Arthur Conan Doyle,
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries was the model for his own character "Dr. Watson." He dedicated his medical skills to the army during the South African (Boer) War. He wrote the first edition of "The Great Boer War" in 1900, later updating it to cover the war to its end in 1902. In the Preface to the First Edition, he wrote: "This book was begun in England and continued on board a steamer, but the greater part was written in a hospital tent in the intervals during the epidemic at Bloemfontein."
Preface to the Final Edition
During the course of the war some
sixteen Editions of this work have appeared, each of which was, I hope, a little
more full and accurate than that which preceded it. I may fairly claim, however,
that the absolute mistakes made have been few in number, and that I have never
had occasion to reverse, and seldom to modify, the judgments which I have
formed. In this final edition the early text has been carefully revised and all
fresh available knowledge has been added within the limits of a single volume
narrative. of the various episodes in the latter half of the war it is
impossible to say that the material is available for a complete and final
chronicle. By the aid, however, of the official dispatches, of the newspapers,
and of many private letters, I have done my best to give an intelligible and
accurate account of the matter. The treatment may occasionally seem too brief
but some proportion must be observed between the battles of 1899-1900 and the
skirmishes of 1901-1902.
Preface to the First Edition
IT is possible that a fuller knowledge may give an entirely different meaning to some of the events of the Boer war. This account is compiled with as much accuracy as is attainable at this date, and with as much detail as a single volume will permit. The occasional judgments and criticisms on which I have ventured may be founded upon error, but at least they are made without either fear or favour. In frequent conversations with Boers I have endeavoured to get their views upon both political and military questions.
The book was begun in England and continued on board a steamer, but the greater part was written in a hospital tent in the intervals of duty during the epidemic at Bloemfontein. often the only documents which I had to consult were the convalescent officers and men who were under our care. Under these circumstances some errors may have crept in, but on the other hand I have had the inestimable advantage of visiting the scene of this great drama, of meeting many of the chief actors in it, and of seeing with my own eyes something of the actual operations.
There are many who have helped me in my task, but I especially acknowledge the co-operation of Mr. Blasson, of the Langman Hospital, now dead in the service of his country, and of Mr. Charles Terry, of Haslemere, who collected and arranged my material.
A. CONAN DOYLE.
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