Posted: 12/15/2009


     One of the cities promoting itself as a World Cup training site and tourist destination is Peitermaritzburg, capital of KwaZulu Natal and with decent air and road connections to Pretoria and Johannesburg, and to the venue of Durban, just 90 km away.

     Not far away are the awesome Drakensburg mountains and the many wildlife sanctuaries, outdoor adventure possibilities, bushmen carvings and the battlefields. They rise to 3,482 metres or 11,489 feet. Near Ladysmith is the the site of the Battle of Spion Kop, during the second Anglo-Boer War in 1900 and a curiosity as far as football fans are concerned. It is a very steep hill and about 3-4 years later the steep hill at one end of Anfield, home of Liverpool FC was likened to Spion Kop, and of course The Kop is famous in Liverpool FC folklore. Many other English grounds such as Bloomfield Rd, in Blackpool also later gained a Spion Kop due to the steepness of an embankement packed with home fans, usually behind one of the goals. There is also a village of Spion Kop near Mansfield, Nottinghamshire.

    The battle is a well visited site and famous for 3 people who were there that day. Fighting each other were Winston Churchill, who had recently excaped from Boer captivity and was part of the South African Light Horse. The first Prime Minister of the Republic of South Africa in 1910 was General Louis Botha, a native of Greytown, Natal who was on the other side. Mahatma Gandhi was also on duty, as a stretcher bearer. He had been thrown off a train in Pietermaritzburg (PMG) despite a first-class ticket, and vowed to stay in the country and use non-violent tactics- Satyagraha. There is a bronze statue of Gandhi in Church Street today.

    Twenty years previously in January 1879, was the Anglo-Zulu War. The forces of Cetshwayo, descendent of Shaka Zulu had a spectacular victory over the British at Isandlwano, with no survivors in the front ranks of the British. They only had spears and cowhide shields but used their Buffalo Horns battle formation to good effect. 4,000 Zulu reserves then marched on the fort of Rourke's Drift with only 139 British, many of them injured, in the make-do infirmary. the award winning movie ZULU in 1964 made Michael Caine famous. 

    11 Victoria Crosses, (V.C.s) the most ever in one campaign were awarded to members of the British force.  The Zulus marched away when they thought that British reserves were on their way. They were finally defeated at the Battle of Ulundi on July 4th.