During the week-end 26-27 April, 1969, members of the S.A. Military History Society, together with a number of visitors, toured the battlefields of the 1880-1881 War in the Newcastle-Charlestown area. This was the first week-end outing that the society had organised and not only was it well patronised, but it was also an outstanding success.
Most of the people arrived in the area on the Friday night and were accommodated at the Valley Inn and Inkwelo Motel. The party gathered at the Valley Inn at 9.30 on the Saturday morning and then set off for Schuinshoogte which is only a couple of miles south of Valley Inn and there Comdt. Geo. Duxhury, one of our stalwart members, unfolded the Battle of Schuinshoogte. At this stage we numbered 40, which figure included at least a dozen from Durban. While we all sat, admiring the beautiful scenery of the surrounding district, we felt that we were, in fact, in the battle. Having all the pertinent points pointed out to us on the ground it was impossible not to be totally conversant with how the battle went. After the talk, the British graves, which are on the spot, were visited and it was sad to see that a concrete monument to one of the British Regiments had been pulled down and badly broken; no doubt the work of vandals.
Mrs. Harber of Valley Inn brought out tea and despite some difficulty in getting the gas stove to work, all were soon satisfied with piping hot tea and "eats".
The gathering then returned to their respective hotels for lunch and then all gathered at Inkwelo Motel at 2.00 p.m. for the tour of Laings-Nek. Proceeding in a convoy of cars, a break was made to visit the British cemetery at Mount Prospect which is only a 12-minute walk from the National Road. In this cemetery are a number of graves of the Majuba Battle, including that of Maj.-Gen. Colley, and several from Laings-Nek and Schuinshoogte.
South West corner of Mount Prospect Cemetery. In the centre is the monument to the
officers and men of The Naval Brigade. On the right is the grave of 2/Lt. I. Baillie
who was killed at Laings Nek whilst carrying the Regimental Colours of the 58th Regiment.
(This was the last occasion on which British Regiments carried colours into Battle. - EDITOR)
It was a shock to all of us to see that quite recently the beautiful stone monument to the Naval personnel, who took part in the Majuba Battle, had been blown up by dynamite.
On leaving the cemetery rain began to fall and although it was only slight, the weather took an ominous turn when we arrived in the area of the Laings-Nek Battle. By the time we had climbed the hill to the position where the monument to the 58th Regiment stands, it was pouring but, nevertheless, Comdt. Duxbury once again delivered the story of the battle. By that time all were drenched but what a spirit there was -- nobody cared less and soon we were all back at our rooms, having hot baths and getting ready for the evening's entertainment.
Those who attended the braaivleis will never forget it, for only Mrs. Harber of Valley Inn can come to the fore with such a braai. Midst talking, drinking and eating, we had a memorable evening, the latter part being spent in the lounge with music and a raging fire.
Sunday morning dawned fairly clear and later there was only sun and so the climb of Majuba was made in perfect weather. It was heartening to see that our numbers had swelled to 70 by the arrival of many more people from Johannesburg and other districts. So keen were they, that they even took up their small children -- what an arduous task for the parents!
The climb from the north is not arduous if pauses for rest are observed at the terraces and within forty minutes we were at the top. En route Comdt. Duxbury pointed out relevant features and when we arrived on top, what a magnificent scene in all directions met our eyes. Volksrust and Charlestown were clearly visible in the north. In the east a panoramic view of the Laings-Nek battlefield and monuments made one realize how exposed Colley's forces were to the rifles of the Boers entrenched along the top of Laings-Nek feature. Looking further south one could see Mount Prospect Cemetery and between the cemetery and the top of Majuba most of the route over which Colley made his night march.
Graves of 3/60th Rifles at Schuinshoogte.
Photograph by kind permission of Mr. Roscoe C. Behrmann.
After Comdt. Duxbury's detailed talk of the Majuba Battle, the various monuments were visited and some time was spent here getting the "feel" of the battle.
At about midday the visit was officially concluded and Comdt. B. G. Simpkins, Chairman of the Society, thanked the members for attending and helping to make the tour such a wonderful success, particularly those who had come from Durban. On reaching the bottom of the mountain, final farewells were made and so ended an outstanding week-end.
Special thanks are accorded to George Duxbury for the magnificent work he did to make this outing a success. He not only made available a detailed "movement order", but also produced printed short histories of the three battlefields visited and culminated his efforts by doing all the explaining to us with his first-class knowledge of his subject in his lucid addresses.
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