Review: Discovering the Battlefields of the Anglo-Zulu War
April 30 2014 at 01:15pm
By BARBARA COLE
"Acclaimed battlefields tour guide, Ken Gillings, who has spent more than 50 years researching the Anglo-Zulu War, has released his third book about his favourite subject.
He says that his Discovering the Battlefields of the Anglo-Zulu War (30 Degrees South, R250) is not intended to replace other historical guides but rather that it could be a useful training manual for potential battlefield tour guides.
And that was because “some of us are getting older”, the military historian grinned at the launch of his latest book at Adams Bookshop, Musgrave Centre.
“You won’t make a lot of money, but if you have a passion, this book will help you,” he said.
Internationally respected Gillings has blended first-hand accounts of the battles passed on from both warring sides, with official or newly researched information that has become available in recent years.
He also takes the reader to some of the more remote rural areas. Gillings told guests at the launch that one of the most difficult hikes he ever made was to where King Cetshwayo was captured at kwaDwaza in the Ngome Forest.
Detailed directions as well as GPS co-ordinates are provided to help travellers who want to take their own journeys of exploration to the various battle sites.
There is also useful information for people planning their journeys.
At Colonel Anthony Durnford’s grave at the Fort Napier cemetery, Pietermaritzburg, for instance, visitors will find that the gate has multiple padlocks. However, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has put up a sign providing two cellphone numbers where tourists can get one of the combinations.
Another site is situated on the opposite bank of a river, but Gillings warns that it is too deep to wade across safely. And at King Cetshwayo’s grave, visitors should wait for the custodian to arrive before entering the precinct… and “utmost respect should be practised when entering the sacred grave: speak in a low tone and do not turn your back on the grave when leaving the fenced-off enclosure”, Gillings advises.
iNkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who wrote the foreword and whose paternal grandfather, Mkhandumbe Buthelezi, was wounded at the Battle of Isandlwana, says that the book is a valuable addition to the treasury of historical accounts of the war.
He admired how Gillings had captured the pathos of the battlefield without emotively favouring either side.
Gillings, who has two other books in the pipeline, reminded guests of the famous saying: “Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it.”