Military History Tours On Tour - Boer War 110th Anniversary Tour - 26 May 2012
This was a long day due in part to the crowds we encountered as we passed through the various towns such as Verona, Groblersdal and Middelburg. We finished the day in a beautiful hotel in Witbank. Even though a long day, we arrived in Witbank at 19:00 hrs (7 pm), it was very enjoyable; we really had some moving moments.
We started in Pretoria at the cemetery where Breaker Morant and Peter Handcock are interred. Their shared grave is in the British military part of the cemetery, separate from ‘Hero’s Acre’ where worthy citizens of the South African Republic of the Transvaal are laid to rest.
The grave has been refurbished and the whole site is under the control of the South African War Graves Unit who are maintaining military cemeteries throughout the nation.
We conducted a small service, and as the Breaker did not accept religion, Mark Day read the last poem Harry Morant wrote, in prison just before his execution. We laid poppies on the grave and Barry Vickery played Waltzing Matilda on his harmonica. The service was very moving.
Leaving the cemetery, we proceeded up to the Union Building, both massive (300 metres across) and impressive (beautiful sandstone), it has magnificent gardens leading to it. The building served as the Parliament House and administrative centre of the nation for many years and still contains the office of the President.
Leaving Pretoria we headed to Johannesburg Airport to pick up our last two travellers, Gaye and Tom Atkinson, then headed toward Rhonesterkop now known as Motetma. On the way we went through Dennilton where there was a full street of oranges. We were close to the area where a lot of oranges are grown. Mark Day spoke to one of the stall-holders enquiring about the costs and other matters.
Heading on we passed through beautiful countryside and stopped by the road to have a packed lunch. After this enjoyable repast near the Mabusa Nature Reserve, we proceeded to Motetma where we found the ground on which the first major battle of the guerrilla phase of the Second Boer War was fought. John took us through the action. It was a position well defended by a force under Boer General Viljonen. The British including Australians and New Zealanders attacked the position frontally from the line of march, they suffered accordingly. After blunting the attack, the Boers abandoned their position in darkness. Audrey Bullough’s ancestor Major James Rose had been with the South Australian Imperial Bushmen at this site..
Following our time at Motetma, we headed into Middleburg via the Kranspoort Pass and past many stalls selling Amaroo Beer, a home brew that seemed to be selling well.
We had difficulty locating Middelburg Cemetery, arriving in the fading light, a fitting time to conduct a service for Lieutenant Anthony Forrest, the great uncle of Gaye Atkinson who had been killed on 15 May 1901. Barry again played the mouth organ; it was a very moving moment for us all.
Night fell as we drove the short distance to our hotel in Witbank.