Graspan – Thomas’s farm

The first battle (Battle of Belmont) of the Anglo Boer War, started on Thomas’s Farm, the homestead was erected in the 18th century, and was the headquarters of Lord Methuen. The main reason why Thomas’s Farm was also the British camp and military hospital, was because of the open water holes fed by underground channels, which still can be seen today.

On November 22, the Royal Engineers and mounted troops occupied the area, being joined by Methuen, Verner and other senior officers.  When mounted troops and the Royal Engineers approached the waterhole near Thomas’ Farm, Boer artillery opened fire from Gun Hill.   Returning fire from Verner’s Hill, the British artillery duelled with the Boer gunners until after dark.   That afternoon the British infantry left Witput and, marching up to Verner’s Hill, received their dinner and a tot of rum.   Methuen planned to surprise the Boers with a dawn attack.   While his infantry and artillery assaulted the Boer positions, his cavalry would encircle the hills, cut off the Boer retreat and capture their lagers.

On November 23, at 02h00 the British force left Verner’s Hill and attacked at dawn, but Verner’s inaccurate map caused confusion in the deployment of troops during the battle.  Although they captured the hill, Methuen’s force lost 75 killed and 220 wounded, while Boer losses were minimal.  Returning to their camp at Verner’s Hill, the British buried their dead and, opening champagne, some of the officers toasted their victory.  The following day Methuen’s column left for Graspan to fight their next battle on the road to Kimberley.  Attractions include:

• Guards Brigade Monument, where 38 officers and men, killed in action, were buried alongside the camp.
• Verner’s Hill, with an information panel showing the route of the British night march to attack the Boer positions.
• The main reason for the British camp – i.e. open waterholes with crystal-clear water fed by underground channels sufficient for 10000 men and horses.
• 18th Century homestead used as a British military hospital during the battle and now a bed and breakfast.
• Cemetery and information panel where 27 British soldiers, either killed in action or who later died of their wounds, lay buried.
A “cave” dug into the hill behind the homestead by the farm’s first owner for use as a cooler.  During the war, medicines were kept there. Now a mini museum.
Larger than life artwork, painted on a wall 10-m long and 3.5-m high, that takes you back 100 years.
British troops scratched names and dates, defensive stone walls constructed by British troops and mass graves.