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Introduction to the War

Black Week of the British Army

Buller's defeat at Colenso led to his replacement by Lord Roberts as supreme commander of the British forces in South Africa on 18 D ecember 1899. However, before Roberts' arrival, Buller tried, once again, to break through to Ladysmith. He decided to cross the Thu kela a few kilometres west of Colenso and to go round the Boers' right flank. On 16 January Lieutenant-General Sir Charles Warren cr ossed the river with the aim to take Spioenkop to threaten the Boers on Tabanyama Hill. On 24 January 1900 the British column of 2 0 00 men under Major-General ERP Woodgate was pinned down by the Boers on the summit of Spioenkop. The British lost 225 men, 122 were missing, 550 were wounded and 178 were captured. Fifty-eight Boers were killed and 140 were wounded. A third attempt to relieve Lady smith (5-7 February) came to nothing at Vaalkrans. This was mainly because of the courageous defence of the Johannesburg commando an d the Boer artillery.

Carlton Ware match holder
Oosthuizen Collection: War Museum of the Boer Republics

Battle of Magersfontein

Meanwhile Methuen had received orders from Buller to go on to Kimberley as quickly as possible. With some 10 500 men, reinforced regularly, he managed to drive the Boers from their positions at Belmont (23 November 1899) and Graspan (Enslin or Rooilaagte) two days later. On 28 November 1899 Methuen and De la Rey again crossed swords at Tweeriviere or Modder River. The Boers again had to fall back when the Free Staters under Combat General J Prinsloo on the western flank left their positions thus exposing the other burghers to danger. The Boers now took up position at Magersfontein where Methuen attacked them on 11 December 1899. The unsuspecting British troops, with the Highland Brigade in the lead, walked straight into the deadly fire from the Boer trenches. Here the Boers suffered some 225 casualties while the British lost some 971 men.

Battle of Stormberg

On the southern front many Cape colonists, who sympathised with the Boer cause, joined the ranks of the Boer army. To quell this rebellious spirit and to restore some lost British prestige, Gatacre decided to attack the Boers at Stormberg with a force of approximately 5 000 men. On 10 December 1899 Gatacre came up against the Boers under General JH Olivier at Stormberg where between 700 -800 British soldiers were put out of action while the Boers lost 21 men - either killed or wounded. British reverses at Stormberg (10/12/1899), Magersfontein (11/12/99) and Colenso (15/12/99), became known as the "Black Week"


Introduction to the War
Role Players and Figures
Concentration Camps
Prisoners of War
Chronology of the War

Introduction to the War
Republican Strategy
First British Offensive
Black Week of the British Army
Second British Offensive
The Mobile War Begins
The Guerrilla War
Concentration Camp System
Peace Treaty of Vereeniging

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