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2002 Tour
By Alan Critchley

In September, I went on a tour of the Anglo Zulu War battlefields organised by Adrian Greaves of the Anglo Zulu War Historical Society. This was a fascinating trip and most enjoyable.

I went to stay with my brother who lives near to Johannesburg for the week before and met the rest of the party at the airport on 15th. Sept. There were a couple of others who did the same. We all met up at the airport and took the coach provided down to Fugitives' Drift Lodge which is owned by Nicky and David Rattray. I knew nobody and felt apprehensive about the trip since we were such a mixed bunch.

View from Fugitives' Drift Lodge with Isandhlwana in the distance

In the party were Adrian and Debbie Greaves, Martin Everett, Ian Knight, Cliff and Katie Stossel, Feda Holme (widow of Norman Holme), Edward and Jenny Darwin, David Hann, Atalan Clifford, David and Suzanne Payne, John Rourke, Jon Ross, Isobel Swan, Col. and Mrs. Duncan, Jason and Janet Askew and Chris Sheane and John McAdam with whom I shared accommodation in the Lodge Cottage.

Other members of the party

On the five hour journey down, we stopped at aMajuba Hill, battle site from the first Boer War and had a picnic lunch. The site is maintained by the local Afrikaaners since they gave the British a good thrashing there.

Mid afternoon arrived at FDL thanks to the safe driving of Anthony our driver for the trip. Later, an excellent dinner by Paul the chef. This was my third visit and was warmly greeted by staff who I had met previously, including the delightful Faith, Grace and Nicholas Nickleby who kept me in drinks.

British memorial in the graveyard at Rorke's Drift
Day two we visited Rorke's Drift with a brief talk from Ian Knight. The local Zulus in their full regalia gave us a dance display. After lunch at the Lodge, we revisited Rorke's Drift and were treated to a gripping talk by David Rattray. We were frozen at the end of it. Most of us not believing him when he warned us to take warm clothing. By now I was getting on well with the others and my initial fears were unfounded. John, Chris and myself shared the 'Cottage' and got on famously.

Site of the hospital at Rorke's Drift as viewed from the Zulu attack from the south

Day three we visited Sihayo's Kraal, site of the first engagement at the start of the War. We moved then to Isandhlwana, first overlooking the site from the point where the main Zulu force first came into view. On the battlefield itself, we had a short talk from Ian Knight, visited the area where the artillery were believed to have been, and the line where the British troops were in their lines.
In the afternoon, most went to the site where Melvill and Coghill were killed and to see their graves and memorial. I bravely went horse riding with a few others in the game reserve and had a fantastic view of the Buffalo River in the gorge below. My horse was called Charlie Raw, possibly named after the state my bottom was in, not being a horse rider.

Isandhlwana and memorial

Me on 'Charlie Raw'

Day four we went to Helpmakaar and saw the British cemetery there. We moved then to Blood River and the amazing circle of 38 or so full size bronze laagered wagons which form the main attraction there. We crossed the river to visit the recently opened Zulu museum (bit of politics here) the plan of which is in the shape of the horns of a buffalo formation. Here we had a picnic lunch.

The afternoon was a visit to the Prince Imperial memorial. There are two graves on the site, troopers Abel and Rogers. Where the hoards of children appear from I have no idea. Perhaps it's in their blood. There were thousands of 'em. Well, dozens.

Bronze wagons at Blood River

Zulu museum at Blood River

Locals ar the Prince Imperial site

The Prince Imperial Memorial

Day five was exhausting. We went to Isandhlwana and the fit (plus me), walked the fugitives' trail with guide Paul Marais who turned out to have malaria and went to hospital. About five miles up and down over rocky terrain in the heat. When we reached the Buffalo River, I swam across alongside Ian Knight who was still wearing his hat. Still, the river cooled us down a bit.

View of Isandhlwana from along the Fugitives' trail

Day six some went on a game and scenic walk. Again I went horse riding (glutton for punishment) and saw many game animals including Giraffes, Zebras, Wilderbeast etc.

In the afternoon we went to the Ngebweni valley where the assembled Zulu army was discovered by Charlie Raw, (not my horse). Again, in the middle of nowhere, we were surrounded by hoards of young children.

We the went to Mangeni Falls, accompanied by David Rattray, where Chelmsford had his camp after he left Isandhlwana with half of his force. Again hoards of children, and dogs.

Ngebweni valley

Sunset at Mangeni Falls

Day seven. Most went to Ulundi, the site of the final battle and saw the memorial there and also visited the memorial to Piet Retief. They dropped me at Isandhlwana on their way so that I could wander around alone. I went to the firing line and the donga where Durnford held the left horn of the Zulus off for a while. I followed the route of his retreat to the camp and position of his final stand. I went up Isandhlwana to Younghusband's last stand with his men and their cairn. Up then to the cave where the last soldier to die made his stand. Across the neck and up then to Black's koppie with it's panoramic views over the whole scene, Isandhlwana, views back to fugitives' drift, the Oskarberg, Russell's battery position, and Chelmsfords route to Mangeni Falls. A highly recommended vantage point.

Younghusband and company cairn

Cave of last survivor at Isandhlwana

Day eight we all attended a church service in the church built on the site of the storeroom at Rorke's Drift. It was very interesting, and the Zulu singers had excellent voices, great baritone section, their tenors weren't as good as the Welsh mind! We had the opportunity to show our ability to match them by singing a hymn. Let's leave that one. They did ask for our printed sheets so no doubt next time we go they will show us how it should be done.

After the service we were treated to a dance display by the local Zulu re enactment group. They were extremely good and the prospect of 4,000 of them made me very thoughtful.
After lunch I again went horse riding, again on Charlie Raw. This time we rode down to the Buffalo River, calling in at Melvill and Coghill's grave on the way.

After the church service

The Zulu dancers

Day nine some of us again visited Isandhlwana. Again I went up Black's koppie with John McAdam and Martin Everett. In the afternoon we visited the school at Rorke's Drift. They had been supplied with 18 computers provided by the Royal artillery or Rotary Club (not sure which) in Britain which were promptly stolen. These have been replaced by the RSA government but they don't have the use of them because of software problems. There is also a community hall which was built by the Royal Artillery, although it's still without electricity. In the evening there was an after dinner talk by David Rattray.

Isandhlwana from Black's koppie

Day ten was the goodbyes. The return drive to Johannesburg and again a stop for lunch at aMajuba. At the airport, I said my goodbyes to people that 10 days earlier had been strangers. They flew to London and I stayed with my brother in Johannesburg for a further two weeks.

All in all, a brilliant time, and most memorable. Can't wait for my next visit in April with the RDVC trip.

Alan Critchley