Known as “Long Toms”, the four 155mm siege guns installed in the forts to protect Pretoria, were supposed to be far too big and cumbersome to move, yet one of them (nicknamed Schanskop Tom), which had originally been installed at Fort Schanskop, was used to drive the British out of Dundee. It was manoeuvred up Impati Mountain and shelled the British camp on Ryley’s Hill. Unable to retaliate, the British were forced to withdraw from Dundee and make a hazardous, but mostly uncomfortable (in the pelting rain) retirement to Ladysmith.
On the western heights of the Biggarsberg, Mkupe Mountain looks down on the strategic pass to which it gives its name and the Inkunzi river. During the Anglo-Zulu War (1879) and the 1st Anglo Boer War (1881), this pass was of vital concern to the British Army, as it was their supply line between military headquarters in Pietermaritzburg and the Frontier stations of Newcastle and Dundee. It was also the shortest route for any Boer invading force to strike at the communications system of the British defending forces and the quickest route to take to Ladysmith.
In the article below Pam McFadden reveals some of the history behind the Little Church at Van Reenen which is considered by many to be the smallest church in the southern hemisphere.
A Northumbrian by birth, Dr Prideaux Selby was already a middle aged bachelor when he sailed with the Byrnes' settlers to South Africa in 1850. He became the first doctor and Justice of the Peace to the Boer families in the Biggarsberg and lived at “Mooiplaas” for 25 years. He was held in high regard and loved by the Boer families – so much so that the names “Prideaux” and “Selby” were used extensively by the Boer families to name their children.
Major William Knox-Leet was born in Dalkey, County Dublin on 3 November 1833. The youngest son of a Episcopalian rector, he graduated from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland and became an ensign in the 13th Prince Albert's Light Infantry in July 1855. In 1858 he was sent to British India where he saw action in several engagements during the Indian Mutiny. From 1867 until 1872 he served as an arms instructor in England. In July 1872 he became Deputy Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster-General in County Cork, Ireland.