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ID #4834

Anglo-Boer War Battlefields: Belfast Machadodorp and Lydenburg, Escarpment, Mpumalanga.

August 1900. Winter, with Boer and British armies facing each other across the cold, bleak Dalmanutha Plateau. Lord Roberts had taken Pretoria but the Boers were not yet beaten.  General Botha had sensibly given his troops time off to recover from the defeats they had suffered as Roberts moved up through the Free State to the Transvaal. He then gathered them together to meet the enemy for the last set piece battle of the war, on the Dalmanutha Plateau, better known as the Battle of Bergendal. General Buller had move up from Natal via Standerton, Ermelo and Carolina and engaged the enemy on August 21 at Frischgewaagd Ridge.  It was the start of the battle that culminated in the bombardment of Bergendal.

It is well known because of the bravery of the 74 ZARP’s (Johannesburg Police) who withstood the brunt of the British attack.  A monument was erected at Bergendal east of Belfast and north of the N4 in 1970 as a tribute to these men  The fallen of the 2nd Rifle Brigade should not be forgotten either. Together with the Inniskilling Fusiliers, they made the final assault on Bergendal. The Boers retreated eastwards down the N4 pursued by the British under Pole-Carew, who followed Ben Viljoen down the railway line to Komatipoort. General Botha retreated to Badfontein (site of the Kwena Dam) via Crossroads (at the Total Garage) and Helvetia (on the R36) instead. He entrenched his men along a ridge at Witklip (south of Lydenburg) and waited. General Buller entered the Badfontein Valley on September 2 1900, to be met by heavy fire from Botha. General Ian Hamilton was dispatched from Belfast via Dullstroom to assist Buller by attacking the enemy’s right flank, enabling Buller to move forward and march into Lydenburg on September 7 1900. Botha did not give up easily, and entrenched his Boers in a formidable position at Paardeplaats in the Mauchsberg. No sooner had the British entered Lydenburg to enjoy a well-deserved rest than Botha opened fire with his Long Toms.  The following day Buller attacked Botha, who again successfully escaped, this time over the Mauchsberg and down Long Tom Pass past Devils Knuckles and Spitskop. The last place a Long Tom was fired during the war was from Devil’s Knuckles. Thereafter began 21 months of guerrilla warfare.

Christmas 1900 had been quiet for General Ben Viljoen.  Ready for action, it occurred on December 29 with the capture of the 4.7-inch naval gun, the “Lady Roberts” at Helvetia. The Liverpool Regiment was caught in the skirmish and their dead are buried in a small cemetery at Helvetia, off the R36. The Boers had to abandon the shells for the “Lady Roberts” they had captured and were never able to use it against the British.

The Pretoria/Delagoa Bay railway line was heavily guarded by the British, and was under constant threat by the Boers. Belfast, Machadodorp and Dalmanutha were three of five stations to be attacked on the night of January 7 1901.  However, as so often happens during war, the weather was to play an important role.  The cold, wet, miserable conditions aided the Boers in their initial strike but they were unable to maintain their momentum and pulled back, taking some British captive with them. AVAnglo

Contct:            Alastair and Marion Moir
Box 236 Lydenburg 1120
+27 (13) 235 3771 telephone and fax
e-mail: enquiries@cottonwood.co.za
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Last update: 2014-02-28 15:58
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.3

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