Small Group Travel
In the footsteps of Sir Winston Churchill
We invite you to join us on an exciting journey through South Africa with Sir Nicholas Soames, the grandson of Sir Winston Churchill. Christopher Wilmot-Sitwell, Co-Owner + Director of cazenove+loyd, has hand-designed an extraordinary journey with Rovos Rail, which will take one of the world’s most opulent trains deep into the heartlands of the Boer War.
The trip will trace Sir Winston Churchill’s footsteps during the war, from his dramatic capture by the Boers to his subsequent escape via freight train. Joining you on this journey will be Sir Winston Churchill’s grandson, Sir Nicholas Soames, a former British Member of Parliament and fantastic storyteller, who will regale you with tales of his grandfather and bring KwaZulu-Natal’s Boer battlefields to life.
“I feel very strongly that much of my grandfather’s life was shaped by his time in South Africa, in particular when he was captured by the Boers and subsequently made his escape,” says Sir Nicholas Soames. “So much of who he was and who he was to become came through at this moment of great danger and personal desperation. It will be a privilege to lead this trip next September, travelling by train to visit many of the most important battlefields of the Boer War. I believe that much of Churchill’s audacity and courage – and his drive and ambition – comes to light in his experiences as a young man in Africa. These characteristics are what made him into the national hero that he later became.”
This phenomenal opportunity promises to be fascinating, entertaining and full of learning, with the luxury of returning to one of the world’s most stunning trains every evening.
“In 2018, I took ‘a trip of a lifetime’ with Sir Nicholas Soames, Sir Winston Churchill’s grandson, on the Rovos Train in South Africa to retrace Churchill's Boer War experience. It was wonderful in so many ways, beginning with being in Christopher Wilmot-Sitwell’s good company and, of course, the pièce de résistance, Sir Nicholas, who is the most delightful person, with an accessible personality and all the charm, wit and intelligence of his grandfather. It is these types of trips and cazenove+loyd’s amazing connections that make them a superlative travel company in every way.”
WHAT MAKES THIS TRIP SPECIAL?
This journey will provide a matchless insight into the fascinating 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. Sir Winston Churchill’s grandson is an incredible companion and guide on this journey. He will give lectures in the evenings and dine with you, bringing these important battlefields to life and recounting Churchill’s experiences as a courageous young man in Africa. You will also be hosted and guided by the Rattray family at the Zulu battlefields of Rorke’s Drift and Isandlwana.
Step back in time onboard the glamorous Rovos Rail train – exclusively chartered for guests of cazenove+loyd. Enjoy elegant décor and exquisite dining while journeying through the rolling hills.
The trip will involve a wonderful opportunity to spend some time at the pre-school set up by The David Rattray Foundation (also known as Khula Education) at Rorke’s Drift. Our founder, 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.
Welcome to South Africa
Fly overnight to Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport.
Upon arrival in Johannesburg, you will be met and driven to your hotel for one night, Fairlawns Boutique Hotel & Spa. The afternoon is free for you to recover from the flight until evening falls when it’s time to enjoy some cocktails, canapés and dinner.
Where you will be staying for one night
Originally owned by the Oppenheimer family, this exclusive boutique hotel was once a 10-acre family home. Today, it offers more than 40 spacious, individually themed suites, a fully equipped gym, an à la carte restaurant, landscaped gardens and a Balinese Spa. We love Fairlawns’ tranquil environment – it is a sanctuary in the city – and being only 30 minutes from Johannesburg airport makes it an extremely convenient as well as comfortable place to stay.
After an early breakfast, you will be driven to Pretoria, where you will visit the Department of Education Building and Library. This library is significant to Sir Nicholas Soames, as his grandfather, Winston Churchill, was held captive here until his escape about a month later. The building had become a prison following the outbreak of the Boer War. Historian Nicholas Schofield will meet you here and give a short talk.
Following this visit, you will be driven to Capital Park Station to board your train and begin your journey to Dundee. The gong will sound for the first time as a sumptuous three-course lunch is served in the dining carriage as you leave Pretoria. As the afternoon continues, enjoy the stunning views of the undulating hills from the comfort of your cabin or the elegant lounge car. Enjoy a real sense of ceremony with dinner this evening, complete with crystal glasses, fine white linen and silverware.
Where you will be staying for four nights
Step back in time onboard Rovos Rail’s glamorous carriages, exclusively chartered for guests of cazenove+loyd. Enjoy elegant décor and exquisite on-board dining whilst journeying on this luxurious train. Our longstanding relationship with Rovos Rail and the nature of this extraordinary trip mean that we are able to access this routing exclusively, allowing passengers to discover the history of the Boer War in total luxury. Without exception, the cabins on board are beautifully appointed. The Deluxe Suite offers either twin or double beds, and the opulent Royal Suites span half a carriage each. All have a private lounge area and a full bathroom. A highly-skilled team of chefs is responsible for overseeing the very important task of ensuring guests’ every taste is catered for. In the evenings, come together for cocktails, dinner and discussions about the day’s events.
Dundee + the First Battle of the Anglo-Boer War
After breakfast, you will disembark the train for a morning with historian Nicholas Schofield, a peerless storyteller, who will lead you to the site of the murder of the Prince Imperial, the last Napoleon (and only son of Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie), during the Anglo-Zulu wars. Although the emphasis of this trip is on the Anglo-Boer War and Sir Winston Churchill, the Anglo-Zulu wars are equally pertinent. The prince’s murder is a fascinating snapshot of the time: with him died the final hope of his supporters for the eventual return of the empire to France.
Lunch will be back on the train, after which you can rejoin Nicholas Schofield for an afternoon visit to the site of the Battle of Talana – the first major clash of the Anglo-Boer War. During this conflict, the British suffered heavy casualties but occupied the coal-mining town of Dundee, which proved crucial to the British war effort. We have also arranged for you to have private after-hours access to the Talana Museum. Here, the curator, Pam MacFadden, who is the resident expert on the battle, will regale our group with how the battle unfolded, culminating in the tragic death of the commanding officer and Commander-in-Chief of the army.
After this gripping afternoon, you will re-board the train at Dundee. In the early evening, Sir Nicholas Soames will deliver a lecture entitled ‘The Importance of Being Winston’, all about his grandfather’s early life. You will then be served a delicious dinner on the train.
The Rattray family, Rorke’s Drift + Khula School
Although much of the emphasis of the trip will be the Anglo-Boer War, the Zulu Wars are equally fascinating and we have planned a full day to explore the beautiful area around Rorke's Drift and Isandlwana hosted and guided by the inimitable Rattray family. David Rattray, who sadly died in 2007, was the renowned historian of the Zulu people and his family carry on his storytelling and passion for the area he called home. Following breakfast, guests will disembark the train for a morning at the site of the Battle of Isandlwana.
Next, you will proceed through the villages of Zululand to Rorke’s Drift, where you will have the opportunity to spend some time at the preschool set up by The David Rattray Foundation (also known as Khula Education), which is directly adjacent to the site. David was passionate about helping local school children through education. As he said, “Without education there is no hope, without hope there is no future.” Our founder, Henrietta Loyd, is a trustee of the charity, which has recently successfully raised money to build WiFi towers in the area and deliver 200 Ipads so that the Year 12 students can continue with their final year studies during the lockdown. Afterwards, you will meet the Rattray family and enjoy a picnic under the shade of the trees in the gardens of the mission station, before immersing yourself in the story of Rorke’s Drift.
At about 6.30pm, you will return to the train, which will then depart towards Frere. Dinner will be served onboard. The Battle of Isandlwana in 1879 was the first major battle in the Anglo-Zulu war between the British and the Zulus. A Zulu force of about 20,000 warriors, mainly equipped with traditional assegai attacked about 1800 British, colonial, native troops and some civilians. The battle was a decisive victory for the Zulus and caused the defeat of the first British invasion of Zululand. The Battle of Rorke's Drift followed on immediately after Isandlwana. Rorke's Drift was a mission station and a former trading post. It was located on the Buffalo River, which at the time formed the border between the British colony of Natal and the Zulu Kingdom. About 150 British and colonial troops successfully defended the garrison against 3–4,000 Zulus. Eleven Victoria crosses were awarded among many other honours.
Day 6: 4th April 2022
This morning, after breakfast, you will be driven to the capture site (or Armoured Train Incident) and on to the Ladysmith Siege Museum. Known as one of the best Anglo-Boer War museums in South Africa, it was built in 1884 as a market house and served as a ration post for civilians during the siege. Now, it houses an extremely comprehensive collection of artefacts from the Boer War. Nicholas Schofield really comes into his own, describing this dramatic time of the Anglo-Boer War. You will then travel to Mount Alice, where on arrival, renowned Boer War raconteur, Raymond Heron, will give an account of the Spionkop Battle. Lunch will then be taken at Spionkop Lodge.
This afternoon, you will visit the actual site of the Spionkop Battle and drive to the top of the hill where the fighting took place. Nicholas Schofield will give a fascinating tour and describe in detail Sir Winston Churchill’s role in the battle – he acted as a courier between Spionkop and General Buller’s headquarters – before you are taken back to the train at Ladysmith Station. In the early evening, Sir Nicholas Soames will deliver a lecture on Churchill’s experiences in South Africa from December 1899 to June 1900, including his time as a journalist, his capture and miraculous escape from the Boers, and his rejoining of the army. He will draw on Sir Winston’s private diaries and papers to add great colour to the lecture. Dinner will be served afterwards before the train leaves Ladysmith for Pietermaritzburg, with an overnight stop at Estcourt Distance.
Arrival in Pietermaritzburg
After breakfast, you will be driven along the coast road to Durban’s King Shaka International Airport, from where you will take your onward flight. Whether you would prefer to go on safari, collapse on a beach or explore other parts of Africa, we would be very happy to arrange an incredible extension to your trip.
Sir Nicholas Soames
Sir Arthur Nicholas Winston Soames is a former British Conservative Party politician and the grandson of Sir Winston Churchill. He represented Mid Sussex from 1997 until 2019, previously serving as MP for Crawley. Sir Nicholas has an incredible energy and passion for his grandfather, which is infectious. To this unique trip, he brings personal anecdotes, as he knew him late into his teenage years, as well as access to previously unpublished materials from the Churchill archive.
Born on a grape farm in the Cape, Nicholas has a life’s passion for African history and, in particular, the Anglo-Boer War. Upon completion of his studies, he became a lecturer in history at Vista University, Mamelodi, the black township of Pretoria. Schofield is now the historical consultant for Rovos Rail and has been for the past 27 years. He is described by Rohan Vos, Founder of Rovos Rail, as “our storyteller extraordinaire”.
Christopher Wilmot-Sitwell is the Co-Owner + Director of cazenove+loyd and has been travelling frequently to Southern Africa since his first visit to KwaZulu-Natal as a schoolboy in the early 1970s. Having worked in South Africa in the 1980s and travelled to most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, it is a region with an enduring fascination. Christopher has led a number of small group trips, including a private boat charter on the Irrawaddy in Myanmar and another private boat journey along the Mekong from Vietnam to Cambodia.
+ Deluxe Suite: £4,995 / US$6,695 per person based on two sharing
+ Royal Suite: £5,995 / US$8,035 per person based on two sharing
+ Single supplement: £1,500 / US$2,010
+ Four nights in a Rovos Rail suite
+ One night at Fairlawns Boutique Hotel & Spa, including breakfast
+ All food and drink while on the train
+ Luggage handling
+ All private guiding
+ All experiences as per itinerary
+ Return airport transfers
+ Dinner at Fairlawns Boutique Hotel & Spa
+ Travel insurance
+ Any other extras
+ International flights – please speak to one of our experts who can help you arrange these
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