Exeter City Council plans to remove statue of war hero after official report claims it is “offensive”

Exeter City Council plans to remove a statue of General Sir Redvers Buller, head of British forces in the Second Boer War, after a task group labelled the statue as offensive.

The task force was set up in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, which swept across the UK in May and June of 2020 after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, USA.

During the protests in June, a statue of slave trader Edward Colston was thrown into Bristol’s harbour by anti-racism protestors.

An equality impact assessment from the Exeter Council task force read: “The General Buller statue represents the patriarchal structures of empire and colonialism which impact negatively on women and anyone who does not define themselves in binary gender terms.

‘The consultation will need to ensure that the views of women, transgender and non-binary people are captured and given due weight.”

General Sir Redvers Buller was born in 1839 near Crediton, Devon. He won the Victoria Cross during the Second Zulu war, where he showed incredible bravery rescuing fellow soldiers while under enemy fire.

Buller went on to become head of British forces during the Second Boer War. Despite being scapegoated by the British Army for presiding over ‘Black Week’, in which 3,000 men were wounded, captured and killed fighting the Boers, Buller was awarded the freedom of Exeter.

The decision to remove the statue has caused a backlash from many. Historian Andrew Roberts said: “I think it is important to point out that the general fought against the white regime in South Africa. In the year 1900 every man was a sexist.

‘This is ridiculous and historical wokery at its worst. There are reasons why they should not have put up a statue in the first place – he was a bad general.

“But these are really bad reasons. The lot of women was improved by the British Empire.”

Keith Barker, General Buller’s biographer, also registered his anger at the Council’s decision. Barker said: “I think the so-called “equality impact assessments” espoused in this report are utter nonsense.

“This man was always a great supporter of and campaigner for the many native communities he came across.

“Buller had a powerful radical, liberal streak. No doubt his views on sex and gender would have been somewhat unorthodox but they would have represented those specifically of the era in which he lived.

“Everything should be understood in its context and to not do so is a historical travesty.”

The decision to remove the statue of General Buller is just the latest in a series of decisions to erase British history in the name of the anti-racism movement.

Merchant Taylor School for Boys renamed Clive of India House due to military leader Robert Clive’s association with colonialism and the British empire.

Furthermore, campaigners have attempted to remove a statue of Christopher Cordrington, an 18th century colonial governor, from an All Souls, Oxford library.

The statue remains in place, for now.

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