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Colenso: Account of the Re-fight

The 2nd Re-fight of the Battle of Colenso, 30 June 2001

The 2nd re-fight was scheduled to start at 9 am on the 30th of June, 2001, at The Homestead, Glen Oak Road, Welcome Glen, in Simonstown.

Final Appointments:

The final appointments of command of the two forces were finalised as follows:

Position Historical Name Appointed
Umpire Umpire Johan Schoeman
-Officer Commanding, 1st British Army Corps: General The Right Honourable Sir Redvers H. Buller, V.C., G.C.B., G.C.M.G. Paul Gouws
--Officer Commanding, 2nd Division: Major-General Sir C.F. Clery Harry Adlard
---Officer Commanding, 2nd (English) Brigade: Major-General H.J.T. Hildyard Harry Adlard
---Officer Commanding, 4th (Light) Brigade: Major-General Neville Lyttleton Evan Gotte
---Officer Commanding, 5th (Irish) Brigade: Major-General A. Fitzroy 'No-Bobs' Hart David de Villiers
---Officer Commanding, 6th (Fusilier) Brigade: Major-General Geoffrey Barton Evan Gotte
---Officer Commanding, Mounted Brigade: Colonel Lord Dundonald David de Villiers
---Officer Commanding, Divisional Artillery: Colonel Charles Long Paul Gouws
--Generaal, Boer Forces at Colenso: Generaal Louis Botha Damian Enslin
---Kommandant, 3x ZAR Commandos: Kommandant Christian Botha Anthony van Dijk
---Kommandant, 4x OFS Commandos: Kommandant A. P. Cronje Anthony van Dijk
---Kommandant, 4x ZAR Commandos: Kommandant Potgieter Willem Verwey
---Kommandant, 4x ZAR Commandos: Kommandant Ben Viljoen Morne van Staden

It was only by 10:30 am that most of the players have arrived and the initial orders given, before the two forces went into different rooms to plan their strategy. Lengthy discussions and arguments were heard, with the players revolving around the table in turns to study the layout of the battlefield. Each force were provided with full Order of Batlle and an A1 sized scale-down map of the battlefield area represented on the table.

The terrain:

The positions of the 'drifts' across the river were determined by using three ten-sided dice, one to indicate whether it moves east or west, and the other two to determine the number of inches to move the drift in that direction. Only the Bridle drift on the west side were left were the map indicated it, as it was clear the the dirt road leading through it would be a dead give-away of its position. Only the Boer forces were informed about the final position of the drifts (as they were nominally in control of the entire area). The British were informed that the drifts would not necessarily be in the expected places as indicated by the maps.

The weather was determined by dice throw to be 'light rain', which would impact severely on 'visibility' as well as movement through the 'going' factor by reducing both by 1/3, This was determined and announced only after both forces had made their plans,

As viewed from the 'south' end of the table. The railway line can be seen to lead into the small town of Colenso with the Tugela river just visible on the left of the town.


The town of Colenso up close. The road bridge over the Tugela can be seen to the left of the red building. The hill, Fort Wylie, can be seen towards the rear-right of the town.

The view from the 'south-east' corner of the table. The high ground dominating the rolling grasslands from behind the Tugela can clearly be seen.


Viewed from the 'east' side of the table. The Tugela can be seen to the right of the town, in between the town and the hill known as 'Fort Wylie'.

From the 'north-east' corner, the path of the Tugela river is clearly visible behind the dominating high ground of 'Hlangwane Hill' in the foreground.


As viewed from the 'north' side. The railway line can be seen crossing the Tugela over the destroyed Railway bridge. This is the view the Boer commanders must have had over the battlefield.

The same view without the camera's flash.


The view from the 'north-west' of the table. The loop on the Tugela can be clearly seen here.

Finally, a view of Colenso from the 'south-west'.

Some last-minute hectic organisational issues had to be addressed by the Umpire, such as writing material, record tables, result tables, and it was at about 11:15 am that the opening move was made by the British.

The British plan was essentially to thrust up north towards Hlangwane hill with the majority of its force (Barton's 6th and Lyttelton's 4th Brigades with almost 8000 men, supported by the 30 guns of the Divisional Artillery and Brigade Divisions). The Naval guns (4 12-pdr guns and a 4.7-inch) and Hildyard's 2nd Brigade (4000 men) were to approach Colenso and occupy the town, thereby preventing the Boer Forces in the immediate area from harrassing the main attack, and using the town itself as a hinge for the main attack to swing from Hlangwane hill, across the Tugela, in order to outflank the Boer forces deployed on the hills to the north of Colenso. The rest of the force, that is, Hart's 5th Brigade and Dundonald's Mounted Brigade, were to put pressure on the Boer forces on the west side of the table in order to prevent them from reinforcing and supporting the Boers on the Colenso heights. A good plan, indeed - providing the Boers had no unexpected surprises in store...

The 4 battalions of Barton's 6th (Fusilier) Brigade, followed by the 4 battalions of Lyttelton's 4th (Light) Brigade can be seen entering the battlefield from the south side, here seen closest to the camera. Note the position of the command group(s) in the centre of the brigades. Next to the two brigades, Colonel Long's Divisional Artillery Batteries can be seen with the supply collumn in the middle distance. Hildyard's 2nd (English) Brigade can be seen to the east of the railway line, and Hart's 5th (Irish) Brigade and Dundonald's Mounted Brigade in the far distance on the west side of the railway line.

The approach of the 6th and 4th Brigades and the Divisional artillery seen from the Boer (north) side.

The Mounted Brigade seen approaching from the town of Colenso, looking south-west.

The Mounted Brigade followed by the 5th Brigade as seen from the north-west corner looking south-east.

To be continued...

The following are pictures taken in sequence from left to right top to bottom as the game progressed:

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