Battlefield Tours

KwaZulu-Natal Battlefield Tour

South Africa KwaZulu-Natal Battlefield Tours.

Voortrekker–Zulu Battles/First Anglo-Boer War/Anglo-Zulu War/Anglo-Boer War

Private – Professional – fully guided tours.

South Africa Battlefield Route Tour – Anglo/Boer and Anglo/Zulu and Voortrekker/Zulu

Military engagements that shaped the course of South African and world history. 70 years of major military clashes, in the scenic central to northern KwaZulu-Natal. Region has largest concentration of battlefields in Southern Africa. One historical drama unfolding after another. Against a backdrop of the African veld, picturesque hills and rock formations of the magnificent Drakensberg mountains.

Largest concentration of Battlefields in Southern Africa.

The battlefield tour route through areas of KwaZulu-Natal – drawing visitors from around the world.

Ekala Eco Tours covers the Battlefield route with departure or return to Johannesburg.

Our tours are private only – even private for 1.

Can cover Battlefields or items related to these in Gauteng (Johannesburg, Pretoria and surrounding areas) before departure to KwaZulu-Natal or on return.

Important Heritage sites visited – dependant on duration of tours and route to be used:

  • Blood River
  • Isandhlwana
  • Rorkes Drift
  • Dundee, Talana
  • Ladysmith
  • SpionKop
  • Elandslaagte
  • Thukela heights
  • Colenso
  • Majuba
  • Schuinshoogte

Every town, battle site and historic building, in the KwaZulu-Natal region has an intriguing tale to tell. No South Africa visit should miss a tour through the KwaZulu-Natal’s Battlefields. The KwaZulu-Natal’s Battlefield Route is a journey of discovery.

KwaZulu-Natal Battlefields in the towns or surrounding areas of Colenso, Dannhauser, Dundee, Estcourt, Glencoe, Greytown, Ladysmith, Newcastle, Utrecht and Weenen

KwaZulu-Natal’s most important Battlefields

Zulu Wars

Gqokli Hill 1818 – Ndondakusaka 1856 – Tshaneni 1884

Voortrekker – Zulu Wars – 1836-1852

The Dutch left the Cape Colony, dissatisfied with being subjected to British domination, looking for political self-determination. The Voortrekker’s headed inland, however once across the Drakensberg Mountains; the Dutch encountered the Zulus with invertible problems arising.

Saailaager Estcourt Area 12 February 1838 – Zulu massacre of groups on Voortrekker’s after execution of Piet Retief at the Zulu royal settlement near Ulundi.

Veglaer Estcourt Area 13 -15 February 1838 – Three day Zulu attack on Voortrekker laager.

Blood River – Dundee Area 16 December 1838 – 460 Voortrekker’s defeated Zulu army of 15 000 in wagons set in laager. Resulting bloodbath remains known as ‘Battle of Blood River‘.

Bloukrans – Estcourt Area 16 to 17 February 1838 – Many Voortrekker families annihilated during Zulu attack.

Rensburg Koppie – Estcourt Area 17 February 1838 – Young Martinus Oosthuysen courageously saved three Voortrekker families from Zulu attack.

Anglo-Zulu War 1879

An ultimatum including a list of demands were handed to the Zulu king Cetshwayo on 11 December 1878 The King failed to respond by the deadline – New Year’s Eve 1878 – his silence was interpreted as defiance and the British declared war. The British generals had grossly underestimated the courageous Zulu’s, fighting ability. The defeats and disasters that followed shook the British Empire to its core.

Nyezane – Eshowe Area 22 January 1879 British troops moving up Natal north coast were attacked by approximately 4000 Zulus as they crossed Nyezane River.

Isandhlwana – Nqutu Area 22 January 1879 British forces split by 15 000 Zulus. After a 2 hour battle, only 74 of the 1500 original British force survived.

Fugitives Drift – 22 January 1879 Survivors of Isandlwana had followed Fugitives’ Trail, crossed the Buffalo River at Fugitives’ Drift. The Queen’s Colour was lost at Fugitives Drift.

Rorkes Drift – Dundee Area 22 – 23 January 1879 Within hours of the battle of Isandlwana, 100 British soldiers held back 4 000 Zulus for 12 hours. The Zulu’s finally retreated, leaving over 500 dead behind, this to only 17 British fatalities. 11 Victoria Crosses were awarded for this battle – most ever awarded for a single battle.

Ntombe drift – Paulpietersburg Area 12 March 1879 – British troops unsuccessfully tried to defend themselves against superior Zulu force, losing 73 men while Zulu casualties were negligible.

Hlobane – Vryheid Area 28 March 1879 – Significant British defeat, losing fifteen officers and 110 soldiers, a further 8 wounded.

Kambula – Vryheid Area 29 March 1879 – Over 22 000 Zulu warriors attacked fortified British position, 4 hour battle ending with the Zulu’s being driven off and pursued on horseback till nightfall. This crushing defeat proved to be the turning point of the Anglo-Zulu War.

Ginginglovu – Eshowe Area 2 April 1879 – Zulu attack on relief column, on way to relieve Eshowe. Zulu’s repulsed and Eshowe relieved following day.

Scouting party – 1 June, 1879 – Great-nephew of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, Prince Louis Napoleon was killed. Exiled to England in 1870 had requested permission from Queen Victoria’s to accompany the fresh British troops to South Africa.

Ulundi Battlefield – Ulundi/banks of Umfolozi River – 4 July 1879. Final battle of Anglo – Zulu War, ending with the capture of Zulu King Cetshwayo. British veterans of the Anglo-Zulu WAR soon found themselves again at war.

Transvaal (First Anglo-Boer) War of Independence 1880 – 1881

Laings Nek – Volksrust/Newcastle – British forces first attempt – 28 January 1881, to invade the Transvaal, Boer territory – failed Schuinshoogte Ridge Volksrust/Newcastle – 8 February 1881 – British forces second attempt to invade the Transvaal. Surrounded by Boers on top of Schuinshoogte.

Majuba – Volksrust/Newcastle Area – 27 February 1881 British forces driven off Majuba Mountain, having sustained heavy casualties and forced to negotiate a peace treaty. Armistice signed at home of Eugene O’Neill on the foot of Majuba, with peace treaty signed in Newcastle. The eye-catching fighting formation of the British forces, scarlet uniform and white helmet saw the tide turn against the British.

The Gold rush of 1886 in the Zuid- Afrikaanse Republiek (Transvaal) further undermined the Boer’s security with a massive influx of British into the area.

The inevitable occurred at 5 p.m. on 11 October 1899. Britain was confident the war would be over by Christmas; however the small bands of Boer volunteers from the Republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State were to prove they had been underestimated.

Anglo-Boer 1899 -1902

Half a million British troops to an estimated 78 000 Boers.

Talana – Dundee 20 October 1899. First battle of the Anglo Boer War, Boers invaded from 2 fronts, from the Orange Free State and the Transvaal. Invading into Northeastern Natal before clashing with the British troops at Talana hill. British wore Khaki, painted Redcoats for the first time.

Elandslaagte – Glencoe/Ladysmith 21 October 1899 British victory freeing a rail corridor for Talana Hill. Survivors to escape to Ladysmith.

Nicholson’s Nek 30 October 1899 Humiliating defeat for the British with eight hundred soldiers being taken prisoner.

Siege of Ladysmith 2 November 1899 – 28 February 1900 – British regiments massing in Ladysmith, encircled by hills. A strategic blunder by the British, Allowing a 118 days Siege by the Boers, cutting off area and harassing the British with impunity. British officers were ordered to relieve the town at all costs.

Armored Train confrontation – Colenso Area 15 November 1899. Boers ambushed and derailed an armoured reconnaissance train. A number of British soldiers were killed and some captured, including Winston Churchill. A Sandhurst trained soldier, Churchill was working as a newspaper correspondent for London Morning Post. He was able to escape from the Transvaal, returning to Natal to join the effort to relieve Ladysmith.

Willow Grange – Estcourt Area 23 November 1899. Southern most point reached by the Boers.

Colenso 15 December 1899. British first attempt to cross Thugela River, failed with significant British losses. Battle of Colenso was the first military confrontation to be recorded on cine- film.

Platrand 6 January 1900

Spionkop 24 January 1900. Bloodiest of the efforts to relieve Ladysmith. Pointless attempt by the British with 500 losses and the Boers relatively unscathed. A volunteer stretcher bearer to the battle was lawyer, Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi.

Vaalkrantz – Ladysmith/Winterton 5 February 1900. British regiments again failed to breach enemy lines. Britain began what was to become the biggest offensive in the Southern Hemisphere until the Falklands War. With half a million troops, to an estimated 78 000 Boers.

Thukela Heights – Colenso Area – 21 -27 February 1900. Numerous hard-fought battles in the hills surrounding Ladysmith, leading to eventual relieving of Ladysmith by the British.

Helpmekaar 13 May 1900 British troops penetrating Boer defenses in Biggarsberg leading to the recapturing Dundee.

Scheepersnek – Vryheid Area 20 May 1900.

Botha’s Pass Newcastle Area – 8 June 1900. Pass captured by British, opening route into Orange Free State. Within a few weeks, British were also able to break through into the Transvaal Boer Republic.

Blood River Poort – Vryheid Area 17 September 1901. British attempts failed to prevent the Boers breaking through from the Transvaal. This battle saw the Boers capture three field guns and killing 16 British officers and 273 enlisted men. Intermittent battles continued for eight and a half months between British and Boers, throughout many areas of South Africa, mainly in northern Natal, Cape Colony, Transvaal and the Orange Free State.

This came to an end on the 31st May 1902 with the signing of the Peace Treaty in Vereeniging. Although battles came to an end, bitterness by the Boers was to remain for many decades, due mainly to the concentration camps, set up by British for Boer and any other civilians that were caught up in the war. During the three year war some 12 000 Boer and British soldiers died in battle. However a staggering 42 000 people died in these British concentration camps. British financial losses for the three-year Anglo- Boer War were a staggering 200 – million pounds.

Battlefield route – Anglo Boer – Anglo Zulu – Voortrekker Zulu Battles

  • Blood River
  • Isandhlwana
  • Rorkes drift
  • Dundee
  • Talana – Ladysmith
  • SpionKop
  • Elandslaagte
  • Thukela heights
  • Colenso
  • Majuba
  • Schuinshoogte

Battlefield routes elsewhere in South Africa

Gauteng – Province that Johannesburg and Pretoria are part of, has many important sites related to the first and second Boer War (Anglo Boer War).

These include two Pretoria forts (Schanskop and Klapperkop) targeted by Lord Roberts in 1900 and Schurweberg (Proclamation hill today) that saw the proclamation of Pretoria being declared an “Open City”.

The Battle of Bronkhorstspruit (1880) and Nooitgedacht (1901) and boer generals Koos de la Rey and Christiaan Beyers.

South African National Museum of Military History: Located in Johannesburg, covering all of the wars listed above:

  • Zulu Wars
  • First Anglo Boer War
  • Anglo
  • Boer War / Anglo-Zulu War
  • British/Zulu/Boer wars

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Ekala Family & Guides

Full or Half Day Tours

personalised historic, cultural or custom Tours.

Personised Historic Tours

including Johannesburg, Pretoria, Soweto, Gold, Diamond, Gauteng Aviation and Military History.

Wildlife Safari's & Tours

Eco wildlife including Pilanesberg, Kruger National and Hluhluwe - Umfolozi Game Park.

Personised Cultural Tours

including Johannesburg, Pretoria, Soweto, Alexandra Township and local Cultural Villages.

Private Transfers

including Sandton to O.R. Tambo Airport, Pretoria and Johannesburg Park Station Transfers.