25 June 2013 by Kate Turkington

Who goes there?

In 1899, a pushy, self-confident young Englishman sailed from Southampton to South Africa as war correspondent for the Morning Post, to report on the Anglo-Boer War (now known as the South African War).

Winston Churchill, aged 24

He was self-assured, not only because of his aristocratic background (born into nobility in Blenheim Palace), but also because he was a veteran of Kitchener’s army in the Sudan, where he’d taken part in the renowned cavalry charge at the Battle of Ondurman.

When he left England for South Africa he was not famous. When he returned the following year he was a celebrity. He went on to change world history.

When he left England he was not yet famous. When he returned the following year he was a celebrity. He went on to change world history.

Churchill’s South Africa by South African journalist and historian Chris Schoeman, published by Zebra Press, is a riveting account of the reporter’s time in South Africa and the story of how the young Winston Churchill became a hero to the British public.

Schoeman takes us through his fascinating travels, enriched with excerpts from Churchill’s own writing, plus evocative, contemporary photographs, cartoons and maps.

Isandlwana - where a mighty Zulu army defeated the British in 1879

The young Churchill was incredibly media-savvy, knowing when to capitalise on his adventures (such as his dramatic escape from a Boer prison) and his presence on the infamous hill of Spioen Kop, one of England’s worst-ever military defeats.

(There were three men on that hill on that fateful day whose death would have changed world history; they all survived – Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi, a stretcher bearer, and General Louis Botha, South Africa’s first prime minister.)

Read the book, and then visit the battle sites – the Battle of Colenso, the siege and relief of Ladysmith, Spioen Kop, Pretoria, and many more.

Many of the sites have hardly changed since those bloody days when Boer battled Brit, although they now have excellent on-site military museums, first-class battlefield guides, and lots of friendly accommodation in the vicinity.

And while you’re in the area, why not visit the memorable Anglo-Zulu sites of Isandlwana, Rorke’s Drift, and others?

Boer council of war prior to Spioen Kop. General Louis Botha on chair. All images from Churchill’s South Africa

Category: Culture & History, Routes & Trails

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