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The Jameson Raid

Rob Milne
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29th December 1895 to 2nd January 1896

In 1895 Jameson was commissioned by Cecil John Rhodes (then the Prime Minister of the Cape Colony) to lead a small mounted force of 511 Officers and Men and 150 transport and camp attendants into the Transvaal Republic. This was engineered to be at the request of the Johannesburg-based Reform Committee which represented an expected uitlander (foreign citizen) uprising in Johannesburg. They departed from Pitsani, on the Bechuanaland (now Botswana) border on 29 December.

Closely followed all the way by Boer Commandos they were turned away from Johannesburg in a short but intense skirmish at Queens Battery, Krugersdorp on 1st January 1896. The next day they fought it out with the massed Boer Commandos and artillery at Doornkop farmhouse on the farm Vlakfontein between Roodepoort and Krugersdorp. Running short of ammunition and demoralized by the failure of the Reform Committee volunteer Mounted Infantry to come to their rescue, the Raiders surrendered.

Although the Raid took place nearly four years before the South African War started in 1899, it can be regarded as the first Battle of that War. Both Boer Republics realized that the British Government secretly supported the Raid and would stop at nothing to eventually gain possession of the richest gold fields in the world. The two Republics formed a military alliance and proceeded to buy the most modern guns and small arms available, recruited and trained professional artillery corps, and generally prepared for war.

Jameson Raid
The Boers at Queens Battery facing the road to Koster
(The present-day Krugersdorp Game reserve is on the right of the photo, just above the Boer Commandos)


The raiders’ casualties totalled 16 other ranks killed in action, one officer and 14 other ranks severely wounded, and three officers and 38 other ranks slightly wounded – a total of 72 casualties. The badly wounded officer and five troopers subsequently died of their wounds. Although no Black casualties were officially recorded a close study of contemporary telegrams indicates that 49 were killed in action and buried anomalously in a prospector’s trench at the surrender site.

There were 5 Boers killed in action: one by friendly fire, and one caught in cross-fire whilst giving a wounded enemy trooper water.

Jameson
The old Magistrates’ Court, Krugersdorp, which was built in 1890. The captured officers who took part in the Jameson Raid spent a few hours in the holding jail behind the Courthouse, whilst the captured men were being fed in the Town Square in front of the magistrate’s Court.


Tour Highlights

  • Queens Battery, west of Krugersdorp. (Can be seen from the entrance to the Krugersdorp Game Reserve)
  • The small cemetery next to the Krugersdorp/Randfontein railway line where the Raiders spent their last miserable night.
  • The Doornkop surrender site.
  • Burgershoop Cemetery where the casualties from both sides were buried, as well as George Walker - the co-discoverer of the Main Reef (1886).
  • The old Krugersdorp Magistrates Court together with the holding jail where Jameson and his senior Officers were incarcerated for a few hours.

Fitness required: minimal walking

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Rob Milne

Rob Milne robmilne.com

Rob Milne was born in Johannesburg and educated at St. David's Marist College and the University of the Witwatersrand. From an early age he spent most of his free time in the veld exploring South African battlefields and historic places, developing a keen interest in both South African Wars, archaeology and geology.

Rob Milne
Writer/Tour Guide

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