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Our destination the famous Anglo Zulu Battlefield sites of Kwa-Zulu Natal
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As we entered the gates into the Fugitives Drift Reserve we realised that this was going to be a unique experience.

 

Our destination the famous Anglo Zulu Battlefield sites of Kwa-Zulu Natal

 

Absolutely nothing prepared us for the emotionally stirring stories of the battles of Isandlwana and Rorkes drift which took place on 22nd January 1879 and brought to life in front of your eyes by expert Battlefield historians.

Our 3 night stay at Fugitives Drift Lodge was planned so that we could visit the battlefields in the order that the battles took place.

We were told about the battle formations of the Zulu Warriors at Isandlwana by our Guide Joseph, himself a Zulu, who offered an unbiased account of the actions on both sides which directly lead to the Battle. The story unfolds as we stood in the early morning sunshine on the hilltop overlooking the sphinx shaped Hill of Isandlwana where Zulu warriors mounted their attack on unprepared British Troops, a sorry tale of British Command who underestimated Zulu capability in an attempt to force them to fight, and a proud nation of warriors who wanted a negotiated peace. Every one of us who had seen the 1960’s film Zulu starring Michael Caine could recollect the sounds of the chanting and the assegai spears being beaten on the Shields as the Zulu’s waited for the order to attack. Poignant white painted stone cairns dotting the landscape each marking the graves of six to eight solders buried where they died.

In the evening we took a short walk within the grounds of the Fugitives Drift Lodge to the graves of Melville and Coghill who heroically tried to save the Queens colours as the battle was lost, their stoic actions and desperate attempt to cross the Buffalo River and escape to safety recounted to us from a bluff high above the swollen River.

The British defeat at the battle for Isandlwana lead directly to the defence of the Mission Station & Hospital defended by a handful of troops at Rorke’s Drift as an army of 4000 Zulu Warriors fought to drive out a Garrison of 152 soldiers of the British Empire. The fierce and bloody conflict led to the award of 11 Victoria Crosses, more in a single engagement than in any other battle before or since.

Rob Caskie our guide for the afternoon at Rorkes Drift, who studied under the world famous battlefields historian David Rattray, recounted the courageous battle and the brave actions of so few soldiers to save their injured comrades and ultimately themselves against all odds. We heard numerous accounts of outstanding bravery, the story of 21 year old Private John Williams 2nd battalion, 24th Regiment of Foot who succeeded in breaking through four  partition walls of the Hospital and dragging 8 patients to safety, his hands never recovering from his terrible injuries, and Private Alfred Henry Hook “Hook the cook” also of 2nd battalion 24th Regiment of Foot who successfully held the Zulus at bay in the tiny hospital wards, both soldiers  awarded the Victoria Cross for their actions.

The atmosphere as we all stood outside the ‘hospital and stores’ was subdued, everyone in our Party engrossed in the battle as it unfolded , each one of us moved to tears as the stories of bravery were told.

To get to the Lodge we had driven from Durban Airport for about 3 hours on a reasonable motorway and then a further hour on very bumpy dirt roads at times hoping that the journey through Kwa-Zulu Natal was going to be worthwhile! It was.

From our arrival at Fugitives Drift Lodge we were greeted like old friends, immediately on first name terms with Zulu staff, historian guides and Nicky Rattray the owner.

Meals are taken either in the atmospheric Lounge with fascinating Army Memorabilia taking up every available space or the modern Harford Library with stunning views of the Buffalo River far below. Very British fare is served at a long table where guests and guides enjoy the chance to discuss the events of the day, ask questions about the history of the area, catch up on Cricket scores and even tell a few jokes in very convivial surroundings! The Lodge is very comfortable, each room offering a large bedroom, oversized bathroom and a stoop with a view of the plains and Isandlwana Mountain as the backdrop.

We arranged the visit to the battlefields as part of a much bigger Tailormade itinerary to South Africa incorporating Cape Town, the wine region and Garden Route. We spent two spectacular weeks exploring the beautiful region, partaking of very fine food and delightful wine offering terrific value for money. Having enjoyed a ‘big5’ Safari in a malaria free game reserve on the Eastern Cape we flew to Durban where we collected our hire car and drove to Fugitives Drift for 3 nights. Having enjoyed The Cape we were hopeful that Fugitives Drift would live up to expectations, we were not disappointed. Our visit to the Anglo-Zulu Battlefields was a highlight of our trip.

A leisurely 5 hour drive took us through spectacular scenery of the foothills of the Drakensburg Mountains and over Botha’s Pass straight into Johannesburg Airport for the evening flight home.

Our visit to Fugitives Drift will remain in our memories forever.

Tailormade Itineraries arranged by Sue Alexander

Eagle Executive Travel

www.eagletravel.co.uk