Today was a real experience. We departed Mafikeng, where you would have to say civic pride was not in evidence. The streets were strewn with rubbish to an extent where one wondered about the effect this may have on the health of the inhabitants. Our next stop Vryburg was a stark contrast; civic pride was very much in evidence, the streets were clean and the inhabitants appeared to be happier. Sadly the museum at Vryburg, though recently refurbished, was closed.
Our lunch stop was at Warranton, another town where civic pride was very much in evidence. The town park was well kept and an ideal place for our picnic. It was adjacent the local bowling club where we were able to take up the kind offer of the club president to use the conveniences. Audrey was even able to display her bowling skills.
We passed through Kimberley early afternoon and drove to the Paardeberg battle site some 47 kilometres to the east. First stop was the Museum. It was unmanned, so we dutifully turned on thence off the lights as instructed. The display was high quality. Wall panels described the action that had taken place there between 17 and 27 February 1900 in great detail. Contemporary photographs, including mug shots of the senior protagonists and illustrated ground models gave us a true impression of what happened.
We then proceeded to the exact location on the Modder River where General Cronje positioned his laager and saw the river bank where caves had been dug to protect the women and children during the investiture. We walked over the ground over which the unnecessary assaults by the British took place and were aided by an oriented ground model overlooking the site in gaining a good understanding of what happened.
In the dying rays of the sun, we visited the grave of Colonel Hannay a real hero, who when in spite of his objections was ordered to make an unnecessary and doomed assault chose to lead his men personally knowing full well it would mean his death. He is buried near to where he fell. We do not usually hold a service for non-Australians but in this case did, saying the ode over the resting place of a great man.
Dinner in our hotel was first class; then off to bed – tomorrow we visit the Magersfontein battle site and the Kimberley area.
Photos by Mark Day, Graham Fleeton and John Howells