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The Republican movement crystallised around the figure of Paul Kruger, and tension mounted throughout 1878. A massed rally in December 1878 voted to restore the Republic and demand British withdrawal. Commandos were called out to enforce this if necessary. When a commando confronted the British garrison at Potchelstroom. south of Pretoria, on 16 December, the anniversary of the Boer victory over the Zulus at Blood River in 1838, shots were fired, and the Transvaal War often referred to as the First Boer War - began.

The senior British commander, General Sir George Golley, prepared to march through the Drakensberg passes into the Transvaal, but the Boers had foreseen this, and had occupied the pass at Laing's Nek, blocking the road. Colley moved into northern Natal, and established a camp at Mount Prospect, below Laing's Nek. Colley's command, small even by the standards of British colonial wars, consisted of the HQ and five companies of the 58th; HQ and five companies of the 3/60th; 80 men of the 2/21st; a Naval detachment of 120 men with two Gatlings and three rocket tubes; a mounted detachment (some 70 men, mostly Mounted Infantry of the 38th with a smattering of 1st Dragoon Guards and ASC (Army Service Corps) personnel); four 9pdrs.

Of N / 5 Battery and Mounted Infantry). Most of these troops had served in the Zulu War. but garrison duty in the dull frontier towns was unpopular, and as a result morale was low. This, coupled with a contempt for Boer fighting abilities, was largely to blame for the poor 4 Most ol these troops were armed, uniformed and organised as they had been in the Zulu War: for a full description see Elite 32. British Forces in Zululand. Men of the 2/21 st Regiment garrisoning Fort Commeline, one of a number of small stone forts built on the outskirts of Pretoria, and defended during the Transvaal War.

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