The Zulu War

The Zulu War

The Washing of the Spears

Battlefield ToursHistory

March 2021
(14 Days)

Expert Historian : Ian Knight

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The Zulu War

The Washing of the Spears

Battlefield ToursHistory

Your Holiday Essentials

March 2021
(14 Days)

Return flights from London, internal flight, 3 and 4 star hotels, buffet breakfast, all lunches, 3-course dinner with drinks each evening, all entrance fees and expert guide throughout.

Activity Level: 2/3

Expert Historian: Ian Knight

Use the button below to register your interest in this tour

click here to register your interest

Tour Introduction

This fascinating study of the Anglo-Zulu War takes us to ground that has hardly changed since the memorable events of the period, all set amongst spectacular scenery still populated by Zulu tribes and an abundance of wildlife. As well as visiting battle sites such as Isandlwana, Rorke’s Drift and others that have gone down in British military folklore, we will be discussing the men, armies and tactics of both sides, their problems, successes and failures. We will be in the very capable hands of Ian Knight whose book 'Zulu Rising' received great critical acclaim and adds to his body of meticulously researched books on the war and on Zulu culture.

But this is much more than ‘just’ a battlefield tour: Ian has been visiting South Africa for more than 30 years and knows the ground and its people well. We will be staying in comfortable lodges and hotels, and will have ample opportunity to observe the local people and customs as well as participating in a game drive featuring many of Africa’s best loved animals such as the elephant, rhino, giraffe, zebra, leopard and antelope.

After many years we believe we now have the definitive Zulu War tour nicely balanced with cultural experience – led by an expert who is both an enthusiastic guide and very good company.

Background

First annexed by Britain in the Napoleonic Wars, the Cape of Good Hope was a vital position on the route to the Far East, but South Africa never rivalled India in importance within the Empire. And yet the battles between Queen Victoria's red-coated battalions and the lightly armed Zulu forces have remained vibrant in the memory of both adversaries as few other imperial events have done.

In 1879, with Britain at the height of her imperial power, Lord Chelmsford's three columns marched into Zululand on a punitive expedition to teach the Zulu King Cetshwayo a lesson. Two equally professional armies with totally different fighting traditions and weapons met and fought with startling results. At Isandhlwana the Zulus inflicted the most humiliating defeat of the Victorian era on the over-confident British battalions. Yet hours later the small number of determined and well-led defenders at Rorke's Drift drove off repeated Zulu attacks and captured the public’s admiration. In the end the rifle inevitably triumphed over the spear. It is a story of arrogance and determination, traditions and innovations, but above all amazing individual bravery on both sides. The old Zulu nation was destroyed – but at the cost of a significant dent to British military prestige.

Highlights

  • With Zulu War Historian, Ian Knight
  • Drive up to the site of the old mission station at Eshowe
  • visit King Cetshwayo's grave
  • Visit the battlefield and royal homestead at Ondini
  • 4 night stay at the Ithala Game Reserve
  • Walk up the slopes of Hlobane mountain
  • The battlefield of Khambula
  • To days spent hearing the full story of the battle of Isandlwana
  • A full day at Rorke's Drift
  • Wild African scenery; wildlife game drive
  • Superb game lodge and hotel accommodation
  • Visit Fort Pearson
  • The Buffalo River crossing
  • Introduction to the culture and customs of the Zulu people

What's Included

  • Return flights from London
  • Internal flight(s)
  • 3 & 4 Star Hotels
  • Buffet breakfast each morning
  • A three-course dinner party each evening hosted by your expert historian and tour manager
  • Two drinks i,e wine or beer with dinner each evening and a welcome drink on first evening
  • Dedicated Tour Manager
  • Entrance fees for all site visits
  • Local travel in modern, comfortable, air-conditioned coach
  • Pre tour information booklet
  • Access to the Cultural Experience app
  • Helpful and friendly travel advice
  • The company of like-minded travelers

"I had the holiday / tour of a lifetime. Ian Knight is superb a diamond in fact"

Itinerary

Day 1 - Depart

Overnight flight from London Heathrow to Johannesburg.

Day 2 – Durban

Arrive at Johnannesburg International Airport and transfer to our internal flight to Durban. This day is a light introduction to the war in the coastal districts - we visit the site of Fort Pearson, a large earthwork built by the British on a bluff to command the crossing over the Thukela River. This was the anchor for British operations in the area in 1879, but also offers a stunning view across countryside fought over in two earlier Zulu battles. Below Fort Pearson is the grove of trees where once the 'Ultimatum Tree' stood - the tree under which British representatives presented an ultimatum to the Zulus which resulted in the invasion. Overnight in Prince’s Grant on the Indian Ocean Coast, with time for a brief reflection on the arrival of the first British adventurers to arrive in the area in 1824.

Day 3 – The Battlefields of Gingindlovu and Nyezane

Today we will look at the operations of Col. Pearson's Right Flank (coastal column). We will follow the line of his advance towards the old mission station at Eshowe, stopping to explore the two battles which framed his campaign (Nyezane and Gingindlovu). We will look at the remains of the Eshowe mission, where Pearson was cut off for three months in 1879 - and visit the poignant cemetery nearby. Lunch at Fort Nongqayi historical museum and complex. Overnight at Shakaland - which was originally built as a set for the 1985 TV series 'Shaka Zulu' - which offers an excellent opportunity to understand something of traditional Zulu culture, sample Zulu food, and watch some truly exciting Zulu dancing.

Day 4 - Shakaland

We drive deep into some of the more remote parts of Zulu country to visit the grave of King Cetshwayo (whom the British invasion deposed), and for an overview of the last major Zulu uprising, the 1906 Rebellion, much of which occurred in the vicinity of the grave. We return to Shakaland for lunch, and in the afternoon we are introduced to the culture and customs of the Zulu people and stay a second night.

Day 5 - Ulundi, the final battle of the Zulu War

We leave the Eshowe area and head towards Ulundi and the old Zulu heartland. Her we explore the museum and partially recreated royal homestead of King Cetshwayo at oNdini, and visit the Ulundi battlefield, site of the final battle of the war. Picnic lunch before moving on to Ithala Game Reserve, Louwsburg, where we stay for 4 nights.

Day 6 - Ntombe Spruit

From Ithala we drive out to the little-known battlefield of Ntombe where, in March 1879, a convoy of the 80th Regiment was attacked and over-run. The state of the river permitting, we wade across the stream and explore both sides. Then, on our way back to Ithala, we pick up the story of Col. Wood’s (Left Flank) column and stop to hear an over-view of the confusion and tragedy on Hlobane mountain. the second greatest Zulu defeat of the war.

Day 7 – Hlobane Mountain

If you are fit enough and the weather permits we will walk up the slopes of Hlobane mountain and explore as much of the flat-topped summit as we can (n.b. this is potentially a stiff walk and the tracks are deteriorating) to hear how a British mounted foray was driven off with heavy losses. We will visit the graves of Captain Campbell and Civilian Interpreter Lloyd, two of Wood's aides who were killed in the battle, and whose remains lie high up on the hillside For the less adventurous who don't fancy the hike there are pleasant walks around Ithala camp and time to relax. A game drive is available in the afternoon amid spectacular views; the park has elephant, rhino, giraffe and antelope, although we cant guarantee what you might see!

Day 8 - Khambula

We devote this day to an exploration of the battlefield of Khambula, the turning point of the war. Here, the same Zulu regiments who had triumphed earlier in the war at iSandlwana, and who were encouraged by the Zulu success at Hlobane the day before, attacked Col. Wood's fortified camp at Khambula. For over four hours they repeatedly assaulted the British positions, coming within a few yards of breaching the defences - we will walk over the battlefield, assessing the battle from different vantage-points. Return to Ithala for our last night at the game reserve.

Day 9 –Blood River & Prince Imperial

We travel by way of the Voortrekker Blood River battlefield - where the Boers defeated the Zulus in 1838, and which boasts a truly spectacular monument - to the lonely memorial which commemorates the spot where Prince Louis Napoleon, the Prince Imperial of France - the last legitimate heir to to the Bonaparte throne - was killed in a skirmish. On then to Isandlwana/Rorkes Drift area for a 4 night stay at the wonderfully sited Isandlwana Lodge, which overlooks the battlefield.

Days 10 - Battle of Isandlwana

The first of two days exploring the dramatic Isandlwana campaign in detail. We will drive out to the Ngwebeni valley, where the Zulu army bivouacked before the battle, and where they were discovered by a British patrol. We will then consider the battle from the commanding knoll where the Zulu generals directed their forces. From there we will go to the battlefield itself. We will explore the monuments and hear the story of the fighting from the British perspective - we will then walk out to the British firing lines, and down to the donga defended by Col. Durnford.

Day 11 - Battle of Isandlwana

For those of you fit and willing, we will walk as much of the 'fugitives' trail' as possible, exploring the many British graves lying behind iSandlwana, on the road to Rorke's Drift (those who prefer can spend the morning at leisure in the lodge). After lunch we will drive round to the Natal side of the river to visit the graves of Lts. Melvill and Coghill, who were killed attempting to save the Queen's Colour of the 24th Regiment (NB; this is available to both those who have done the walk and those who chose not to). We will also drive out to the hills where Lord Chelmsford spent the day of the battle, away from the camp, and hear the story of his return.

Day 12 - Rorke’s Drift

A full day at the famous battlefield of Rorke's Drift - and there is much to see! We begin down at the Mzinyathi (Buffalo) River crossing, where the British invasion on this front began, and then visit the mission station for Ian's climactic talk of the tour, the story of the battle. No less than 11 Victoria Crosses were won in the action, and it was the subject of the famous 1964 film, 'Zulu' - there will be plenty of opportunity to discuss the myth and realities of the story! After lunch there will be time to explore the on-site museum, and to wander the battlefield at leisure.

Day 13 – Johannesburg

Our last day - we return by coach to Johannesburg with lunch en-route. Overnight return flight to London.

Day 14 – Arrive

Early morning arrival at London Heathrow.

Recommended Reading List

Ian Knight

Ian Knight

Ian Knight is a writer and historian who is internationally regarded as a leading authority on the nineteenth-century history of the Zulu kingdom, and in particular the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. He has a degree in Afro-Caribbean Studies from the University of Kent and has been researching and writing for more than thirty years. He has published over forty books and monographs, the majority of them on Zulu history and the rest on other nineteenth-century British colonial campaigns.

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Your Holiday Essentials

March 2021
(14 Days)

Return flights from London, internal flight, 3 and 4 star hotels, buffet breakfast, all lunches, 3-course dinner with drinks each evening, all entrance fees and expert guide throughout.

Activity Level: 2/3

Expert Historian: Ian Knight

Use the button below to register your interest in this tour

click here to register your interest

Tour Reviews

Take a look at some of the images taken on our most recent tour

Take a look at some of the images taken on our most recent tour

Take a look at some independent reviews of this tour by previous participants here

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