We met at 04h00 and after coffee promptly headed off to Kimberley to see how much photography we could get done in a day, one has to bear in mind that we are talking about a town steeped in history, to really do it justice one should actually spend at least five days as there are numerous sites and museums worth visiting.
After clearing Potchefstroom and the mining towns of Klerksdorp, Stilfontein and Orkney you start to get the feeling that you are almost there, but it takes time as it’s a hard 475 kilo’s. But replenished with coffee and rolls we carried on and arrived at around 09h45. Our first stop being the Magersfontein Battlefield, it’s been a while since we visited a battlefield and really expected to make a meal of this one.
It’s a well run site and after paying our entry fee we were free to roam, only stopped by a really quaint sign indicating that we were passing the “Tortoise Crossing”- this immediately became the first picture of the day. Stopping at the cafeteria we moved on to the view site where we could overlook the battlefield, looking down from the Magersfontein Ridge one can still see the trenches which formed the Boer defenses. It’s a vast and arid landscape with hills covered in dark round rocks, one can take time and drive around to explore the hills and monuments ,once parked you can explore on foot, the lookout obviously includes the main view over the battlefield and trenches as well as the Krupp Gun position.
The battle began with an artillery barrage on the evening of the 10th of December 1899, the Boers were not on the ridge as the British believed but were entrenched below, the barrage merely served to alert them as to the imminent attack. The British using the Highland Brigade then made there way under cover of the dark to a position roughly 400 metres from the trenches, Lord Methuen still believing that the Boers were on the slopes of the hills. The Brigade commanded by Major General Wauchope were using tactics that had previously worked in the Sudan and Egypt and deployed at around 03h45 on the morning of the 11th, in the dim light of dawn the Boers opened fire, chaos ensued and the Brigade was pinned down taking heavy casualties, it is believed that Major General Wauchope perished in the first minutes of the battle. At about midday Lord Methuen withdrew his troops to Modder River Station where he stayed for around two months, the initial thrust to relieve Kimberley being broken at Magersfontein. After viewing the trenches and the site of the Boer Krupp gun we made our way across to the museum and Highland Brigade Memorial.
The museum built in 1971 hosts an impressive collection of artifacts and weapons as well as an animated diorama where the events of the day are played out with a commentary and sound effects. After a moments reflection we left the museum to visit the Highland Brigade Memorial.
Then it was back in the car and off to the Scandinavian Memorial and the memorial to the 11 Transvaal Burghers who perished when a British force attacked them.Near these sites you can walk amongst old fortifications and still see evidence of the barbed wire that was used. We then took the shorter gravel road back to Kimberley (Magersfontein is about 30 km out of town) stopping to admire the Burgher Memorial and its striking architecture. On arrival we took time off for lunch and planned the rest of the day as time was not on our side.