Anglo-Boer War Tour – Follow the Steps of Warfare
Founded in 1830, Colesberg lies halfway between Johannesburg and Cape Town, and is close to the Van Der Kloof Dam. Colesberg was named after Sir G. Lowry Cole. Amidst the beautiful countryside, grey duikers and brown hyenas, it is hard to imagine that between November 1899 and March 1900 an active war ravaged this landscape. Not much has been written in regard to the Anglo-Boer War in Colesberg, and yet it is a significant battle, as it changed the lives of the soldiers and civilians, caught in the war. To remember and honor the brave men who fought on the Southern Front, Colesberg has a tour that will take the visitor from Plateau Camp to Memorial Hill, to the final resting place of over 400 men. The Anglo-Boer War Tour also includes a visit to the Norvalspont prisoner of war camp and cemetery.
The capture of Colesberg did not come easily and Generals French and Clements suffered devastating losses amongst their troops. On 1 November 1899, General Esias Reinier Grobler and General Hendrik Schoeman were appointed by President Kruger, to seize Norvals’ Point. And on the second of November, General White and his British forces were besieged at Ladysmith. General Schoeman and Grobler marched the Boers into Colesberg on 14 November 1899, and as a result General Buller commanded the French Commanding Cavalry to remove the Boers from the district, watch over the railway line and ward off any further advances of the Boers into the Cape Colony.
Reinforcements from the New Zealand Mounted Rifles arrived in Noupoort on the 1st of December 1899, with no fewer than 400 men. On 18 December 1899, New Zealand suffered their first casuality by losing Trooper 44, GR Bradford, at the attack on the Boers at Jasfontein Farm. The battles that followed saw both sides gaining a little and being defeated at certain points. General Cronje finally surrendered at Paardeberg, and the remaining Boers retreated across the Orange River. They blew up the railway bridge at Norval’s Point behind them. The British Troops began repairing the bridge, but were constantly harassed by rebels throughout the remainder of the war. Bloemfontein was captured on the 13th of March 1900.
During September and November 1901, five rebels were executed by the British Forces in Colesburg, namely Frederick Toy (04-09-1901), Hendrik Veenstra (04-09-1901), Hendrik van Vuuren (04-09-1901), Nicholas Francios van Wyk (11-11-1901) and William Louw (23-11-1901). On 12 October 1901, Johannes Cornelius Lotter was executed in Middleburg. Queen Victoria died on 22 January 1901, and was succeeded by Edward V11. The war eventually ended on 31 May 1902, with the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging.
Norval’s Point Concentration Camp was erected in February 1901. This facility not only housed prisoners of war, but refugees and many women and children trying to escape the violence. Although Captain Wynne made an effort to ensure that families had clean water, a roof over their heads and good sanitary conditions, disease still found its way into the camp. By August, the Camp housed 3215 people. 366 residents of the camp died, of which 357 were children. A measles epidemic swept through the camp, together with typhoid fever, dysentery and whooping cough. The Camp was finally closed in October 1902.
Colesberg certainly has a history and stories that are worth telling, and through the Anglo-Boer War Tour, the memory of many men is brought to life, highlighting their sacrifice and bravery in a time of turmoil in South Africa’s military history.