Battle of Talana Hill

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Battle of Talana Hill
Part of Second Boer War
Battle of Glencoe Map.jpg
Date20 October 1899
28°6′49″S30°12′18″E / 28.11361°S 30.20500°E / -28.11361; 30.20500 (Battle of Talana Hill) Coordinates: 28°6′49″S30°12′18″E / 28.11361°S 30.20500°E / -28.11361; 30.20500 (Battle of Talana Hill)
Result British tactical victory
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom Flag of Transvaal.svg  South African Republic
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Lt-Gen. Sir William Symons   Flag of Transvaal.svg Gen. Lukas Meyer
Flag of Transvaal.svg Gen. Maroela Erasmus
4,000 [1]
18 field guns
1 machine gun
3,000 [1]
3 field guns
2 pom pom guns
Casualties and losses
41 killed
185 wounded
220 captured or missing [2]
23 killed
66 wounded
20 missing [2]
South Africa adm location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location within South Africa

The Battle of Talana Hill, also known as the Battle of Glencoe, was the first major clash of the Second Boer War. A frontal attack by British infantry supported by artillery drove Boers from a hilltop position, but the British suffered heavy casualties in the process, including their commanding general Sir William Penn Symons.

Second Boer War war between South African Republic and the United Kingdom

The Second Boer War was fought between the British Empire and two Boer states, the South African Republic and the Orange Free State, over the Empire's influence in South Africa. It is also known variously as the Boer War, Anglo-Boer War, or South African War. Initial Boer attacks were successful, and although British reinforcements later reversed these, the war continued for years with Boer guerrilla warfare, until harsh British counter-measures brought them to terms.

Penn Symons British Army officer

Major-General Sir William Penn Symons KCB was a British Army officer who was mortally wounded as he commanded his forces at the Battle of Talana Hill during the Second Boer War. While his forces won the battle, they had to abandon their position and fall back to Ladysmith. Symons and the more severely wounded were left to the Boers; he died three days later as a prisoner of war. A monument to his valour was raised in Victoria Park, Saltash, Cornwall, UK.



Reinforcements sent to Natal by Britain immediately before the outbreak of war had moved into the northern path of the province of Natal, but not far enough forward to occupy the passes of the Drakensberg Mountains. As a result, the Boers could invade Natal from three sides.

KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa

KwaZulu-Natal is a province of South Africa that was created in 1994 when the Zulu bantustan of KwaZulu and Natal Province were merged. It is located in the southeast of the country, enjoying a long shoreline beside the Indian Ocean and sharing borders with three other provinces and the countries of Mozambique, Eswatini and Lesotho. Its capital is Pietermaritzburg and its largest city is Durban. It is the 2nd most populous province in South Africa, with slightly fewer residents than Gauteng.

Drakensberg mountain range in South Africa

The Drakensberg is the name given to the eastern portion of the Great Escarpment, which encloses the central Southern African plateau. The Great Escarpment reaches its greatest elevation in this region – 2,000 to 3,482 metres. It is located in South Africa and Lesotho.

Lieutenant-General Sir George White in command of forces in Natal requested that forces at Glencoe (Dundee) be withdrawn to concentrate his forces at Ladysmith where he held the bulk of the British garrison. The Governor of Natal considered it necessary to hold the position for political and economic reasons, so he dispatched Lieutenant-General Sir William Penn Symons to take control of the troops at Glencoe. War was declared at 5pm on 11 October with the Boers invading on the 12 October. [3]

George White (British Army officer) British Army officer

Field Marshal Sir George Stuart White, was an officer of the British Army. He was stationed at Peshawar during the Indian Mutiny and then fought at the Battle of Charasiab in October 1879 and at the Battle of Kandahar in September 1880 during the Second Anglo-Afghan War. For his bravery during these two battles, he was awarded the Victoria Cross. He went on to command a brigade during the Third Anglo-Burmese War in 1886 and became commander of Quetta District in 1889 in which role he led operations in the Zhob Valley and in Balochistan. He was commander of the forces in Natal at the opening of the Second Boer War and fought at the Battle of Elandslaagte in October 1899. He commanded the garrison at the Siege of Ladysmith: although instructed by General Sir Redvers Buller to surrender the garrison he responded "I hold Ladysmith for the Queen" and held out for another four months before being relieved in February 1900. He finished his career as Governor of Gibraltar and then as Governor of the Royal Hospital Chelsea.

Glencoe, KwaZulu-Natal Place in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Glencoe is situated in the Umzinyathi District, District of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal Place in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Ladysmith is a city in the Uthukela District of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It lies 230 kilometres (140 mi) north-west of Durban and 365 kilometres (227 mi) south of Johannesburg. Important industries in the area include food processing, textiles, and tyre production. Motor vehicle tyres are produced by "Sumitomo Rubber South Africa" in the nearby town of Steadville.

Symons commanded a brigade (four infantry battalions, part of a cavalry regiment and three companies of mounted infantry, three field artillery batteries) which occupied the coal mining town of Dundee. Coal was strategically important to the British war effort as it was needed to power the British train locomotives. On the evening of 19 October, two Boer forces from the independent South African Republic, each numbering 4,000 men under General Lukas Meyer and General "Maroela" Erasmus closed in on Dundee.

Dundee, KwaZulu-Natal Place in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

The coal mining town of Dundee is situated in a valley of the Biggarsberg mountains in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It is part of the Endumeni Municipality, Umzinyathi District. It is very rich in coal deposits. More populous than the town of Dundee itself is its adjacent township named Sibongile. This township is now being extended with many residing zones, e.g. Lindelani. Dundee was originally established by Peter Smith, with land contributed by his son in-law. Dundee was established in 1882 after the realisation that the valley was a natural way for travellers into the interior of Africa. Traders, hunters explorers, missionaries and soldiers all made their way through here.A large fort, Fort Jones, housed British troops in the area during the Anglo Zulu War of 1879. The discovery of coal in the area dates from early Voortrekker records of 1838 and later geologial surveys in the 1860s. It is named after the hometown of a pioneering Scottish settler, Peter Smith. At first, Dundee was a farm, the property of Peter Smith, which he had bought from a Voortrekker settler, Mr Dekker. Three other men are also credited with the founding of Dundee; his son William Craighead Smith, son-in-law Dugald McPhail, and close family friend Charles Wilson.<Talana Museum>


Before dawn on 20 October, Erasmus' force occupied Impati Mountain north of Dundee. Meyer's men occupied the low Talana Hill east of the town at 28°9′50″S30°16′4″E / 28.16389°S 30.26778°E / -28.16389; 30.26778 (Talana Hill) , and dragged several German manufactured Krupp field guns to the top. As dawn broke and the British spotted the Boers on Talana Hill, these guns opened fire, ineffectually.

Impati Mountain mountain in South Africa

Impati Mountain is a mountain near the town of Dundee in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The name "Impati" is a Zulu word meaning "leader". As the name implies, the mountain stands out noticeably, compared to the surrounding hills due to its elevation. Its foothills were the scene of the Battle of Talana Hill during the Second Boer War.

Krupp German family dynasty

The Krupp family, a prominent 400-year-old German dynasty from Essen, is famous for their production of steel, artillery, ammunition and other armaments. The family business, known as Friedrich Krupp AG, was the largest company in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century, and was important to weapons development and production in both world wars. One of the most powerful dynasties in European history, Krupp flourished for 400 years as the premier weapons manufacturer of Germany. From the Thirty Years' War until the end of the Second World War, it produced battleships, U-boats, tanks, howitzers, guns, utilities, and hundreds of other commodities.

The British 16th and 69th Field Batteries galloped to within range and opened fire. Leaving the 1st Battalion Leicestershire Regiment and the 67th Field Battery to guard the camp, the British infantry, led by the 2nd Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers and supported in succession by the 1st Battalion King's Royal Rifle Corps (KRRC) and the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers (RIF), moved forward to make a frontal attack, and reached the foot of the hill where they were to advance through a small wood. However they were pinned down by heavy rifle fire from the top of Talana Hill. Symons went forward to urge them on, and was mortally wounded in the stomach, although he was able to mount his horse and ride back into Dundee where he later died. Under Symons' successor, Brigadier-General James Herbert Yule, the KRRC managed to reach a small stone wall at the foot of Talana Hill, where the Dublin Fusiliers were pinned down by Boer fire. With the Royal Artillery laying down accurate fire on the summit the KRRC supported by the RIF were able to proceed up the hill. When they reached the top, they suffered casualties from their own supporting artillery. The Boers abandoned their positions on the hill. Despite the British artillery being repositioned to harass the Boer retreat, they declined to fire, worried that they might hit their own troops again. [3]

Royal Leicestershire Regiment

The Leicestershire Regiment was a line infantry regiment of the British Army, with a history going back to 1688. The regiment saw service for three centuries, in numerous wars and conflicts such as both World War I and World War II, before being amalgamated, in September 1964, with the 1st East Anglian Regiment, the 2nd East Anglian Regiment and the 3rd East Anglian Regiment to form the present day Royal Anglian Regiment, of which B Company of the 2nd Battalion continues the lineage of the Royal Leicestershire Regiment.

Royal Dublin Fusiliers

The Royal Dublin Fusiliers was an Irish infantry Regiment of the British Army created in 1881, one of eight Irish regiments raised and garrisoned in Ireland, with its home depot in Naas. The Regiment was created by the amalgamation of two British Army regiments in India, the Royal Bombay Fusiliers and Royal Madras Fusiliers, with Dublin and Kildare militia units as part of the Childers Reforms that created larger regiments and linked them with "Regimental Districts". Both regular battalions of the Regiment fought in the Second Boer War. In the First World War, a further six battalions were raised and the regiment saw action on the Western Front, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East. In the course of the war three Victoria Cross were awarded.

Kings Royal Rifle Corps infantry rifle regiment of the British Army

The King's Royal Rifle Corps was an infantry rifle regiment of the British Army that was originally raised in British North America as the Royal American Regiment during the phase of the Seven Years' War in North America known as 'The French and Indian War.' Subsequently numbered the 60th Regiment of Foot, the regiment served for more than 200 years throughout the British Empire. In 1958, the regiment joined the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and the Rifle Brigade in the Green Jackets Brigade and in 1966 the three regiments were formally amalgamated to become the Royal Green Jackets. The KRRC became the 2nd Battalion Royal Green Jackets. On the disbandment of 1/RGJ in 1992, the RGJ's KRRC battalion was redesignated as 1/RGJ, eventually becoming 2/RIFLES in 2007.

General Lukas Meyer's forces mounted their ponies and made off. A squadron of the 18th Hussars and the British mounted infantry tried to cut off their retreat, but most of the British horsemen strayed onto the slopes of Impati. General Erasmus's men, who had so far played no part in the battle due to Impati being shrouded in fog, surrounded the British mounted detachment and forced them to surrender.


The British had won a tactical victory, but at a high cost. And a copy of the British Intelligence Notes on the Dutch Republics (which underestimated the Boer numbers and armament) fell into the hands of the Boers.

Yule's men were unable to contemplate attacking Impati Hill, which held Dundee's water supply. They marched and countermarched beneath the hill for two days under intermittent shellfire. Other Boer forces had cut the British line of supply and retreat. Finally the British force retreated across country at night. After an arduous four-day march of 64 miles (103 km), they reached Ladysmith, where they reinforced the garrison.


  1. 1 2 Mackenzie, John. "Battle of Talana Hill".
  2. 1 2 Rickard, John (1 December 2007). "Battle of Talana Hill, 20 October 1899". History of War.
  3. 1 2 "No. 27157". The London Gazette . 26 January 1900. pp. 497–498.


External image
Searchtool.svg Talana Hill memorial to the 2nd Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers at the Genealogical Society of South Africa

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