Battlefield (N12) Route – Kimberley

The Anglo Boer South African War began on 11 October 1899, and within four days Kimberley was besieged by Boer soldiers.The unforgiving circle of Boers trapped the citizens of the town, including diamond magnate Cecil John Rhodes, who had taken up residence in the Sanatorium (now the McGregor Museum).

The siege was to last 124 days, over the hottest period of the year, and placed a great burden of boredom, ever-diminishing food and water, and danger from bombardment upon the towns-people. In the last weeks of the siege, food was rationed, and sickness was taking its toll.
It was deemed imperative to break the hold of the Boers on the town. To do this meant that British troops had to be moved smartly up from the south, using the existing railway, to Kimberley. The journey was not without its battles, as the Boer troops moved along the line to meet the British forces. At the Battles of Belmont, Graspan (Enslin) and Modder River, both forces gave a good account of themselves, but the Boers elected to fall back towards Magersfontein Ridge, where they entrenched. The citizens of Kimberley, knowing that the British were coming, waited anxiously for relief. Early on 11 December 1899, they knew that a heavy battle was under way. They did not know that the Boers would defeat the British, causing them to retreat to their Modder River encampment.

Kimberley would have to wait until 15 February 1900 before General French and his cavalry charged through Boer lines to relieve the town. The battlefields are largely unchanged from the days of the war. Field displays explain each battle, and the roads are well sign-posted. Magersfontein, the site of the heaviest battle, boasts an interesting field museum, and includes something for the bird and animal lover as well. A restaurant provides refreshments. The story of the Relief of Kimberley is told in the Siege Rooms at the McGregor Museum.