The Battle of Magersfontein, just outside Kimberley took place during the Anglo-Boer War on 11 December 1899. The Boers scored a decisive victory in what became known as Britain’s ‘Black Week’.
The Battle of Magersfontein was a triumph for the Boer forces while a disaster for the British army and as a result came close to wiping out Scotland’s proud Highland Brigade. Furthermore during the second South African War, the Boers had besieged Kimberley and its 50 000 inhabitants since November 1899. Supplies were scarce in the diamond-mining town and relief was imperative. The British public and press were demanding action. British forces advanced north along the railway line in an attempt to relieve Kimberley, but a Boer force was in their way at Magersfontein.
The British mistakenly believed that the enemy was encamped on the slopes of the surrounding hills. They were confident that their superior artillery would win the day. The troops advanced under cover of darkness and prepared to storm the Boer positions at daybreak.The plan proved horribly wrong.
The Boers had dug trenches at the base of the hills and the flat trajectory of their Mauser rifles raked the advancing British troops. The soldiers of Scotland’s Highland Brigade who survived the rifle fire were pinned down on the battlefield in the heat of the day. Over 200 British were killed during the battle, many of them dying of sunstroke and exposure.
It is claimed that if you listen carefully, you may well hear the mournful notes of a the Scottish piper.
The Magersfontein battlefield is a must for any visitor to Kimberley. It is situated south of Kimberley and can be reached either via the airport road (31.5km) or via the N12 to Modder River (47,5km).
Kimberley is served by an airport, with daily flights to and from Johannesburg and Cape Town. The Magersfontein battlefield is on the Airport Road toward Modder River, approximately 30km from Kimberley.
Any time, but Kimberley summers can be fiercely hot and winters bitterly cold, so dress appropriately. If you go on a moonlit night, that’s when you may well hear the phantom piper.
The Kimberley Open Mine Museum and the Big Hole are musts. The Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre, 16km north-west of Kimberley on the Barkly West Road, is a fascinating journey into our cultural past.
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