This facilitated tour with Battlefields guide Anthony Coleman incorporates the three most iconic battlefields in South African history. The duration is from 08h30 to 17h00 (starting from Dundee) and 08h00 to 18h00 (starting from Newcastle). While it involves a fair amount of driving, all the sites are easy to walk.
Blood River, involving the Voortrekker-Zulu Conflict and Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift, which refer to the Anglo-Zulu War, are undoubtedly the three most popular battlefield sites in South Africa. History enthusiasts can visit all three sites in one day from either Newcastle or Dundee.
The stories and history linked to the sites also form part KwaZulu-Natal’s historical journey as they flow through from one set of conflicts to the other.
During this battle, 464 Voortrekker men and their wagons were pitted against 12 000 Zulu warriors of the greatest military nation in Africa. They fought desperately for six hours, from early morning till after midday. With more than 3 000 warriors dead on the field, more wounded and fleeing the battle site, the river ran red with their blood, giving the battle its grim name. Only two of the 464 Voortrekkers were wounded.
Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift
Walk on the ‘nek’ below the strange rock outcrop called Isandlwana where the British set up their camp on 20 January 1879. Follow the events that led to the Zulu attack at midday on 22 January, where the warriors overran the camp in less than three hours, massacring some 1400 Imperial troops, Colonial volunteers and Native levies.
Listen to your guide recalling the night of horror the General and his men spent on the battlefield on their return from the Mangeni.
Next we visit the Mission Station at Rorke’s Drift. This is where approximately 80 men of 2/24th Regiment’s B company, together with a handful of hospital patients and commissariat officers, fought a desperate 12-hour battle against some 4 000 Zulus. They earned 11 Victoria Crosses in the process.
As you walk through the ‘reconstructed’ hospital building, you will gain some insight into the fearful struggle that took place here as the soldiers and patients fought hand-to-hand with the Zulus. After digging their way through the mud walls, they finally exited through a window into the yard leading to the defences located round the store room.