For those people who have been living under a rock, of course you know that the anniversary of the battle of Talana is 20 October! And you know that the ghosts will be out! And you know, of course, that Talana Museum will be hosting the 21st Annual “Ghost Walk” up Talana Hill.
I’m sort of ambivalent about “ghosts’, but on our first “walk” in 1999 Mike Nel and I scrambled up the hill ahead of the pack carrying the bully beef sandwiches and Old Brown sherry to our ambush position. While we waited and watched the crowd struggling up the hill, we felt challenged to sample the Old Brown (quality control, you know) and made sure the fire was going nicely. Being the first, eThekwini Productions had come along to film the event as the tourists sat around the fire, suitably lubricated and fed, while Pam McFadden regaled them with the stories of Colonel Gunning standing under his tree by the cemetery, and Ann Smith’s candle in the cottage window, and the ghostly horsemen often seen by motorists on the road to Peacevale.
Lessons learnt were that torches were absolutely essential for the return journey, and that an excess of Old Brown was conducive to somewhat erratic progress back to the car park.
A couple of weeks later, Stephen Pryke, who had also been on the ghost walk, to represent Africa Geographic magazine, produced some photographs of the event. There was the camp fire, with tourists grouped around it. And there, on the right in among the group of tourists, was the distinct shape of a British soldier. A companion was squatting amongst the crowd. Some people see a horse in the picture but I do not. Pam has seen the original photographs and there is also a women in 1930s floral print dress under a tree some distance from the group of tourists - she was definitely not part of the group. He had NOT photo-shopped the prints and had got similar images on a couple of different cameras.
Over the years as we have done this walk to the plateau on Talana hill various people have had a number of different experiences and captured some amazing images. The smell of the horses as the Utrecht commando comes back over the battlefield that evening, to collect their dead and wounded; a wounded British soldier - the bloody bandage is clearly visible on his upper arm - leaning over one of the tourists who stopped to tie his shoelace; people who have blundered back down the hill terribly upset because of "the men dying in front of them".
So come along, and you can decide for yourself.
- We meet in the cemetery at Talana Museum at 5pm. A quick introduction to the battle and then a walk up the hill to the plateau. Knowledgeable guides accompany the group and tell the stories of the battle on the slopes of Talana hill.
- Price per adult R50 and per scholar R20.
- Please book so that we know for bully beef sandwich production.