Anglo-Boer War Blockhouse in Wellington North, Wellington, Western Cape
Situated in the district of Wellington on the Berg River, north of the railway station, is this preserved 3-tier Blockhouse specimen, that is now also been proclaimed a national monument.
Blockhouses, such as these and similar were erected by the British Forces during the war in South Africa between 1899-1902. It is claimed that the British forces built around 8000 blockhouses during the Anglo Boer War, in various strategic districts across South Africa.
Blockhouses were initially used to protect strategic structures such as bridges. Later however they were mainly used for the purpose of guarding railway lines and to act as barriers to restrict the free movement of the Boer commandos in crossing the countryside. British troops manned these fortresses, placing them about 900m apart, and spanning fences running in a zig zag pattern between them, not in a direct line one between the other. This was to avoid the risk of one Blockhouse from firing directly at the other. As line of sight was a critical factor in the success of this method, in some areas they were built in greater density.
Construction of blockhouses was the responsibility of the army, with the support of the Royal Engineers. The method of design called for standardisation to facilitate that blockhouses could be constructed quickly and with parts from different manufacturing units where necessary, to enable speedy erection.
The designer of the Blockhouse, a Major Rice, and the men of the Royal Engineers set up manufacturing units to make the standardised component parts. These were then be shipped to wherever they were needed.
They were constructed of prefabricated stone, having steel gun ports encased in cemented outlets, with a corrugated iron roof and an ironwork lookout at the top.
It is said that the impeded movement of the Boers by dint of the Blockhouses, contributed to bringing the war to an earlier close than would have been the case if this method had not been deployed.
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