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Thomas’ Farm, Hopetown, Diamond Fields, Northern Cape.
On November 21 1899, Lord Methuen’s Kimberley Relief Column left Orange River Station with 8500 troops. When they reached Witputs (Witteputs) they discovered that 2000 Boers under General Prinsloo blocking their passage at Belmont. Methuen ordered his intelligence officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Verner, to survey Belmont Hill and map the Boer positions. Boer marksmen forced Verner to take cover on a hill from which he sketched Gun Hill and Table Mountain. However, he underestimated the distance to the Boer positions.
On November 22, the Royal Engineers and mounted troops occupied the area, being joined by Methuen, Verner and other senior officers. When mounted troops and the Royal Engineers approached the waterhole near Thomas’ Farm, Boer artillery opened fire from Gun Hill. Returning fire from Verner’s Hill, the British artillery duelled with the Boer gunners until after dark. That afternoon the British infantry left Witput and, marching up to Verner’s Hill, received their dinner and a tot of rum. Methuen planned to surprise the Boers with a dawn attack. While his infantry and artillery assaulted the Boer positions, his cavalry would encircle the hills, cut off the Boer retreat and capture their lagers.
On November 23, at 02h00 the British force left Verner’s Hill and attacked at dawn, but Verner’s inaccurate map caused confusion in the deployment of troops during the battle. Although they captured the hill, Methuen’s force lost 75 killed and 220 wounded, while Boer losses were minimal. Returning to their camp at Verner’s Hill, the British buried their dead and, opening champagne, some of the officers toasted their victory. The following day Methuen’s column left for Graspan to fight their next battle on the road to Kimberley. Attractions include:
• Guards Brigade Monument, where 38 officers and men, killed in action, were buried alongside the camp.
• Verner’s Hill, with an information panel showing the route of the British night march to attack the Boer positions.
• The main reason for the British camp – i.e. open waterholes with crystal-clear water fed by underground channels sufficient for 10000 men and horses.
• 18th Century homestead used as a British military hospital during the battle and now a bed and breakfast.
• Cemetery and information panel where 27 British soldiers, either killed in action or who later died of their wounds, lay buried.
• A “cave” dug into the hill behind the homestead by the farm’s first owner for use as a cooler. During the war, medicines were kept there. Now a mini museum.
• Larger than life artwork, painted on a wall 10-m long and 3.5-m high, that takes you back 100 years.
• Walking trails to see Bushman (Bushmen, San) engravings, stone tools, indigenous game, and ironstone boulders on which the British troops scratched names and dates, defensive stone walls constructed by British troops and mass graves.
Hopetown is on the N12 where it crosses the Orange (Gariep) River northeast of Britstown, which is at the intersection of the N12 with the N10. Belmont and Thomas’ Farm are on the N12 30-km north-east of Hopetown. Thomas’ Bed and Breakfast is on the left. BGThomas
Contct: Lieb or Ella Liebenberg
Box 330 Hopetown 8750
+27 (53192) ask for Belmont 2311
+27 (82) 749 6685 cell
2900/2%Last update: 2014-05-11 23:15
Author: Alan McIver
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