Battlefields

Blood River, South Africa © Renier Maritz
Zululand is the ancestral home of the Zulu people. The site of many a bloody battle between the British, the Boers, and the Zulus during the 19th century, it abounds in significant towns, memorials, and battle sites that form part of the historic Battlefields Route.

This land once encompassed the Zulu kingdom led by legendary Shaka Zulu, and then by his half-brother Dingaan, who clashed with both the British and Afrikaner settlers in what are today recorded as some of the most important battles in South African history.

Over a period of about 70 years, the plains, rolling hills, and river valleys of this region saw numerous brutal, blood-soaked conflicts over land ownership, political independence, and colonial domination.

The first major battle, and one of the most terrible, took place in 1838 between the Voortrekkers and the Zulus in what became known as the Battle of Blood River. Then followed the Anglo-Zulu War in 1879 in response to British dissatisfaction regarding the increasing strength of the Zulus, and the battles that took place at Isandlwana Hill and Rorke's Drift are remarkable for their tales of heroism and brutality.

In 1880 and again in 1889, anti-British sentiment among the disgruntled Voortrekkers, as well as a desire for Afrikaaner independence, led to the two Anglo-Boer wars, now collectively called the South African War. This captured the attention of the world and resulted in heavy loss of life among both the Boers and the British. The devastating siege of Ladysmith and the Battle of Spioenkop are among the most famous battles that took place during the second Anglo-Boer War between 1889 and 1902.




Attractions

Blood River Memorial © Renier Maritz

Blood River/Ncome Heritage Site

Following a long period of conflict and mistrust, including the treacherous murder of Piet Retief and his companions at the hands of the Zulu chief Dingaan, the Voortrekkers, led by Andries Pretorius, prepared for battle against the Zulu kingdom on the banks of the...  see full details



Isandlwana © Creative Commons

Isandlwana Hill

The battle at Isandlwana Hill on 22 January 1879 stunned the British Empire in what was to be the worst defeat in the history of their imperial warfare. The news that an entire battalion of British troops had been wiped out by a...  see full details



Ladysmith Memorial © NJR ZA

Ladysmith Siege Museum

During the South African War, Ladysmith was besieged for 118 days, between 2 November 1899 and 28 February 1900, during which thousands died, either during battle, or from disease and the lack of food and water. 21,000 Boers advanced into Natal from all sides...  see full details



Rorke's Drift © militaryart.com

Rorke's Drift

Fought on the same day as the nearby battle at Isandlwana Hill, the Battle of Rorke's Drift is remembered as one of the most famous sieges of the Anglo-Zulu War. Survivors from Isandlwana fled to the Swedish mission station that was used as...  see full details