The Old Fort and Cemetery

This interesting fort and cemetery is situated in Umgeni Road. During 1837 the Voortrekkers crossed the Drakensberg Mountains and entered Natal. The governor of the Cape, Sir George Napier regarded this as an encroachment on Bantu territory and he did not want to see the fine harbour of Port Natal in foreign or hostile hands.  The Voortrekkers  established the Republic of Natalia, but Napier got the opportunity to re-occupy Port Natal.

In 1842 Captain Thomas Smith pitched camp on the site now occupied by the Old Fort.  A Boer commando under command of Cmdt Genl. Andries Pretorius surrounded  the British camp and kept them under siege until after the famous ride of Dick King and  his servant, Ngongeni, to obtain help from Grahamstown.

The Old Fort, which originally went under the name of Fort ltafa Amaline,  was in continuous use as H.Q. of successive regiments until it was handed over to the Royal  Durban Light Infantry in  1897.  The artefacts include historical colours and memorial plaques in honour of Capts A.  Gardiner and T.C.  Smith who lost their lives during the siege of 1842 are buried in the military cemetery that forms part of this monument.   Outside the main gate  is a  stone cairn erected to the memory of Ensign Prior and the men of the 2?1h  Regiment of Foot who fell in the defence of the fort.

In one corner of the grounds  is the ornamental “Warrior’s Gate”, completed  in  1937 as a shrine of remembrance to all those who fell in the service of their country.   It also houses the headquarters of the ex-soldier’s organisation (MOTH) Memorable Order of Tin  Hats and a museum with battle trophies and memorabilia of old Natal.

To the east of the guardroom is the magazine, dating from 1858.  The building is still used today as a  chapel.  Further to the east, a  plaque marks the original earthworks of the fort, which are still visible.    Nearby under a protective roof, stands an oak bench from  H.M.S. Southampton,   dating from  1842.   The old well, which supplied the garrison with water, is marked,  and the original workshop can still be seen.  Outside the door to the magazine is a bell tower with the bell of  H.M.S.   Durban. The  ship was scuttled during  the  Normandy landings of 1944 as a block for the-41vfulberry Harbour”.

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