Scottish ghosts of Boer War roam South African plain

Wed Jun 30, 2010 7:32am EDT
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By Angus MacSwan

MAGERSFONTEIN, South Africa (Reuters Life) - Springboks bound amongst the thorn bushes of Magersfontein during a sun-filled South African day.

But local people say that the night belongs to the ghosts of Scottish soldiers who were cut down by Boer bullets in a battle here more than 100 years ago.

A Celtic Cross memorial dedicated to the dead of the Highland Brigade sits atop Magersfontein Koppie.

The view across the veld from the rocky hill looks just as it might have done that December day in 1899 -- a vast, flat expanse of beige grass, boulders and small trees.

The Boer trenches from where withering gunfire tore into the marching, kilted Highlanders still lie at the foot of the hill.

"Scotland is poorer in men but richer in heroes," the inscription on the memorial reads.

The Anglo-Boer War battle took place during the Boer siege of Kimberley, a strategic diamond mining town. A British relief column advanced along the Cape railway line and in three earlier clashes, forced the Boer commandos to pull back.

The Boers planned to make a stand at Magersfontein, an outcrop about 30 km south of Kimberley. But instead of defending from the heights of the koppie, as the British assumed they would, they dug camouflaged trenches around its base.   Continued...