The following photographs were taken in January 2010, whilst on a visit to South Africa.
We stayed at the Spion Kop Lodge, which is run by Raymond Heron & his family. Raymond is a historian & lecturer on ‘Battles’ that have been fought on South African soil. His knowledge on the Battle of the Spion Kop is outstanding, & if you are ever planning a visit to the Spion Kop, I would highly recommend staying with Raymond & his family.
What follows is a brief and condensed summary of the ‘Battle of the Spion Kop’
The Battle of Spion Kop took place on the 23-24th January 1900. It has been described as one of the bloodiest of all battles fought in the 1899-1902 Anglo Boer War. It is also noted that such great men as Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi & the Boer General Louis Botha all fought at the same time. Spion Kop means ‘Spy Hill’ which was named by the Dutch settlers for the commanding views it afforded.
The battle arose as British forces marched towards the town of Ladysmith that was held under siege by the Boers. The British could not advance onto Ladysmith, without passing a row of fours hills that included the Spion kop, where the Boers were encamped.
The British forces numbering over 2,700 were from the Second Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers, the Second Battalion of the Royal Lancaster Regiment & the First Battalion of the South Lancashire Regiment. The British High Command was led by Sir Revers Bullers.
On the morning of January 23rd, led by General Sir Charles Warren, the British troops advanced towards the Boers. On surveying the Boer line, Warren decided to make an attempt to capture the large hill known as the Spion Kop. Moving forward through heavy fog, the British succeeded in driving a small Boer force off the crest off the hill. As they attempted to dig in, they found that the summit was largely rock. This hampered the digging of trenches and as a result the British trench positions were only 16 inches deep.
When dawn broke on January 24th, the British found that they had failed to occupy the highest parts of the Spion Kop. Their position consisted of only the lower parts of the hilltop while the enemy held superior positions on three sides.
A fierce battle ensued with the Boer artillery bombarding the British positions, this combined with the Boers firing from the higher ground pinned the British down. The intense heat, lack of water & the relentless shelling took its inevitable toll on the British.
The next morning the Boers were shocked to find that the British had withdrawn from the Spion Kop, but the Boers were too fatigued to continue the pursuit of the British.
As a result of this battle the British suffered 243 fatalities & around 1,250 men were either wounded or captured. The Boer losses numbered 68 killed & 267 wounded/missing. Many of the soldiers were buried in trenches where they died & the memorials are erected next to these graves.
To commemorate their fallen, on returning home the surviving soldiers named stands at their local football grounds ‘The Kop’. The most famous of these being ‘The Kop’ at Anfield, the home of Liverpool Football Club.
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