The first battle of the First Anglo Boer War in Natal territory took place at Laing’s Nek. The ultimate goal was to take the nek and advance from there into the Transvaal. On the 28 January 1881, with a force of 870 foot soldiers, and 180 mounted men, General Colley set out early morning to seize Laing’s Nek. Six cannons and a number of rocket launchers were also taken with.
“To the Boers watching from the heights it must have been an astonishing sight. Five companies of “Rooibaadjies” or Redcoats were advancing parallel to one another. All in columns of four, with white helmets and scarlet coats brilliant against the green plateau. In their midst, as had always been the custom of British infantry going into action, the Colours were unfurled. Two large, heavy standards nearly six feet square,· the Union flag for the Queen’s Colour and the regimental flag, each carried by its ensign. “The Anglo Boer wars by Michael Barthorp.
The cannon were set up at 1.5km from their target and the Boer positions were bombarded for 20 minutes. The gunners’ aim was not accurate and most of the shells went over their targets. Immediately after the bombardment, the 58th Regiment under Colonel Deane ascended Laing’s Nek by foot while the mounted men ascended from the left wing. This part of the offensive lasted for only half an hour and left 76 British soldiers and 6 officers dead, with 111 wounded. The Boers lost 14 men with 27 wounded.
General Colley had no option but to order a retreat to Mount Prospect. He also requested a cease-fire to retrieve their corpses and wounded, which was granted by Commandant General Joubert.