The Battlefields Challenge

 

It was British Prime Minister Arthur Neville Chamberlain (1937 to 1940) who once said that ……..”In war, whichever side may call itself the victor, there are no winners, but all are losers”.

 

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The South African War - (11 Oct 1899 – 31 May 1902)

 

I believe that the same can be said of the South African War – also known as the Anglo-Boer War or Second Boer War - which was fought between the British Empire and two Boer states, the South African Republic (Republic of Transvaal) and the Orange Free State, over the Empire's influence in South Africa -  put very simply.........

 

Be as it may – it is well documented history and this challenge will take you back in time – to step onto some of the key stages of the South African timeline.

 

Bear in mind that when checking out all the hyperlinked web articles and videos, that there are always 3 sides to a story – yours, mine and something in-between! Propaganda and bias - each story-teller glorified his own set of hero's and could relate tales of victory and defeat, jubilation and sorrow.

 

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The VOG Battlefields Challenge was originated by member Andre Badenhorst (VO124) and first presented to VOG leadership in July 2009. Andre has already completed the challenge a number of times in order to perfect the tour for contenders.

 

We have integrated Andre Badenhorst’s story with additional historical facts and photographs.

 

In Andre’s words:

 

“While this challenge does not entail as much travelling as the 4 Point challenge ……….. it none the less incorporates some wonderful routes as well as numerous emotionally –charged sites.

 

I believe that each VOG member who takes on the Battlefields challenge will find it both educational as well as life-enriching as one gains renewed appreciation of this most important part of our country’s history. 


I hope this challenge will rekindle an appreciation for 'those great bearded warriors charging up a mountain, taking death as nothing. In the moment of battle there was something god-like in those men: their faces change to iron and they seem like fate itself…' - an extract from the son of an English Clergyman’s letter written home at the time of the Boer War.

 

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While numerous monuments have been erected and battle sites set apart to honour significant events and to remember both Boer & Brit fallen heroes – there are 6 official sites that Andre has identified which are worthy of both the motorcycle ride and representing the theme of the challenge.

 

 

These are the Battlefield Challenge official points – which can be completed as individual stations, or as a round trip of about 2130 km - though distance is not a consideration here.

 

1.    Mafikeng Museum (Mafikeng)
2.    Honoured Dead Memorial (Kimberley)
3.    Woman’s Monument at the War Museum (Bloemfontein)
4.    Talana Museum (Dundee)
5.    Long Tom Cannon (Long Tom Pass near Lydenburg)
6.    Fort Schanskop (Pretoria)
 

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Point 1 - Mafikeng Museum (Mahikeng)

 

Mahikeng, still commonly known as Mafikeng and previously Mafeking, is the capital city of the North-West Province of South Africa. Located close to South Africa's border with Botswana, Mahikeng is 1,400 km northeast of Cape Town and 260 km west of Johannesburg.

 

The Mafikeng Museum was established in 1985 and is housed in the former town hall which was built in 1903. An entire room in the museum is dedicated to the 1899-1900 siege of Mafikeng during the Anglo-Boer War.

 

 

  • Photo to be taken in front of museum.

  • Located: Carrington St, Golf View, Mafikeng

  • Tel No: (018) 381-6102

  • Hours: 8am-4pm Mon-Fri, 10am-1pm Sat, Sun & Public Holidays closed

  • Entrance fee: Donation

  • Opened: 1903 (Town Hall)

  • Coordinates:  25°51′S 25°38′E25.85°S 25.633°E

  • Google maps link

 

Other displays in the museum include the tribal origins of Mafikeng, old tools, crafts and herbal medicines used by ancestors. 

 

There is also a large display on Sol Plaatje, who was the founder of the ANC as well as an activist/politician and a Mafikeng resident during the siege. His experiences are recorded in his “Mafikeng Diary: A black man’s view of a white man’s war.” 

 

Outside the museum is a retired steam locomotive as well as a monument to the fallen, which is situated in Martin Street in the city centre.

 

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The Siege of Mafeking (Oct 1899 to May 1900)

 

More of the story here, from British Battles.com.

 

This was the most famous British action in the Second Boer War and took place at the town of Mafeking over a period of 217 days, from October 1899 to May 1900.  Robert Baden Powell was the British garrison commander during the siege, who survived the war to found the Scouting Movement. The lifting of the Siege of Mafeking was a decisive victory for the British and a crushing defeat for the Boers. Because of this it is often known as the Relief of Mafeking.

 

 

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Point 2 - Honoured Dead Memorial (Kimberley)

 

Kimberley is the capital city of South Africa’s Northern Cape Province. It’s known for its 19th-century diamond mines, like the deep, hand-dug Big Hole. Nearby, the Kimberley Mine Museum is a re-creation of the town in its heyday, and displays jewellery and uncut diamonds. 

 

The Honoured Dead Memorial is a provincial heritage site in Kimberley. It is situated at the meeting point of five roads, and commemorates those who died defending the city during the Siege of Kimberley in the Anglo-Boer War.

 

  • Photo to be taken in front of the memorial

  • Located: Memorial Road Area, Kimberley

  • Tel No: None

  • Hours: Open at all times

  • Entrance fee: Free

  • Opened: 28 November 1904

  • Coordinates:  28°45'04.7"S 24°46'10.1"E

  • Google maps link

 

Also see the following websites:

 

Artefacts website

Solomon Edwards Guesthouse

Honoured Dead Memorial

 

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Siege of Kimberley (14 Oct 1899 – 15 Feb 1900)

 

More of the story here, from a British perspective.

 

Boer forces from the Orange Free State and the Transvaal besieged the diamond mining town. The Boers shelled the town with their superior artillery in an attempt to force the garrison to capitulate. General French relieved Kimberley after a siege of 123 days, resulting in a British victory.

 

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POI - The Battle of Magersfontein (11 Dec 1899)

 

The battle of Magersfontein was one of three major British defeats during what was known as Black Week, the other two being the battles of Colenso and Stormberg. British forces under Lieutenant General Lord Methuen were advancing north along the railway line from the Cape in order to relieve the Siege of Kimberley, but their path was blocked at Magersfontein by a Boer force that was entrenched in the surrounding hills.

 

More of the story here, from a British Battles.com.

 

 

The battlefield is located south of Kimberley, Northern Cape Province, South Africa and can be reached either via the airport road (31.5 km) or by national road via the Modder River (47.5 km).

 

A word of warning: Some members have struggled to access these sites via the dirt road if rainy conditions persist - but if you can, the Magersfontein Battle site is well worth the detour.

 

Magersfontein Slagveld Museum - Google maps link 

Magersfontein Memorial - Google maps link

 

 

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Point 3 - Anglo-Boer War Museum (Bloemfontein)

 

Bloemfontein is the capital city of the province of Free State of South Africa; and, as the judicial capital of the nation, one of South Africa's three national capitals and is the seventh largest city in South Africa.

 

After the unveiling of the National Women's Memorial in 1913 the National Women's Memorial Committee was of the opinion that a museum, solely dedicated to the preservation of the Anglo-Boer War history and objects should be established. On 30 September 1931 the War Museum was officially opened by General J.B.M. Hertzog.

 

In 1934 the Museum was transferred to the Union Government and placed under the management of the Council of Curators of the National Museum in Bloemfontein, governed by a War Museum Council. On 1 April 1953 the War Museum became an independent museum with a Council of its own. In the following decades to come the museum was expanded by adding new exhibition halls, an administration block and an auditorium.

 

 

Woman's Monument

 

In 1906, President Marthinus Theunis Steyn, President of the Republic of the Orange Free State (1896-1902), requested that a monument be erected to the thousands of women and children who died in the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) in British concentration camps and elsewhere.

 

  • Photo to be taken in front of the Woman's Monument

  • Located: Monument Road, Faunasig, Bloemfontein.

  • Tel No: (051) 447-3447 (Museum)

  • Hours: Mon to Fri (8.30 to 4.30), Sat (10-5), Sun (2-5), Public holidays (9-5)

  • Entrance fee at Museum: Adults R10.00, Children R5.00

  • Opened: 16 December 1913

  • Coordinates: 29°08'24.9"S 26°12'34.4"E

  • Google maps link 

 

Other memorials on the property:


Over the years, the Women’s Monument Commission has attempted to ensure that nothing be erected around the original structure that could hamper the view of the Monument. Here are the other memorials erected.

 

  • 44 concentration camp memorial stones along the paved path leading to the Monument.

  • Sculptures Afskeid (1986), Banneling (1983) and Bittereinder (1994).

  • The plates commemorating the centenary of the Peace of Vereeniging in 2002.

  • The new Garden of Remembrance in front of the entrance to the War Museum.

  • Emily Hobhouse's ashes are located at the Women's Memorial.

 

Below is the beautiful sculpture "Die Afskeid' by Danie de Jager (1986). A Boer soldier bids his wife and child farewell after being called to war in 1899.

 

Other websites you can view:

 

Vrouemonument

Anglo Boer War Museum

Facebook

 

 

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Point 4 - Talana Museum (Dundee)

 

Dundee is a small mining town in Kwazulu Natal that was founded in 1882 after the Boers discovered rich coal deposits close to the surface. It was named after the hometown of a pioneering Scottish settler, Peter Smith, who founded the Dundee Coal Company in 1889.

 

The Talana museum, located just outside of the town - comprises 23 buildings, dedicated to subjects as diverse as war and agriculture, mining, industry and domestic life. Within short driving distances are some of the most famous battlefields in the country; namely Blood River, Rorke's Drift, Fugitives Drift, Isandlwana, Elandslaagte, Spioenkop, Colenso and the Siege of Ladysmith.

 

Established in 1979 to commemorate the Anglo Zulu war, the small collection moved to the present site at the beginning of 1983. Tour guides are available for hire for the museum and Talana battle site, as well as tours to surrounding battlefields.

 

 

  • Photo to be taken in front of the Talana Museum, with signage visible

  • Located: R33 Victoria road, Dundee

  • Tel No: (0034) 212-2654 (Museum)

  • Hours: Open weekdays 08:00 - 16:30. Weekends and public holidays are 9:00 -16:30. Closed 25 & 26 December only.

  • Entrance fee at Museum: No facilities for credit or debit cards available for entrance fee.

  • Opened: 1979

  • Coordinates: S28° 9' 21.62 E30° 15' 35.28

  • Google maps link

 

 

More on the Talana Museum

 

Talana Museum, Battlefield and Heritage Park

Facebook

 

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POI - Battle of Talana Hill (20 Oct 1899)

 

The Battle of Talana Hill, also known as the Battle of Glencoe, was the first major clash of the Second Boer War. A frontal attack by British infantry supported by artillery drove Boers from a hilltop position, but the British suffered heavy casualties in the process, including their commanding general Sir William Penn-Symons.

 

 

More on the battle here, from British Battles.com

 

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POI - The Battle of Blood River (16 Dec 1838)

 

The Battle of Blood River is the name given for the battle fought between 464 Voortrekkers ("Pioneers"), led by Andries Pretorius, and an estimated 10- to 15,000 Zulu warriors on the bank of the Ncome River in mid-Dec 1838. Check out the official Blood River heritage site here......

 

Though not related to this challenge, this battle site between Dundee and Vryheid is worth visiting - but maybe not by regular motorcycle! Check before travelling.

 

Google maps link

 

Did you know the significance of the 16th December in South African history?

 

Originally commemorated as the Day of the Vow - also known as Day of the Covenant or Dingaan's Day - it was a religious holiday commemorating the Voortrekker victory over the Zulus at the Battle of Blood River in 1838.

 

The second historical event that took place on 16 December was in 1961, when Umkhonto we Sizwe, the military wing of the African National Congress (ANC), was formed.

 

To acknowledge the significance of this day in both the Afrikaner and liberation struggle traditions, it was renamed the Day of Reconciliation and was celebrated under the new name in South Africa for the first time on the 16th Dec 1995.

 

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Point 5 - Long Tom Cannon (Long Tom Pass near Lydenburg)

 

This attraction is 36 km from the town of Lydenburg, in the Mpumalanga Province, which was founded in 1850 by the company of Voortrekker leader Andries Potgieter. It was once the capital of its own independent republic, and still boasts some of the best preserved Zuid Afrikaanse and old Transvaal architecture in the country.

 

 

The Long Tom Pass is a 60 km gem of a road that winds from Lydenburg down to Sabie. Approximately halfway between these two towns, is a replica of a Creusot siege cannon. The monument marks the spot where, from 8 to 11 Sept 1900, two of these cannons were used for the last time by the Boer commandos against the British army. These cannons - with their long barrels - were nicknamed the "Long Toms" by the British forces.

 

 

  • Photo to be taken in front of the Long Tom cannon

  • Located: R37 Long Tom Pass

  • Tel No: None

  • Hours: At all times

  • Entrance fee: None

  • Opened: 

  • Coordinates: 25°09'50.3"S 30°40'48.3"E

  • Google maps link

 

 

Below are some of the VOG members that have already visited this amazing attraction.

 

 

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Point 6 - Fort Schanskop (Pretoria)

 

Pretoria was founded in 1855 by Marthinus Pretorius, a leader of the Voortrekkers, who named it after his father Andries Pretorius and chose a spot on the banks of the Apies river to be the new capital of the Zuid Afrikaanse Republiek (Dutch = ZAR).

 

Fort Schanskop situated on a hillside of Pretoria was designed by Germans architects to protect Pretoria against possible attacks from the Johannesburg railway line and national road. The fort was the initiative of the then ZAR President Paul Kruger after the Jameson Raid in 1896.

 

 

The fort was completed in 1897 and declared a historic national monument in 1938. Revolving artillery was mounted onto the Fort embankment warding off possible attacks from any angle. A 200kg bust statue of Commandant-General Piet Joubert stands on 2 tons of granite inside the fort, he was in charge of the defence of the ZAR from 1880. Precision architecture in a panoramic setting with decorative brickwork and cannons makes for interesting historic exploration.

 

 

  • Photo to be taken in front of the Dawie Theron statue

  • Located: Eeufees Road, Groenkloof, Pretoria (Gauteng)

  • Tel No: : 012 326-6770 (Voortrekker Monument)

  • Tel No: : 012 323-0682 (Museum)

  • Hours: Monday to Sunday from 8am to 5pm

  • Entrance fee: Voortrekker Monument - Adults R60, students/pensioners R35, family ticket R120

  • Opened: 1897

  • Coordinates: 25°46'38.8"S 28°11'02.8"E

  • Google maps link

 

 

Note that this site is on the same property as the magnificent Voortrekker Monument and shares the same access gate as Fort Schanskop.

 

 

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In conclusion: The South African War 1899-1902

 

The amount of information available on the subject of the Anglo-Boer War is vast and the links following are great general websites to browse, should you wish to do your own research before taking on this challenge.

 

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The following are South African battle sites, memorials and museums - grouped according to their provincial locations in our country.


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GAUTENG PROVINCE:

 

Pretoria: Melrose House museum

 

The Peace Treaty of Vereeniging which ended the Anglo-Boer War (1899 - 1902) was signed in Melrose House on 31 May 1902.

 

Pretoria: Fort Klapperkop

 

Fort Klapperkop was manned by a maximum of 30 troops, but by 1899, only 16 soldiers remained as the war drew men out into active service. The fort never saw active combat and it is now a Gauteng Provincial Heritage Site and a South African national monument. It affords splendid views of Jacaranda City both from Johann Rissik Drive and the garrison itself.

 

Pretoria West: Magaliesberg Battlefields Route

 

The South African War was fought by South Africans of all race groups on both sides of the conflict. It caused massive upheaval for people of all races in the area around the Magaliesberg mountain range. The battle activity in the region took place from late May 1900, when British troops first entered the area, until 31 May 1902, when the war ended.

 

Johannesburg: Anglo-Boer War Memorial

 

This impressive memorial in the grounds of the Museum of Military History in Saxonwold, Johannesburg was formerly known as the “Rand Regiments Memorial” and it was originally erected in memory of the soldiers who served and died with the Rand Regiments in the 1899-1902 Anglo Boer War.

 

Johannesburg: Indian Monument 

 

This monument stands as a memorial to Indians who fell in the Anglo-Boer War South African War
of 1899-1902, overlooking the valley where Indians served at a remount depot during the war. 

 

Irene: Concentration Camp cemetery and memorial

 

The Irene concentration camp was opened on 2 November 1900. The population of the camp increased rapidly and refugees were housed in tents under extremely poor conditions.


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LIMPOPO PROVINCE:

 

Makhado (Louis Trichardt): Lalapanzi Hotel

 

Located in the beautiful Bandelierkop, surrounded by trees, cattle and bush, Lalapanzi is an old English-style hotel that has been welcoming guests since the 1940s. It is home to the Bushveld Anglo Boer War Museum and offers guests informative skirmishes tours around the area. The hotel is 28 kms from Louis Trichardt.

 

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KWAZULU NATAL:

 

Ladysmith: Siege Museum
Ladysmith: The Burgher Monument

Ladysmith: Wagon Hill Battle Site

Ladysmith/ Glencoe: Elandslaagte Battlefield

Howick: Military Cemetery & ABW Memorial

Colenso: Battle of Colenso – Gun Sites

Bergville: Spioenkop Battlefield

 

 

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NORTH-WEST PROVINCE:

 

 

MPUMALANGA PROVINCE:

 

Roodedraai (Between Volksrust & Vrede): Roodedraai Anglo-Boer War Museum

 

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FREE STATE PROVINCE:

 

Clarens: Surrender Hill

 

On the night on 28 July 1900 the British took Slaapkrans (now known as Surrender Hill). 1500 Free State Boer commandos managed to escape but 2 days later 3000 Boers surrendered at Slaapkrans under Commander Prinsloo, this following a series of fierce battles fought between Fouriesburg and Golden Gate. Declared a South African National Monument in 1986, it is situated about 10 km south of Clarens on the road to Fouriesburg. A walk from the parking lot up to the top of the hill is required.

 

Kroonstad: Concentration Camp

 


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EASTERN CAPE:

 

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WEST CAPE:


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NORTHERN CAPE:

 

Hopetown: Doornbult Concentration Camp Memorials

Hopetown: Oranjerivier Stasie Concentration Camp museum

Vryburg: Battle of Kraaipan

Vryburg: Old Jail Museum, Anglo Boer War Memorial

Vryburg: Concentration Camp Cemetery

 

 

 


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