top of page
  • Writer's pictureGeorge Castrioti

January 28th, 1881 - The Battle of Laing's Nek

Conflict: The First Boer War

Combatants: Boers vs. British

Location: South Africa

Outcome: Boer victory

The British Empire annexed the Transvaal (South Africa) in 1877. After years of simmering anger and animosity, the Dutch Boers rose in rebellion against the British. When the Boers besieged the British garrison, General Sir George Colley set out with 1,000 soldiers to defeat the Boer threat. Boer commander Petrus Joubert, with 2,000 soldiers, met the British detachment in the Laing's Nek pass in the Drakensberg mountains.

Laing's Nek by Elizabeth Thompson (Lady Butler)

When Colley encountered the Boers holding the pass on January 28th of 1881, he seriously underestimated both their strength and their ability. He ordered his soldiers to attack the Boer positions and was thrown back. The British lost 200 men. The Boers suffered killed and wounded amounting to 41.

Laings Nek by Sidney Edward Paget

Points of Interest:

  • The Boers were successful in fending off British attempts to subdue them. Great Britain recognized the South African Republic in April of 1881. But a second war would be fought with the wars within twenty years.

  • Colley would again underestimate Boer abilities at Mujaba Hill a month following Laing's Nek. In failing to order his troops to entrench, Colley and 91 of his men were killed in a Boer counterattack.

  • Although he was considered a timid military leader and hated violence, Petrus Joubert consistently defeated his British enemies in both the First and Second Boer Wars. Joubert ran for president of the South African Republic but was defeated.

Sir George Colley by an unknown photographer
Petrus Joubert by an unknown photographer



Dupuy, Trevor N., Johnson, Curt, & Bongard, David L. (1992). The Harper's Encyclopedia of Military Biography. New York: Castle Books (HarperCollins).

Dupuy, R. Ernest & Dupuy, Trevor N. (1993). The Harper's Encyclopedia of Military History. New York: HarperCollins.

Eggenberger, David (1985). An Encyclopedia of Battles: Accounts of Over 1,560 Battles from 1479 B.C. to the Present. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page