Cronje commanded the men who successfully prevented the so-called Jameson Raid from triggering an anti-Boer uprising amongst the British workers in the Transvaal - but despite Cronje's success, this was one of the events that triggered the Second Boer War (1899-1902).

By this stage, Cronje was in charge of the whole of the western Boer army, and was responsible for starting the sieges of Kimberley and Mafeking in 1899. But the tide turned for him the following year, and on 27 February 1890, he was forced to surrender at Paardebeg following a successful bombardment campaign by the British commander Lord Roberts.

Beevor's film shows Cronje being transported by the victorious British forces (identified in Paul's catalogue as the City Imperial Volunteers) - he can be seen looking out of a covered wagon in the early morning sunlight. He would remain a prisoner of war until 1902, imprisoned on the island of St Helena, formerly occupied by another similarly successful general after his fall from grace: Napoleon Bonaparte.

Michael Brooke

*This film is included in the BFI DVD compilation 'R.W. Paul: The Collected Films 1895-1908', with music by Stephen Horne and optional commentary by Ian Christie.

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Video Clips
Complete film (0:59)
Entry of the Scots Guards into Bloemfontein (1900)
Paul's Animatograph Works: Longer Actualities