1880 - 1881
When the peaceful attempts of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (Transvaal) failed to negotiate a return of their independence from Britain, the Free Burghers of theTransvaal felt they had no option but to resort to arms, and war was declared on the 14 December 1880.
The first major action took place at Bronkhorst Spruit in the then Transvaal and soon after all the British garrisons in theTransvaal were invested. The Governor of Natal and Commander of the British forces in South East Africa, General Sir George Pomeroy-Colley, hurriedly gathered together a mixed force of soldiers, mounted police and sailors along with six guns and set out from Durban to Newcastle where they regrouped before moving on to Mount Prospect to attack the Boers who had taken up a defensive position at Laing's Nek alongside Majuba mountain. The British attack on Laing's Nek was repulsed with heavy casualties.
The Battle of Laing’s Nek was followed two weeks later by an equally disastrous attempt at Schuinshoogte, where the British “show of force” intended to keep their supply line back to Newcastle clear was confronted by a much smaller force of Burghers and after a desperate battle lasting all afternoon were forced to leave the battlefield under cover of darkness and in the pouring rain, followed by the final humiliating defeat on Majuba (Hill of doves) where the British General lost his life.
By mid February reinforcements had arrived and Gen Colley felt strong enough to make another attempt to force the Boer line and so on the night of Saturday 26th February, in defiance of a government order to take no further aggressive action he took some 400 men and occupied the top of Majuba Mountain which overlooked the Boer positions. Believing the position to be impregnable the British made no effort to build defensive structures On Sunday the 27th February the Boer mounted and attack on the Mountain and by 13h30 had driven the British off the mountain inflicting some 356 casualties including killed, wounded and captured on the British against their own of 2 killed and 4 wounded. Among the British dead was Gen Colley who is now buried in theBritishCemetery at Mt Prospect.
Very few battlefield sites have any form of interpretative information, some are on private property and therefore require permission to visit and some are very difficult to find. Therefore the use of a Guide is highly recommended.