Battle of Nooitgedacht

Start Date End Date
1900-12-13 1900-12-13
Battle in South African War, December 1900

 As part of the British scorched earth policy General RAP Clements and a column of about 1500 men with wagons and guns plundered the rich farming district between Krugersdorp and the Magaliesberg from October to December 1900. After the Boer success in destroying a supply convoy at nearby Buffelspoort, Clements decided to await reinforcements from Krugersdorp before proceeding. He sited his camp below the high cliffs of the Magaliesberg on the farm 'Nooitgedacht'. The farm was owned by a pro-British family and had thus been spared the attentions of Clements's farm burners. A steep gully gave access to the top of the mountain where a signalling corps and guard of about 300 men were posted with long views in all directions and direct heliograph communication with Krugersdorp 30 kilometers away.
Hidden in the hills to the south De la Rey and Smuts watched the establishment of the camp and immediately recognised its vulnerability. By coincidence, Christiaan Beyers, De la Rey's counterpart in the northern Transvaal, was approach­ing the area with his commandos which would increase the Boer force to twice that of the British.

However a British cavalry column under General Broadwood had spotted his presence and threatened to prevent him from joining de la Rey. Beyers immediately let it be known among the local people that he was intending to attack Rustenburg. The disinformation reached Broadwood within hours and he galloped away to protect the town, leaving the two Boer forces to unite and neglecting to inform Clements of his knowledge of the new Boer arrivals.
Beyers and De la Rey met on the Breedtsnek road on 12 December and a combined attack was put in motion. That night four of Beyers commandos of several hundred men climbed the northern slope of the mountain and attacked and overpowered the British guard just before dawn. A fifth commando moved along the southern base of the cliffs but was driven back by mounted infantry posted outside Clements's main camp. Once in command of the heights the Boers poured rifle fire into camp below, killing and scattering men in disarray. Draft animals were shot to prevent the evacuation of the guns, which were too close to the cliff to be elevated and fired. Large numbers of reinforcements attempting to climb the narrow gully were shot down before any reached the top and more men lost their lives dragging the guns away manually.
Inexplicably de la Rey delayed entering the camp to deliver a coup de grace and the delay gave Clements an opportunity to regain control of his panicking men and lead them in an organized retreat. Smuts, too, had been tardy in his task of cutting off the British retreat. A few kilometres away Clements re-grouped his shattered column on a hill known to them as Yeomanry Hill and to the Boers as Vaalkop and from there he shelled the Boers looting his former camp before limping back to Krugersdorp leaving a third of his men killed or wounded.

South Africa's North-West province: A Guide to its History and Heritage. © 2017

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