The Battle of Bergendal, or Dalmanutha as it is sometimes called, was the last set battle of the war to be fought on large scale. The scope of the battle was quite big, and it was conducted on misleading terrain. The Boer resistance was the last formal attempt to block the concentrated advance of the formidable army which Lord Roberts had assembled after the disasters in Natal and the Cape.

The British side quickly determined that the key to the whole breakthrough was a small rocky ridge or knoll which lay some distance ahead of the much more defensible main Boer line. Commandant-General Louis Botha also knew this, and for this reason he had selected the old South African Police force, now acting as a military unit, to defend it. The ZARPS, as they were called, were tough and well-disciplined fighters whom he trusted to hold the position at nearly all cost. 

A concentrated artillery barrage was rained down upon the ZARP position for a long time until it seemed that no living thing could have survived under such withering fire. Yet, when the infantry was finally sent in, the bloodied, mangled and wounded remains of what had been the ZARP force, rose up to meet them as best they could. The defence was heroic, but stood no chance. After the ZARP position was overrun, the rest of the line crumbled in due course, and the British war machine rolled forward. 

The Battle of Bergendal was thought to have marked the end of the war. Unbeknown to everyone, however, the was merely about to change its nature into a guerrilla war. It was to last many months more before it would finally be over.

Bergendal main monument

Bergendal battlefield, west of the ZARP koppie. As the picture reveals, the terrain has virtually no cover. 100 years ago, there would have been no trees at all. Across this arena the British army had to advance in order to neutralize the ZARP position where the photographer is standing. The koppie (knoll) was first subjected to one of the most intense artillery bombardments of the war. When it was over, the ZARPS had ceased to exist as a fighting unit. The few survivors were taken up into various other commandos where they served for the duration of the war.

Shattered rocks on the ZARP koppie reveals just how heavy the artillery bombardment had been. Every artillery shell that hit the rocks, created millions of flying rock and steel splinters which scattered death all round. Note that there were no trees on the ZARP koppie a century ago.

Everywhere on the ZARP koppie, the rocks had been shattered into exceedingly sharp, jagged splinters which still little the battlefield.

Position behind ZARP koppie in the lee off the British artillery fire. This was the only spot which provided a small measure of cover to the stricken and wounded members of the South African police unit.

Monument in honour of the British Rifle Brigade. The monument is just south of the main monument, on the ZARP koppie.