The Pretoria-Pietersburg railway line during the South African War (1899-1902)

The Pretoria-Pietersburg railway line during the South African War (1899-1902)


The Northern Transvaal is an often-neglected theatre of the War. The area saw limited action during the first set-piece battle phase of the War, but was one of the last strongholds of the “bittereinders” as the Transvaal commandos were forced to retreat further east and then north during the subsequent guerrilla stage of the War. The then recently completed 290 km Pretoria-Pietersburg railway line – the Pietersburg station was opened on 1 May 1899 – played a significant role in both the Boer and British efforts in the Northern Transvaal during the last two years of the War.

The British army’s invasion of the Northern Transvaal as far north as Nylstroom by August 1900 followed the railway line and Brig.-Gen. H.C.O Plumer, who led the advance on Pietersburg in March / April 1901, also proceeded along the railway, making use of it to transport equipment. Following the occupation of Pietersburg, a key focus of the Boer war effort was to attack the railway, with Capt. Jack Hindon’s corps being the most active in this regard.

The presentation provides an overview of events in the vicinity of the railway that influenced both the Boer and British war efforts and comments on the role played by the railway line in such events and its impact on the trajectory of the War in the area.


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