Black Week
In one disastrous week, dubbed Black Week, from 10-17 December 1899, the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 suffered three devastating defeats by the Boer Republics
Boer Republics
The Boer Republics were independent self-governed republics created by the northeastern frontier branch of the Dutch-speaking inhabitants of the north eastern Cape Province and their descendants in mainly the northern and eastern parts of what is now the country of...

 at the battles of Stormberg
Battle of Stormberg
The Battle of Stormberg was the first British defeat of Black Week, in which three successive British forces were defeated by Boer irregulars in the Second Boer War.-Background:...

 (690), Magersfontein
Battle of Magersfontein
The Battle of MagersfonteinSpelt incorrectly in various English texts as "Majersfontein", "Maaghersfontein" and "Maagersfontein". was fought on 11 December 1899, at Magersfontein near Kimberley on the borders of the Cape Colony and the independent republic of the Orange Free State...

 (948) and Colenso
Battle of Colenso
The Battle of Colenso was the third and final battle fought during the Black Week of the Second Boer War. It was fought between British and Boer forces from the independent South African Republic and Orange Free State in and around Colenso, Natal, South Africa on 15 December 1899.Inadequate...

(1,138), with 2,776 men killed, wounded and captured. The events were an eye opener for the government and troops, who had thought that the war could be won very easily.

The British government drastically changed their mindset after the Black Week disaster to the realization that the Boer war would not be an easy victory, and they undertook many changes in the military including military personnel, better mobilization, and better modernization in order to match and then surpass the Boer troops. Many different opinions arose in the United Kingdom. Although there were many doubters who criticized the overall justice of the British cause, the patriots who would end up volunteering, fighting, and winning this conflict were the majority. Following Black Week, the government called “for able-bodied men willing to abandon their homes and families and risk their lives to serve their country.” Even with this dangerous task, many still volunteered either for the regular army or for shorter enlistments. These new volunteers served as a “new face, untainted by defeat and accusations of defeatism…to breathe life back into the campaigns and restore hope at home.” Other changes enacted by the British immediately following the Black Week disaster were the mobilization of two more divisions, the calling up of the army reserves, raising a force of mounted cavalry for better mobility, and most importantly by sending volunteers from home overseas which added more than one hundred thousands additional troops by the end of the war. The biggest problem that the British troops had at the beginning of the war was the antiquity of their weaponry. The Boer troops had very advanced, modern weapons which helped them win battles where they were greatly outnumbered. One of the keys to success at the Battle of Colenso was the use of smokeless powder used to fire their rifles which hid their locations from the British troops returning fire. This use of modern warfare was just one of the many ways in which the Boer’s had superior weaponry at the beginning of the war. The first of many reforms to the modernization of the British military following Black Week was with the cavalry. With new, modernized troops came new tactics. Only a few months after Black Week, one of the main cavalry divisions led a flanking march that ended with a victory. These new tactics were successful due to the military modernization taking place. Besides equipping the cavalry with rapid-firing rifles instead of lances, the new British military doctrine also started using artillery as a defensive unit of the army as well as a great leap in the innovation of the use of machine guns.
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