Trip Start Oct 20, 2004
84Trip End May 02, 2005
We headed off to Durban today taking a slight detour (mainly for Andy's benefit) to visit the site of the Battle of Rourke's Drift, made famous by the film Zulu. Not much remains of the buildings from the site, its been too long for many of them to survive and of course the British defences at the time were temporary anyway. We were expecting them to have maybe re-constructed the site as it was then, but as it is all Zulu people who live around the area, I don't suppose they want to be reminded too much considering it was a bad defeat for them. The building which had served as a hospital had been reconstructed and turned into a small museum, with various pictures, models and some artifacts recovered from the scene of the battle. in the main building at the entrance they had a large wall map depicting the events leading up to the battle and a notice board where relatives of some of the soldiers have pinned photos and newspaper cuttings of their headstones, including those of Pte Hook and Lt John Chard both buried in England somewhere
It's impossible to overstate the true importance that the battle of Rorke's Drift had at the time. The British expedition in Africa was faring so badly that there were calls in parliament and in the newspapers to abandon it and to concentrate on trying to quell unrest in Jamaica and India. But newspaper reports of the heroism of the men at Rorke's Drift changed the tide of public opinion permanently. Without the victory, the British Empire would probably not have included Africa at all. And the military achievement is not to be overlooked, either. There were 100 fit and 40 injured men at Rorke's Drift and they faced 3,000 Zulus. And the Zulus were no savages: they were a modern nation with advanced military strategy and organisation.
We also visited the sight of the Battle of Isandhlwana which took place on the morning of the Battle of Rorke's Drift and which saw the deaths of about 1700 British soldiers including the officers Captain Melvill and Lt Coghill who died during their gallant effort to save the Queen's colour of the 1/24th regt (which was to be recovered from the Buffalo River some weeks later). There is only a small museum in the town beside the battle site, and of the site itself there is very little to see other than a Zulu monument and several piles of stones painted white which mark where the British soldiers fell dead and were buried. There are also a few Cenitafs in the field at the site with several soldiers names engraved on them.
After a while we headed off on the long drive to Durban eventually arriving at a guest house in the area of Bluff, just south of the city. We had been advised by quite a few to keep away from the city, as it is unsafe, especially at night.