The first battle of this war was fought at Bronkhorstspruit [20 December 1880]’when the Boers under General Frans Joubert intercepted a British convoy consisting of the 94th regiment that was sent to relieve the besieged British forces in Pretoria. The British forces lost 57 men with over a hundred wounded while on the Boer side 2 men were lost and 5 wounded.
In a letter written by Colley to his sister in England on New Years day 1881, he stated: “This is a sad and anxious New Year for us all year, as you can imagine. The last troops I have available, including some drafts only three days arrived from England, marched this morning, and I start in a few days to take command to try and bring the Boers to battle and relieve our garrisons at Pretoria and Potchefstroom. The disaster of the 94th has not only been a painful loss to us, of many good officers and men, but has changed the whole aspect of affairs – a sort of lsandhlwana on a smaller scale.”
In the meantime a Boer force of approximately 1500 men under Commandant General Piet Joubert took position on the border of Natal along Laing’s Nek. It was here that they had to stop the advance of General Colley with a line stretching 3km.