Battlefields Tour

When viewing the tranquil countryside of central and northern KwaZulu-Natal, it’s hard to visualise the sweeping landscape as the scene of some of the bloodiest military engagements in South African history. During an informative battlefields tour, African rail tour passengers will view the sites where Boer, British and Zulu forces clashed in gory battles that both shaped the progress of South Africa and shook the platform of the British Empire.

The lush region is home to the largest concentration of battlefields in the southern hemisphere; just 70 years ago, one conflict after another unfolded on the veld against the imposing backdrop of the Drakensberg mountain range. Today, the internationally acclaimed Battlefields Route attracts visitors from all corners of the globe.

Every town, historical building, battle site and memorial along the route has a story to tell, a memory to recall – more often than not, a bloody one. Years ago, the British colony of Natal had its port in Durban and capital city in Pietermaritzburg, making the natal landscape the shortest route between the Transvaal, the Witwatersrand goldfields
and the sea – this was considered a strategically sound battleground.

One of the most popular destinations on the Battlefields itinerary is the Spionkop battlefield. Here, visitors travelling via luxury train accommodation will stand on the very same earth that shook with battle cries during one of the bloodiest clashes of the Anglo-Boer War – the infamous Battle of Spionkop. Not only did the Battle of Spionkop lead to the slaughter of British and Boer soldiers on a massive scale, it revealed a highly flawed military mind-set that led to one of the most needless battle in history.

The Spionkop battlefield is famous for another reason; it was here that three extraordinary men who would one-day influence the course of world history crossed each other’s paths. Louis Botha (the first prime minister of the Union of South Africa), Winston Churchill and Red Cross ambulance volunteer, Mahatma Gandhi had little to do with the outcome of the battle, but would later emerge as iconic world figures.