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Realizing Greater Britain

The South African Constabulary and the Imperial Imposition of the Modern State, 1900−1914


Scott C. Spencer

In anticipation of victory over the two Boer republics in the South African War (1899–1902), British imperial policymakers formed the South African Constabulary (SAC, 1900–1908) to lead reconstruction efforts. Uniquely, policymakers injected two goals of imperial management into the force and its 10,000 men, recruited from the British Isles and settler colonies: integrate the conquered territories into the British Empire and foster an imperial-national adherence to a Greater Britain. Following the war, offi cers and constables attracted the Boers to the empire by suppressing Africans more thoroughly, consistently and systematically than their prior regimes ever had. While some SAC men remained in South Africa following their service, most carried their enhanced white, imperial-national allegiances to the Isles, empire and beyond.

Combining traditional archival with innovative digital research, this book narrates global integration and imperial governance through individuals, from Boy Scout founder Robert Baden-Powell and imperialist Alfred Milner to Canadian Mountie Sam Steele, Irish doctor Edward Garraway and, foremost, thousands of SAC men. The author argues that opportunistic British agents carried the apparatus of the coercive, legible and bureaucratic modern state across the British Isles, the empire and the world, leaving challenging legacies for successor governments and former subjects to confront.

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Epilogue: Connecting Greater Britain, 1908–1950s



Connecting Greater Britain, 1908–1950s

Hold him down, the Swazi wallah,

Hold him down, the Swazi king.

I nik-a-tina, tina tina,

I nik-a-tina, tina, tay.

Hold him down

ad lib and da capo

                — anonymous, ‘The Swazi Wallah,’ 1907(?)1

In the late afternoon of Wednesday, 22 October 1913, members of the Pretoria branch of the South African Constabulary (‘Old Comrades’) Association held a memorial service for fallen comrades at St. Alban’s (Anglican) Cathedral. A color guard dressed in SAC uniforms presented arms and laid wreathes at the SAC memorial brasses. With the South African Police Band accompanying the choir, Bishop Michael Furse led the parishioners in prayers and hymns and gave ‘a stirring address on comradeship.’ After the trumpeters played the ‘Last Post’, the congregation sang ‘God Save the King’ and adjourned for dinner at the Fountain Hotel. One hundred fifty people sat under the chairmanship of Maj. Richard S. Godley of the SAP. He led the proposed toasts: ‘They were proud of their old Corps, and it was their duty to uphold its traditions and ésprit de corps in whatever sphere of life they lived’ (see Figure 7).2

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