A small town in South Africa
famous for its siege
endured under Colonel, later Lord, Baden-Powell
during the Boer War
. Then it was in the Cape Colony
; in later years it was assigned to the Bophuthatswana
bantustan and its more correct name of Mafikeng
, Setswana for 'place of stones', was restored. It is now the capital of North West Province
Colonel Baden-Powell describes the siege in an amusing manner, pleased with his own stratagems, so I'd recommend reading all of that (see below). Briefly, the town of Mafeking was a long way from other British reinforcements, and was cut off when the war started on 11 October 1899, by Boers bringing up their artillery. They were finally relieved on 17 May 1900, after 216 days. The jubilation in the streets of London when this news was received gave rise to the word mafficking with maffick as a back-formation to mean such celebration.
In between, they issued their own stamps and money, had civilized ceasefires with the Boers every Sunday, ate their horses and used the inedible parts for mattress filling, and Baden-Powell developed the practical art of scouting. He organized the town's boys as runners and scouts and gave them their distinctive uniform; they were called "cadets".
Among his ruses were ways of convincing the besieging Boers that they had large forces ready to attack, fortified places, barbed wire, searchlights, and minefields. In effect, his troops mimed crawling under barbed wire because from a distance their besiegers couldn't tell. The minefields were spread by rumour, one real explosion, and visibly burying boxes full of nothing but sand.
He was secretly arming and preparing his forces even before the war broke out. The town was an important staging post on the railway between Cape Town and Rhodesia. His regiment consisted of 700 men plus 300 volunteers from the 1350-strong British population, and about 750 of the 7500 Africans. The Boer forces surrounding them were many times larger.
www.pinetreeweb.com/bp-sa-seige.htm for Baden-Powell's own account
www.scouting.org.za/seeds/mafeking.html for much good information on the siege and the cadets
And finally, for your unspeakable pleasure, here is how the great William McGonagall, Poet and Tragedian, described the heroism and the mafficking:
The Relief of Mafeking
Success to Colonel Baden-Powell and his praises loudly sing,
For being so brave in relieving Mafeking,
With his gallant little band of eight hundred men,
They made the Boers fly from Mafeking like sheep escaping from a pen.
'Twas in the year of 1900 and on the 18th of May,
That Colonel Baden-Powell beat the Boers without dismay,
And made them fly from Mafeking without delay,
Which will be handed down to posterity for many a day.
Colonel Baden-Powell is a very brave man,
And to deny it, I venture to say, few men can;
He is a noble hero be it said,
For at the siege of Mafeking he never was afraid.
And during the siege Colonel Baden was cheerful and gay,
While the starving population were living on brawn each day;
And alas! the sufferings of the women and children were great,
But they all submitted patiently to their fate.
For seven months besieged they fought the Boers without dismay,
Until at last the Boers were glad to run away;
Because Baden-Powell's gallant band put them to flight
By cannon shot and volleys of musketry to the left and right.
Then long live Baden-Powell and his brave little band,
For during the siege of Mafeking they made a bold stand
Against yelling thousands of Boers who were thirsting for their blood,
But as firm as a rock against them they fearlessly stood.
Oh! think of them living on brawn extracted from horse hides,
While the inhuman Boers their sufferings deride,
Knowing that the women's hearts with grief were torn
As they looked on their children's faces that looked sad and forlorn.
For 217 days the Boers tried to obtain Mafeking's surrender,
But their strategy was futile owing to its noble defender,
Colonel Baden-Powell, that hero of renown,
Who, by his masterly generalship, saved the town.
Methinks I see him and his gallant band,
Looking terror to the foe: Oh! The sight was really grand,
As he cried, "Give it them, lads; let's do or die;
And from Mafeking we'll soon make them fly,
And we'll make them rue their rash undertaking
The day they laid siege to the town of Mafeking."
Long life and prosperity to Colonel Baden-Powell,
For there's very few generals can him excel;
And he is now the Hero of Mafeking, be it told,
And his name should be engraved on medals of gold.
I wish him and his gallant little band every success,
For relieving the people of Mafeking while in distress;
They made the Boers rue their rash undertaking
The day they laid siege to the town of Mafeking.
For during the defence of Mafeking
From grief he kept the people's hearts from breaking,
Because he sang to them and did recite
Passages from Shakespeare which did their hearts delight.