Ward's Book of Days.

Pages of interesting anniversaries.

What happened on this day in history.

JANUARY 24th  

On this day in history  in 1900, took place the battle of Spion Kop.

At the turn of the century, Britain was involved with a guerrilla war with the Dutch-speaking inhabitants, The Boers, of what is now called South Africa. The Boers were in control of the strategic town of Ladysmith, which the British desperately needed to recapture. The British forces under General Sir Charles Warren set out on a trek to Ladysmith and en route met the Boer army defending a 1400 feet hill known as Spion Kop.  

The British thought that the hill was only lightly defended and so attacked but after reaching a small plateau and digging trenches, found themselves under fire from a superior force of Boers armed with German Mauser rifles. The British tried to hold their position at all costs, but were outgunned by the Boer sharpshooters.  

Winston Churchill, who was a war correspondent at the time, reported ‘Corpses lied here and there. Many of the wounds were of a horrible nature. The splinters and fragments of the shells had torn and mutilated them. The shallow trenches were choked with dead or wounded.’  

The battle went on for a further sixteen days until the remnant of the British army were obliged to retreat. They had suffered a decisive defeat but Ladysmith was captured later that year.  

The name Spion Kop originates from the Dutch Spioen (spy) Kop (hill). Many British football teams named stands after the battle, due to the resemblance of a football terrace to the unusual battlefield. The Kop Stand at Anfield, Liverpool, the east side of Hillsborough, Sheffield Wednesday and the north side of Bloomfield Road, Blackpool all recollects the tragic event.  One of the British stretcher-bearers in the Indian Ambulance Corps, serving at the battle, was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, later Mahatma Gandhi, who led India to independence.

Previous day       Next day      

©2006 Ward’s Book of Days