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Battlefields in the Drakensberg Region

KwaZulu-Natal is a military history enthusiast’s dream and many of its battlefields have become ‘must see’ sites, several of which are within easy reach of the Drakensberg Experience. They include the Voortrekker / Zulu conflict of 1838 and the Anglo-Boer War of 1899 – 1902.
The Voortrekker / Zulu conflict arose as a result of a major exodus of Dutch speaking people from the Cape Colony to the interior of South Africa. In 1838, one of these parties led by Piet Retief made contact with the Zulu king Dingane kaSenzangakhona to negotiate vast tracts of land. The suspicious king had Retief’s party put to death in February 1838 and unleashed his amabutho (warriors) on the various Voortrekker encampments scattered around the Bushmans and Bloukrans River valleys.
This incident eventually resulted in a retaliatory campaign being launched by the Voortrekkers under the leadership of Andries Pretorius, and the Zulu army was defeated in the epic Battle of Blood River on the 16th December 1838.
The Anglo-Boer War can be linked to the discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand in the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek in 1886, which resulted in an influx of foreigners to seek their fortune. Fearing that their Afrikaner sovereignty was under threat, the ZAR Government made their franchise difficult to achieve and members of the British Government manipulated the situation to suit their needs, and the war began on the 11th October 1899.
Several other sites related to the Langalibalele Rebellion of 1873, the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 and the Transvaal War of Independence of 1880 / 1881 are also within easy reach of the Drakensberg Experience.
Battlefield guided tours are available:
Tel 033 263 1908 083 556 4068
Book your battlefield tour with a professional guide
Tel 036 488 1404 082 573 0224
With warm hospitality, relive the memories of the Battle of Spion Kop and walk the footsteps of three great leaders.
This intimate, luxury, eco-friendly lodge is the perfect location to base yourself for exploring the major Anglo-Boer War and Anglo-Zulu War battlefields.
IMPORTANT NOTE: It is illegal to remove any relic or item from South African Battlefields. No excavation may take place without the written authority of the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Heritage Authority, Amafa aKwaZulu-Natali / Heritage KwaZulu-Natal

This was situated above the British camp that was moved from Chieveley for the Upper Tugela Operations by General Sir Redvers Buller VC’s army. No 4 Stationary Hospital was moved here and many of the soldiers who died of their wounds in the Battles of iNthabamnyama, Spioenkop and Vaalkrans are buried here. Co-ordinates: S28° 43.284’ E29° 32.576’

The scene of one of the most futile battles fought on South African soil, the Battle of Spioenkop (24th January 1900) was General Buller’s 3rd attempt to relieve spion kop 3Ladysmith. The Lancastrian brigade launched an attack on the summit, entrenched in the centre of the Kop during extremely misty conditions and then came under heavy small arms and artillery fire from the Boers. To exacerbate matters, the commanding officer, Maj Gen Sir Edward Woodgate, was mortally wounded at an early stage of the battle, resulting in a disastrous lack in chain of command.

A booklet is available for the self-guided trail on the summit of The Kop, but a good battlefield guide would greatly enhance the tour.

Co-ordinates: S28° 38.983’ E29° 30.998’.

VaalkransThe Battle of Vaalkrans (5th to 7th February 1900) was General Sir Redvers Buller VC’s 4th attempt to relieve Ladysmith. After two days of heavy fighting and intensive artillery bombardment, after which the British managed to dislodge the Boers from their positions on Vaalkrans, they were withdrawn by Buller, who effectively snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Buller then withdrew his army from the Upper Tugela and returned to Chieveley, setting the scene for the Battle of the Tugela Heights. The remains of soldiers and burghers whose graves were scattered on the summit and slopes of Vaalkrans have been relocated to the Garden of Remembrance at the foot of Vaalkrans and the Burgher Memorial on Caesar’s Camp respectively. Co-ordinates for the British Garden of Remembrance: S28° 40.514’ E29° 37.885’.

As the Anglo-Boer War continued, the British began to erect lines of blockhouses in an attempt to prevent the Boers from moving freely across the veld. The Bergville blockhouse was constructed after the major campaign in the Natal theatre of the War and is the only surviving blockhouse in the Province, although the remains of a few may still be seen along the railway lines in Northern KwaZulu-Natal. The Sentinal Shellhole, which is a branch of the Memorable Order of Tin Hats (MOTH), an ex-service organisation with strong ties throughout South Africa, holds regular meetings in the blockhouse and has numerous items of militaria on display. Co-ordinates: S28° 43.878’ E29° 21.314’

ambleside 1General Buller’s plan for the attack on General Louis Botha’s positions across the Tugela River involved the utilisation of three brigades with two in support. The main attack was given to Maj Gen A F Hart’s 5th (Irish) Brigade, which advanced into a large loop in the Tugela River in close quarter column and came under attack from the Boers on three sides, suffering extremely heavy casualties. The collapse of this phase resulted in the failure of the attack to develop and the battle was called off.

Co-ordinates: S28° 44.244’ E29° 47.664’

During the preparations for the Battle of Colenso, General Louis Botha established several dummy gun positions, which in most cases consisted of drain pipes from the buildings of Colenso being positioned between the rocks. One has been perfectly preserved adjacent to the R103 en route between Colenso and Ladysmith. Co-ordinates S28° 42.787’ E29° 47.519’

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