N12 Battlefields Route, Northern Cape
Did you know?
The Anglo-Boer War or South African War drew in all sectors of South African society, with thousands of black and coloured people serving with the British army, and thousands assisting the Boers.
The N12 Battlefields Route in the Northern Cape speaks of a history-changing war in South Africa.
Both the British and the Boers claimed the right to rule the Transvaal (also known as the South African Republic or the Transvaal Republic then), after gold was found in 1886.
Thus began the bitter South African War, also known as the Anglo-Boer War, which was fought from 1899-1902. It saw Canada, Australia and New Zealand supporting the British, while volunteers from Ireland, France, Russia, America, Italy and Scandinavia supported the Boers.
Kimberley was a British stronghold when war broke out on 11 October 1899, and was an obvious target for the Boers, who besieged it for four months.
You can start the Anglo-Boer War Route in Kimberley at the McGregor Museum, the former residence of Cecil John Rhodes, mining magnate and leading political figure on the British side during the siege. The museum houses a 'siege display' where the story of the siege and eventual relief of Kimberley is told.
From here you drive the N12 between Kimberley and Hopetown, on which several battlefield sites are well signposted. These include the battles of Belmont, Graspan, Modder River and Magersfontein – the most famous of the battle sites, approximately 40km from Kimberley.
On 11 December 1899 in the dim pre-dawn, the Boers opened fire on the Highland Brigade from their concealed trench at the base of Magersfontein Hill. It was a legendary Boer victory, but the memorials and graves at the site speak of casualties on both sides.
A must-see is the Magersfontein Museum and lookout point on the hill. The museum has an audio-visual presentation that offers visitors a ‘first-hand’ experience of battle from a darkened Boer trench.
Kimberley was finally relieved in February 1900.
The British ultimately won the war, their ‘scorched earth’ policy proving influential. This policy included destroying Boer farms, thereby cutting off their access to food and supplies, and incarcerating Boer women, children and supporters in concentration camps.
This tactic helped to force the Boers to start peace negotiations.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
McGregor Museum, Kimberley
Tel: +27 (0)53 8392700
How to get here
Fly to Kimberley or Bloemfontein or drive. The distance from Johannesburg to Kimberley is about 470km, and from Bloemfontein to Kimberley about 180km.
Best time to visit
All year round.
Around the area
There is so much to do in and around Kimberley, from visiting the Big Hole, a major Kimberley attraction, to fly-fishing.
It's best to drive yourself in and around Kimberley, although you can also do the tour with a registered tour guide, in which case he or she may provide a vehicle.
What will it cost
Some of the museums charge a nominal entrance fee. You can expect to pay a few hundred rands per morning or afternoon per person for a guided tour.
Length of stay
Stay in Kimberley for three days or more.
What to pack
Maps of the area, binoculars, hat, walking shoes, water.
Where to stay
Kimberley has a choice of hotels, guest houses and B&Bs to suit all pockets.
What to eat
Kimberley has many restaurants, and most accommodation options offer meals. The Magersfontein battle site has a tearoom where you can order light meals and refreshments.