The Battle Of Spioenkop 23-24 January 1900, by Gilbert Torlage
The Battle of Spioenkop was fought on 23-24 January 1900. Expert Gilbert Torlage describes the most futile and bloodiest of the four battles fought to relieve the besieged town of Ladysmith from the surrounding Boer forces.
Initial stages of the Anglo-Boer War
At 17:00 on 11 October 1899 the ultimatum handed by the South African Republic's Secretary of State, F. W. Reitz, to the British Resident in Pretoria, expired. The two Boer republics were now formally at war with Great Britain. The first Boers, commanded by Commandant-General P. J. Joubert, soon entered the British colony of Natal, determined to overcome the large concentration of troops stationed at Dundee and Ladysmith threatening their sovereignty. After the Battle of Talana, Dundee (20 October), the Battle of Ladysmith (30 October) and a defeat at Elandslaagte (21 October), the Boers besieged Ladysmith early in November 1899. Trapped in the town were 13 000 troops, their 2 500 servants and 5 400 civilians. In early November the Boers attempted to force the troops trapped in Ladysmith to capitulate, but failed. A few days later a commando numbering approximately 2 000 burghers made a foray south into Natal, reaching as far as Mooi River; however, as they encountered a growing number of British troops advancing from the south, the Boers decided to withdraw to defensive positions just north of the Thukela (Tugela) River at Colenso. They dug in here and were reinforced until they numbered 4500. These Boers, commanded by the young, dynamic but inexperienced General Louis Botha, were determined to prevent a British force from relieving Ladysmith. Meanwhile, General Sir Redvers Buller VC, with a force of 47000 men had been dispatched from Britain to command the British forces engaged in the South African war. Buller, the great hero and experienced general, upon whom all Britain pinned their hopes to bring the war to a speedy and successful end, was given a rousing farewell by the British public. On his arrival at Cape Town he was met by the almost unbelievable news that the Boers had besieged Ladysmith, Mafeking (Mafikeng) and Kimberley and that they were invading the north-eastern Cape. To counter this situation Buller split his force of 47000 men into three. One force was to relieve Kimberley and Mafikeng, another to halt the Boer advance into the north-eastern Cape, while the third and largest, under Buller's personal command, was to land in Durban and relieve Ladysmith. It was part of this force that the Boer commando of 2000 burghers had encountered during their foray south into Natal. On 15 December 1899, Buller, supported by 19400 men, attempted to force his way through Botha's defensive line at Colenso. In a short, but sharp engagement, the British force was repulsed, losing over a thousand men and ten field guns. Botha's losses were a mere 38 men. Buller's reputation, pride and, more seriously, his confidence, had suffered a stunning blow. His shaken confidence is illustrated by a telegram he sent to the Secretary for War in which he stated, "My failure today raises a serious question. I do not think I am now strong enough to relieve White." To compound Buller's personal agony, he was replaced by Field Marshal Lord Roberts VC as commander-in-chief, and was henceforth only in command of the Natal Field Force. Buller and Roberts came from opposing factions within the British army and were not well disposed to one another. For a while after the Colenso reverse, Buller remained on the defensive; however, the arrival of the 5th Division under Lieutenant-General Sir Charles Warren as reinforcements and the Boer attempt on 6 January to smash the defensive perimeter around Ladysmith, prompted him to make another effort to relieve the town. [...]
This is an excerpt from The Battle Of Spioenkop 23-24 January 1900, by Gilbert Torlage.
Title: The Battle Of Spioenkop 23-24 January 1900
Author: Gilbert Torlage
Series: The Anglo-Boer War Battle Series
Publisher: 30 Degrees South Publishers (Pty) Ltd.
2nd edition. Johannesburg, South Africa 2014
ISBN 9781928211426 / ISBN 978-1-928211-42-6
Softcover, 15 x 21 cm, 48 pages, 25 b/w photos and maps
Torlage, Gilbert im Namibiana-Buchangebot
The Battle of Spioenkop took place from 23 to 24 January 1900 between the Boer and British troops.
This guide leads to the majority of the Anglo-Boer War sites scattered throughout KwaZulu-Natal.
The Battle of Colenso was fought on 15 December 1899 British and Boer forces and led to a heavy British defeat.