Location: Cincinnati, Ohio

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Spion Kop I

As Heather and I drove into the province of Kwazulu-Natal, it seemed strangly familiar. From my reading of South African War, I knew many of the place names, places that must have been familiar to my grandfather. After getting a little lost, we quickly found the correct road and suddenly found ourselves at the gate of Spion Kop Lodge, where we were to spend the night and have dinner.
The lodge itself is important because it was the headquarters of Gen. Sir Redvers Buller. Located in a beautiful setting, the stone walls of the interior are lined with a collection of photos of people connected to the Boer War. It also has a fine little establishment known as the Churchill Pub.

Besides my grandfather being at the Spion Kop battlefield, there were three other important people who found themselves in this remote African location in January 1900. Winston Churchill was at Spion Kop reporting for a British newspaper. And Mahatma Ghandi was a British stretcher bearer (perhaps he helped carry my grandfather from the battlefield).

From the deck of Spion Kop Lodge, the mountain, Spion Kop looms. It is a rather unassuming hill for the important battle that took place there. It's imporance stems from the fact that Boer guns placed at the summit would overlook the route to Ladysmith. One of the British Army's goals was to relieve the siege of that city and thus British commanders believed that it needed to be in British hands.

Our guide, Raymond, was a skilled storyteller and historian. The night before our tour, we sat in the Chuchill Pub and I showed him my grandfather's military records. He was excited and poured over the documents getting every detail. He had never actually seen the record of a British soldier in the Boer War. I've promised to send him a copy of the record so that he can use it in the future. So often over the years I've mentioned to people that my grandfather was in the South African War and have seen a puzzled look on people's faces. Not in South Africa and not in the Churchill Pub. I was a bit of a minor celebrity since I had a personal connection to these great events.

Raymond assured me that he would be able to show me the area where my grandfather was wounded. At top is a sign on the road to the Spion Kop Lodge. Next is Heather and I havin dinner at the lodge. Next is a view of Spion Kop from the deck at the lodge. Next a picture of Raymond, looking toward Spion Kop, explaining the disposition of forces from Buller's location during the battle. At bottom is a photo of the Tugula River as it winds it way near the foot of Spion Kop.


Post a Comment

<< Home