Dragons cave is a farmstall that sells preserves, biltong, frozen trout, and many many other things. I could not discover where the name came from, but I presume there must be a cave nearby and that they hope dragon's used to live there.
This little "village" is approx 15km outside of Bergville. It is really a fun place to go and walk around. They have various shops here, a restaurant, playground for the children and they seem to turn everything into art.
Once atop the Kop, the British dug a trench of some 400 meters - noted on the battlefield by white paint splashed rocks - facing north. Little remains of the trench today though it is thought the trench was only 40 cm deep with a rampart of more rock and dirt that may have boosted its height to about one meter. Once the mists began to dissipate around 7 in the morning, General Woodgate realized his position was vulnerable to Boer crossfire from the surrounding hills and he pushed his troops further to the north and the crest of the hill - from the car park to the Boer Monument and over to the right end of the trench. The counterattack of the Boers was met and desperate fighting ensued.
These mass graves are the final resting place for many from the Lancashire Fusiliers. After the battle, the dead were buried in what remained of the British trenches. Both Boer and Briton lie in unknown graves as there was little way the bodies could be identified after battle.
The British Monument is located near where General Woodgate had his headquarters. The monument commemorates the sacrifices of the different units and men who fought here on the Imperial side. It represents the first interpretation of the battle - the British version, a version of glory in sacrifice. Individual monuments can be erected by surviving family and friends though they do not necessarily accurately denote the final resting spot of the honored individual since most soldier’s identity was never known at the time of internment.
These little peaks on the northeast side of Spion Kop allowed the Boers - riflemen on the Aloe Knoll and several field guns situated on the Twin Peaks - to lay a wicked fire down upon the British positions atop Spion Kop. Boer flanking attacks from the Knoll were beaten off. Late in the day, another British force not connected with those atop Spion Kop, drove the Boers off the twin Peaks. This should have ensured the British hold on the peak. Positions on Spion Kop had steadied by the mid afternoon. With darkness, both sides retreated unaware of what the other side was doing or how badly they had been hurt. In the morning, finding the British gone, the Boers reoccupied the hill and another British defeat was in the books.
From the parking lot atop Spion Kop, you can walk a trail that takes in the major points of the battlefield. The trail follows a steel cable which differentiates the path from the many other cattle tracks crossing the hillsides. At the entrance, you are given a map which describes the trail and the significance of the of the events that transpired at marker stops. The map and a little pre-reading (I recommend Thomas Pakenham’s fine history, “The Boer War”) are all you need to make sense of the battlefield.
On the night of 23 Jan 1900, a British force of some 1700 men under the direct command of General Woodgate pushed up the southern slopes of Spion Kop in an attempt to turn the Boer defensive line along the Thukela River and relieve the Boer siege of nearby Ladysmith which was three months old by this point. You can see the terrain the British troops pushed over as they climbed the hill in the misty dark.
By 3 am the British were ready. Lines were formed and the mere 100 Boer defenders were chased quickly from the top of Spion Kop. Boer commander General Louis Botha had thought Spion Kop could be defended from surrounding lower hills which was one of the reasons there were so few defenders at the fight’s start. Still, early on, the days was looking good for the English.
A British bayonet assault skwered one of the Boer sentries - he is buried here - and the rest of the defenders fled to warn their comrades. Botha, in reply to the new British presence, repositioned field guns and rifles and sent an attack force of 400 up the northeast slopes to meet the British challenge head on.
Effective Boer crossfire, Boer direct pressure, heat and lack of water forced the British slowly back from to their trench by noon. General Woodgate himself was mortally wounded and the British didn’t know who was in command for awhile. Heat and casualties began to wear on the British troops with nearly 200 Lancashire Fusiliers surrendering around 1 pm, threatening the entire British line. Timely reinforcements, of which the Imperial Light Infantry was a part of, managed to steady the situation.
Approximately 70 Boers died here in the fighting and of the Boer graves on Spion Kop, none of the men were identified. Identification of dead soldiers after a battle is a fairly recent phenomenom. For example, during the American Civil War, soldiers would put pieces of paper in their pockets with their names and addresses so they might be identified if they were killed in battle. British soldiers had metal identification tabs in their jackets, but the jackets were removed early on during the fighting in the summer heat.
Another large mass grave can be found separate from those soldiers buried amongst the British trench. These men were mostly part of the Royal Lancaster Regiment. Losses were listed as about 343 British dead with another 563 wounded and 187 captured as opposed to 68 Boer dead and 134 wounded. Either way, it was a long ways from the Orange Free State and the Transvaal and infinitely further from the green hills of England.
History is remembered in different ways by which outlook has. The British monument was put on the hill first - they lost the battle but won the war. But years after the war was won, Boers eventually reversed the results of the war. A second interpretation of the battle was given. Spion Kop entered into the Afrikaner mythology along with Blood River and Majuba. The monument here denotes the Boer units - commandos - and officers who found action here. Biblical passages give deeper meaning to those who fought on the losing side of the Second War for Freedom.
I love stopping off at farm stalls to see what they have on offer. this one had some very very nice biltong and droe wors, and we made a point of buying some for "padkos"