In 1999 we left Utrecht early one Sunday morning after a somewhat hectic 4×4 tour the previous day, hoping to make the most of it despite the steady drizzle we made our way towards Blood River as we had never before visited this historic site. After an interesting few hours we headed across to Dundee, which was to be our lunchtime stop. We had decided not to try squeeze in Rorkes Drift as that was to be a later weekend trip (which we have not yet done despite all the good intentions).
We arrived in Dundee along with the light rain but decided to have lunch hoping that the rain would abate, luckily it did so and we were able to explore the site of the battle of Talana. Being the year of the 100th anniversary of the war and the fact that we were there two days before the date of the actual battle we were amazed to find the locals dressed in red and khaki practicing the re-enactment of the battle, in addition the Duke of Edinburgh would actually arrive on the anniversary date to preside over the event.
The Battle of Talana was in fact the opening battle of the Anglo-Boer war, recently opening a popular magazine I was amazed to see that the community still practices the re-enactment every year, the event takes place over the weekend in October closest to the date of the actual battle which this year sees it happening on the 17-19th of October.
The battlefield and others from this conflict bear testimony to the largest war fought in South Africa, the British were able to drive the Boers off the Talana Hill but suffered heavy losses with General Penn Symons being mortally wounded, General Yule then moved his troops back to Ladysmith and the Boers reoccupied the town.
Today the area is a reminder to the past, the well laid out museum features a rich diversity of memorabilia, set in wooded grounds the area allows you to explore the battlefield on a self guided trail, in addition to numerous other attractions and as well as a tea garden.
There are battlefields aplenty in the area from both the Anglo-Boer war as well as the Anglo-Zulu conflict, one would definitely need around three days to explore most of them, we opted to move on to Spioenkop as we needed to head back to Johannesburg. I must say that I have done the three sites in a day leaving early in the morning and returning to Johannesburg around 20h00 but it’s a hard days driving.
For more information; www.talana.co.za or call 034 212 2654.