As a direct result of the abortive Jameson Raid of 1896, the Volksraad of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek realised that they would have to make far better arrangements for the defence of the 
Transvaal and, in particular, Pretoria. The raiders had penetrated to within nineteen kilometres of Johannesburg. Although General Piet Cronje had succeeded in trapping them at Doornkloof on 
2 January 1896 and forcing their surrender, the assembling of the commandos and their supply of weapons during that operation had been slow and had revealed serious deficiencies. Lord 
Wellington would have said that ' ... it was a close-run thing!'
Thus, the Volksraad set about purchasing modern rifles and improving the commando system. Firstly, they were going to be trained to use their newly acquired Martini Henry rifles - and, at a 
later date, Mausers - on proper rifle ranges, several of which were built at major centres such as Pretoria. and Johannesburg, etc. The claim that a Boer father would hand a twelve-year old a 
musket and one bullet and then expect him to shoot his supper and that this was the reason why Boer riflemen were far better shots than the British soldiers, was now a legend. Secondly, the 
Volksraad looked into the question of purchasing better field artillery and approached the French and German firms of Schneider and Krupp respectively for the purchase of modern up-to-date 
field guns. However, their biggest expenditure for defence was to be on the construction of eight forts at Pretoria and a single fort at Johannesburg. The ZAR's Executive Council took the 
decision to build the forts in March 1896. The Johannesburg Fort was built around the existing prison on Hospital Hill. It was a novel design produced by a military engineer, Mr G H Winsen, 
and built by local contractors. It was intended to hold in check any rebellious movements or organisations in the town, giving the commandos time to assemble. The Pretoria forts, however, 
were designed and built by the same contractors who had supplied the artillery equipments to the republic, namely Schneider and Krupp. When it became evident that the cost of all eight forts 
was going to be excessive, the decision was taken to build only four: Klapperkop, Schanskop and Wonderboompoort to be built by Krupp; and Daspoortrand to be built by Schneider. 
All four of the Pretoria forts were earthen redoubts with bombproof rooms placed under the earth-protected ramparts. This design had stemmed from a remarkable siege which had taken place at 
the town of Plevna during the Turko-Russian War of 1877. A part of the Turkish Army, under the command of Osman Pasha, had rushed forward to Plevna in order stop the Russian advance. Here 
Osman had found a few antiquated stone forts and he proceeded to strengthen these with eighteen hastily thrown-up earthen redoubts. On the arrival of the Russian Army at the town, the stone 
forts were soon reduced to rubble by the Russian artillery, but the earthen redoubts proceeded to hold out for nearly five months before Osman Pasha surrendered. By that time, Russia was 
prepared to sue for peace. The Continental military engineers had noted, with interest, the ease with which the earthen ramparts had absorbed the Russian shot and shell. This had set a style 
of fortification in Europe which would lead to the adoption of this design for the Pretoria forts. All four forts were completed by 1898.
It should be noted that, although Cmdt Gen Piet Joubert had headed the committee which had been responsible for the construction of the forts and had carried out his duties in this respect 
admirably, he had always felt that the money would have been better spent on the acquisition of more field artillery. In any event, by the time the forts had been completed, they were already 
obsolete. This was as a result of a major technological advance made in the field of explosives since the Turko-Russian War. The bursting charge for the Russian shells at Plevna had been 
gunpowder. However, in 1898, the European armies were using High Explosives (HE) in their heavy artillery shells. These came under various names such as Melinite (French) and Lyddite 
(British) and used the chemical, Picric Acid. The new explosive was four times more powerful than gunpowder and even more powerful than TNT. However, in the early shells, it was not always 
possible to achieve complete detonation, in which case it produced clouds of yellow/green smoke and a very bad smell. This led to some quaint accusations of the use of 'poison gas' being made 
against the British in the Anglo-Boer South African War (1899-1902)! However, the number of incompletely detonated shells from Boer guns which landed in the besieged towns of Ladysmith and 
Kimberley indicated that the French ammunition was no better. When the British Army approached Pretoria at Wierda Bridge (Six Mile Spruit) on 4 June 1900, the Royal Artillery and the Royal 
Garrison Artillery had brought along naval 4,7inch guns and heavy howitzers firing Lyddite HE. In addition to two 5-inch howitzers and a battery of 6-inch howitzers with the VII Division, 
Roberts' siege train had included two massive 9,4 inch howitzers. These were made by Skoda and were sent, post haste, through Trieste to Gibraltar where they were transhipped for delivery to 
Cape Town. It is evident that the Pretoria forts would not have been able to withstand a bombardment by these guns using HE shells. This was an opinion confidently expressed by the American 
military observer, Capt Carl Reichmann. Therefore, although one of the Long Toms had been replaced in a fort, even this was withdrawn, to the mystification of the burghers and members of the 
commandos retreating through Pretoria.
Forts Klapperkop and Schanskop covered the approaches to Pretoria from the South, while Fort Wonderboompoort faced North. The French fort at Daspoortrand was entirely different to the other 
three, because it served a different purpose, in that it actually faced both South and North. It had been designed to have three guns on the South rampart facing the road from Potchefstroom 
at Quaggapoort, and three guns on the North rampart facing Horns Nek and the road from Rustenburg. This explains why it had two magazines with electric hoists in order to bring up ammunition 
to the two separate batteries. It was like a warship with broadsides, stranded on the veld, but, like the other three forts, it was also eventually armed with a single 155mm Schneider siege gun. There were four of these in total. They are often wrongly referred to as 'Creusots' because the Schneider factory was located at a village named Le Creusot, near Paris. The forts were manned by the gunners of the Transvaal Staatsartillerie and effected the protection of Pretoria for approximately two and a half years.
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