"SPION KOP" Bergville by mtncorg
Bergville Travel Guide: 25 reviews and 61 photos
Bergville is a small town near the northern section of the Drakensberg mountain range. It is a pleasant enough base for exploring out from. Also nearby is one of the more bitterly contested battlefields from the Second Anglo-Boer War, Spion Kop, a name which should be familiar to fans of Liverpool football whose stadium is known as the Kop after this ground.
The view from the top of Spion Kop is worth the somewhat nasty drive up - watch the ruts, cows and sheep on the way. From the top, the walls of the Drakensberg to the west rise up darkly. Directly below is the large reservoir lying behind the Spion Kop dam - water supplied by the Thukela river. The mountain lies north of the Spion Kop Nature Reserve where there is a guesthouse and a campground, though Ladysmith, Bergville and Winterton are three towns close at hand offering additional lodging choices.
The road up Spion Kop is not taken only for the view - that is incidental - but it is taken to show you the site of one of the sharper engagements of the Second Anglo-Boer War. British units got themselves surrounded by Boer commandos in the nearby town of Ladysmith. They had been besieged for three months and several English relief attempts had been thwarted. Extra reinforcements under the command of General Charles Warren had been detached from the main English army in the Cape province. These troops were trying to sweep around the right end of the Boer forces strung out along the Thukela. Forcing their way up the hill, the English found the position weakly held and quickly captured it one night, but then instead of pushing on they dug in on top of the hill. The delay gave the Boers a chance to counterattack and they blasted away with rifle and cannon at the English troops crowded on the top of the hill. Both sides suffered from desperate fighting throughout the day. Both sides withdrew by the end of the day, each thinking the other had won the day. Early the next morning, the Boers discovered the hill was empty, reoccupied the hill and won the battle. The relief of Ladysmith would have to wait for another month.
There is a good self-guided trail around the battlefield atop the hill or you could hire one of the many guides to give you another view to this site and other local battlefields in the area. Memorials to the British units - 25th Lancaster and the Imperial Light Infantry - along with more general memorials to British and Boer causes are all found to be along with the graves. You will not be bothered by many other tourists either. I was there on a Saturday and there was but one other small group present. History doesn’t necessarily change, but the way it is seen is open to constant new interpretations. Spion Kop has undergone a couple of interpretations already in the past century, but there is plenty of room and time for new interpretations, new meanings, new emphases.
The approach road is some 6 kilometers of dirt that is badly eroded in parts. I made it up here with a Toyota Tazz, but... more travel advice
Another large mass grave can be found separate from those soldiers buried amongst the British trench. These men were... more travel advice
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