Kimberley, where we have two full days to check the sites and explore for the future. A later start as all we wanted to see is fairly close, up to 5o kilometres from our hotel.
We left the hotel at 09:00 and headed south towards Cape Town adjacent the north/south railway that was used during the Boer War to bring up troops and supplies. This railway was very important particularly in moving the infantry as without the train, they would be expected to march, a slow and tiring means of moving over such a vast landscape.
Magersfontein was where we were heading, as this was one of the three battles Stormberg, Magersfontein and Colenso that were fought in what was called the ‘Black Week’, all defeats by the Boers on their British attackers. Australians, the New South Wales Lancers and Medical Team were the only Australian units involved in this dark period; they were at Magersfontein.
At this Battle, the New South Wales Lancers were employed protecting the Artillery under the 9th Lancers. They were very fortunate that they did not suffer any casualties in the battle, although the 9th Lancers did.
The force opposing Boer Generals Cronje and de la Rey was the cream of the British armed forces including the Highland Brigade, Grenadier Guards, Scots Guards, Coldstream Guards to name a few, all regular units. General Methuen commanded the British, de la Rey where he believed Methuen would attack, and he was not disappointed.
The Boers were in trenches at the base of the hills where the straight of their Mauser rifle fire could cover the open ground. The Highland brigade moved-up in the dark on 10 December 1899, in a thunderstorm that covered their move. As they were forming-up, in the open as you would have done at Waterloo, the Boers opened fire and chaos struck the British, and caught the brigade at its greatest disadvantage, halted and partly deployed.
The brigade suffered greatly, most who made it close to the Boer trenches had to stay out in the open under fire until dark. The Gordons were thrown in to alleviate the situation but they also were decimated. The artillery firing on the Boers kept them occupied otherwise casualties would have been greater. G Battery RHA fired more shots on this day than in any other day in the war. De la Rey and Cronje stayed on this position until French by-passed them and relieved Kimberley on 15 February 1900. Cronje moved to Paardeberg where he was defeated on 10 May 1900 and surrendered with 4,000 of his troops.
The museum was excellent and after our viewing we climbed the kopjes to look down on the area of the battle and also at one location there was a diorama that allowed us to compare it to the ground. As there was a group of Scandinavians supporting the Boers, for which they paid heavily, there has been a memorial erected to the west of the position. A great location, and following our time on the battlefield we adjourned to the on-site café for coffee.
Following our coffee we boarded our coach and were heading into Kimberley for lunch, but first we stopped outside the park to view the spot where General Wauchope, the Highland Brigade commander had fallen. The gate was locked, and as we checked it, we saw a small sprinbock and did not want to frighten it so we could get a photo. We should not have worried, as soon as he saw us he came running over, Barry Vickery fed him some potato chips which he obviously loved. We were told he would attack us if we ventured into the paddock, the sight of his sharp horns deterred us.
Lunch was had on the veranda of our hotel and then we went to the Kimberley West End cemetery where there was a memorial with many names of those lost in the area, including Maggersfontein. While at the cemetery, we were able to repair a cross that had fallen before returning to our hotel.
Tomorrow is a free day for the group and a break for Jack our coach driver.