In the footsteps of Sir Winston Churchill: the highlights
In March 2022, cazenove+loyd’s Co-Owner + Director, Christopher Wilmot-Sitwell, will be leading a small group trip to South Africa. This journey will take one of the world’s most luxurious trains, Rovos Rail, deep into the heartlands of the Boer War, following in the footsteps of Sir Winston Churchill. We spoke to Christopher to find out more.
WHY IS THE TRIP SPECIAL?
Christopher Wilmot-Sitwell: We designed a similar trip to this one in 2018, which quickly sold out and was very well received, so we are thrilled to be offering another amazing rail journey through South Africa. The itinerary has been meticulously refined and developed, delving into South Africa’s fascinating past through the Anglo-Zulu and subsequent Boer Wars whilst giving our guests a real understanding of the country in the present day. Every element is designed to be educational, exciting and, above all, extraordinary and we have secured unparallelled private access to ensure that it exceeds every expectation.
THE ‘REAL AFRICA’ + LUXURY ON THE ROVOS RAIL TRAIN
Christopher Wilmot-Sitwell: The glamorous Rovos Rail train has been exclusively chartered for guests of cazenove+loyd. Along the way, days are spent exploring what can be called the real, unmanicured South African bush and evenings are spent enjoying exquisite silver service dining on what is one of the world’s most luxurious trains. Many of the Zulu and Boer battlefields lie in totally unspoilt parts of South Africa, where plains game gallop untroubled by many vehicles or structures and the settings of the conflicts remain largely unchanged.
TRAVEL WITH CHURCHILL’S GRANDSON
Christopher Wilmot-Sitwell: We are thrilled that Sir Winston Churchill’s grandson, Sir Nicholas Soames, will be joining us again on this incredible journey. A fantastic storyteller, vibrant character and great travel companion, Sir Nicholas will regale guests with tales of his grandfather and illuminate Churchill’s formative experiences in the Boer War for us. Through his close relationship with his grandfather, who he knew well into his teenage years, he will be able to give new insights into the man who became a national hero. He will give lectures in the evenings and dine with guests, bringing these important battlefields to life and recounting Churchill’s experiences as a courageous young man in Africa. I never thought that Sir Nicholas would want to do it again in 2022, but he does, so this really is a last chance as I doubt that we will be able to persuade him a third time.
UNPARALLELLED PRIVATE ACCESS + EXPERT GUIDES
Christopher Wilmot-Sitwell: Once again, we have secured the very best speakers on the subjects of the Anglo-Zulu Wars and the Boer War to help us tell the moving stories from the battlefields. This journey will provide a matchless insight into the Boer War, taking in unexplored corners of battlefields, which will be put into exhilarating context by Sir Nicholas Soames and Rovos Rail’s historical consultant, Nicholas Schofield. You will also be hosted and guided by the Rattray family at the Zulu battlefields of Rorke’s Drift and Isandlwana.
Looking back to the 2018 trip, I remember how every day was a revelation and we felt incredibly privileged and blessed to be seeing it all from a private train and with the first-hand research of historian Nicholas Schofield and the personal anecdotes of Churchill’s grandson to hand. When we first called our trip ‘In the footsteps of Sir Winston Churchill’, I didn’t visualise parking up our train and planting my own feet in the place on the track where Churchill was ambushed by the Boers in 1899. History would have been very different if the ambush had turned out differently and, seeing the location from which the Boers attacked, it is amazing that he was taken alive. Nicholas Schofield gained access for us to the Department of Education Building and Library, where Winston Churchill was imprisoned and from where he escaped. It was one of the goosebumps moments of the trip.
RORKE’S DRIFT + ISANDLWANA WITH THE RATTRAY FAMILY
Christopher Wilmot-Sitwell: Our long-standing relationship with the Rattray family means we have special access at Rorke’s Drift and Isandlwana – the sites of two major battles of the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. Guests will spend a day here hosted and guided by the Rattray family who will take you to where Lieutenants Melvill and Coghill lost their lives attempting to save the Queen’s Colour of their regiment, the 24th Regiment of Foot. Listening to their immersive talks is an extremely thought-provoking and emotionally charged experience, which will leave you with a new connection to the Anglo-Zulu wars and South African history as a whole.
Most of us joined the trip in 2018 with the Boer War and Winston Churchill in mind, but hearing Douglas Rattray recount the heroics of Rorke’s Drift against the little building where so many fought and died (and some miraculously survived) was as moving as it gets. I looked around my fellow listeners and there was not a dry eye in sight.
VISIT THE DAVID RATTRAY FOUNDATION’S SCHOOL
Christopher Wilmot-Sitwell: The trip will involve a wonderful opportunity to spend some time at the preschool set up by The David Rattray Foundation (also known as Khula Education) at Rorke’s Drift. David was passionate about helping local school children through education. Henrietta Loyd is a trustee of the charity, which recently successfully raised money to build Wi-Fi towers in the area and deliver 200 Ipads so that the Year 12 students could continue with their final year studies during the lockdown.
We have finessed the 2018 itinerary for the 2022 trip and, having seen the impressive initiatives of The David Rattray Foundation (also known as Khula Education) before, I am particularly pleased that we have worked this visit into an otherwise mainly history- and Churchill-focused journey.