Deep in the rural areas of KwaZulu-natal, about 20km from Dundee is the impressive, but almost unknown Anglo-Zulu War fortification known as Fort Pine. Its dry-stone walls are still impressive, at least 14 feet high they tower over the gentle farmland of the Biggarsberg ridge.
Work began on the fort by the Royal Engineers in 1878 and it was intended as the barracks of the Natal Mounted Police. The accommodation section hadn’t been completed by the start of the Anglo-Zulu War, but after the disaster at Isandlwana in January over 300 terrified local civilians flocked to the Fort for safety. It is hard now to imagine the small area inside the walls packed with tents and wagons.
The local border agent in charge of the Fort was John Sutcliffe Robson, a former commander of the Buffalo Border Guard – his descendants still live in the area around Dundee. Despite one or two false alarms Zulu warriors never attacked the fort, though it continued to be used as a patrol base by the Buffalo Border Guard and the Newcastle Mounted Rifles.
Inside there is a still a well which appears to be full of water, the remains of stables, barracks and a stout wooden door on the north-east corner of the ramparts. Sadly the fire-step that ran around the interior and allowed access to the loopholes is long gone.
I was lucky enough to visit this hidden gem recently while on an educational tour for KZN battlefield guides (which I am currently training to be) in the company of Pam McFadden – the curator of the Talana museum and an incredible font of knowledge.
The fort is currently on private land but access does not seem to be a problem as far as I could tell, though it might be worth checking with Pam at the Talana museum before visiting.
Location 28°13’06.0″S 30°21’20.0″E