ABSTRACT

Surprise was essential if Majuba were to be seized without Boer opposi-tion, and Colley divulged his intentions to no one besides Colonel Stewart and another recently arrived staff officer, Major T. Fraser, RE. Only

after lights out had been routinely sounded at 20h30 on 26 February did

staff officers issue orders for two companies of the 58th Regiment, two com-

panies of the 3/60th Rifles, three companies of the 92nd Highlanders and a

company-strength Naval Brigade drawn from the Boadicea and Dido, as well

as small detachments from other units and the Army Medical Department,

to be ready to march at 22h00 in that order. Commentators have wondered

ever since why Colley chose to lead out a mixed force when a single regi-

ment, with its developed corps d’esprit, would have been more cohesive and

reliable. It has been surmised that Colley wished to give representatives of

the 58th Regiment and the 3/60th Rifles an opportunity to redeem their

poor showings at Laing’s Nek and Ingogo. It is also not unlikely that Colley

– as an army reformer and member of Wolseley’s ring – hoped that by per-

forming well these two short-service regiments would undercut the criti-

cisms by the Duke and his cronies of short-service and their declared

Colley and two staff officers (Colonel Stewart and Major Fraser) led out

the force of 27 officers and 568 men, three newspaper correspondents and

an unrecorded number of African guides and servants who carried three

days’ rations for the troops. Each soldier was ordered to carry the regulation

70 rounds of ammunition, a greatcoat, waterproof sheet and a full water

bottle. Four picks and six shovels for entrenching were issued to each com-

pany. The men were not told of their destination. No artillery or Gatling

guns accompanied the task force because Colley considered the mountain

too steep and there was in any case no proper tackle available to strap the

It was a moonless night, no lights were carried and strict silence was

observed. The spirits of the men were reported high, though there is evid-

ence too of grumbling and an expressed lack of faith in Colley’s generalship

– not altogether surprising with his dismal record of two defeats in a row. The

column moved out west from Mount Prospect, crossed the Laing’s Nek road,

and climbed the lower eastern slopes of Inkwelo. After an hour’s march it

reached a plateau halfway up the mountain, where it reformed. The column

then turned north-west and followed a track traversing the mountain which

came out on another plateau on the northern slopes of Inkwelo. Here Colley

detached two companies of the 3/60th Rifles to secure his line of march,

giving Captains C. Smith and R. Henley no orders other than to entrench

and hold their position. From this plateau Colley marched northwards

along the wide ridge which connects Inkwelo to Majuba. At about midnight

the column halted for about an hour at the far end of the ridge to allow part

of the rear of the column, which had lost its way, to be brought in. Colley

then detached a company of the 92nd Highlanders under Captain P.