The British View

Spioenkop, seen from the South, as the British attackers would have viewed it. The landscape was completely deceptive. The actual topography bears little resemblance to what is seen here, and helps to explain why the British attack ran into so many unforeseen difficulties.

Another view of Spioenkop from the south.

Southern (British) view of Spioeniop. The mountain had to be taken, but British intelligence had very little idea what to expect at the top, or even exactly how well the mountain would be defended.


Spioenkop as seen from the other side of the Spioenkop dam and from a distance which is more comparable to that at which the higher officers would have conducted the battle. Note, however, that the military brass had higher viewpoints than this particular one.

The southern side of Spioenkop as seen from the Spioenkop dam nature reserve. The camping ground of the nature reserve offers particularly pleasing views and a very restful environment. On this particular occasion, the author woke up during the night to find an entire herd of zebra and blue wildebeest grazing right around his tent.

The Boer View

From the summit of Spioenkop, the view towards the South is particularly beautiful. In the far distance, obscured by the haze, lies the Drakensberg mountain range.

A picture across the Spioenkop dam in the south, shows the sharp ridge which the mountain has. This southern ridge remained occupied by the British side during practically the entire battle.

View across the Spioenkiop dam, taken from the south-eastern tip of the mountain. The dam did not exist during the war, but it does show where the Tugela river's course used to be. From their high vantage point, the Boers could very clearly see the British troop movements across the plains in the distance as they prepared for battle. This robbed the British army of a lot of its initiative and destroyed the all-important surprise-factor to a large extent. Incidentally, the old Voortrekker battlefield of Veglaer is now covered by the dam.

The Summit

The main British trench, right on the summit of Spioenkop, viewpoint south-west. Behind this trench was British territory. Realize, however, that this bare summit was being pounded non-stop by Boer artillery fire that came from several directions at the same time. The trenches were very shallow and the sun was blistering hot.

A section of the British trenches extending more or less west. Note the main British monument on the summit, which marks the approximate centre of the hill. On the left at the northern rim the Boer memmorial can be seen. Across this open landscape the two sides exchanged rifle fire all day long. The Boers were just beyond the northern rim and gradually approached, using what little cover they could find.

A view towards the north-east from the British positions. The two knolls in the distance were occupied by Boer snipers. From the lee side, artillery fire was very accurately directed onto the summit, inflicting great losses. In all probability it would not have been possible during the battle to stand upright as the photogapher did, in order to get a clearer view.

View across the open summit, more or less north-west, as taken from a position close to the main British memorial. The picture shows the particularly open ground across which the battle had to be waged. On the right the western section of the British trenches can be seen. The vehicles in the centre of the picture are standing on the current parking area.

British trenches, showing the view across the outer rim of the mountain. This picture shows how deceptive the terrain was. When the fog cleared and the British trenches had been dug, it was discovered that they were not on the true ridge at all. Beyond the trenches the true ridge can just barely be seen protruding. This offered dead protection from British rifle fire from the trenches to the Boers.

The main approach from the parking grounds to the main British memorial.

More open terrain, taken from the main British memorial in the centre, and looking towardst he west. Far in the distance the Drakensberg moutains frame the horizon. Beyond the ridge of the mountain, the first set of hills show the slopes of Thabanyama.

Picture looking north-west and taken from behind the main British trenches. From the standing position of the photographer, comparatively little can be seen of the Boer sector north of the trenchline. The soldiers who were lying flat in the trenches, however, could have seen practically nothing. Those who dared to raise their heads, received a bullet through the head almost immediately.

Looking south from the eastern-most tip of the main British trench. This was British ground, but it was stormed by the Boers on several occasions, and remained a precarious position as it was exposed to long-range cross-fire, and short range Boer sniping.

The eastern-most tip of the main British trench, showing the sloping ground across which the Boer attach came.

The same trench as seen from the Boer positions (where the line of people is standing). It can be noted that although the British trench was situated in an unenviable position, it was also a very unpleasant task for the Boer attackers to have to storm across such unprotected terrain.

The eastern slip section of Spioenkop, showing spioenkop dam in the distance. Beyond this first ridge, the British soldiers were relatively safe from Boer fire.

The eastern-most tip of the main British trench.

The country south of Spioenkop offers beautiful views. The dark line of higher ground that cuts horizontally across the top third of the picture is higher ground, on the opposite side of which the Tugela River flows. This ridge form a continuation of the Boer defence line. The battlefields of Vaalkrans and Brakfontein are situated along this defence line.

Southern slop of spioenkop. The British medical station for the wounded, was roughly where the group of people is standing in the picture--possibly a bit further towards the memorial that is protruding in the distance.

Some of the positions that the first Boer attack had to carry, looked like this. These were advance positions on the true northern rim of the mountain and a good distance away from the trench lines. These positions were stormed very bravely and taken after short-range rifle-fire and hand-to-hand combat. After that, this became a Boer position and was never retaken.

More or less the same position, but this time looking north, as seen from the British side.

Eastern-most section of the main British trench. The Boers were sniping from just behind the rim of the mountain, dealing headshots to any soldiers who dared to lift a helmet.


A section of open ground taken from the Boer position in the saddle that separates Spioenkop's summit from the outrunner on its eastern side. Across this open ground the Boer attackers had to advance in order to engage the eastern tip of the main British trench. The main memorial can be seen protruding on the left of the picture.

Picture taken from the Boer position on the north-eastern side of the mountain. The false-crest first had to be carried of the British advance defence, before the main trenches could be engaged.

After the battle, the main trench was used as a mass grave for the many fallen soldiers.

Bodies littered the landscape in all directions.

The bodies that had been abandoned, were later buried by the Boers.

The outrunner of Spioenkop, which forms two small knolls in the near distance, was a good sniping post and offered excellent artillery positions for the purpose of covering the crest of Spioenkop with shrapnel fire at very close range.

Looking back towards the crest of Spioenkop in exactly the opposite direction as the picture above. This is the view that the Boer snipers would have had. Notice the British stone memorial in the distance, near where the medical station was. The picture shows clearly that sniping had to be done across a relatively long distance.

The British stone memorial on the south-easterly rim of Spioenkop, near where the British medical station had been.

A photographer surveys the summit of Spioenkop after the battle.