Spion Kop

Bergville Travel Blog

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Heading east  we leave the Golden Gate National Parkbehind and head towards  the Drakensbergs (the Dragon Mountains). These are the highest ranges in southern Africa and the Zulu called them the ‘barrier of spears’, a natural fortress of seemingly insurmountable rock that marked the eastern boundary of their land. We will pass over the Olivershoek Pass this morning, the border between the Free State and Kwazulu-Natal, and head down into the Karoo sandstone landscapes of the Zulu heartland.

Our destination today is the small town of Bergville, close to famous site of the Boer battlefield of Spion Kop and this afternoon we visit the site of what was one of the bloodiest battles in the entire war.

The Boer War presented the British with their first real taste of guerrilla warfare,fighting a determined enemy adept at hit and run tactics and thoroughlyat home amidst the landscapes of southern Africa. At its outset Kitchener had arrogantly dismissed the Boer threat, describing the upand coming campaign as a ‘teatime war’. In fact it went on to claim the lives of 22,000 British troops and prove the most costly campaign since the wars with Napoleon. It was only through sheer weight of numbers, a devastating scorched earth policy and the introduction of internment camps that the British finally broke the spirit of the Boers.

Spion Kop was to prove probably the most humiliating, and certainly the most costly, battle the British fought. In a monumental example of poor planning, 1700 British troops managed to find themselves exposed on an open hilltop exposed to the withering sharp shooting of a vastly outnumbered band of Boers. Over the course of the day the British lost 600 men and ended up retreating, leaving the hill that they had tried so desperately to hold to a collection of fewer than 350 Boers.

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Eland on Spion Kop
Eland on Spion Kop
Sunset at Spion Kop battlefield Si…
Sunset at Spion Kop battlefield S…
photo by: maithanfear