As you travel along this magnificent R 74 scenic route and your eyes follow the broken ridges and slopes of this Northern barrier, you can imagine the hardened Welsh, Scottish, Irish and British soldiers scrambling to the top in the face of devastating Mauzer rifle fire. In your mind’s eye you can picture the frightening British artillery attack; the smoke trails of their Star grenades screaming through the skies while exploding shells from well positioned gun batteries, the large calibre naval guns create a red haze of dust and smoke. Names like Red Hill, Gun Hill, Naval Hill, Caesars Camp, Military Hill etc given to the mountains surrounding the famous battle sites of Colenso, ThabaNyama, Spion Kop, Vaalkranz and Ladysmith tell the story of death and destruction.Places called “ The Acre of Massacre” and “ Garden of Remembrance” carry with them the deep emotion that lies buried there. Twenty – five Victoria Crosses,England’s highest award for valour,were awarded on these timeless hills to soldiers who gave the highest offer in the service of King and country.
In these hills ordinary, simple farmers, while being far outnumbered,rose to the occasion,and became ‘The Formidable Boer Nation’. On this natural defence barrier they engaged the British in what was to become modern warfare,where magazine rifles,smokeless gun powder and trench warfare was used for the first time. This innovation was the forerunner to the trench warfare used during the Great War, ten years later.
Chris van Schalkwyk (KZN 0404)