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KwaZulu Natal is rich in Anglo-Zulu military history and there are many sites around the country that bear witness to brutal battles that raged between the British Army and the Zulu warriors.
This full day tour takes you on a fascinating journey through the lush countryside to the battlefields of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift. A knowledge guide will regale tales of heroism on both sides and bring to life the struggles and tribulations of soldiers who fought for country and honour.
- Battle of Rorke’s Drift
- Battle of Isandlwana
|DEPARTURE/RETURN LOCATION||Pick up and drop off available at no extra charge from various Durban beachfront hotels. Pick up and drop off from hotels in other suburbs in Durban available on request at an extra charge
Tour duration and collection times may vary depending on route taken and traffic
|DEPARTURE TIME||6:45am Departs Saturday (except 25-26 December and 1 January)|
|WEAR||Comfortable athletic clothing, hiking boots, hat, jacket and sunscreen.|
Battle of Isandlwana
The Battle of Isandlwana was fought on 22 January 1879 and was the first major encounter in the Anglo-Zulu War between the British Empire and the Zulu Kingdom. A Zulu force of some 20 000 warriors attached a portion of the British main column which consisted of about 1 800 British, colonial and native troops and about 400 civilians.
The Zulu force outnumbered the British column but they were equipped mainly with traditional assegai iron spears and cow-hide shields and just a few muskets and old rifles. The British soldiers were armed with Martini-Henry breech-loading rifles and two 7-pound artillery pieces as well as a rocket battery.
The Zulus overwhelmed the poorly-led and badly-deployed British column, killing over 1 300 soldiers. The Zulu army lost around a thousand of their own warriors. It was a massive victory for the Zulus and a humiliating defeat for the British Empire. It spurred British resilience and led to the colonialists taking a much more aggressive approach to the Anglo-Zulu War, ultimately leading to a heavily-enforced second invasion and the destruction of King Cetshwayo’s hopes of negotiating a peace settlement.
Battle of Rorke’s Drift
The Battle of Rorke’s Drift was fought on the same day as the Battle of Isandlwana. At a small drift on the Natal border of Zululand, a small British garrison of 140 men fought for 12 hours to repel repeated attacks by up to 4 000 Zulu warriors. May of the British men were sick and wounded.
A regiment of the British Army had taken over a station run by a missionary and his daughter and turned it into a supply depot and hospital under the command of Lieutenant John Chard and his subordinate Gonville Bromhead. With a large contingent of Zulu warriors fast approaching the station, the commanding officers made a courageous decision not to abandon their wounded and sick soldiers and stayed to defend the makeshift hospital against the Zulu assault.
They prepared their position by stacking heavy sacks of mealie corn and biscuit boxes. The Zulus appeared in force at about 4pm and repeatedly attacked the small garrison in successive waves. The mistake the Zulus made was setting fire to the hospital’s thatched roof as it meant the British soldiers could see the warriors approaching and could fire at them at will. Under fire of 20 000 Martini-Henry rounds and numerous hand-to-hand assaults with bayonets, the Zulus eventually withdrew at dawn when they saw Chelmsford’s force approaching the drift.
Eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded in recognition of the men’s bravery and loyalty to their fellow sick and wounded soldiers; seven of which went to the 24th Regiment, the most medals ever awarded to one regiment for a single action.
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