The Battle of Magersfontein, Northern Cape
Did you know?
Scotland's Highland Brigade suffered the worst casualties during the Battle of Magersfontein.
The Battle of Magersfontein was a triumph for the Boer forces, a disaster for the British army, and came close to wiping out Scotland's proud Highland Brigade.
During the second South African War, the Boers had besieged Kimberley and its 50 000 inhabitants since November 1899. Supplies were scarce in the diamond-mining town and relief was imperative.
The British public and press were demanding action. British forces advanced north along the railway line in an attempt to relieve Kimberley, but a Boer force was in their way at Magersfontein.
The British mistakenly believed that the enemy was encamped on the slopes of the surrounding hills and were confident that their superior artillery would win the day. The troops advanced under cover of darkness and prepared to storm the Boer positions at daybreak. The plan proved horribly wrong.
The Boers had dug trenches at the base of the hills and the flat trajectory of their Mauser rifles raked the advancing British troops. The soldiers of Scotland's Highland Brigade who survived the rifle fire were pinned down on the battlefield in the heat of the day. Over 200 British were killed during the battle, many of them dying of sunstroke and exposure.
Today you can take a tour of the Magersfontein battlefield with an experienced guide and military historian to relive that grim day. You'll visit some Boer graves in the veld before stopping at the Burgher Monument.
Watch a short audio-visual account of the battle, and then it’s off to the hills where you might encounter a ghostly Boer burgher. Then on to the trenches: on moonlit nights they say you can see some of those Highlanders charging, and many visitors claim to have seen the lanterns of the stretcher-bearers.
It's also claimed that if you listen closely, you may well hear the mournful notes of a phantom Scottish piper.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
The Magersfontein Experience
Mobile: +27 (0)83 732 3189
Northern Cape Tourism
Tel: +27 (0)53 832 2657
How to get here
Kimberley is served by an airport, with daily flights to and from Johannesburg and Cape Town. The Magersfontein battlefield is on the Airport Road toward Modder River, approximately 30km from Kimberley.
Best time to visit
Any time, but Kimberley summers can be fiercely hot and winters bitterly cold, so dress appropriately. If you go on a moonlit night, that's when you may well hear the phantom piper.
Around the area
The Kimberley Open Mine Museum and the Big Hole are musts. The Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre, 16km north-west of Kimberley on the Barkly West Road, is a fascinating journey into our cultural past.
Tours to do
The Magersfontein Experience.
Drive to the battlefield then explore it on foot.
What will it cost
R15 entrance fee to the battlefield. The Magersfontein Experience tour costs approximately R1 300 per group regardless of numbers.
Length of stay
Five to six hours for the entire tour.
What to pack
Comfortable walking shoes, appropriate clothing for the season and plenty of sunscreen and a hat, no matter the season.
Where to stay
There is plenty of accommodation available in Kimberley, from the historic Kimberley Club, to friendly B&Bs.