Success and failure along the Modder River during the Anglo-Boer War : the influence of terrain
Please cite as follows: Smit, H. A. P. & Janse van Rensburg, H. S. 2014. Success and failure along the Modder River during the Anglo-Boer War: the influence of terrain. Scientia Militaria, South African Journal of Military Studies, Vol 42(2):117-142, doi:10.5787/42-2-1096.
The original publication is available at: http://scientiamilitaria.journals.ac.za
The influence of terrain on military operations is a well-known and well-researched topic. In a South African context, the body of literature about this topic is, however, not as well developed. This article strives to make a contribution to literature about South African battles and the influence of terrain on the outcome of such battles. During the Anglo Boer War (1899–1902), two important battles were fought along the Modder River. The first of these battles is known as the Battle of Modder River or Twee Riviere (Two Rivers, if directly translated from Afrikaans), while the other is known as the Battle of Paardeberg.2 These battles were fought in close proximity to one another, both in distance and time. The terrain of the battlefields played a key role in both engagements. This article suggests that the spatial arrangement of the koppies (hills) and the fact that they were much closer to the Boer laager at Paardeberg than at the battle of Modder River played a key role in Cronje’s surrender to the British.