Location: Cincinnati, Ohio

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Spion Kop II

On Jan. 20, 1900, as British forces began to move to engage Boers who held the high ground at Spion Kop, the first action began along the Tugela River where Venter's Spruit (stream) joins it. Commanded by Gen. Sir Charles Warren, the British army, including the Lancashire Fusliers, began to advance toward Boer trenches. Kind of a foothill of Spion Kop, this hill is known as Tabanyama. Boer and Brit clashed on this remote spot in Africa. By the time the British withdrew twenty-eight officers and men had been killed and 280 had been wounded. Most likely, Tom McNay was among these wounded soldiers.
Eventually, on Jan. 24, a larger force of British soldiers attacked Spion Kop itself. Without going into great detail, here is what Byron Farwell had to say in his history of the battle:
"Cramped on the top of Spion Kop, excited and fearful but without rancour, Britons and Boers slaughtered each other... Each man had an arduous role to play. The Transvaal farmers and their sons, the Lancashire ploughboys and the sweeps of city slums - all were to face on this hot summer's day an ordeal beyond any of their imaginings, for the concentrated hell that Spion Kop became was beyond any man's experience... Neither Boer nor Briton had considered Spion Kop of great importance, yet now it had become the whole battle; indeed, on this day it became the entire war."
At top on the right is our guide Raymond making a point about the battle. The man standing close to the camera was a veteran of the British military. Heather is in the middle in the pink. The man behind her had an interesting personal history in South Africa going back a great number of generations. Next, is a view from Spion Kop of where Venter's' Spruit flows into the Tugela. My grandfather was likely wounded as the Fusiliers attempted to take the ridge on the right.
After the battle, the British soldiers were buried in the trenches where they fell and these old trenches outlined by the white rocks remain their graves today. Many of the officers who were killed are commemorated with crosses.


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