Boer War South Africa
Join Battlefield History Tours (BHT) as we follow the campaign of the Colonial and Australian Armies in South Africa during the Boer War.
The Battlefield History Tours Team has been taking the families of those who fought in faraway places to visit the areas where their family had fought, to walk the battlefields, visit the memorials and in some cases to visit the grave of that family member or friend of the family who had paid the supreme sacrifice.
Gallipoli, the Western Front, North Africa and Greece and Crete are areas well known and visited but that first engagement of the 20th Century where Australians had fought, the Boer War, has been somewhat overlooked.
This is a special tour developed by Battlefield History Tours for the very special purpose that we hope will, in a small way, ensure that this part of Australia's military history is not forgotten as we visit the battle sites, each with an informative briefing, meet the local dignitaries who maintain our military heritage and pay our respects at the resting places of our fallen.
As we travel through the countryside in our air conditioned coach, you will pass through those same towns and historical locations that our men saw as they campaigned, the same areas where they rested when out of the line and where they prepared for their next engagement. We meet
in our hotel adjacent Johannesburg Airport, before setting off to move through the area
where operations took place all those years ago. Following that expansive tour we return to
our hotel adjacent Johannesburg Airport for a short walk to return flights or to take the opportunity to extend and spend more time in this diverse country.
To see where you will be staying, just click on the hotel icon on the itinerary.
The tour in 2018 was a great success, CLICK HERE to see what happened.
16 memorable days.
Costs: 15 Days, 14 Nights TBC per person twin share, TBC
single supplement. Kruger National Park extension 5
Days, 4 Nights TBC per person twin share,
TBC single supplement. (Price may vary due to volatility of the Australian Dollar on the international currency market.)
Included in tour price will be:
- Battlefield tours with military historian,
- Local guide,
- Air conditioned coaches,
- Most meals as per programme,
- Museum entrance fees, and
Not included in tour price:
- Air travel,
- Travel insurance,
- Laundry and alcohol,
- Tour extensions,
- Personal expenses, and
- Tips to Drivers and Guides
Conditions apply, costs and itinerary subject to change.
||Pretoria- Legislative Capital of the Republic of South Africa.
|| Be at Melrose House Pretoria (where it was signed) on the
120th anniversary of the historic treaty that marked the end of the war.
||Conducted tour of the Battlefields where the Australians had
Pretoria, Wilmansrust, Rhenosterkop, Ermelo, Vredefort, Elands River,
Paardeberg, Magersfontein, Belmont, Colesberg, and
||Pay our respects at the Memorials dedicated to our fallen.
||Visit those places where the first Australian Victoria Crosses were won.
||Captain Neville Howse's heroic action at Vredefort and much more ...
||Opportunity to extend - take a tour of the
Kruger National Park..
Please note: The 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2023 tours were a great success and the feedback has been nothing but positive CLICK HERE to see what
happened in 2018. Most tours cover the 'iconic' South African battle sites in Natal, Rorke's Drift, Isandlwana from the Zulu conflict with Colenso added just to be able to say it covers the Second Boer War;
Australian units did not fight there. We have blazed a trail to battle sites and museums often forgotten or neglected. There were over 100 engagements where Australian soldiers were present, no tour can cover them all. We chose engagements that covered the broad spectrum of the conflict from the initial set piece battles to the skirmishes of the guerrilla campaign; all where
Australian units were involved. To this we added the rich heritage of our tour participants, adjusting the timetable and route where possible to visit the places where their ancestors fought and in some cases made the ultimate sacrifice. The 2016 itinerary has been prepared using our 2012
and 2014 experiences. Accepting the tyranny of distance, South Africa is a vast land, there is some
limited flexibility to visit sites that are of special interest to those on tour.
Therefore, following information provided by those booked to tour, prior to us leaving Australia, the sites that are currently listed may be replaced by alternatives or new sites added to those already detailed. Battlefield History Tours endeavours to comply with all special site visit requests and from past experience, visits to these sites are of significant interest to all members of our touring parties and tend to bring that personal touch to all on tour.
We continually strive to improve what are our very well regarded tours.
26 May Johannesburg
Guests will be met by our staff at Oliver Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg,
for the walk through the connecting corridor to our hotel. The remainder of the day is free to
meet other guests. In the evening there will be a full briefing on the campaign. Overnight -
Johannesburg Airport . D
Day 2. 27 May Johannesburg Airport - Witbank
Today after breakfast in our hotel we will head north east to Rhonerstekop
(Motetma) where we will view the site of the first occasion where troops from all the Australian colonies and New Zealand were involved together against Boer General Viljoen on 29 November 1900.
A box lunch on the road. Then a drive to Middelburg, an Australian troop staging
area where we will visit the cemetery pay our respects to the substantial number
of Australians interred there, including Lieutenant Anthony Forrest a 16 year
old from Western Australia, we will visit the place where he dies tomorrow; then on to our hotel. Dinner in our hotel. Overnight -Witbank . BLD
28 May Witbank - Ermelo - Witbank
Breakfast, then we head south east on the N11 to Wilmansrust where on 12 June 1901 the 5th Victorian Mounted Rifles (VMR) suffered the largest number of casualties from any single engagement in the war (19 dead, 36 wounded).
A few kilometres further we come to Grobelaar Recht where Anthony Forrest was
killed while in charge of a party guarding a wagon on 15 May 1901. Then we head south east to Ermelo, where we visit the site of the Battle of Onverwacht, now quiet farming land with a striking monument to that battle. In this engagement an advance guard of 200 British and Australian Mounted Infantry were drawn into an ambush by 800 Boer bitter enders under General Opperman on 4 January 1902; a few short months from the end of the war. The Australian component, the
5th Queensland Imperial Bushmen suffered 13 dead. Following our box
lunch we will visit the Ermelo cemetery where we will find the graves of the young Queenslanders, who were sacrificed so unnecessarily. Then we return to
Witbank for dinner and our overnight stay. Overnight - Witbank .
Day 4. 29 May Witbank - Klerksdorp
Breakfast, before we drive to Vereeniging visiting the peace park where negotiations took
place. From there we travel further west to Vredefort where on 22 July 1900, at a point on the lip of amazing meteorite crater, that we will inspect, Neville Howse became the first Australian to be awarded the Victoria Cross. Thereafter we drive to
Klerksdorp. Dinner in our hotel. Overnight - Klerksdorp . BLD
Day 5. 30 May Klerksdorp - Pretoria
After breakfast today we head north east towards Johannesburg, there we will visit Ditsong National Museum of Military History in
Saxonwold. A box lunch will be eaten in the Museum grounds. In the afternoon
we will visit Church street cemetery Pretoria where we will visit 'Hero's Acre'
where President Kruger is buried, and pay our respects at the common grave
shared by Lieutenants Handcock and Morant. Dinner will be in our hotel. Overnight - Pretoria .
Day 6. 31 May Pretoria
Today we will take part in a ceremony at Melrose House where the signing of the treaty negotiated at Vereeniging took place of the 31 May 1902,
120 years ago. With prior arrangement, you can be presented with a Boer War Descendant or
Supporter's medallion. Lunch will be at 'The Blue Crane' in Pretoria. followed by a visit to the magnificent
Voortrekker Monument. Overnight - Pretoria .
Day 7. 1 June Pretoria - Mafikeng
Breakfast in our hotel then we head west towards Mafikeng, visiting Elands River where from 4-16 August 1900, 500 Australian Bushmen from all colonies defeated a force of 2,500. The chronicler Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle noting: "When the ballad makers of Australia seek for a subject, let them turn to Elands River, for there was no finer resistance in the war".
Then on to Zeerust then Mafikeng, genesis of the world scouting movement, we visit, Mafikeng
museum and the Boer War cemetery. The Mafikeng relief force on 16 May 1900 included sub-units from all Australian colonies, including
Queensland and NSW Imperial Bushmen brigaded with New Zealand rough riders.
Dinner in our hotel. Overnight - Mafikeng . BLD
8. 2 June Mafikeng - Kimberley
An early breakfast before we take the 200 kilometre journey to the sleepy hamlet of Vryburg. Near Vryburg between 7-11 May 1902 the first truly Australian units, the 1st and 2nd Australian Commonwealth Horse were involved in mopping up the final Boer resistance as the peace was being concluded.
A box lunch will be had at Wateton adjacent the bowling green, then on toward Kimberley. By-passing the town we head west to the Paardeberg battlefield, we visit the Museum and the battle site. Going to the exact location on the Modder River where General Cronje positioned his laager and inspect the river bank where caves had been dug to protect the women and children during the investiture. We will walk over the ground over which the unnecessary assaults by the British
We will also, visit the grave of Colonel Hannay a real hero, who when in spite of his objections was ordered to make an unnecessary and doomed assault chose to lead his men personally knowing full well it would mean his death. He is buried near to where he fell.
Dinner in our hotel. Overnight - Kimberley . BLD
Day 9. 3 June Kimberley
Breakfast before a very interesting day. Kimberley is the site of the siege that
was, relieved in February 1900. We will first drive out to the site of the battle of
Magersfontein where innovative deployment and superior Boer tactics saw Lord
Methuen's column including NSW Lancers defeated and held at bay, thwarting his
attempt to relieve the besieged town. We will then examine the outflanking route taken by General French's Division, including the NSW Lancers, Australian Horse (NSW heavy cavalry unit) and Queensland Mounted Infantry
(QMI) to relieve the siege; and gain an understanding why 500 horses where lost
in this endeavour. After lunch in our hotel, we will spend the rest of the day exploring the town and its many attractions that relate to the Boer War. After all, Kimberley was the major prize of the War, here the Cecil Rhodes' De Biers empire was headquartered.
We will visit the Boer War Cemetery, drive past the Monument to the Fallen, Cecil Rhodes'statue, the WW1 and 2 memorial to the McGreggor
Museum; this Museum incorporates the Museum of the Kimberley Regiment and is one of the best we will visit on the tour. Dinner in our hotel. Overnight - Kimberley .
Day 10. 4 June Kimberley
Today following breakfast you have the rest of the day to make and mend or explore Kimberley at your leisure.
Our hotel is adjacent the Kimberley Big Hole historic precinct; you can spend
the whole day there if the fancy takes you. A great souvenir shop. Dinner in our hotel. Overnight - Kimberley .
Day 11. 5 June Kimberley - Colesberg - Gariep Dam
Today we set off for the sites of the first engagements by Australian troops. Driving south we visit Belmont, precursor to the Battle of
Magersfontein where on 23 November 1899 a troop of NSW Lancers dismounted and covered the withdrawal of the
9th Lancers, becoming the first Australian troops in combat. We pass near Sunnyside where on 1 January 1900 Private Victor Jones of the QMI became the first Australian to die in action. We travel through De Aar junction where Australian troops moving up from Capetown de-trained and assembled before moving to the front. Then on to Arundel where we can view the Kopjes around which Tom Morris galloped to rescue his colleague Bernard Harrison and become the first Australian nominated for the VC (never awarded). We have
a box lunch on the road, and dinner in our resort. Overnight - Gariep Dam . BLD
12. 6 June Gariep Dam - Bloemfontein
Breakfast in our hotel, then drive the few kilometres to Colesberg and on the way we pass Sligersfontein where on 16 January 1900 Fred Kilpatrick, the schoolteacher from Carlingford, became the first NSW Lancer to die in battle. At Colesburg we tour the battle site where from 9-28 February 1900 the Australian regiment consisting of the infantry companies from NSW, VIC, TAS and WA, that had been converted to Mounted Infantry, blocked an attempt by the Boers to outflank the British forces approaching Kimberley, and push into the Cape. Lunch is at a restaurant in Colesburg, followed by a visit to the Colesburg Museum and the cemetery where Fred Kilpatrick, James Roberts (VMR), Roland Pitt 1st Tasmanian Mounted Infantry (TMI) and other Australians are buried. We arrive at Bloemfontein in the early evening for dinner in our hotel. Overnight - Bloemfontein . BLD
Day 13. 7 June Bloemfontein
Breakfast, then we tour Bloemfontein where after the city was occupied on 13 March 1900, the Australian units were reorganised for the advance on Pretoria. We visit: the Museum of the Boer Republics; the Women's Monument; see a restored block house and barbed wire barrier and then drive to the top of Naval Hill which provides an excellent view of the town. Lunch will be at
our hotel. In the afternoon, we will visit the war cemeteries then the South African Armour Museum within the lines of the School of Armour and 1 SA Tank Regiment. Dinner in our hotel. Overnight - Bloemfontein . BD
Day 14. 8 June Bloemfontein - Johannesburg Airport
An early start after breakfast then north to Kroonstad where we will find two remarkably preserved cemeteries in Kroonstad that include Australian graves. These cemeteries are maintained by the local committee which takes care of the Kroonstad Concentration Camp Cemetery.
A box lunch alongside the last of the cemeteries, then on to our hotel adjacent
Oliver Tambo Airport Johannesburg. Overnight - Johannesburg Airport . BLD
Day 15. 9 June Johannesburg Airport
After breakfast our tour ends. A short walk across a connecting bridge takes
you to the Oliver Tambo airport for your onward flights. For those taking
our Kruger Tour extension, the transport will meet you at the door. B
Why not Extend?
A tour to Africa is not complete without seeing the wildlife. Our tour extension for five days
(5 Days, 4 Nights) in the Kurger National Park. Is just the thing to complete your African experience.
The cost for the extension is TBC per person twin share, TBC single
Day 15 (1). 9 June Johannesburg Airport - Burgersfort
Pick-up from our Johannesburg Airport hotel then a relax drive to Hannah Lodge near Burgersfort. Hannah Game Lodge lies amongst the gently rolling hills of the Southern African escarpment. This beautiful private game reserve embraces more than 8000 hectares of malaria free, unspoiled African bushveld. In the afternoon we have a game drive where we can encounter elephant and rhino as the sun sets. Overnight Hannah Lodge. BD
Day 16 (2). 10 June Burgersfort (Hannah Lodge) - White River
A day tour of the Panorama Route - Blyde River Canyon, Bourke's Luck Potholes, Wonder View. Late afternoon arrival at Pine Lake Inn, White River. Overnight Pine Lake Inn. B
Day 17 (3). 11 June White River - Kruger National Park
To the Kruger Park - meet up with Open Jeeps - day in the park - overnight in park camp. B
Day 18 (4). 12 June Kruger National Park
Full day in park - overnight in park restcamp. Go on sunset drive to return for a dinner barbecue. BD
Day 19 (5). 13 June Kruger National Park - Johannesburg Airport
Exit the park and return to Johannesburg Airport then on to our hotel adjacent
Oliver Tambo Airport Johannesburg. Overnight - Johannesburg Airport . BLD
Day 20 (6). 14 June Johannesburg Airport
After breakfast our tour ends. A short walk across a connecting bridge takes
you to the Oliver Tambo airport for your onward flights. B
Please Note: Due to matters outside our control, there may be times when we will change from our proposed itinerary. It is our intention to conduct a briefing each evening to set in place the following day's visitation programme.
Your Tour Leader Lieutenant Colonel John Howells OAM RFD (Retd)
John is a retired Army Reserve Armoured Corps officer who served 32 years in the Defence Force Permanent and Reserve. In civil life he worked for the National Archives as a manager then major Banks managing IT systems.
He has worked on and led battlefield tours since 2008 to locations including Turkey, France, Greece, South Africa and the Solomon Islands.