Book Review: Field Guide to the Battlefields of South Africa


by Nicki von der Heyde

Cape Town: Random House Struik / Herndon, Va.: International Publishers’ Marketing, 2013. Pp. 352. Illus., maps, chron., biblio., index. $30.00 paper. ISBN: 1431701009

Touring South African Battlefields

Opening with a reminder that the military history of South Africa is for the most part little known outside the country, tour guide and historian von der Hyde roams widely across South Africa in this handbook for tourists interested in visiting any of several score battlefields, and some hundreds of monuments and memorials that commemorate the rich military history of the country.

Von der Heyde covers war in what is now South Africa from the eighteenth century through the Second Anglo-Boer War at the onset of the twentieth, loosely grouped into four categories: “Colonial and Frontier Conflicts,” encounters on the fringe of settlement, “Indigenous Conflicts,” wars between the autochthonous inhabitants, “Voortrekker Battles,” conflicts involving the Boers and indigenous peoples, the “Anglo-Zulu War,” and the Anglo-Boer Wars of 1880-1881 and 1899-1902. Since the book is arranged geographically, its is very useful for tourists, though its is also useful for someone trying to follow the events of a particular conflict. 

The battle descriptions are well written and clear, usually accompanied by excellent maps and numerous illustrations. Von der Heyde provides a discussion of the varying nature of the terrain in South Africa, and uses side-bars to fill in background details, such as the causes of the war, the military institutions of the combatants, and profiles of the leaders, as well as interesting bits of historical trivia and folk lore. 

This work will prove useful to anyone interested in the military history of South Africa, even if they never get to visit any of the places discussed.



Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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