The battle of Majuba on February 27 1881 — the last, and decisive, battle of the First Anglo-Boer War — has been described as one of the most humiliating defeats in British military history. It is said that Maj-Gen George Pomeroy Colley was composing a poem on December 16 1880 when he received news that the Transvaal, which had been annexed three years previously, had raised its flag, the Vierkleur, at Heidelberg. Several garrison towns had been besieged. Colley was ordered to relieve the town, and subsequently set out with his troops from Pietermaritzburg. He encountered his first setback when his force of 1,400 men was checked by the Boers at Laingsnek, and another humiliation at Schuinshoogte. George Duxbury gives an account of the Majuba conflict in Battlefields of SA by George Chadwick and others, illustrated by landscape painter Gail van Lingen. Duxbury writes that Colley’s defeat was the result of “misplaced contempt” for the Boers’ prowess. Colley was apparently anxious to r...

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