Towards the close of the 19th century, Britain tried to gain control over the Transvaal and this led to the declaration of war in October 1899. Boer troops moved into the Colony of Natal and laid siege to the town of Ladysmith, where a large number of British troops were stationed. The Battle of Spioenkop took place on the 23rd and 24th January 1900 and was the scene of the bloodiest and most futile of the four battles fought to relieve Ladysmith. The British had captured the summit of Spioenkop in the early hours of the 24th. Thick mist surrounded the summit and the British entrenched in the centre instead of the forward slopes. When the mist lifted they realised that they were exposed to the surrounding hills. Boer rifle fire, supported by artillery fire, rained down on the summit with deadly accuracy. Despite British reinforcements it became clear that they would not be able to hold out and they started to withdraw. Unbeknown to the British, the Boers had also started to withdraw. A Boer party later discovered that the only occupants of the Hill were the dead and dying, and quickly reoccupied the hilltop.