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Date d'inscription : 2005-01-13

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PostSubject: Kop This   Kop This EmptyTue 29 Jun 2010 - 15:00

At the top of the hill, where the graves lie marked and unmarked, the clouds began to close in, the temperatures tumbled and suddenly snow began to fall. Locals say it has not done so for years.
As dusk fell on KwaZulu-Natal province on Tuesday, a sombre fall of snow did not feel inappropriate, because the brow of this 1,400ft historic hill is now a memorial to the dead of a war all but forgotten.

Churchill was a prisoner in the Boer War before escaping and reporting on the battle of Spion Kop
Yet here on the high plains between Johannesburg and Durban, 21 miles from Ladysmith, are the origins of a three-letter word that forever links South Africa with English football. That word is Kop.
Without the Boer War, without the battle of Spion Kop, the great stands at Anfield, Hillsborough and elsewhere would have different names. The battle took place in January 1900 and was a calamitous, bloody defeat for the British Army at the hands of Boer farmers and volunteers. It was a national embarrassment for the British.
Of the 1,700 men from regiments such as the Lancashire Fusiliers who climbed Spion Kop, 300 were taken prisoner. Just how many died is debated, with the number of casualties said to have been downplayed to minimise distress in Britain. It was another war meant to be over by Christmas.

It lasted four years and more than a century later the two lengthy lines of shallow graves on Spion Kop tell part of that story. The ordinary 'Tommies' who died had come from a British winter and were dressed for it.
They fell in an African summer of 40-degree heat. Observing memorials to the dead, it felt poignant that the England squad here is captained by a man of Liverpool, a man of Anfield, Steven Gerrard. Near the top of the list of those lost by the Lancashire Fusiliers was a Captain Hicks.
But there were three other names from this battle more famous. Even at a time of Empire, it was not all propaganda. News of Spion Kop - Dutch for 'Spy Hill' - got home fast and it became known as the 'acre of massacre'.
One man responsible for many of the reports was a young journalist called Winston Churchill, working for the London Morning Post.
Churchill, who had just failed to get elected to Parliament in Oldham, described the aftermath at the top of the hill like this: 'Corpses lay here and there. Many of the wounds were of a horrible nature. The shallow trenches were choked with dead and wounded.'

Churchill referred to 'massive clouds of orange light . . . men being blown to atoms.' In that sense the battle was a precursor of the First World War and it is claimed that it was here, not on the Somme, that the phrase 'lions led by donkeys' originated. Argumentative and incompetent generals wer e blamed. But there was credit for the Boer leader, Louis Botha, who 10 years later would become South Africa's first prime minister.
There was also praise for a young Indian lawyer, who formed the ambulance corps and was a stretcher-bearer at Spion Kop. His name? Mohandas - later Mahatma - Gandhi. That Gandhi and Churchill could be on the same African hill on the same day beggars belief. But it was the brutal nature of the defeat that carried resonance in Britain. With professional football surging in popularity, there was an unofficial Kop at Woolwich Arsenal's Manor Ground in Plumstead.
But it was when Liverpool constructed a huge ash and cinder bank in 1906 on Walton Breck Road that took Anfield's capacity to 60,000 that the sports editor of the Liverpool Echo, Ernest Edwards, came up with Spion Kop. It had a visual similarity, and many Liverpudlians had been in the Fusiliers.
The term Spion Kop stuck. Kop has been with us ever since and is as famous around the globe as Maracana, San Siro or Bernabeu. Liverpool are hugely popular in modern South Africa and at Spion Kop Lodge there is an annual gathering of Reds, though they come to hang scarves at a more recent memorial, for Hillsborough. The names of the 96 killed as a result of that 1989 disaster are here.
There is a poster called 'Spion Kop' too. Beneath it is a picture of two men - Gerrard and Kenny Dalglish. The past connects.

I made the people happy for a while
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