Well, that’s the election out of the way and we can all get back to the serious business of our history!

I wasn’t very keen on history at school but, as I’ve grown older, I have come to realise that who we are today is linked so closely to where we have come from.  

I mentioned before that we would explore the story of the Long Tom guns in more detail, so here goes!

Towards the end of the second Anglo-Boer War, the Boers were in retreat from the British and, to prevent their Long Toms being captured, the Boers made them unusable by blowing up vital parts – like the barrels!

The final four guns were taken from Pretoria towards the Mozambique border where one had to be destroyed near Komatipoort. A second gun was blown up on the pass – now called the ‘Long Tom Pass’- between Lydenburg and Sabie, and the third one was destroyed on the Letaba River near Tzaneen. The final gun was brought to a hill known as Feeskop, just across the valley from the village of Haenertsburg.

It was expected that the British were heading for the village, but they had a change of mind and headed for the very hill where the gun was located. As was their custom, the Boers placed explosives down the muzzle and into the breech block and as the English triumphantly captured the gun, it was blown up leaving a sizeable depression on the hilltop.

This site has been developed as one of the best view sites in the Magoebaskloof area.  The local Rotary Club built a wooden viewing platform and kindly provided some concrete tables and benches.

This site is about six kms from the Cheerio turnoff on the R 71 and there is a road sign indicating, quite simply, ‘Long Tom’.

What could be easier!

After a few kilometres, this gravel road reaches a fork where the left fork takes you to Cheerio Gardens and on to Sequoia gardens and the Zwakala Brewery. The right fork leads to a small sign indicating the Long Tom view site. The story of the final gun is told on a board at the view site but the other main reason for visiting the site is the magnificent panoramic view of the Wolkberg and surroundings. A panel on the platform provides the names of all the key peaks at this tail end of the Transvaal Drakensberg as well as other significant features in the area.  The best time to visit this site is in the late afternoon when you can watch the sunset on one side and, at the right time of the month, see the full moon rise over the eastern horizon.

And what a place to enjoy a cold beer! But remember to take a cushion if you intend being there for any length of time! Concrete benches are never comfortable after about ten minutes!  

I’ll finish with a note of caution regarding many of the gravel roads in this area. Most of them are not in great shape so please drive slowly and take special care during or after rain when even the gentlest gradients become quite slippery and present a challenge to ordinary sedan cars.  Otherwise, please enjoy our very special area and take a gentle leap back into history! And ‘them’s my sentiments!’ Cheers for now!

Fred Bullock

Louis Changuion’s book, Silence of the Guns is also a great read. Available at the village bookshop