So its December 1901 Christmas is a fortnight away for the combatants and Christiaan de Wet was tracking his arch enemy, brother Piet.
It was revenge he was after and as we all know – it’s a meal best eaten cold and unfortunately Christiaan was overheating.
While he stewed on the information that his hated brother was instrumental in setting up the National Scouts, made up of Boer turncoats who now fought for the British, across the world the end of 1901 brought with it a number of fascinating events, incidents and issues.
On December 1st : A crowd of 100,000 people turned out at London's Hyde Park to demonstrate in sympathy for recently fired British Army General Redvers Buller. He was now being blamed for the disasters at Colenso and Spioen Kop almost two years previously where the Boers had pulverised the British as they tried to relieve the siege of Ladysmith.
But on matters more prosaic.
On the 2nd December 1901 a man by the name of King C Gillette began selling his safety razors in the United States. He was inspired by something that could be used and then thrown away, thus ensuring future business. It’s a bit like Monsanto’s seed business these days, but that’s another story. Gillette applied for his US. Patent number 775 134 on December 2 1901. His American Safety Razor Company would become the multi-billion dollar behemoth Gillette Company. Bizarrely Following the commercial success of disposable razors, Gillette refocussed his attention on promoting his views on utopian socialism.
Strange but true.
On December 3rd 1901 the Australian parliament passed its Immigration Restriction Act primarily to restrict non-Europeans from permanently entering the country.
Then on December 7 1901 The United Kingdom and Germany delivered an ultimatum to the government of Venezuela, after the South American country reneged on bond payments.
Venezuelan President Cipriano Castro was given 48 hours to agree to the terms, or to face a blockade of his nation's ports by the Royal Navy and the German Navy. Well some things never change.
On December 9 1901 the first-ever Nobel Prizes were announced, with x-ray discoverer Wilhelm Roentgen receiving the first Nobel Prize in Physics, Emil von Behring being awarded the prize in medicine for his discovery of the first diphtheria antitoxin, Jacobus van't Hoff pioneering work in physical chemistry earning him the chemistry prize, Henry Dunant and Frédéric Passy sharing the peace prize, and Sully Prudhomme winning the prize in literature. The bestowal of the prizes came on the fifth anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel who I mentioned in Episode 1 of this podcast series.
The next day December 10 Joseph W. Jones was granted U.S. Patent No. 688,739 for his invention, "Production of sound-records", which was purchased immediately by the Columbia Phonograph Company for production of its disc-shaped Graphophone records. Jones was paid $25,000 – worth around 700 000 dollars in today’s moolah.
Finally in this series of amazing things that happened in December 1901, Guglielmo Marconi received the first trans-Atlantic radio signal, sent 1,700 miles from Poldhu in Cornwall, England to Signal Hill, St. John's in Newfoundland in Canada on the 12th. December.
It was the letter "S" ("..." in Morse code)., He is quoted as saying "there was no doubt that the principle of wireless communication had arrived on a transatlantic scale... This was a utility, and would prove itself beyond argument as a vital aid to shipping and military communication."
And on the same momentous day, 12th December in South Africa’s Cape Colony, Lieutenant General French finally caught up to General Pieter H. Kritzinger, who had led the Boer incursions into the Cape on three occasion. Unfortunately for him, it was three strikes and he was out.