Friday, 12 December 2014

How Eskom should deal with the power crisis

Eskom has as it corporate byline, powering your world. If they were serious about a vision that mattered, they should change it to "Increasing power capacity". That is the vision and that is what it is about. It's a capacity crisis. But like any crisis or problem there are a host of underlying causes and not a single one which when addressed will solve everything. It is not that simple. A 5 point plan and an infographic on twitter doesn't address how the crisis will be solved. As stated by Deming, it is plan, do, act, check... then repeat continuously.

Read about how I think the crisis should be addressed here.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Just another day in South Africa

The apps I use and don't use on my PC

I have Windows 8.1 on a Dell 7737. Here is the list of apps I use on my PC. The ones I don't use are more like the abandoned ones. The post is similar to this one, which is for mobile apps.

Read the article here.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

#114 Whenever, Wherever (Shakira)



Here because it is the most popular video on youtube...

#112 Hideaway (Kiesza)

You're just a hideaway, you're just a feeling
You let my heart escape beyond the meaning
Not even I can find a way to stop the storm
Oh, baby, it's out of my control, what's going on?

Saturday, 6 December 2014

The apps I use and don't use on my mobile

I think apps killed the virtual desktop. The UI is better. When we tried to launch virtual desktops as a product at an ISP, it tanked. Smart phones and tablets moved into the space and made it barren. At one stage there was the urge to test every app but now it's just using what I need.

Read the article on LinkedIn's Pulse here.

How I met your mother

Boys, one day your mother was spread to the four corners of the Earth and some day it will be my turn. Find a nice bubbling stream for me and also leave a part of me at Grey. We won't have tombstones except digital ones. I don't know what my profiles will look like in 30 years time on LinkedIn, facebook, twitter or blogger. I assume they will be preserved and there will be memories for you to find, discover and enjoy. I'd don't know what the LinkedIn policy is for member's who have passed away? Maybe they can clarify it but I assume this will still be here.

Read the article on LinkedIn's Pulse here.

Learning from great leaders, Mandela

I went to school in Bloemfontein, South Africa, at a school established by a Victorian liberal named, George Grey. Grey would make an even larger impression on the nation of New Zealand later on in his life. When I was at school at Grey College Mandela was banned. We had not seen him as his picture and words were banned as well.

Read the full article on LinkedIn's Pulse here.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Maximizing opportunities (going the extra mile to make a profit)

One day the CEO of a company I worked for walked in and said his turn around strategy was, increase sales and cut costs. The strategy did not work. All that happened is that support staff were laid off and more sales people hired instead. The customers, however, became disillusioned because the service deteriorated. Then there was the infamous cost saving stunt of no more water coolers or Ricoffy. (Ricoffy is the low cost instant brand for Nescafe Coffee).

Read about how to maximize opportunities here.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Learning from great leaders, Turing and Flowers

When people refer to greater leaders of World War II, they refer to Churchill or Patton. When people refer to greater leaders in technology it is Jobs, Gates or Cerf. There are some unknown great leaders of World War II and technology that have greater leadership values than Churchill, Patton, Jobs, Gates or Cerf. They are Turing and Flowers but history would not acknowledge them as such. Their work was the foundation of the allied victory in World War II, and forms the basis of computer technology which underlies our modern society.

Read the article here on LinkedIn's Pulse.

#111 Silent Night (Pentatonix)

Silent night, Holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin, mother and child
Holy infant, tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace,

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

#110 Christmas is all Around (Billy Mack)

You know I love Christmas
I always will
My mind's made up
The way that I feel
There's no beginning
There'll be no end
Cuz on Christmas,You can depend

#109 The Chanukah Song (Neil Diamond)

Put on your yarmulke
Here comes Chanukah
So much funukah
To celebrate Chanukah
Chanukah is the festival of lights
Instead of one day of presents, we have eight crazy nights

A letter to Nigella

Read the letter to Nigella here on LinkedIn's Pulse.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Greybrakke at Thames School

Springboks' Thames connection (5:07)

Added: 10:31AM Monday September 16, 2013
Source: Seven Sharp
We follow three Springboks, brothers Jannie and Bismarck du Plessis and Ruan Pienaar who visit Coromandel's…

The Governor (television epic that examined the life of Governor George Grey)

The Governor


The Governor was a television epic that examined the life of Governor George Grey in six thematic parts. Grey's "Good Governor" persona was undercut with laudanum, lechery and land confiscation. NZ TV's first (and only) historical blockbuster was hugely controversial, provoking a parliamentary inquiry and "test match sized" audiences. It won a 1978 Feltex Award for Best Drama. Auckland Star reviewer Barry Shaw trumpeted: "It has made Māori matter. If Pākehā now have a better understanding of the Māori point of view [...] it stems from The Governor.

Moshweshewe: Letter to Sir George Grey, 1858

Moshweshewe: Letter to Sir George Grey, 1858 - Sourced from Modern History Sourcebook.
[The establishment of Basutoland]

Your Excellency---it may scarcely appear necessary to lay before Your Excellency any lengthened details of what has taken place between the Orange Free State and myself. I know that you have followed with interest the transactions which have led to the commencement of hostilities, and you have heard with pain of the horrors occasioned by the war, at present suspended in the hopes that peace may be restored by Your Excellency's mediation.
Allow me, however, to bring to your remembrance the following circumstances: About twenty-five years ago my knowledge of the White men and their laws was very limited. I knew merely that mighty nations existed, and among them was the English. These, the blacks who were acquainted with them, praised for their justice. Unfortunately it was not with the English Government that my first intercourse with the whites commenced. People who had come from the Colony first presented themselves to us, they called themselves Boers. I thought all white men were honest. Some of these Boers asked permission to live upon our borders. I was led to believe they would live with me as my own people lived, that is, looking to me as to a father and a friend.
About sixteen years since, one of the Governors of the Colony, Sir George Napier, marked down my limits on a treaty he made with me. I was to be ruler within those limits. A short time after, another Governor came, it was Sir P. Maitland. The Boers then began to talk of their right to places I had then lent to them. Sir P. Maitland told me those people were subjects of the Queen, and should be kept under proper control; he did not tell me that he recognized any right they had to land within my country, but as it was difficult to take them away, it was proposed that all desiring to be under the British rule should live in that part near the meeting of the Orange and Caledon rivers.
Then came Sir Harry Smith, and he told me not to deprive any chief of their lands or their rights, he would see justice done to all, but in order to do so, he would make the Queen's Laws extend over every white man. He said the Whites and Blacks were to live together in peace. I could not understand what he would do. I thought it would be something very just, and that he was to keep the Boers in my land under proper control, and that I should hear no more of their claiming the places they lived on as their exclusive property. But instead of this, I now heard that the Boers consider all those farms as their own, and were buying and selling them one to the other, and driving out by one means or another my own people.
In vain I remonstrated. Sir Harry Smith had sent Warden to govern in the Sovereignty. He listened to the Boers, and he proposed that all the land in which those Boers' farms were should be taken from me. I was at that time in trouble, for Sikonyela and the Korannas were tormenting me and my people by stealing and killing; they said openly the Major gave them orders to do so, and I have proof he did so. One day he sent me a map and said, sign that, and I will tell those people (Mantatis and Korannas) to leave off fighting: if you do not sign the map, I cannot help you in any way. I thought the Major was doing very improperly and unjustly. I was told to appeal to the Queen to put an end to this injustice. I did not wish to grieve Her Majesty by causing a war with her people. I was told if I did not sign the map, it would be the beginning of a great war. I signed, but soon after I sent my cry to the Queen. I begged Her to investigate my case and remove "the line," as it was called, by which my land was ruined. I thought justice would soon be done, and Warden put to rights.
I tried my utmost to satisfy them and avert war. I punished thieves, and sent my son Nehemiah and others to watch the part of the country near the Boers, and thus check stealing. In this he was successful, thieving did cease. We were at peace for a time. In the commencement of the present year my people living near farmers received orders to remove from their places. This again caused the fire to burn, still we tried to keep all quiet, but the Boers went further and further day by day in troubling
the Basutos and threatening war. The President (Boshof) spoke of Warden's line, this was as though he had really fired upon us with his guns. Still I tried to avert war.
It was not possible, it was commenced by the Boers in massacring my people of Beersheba, and ruining that station, against the people of which there was not a shadow of a complaint ever brought forward. Poor people, they thought their honesty and love for Christianity would be a shield for them, and that the white people would attack in the first place, if they attacked at all, those who they said were thieves. I ordered my people then all to retreat towards my residence, and let the fury of the Boers be spent upon an empty land; unfortunately some skirmishes took place, some Boers were killed, some of my people also. We need not wonder at this, such is war! But I will speak of many Basutos who were taken prisoners by the Whites and then killed, most cruelly. If you require me to bring forward these cases, I will do so. I will however speak of the horrible doings of the Boers at Morija, they there burnt down the Missionary's house, carried off much goods belonging to the Mission, and pillaged and shamefully defiled the Church Buildings.
I had given orders that no farms should be burnt, and my orders were obeyed till my people saw village after village burnt off, and the corn destroyed, they then carried destruction among the enemy's homes. On coming to my mountain, the Boers found I was prepared to check their progress, and they consequently retired. My intention was then to have followed them up, and to have shown them that my people could also carry on offensive operations, believing that having once experienced the horrors of war in their midst, I should not soon be troubled by them again. My bands were getting ready to make a descent upon them, when the Boers thought proper to make request for a cessation of hostilities. I knew what misery I should bring upon the country by leaving the Basutos to ravage the Boer places, and therefore I have agreed to the proposal of Mr. J. P. Hoffman. I cannot say that I do so with the consent of my people, for many of those who suffered by the enemy were anxious to recover their losses. If they have remained quiet, it has been owing to my persuasions and my promises that they might have good hope of justice---Your Excellency having consented to act as arbitrator between the Boers and Basutos. With the expectation of soon meeting you, I remain, etc., etc.,
Mark X of Moshweshewe, Chief of the Basutos.

From: G. M.Theal, ed., Records of Southeastern Africa (Capetown: Government of Capetown, 1898-1903).
Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by Prof. Arkenberg.

Speech by President Nelson Mandela at the launch of the Bram Fischer Memorial Trust


Master of ceremonies;
Principal of Grey College; members of the staff and pupils
Distinguished guests,

It is a great honour to be with you today and share in the commemoration of Bram Fischer.

The names of only very few people are remembered beyond their lives. And some of those are remembered with revulsion for the harm they have done. But there are those who are remembered for their good deeds and the contribution they have made to the society in which they live.

Bram Fisher tel ongetwyfeld onder daardie klas van goeie mans en vroue wat op die wyse deur alle Suid-Afrikaners in verering gehou sal word.

Ons weet egter dat dit nie altyd die geval was nie. In sy lewe het hy voor die moeilikste keuses te staan gekom. En sy uiteindelike keuses, het hom 'n uitgeworpene gelaat in sy eie gemeenskap en in die geledere van sy beroepslui.

'n Man so hartstogtelik verbind tot die wet en die gereg het gesterwe as 'n gevonnisde prisonier. 'n Afrikaner in murg en been, sonder verskoning of voorbehoud, was soos 'n melaatse behandel deur sy eie mense.

Aan die ander kant: die seun van een van die mees vooraanstaande en bevoorregte gesinne in die samelewing van daardie tyd, het sy lot inGewerp met die van die armstes onder die armes.

Dit mag klink na 'n verhaal van teenstrydighede. Daardie teenstrydighede was egter nie soseer in die man Bram Fisher nie; dit was die teenstrydighede van die samelewing waarin hy, en talle Suid-Afrikaners, moes leef.

Ons regstelsel het in botsing gekom met die ideale van geregtigheid vanwee die onderdrukking van die meerderheid, en die verwording van die wet om die geregverdigde weerstand van daardie meerderheid te onderdruk.

Dit was die gedwonge skeiding van mense en die ontsegging van basiese politieke regte op grond van ras en kleur, wat daartoe gelei het dat 'n mens se respek vir sy medemens in stryd kon kom met sy sy trou aan eie gemeenskap.

Bram Fisher se durf en moed in die wyse waarop hy hierdie moeilike keuses aangepak het, het dit makliker gemaak vir andere om op daardie pad te volg. Sy beeld, toegewydheid tot die stryd vir vryheid en menswaardigheid, aktiewe bevordering van nie-rassigheid - daarin le die fondamente van ons huidige pogings tot versoening.

Now that we have won the freedom and the democracy for which Bram Fischer gave so much, South Africans are no longer confronted by such deeply painful and costly decisions.

We have a constitution, as the fundamental law of our land, which entrenches our people's democratic ideals, and we have institutions to ensure that our legal system does not deviate from the principles of justice.

All of us are now free to think of ourselves as South Africans and members of a particular community without any tension or conflict; part of a nation that is strong and united in its diversity.

All of us are now free to think of ourselves as South Africans and members of a particular community without any tension or conflict; part of a nation that is strong and united in its diversity.

And yet it would be wrong to think that there will no longer be difficult choices to make, though thankfully they will not be painful or dangerous.

The road to a just, prosperous and equitable society will take many years to travel.

Democracy has brought us the chance to address the legacy of our unjust and divided past. Great progress has been made in reconciling those who were once in conflict, and the Free State has set a shining example in this regard. The basic amenities of life are beginning to become accessible to the majority to whom they were denied.

But we have only made a start. Our hard-won rights will remain empty shells, and our democracy fragile, if they do not bring real improvements in the daily lives of all our people.

Oor die afgelope drie jaar het ons die grondslae gele vir daardie verbetering in lewensgehalte; om nou suksesvol daarop voort te bou, sal 'n volgehoue poging van - en vennootskap tussen - die sektore van ons samelewing vereis. En dit sal oor baie jare volgehou moet word.

In daardie gesamentlike nasionale poging, sal die jeug van vandag, en die wat nog op skool is, 'n kritieke rol moet speel. In teenstelling met vorige geslagte, het alle Suid-Afrikaanse kinders vandag die geleentheid tot ordentlike en behoorlike onderwys. Dit is nou julle plig en verantwoordelikheid om daardie geleenthede aan te gryp en die vaardighede te bekom wat ons land so dringend benodig.

Die vaardighede wat ons deur onderwys bekom, stel ons tot vele dinge in staat. Dit geld veral vir diegene wat bevoorreg is om skole en inrigtings wat goed toegerus is by te woon. Soos, byvoorbeeld hierdie skool, Grey Kollege.

I had the privilege earlier this morning to visit Tsoseletso High School in Mangaung, not far from here. There too I found an institution committed to excellence, pupils and teachers whose discipline and commitment have brought outstanding and inspiring academic achievement.

They, like you and all other young South Africans, will face choices as to how you will use what you gain through your education.

By associating the name of Bram Fischer with education, as we do in launching the memorial trust, we are not only opening up access to this particular educational institution and boosting its resources still further.

We are saying that the challenges of reconstruction and development which we face today are even greater than those of the liberation struggle; that we need as much as ever the courage, patriotism and commitment to justice above narrow self-interest which shone so strongly in Bram Fischer; and that education brings an opportunity, and a duty, to contribute to the realisation of the ideals which his the name represents.

And we are affirming that education has an important part to play in nurturing the leaders of tomorrow.

We count on the pupils of this school, present and future, to live up to these Ideals. Together we can build the country of our dreams.

Issued by: Office of the President

Psychological stress of M.T. Steyn

from Mcleod The Ulimate Impact.

M.T. Steyn's crucial intervention

from The Rise and Possible Demise of Afrikaans as a Public Language by Hermann Giliomee

The Cape Times continued its long tradition of publishing letters from readers that denounced Afrikaans as ‘a mongrel’, ‘kitchen’, ‘hotchpotch’, ‘degenerate’ and ‘decaying’ language, fit only for ‘peasants and up-country kraals.’
Unexpectedly language became one of the critical questions at the National Convention of 1908–1909 that drew up the constitution for the new Union of South Africa. General J.B.M. Hertzog, a leading Afrikaner nationalist from the OFS, proposed ‘equal freedom, rights and privileges’ for Dutch and English. Every appointment in the new government had to be made ‘with due regard to the equality of the two languages.’ He insisted that the constitution had to guarantee the right of every citizen to claim English or Dutch ‘as the medium of communication between himself and any officer or servant in the Union.’ According to an account of the Convention debates, the English-speakers were so appalled by the proposal that the debate had to be postponed.
The most dramatic moment of the Convention was the intervention by Marthinus Theunis Steyn, ex-President of the OFS. Referring to the Afrikaners and the British as different races, as was the custom at the time, he asked delegates to expunge ‘the devil of race hatred’ that had plagued the country for so long. The way to do that was to place the two languages on a footing of ‘absolute equality in Parliament, in the Courts, in the schools and the public service – everywhere.’
As a result of the speech, Article 137 of the Union Constitution was accepted without a dissenting vote. It decreed:
Both the English and Dutch languages shall be official languages of the Union and shall be treated on a footing of equality and possess and enjoy equal freedom, rights and privileges; all records, journals and proceedings of Parliament shall be kept in both languages, and all Bills, Acts and notices of general public importance or interest issued by the Government of the Union of South Africa shall be in both languages.
Writing in The State, Gustav Preller, a leading protagonist of Afrikaans, which had begun to challenge Dutch as public language, described the promise to place the two official languages on a footing of ‘most perfect equality’ as essential to Afrikaner support for the Union.

Onthulling van die Vrouemonument

Vrouemonument die dag voor die onthullingREGS: ’n Skare op die rantjies by die Vrouemonument die dag voor die onthulling op 16 Desember 1913.
Op 16 Desember 1913 is die Vrouemonument in die teenwoordigheid van meer as twintigduisend mense deur mev. Steyn, vrou van die oudpresident, onthul. Emily Hobhouse, ’n uiters meelewende Britse vrou wat ondanks teenstand in haar eie land baie gedoen het om die aandag op die lyding van die Boerevroue en -kinders in die kampe te vestig, het spesiaal uit Engeland gekom om die plegtigheid waar te neem, maar het weens swak gesondheid nie verder kon kom as Beaufort-Wes nie. (Nadat mej. Hobhouse op 8 Junie 1926 in Londen oorlede is, is haar as na Suid-Afrika gebring en op 26 Oktober 1926 in die basis van die gedenknaald ter ruste gelê.)
Ook M.T. Steyn was glad nie meer gesond tydens die onthulling nie. Hy het dit wel bygewoon, maar sy boodskap moes voorgelees word. Diep ernstig het hy sy mense daaraan herinner dat dit nie baat om monumente vir die dooies op te rig terwyl die lewendes toegelaat word om in armoede en ellende te versink nie. Hy het ook gewaarsku dat die Afrikaner sou ophou bestaan as hy volhard met sy verdeeldheid. (Dit was ’n klaarblyklike verwysing na die verskille in die destydse politiek en die breuk in Afrikanergelederekort daarna het die Nasionale Party tot stand gekom.)

Polynesian Mythology and ancient traditional history of the New Zealanders




Source from


Title Page
The Children of Heaven and Earth
The Legend of Maui
The Legend of Tawhaki
Rupe's Ascent into Heaven
The Legend of Kae's Theft of the Whale
The Murder of Tuwhakararo
The Legend of Rata
The Legend of Toi-te-huatahi and Tama-te-kapua
The Legend of Poutini and Whaiapu
The Voyage to New Zealand
The Curse of Manaia
The Legend of Hatupatu and His Brothers
Legend of the Emigration of Turi
Legend of the Emigration of Manaia
The Story of Hine-Moa
The Story of Maru-tuahu, the Son of Hotunui, and of Kahurare-moa, the daughter of Paka
The Two Sorcerers
The Magical Wooden Head
The Art of Netting Learned by Kahukura from the Fairies
Te Kanawa's Adventure with a Troop of Fairies
The Loves of Takarangi and Rau-mahora
Stratagem of Puhihuia's Elopement with Te Ponga
The Story of Te Huhuti
Appendix: On the Native Songs of New Zealand

Sir George Grey's orbituary in the New York Times

The obituary is available here in PDF.

Letter 1135 — Darwin, C. R. to Grey, George, 13 Nov 1847

Down, Farnborough Kent.
Nov. 13/47/
My dear Sir
Although your Excellency must be overburthened with business, I cannot resist the temptation to thank you cordially for the very kind, & if I may be permitted to say so, admirable spirit, with which you excuse & tell me to forget, the to me painful, origin of our correspondence.f1 I have been the more gratified by your letter, as I had not the least expectation of hearing from you.—
I am extremely glad to know how well your Colony is now prospering.f2 Ever since the voyage of the Beagle, I have felt the deepest interest with respect to all our colonies in the southern hemisphere. However much trouble & anxiety you must have had & will still have, it must ever be the highest gratification to you to reflect on the prominent part you have played in two countries,f3 destined in future centuries to be great fields of civilization.—
You are so kind as to offer aid in any Natural History researches in New Zealand: I have no personal interest on any point there; but there are two subjects which have long appeared to me well deserving investigation; & if hereafter your labours should be lightened you might like to attend to them yourself, or direct the attention to them of any Naturalist under you.— The first is, an examination of any limestone caverns: such exist near the Bay of Islandsf4 & I daresay elsewhere: I was prevented entering them by their having been used as places of Burial. Digging in the mud under the usual stalagmitic crust, would probably reveal bones of the cotemporaries of the Dinornis. I think there is a special interest on this point, from New Zealand being at present so eminently instructive in a negative point of view, with respect to the distribution of terrestrial mammifers.f5 I have long ardently wished to hear of the exploration of the New Zealand Caverns.
The second point is, whether there are “erratic boulders” in New Zealand, more especially in the middle & southern islands, & their northern limit, if such occur. Most geologists are now united to considering erratic boulders, to have been transported by icebergs or glaciers. I consider it as a most important question, as bearing upon the former climate of the world, to know whether such proofs occur generally in the S. hemisphere as in the Northern: I have ascertained that such is the case in S. America, from Cape Horn to about Lat 40o. This subject requires much care & some little knowledge or at least thought. I saw inland of the Bay of Islands, large rounded blocks of greenstone, but I was unable to ascertain whether the parent rock was far distant; nor did I then see the full importance of the question, otherwise I would have devoted every hour to it. Very large, angular blocks of foreign rock, lying on isolated hills or hillocks offer the best & without much care, the only sure evidence. We do not know the extent to which during ages, the waves of the sea, at various alternating levels, with earthquake waves &c & occasional heavy floods, may transport in valleys & over an undulating surface very large boulders, hence becoming rounded. Granite from its tendency to orbicular disintegration has given rise to several false accounts of erratic boulders.—
In the North, & in S. America, erratic boulders are accompanied by thick masses of mud, (called in Scotland till), which are characterized by containing angular & rounded stones of various sizes, arranged in utter confusion, & without stratification. The till is believed to have been produced by the incessant grounding of charged icebergs. The age of the erratic phenomenon would be a highly important element, & can sometimes be discovered by shells in the till, or by shell-beds under or above the boulders. In N. America & probably S. America the great extinct quadrupeds existed after the ice period: Do boulders lie upon the Dinornis alluvial beds.—
If I have wearied you with these details, I beg to apologise & you can burn this letter; but I thought, perhaps, you would not object to hear my opinion on two, as I believe, really curious subjects for investigation. I would, myself, go through much labour to investigate the erratic phenomena & trace its limits & age. Should you ever obtain any evidence on this head, it would delight me to hear the result.
Again allow me to thank you very cordially & I beg your Excellency to believe me | Your sincerely obliged | C. Darwin
To His Excellency | Sir G Grey

Sourced from The Darwin Correspondence Project.

#108 My Big Mistake (KARMA)

The Battle of Spion Kop

The Battle of Spion Kop

from (

War: The Boer War.
Date: 24th January 1900
Place: On the Tugela River in Northern Natal in South Africa.
Combatants: The British against the Boers.
Generals: General Sir Redvers Buller against General Botha
Size of the armies: 20,000 British troops against 8,000 Boers.
Uniforms, arms and equipment: The Boer War was a serious jolt for the British Army. At the outbreak of the war British tactics were appropriate for the use of single shot firearms, fired in volleys controlled by company and battalion officers; the troops fighting in close order. The need for tight formations had been emphasised time and again in colonial fighting. In the Zulu and Sudan Wars overwhelming enemy numbers armed principally with stabbing weapons were easily kept at a distance by such tactics; but, as at Isandlwana, would overrun a loosely formed force. These tactics had to be entirely rethought in battle against the Boers armed with modern weapons.
In the months before hostilities the Boer commandant general, General Joubert, bought 30,000 Mauser magazine rifles and a number of modern field guns and automatic weapons from the German armaments manufacturer Krupp and the French firm Creusot. The commandoes, without formal discipline, welded into a fighting force through a strong sense of community and dislike for the British. Field Cornets led burghers by personal influence not through any military code. The Boers did not adopt military formation in battle, instinctively fighting from whatever cover there might be. The preponderance were countrymen, running their farms from the back of a pony with a rifle in one hand. These rural Boers brought a life time of marksmanship to the war, an important edge, further exploited by Joubert’s consignment of magazine rifles. Viljoen is said to have coined the aphorism “Through God and the Mauser”. With strong fieldcraft skills and high mobility the Boers were natural mounted infantry. The urban burghers and foreign volunteers readily adopted the fighting methods of the rest of the army.
Other than in the regular uniformed Staats Artillery and police units, the Boers wore their every day civilian clothes on campaign.
After the first month the Boers lost their numerical superiority, spending the rest of the formal war on the defensive against British forces that regularly outnumbered them.
British tactics, little changed from the Crimea, used at Modder River, Magersfontein, Colenso and Spion Kop were incapable of winning battles against entrenched troops armed with modern magazine rifles. Every British commander made the same mistake; Buller; Methuen, Roberts and Kitchener. When General Kelly-Kenny attempted to winkle Cronje’s commandoes out of their riverside entrenchments at Paardeburg using his artillery, Kitchener intervened and insisted on a battle of infantry assaults; with the same disastrous consequences as Colenso, Modder River, Magersfontein and Spion Kop.
Some of the most successful British troops were the non-regular regiments; the City Imperial Volunteers, the South Africans, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders, who more easily broke from the habit of traditional European warfare, using their horses for transport rather than the charge, advancing by fire and manouevre in loose formations and making use of cover, rather than the formal advance into a storm of Mauser bullets.
Uniform: The British regiments made an uncertain change into khaki uniforms in the years preceding the Boer War, with the topee helmet as tropical headgear. Highland regiments in Natal devised aprons to conceal coloured kilts and sporrans. By the end of the war the uniform of choice was a slouch hat, drab tunic and trousers; the danger of shiny buttons and too ostentatious emblems of rank emphasised in several engagements with disproportionately high officer casualties.
British artillery firing onto Spion Kop from south of the Tugela River.
British artillery firing onto Spion Kop from south of the Tugela River
The British infantry were armed with the Lee Metford magazine rifle firing 10 rounds. But no training regime had been established to take advantage of the accuracy and speed of fire of the weapon. Personal skills such as scouting and field craft were little taught. The idea of fire and movement was unknown, many regiments still going into action in close order. Notoriously General Hart insisted that his Irish Brigade fight shoulder to shoulder as if on parade in Aldershot. Short of regular troops, Britain engaged volunteer forces from Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand who brought new ideas and more imaginative formations to the battlefield.
The British regular troops lacked imagination and resource. Routine procedures such as effective scouting and camp protection were often neglected. The war was littered with incidents in which British contingents became lost or were ambushed often unnecessarily and forced to surrender. The war was followed by a complete re-organisation of the British Army.
The British artillery was a powerful force in the field, underused by commanders with little training in the use of modern guns in battle. Pakenham cites Pieters as being the battle at which a British commander, surprisingly Buller, developed a modern form of battlefield tactics: heavy artillery bombardments co-ordinated to permit the infantry to advance under their protection. It was the only occasion that Buller showed any real generalship and the short inspiration quickly died.
The Royal Field Artillery fought with 15 pounder guns; the Royal Horse Artillery with 12 pounders and the Royal Garrison Artillery batteries with 5 inch howitzers. The Royal Navy provided heavy field artillery with a number of 4.7 inch naval guns mounted on field carriages devised by Captain Percy Scott of HMS Terrible.
Automatic weapons were used by the British usually mounted on special carriages accompanying the cavalry.
Winner: The Boers.
British Regiments:
The British Order of Battle:
Cavalry (Earl of Dundonald)
1st Royal Dragoons
13th Hussars
Bethune’s Mounted Infantry
Thorneycroft’s Mounted Infantry
Natal Carabineers
South African Light Horse
Imperial Light Horse
Imperial Light Infantry
Natal Police

Second Division under Lieutenant General Sir C. F. Clery
2nd Brigade (commanded by Major General Hildyard)
2nd East Surreys
2nd West Yorks
2nd Devons
2nd Queen’s West Surreys

4th Brigade (commanded by Major General Lyttelton)
1st Rifle Brigade
1st Durham Light Infantry
3rd King’s Royal Rifles
2nd Scottish Rifles (the old 90th Light Infantry)

Squadron of the 14th Hussars
7th, 14th and 66th Batteries, Royal Field Artillery (less 10 guns lost at Colenso)

Third Division:
5th Irish Brigade (commanded by Major General Hart)
1st Inniskilling Fusiliers
1st Connaught Rangers
1st Royal Dublin Fusiliers
1st Border Regiment

6th Fusilier Brigade (commanded by Major General Barton)
2nd Royal Fusiliers
2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers
1st Royal Welch Fusiliers
2nd Royal Irish Fusiliers

Squadron 14th Hussars
63rd, 64th and 73rd Batteries Royal Field Artillery.

Fifth Division (Lieutenant General Sir Charles Warren)
10th Brigade (commanded by Major General Coke)
2nd Dorset Regiment
2nd Middlesex Regiment

Eleventh Brigade (commanded by Major General Woodgate)
2nd King’s Royal Lancaster Regiment
2nd Lancashire Fusiliers
1st South Lancashire Regiment
1st York and Lancashire Regiment

19th, 20th and 28th Batteries Royal Field Artillery.

Corps troops:
2nd Royal Dublin Fusiliers
2nd Somerset Light Infantry
61st Battery (Howitzers)
Natal Battery with 9 pounders
Battery of six Royal Navy 12 pounders
4th Mountain Battery
4.7 Inch Royal Navy guns

Of all the Boer War battles Spion Kop retains an appalling notoriety for the incompetence of British leadership and the slaughter of the small number of men engaged on each side in the struggle for the top of the hill. The battle graphically showed the failure of the British Army to understand the requirements of modern warfare: tactics to cope with powerful long range artillery and magazine rifle fire, the need for proper communications and systems of reconnaissance, maintenance of chains of command in action and training and leadership at all levels.
General Buller’s defeat at Colenso on 15th December 1899 left him with the same strategic conundrum; how to relieve Ladysmith. Before he assumed the position of commander-in-chief in South Africa, Buller had urged that the small British force in Natal must remain on the defensive behind the Tugela River in the face of a Boer invasion of the colony. General Penn Symons had ignored this advice and advanced to the northern tip of Natal, where he had won the battle of Talana -dying in the process- a minor success that did little to stem the Boer invasion. General Sir George White, arriving in the colony with reinforcements, had not felt able to pull his troops back from Ladysmith behind the Tugela, although fundamentally he agreed with Buller, and found himself besieged in the town with most of the British troops in the colony.

Boers at the Battle of Spion Kop
Similar actions in Mafeking and Kimberley left British garrisons besieged by forces of Boers in the North West of South Africa. Instead of having a free hand to counter invade the two Boer republics, The Orange Free State and the Transvaal, Buller had to attempt the relief of these three towns. In particular it was inconceivable that White be left to surrender to the Boers with 10,000 British troops.
General Botha and his Boer burgher army were enabled to entrench on the line of the Tugela River and await attack by Buller’s Natal Field Force.
At Colenso Buller had attempted an assault straight up the railway line to Ladysmith, hoping that White would mount a simultaneous assault from Ladysmith against the Boer rear. Colenso was a severe reverse for Buller which left him with the problem of crossing the Tugela unresolved.

British troops crossing the Tugela River to attack Spion Kop
White’s losses in the Boer assault on Wagon Hill and Caesar’s Camp on 6th January 1900 caused him to signal to Buller that he was unable to make any further foray to assist the relief operation. Relieved of the obligation to attempt a joint attack with White, Buller planned the next attack further west on the Tugela, to outflank the main Boer entrenched positions around the north-south railway line.
Substantial reinforcements arrived in Natal from Britain in Warren’s Fourth Division. Once they reached the main army Buller moved to the West and began his assault across the Tugela.
The point chosen for the attack lay opposite the Rangeworthy Hills, of which Spion Kop was one. Major General Lyttelton’s brigade of rifle regiments initially crossed the river at Potgeiter’s Drift to the East of the main attack, at a point where the river bending in a loop to the South protected the crossing from enfilade fire.

British casualties coming down from the Battle of Spion Kop
Lieutenant General Warren with 13,000 men and 36 guns had the task of crossing the river further west at Trikhardt’s Drift and pushing up onto the Rangeworthy Hills, thereby diverting Boer attention so that Lyttelton could punch through to Ladysmith. Buller planned to follow Lyttelton’s attack with a further force of 8,000 men and 22 guns.
Warren’s force set off for the Tugela on 15th January 1900, beginning the crossing of the river on 17th January. On 19th January Warren was still bringing his column across the river and had not begun his attack although his artillery opened an extensive bombardment along the Tabanyama Ridge immediately opposite Trikhardt’s Drift. In the meantime Botha realising the threat to his extreme right flank brought Boer commandoes and guns to the area, settling them into the threatened hills and opening fire on Warren’s waiting troops.
Losing patience with Warren’s lack of urgency on 23rd January 1900 Buller rode forward and ordered Warren to begin the attack on the Rangeworthy Hills.
Warren’s plan was to climb and capture the hill of Spion Kop, which he considered to be the key to the Rangeworthy position. With his troops established on Spion Kop he would overlook the open ground leading to Ladysmith.
The column assigned to take Spion Kop comprised a party of Thorneycroft’s Mounted Infantry, battalions from Woodgate’s Lancastrian brigade and sappers of the Royal Engineers to dig the necessary entrenchments. The column made a night approach finally setting off up the steep side of the hill and arriving at the top in the early morning. The hill was shrouded in mist. A small Boer picket fled, leaving Warren’s men in possession of the summit, which the sappers began to entrench. It seemed to the British that the relief of Ladysmith was near at hand.
The Boer picket rushed to warn Botha who directed the Boer guns in the area to fire on the summit of Spion Kop. A few hundred Boer burghers were persuaded to climb the hill and attempt to recapture it from the British.
On Spion Kop the mist prevented the British force from realising that the area occupied was insufficient to hold the summit and that their position was overlooked by higher features. The infantry soldiers fell asleep after the strenuous climb while the team of sappers dug the trenches. The entrenched area extended to just an acre.
Murderous Acre at Spion Kop
The British trench in "the murderous acre" on Spion Kop after the battle
The bombardment began and the Boers on the lip of the summit of the hill fired into the entrenched area; which the British troops were to find was too small and too shallow.
Under the storm of artillery and rifle fire the British troops in the trenches on the summit suffered heavily. General Woodgate was an early casualty, as were the commanding officers of the Royal Lancasters and the Royal Engineers, leaving the British troops without senior command.
Warren in the meanwhile ordered General Coke to take reinforcements to the summit: Imperial Light Infantry, 2nd Dorsets and 2nd Middlesex. Hart and other senior officers urged Warren to attack Tabanyama. Instead Warren signaled Lyttleton that a diversion was needed.
On the Boer side the fighting was just as desperate. Only volunteers could be persuaded to climb to the top of Spion Kop and the surrounding heights. The hillside was littered with Boer casualties and many were killed on the summit. The sense of desperation was as great on the Boer side as on the British.
On Buller’s urgings Warren put Thorneycroft in command on the crest of Spion Kop. Some of the despairing and exhausted British troops attempted to surrender to the Boers. Thorneycroft on taking command ordered the Boers back and shouted that there was to be no surrender. At the critical moment Coke’s reinforcements burst onto the hilltop, although Coke himself stayed beneath the crest and settled down for a nap, so it is reported. The most critical battle for the British Empire in many decades was left to a colonel to fight.
At this point in the battle Lyttelton launched his diversionary attack. The 2nd Scottish Rifles climbed Spion Kop to join Thorneycroft’s troops while 1st Rifle Brigade attacked straight up the Twin Peaks to the East of Spion Kop.
Schalk Burger, commanding the Boers on the Twin Peaks, panicked at the assault on his position and many of his burghers made for the rear, leaving the 60th to take the summit of the ridge.
The roasting hot day came to a close and Warren began to organise reliefs and supplies for the hard pressed infantry on the summit of Spion Kop. Still under artillery fire Thorneycroft and his men were at the end of their tether. Warren had sent Thorneycroft no orders of any sort during the day, other than his appointment in command, and he now sent no message to inform Thorneycroft that substantial reinforcements were on their way. Not until 9pm did the reliefs begin to climb the hill.
On the Boer side the effect of the battle had been just as devastating and the diversionary attack by the 60th Rifles had been the last straw. The Boers had left the summit of Spion Kop. Thorneycroft did not realise it, but he had won the battle. Instead of moving forward after the retreating enemy Thorneycroft resolved to withdraw off the hill with the confused and demoralised remnants of the Lancashire battalions, Middlesex, Scottish Rifles and his own Imperial Light Infantry. The reinforcements began to arrive and a vigorous dispute developed, a newly arrived commanding officer insisting that the hill must be held. Thorneycroft was adamant. He was in command and he was taking his troops down from this hellish hill top which they could no longer hold.
At dawn the next day the Boer leaders saw that their men had re-occupied Spion Kop. The battle had been won.
Warren’s force trailed back across the Tugela. The second attempt to force through to Ladysmith had failed disastrously.

Medical orderly looking for the wounded after the battle
Casualties: The British lost 1,500 casualties, 243 of them dead in the trench on the peak of Spion Kop. The Boers suffered 335 casualties.
News of Spion Kop caused consternation in Britain and nearly brought down the government. The cabinet was at a loss to work out what could have gone wrong. The decision was made to send out Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener to take over as commander in chief and chief of staff in South Africa.
Spion Kop drove the final nail into the coffin of Buller’s reputation. With the end of the war Buller was dismissed from the army, a terrible end to a worthy life of service to the British Crown, in spite of his failings.
Buller’s incompetence as a general was fully demonstrated at Spion Kop. In spite of his overwhelming strength he allowed the battle to be decided by a few hundred men fighting in what came to be called the murderous acre, on the top of a hill beyond any proper command control. In spite of his reservations as to Warren’s conduct of the battle Buller failed to intervene.
Curiously Spion Kop was something of a disaster for the Boers. Many of the Boers assumed that, as after Majuba in the First Boer War, the British would sue for peace and leave them their independence. Numbers of burghers including Botha, considering the war as good as won, went home, leaving insufficient men to resist Buller’s next and decisive attacks at Val Krantz and Pieter’s Hill.
Denys Reitz, author of Commando, was one of the Boer volunteers who climbed onto Spion Kop and fought through the day, finally despairing of success and pulling back. It is an irony that in 1918 Reitz commanded 1st Royal Scots Fusiliers in France.
The Boer War is widely covered. A cross section of interesting volumes would be:
The Great Boer War by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Goodbye Dolly Gray by Rayne Kruger
The Boer War by Thomas Pakenham
South Africa and the Transvaal War by Louis Creswicke (6 highly partisan volumes)
Books solely on the fighting in Natal:
Buller’s Campaign by Julian Symons
Ladysmith by Ruari Chisholm
For a view of the fighting in Natal from the Boer perspective:
Commando by Denys Reitz.