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One Hundred Years On


Jul 22 Baden-Powell selects a site covering the exit from Nkantola for Fort Usher No 3 - later to be known to Boy Scouts as (the site of) Baden-Powell's Tree. He says of this fort “at a spot where there was a mighty thorn tree which would serve for a ‘Crow’s Nest’ or raised platform from which a look out man could see well in every direction, and where a Maxim gun would command the whole of the ground in front of the fort”.

Jul 22 - 26 Baden-Powell is tasked with making reconnaissance’s of the Mtchabezi area, to assess rebel strengths and locations1.

Jul 31 The 1 000 man column of the MRF is led by Baden-Powell into the eastern Matopos. He stays in front of the main column scouting the way ahead.

cape boys in the matopos
Cape Boys baring their feet for the atttack
The rocks were so smooth and steep that the Cape Boys took off their boots to get a better foothold.
During the action of 5 August 1896.
matabeles theory and practice
The Theory... and practice of war
A Matabele officer's lecture interrupted by an overhead shell, as seen through my telescope.

Aug 5 The column attacks Sikhombo Mguni’s stronghold, and Baden-Powell leads a small column onto Tshingengoma in pursuit of the regrouping AmaNdebele. He is unable to pursue them any further as he considers his force insufficient and bemoans the fact that he is “tied by the leg from want of men”. On the retreat back to Sugar Bush Camp that afternoon, he is in command of the rearguard which sets fire to “everything inflammable” en route, to prevent the AmaNdebele from getting to close.

Aug 6 Baden-Powell leads a party of 100 men on a foray down the Tuli Road, and captures a number of cattle.

1 Baden-Powell was called “Mpeesa” (Ndebele. Mpisi) by the AmaNdebele - he took enormous pleasure in this nom-de-guerre which he translated as ‘the wolf who never sleeps but sneaks around at night”. A more correct translation of this is, of course, that he was regarded by his opponents as a Hyena, one of the more contemptible animals in Ndebcle tradition and folklore.

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A few miles up the road from Gordon Park is "BPs Lookout" - Fort-Usher plaque.
This is the site of the Lookout at Fort Usher No 3 established in 1896 by Lord Robert Baden-Powell founder of the Boy Scout Movement. Errected by the Girl Guide Association of Matabeleland.

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Acknowledgements:-Dave Anderson
Colin Anderson