13 September 2012 by Zintle Mtyeku

Magersfontein – more than just a battlefield

Transport yourself to the Magersfontein battlefield on 11 December 1899 and get a sense of events that transpired during the Anglo-Boer War.

Inside the Magersfontein Battlefield Museum

Magersfontein, just outside Kimberley in the Northern Cape, is famous as the site of an epic clash that took place on 11 December 1899 when Boer forces (descendants of the Dutch-speaking settlers) tried to stop English forces from relieving the Siege of Kimberley during the Anglo-Boer War.

But a recent trip to Magersfontein exposed me to more than just a historic tourist experience.

The Magersfontein Battlefield Museum may be compact in size, but it is packed with informative exhibitions and items of intrigue recovered from the battlefield. There are scaled-down models of the battlefield itself; visual displays portraying the battle; examples of artillery; and memorial plaques in recognition of the men who lost their lives.

Artillery used during the battle on 11 December 1899

You can admire replicas of the soldiers’ uniforms, or slip into a multimedia room and watch a short video that transports you to the battlefield on that day in December 1899.

The multimedia room is small and intimate, and mimics a combat zone. Visitors stand behind a waist-high reconstructed trench with short barbed wire on top. There are models of Boer soldiers on the other side of the trench, which offers an experience of what the soldiers encountered on the day.

I left the room with a little more understanding of the emotions and adrenalin that the young soldiers must have felt on the battlefield.

Boer soldier model in the multimedia room

Following the multimedia exhibition, I stepped outside to continue the tour, and made my way to the summit of Magersfontein Hill, which required negotiating a short, rocky path.

Once at the top, the view was rewarding – the plains of the battlefield seemed to stretch further than the eye can see.

I closed my eyes and meditated for a while.

Magersfontein seemed to touch my soul. What was once a place of bloodshed has been transformed into a personal space of reflection and tranquillity.

Magersfontein seemed to touch my soul. What was once a place of bloodshed has been transformed into a personal space of reflection and tranquillity.

Back down the hill there was a café that sold some South African favourites such as jaffles (a stuffed toasted sandwich, which usually has a decorative pattern), vetkoek  (a traditional Afrikaans pastry deep-fried in cooking oil and either filled with cooked beef mince or spread with syrup, honey, or jam) and potjiekos (a stew consisting of meat, vegetables, starches like rice or potatoes, all slow-cooked with Dutch-Malay spices in a three-legged iron pot).

Oh, and don’t forget to try the homemade ginger beer ...

A view of the Magersfontein battlefield

Category: Culture & History


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