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Ladysmith

Spioenkop Battlefield – Tragedy in Ladysmith

The Spioenkop Battlefield in Ladysmith, near Durban, is a historical site of tragedy for the many lives lost, and of courage for the bravery the soldiers of both sides displayed in this epic battle. The graves, trenches and monuments stand as reminders to the 118 day siege of Ladysmith and the war between the British and Boers.

In October 1899, Lt General George White, started his night march on
the
30th, in order to halt the Boer offensive. Eight hundred POW’s, led by Colonel
Carleton, were ambushed and taken at Nicholson’s Nek, after which
battles at
Tchrengula and Modderspruit, known as the Battle of Farquhars Farm,
occurred
at which the British were defeated. These incidents won by the Boers,
forced Lt General White to withdraw his troops into Ladysmith. The
Boers,
who were led by General Louis Botha, surrounded Ladysmith, cutting the
link
to Durban, and starting the 118 day siege of Ladysmith. The British
forces vigorously defended the town, but as water and food supplies
began to
dwindle, so did the health and general morale of the troops. While the
siege made news headlines all over the world, the furious attacks from
both
sides to break each other’s lines, were claiming a tremendous number of
lives. Finally, in 1900, British forces under General Sir Redvers
Buller,
broke through and raised the siege on 28 February.

The Spioenkop Battlesite itself started when General Buller planned
to
relieve Ladysmith completely. But to accomplish this, the second
offensive
was to commence on 20 January and on two fronts. Given command of 15
000
men, General Sir Charles Warren was ordered to attempt to outflank the
Boers by crossing the Thukela River, while General Buller and his
troops
broke through the hills lower down. Unfortunately, General Warren was
unable to break the Boer defences at Rangeworthy Hill (iNtabamnyama),
but
thought Spioenkop to be the key to the Boer defense. He set about
capturing
Spioenkop Hill by sending men up at night to secure the hill, which
they
found virtually undefended. By sunrise the poorly entrenched British
troops
soon realized that they were being looked down on by Boer artillery
and
marksmen and the fiercest and most unforgiving battle took place, with
both
sides suffering dreadful casualties. By nightfall, in the confusion of
battle, both sides thought the other had won Spioenkop Hill, and
withdrew, only for the Boers to realise that the British had abandoned their
efforts,
allowing the Boers to reoccupy the hill.

Today, the All Saints Church, built in 1902, bears the names of over
3,000 British soldiers, who died in the battle to relieve Ladysmith.
Countless
men lost their lives, and Spioenkop Battlesite, is a reminder of the
devastation and loss that is suffered during war.