Last Stand at Majuba Hill
Inside John Wilcox is there a factual historian struggling to get out?
In their fourth outing, Simon Fonthill and 352 Jenkins take part in the brief and inglorious First Boer War, which began with a Boer foray into Natal and ended two months later in Boer victory at Majuba Hill, as the British made the cardinal military error of underestimating their enemy.
Mr Wilcox’s historical grasp is excellent, his fiction laboured. To produce a novel of reasonable length he resorts to padding; a 58-page digression to Egypt is only the worst example. Then our heroes make a diplomatic mission to the Orange Free State, where Fonthill falls foul of a mysterious Prussian and meets the inevitable beautiful and enigmatic woman. Here factual errors creep in. The German representative in Bloemfontein was a minister, not an ambassador, his headquarters not an embassy but a legation. Up to 1914 German officers wore, not field grey, but the famed Prussian blue. I was relieved when we got to Majuba and the author could give effect to his undoubted skill in battle description and depiction of terrain.