Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Kop: 1964, 1973 and 1994

I am posting this for my Liverpool-worshipping brother's birthday. This is as close as I can get you to The Kop this season.

link to 1994 video

wikipedia: 100 Players Who Shook the Kop

Origin of the term "Kop" (from wikipedia):

Spion Kop (or Kop for short) is the name for a number of terraces and stands at sports stadia; so named due to their steep nature, resembling a hill near Ladysmith, South Africa that was the scene of the Battle of Spion Kop in the Second Boer War.


"The Afrikaans name for the battle," writes Liverpool Daily Post columnist Mike Chapple, "is Spioenkop; spioen for spy or look out and kop meaning hill or outcropping."


Anfield Iron said...

You are a right Scouse goddess. I believe I will watch Breaker Morant in your honor. Or perhaps fish and chips.

Memo to Tom Hicks: Stop f#%*king with my Reds. Shut up and be an owner. More Dan Rooney, less Mark Cuban. Thank you.

You'll Never Walk Alone
R. Rogers/O. Hammerstein II

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark

At the end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of the lark

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on walk on with hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone
You'll never walk alone

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark

At the end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of the lark

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on walk on with hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone
You'll never walk

You'll never walk
You'll never walk alone.

Anfield Iron said...

In honor of Thomas A. Flannery:

Battle of Spion Kop

From Wikipedia

Battle of Spion Kop
Part of Second Boer War

Date 23-24 January 1900
Location: Spioenkop, 38 km west-south-west of Ladysmith
Result Boer victory

Great Britain Boers
Charles Warren
Alexander Thorneycroft Louis Botha
11,000 infantry
2,200 cavalry
36 field guns 6,000 men
Casualties & losses
383 killed
1,000 wounded
300 captured 58 killed
140 wounded
Second Boer War
Talana Hill – Elandslaagte – Belmont – Modder River – Stormberg – Magersfontein – Colenso – Spion Kop – Kimberley – Bloody Sunday – Paardeberg – Ladysmith – Sanna's Post – Mafeking – Rooiwal
The Battle of Spion Kop (Afrikaans: Slag van Spioenkop) was fought about 38 km (21 miles) west-south-west of Ladysmith on the hilltop of Spioenkop(1) along the Tugela River, Natal in South Africa. The battle was fought between Boer and British forces from 23-24 January 1900 as part of the Second Boer War, and resulted in a famous British defeat.

The campaign

Spion KopGeneral Sir Redvers Buller, VC, commander of the British forces in Natal, was attempting to relieve a British force besieged in Ladysmith. The Boers under General Louis Botha held the Tugela River against him. Although Botha's men were outnumbered, they were mostly equipped with modern Mauser rifles and up-to-date field guns, and had carefully entrenched their positions. In late December, 1899, Buller made a frontal assault on the Boer positions at the Battle of Colenso. The result was a heavy British defeat.

Over the next few weeks, Buller received further reinforcements, and also acquired sufficient carts and transport to operate away from the railway line which was his main supply line. Buller delegated control of his main force to General Sir Charles Warren (although he continued to interfere by sending orders directly to Warren's subordinates). Warren's force numbered 11,000 infantry, 2,200 cavalry, and 36 field guns. The British now marched westward to cross the Tugela upstream of Colenso, but their march was easily visible to the Boers, and so slow that by the time they arrived at the first practicable ford at Potgieter's Drift, the Boers had entrenched a new position covering it and another frontal assault would be necessary.

Leaving an infantry brigade under Major General Lyttelton at Potgieter's Drift, Warren now marched further west to Trichardt's Drift, where he crossed the Tugela unopposed. His mounted troops under Lord Dundonald had the opportunity to reach Ladysmith, but Warren called them back to act as baggage guards and as his own personal escort.

Warren finally sent part of an infantry division under Lieutenant General Francis Clery against the Boer right flank positions on a plateau named Tabanyama. The Boers had once again entrenched a new position on the reverse slopes of the plateau, and Clery's attack made no progress.

Having been thwarted in moves against the Boer left flank (at Potgieter's Drift) and right flank, Warren now prepared to capture Spion Kop in the centre of Botha's lines.

The kop

Spion Kop was the largest hill in the region, being over 1,400 feet in height. It formed a major bastion of the Boers' defensive line that blocked Buller's advance to Ladysmith, where some 13,000 British troops were besieged. The Kop was only 20 miles from Ladysmith and possession of the hill would allow the British artillery to dominate the surrounding area. Spion Kop was therefore seen as the "Key to Ladysmith".

The British assault

On the night of 23 January, Warren sent a force under Major General Edward Woodgate to secure Spion Kop. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Thorneycroft was selected to spearhead the initial assault.

The British climbed up the hill at night and in dense mist. They surprised the smaller Boer piquet around 15 men and drove them off the Kop at bayonet point. Of the 15 men in the piquet, one was mortally wounded and his grave lies on the hill till this day. A small number of British Sappers began to entrench the position (whilst almost 1,000 soldiers stood around idle) and Major General Woodgate communicated with General Warren of the success of taking the hilltop, but the good cheer only lasted until the fog lifted.

Dead British soldiers lying in trenches at Spion Kop; photographed by a Boer after the battle
British soldiers lie dead on the battlefield after the Battle of Spion Kop, 24th January, 1900With the dawn of the new day the British discovered that they had the smaller and lower part of the hilltop of Spion Kop, while the Boers occupied higher ground on three sides of the British position. The British had no direct knowledge of the topography of the summit and the darkness and fog had compounded the problem. To make matters worse, the British trenches were inadequate for all defensive purposes. Because the summit of the kop was mostly hard rock, the trenches were at most 40cm deep and provided an exceptionally poor defensive position - the British infantry in the trenches could not see over the crest of the plateau and the Boers were able to fire down the length of the crescent-shaped trench from the adjacent peaks.

The Boer Generals were not unduly concerned by the news that the British had taken the Kop. They knew that their artillery on Tabanyama could be brought to bear on the British position and that rifle fire could be brought to bear from parts of the Kop not yet occupied by the British. However, the Boer Generals also knew that sniping and artillery alone would not be sufficient to dislodge the British - and the Boer position was desperately vulnerable. If the British immediately established positions on Conical Hill and Aloe Knoll (the two unoccupied kojes on the kop itself) they could bring their artillery to bear on Tabanyama, threatening the key Boer positions there. More importantly, there was a risk that the British would storm Twin Peaks (Drielingkoppe) to the eastern end of Spion Kop. And if Twin Peaks fell, the British would be able to turn the Boers' left flank and annihilate the main Boer encampment. The Boer Generals realised that Spion Kop would have to be stormed, and stormed soon, if disaster were to be averted.

The Boers began to bombard the British position, dropping shells from the adjacent plateau of Tabanyama at a rate of ten rounds per minute. Meanwhile, Commandant Henrik Prinsloo of the Carolina Commando rose to the challenge of taking Aloe Knoll and Conical Hill with some 88 men while around 300 Burghers, mainly of the Pretoria Commando, climbed the Kop to launch a frontal assault on the British position. The British Lee-Metford and Lee-Enfield Rifles were no less deadly that the Boer Mausers however, and the frontal assault ended in a bloody repulse.

A kind of stalemate now settled over the Kop. The Boers had failed to drive the British off the Kop but the surviving men of the Pretoria and Carolina Commando now held a firing line on Aloe Knoll from where they could enfilade the British position and the British were now under sustained bombardment from the Boer artillery. The British had failed to exploit their initial success and the initiative now passed to the Boers.

Morale began to sag on both sides as the extreme heat, exhaustion and thirst took hold. On one hand the Boers on the Kop could see large numbers of Burghers on the plains below who refused to join the fight. The sense of betrayal, the bloody failure of the frontal assault, the indiscipline inherent in a civilian army and the apparent security of the British position proved too much for some. They began to abandon their hard-won positions. On the other hand the bombardment began to take its toll on the British. Major General Woodgate fell mortally wounded. Three more senior British Officers fell in quick succession. Officers and men from different units were intermingled, and the British were now leaderless, confused and pinned down.

By mid-morning, for both sides the question was: Could the Officers rally the troops and prevent a wholesale surrender?

Colonel Malby Crofton took charge and asked for reinforcements. Warren had already dispatched two further regular battalions and the Imperial Light Infantry (raised in Durban) were on their way up to the firing line. Warren refused to launch an attack on Tabanyama and barred his guns from firing on Aloe Knoll, believing this to be part of the British position. Thorneycroft now replaced Crofton as commander on the Kop.

A dead Boer sniper
British Memorial at the battle-siteWinston Churchill was a journalist stationed in South Africa and he had also been commissioned as a Lieutenant in the South African Light Horse by General Buller during the Boer War after his well-publicised escape from Boer captivity. Churchill acted as a courier to and from Spion Kop and General Buller's HQ and made a statement about the scene: "Corpses lay here and there. Many of the wounds were of a horrible nature. The splinters and fragments of the shells had torn and mutilated them. The shallow trenches were choked with dead and wounded."

At this point the situation proved too much for the Lancashire Fusiliers who attempted to surrender to the Boers. Thorneycroft personally intervened and ordered his men back. A vicious point-blank firefight ensued but the British line had been saved. At this crucial point, two battalions sent by Lyttelton from Potgieters's drift attacked and took Twin Peaks.

The aftermath

The Boers were shattered by the loss of Twin Peaks and abandoned the Kop as darkness fell. Unknown to Thorneycroft, the battle was as good as won. But Thorneycroft's nerve was also shattered. After sixteen hours on the Kop doing the job of a Brigadier General, he ordered a retreat after reporting that the soldiers had no water, and ammunition was running short. At the same time, Buller sent Lyttelton strict orders to recall his troops from Twin Peaks.

When morning came, the Boer Generals were astonished to see two Burghers on the top of Spion Kop, waving their slouch-hats in triumph. The only British on the Kop were the dead and the dying.

The British suffered 243 fatalities during the battle, many were buried in the trenches where they fell. Approximately 1,250 British were either wounded or captured. The Boers suffered 335 casualties of which 68 were dead. Commandant Prinsloo Commando suffered a loss of 55 out of his 88 men.

The British retreated back over the Tugela but the Boers were too weak to follow up their success. Buller managed to rally his troops; Ladysmith would be taken by the British later in the war.

Note about the name

Although the common English name for the battle is Spion Kop throughout the Commonwealth and its historic literature, the official South African English and Afrikaans name for the battle is Spioenkop, which is in common use in South Africa and is the correct English spelling of the borrowed Afrikaans name; spioen means "spy" or "look-out", and kop means "hill" or "outcropping". Another variant that is sometimes found is the combination into Spionkop.

The name Spionkop originates from Dutch instead of Afrikaans. Spion (and not Spioen) is the Dutch word for "spy". Until the 1920s Dutch was still the official language of the Boers, especially in its written form.


The Spion Kop at Anfield — home of the English football team Liverpool — is named in honour of the battle. The east side of Sheffield United's Bramall Lane, built on a hill, is also called "Spion Kop", as is the east side of their city rivals Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough Stadium. The south side of Birmingham City's St. Andrews ground is also known as the "Spion Kop". Similarly, Plymouth Argyle named a corner of Home Park 'the Spion Kop' in honour of the battle, but the disabled facility was torn down during Phase I regeneration of the football ground. The lower part of the South Stand at Leicester City's old Filbert Street ground was also called the 'Spion Kop'. The Terraced South end of Chesterfield's Recreation Ground is also named after the battle and used to be just a grass bank.
A Terrace at Wigan Rugby League Football Club's former ground, Central Park, was also named the 'Spion Kop' which was named this a few years after the ground was built, making some believe that this is the "original" kop.
There is a Kop stand at Windsor Park, home ground of Irish Football Association side Linfield F.C., and also of the Northern Ireland football team.
The village of Spion Kop near Mansfield, Nottinghamshire was named in honour of the battle.
Similarly, in places like Australia there are numerous hills bearing the name "Spion Kop". A railway hill in the Melbourne yards is called Spion Kop, (Gerald A Dee,"A Lifetime of Railway Photography" in Photographer Profile Series, Studfield, 1998, p. 20) and at least two hills (one near Kilmore) also have the same name.

"The Battle of Spion Kop" was an episode of the Goon Show radio program, originally broadcast on December 29, 1958. In this episode, the battle receives "very bad reviews in the press", and is made more musical to make it more popular.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was a British stretcher-bearer at the battle.