The Battle of Talana, by Pam McFadden
The Battle of Talana, as described here by Pam McFadden, was the first major engagement of the Anglo-Boer War. Although it ended with no conclusive result, it provided an opportunity for both Boer and British forces to recognize the strength of their opponents.
[...] Symons was familiar with the area and its inhibitants. Twenty years earlier, after the disaster at Isandlwana, he had spent two months in Fort Jones, a sod fort which had been constructed on what was later to become part of the town of Dundee. British intelligence relied on the Natal Scouts and Basuto guides. Their knowledge of the area and that of Boer movements was excellent. Once the decision was made to defend Dundee and the British troops started arriving from 25 September onwards, Symons made special arrangements for the evacuation of the women and children from Dundee. Not all of them left, however, as they had been assured by Sir Harry Escombe, ex-Prime Minister of Natal, that there was no danger from the Boer forces. He was later to escape from Dundee dressed as a fat old lady on the post cart. Asked what his plans were in case of attack, Symons asserted that he "had no plans but would be guided by circumstances". No attempt was made to picket the hills around Dundee, to prevent the Boer forces from occupying them. Dundee is surrounded by a ring of hills with Mpati Mountain - "the place of good waters" - being of strategic importance as it was the source of the town's water supply. The military aims of the Boers were to neutralise the British forces threatening their sovereignty. They therefore decided to strike with significant numbers at the British forces, with the largest force focusing on Natal. The Boer leadership was expecting the biggest British attacks to come from Natal. The biggest concentration of Boer commandos was therefore centred on the northern triangle of Natal. At various Drakensberg passes, mainly opposite Ladysmith, there were between 6 000 and 8 000 Orange Free State burghers. A little further north, at Botha's Pass, were the German Corps and Johannesburg Commando, numbering approximately 1 200 men. Still further north, near Volkskrust, was the South African Replubic's Commandant-General PJ Joubert with 10 000 to 12 000 burghers. At Wakkerstroom were the local commando and that from Ermelo, totalling 1 800 to 2 000 burghers and at Doringkop, opposite Dundee, lay the Utrecht, Vryheid and Piet Retief commandos, numbering between 1 500 and 2 000 burghers. The Boer force poised to enter northern Natal thus numbered between 20 500 and 25 200. Once the Boers entered Natal they organised themselves into three columns. General Kock led the Johannesburg Commando and the Hollander and German Corps directly south over Mkupe Pass towards Elandslaagte Colliery and the railway station. General DJE 'Maroela' Erasmus with 4 000 men from Pretoria, Heidelberg and Boksburg, moved south-east through Danhauser and Hattingspruit. Swinging east, General Lucas Meyer led the Middleburg and Wakkerstroom commandos towards Utrecht and Vryheid to raise support in those areas. These two forces congregated at the Doornberg, the large flat mountain 19 kilometres to the north-east of Dundee, near the Blood River battlefield. Here they were led in prayer before advancing on Dundee. Their aim was to control the high areas around the town. Dietlof van Warmelo describes how he and the men with him moved from the Doornberg to occupy Mpati mountain: [...]
This is an excerpt from The Battle of Talana, by Pam McFadden.
Title: The Battle of Talana
Author: Pam McFadden
Series: The Anglo-Boer War Battle Series
Publisher: 30 Degrees South Publishers (Pty) Ltd.
2nd edition. Johannesburg, South Africa 2014
ISBN 9781928211396 / ISBN 978-1-928211-39-6
Softcover, 15 x 21 cm, 48 pages, 25 b/w photos and maps
McFadden, Pam im Namibiana-Buchangebot
The Battle of Talana, taking place on the 20th October 1899, was the first major engagement of the Anglo-Boer War.
The Battle Of Elandslaagte on 21 October 1899 was one of the few tactical victories won by the British during the Second Boer War.