British historian who spent almost 20 years working as a tour guide in South Africa specialising in the Anglo-Zulu war has died after a savage beating by armed robbers at his home.
Robert Gerrard trained under David Rattray, the most celebrated historical storyteller in the region and a close friend of the Prince of Wales.
Mr Gerrard later became the resident tour guide at Isandlwana Lodge in KawZulu-Natal, with his home overlooking the hillside where one of the region’s most famous battles took place.
Both men met the same fate: Mr Rattray was gunned down in his home by armed intruders in 2007, while Mr Gerrard was tortured and left unable to walk after armed men burst into his cottage in February this year.
The Royal Geographical Society Fellow and former British army officer died last week following complications from the multiple injuries he sustained, including brain damage, a shattered pelvis and severe burns, his family said on Tuesday.
“He was an incredibly fit and determined man until this,” his sister, Sally Gerrard Fox, said.
“He would be out striding the mountainside on tours every day. But he just wasn’t getting better, he was forcing himself to walk again but it was clear that the attack sounded the end of his career.”
Mr Gerrard, 74, a divorced father of two sons who live in the UK, laid claim to a lengthy family history both in South Africa and the military.
His great grandfather, Sir John Robinson, was the first prime minister of the British South African colony of Natal, he said in a recent blog post, and his father had been the commanding officer of The Gordon Highlanders, the British army infantry regiment that fought in the Anglo-Boer war along with both world wars.
Ampleforth College-educated Mr Gerrard served in Kenya, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Borneo before moving to South Africa, where he first worked as a commodity broker before becoming a tour guide in KwaZulu Natal.
He said working with David Rattray at nearby Rorke’s Drift was “where I started to live my passion”.
As the resident tour guide at Isandlwana Lodge, he became legendary among visitors who included former US president Jimmy Carter and his family.
He had, one visitor wrote, “one of those voices that you never got tired of hearing”.
“Rob was a huge drawcard,” said Joanne Hayes, a spokesman for the lodge. “But the damage and the injuries he suffered as a result of the break-in, he never really recovered.”
Mr Gerrard was attacked on the evening of February 25 after returning to his cottage after dinner with guests at the lodge.
“As he unlocked the door he saw one guy and punched him on the nose but didn’t realise that there was another one behind him with a gun,” Mrs Fox said.
“They beat the living hell out of him, smashed his head into the floor, tied him up, poured boiling water over him, fractured his pelvis in seven places.
“Afterwards, he was shattered not only that this had happened but the brutality behind what happened, the lack of clear reason for it.”
The thieves made off with two handguns and two rifles, one of which had been his father’s, along with credit cards and a signet ring they broke his finger to wrench off.
Mrs Fox said her brother had been left profoundly depressed by the attack.
“For the first time in my life, I could see that he was almost scared,” she said. “I have never seen him scared of anything in my life but he was.”
A memorial service will be held overlooking the battlefield on October 29 and his ashes will be scattered there.
“A case of business robbery is being investigated by Nquthu SAPS,” said Captain Ngobile Gwala, a spokesman for the South African Police Service. “No arrests have been made, investigations are continuing.”-Telegraph