Battle of Bergendal
The Battle of Bergendal (also known as the Battle of Belfast or Battle of Dalmanutha) was the last set-piece battle of the Second Anglo-Boer War. It lasted from 21–27 August 1900 and took place on the farm Bergendal (Hill and Dale) near the town of Belfast. The 5,000 Boers were under the command of General Louis Botha and the 20,000 British Empire forces were led by General Sir Redvers Buller under the overall command of Lord Roberts.
Plans and positions
Advancing from the direction of Pretoria along the main railroad line, the main aim of Lord Roberts' forces were to occupy the temporary South African Republic (ZAR) government seat of Machadodorp. Their line of advance would lead right across the farm Bergendal where the ZARPs - members of the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek Politie or South African Republic Police - was positioned.
Roberts left the tactical direction of the battle to Buller. The British plan was to send Sir John French and the cavalry on a flanking move to the north. Meanwhile, Major General Neville Lyttelton would strike the middle of the Boer front with two brigades.
"It was a big red kopje near a farm called Bergendal, a jumble of fantastic boulders, spread across three acres, whose own great natural strength belied its fatal weakness in relation to Botha's defence line. Like a miniature Spion Kop, it jutted out in a salient from the centre of Botha's twenty-mile front. Unlike Spion Kop, it could not be supported by sides or rear, owing to the ground that screened Botha's view but gave Buller's massed artillery a field day."
There were several other clashes during the battle, but the battle's climax occurred on 27 August, when 74 men of the Johannesburg section of the ZARPs faced an attack on foot by 1,500 men of the Rifle Brigade, 2nd Battalion, Inniskilling Fusiliers, 1st Battalion, the Devonshire Regiment and Gordon Highlanders after a heavy artillery bombardment. Despite a tenacious defence by the ZARPs of the kopje (knoll) where they had dug in, they were eventually defeated by the British forces. Twenty of the ZARPs force had been killed and nineteen (including their leader, Commandant Oosthuizen) were taken prisoner. Other wounded had been removed by the Boers. The rest of the ZARPs force escaped and joined the other retreating Boer commandos. British losses were three officers killed and seven wounded, 12 rank and file killed and 100 wounded.
As a result of this defeat, the Boer line of defence was breached and on 28 August Buller's troops marched into Machadodorp. The ZAR government, meanwhile, had decamped to Nelspruit. A few days later, on 1 September, Lord Roberts proclaimed the entire South African Republic British territory.
However, the capture of Machadodorp and Roberts' proclamation did not end the war. Although the British had won the battle Botha's main force had managed to stay intact. The Boer commandos subsequently dispersed to Lydenburg and Barberton and the next phase of the war - guerrilla warfare - started. This second phase would last even longer than the first, conventional, phase and peace would eventually only be declared at the end of May 1902.
A memorial was erected in honour of those who died in this battle. The first memorial erected in memory of the twelve Zarps who died in the Battle of Berg-en-dal on 27 Augustus 1900 where erected in 1935. The second memorial unveiled on 29 Augustus 1970.
- Pakenham, p.482
- Pakenham, p.483