1880 - 1881


During her long, and many would say glorious reign, Queen Victoria’s soldiers, those redcoats you hear so much about, marched hundreds of thousands of miles over every continent in the world, and during that time they built for their Queen an Empire, the likes of which had never been seen before, nor will ever be seen again. An Empire so vast that those soldiers could boast that on this Empire, the sun never set.

It is probably fair to say that in 1876 Britain’s Army was probably the largest and most professional army in the world and although they fought thousands of battles even losing some, they rarely lost a war. But one war, they did lose, and lost disastrously, was a miserable 3 month affair in Southern Africa. During this war, they lost all four major engagements, the last so disastrously, that it was to go down in the annals of British Military History as one of Britian’s most humiliating defeats and this defeat was handed to them by what the British general, who lost his life in that final battle, referred to as "that rabble army of farmers”.

Nearly 20 years later, in the second major clash between the Boers and the British, it is not surprising that the battle cry of both opposing forces was, “Majuba, Majuba, remember Majuba!”

Our presentation will take you quickly through the events leading up to this war, then, in more detail the three major actions fought on the Natal/Transvaal border culminating in the Battle of Majuba and the immediate aftermath. This presentation takes a little over one and a half hours and there is a further 20 minute film clip of the action if required.

So let's follow the trail of Gen. Sir George Pomeroy-Colley and his Natal Field Force as they try to break through the defensive line of Comdt. Gen. Piet Joubert and his Burghers and enter the Transvaal.

The British General, gathered his men and established his commissariat and hospital at Fort Amiel overlooking Newcastle before advancing to Mount Prospect and the Transvaal border on the 21st January 1881

Arriving at Mount Prospect on the 26th he established a campsite in preparation for his assault on Lang's Nek. Little knowing that this would be as far as his force would get.

On the 28th January Gen Colley advanced on Lang's Nek where Commandant General Piet Joubert's burghers had now dug in. The British assault was poorly managed and Gen Colley's line Regiments were quickly repulsed with heavy casualties to the 58th Regt who led the assault. The British Forces were back in their camp by midday, somewhat shaken. Colley now decided to await reinforcements.

The Burghers, now encouraged by their action at Lang’s Nek, begin to roam around Majuba and Inkwelo Mountains and interfere with Colley’s supply route. With a vital supply convoy due from Newcastle on the 8th February, Colley decides to take a show of force down the road to escort the convoy in. His passage is challenged by a force of Burghers under Nicholas Smit at Schuinshoogte (Ingogo). The Battle lasted all afternoon until brought to an abrupt end by a violent thunderstorm which enabled the British to withdraw from the field under the cover of the storm and in the dark having once again suffered serious casualties.

Fortunately for Colley reinforcements started to arrive the following week and this gave him hope of retrieving his damaged reputation and on Saturday 26th February he started planning his fatal attack on Majuba Mountain, where he believed the Burghers removed their picket at night. He left camp with some 600 men at 10:00 that night and occupied the top of the mountain with some 400men just before dawn on Sunday 27th February, in time to see the Burghers waking up and going to morning prayers. Initially, when the Burghers discovered the British had occupied the top of the mountain some started to pack to leave, but then bolder hearts came to the fore led by Nicholas Smit and by 13:00 they had driven the British from their "impregnable position" position on top of the mountain, inflicting casualties of around 257 killed, wounded or captured, to their own 6. A quite remarkable achievement which ultimately led to the British rescinding the annexation and the Transvaal regaining its Independence.



Fort Amiel - Newcastle

58th Regt. Monument on Laing's Nek with Majuba behind

The 60th Rifles Monument at Schuinshoogte

The British Cemetery on Majuba -
MacDonald's Kop is in the rear

The British Cemetery and Camp Site at Mt Prospect
Majuba is in the background

O'Neil's Cottage where the Peace Treat was signed