The Boer War was actually two wars – a FIrst and Second – and has been known by many names, among them the Anglo-Boer War and The South African War. This major conflict was a clash between Britain and the Orange Free State republics and Boers of South Africa.
With such a wealth of astonishing places to discover, the sites from the Boer War remain a hugely popular draw. Among the top destinations that people usually visit are Laing’s Nek battlefield, Spioenkop battlefield and the Anglo-Boer War Museum. Other prominent sites to visit usually include the National Women’s Memorial in Bloemfontein, Ladysmith Siege Museum and the impressive Voortrekker Monument, which are all fascinating in their own right. With so many interesting places to explore, it’s not necessarily easy to select the very best sites from the Boer War, but we’ve painstakingly contemplated, deliberated and meditated over this list and come up with our top recommendations as well as a few others worth exploring if you have more time.
What are the most interesting Boer War Battlefields and Memorials?
On 28 January 1881, Laing’s Nek Battlefield saw British forces suffer a decisive defeat at the hands of the Boer forces, marking a blow for British attempts to capture the Transvaal region. Located in KwaZulu-Natal, this was a major moment in the First Anglo-Boer War.
The Battle of Spioenkop was an attempt by British forces to relieve the Siege of Ladysmith, in which Boer forces had been surrounding the British in the town for around four months. From 23 January 1900, the British tried in vain to free the town in a clash with Orange Free State and South African Republic forces. However, on 24 January, the British withdrew, having suffered significant casualties. Today, Spioenkop battlefield contains several memorials to the battle which can be seen together with graves and trenches along a trail.
The Anglo-Boer War Museum is one of the South Africa’s most comprehensive museums about the Second Anglo-Boer War. It is fittingly located in Bloemfontein, a vital location in the war as it was both the site of the Bloemfontein Conference of 1899, which served to fan the flames of war, and was also captured by the British commander Lord Roberts on 13 March 1900. The museum chronicles the events leading up to the war, the course of the war and its aftermath. One of its most moving exhibits is that relating to concentration camps. The Second Anglo-Boer War is notorious for being the first war in which such camps were used, a strategy spearheaded by Lord Kitchener.
The National Women’s Memorial in Bloemfontein, South Africa commemorates the 26,000 women and children who perished in concentration camps set up by the British during the Second Anglo-Boer War. Depicting an Afrikaner woman holding her child seeing her husband off to war, the National Women’s Memorial is flanked by a large obelisk.
The Ladysmith Siege Museum is dedicated to the four month siege of the town of Ladysmith, South Africa during the Second Anglo-Boer War. From 30 October 1899 to 29 February 1900, British forces were trapped in the town, the siege only ending when British relief forces arrived, including a young Winston Churchill. By this time, starvation had set in and the British had suffered significant losses, many of them caused by disease. The Ladysmith Siege Museum explores both the siege itself and the war as a whole, displaying artefacts from the conflict. The museum itself is housed in a building used to store rations during the siege.
The Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria, South Africa commemorates the exodus of the Boers – Voortrekkers meaning pioneers – from the Cape Colony from 1835 and 1854. Sparked by the British abolition of slavery in all their colonies in 1834, this “Great Trek” resulted in the creation of several republics and laid the foundations for the modern layout of South Africa. The monument is comprised of a vast granite structure surrounded by 64 ox-wagons and is flanked by numerous statues of historic figures such as Boer leader, Piet Retief. Inside the Voortrekker Monument is its large Hall of Heroes housing a historical frieze depicting the history of the Trek and a museum of Voortrekker history.
Majuba Hill was the final battlefield of the First Anglo-Boer War. Sometimes known as the Transvaal War, the First Anglo-Boer War was an approximately year-long conflict in which the Boers rejected British annexation of the Transvaal region of South Africa. Approximately 400 British soldiers had occupied Majuba Hill in early 1881. On 27 February 1881 at the Boers defeated the British in battle, effectively ending the war. Colley himself had been killed together with almost half of the force.
The Geelbecks River Blockhouse is a very typical, easily reachable and well preserved example of the blockhouse fortifications erected by British forces during the Anglo Boer War between 1899-1902. These were strongpoints in their defences of the colony borders and strategically important locations like railway bridges, as in this case.