Spion Kop: battlefied raconteur invited to deliver Royal Geographic Society lecture

2010-08-31 00:00

RAYMOND Heron, battlefield lecturer and raconteur based at Spio­n Kop, has been honoured with an invitation to give a lecture at the prestigious Royal Geogra­phic Society in London on September 16.

Heron’s lecture will focus on the roles of Mahatma Gandhi, Sir Winston Churchill, General Louis Botha and General Sir Redvers Buller at the battle of Spion Kop that was fought on January 23 and 24, 1900, during the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902.

All four were present during the battle — Botha and Buller commanding the Boer and British forces respectively; Churchill as a newspaper correspondent and Gandhi leading the stretcher-bearers of the Indian Ambulance Corps.

Proceeds from the lecture will go to the Volunteer Stretcher-Bearers Memorial Trust to erect a monument on the battlefield in commemoration of the role of the stretcher-bearers during the war.

Heron owns and runs Spion Kop Lodge with his wife Lynette. The lodge opened 12 years ago, in time for the centenary of the Anglo-Boer War.

“Since then interest has been growing and the number of visitors to the Spion Kop battlefield has increased,” says Heron.

“When we started there were between 300 and 500 visitors a year to the battlefield. Now there are in excess of 9 000 a year.”

As well as military history buffs, members of the various British regiments with connections to the famous battle have visited the battlefield. “The number of visitors from the regiments has reduced since the conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan,” says Heron.

“Another source of interest has been football fans. Many of the soldiers who fought and died on Spion Kop were from Lancashire and many had football connections. The stand at Liverpool’s Anfield Park is called the Kop in memory of those who fell in the battle, and 23 other clubs have stands known as The Kop.”

During the World Cup many football fans, including Liverpool supporters, stayed at the lodge and walked the battlefield.

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