Tourism, Accommodation and Historical Attractions in Natal, South Africa

The Natal Battlefields

The Second Boer War - Tugela Heights.

Buller, at the fourth attempt, defeats the Boer forces, crosses the Tugela River and relieves Ladysmith after three months of siege.

The Second Boer War - Tugela Heights.

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14th - 28th February 1900

Buller's fourth and successful attempt at dislodging the Boer forces from around Ladysmith required the taking of Hussar Hill, Wynne Hill, Hart's Hill and Pieter's Hill overlooking the town.

Louis Botha, commanding the Boer forces witnessed what he feared would not happen - the British forces finally combining to deadly effect. Six days of fighting resulted in the Boers being dislodged from the South bank of the Tugela River.

After another 5 days of fighting and some more gains by the British, an armistice was called to remove the dead and wounded from the battlefield. During this respite, the Boers and British swapped tales and tobacco and drank whisky together.

After a barrage by 76 guns, the outnumbered Boers turned and fled and the road to Ladysmith was open. From a force of 25,000, the British lost 2,300 dead, missing or wounded during the battle compared with 200 Boer dead from a force of 5,000.

This engagement was, until the Falklands War, the greatest ever land battle fought in the Southern hemisphere. Boer fortifications and military cemeteries remain on several of the hills. The 118-day siege of Ladysmith was finally at an end.

1900 13th May - Helpmekaar (15) (Dundee area).

The British forces break through the Boer lines to recapture Dundee. There is a Boer fort on top of the hill and the British cemetery behind the police station.

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The focus of the war then moved to the Kimberley area and ended in 1902 after a protracted guerilla campaign by the Boers and the use of a scorched earth policy by the British.

What was confidently expected to be a quick three month exercise to teach the farmers a lesson ended up with over half a million men in combat, fifty thousand men of both sides and almost half a million horses dead.

The British had to augment their scorched earth policy with a string of hundreds of blockhouses across the country to limit the movement of Boer guerrillas. Eventually, 450,000 British were chasing 12,000 Boer guerillas. The only remaining blockhouse in Natal is in Bergville.

Next: Epilogue

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