The Battlefield Route in KwaZulu-Natal is a historical place where most significant battles were fought on South African soil. This is a truly rich experience. The battlefields are well-preserved and have a conspicuous atmosphere and the information centres or tourists can call to mind vivid pictures of the tough battles fought here. Many of the battlefield sites have remained unchanged since the time of the battle and thus have no facilities.
For many parts of the world, including South Africa, the later part of the 19th century was a time of great conflict and confrontation. KwaZulu-Natal particularly saw much of this.
The British were at the height of their empire-building fervour, the Zulu nation was one of the most powerful in Africa, and the Boers had shaken off the dust of British colonialism, and set off into the interior to take control of their own destiny. If you thought this may sound like a recipe for disaster you’d be right! Not Boer, Brit nor Zulu came away unscathed, as there were scuffles, stand-up battles, sieges and ambushes by all, on all.
The stories are truly fascinating and the battlefields themselves are remarkably well preserved. It is not an imitation of the battlefields or a recreation of the imperialism which took place, nor is it a celebration of all things pugnacious. Take a guided tour where you are captivated in the setting. You can stand on the very spot where history was made while hearing how the story goes – how decisions were made, be they good or bad. Hear about the anguish and great courage, the victory and defeat and of course the inevitable death and obliteration. You can only but wonder about the futility of war. These battles include Voortrekker-Zulu war (1836-1852), the Anglo-Zulu war (1879), two Anglo-Boer wars, one in 1881, and the big one, otherwise known as the South African war (1899-1902), and the Bambata Rebellion (1906). If you know nothing about these wars, do yourself a favour and visit the battlefields, where you are guaranteed to be absolutely fascinated and riveted by the stories told and monuments to be seen!
This is an internationally renowned area of South Africa and can associated with terms such as Zulu wars, Shaka, Isandlwana, Rorkes Dirft, Colenso, Spioenkop, Ladysmith, Dundee, Churchill, Blood River, Boers and many many more. A tourist destination for those who enjoy being mentally stimulated.
Talana, the first battle of the war and the first time that British troops wore Khaki uniforms in the field, Elandslaagte, fought in a raging thunderstorm and where the Indian stretcher carrier did sterling work, and Ladysmith – the siege of this town created an unparalleled interest world wide. The Talana museum is outside the town of Dundee and situated on part of the Talana battlefield. There is a self-guided historical trail across the battlefield starting from the museum.
You can also find The Red Soldier, which is the site of the British defeat at Isandlwana on 22 January 1879 and then the heroic stand by a handful of men at Rorke’s Drift later the same day and through the night.
These are but minor examples. Now, if you don’t know who we talk about when referring to Shaka, do yourself a favour and visit these battlefields! You will be much better off and well educated as friendly guides talk you through this marvellous place. The legacy of KwaZulu-Natal’s critical, blood-soaked conflicts today live peacefully reconciled in this fascinating region’s myriad Battlefield Sites, Historic Towns, National Monuments and Museums – amptly named the KwaZulu-Natal Battlefields. A truly memorable South African experience!