The Anglo-Boer War

Following repeated negotiations with the Boers, the London Convention signed on 27 February 1884, provided for the lifting of British sovereignty and the Transvaal became the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek once again. With the discovery of gold in the Transvaal during 1886, the Boers, fearing a massive influx of foreigners amended the Voters Act so that voting rights could only be granted fourteen years after naturalisation. The foreigners protested that they were being oppressed and war between Britain and the ZAR, supported by the Orange Free State, broke out on 11 October 1899.

The northern triangle of Natal, which bordered on both Boer Republics, was especially vulnerable. The Boers invaded Newcastle on 15 October and five days later the first major battle of the Anglo-Boer War was fought at Talana, 2km from Dundee.

The British managed to drive the Boers off Talana Hill but suffered heavy losses and their commanding officer General Symons was mortally wounded in the engagement. The following day, 21 October 1899, the British defeated the Boer forces at Elandslaagte to open the retreat route for the British forces from Dundee. The large build up of British troops had centred on Ladysmith. It was here that the Boers laid a siege that lasted for 118 days and put Ladysmith on the world map. Repeated attempts were made by Sir Redvers Buller to relieve Ladysmith. He was unable to break through the Boer defences at Colenso, Vaalkrans and Spioenkop. At the end of February he was finally able to break through in a series of battles that have become known as the battle of Tugela Heights. The struggle in Natal continued and the battle of Helpmekaar on 3 May 1900 relieved Dundee. From then the guerrilla war was focused in the northern parts of Natal, the Cape colony and the Boer Republics. The second invasion of Natal by Louis Botha saw a number of engagements in the Vryheid area.

At the end of the war in 1902 large numbers of South Africans had been displaced from their homes, thousands were dead and the country’s economy was severely disrupted.