The Greater Magaliesberg Battlefields Tourism Route
More than just Battlefields
The new tourism route is themed around the Battles during the guerilla war phase of the South African War (1899 to 1902), which includes over 60 battle and skirmish sites. There are many other tourist attractions along the route including ancient rock art, interesting geological and archaeological features, unique museums, game drives in various battlefields – to mention just a few.
There are already 14 tour-ready battlefields, from the Roodeplaat Dam area in the east to Mahikeng in the west. They can be visited as part of day or overnight tours and various combinations can be chosen. Each battlefield can be “adventure” hiked, explored at a gentle stroll, or seen from a vantage point to get a good appreciation of what happened nearly 120 years ago. There are facilities available at or near each battlefield, ranging from basic toilets, water and shade to Craft Breweries and 5-star restaurants. Hospitality facilities are in abundance ranging from camping facilities to luxury game lodges.
En route to each battlefield are numerous other tourist attractions such as hot air ballooning, game drives, abseiling and zip line adventures, outdoor curio markets, or just a nice bush pub. Along the way there are South African War related attractions such as blockhouses, monuments, museums and cemeteries.
The tour-ready Battlefields, following the sequence of South African War events, and their locations are:
- The Siege of Mafeking (now named Mahikeng). Mahikeng.
- Doornkop , including the Jameson Raid. Roodepoort & Krugersdorp.
- Kalkheuwel The Lion & Safari Park, Broederstroom.
- Sesmylspruitt. The Royal Elephant Hotel & Conference Centre, Centurion.
- Diamond Hill (Bullfrog’s Nest Guest House, Die Skaapkraal)
- Dwarsvlei (The Bru House & Diner, near the Maropeng Visitor Centre).
- Silkaatsnek (Silkaatsnek Nature Reserve, near Harties Cableway).
- Olifantsnek (Brauhaus am Dam, Hunters Rest Hotel).
- Buffelspoort (Buffalo Grill, near Mooi Nooi).
- Nooitgedacht (Askari Game Lodge and Steynshoop Mountain Lodge, Hekpoort).
- Koster River (near Magatos Nek, north of Rustenburg).
- Elands River Siege (Siege Museum, Swartruggens).
Fascinating South African War themed Museums and Monuments along the route include Kedar Heritage Lodge, together with President Paul Kruger’s houses on his old farm Boekenhoutfontein. Ebenhauzer Monument near Olifantsnek; the General Schoeman Cross and Ox Wagon Lodge near Hartebeestpoort Dam; President Kruger’s house in Pretoria; The Emily Back memorial near Magato’s Nek; Prime Minister Jan Smuts’ farmhouse at Doornkloof; Sammy Marks Museum on the Diamond Hill Battlefield; the wagon and coach museum at Askari Game Lodge, Fort Harlech in Krugersdorp, and Orange Grove Fort near Broederstroom.
For the “Tombstone Tourist” there are captivating stories of explorers, writers, pioneers, miners and soldiers to be found in the interesting cemeteries along the Battlefields Tourism Route:
- Voortrekker Cemetery, Broederstroom. This is where the true hero of the Battle of Blood River is buried together with his brother – the “Broeders” (Brothers) of Broederstroom.
- Burgershoop Cemetery, Krugersdorp West. The co-discoverer of gold in Johannesburg in 1886, George Walker, is buried here. Many of the Burghers and the Raiders who were killed during the Jameson Raid are also buried here. The Boer General, Sarel “Rooi Bul” Oosthuizen, who died from wounds received at the Battle of Dwarsvlei, also rests here. Fourteen paces away is the headstone of one of the recipients of the Victoria Cross at the same battle, Captain David Younger. The backdrop to the many military graves is the many hundreds of little concrete grave markers of the women and children who died in the Krugersdorp Concentration Camp.
- Hero’s Acre, Pretoria. Paul Kruger and General Schoeman are buried here, near the notorious war criminals “Breaker” Morant and Peter Handcock who were condemned and executed for atrocities committed during the South African War near Louis Trichardt.
- Diamond Hill military cemetery. Includes the casualties of the Battle as well as victims of later battles fought in the area during the guerrilla phase of the war. The Earl of Airlie, 12th Lancers, is buried here having fallen “…as he always desired, killed in action at the head of his regiment. June 11 1900”.
- Maraisburg cemetery, Roodepoort. Here we find the grave of Nurse Gluyas with her tribute from Australia. Captain Meyrick, Gordon Highlanders, killed during a suicidal bayonet charge at the Battle for Johannesburg – with a cryptic quote on his tombstone.
- Rietfontein cemetery, near Hartebeestpoort Dam. The biggest memorial stone belongs to Major Francis Minshall-Ford DSO killed near Mooi Nooi on 17th October 1901. There is another soldier commemorated on the south side of the headstone – mysteriously the inscription has been virtually obliterated. Many of the victims of both the Battles of Silkaatsnek are buried here, as are some of the casualties of Nooitgedacht.
- Moedwil Cemeteries, near Swartruggens. There are separate cemeteries for the Boer (11) and the British (51) casualties. The grave of the Dutch schoolteacher who was executed by the British for an alleged “white flag” incident is particularly interesting.
- The Old Rustenburg cemetery. Although his cast-iron cross has been stolen, the grave of Lieutenant Thomas Irving of the Scottish Horse can still be located. A Boer Nurse, Aletta van der Merwe, fell in love with him and he died in her arms from a fatal chest wound he received at Moedwil. She watered the orange pips from his last drink with her tears and planted the one that seeded at the head of his grave.
- Swartruggens cemetery. This was the main British position during the Elands River Siege and all the Australian and Rhodesian battle casualties are buried here.
ROB MILNE TOURS, JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA.