Laing’s Nek Battlefield - History and Facts | History Hit

Laing’s Nek Battlefield

Newcastle Local Municipality, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Laing’s Nek Battlefield was the site of a major battle in the First Anglo-Boer War.

Peta Stamper

04 May 2021
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Vberger

About Laing’s Nek Battlefield

Laing’s Nek Battlefield in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa was the site of a major battle in the First Anglo-Boer War.

On 28 January 1881, the British forces under Major-General Sir George Pomeroy Colley suffered a decisive defeat at the hands of the Boer forces under Commandant-General Piet Joubert. The Battle of Laing’s Nek was a blow for the British in their attempts to capture the Transvaal region.

Laing’s Nek Battlefield is close to Majuba Hill where, only a month later, the British were defeated and lost the war. Colley would be killed in the battle.

Laing’s Nek Battlefield history

Attempting to regain territory from the independent Transvaal of South Africa in 1880, the British Natal Field Force commanded by General Colley advanced towards the Transvaal border. Colley’s army included around 1,216 men, including mounted cavalry and heavy artillery. The Boers, under Commandant-General Joubert, had around 2,000 men with a further 400 fortifying the Laing Nek heights.

On the morning o 28 January, Colley tried to force his way through the pass with a heavy bombardment. However, the British soon had trouble advancing to the summit over broken ground, and the cavalry charged. The cavalry were fired upon by Boers entrenched on the reverse slope which forced the British to withdraw, suffering heavy casualties.

The Boers attacked the still-advancing British, who were fired on by hidden Boers at the summit killing both commanders Major Hingeston and Colonel Deane. A cease fire was sounded, ending the battle and British surgeons were allowed to tend wounded soldiers.

Laing’s Nek Battlefield today

Today, what remains of the battlefield is the rocky hilltop marked by an obelisk monument to the British 58th Regiment. There are mass graves at the far end of the hill to the east of the road. From the hilltop, you can look out across the beautiful Majuba mountainside as the Boers would have done, anticipating the British attack from below.

Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and a sun hat as the climb is unsteady and the weather is hot.

Getting to Laing’s Nek Battlefield

From nearby Newcastle, Laing’s Nek Battlefield is a 32 minute drive along the N11. There is no public transport The site of the battle is accessible via a track over the hill, or by walking for 20 minutes from the N11 road.

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