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Two units of Irish commandos fought alongside the Boers against the British forces during the Second Boer War (1899–1902).

Irish Transvaal Brigade[]

John MacBride, a friend of Arthur Griffith, organised the Irish Transvaal Brigade. Most of the battalion-strength Brigade were Irish or Irish-American miners living in the Transvaal, who were willing to fight with the Boers against the British. The Brigade was bolstered during its campaign by a contingent of volunteers who came from Chicago and by a variety of Irish volunteers, who travelled from America and Ireland for the purposes of joining the Brigade.[1]:66, 68, 71

John MacBride wrote his own account of the Irish Transvaal Brigade. This is to be found in Anthony J. Jordan's edited version of the writings of MacBride.[1]:1–79

The brigade (also known as MacBride's Brigade) was operational from September 1899 to September 1900. In that time, the brigade fought in about 20 engagements, with 18 men killed and about 70 wounded from a complement of no more than about 500 men at any one time. When it disbanded, most of the men crossed into Mozambique, which was a colony of neutral Portugal. Colonel John Y. F. Blake, a former United States Army officer was the brigade's commander. When he was wounded, his second-in-command, Major John MacBride, took command. At the Siege of Ladysmith, they serviced the famous Boer artillery piece, called Long Tom, and they fought at the Battle of Colenso. Having worked in the gold mines, they had a well-deserved reputation as demolition experts and it was they who delayed the British advance on Pretoria by blowing up bridges.

The Brigade received letters of thanks before they left South Africa from State Secretary F. QW. Reitz, Comdt.-Gen. Louis Botha and General B. Viljoen.[1]:79

Second commando[]

When some members of the Irish Transvaal Brigade disagreed with the leadership of the Brigade, they formed a second commando, or Second Irish Brigade unit, under Arthur Lynch.

See also[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Anthony J. Jordan, Boer War to Easter Rising: The Writings of John MacBride, Westport Books 2006. ISBN 978-0-9524447-6-3
  • Anthony J. Jordan, "Major John MacBride 'MacDonagh & MacBride & Connolly & Pearse'". Westport Historical Society, 1991. ISBN 0-9514148-2-8.
  • Prof. Donal P. McCracken, MacBride's Brigade: Irish Commandos in the Anglo-Boer War, Dublin, 1999 ISBN 1-85182-499-5

External links[]

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