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Friday, April 18, 2014


Substantial work is visually appealing and cleverly designed. (Review by Keith Millar)

Accomplished KwaZulu-Natal battlefields guide Nicki Von Der Heyde spent over two years and travelled many thousands of kilometres doing research for her book on South Africa’s battlefields.

The result is her marvellous Field Guide to the Battlefields of South Africa. It is a substantial work covering 71 battles including the Anglo-Zulu War, Colonial and Frontier Conflicts, Indigenous and Voortrekker Battles and the first and second Anglo-Boer Wars.

The book is visually appealing and has been very cleverly designed with an array of special features. The battlefields are grouped in provincially-based regions. Each site is discussed in the same way using the headings of How to get there, Context, Action, Aftermath and Principal combatants.  

There is an abundance of historical and modern photographs and illustrations. This gives the book its very attractive and colourful appearance. Also included are 60 interesting fact and feature boxes, 16 customized battle maps and 10 regional locator maps. The directions to each site are detailed and include GPS co-ordinates.

There are 80 illustrated timelines included to put the particular battles in context as far as local and international affairs were concerned. This leads to my only moan – and it is a small one. The font size used for the timelines is tiny. I needed bright light and to hold the book close to my face to make any sense of the text. However, those blessed with good eyesight may not experience this problem.

One may expect a field guide to be rather dry and factual. Not so in this case. All the facts are there, but this book has real character. It brings South Africa’s vibrant military history to life. I found it difficult to put down once I started reading and found it very informative about a subject which I previously had little knowledge.

Field Guide to the Battlefields of South Africa. will be an important tool for both the expert and amateur military historians. It also has a role to play for anyone who has a general interest in this important aspect our history. Furthermore It could prove to be invaluable to both local and international tourists.

I, for one, intend keeping my copy of the book in my car, and adding a visit or two to South African battlefields to my bucket list.

Field Guide to the Battlefields of South Africa. is published by Struik Travel & Heritage. The ISBN number is 9781431701001 and the recommended retail price is R300. – Keith Millar