There’s a story I love to relate about the battle of Isandlwana. For me it epitomizes the character of the British solder of the day, the proud notions of giving one’s life to Queen and country, and standing courageously alongside your brother soldier whilst at the same time revealing a human side to the story. It also gives credit to the proud Zulu nation that it must be remembered were made up of husbands, brothers, fathers and loved ones. The story of Capt. Younghusband’s last stand on the slopes of Isandlwana is my favorite part of our Anglo Zulu War Battlefields Day Tour.
Anglo Zulu War Battlefields Day Tour
I collected my clients from their hotel situated on “Golden Mile”, Durban’s beautiful boardwalk that borders 6km of the Indian Ocean. Once settled in and seatbelts on (safety first) we departed Durban with dawn breaking over the ocean. It’s a long drive to Isandlwana from Durban, some 4 hours. Fortunately there’s a lot to chat about along the way.
The journey seemed to speed by quickly as along the way I chatted about the lead up to the Anglo Zulu war. The history of KwaZulu-Natal is fascinating, with the Dutch, the Boers, The British and the Zulu people all in the thick of it. We also all got to know one another along the journey as we chatted a bit about ourselves.
Finally though the unmistakable and peculiar feature known as Isandlwana appeared on the horizon and soon we were parked on the Nqutu Plateau above the battlefield where I like to start my tour about this fateful day on the 22nd January 1879.
The story of Isandlwana is a long one, longer than I could go on here for (for the full story you’ll have to join me on one of our extended battlefield tours) but the story is well worth the visit to this eerily quite place.
After gaining an overview of the battlefield from the Nqutu plateau, it’s off to the the battlefield itself. The first thing one notices is the painted stone cairns that are scattered about the battlefield. Some of them small piles, and some a great deal larger, all of which mark a British burial site.
Situated a few hundred meters away and to the south of Isandlwana lies some cairns nearby a donga. It’s here that Colonel Durnford and his NNC (Natal Native Contingent) took cover whilst holding down the advance of the uMbonambi and uGobamkhosi regiments.
Colonel Durnford and his men fought a fantastic and in my mind, heroic tactical retreat, but much like the rest of the British combatants on the day were ultimately killed. Durnford managed to rally many of the remaining British soldiers to his final position and fought to the absolutely last man.
The Zulu’s that fought in this battled spoke later about how this British officer with his long mustaches fought and rallied his man right up until the very last moment.
Capt. Younghusband was positioned on the left hand side of Isandlwana and was driven back along the rising flank of Isandlwana until he reached the edge of Isandlwana’s steep flank. Younghusband would have glanced over his shoulder down the steep flank and seen the carnage that was taking place in the saddle below him; there was no way down.
“Captain Younghusband was one of the last to die. When “C” company’s ammunition was gone, he had shaken hands with all his men and stayed to the end of the fight on the rocky platform over the wagon park. He had finally been forced over the edge with 3 survivors, and the 4 of them found some cartridges, clambered into an empty wagon and turned it into a rifle pit. They were rushed, and the 3 men were killed in the wagon bed, but Younghusband, minus his tunic, got away again and climbed into still another wagon. He was all alone, and the Zulus in his vicinity had stopped fighting, and when he opened fire, they scurried back hastily. He kept firing until all his cartridges were gone, and a few Zulus then tried to close with him. He bayoneted every warrior that laid a hand on the wagon, and he lasted for a long time until a Zulu finally shot him.”
The Zulu’s then carried Younghusband aloft on their war-shields back to the crag on which his men lay dead as they respected his bravery.
After some time spent exploring the battlefield, our stomachs reminded us it was time for lunch and so off we went to my favorite lunch venue in the area, Rorkes Drift Hotel, where we were treated to some delicious home made fair including the best Orange cake I’ve ever had!
Then it was onto Rorkes Drift. Rorks Drift is probably the best know battle of the Anglo Zulu war for a number of reasons (too many to go into detail here at least). Most of my clients are familiar with Rorkes Drift thanks to the film Zulu starring Stanley Baker and the yet-to-be-discovered, Michael Cain.
Here at Rorkes Drift I told the story of Hook (the cook), or Schiess and of Dalton. We also spoke of Chard and Bromhead; and of General Wolseley who had less than stirling words for the two officers who had just saved British pride. We spoke of them and more until the lowering sun reminded us that we had a long way back to Durban
Booking a Anglo Zulu War Battlefields Tour
We have a number of battlefields tours on offer, day tours, overnight and extended tours can be planned to suit your itinerary. Use the form below to get in touch and we’ll happily put together a battlefields itinerary to suit you.
Country and Coastal Touring are registered tour guides and operators based in the city of Durban, South Africa. We have a number of preplanned day tours, overnight tours and extended tours on offer. We can also custom build tours to suit any itineraries throughout South Africa.