Today Jo took a bit of a rest and I headed off to ‘Spioen Kop’ – the scene of a bizarre battle in the Anglo-Boer war of 1899-1901 which saw both Winston Churchill and Gandhi on the same battle field. Basically, what happened was that the British were trying to relieve their besieged forces in Ladysmith. They had already failed at one river crossing and so headed further south to try again. They succeeded in crossing the river, but then came across the obsticle of ‘Spioen Kop’ a series of hills upon which the Boer forces had guns.

The British crossed with a force of 20 000 against the Boer force of around 4500. The British hesitated (deliberately) in their attack and didn’t adequately reconnoiter the situation. As a result they sent a force up the hill who then dug in just below the crest (it was at night and they thought they had reached the summit). When morning came they found the Boer guns baring down on them.

The British did have the upper hand at various points but because of a lack of communication they didn’t realise it and so failed to take advantage. In fact both sides withdrew from Spioen Kop at the same time, both thinking they were defeated. It was only because they Boers went up the hill again, to find the British had also withdrew that they won the battle.

Churchill was there as a war correspondent and Gandhi was there as a stretcher bearer. This was some of the worst fighting that Gandhi saw. I wonder how much of an influence this had on his principle of non-violent resistance?

It was also a good trip because I got to spend some time with Dean who is an elder at Church on the Ridge. I was able to find out a little more about what they are doing, we talked about ‘student work’ and various other issues. What was particularly interesting to learn is that Islam is the fastest growing religion in South Africa…