Exercise FUGITIVES SCHOLAR - February 2020
I was fortunate enough to be selected to visit Fugitives Drift early this year, an opportunity of a lifetime. Before leaving for South Africa, we reflected during the annual Rorke's Drift day commemoration in Battalion and I stood in church and read accounts of CSgt Bourne from his time on the battlefield. During those readings I didn't really realise how impressive this individual was and how my interest in the Anglo-Zulu war was about to change.
I flew from Heathrow to Johannesburg, spent a short time exploring and finally caught a coach 250 miles across South Africa to Ladysmith, another place the Regiment had fought battles in the years prior. An interesting place, hustle and bustle but not much happening. I was then kindly met by a member of staff from Fugitives Drift. The drive was about 80km to the lodge, during this journey I took in the views and tried to imagine fighting in this harsh terrain.
I arrived at the lodge and was welcomed by the team. I was gob smacked by the views, the hospitality and the historical significance the place held. I was introduced to Nicky and Doug Rattray and their partners Daisy and Micko.
After being shown to my room, I spent the afternoon exploring the museum on the lodge, looking at pictures of my forefathers fighting brave Zulu men and trying to comprehend the loss of life during these battles. That night I was kindly hosted by Doug and Daisy at their home and we spoke about my time in The Royal Welsh and why Rorke's Drift is so important to me and our Company.
The two main reasons I highlighted were to keep the history in the Regiment, and to maintain the long-standing friendship between the Rattray family and the Regiment. Doug made a great point that the guests at the lodge would be really interested and don't usually have the opportunity to meet serving British soldiers - the family thought that was important. He was right, I spent every night hosting guests at dinner and explaining how I ended up serving in B (Rorke's Drift) Company.
Day 2 was my first visit to the battlefields. In the morning we visited Isandlwana. A Zulu man named Brian told us the story of that battle with amazing passion and enthusiasm. We sat in the shade under a small tree at the base of the sphinx shaped mounting listening to the bravery and heroism from both sides. Standing among hundreds of cairns each representing the 10+ British soldiers buried there was one of the most humbling moments of my life.