Death of top Anglo-Zulu war historian Gerrard

Durban - A leading historian and expert on the Anglo-Zulu War, Robert Gerrard, has died in Ladysmith from complications associated with an assault ­earlier this year.

“He never really got his strength back, and then got pneumonia. He is certainly going to be missed,” a spokesman said on Tueday.

Robert Gerrard

Gerrard, who came from a long line of military men, was an author and resident historian at the Isandlwana Lodge, which overlooks the famous battlefield where British soldiers were defeated by the Zulu army.

His book, People of the Heavens, covers the battle of Isandlwana, the subsequent events at Rorke’s Drift, all the battles of the Anglo-Zulu war and the aftermath.

“Rob’s passion and knowledge of the Anglo-Zulu war is without equal and his eloquence and presence as a speaker was masterful,” a spokesman for the Department of the US Navy, which had the benefit of hearing him talk about the subject, said.

Educated in Britain and commissioned into the British Army, Gerrard served with the Gordon Highlanders in Kenya and on secondment in Malaysia, Borneo and Thailand.

He left the army in 1969 and moved to South Africa, becoming a commodity trader.

But it was his passion for British military history that led him to lecturing on the ­battles of the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879 and the Anglo-Boer wars of 1881 and 1899-1902.

He was made a Fellow of The Royal Geographical Society in 1998.

Gerrard worked closely with another of South African’s most renowned historians, David Rattray, at Fugitives Drift, where he said, “I started to live my passion”.

He later joined the new Isandlwana Lodge as the resident historian, where he remained until his death.

He met (the late) Petros Sibisi, who introduced him to many old Zulus in the area, who told him the oral history of the local people.

Gerrard found this invaluable, as there was little written information, and said “it was extremely important for me to understand the Zulu perspective of the Anglo-Zulu war.”

A memorial service will be held for Gerrard on October 29, with the details being confirmed nearer the time.

Police are still investigating the assault on Gerrard.