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The Zulu Memorial at Blood River  

The spectacular Zulu Memorial at Blood River showing the shields of the different chiefs.

 

 

 

One always likes to think of one’s country as a peaceable entity, and one’s fellows as a smart friendly race that brought civilisation to a waiting world. And yet history can dent that image, providing very different viewpoints as was brought home to us last weekend. Even though this was the era of ‘glorious’ expansion of the British Empire, it is sobering to realise that we are talking of events of only just over 100 years ago!

Rorke's Drift where the river was crossed

Rorke’s Drift where the river was crossed

Fugitive's Drift

Fugitive’s Drift

A guided tour of the battlefields near Ladysmith revealed a litany of ferocious engagements with different foes, primarily the Zulus, the Boers, and some British generals probably ought to be added. For even making allowance for the lack of communications at the time, the petty rivalries and studied incompetence are hard to comprehend.

One of the wagons showing the wooden defences at Blood RiverOne of the wagons showing the wooden defences at Blood River The life-sized bronze replica kraal.

But more even than this was the ghastly scale of the loss of life, with ‘wins’ rapidly being overtaken by subsequent negotiated settlements that rendered the battles as largely pointless. Tragic last stands and heroic resistance against all the odds, interspersed with numerous cemeteries and monuments, all in a huge and spectacular landscape.

Evidence of the Barmy Army's visit to Isandlwana

Evidence of the Barmy Army’s visit to Isandlwana

Zulu memorial at Isandlwana depicting the necklace given to the bravest warriors.

Zulu memorial at Isandlwana depicting the necklace given to the bravest warriors.

British history will recount the campaigns and the achievements, but hearing it from the viewpoints of the other parties and blending in the challenges of following decades make for sobering reflection. More than anything, it brings home the bravery and determination of so many different sides, making the monuments all the more poignant.

We ignore the lessons of history at our peril, lest they be repeated!

Another spectacular Zulu memorial - at Rorke's Drift

The spectacular Zulu memorial – at Rorke’s Drift

The British burial ground on Spion Kop.

The British burial ground on Spion Kop

Our guide was Ken Gillings, a very learned historian who really brought the history and battles to life. Highly recommended!  We were delighted that Niamh and Fred were able to come too – Fred being the real historian among the four of us!

The Klinkenbergs and Westwoods on the original granite monument at Blood River

The Klinkenbergs and Westwoods on the granite monument at Blood River

Ken Gillings with his stick(!) at Isandlwana. His war cries and acting was superb.

Ken Gillings at Isandlwana. His war cries and were superb!

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This entry was posted on March 13, 2016 by in Africa and tagged , , , , , .
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