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Digital Subscriptions > History Revealed > September 2016 > Slaughter Hill: Spion Kop

Slaughter Hill: Spion Kop

The Kop. It’s a word familiar to all football fans, but, Julian Humphrys asks, how many of those who have stood on the terraces of grounds like Anfield know their beloved Kops took their name from a steep hill where the British suffered a bloody defeat?
BOERS AT WAR The weaponry and skills of the Boer commandos took the British by surprise in South Africa, but bungling leadership made things much worse at Spion Kop
ART ARCHIVE X1, TOPFOTO X2

BATTLE BRIEFING

Who

20,000 British, commanded by Generals Buller and Warren

8,000 Boers, General Botha

When

23-24 January 1900

Where

Spion Kop, Natal province, South Africa

Why

British attempt to relieve besieged town of Ladysmith

Result

Boer victory

British losses: 1,500 killed, wounded and captured. Boer losses: 340 killed and wounded

The best chance the 1,700 British soldiers had of surprising their Boer enemy Ton Spion Kop was to attack in the dead of night, and in silence. It would be an exhausting climb up its steep, boulder-strewn slopes, all the while unsure whether a vicious, close-quarters fight waited at the top. Capturing Spion Kop, however, meant the British could break the Boer defensive line – which had withstood all efforts to lift a siege at nearby Ladysmith – and gain momentum in the Second Boer War. So on the foggy, humid night of 23 January 1900, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Alex Thorneycroft, the khaki-clad British began the climb.

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September 2016 issue of History Revealed.
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