Talana Museum South Africa  


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Symonsdale

Symonsdale  and position of  British camps    Karellandman Str

This home built by Edward Ryley, Minister of Agriculture in the Natal Parliament in 1903, stands on the position of the British camp at the time of the battle of Talana.

Verbal accounts tell that the house stands on the site of Gen Penn Symons command tent.

 

The rise on which the house stands and the land extending to the east, (across the present road that enters Dundee) known as Ryley’s hill, was the site of the tented British camp. The small stream below the house was where the horses were watered.

 

The first shells from the Boers on the top and plateau of Talana hill were fired into this camp at 5;20am on Friday morning 20 October 1899. The first 2 shells did not explode as buried themselves in the mud, but this got the British troops moving and instructions from the officers were received to make a frontal assault on Talana hill.

The horses were brought back from the stream and limbered to the gun carriages to allow the artillery to move closer to Talana hill.

Artillery and reserve troops were kept in the camp to protect it.

 

Gen Penn Symons was carried, mortally wounded off the battlefield, to the British camp on Ryley’s hill and it was here that he died 2 days later.

His coffin draped in the Union jack flag, (which can be seen in Talana Museum), was carried along the streets of Dundee to the St James churchyard where he was buried.

 

 After being shelled by the Long Tom on 21 October part of the British camp was moved across the valley and set up in the vicinity of where the NLK silos are today. They assumed they would be out of range of the Boer field guns but were mistaken. Not long after setting up their camp the Long Tom opened fire and found the range of the camp.

 

The decision was then made to move a portion of the camp once again and this time it was on to the lower slopes of Indumeni  mountain on McKenzies farm. The camp was now so far out of Dundee that it was not possible to defend the town from this position.

 

The British troops retired to Ladysmith leaving Dundee on 22nd October 1899.

They were only able to fight their way back and relieve the town on 15 May 1900.