Thursday, 18 December 2008

Digging into the past 2

I blogged about the problems of researching in modern day Zimbabwe, but to my aid has come a splendid source. Dave Sutcliffe, a British born Rhodesian who now lives in South Africa, is a historian and a guide to what we British called the two Boer Wars. He was the man who led Betty and me on the 1,500 ft climb to the summit of Majuba Hill in afternoon temperatures of 32 degrees for my book, “Last Stand on Majuba Hill.” (I have always hated that word “Hill.” We found it a small mountain!)

I e-mailed him a couple of questions and so opened a Pandora’s Box of information back from him about the geography, wild life, flora and fauna of Zimbabwe, all put into the context of what it might have been like to march through the region in the late 1880’s: the river crossings, the mopani woodlands, the giant ant hills, the puff adders, the smell of cinnamon, the flies, the wild monkeys, the lions… He even sent me detailed maps of the country and I shall always remain grateful to him.

If any reader is contemplating a visit to the Boer War sites then I warmly recommend him as a guide. He is at:

Anyone who writes history depends upon a variety of sources that he must plunder. But I still feel guilty and rather cowardly about starting “Matabele” without visiting Zimbabwe. Maybe I can get away with Dave’s help and, perhaps, a visit to the South African side of the Zambabwian border. So I guess I am still pondering…

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Wilcox looking forward to reading Siege of Khartoum. As a film producer and arm chair historian I prefer non-fiction as a norm. As in Lt. Colonel Mike Snook and his non fiction historical series of How Can Man Die Better (Isandlwana), Like Wolves on the Fold (Rorke’s Drift), and other non fiction writers. I love to visit battlefields to share the history and pay my respects, like yourself. It takes a really good blend of history and a fictional character or story to pull me in. I really enjoy how you bring to life Simon and Jenkins. Very few writers are able to tie in the historical aspects that a Colonel Snook or other non fictional historians write with a great fictional story. V. A. Stuart, Bernard Cornwell and yourself are among the few. A business partner and historian/professor at the University of Cape Town recommended you and your series. Outstanding work sir. All the best. Respectfully, one of those Anglo/American Anglophiles. Bruce Bisbey