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Mpumalanga Battlefields Trip

02 September 2019 - Corlia Myburgh
We were fortunate to be invited by Tony and Sue Pollastrini to enjoy the tour of the Mpumalanga Battlefields for the weekend with the Land Rover Owners Club of Southern Africa. Home base for the weekend was Elandskloof Trout Farm, situated centrally amongst the battlefields we would be visiting over the weekend.

The tour got underway with our arrival at Berg-en-dal Memorial site. On arrival, each of the vehicles was given a handmade cotton bag, with personalised surnames embroidered on it. Inside we would find two booklets, one on the Battlefields and the other on Geocaching, some sweets, little mugs and a container of plastic soldiers which we could use as geocache tradables. Such a lovely touch and very helpful!

As the numbers of vehicles parked at the memorial site increased, people began to mingle and it was not long before Colin Ross proceeded to give a talk on what took place at the Berg-en-dal Battle. Colin would continue to share his insight and understanding of the events which unfolded over 100 years ago at the various battles fought in this part of South Africa. From the memorial site, we took a short drive to Machadodorp (eNtokozweni) where we visited the Cemetery of the fallen soldiers, then it was onto the Belfast Concentration Camp, and a visit to the Church and School building in Belfast which existed at the time of the war.

The first day’s drive was spent mostly on tar roads, except for the trip between Machadodorp (eNtokozweni) and Belfast, which was a gravel backroad. It was the left turn onto this backroad that would earn Chas a bit of a reputation as he proceeded straight along with the tar. For the rest of the days travel, there were frequent outbursts from the convoy, hailed over the VHF radio, clarifying directions and required turns for poor Chas. Strange considering how many times Gerrie led the convoy down the wrong road!

On the second day the convoy would visit the battle sites of Helvetia, the Skirmish of Vlakfontein and the Battle Of Ouhoutbossie/Elandspruit, amongst visits to various gravesites and churches which play a prominent role in this history.

Most of day 2 was spent driving on back roads, the scenery was awesome. Whilst travelling along a scenic pass, the convoy approached a long bend and Gerrie asked us all to drive and park on the side. We were pleasantly surprised to see a drone being flown overhead by Ryan, who was skilfully taking birds-eye scenic pictures of all the Land Rovers in the convoy… very exciting!

It was on day two that Colin would explain how the Heliograph was used to communicate messages over large distances (relatively speaking considering that this was at the start of the last century) using light from the sun. It would seem that light speed communication is not a new thing! What we found interesting was the Heliograph, which was used by both armies, was the only means of communication besides the report ryers.

We also found it interesting to notice how enthusiastic most people, including ourselves, were to participate in and find the Geocaches. Not even the mist and cold weather stopped the Stonefield family looking for these Geocaches.

The VHF radio communications worked well, between Gerrie and Corlia in the front and Attie and Helen Smit who were the sweep vehicle at the back, between them keeping the convoy of 17 Land Rovers together and making sure that there was sufficient parking available for everyone at the historical sites.

The people were friendly, helpful, well behaved and there was a strong camaraderie which made it easy to interact. We found Colin Ross’s knowledge about the battlefields and Gerhard Delport’s detailed account of the war between 1899 and 1902 on Saturday night very informative. It was also nice to see and interact with a few characters we were familiar with, such as Helen Smit who we immediately remembered from Seekoei Gat a couple of years ago and Chas who is affectionately known as Father Christmas.

We congratulate Gerrie and Corlia Myburgh and all others who helped to put this weekend together, it was most enjoyable.

 

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