Battles of KwaZulu-Natal

Battles of KwaZulu-Natal

  • Author: Text Ken Gillings Photos John Hone
  • Publisher: Art Publishers Durban
  • Publish Date: 2003
  • ISBN: 1-919688-24-2
  • Price: 10

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Review By : Ian Knight

A Pictorial souvenir of Battles from 1818-1906.

Although this book is clearly aimed at the tourist market – it is a large-format soft-cover publication just 56 pages long – it still has much to offer the general student. It is an illustrated guide to the battlefield of KwaZulu-Natal, beginning with Shaka’s battle of Gqokli hill (1818) and ending in Mome Gorge, the climactic battle of the 1906 struggle. In each case, the text offers a brief introduction to the story, there is a nicely drawn map, some superb modern photographs, and a smattering of contemporary illustrations. Each entry takes up two or three pages – ideal if you wish to bone up on a battle quickly. The advantage of these battles is that it sets the familiar conflicts of 1879 in a local geographical context, bringing home to the reader the extent to which this extraordinary landscape was fought over across the passage of nearly a century. 1879 enthusiasts will be drawn to the Zulu battles, and as well as the obvious 1879 ones, there are concise accounts of Ncome (‘Blood River’), Ndondakusuka (‘the Battle of the Princes, in 1856, which so bloodily decided the succession in Cetshwayo’s favour), and the civil war battle of Tshaneni (1884) as well as Mome.

Durnford’s famous debacle to Bushman’s Pass is included, although sadly there is no view of the ground at the top of the pass where the skirmish took place. The Anglo-Boer conflicts are represented, too, with a look at the fascinating struggle for Port Natal in 1842, Majuba (1881), and the principle battles of 1899-1902.

 Author Ken Gillings is an amateur military historian of long-standing, and special mention must be made of the photographs of John Hone, several of which are quite breathtaking. There is a wonderful study of the Ncome monument in the evening glow, a marvellous aerial shot of Majuba, displaying all the lumps and bumps in the ground which so aided the Boer assault, and a timeless, peaceful view of the Mkhuze river at Tshaneni which belies the bloodshed which took place there. A useful book, and great fun.

Tuesday 24th of January 2006 01:35:41 PM