A truly great day of touring.
Departing at 08:00 we headed for the Middelburg - Ermelo road then south pausing first at the site of the old Wilmansrust homestead. It was here in July 1901 that 23 young Victorians lost their lives in an incident the aftermath of which saved the lives of many more Australians who were to volunteer to serve their country in war. We could see the farm where the contingent's donkeys were kraaled, adjacent the ill feted campsite, and the hill 1,500 metres distant where the main piquet were unable to avert the massacre.
A few short kilometres there to the site at Grobelar Recht where the youngest Australian officer to be killed in battle; Lieutenant Anthony Forrest of the Western Australian Mounted Infantry died commanding a supply wagon piquet that was ambushed when crossing a creek.
Our next stop was Ermelo where, after being refreshed by a brew of coffee, we met Athol Stark the Chief Coordinator, Highveld Tourism Mpumalanga. Athol took us to the Onverwacht battle site. There we found ourselves accompanied by the local press, officials from the provincial tourist board and some very well presented students from the Ermelo High School. The road in to the site is both narrow, and a little rough. Our bus driver Andre certainly demonstrated his skill, and let us know that fate had intervened. The bus that broke down on the first day had a low suspension; too low to negotiate the track. External forces had worked in our favour.
Athol's passion for this final Boer victory permeated us all as he explained the action in detail. The solemn reciting of the ode, and a minute's silence and planting of poppies enhanced the experience. CLICK HERE for local newspaper coverage (13 mb file).
Then to the cemetery in Ermelo where the 13 Queenslanders who lost their lives at Onverwacht are interred along with many others who died in the Eastern Transvaal. John was particularly stoked at finding the name of Trooper Fred Avard a New South Wales Lancer on the cemetery memorial.
A box lunch in the Municipal park then a photo call with the young tourist security officers who had ensured our visit was a safe one and we bade farewell to Ermelo and the passionate hospitality we had been shown.
Returning to our stop for the night at Witbank, we paused in the failing light at the site of the battle of Brakkenlagate where Neil Mangel's grandfather's unit the Scottish Horse fought with great gallantry.