Watch our video to see why our specialists love South Africa...
In conversation with Andrew Rattray
Andrew Rattray is one of the leading battlefields guides, having succeeded his father as the guide at Fugitives’ Drift, the lodge his parents began in 1989. His father, David, tragically died in 2007, but was well known for his tours and lectures about Zulu history and culture – a mantle which is now carried by Andrew. We asked him a little about life as a battlefields guide…
Tell us a bit about what lead you to be a Battlefield’s guide...
My father David Rattray had a gift for storytelling. People would come from all over the world to hear his history of the Battlefields. I suppose one could say that it is in our blood in the Rattray family. It also has a lot to do with perpetuating a legacy that my father left us – that so much reconciliation can result from such terrible conflict. The Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 is just one example of that. In fact the story of South Africa is a prime example. To be able to tell these stories is both a privilege and a pleasure.
What do you enjoy most about being a guide?
I enjoy meeting people from all over the world and from different walks of life. But the most enjoyable part of it is being able to see people that are visibly moved through the power of a story well told.
Why should people travel to KwaZulu-Natal’s battlefields?
Firstly, the history. This is an area that is so rich in history, whether it is military history or early human history. The Anglo-Zulu War, Anglo-Boer Wars and Zulu-Boer battlefields are all here, the stories are remarkable and incredibly moving and they are all within a relatively small area. Secondly, the beauty of this area – it is big sky country out here. From rolling hills to big mountains, wide open grasslands to densely wooded deep valleys with beautiful rivers. It is absolutely stunning scenery. Lastly, there is so much to do out here aside from the history. Beautiful walks, great wildlife, mountain biking, fishing and very good birding are just a few of the things to do.
And, how do you think the battles shaped South Africa?
The Zulu War destroyed the Old Zulu order, which led to the Zulu Civil War which in turn was catastrophic for the Zulu nation.
In your opinion, what was the most remarkable event from either the Battle of Isandlwana or the Battle of Rorke’s Drift?
This is a very difficult one to answer as there are so many. Firstly, the eclipse of the sun in the moment of the last stand at Isandlwana. Secondly, Lieutenants Melville and Coghill earning the first two posthumous Victoria Crosses in history. Thirdly, the award of eleven VC’s at Rorkes’ Drift. These are all very remarkable events, but I think what is most remarkable is the fact that they all happened on the same day; Wednesday 22nd January 1879.
Interested in a holiday in the Battlefields?
A stay at Fugitives’ Drift is part of our Drakensberg and Battlefields Self-Drive itinerary which takes in the very best of KwaZulu Natal.