The battle of Isandlwana in 1879 was a famous victory for the Zulu over the British, but it proved a pyrrhic triumph, leading to the end of the Zulu empire. For many years, Rob Gerrard has been one of the foremost battlefield guides at Islandlwana, the remote setting of one of the most dramatic battles in British history.
|My father, Brigadier BJD Gerrard DSO, commanded The Gordon Highlanders. Winston Churchill called them the finest fighting unit in the British Army, and it was my father who piqued my interest and passion for British military history, later to include South Africa.|
After Ampleforth College I joined The Gordon Highlanders, serving in Kenya, then on secondment in Malaya, Thailand and Borneo.
My great-grandfather, Sir John Robinson, was the first Prime Minister of Natal and when I left the army I moved to South Africa, married and had two sons, and joined WK Croxton as a commodity broker until 1995.
Rob Gerrard guides the Anglo-Zulu battlefields
When I was invited to join David Rattray at Fugitives Drift I started to live my passion. I have met descendants of men from Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift, as well as working with other historians uncovering new information, and learned about the characters involved; how that history has affected our modern society; what we can learn from the mistakes; the bravery and stupidity and the repercussions of those events.
Later I was asked to become the Resident Historian at the new Isandlwana Lodge, and there I met a local Zulu, Petros Sibisi, who introduced me to many old Zulus. Zulu history is oral, so there is little written information and it was extremely important for me to understand the Zulu perspective of the Anglo Zulu War.
|The development that’s taken place in South Africa since 1879 has hardly touched the beautiful landscape of Zululand. Visitors from around the world flock here to hear the stories of the Anglo Zulu War and to learn about the culture of these wonderfully proud and friendly people. One can enjoy trekking on horseback; bird watching; cultural tours, museums, and the near-by Drakensburg Mountains.|
Stones marking a grave at Isandlwana
I regularly visit the UK and the US for lecture tours, some raise money for charity, some entertain or share information. I often work with military groups, and I was made a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in 1998.
My ‘flagship’ tours are the Battles of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift, both speak to me, especially Isandlwana which has a passion of its own similar to Scotland’s Culloden. But my portfolio covers all the battles of the Anglo Zulu War.
The Anglo Boer Wars (1881/1890-92) are also of special interest as both my grandfathers were involved. John Robinson as editor of The Natal Mercury covered the campaign in his editorials and Major General John Gerrard, a surgeon, who had a medical train named after him.
My book ‘People of The Heavens’ covers the background, the battles of the Anglo Zulu War and the aftermath. 500 pages with full colour illustrations and original artwork and maps.
I have four individual booklets on the major battles of the Anglo Zulu War and the Anglo Boer War. Plus a seven audio disc box set of my lectures on the Introduction to the Anglo Zulu War, the Battle of Isandlwana and the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, as well as the Introduction to the Anglo Boer War and the Battles of Talana, Elandslaagte, Reitfontein and Ladysmith. These are available from me or the lodge, please contact me through this website.
"Rob’s passion and knowledge of the Anglo Zulu War is without equal and his eloquence and presence as a speaker is masterful” Department of the US Navy
Author: Atma Shetty
Published Date: 26 Jun 2012
Location: Southern Africa | South Africa
Themes: the past | 1850 - 1945