Skip to comments.This Week In History: The Battle of Rorke's Drift
Posted on 01/20/2013 4:05:47 PM PST by Argus
This week, January 22-23 marks the 134th anniversary of the Battle of Rorke's Drift in Natal Province, South Africa. Everyone knows the story of the small company of Welsh troops from the 24th Regiment of Foot who held off a force of up to 4,000 Zulu warriors who outnumbered them twenty to one.
I plan to celebrate the occasion tomorrow by viewing the classic movie of the siege starring Stanley Baker and Michael Caine, made fifty years ago. It looks like there won't be anything else worth watching on TV that day anyway.
Everyone knows about Rorke’s Drift but hardly anyone knows about the main show at Isandlwana. What a horrifying deal that was (from the British POV).
Both were well documented in a Flashman book, called “Flashman and the Tiger”. As will with all of the Flashman books, the research is pretty good..
I saw it at The Lincoln Theater in Kearny, NJ. I believe however it was a company of Royal Army Engineers, supported by Welsh Infantry and Natal Border guards. An amazing and trenchant example of a first class civilization over an inferior one. The fact that they were engineers and were based at a small compound of buildings, they were able to fortify the compound to their advantage and make the enemy come to them. Remarkable still when you realize that only a week earlier 1,000 British troops were caught in the open at a place called Iswandala by the Zulus and were slaughtered to a man. 22 Victoria Crosses were awarded in connection with this battle, the most ever awarded in all of British military history.
The officer commanding was an engineer, Lt. Chard. The main body of troops were infantry.
The battle at Isandlwana was not a week earlier; it was earlier that day.
I will set down tomorrow and watch ZULU DAWN and ZULU! Two of the best action movies ever made. Will not be watching the coronation in DC.
Back in 1968, the NY Times published a book of movie reviews by Rex Reed released to TV. Being 1968, I immediately looked up ZULU.
Talk about a crying baby. He was crying about how such a “racist” movie could be released in these hard times of 1968 with all the race riots going on!
The Washing of the Spears: A History of the Rise of the Zulu Nation Under Shaka and Its Fall in the Zulu War of 1879
By Donald R. Morris
Watch ZULU DAWN with Burt Lancaster and Peter O’Toole. It covers Islandwana very well.
Two Soldiers in the firing line talk while shooting.
Soldier 1 speaks well of the .557 Martini rifle and how the bullets smash ‘em, flatten out!
Soldier 2 says... “The bullets give out! The bloody spears don’t!”
Read it! Great book!
Anyone ever notice how the Germans in GLADIATOR sound so much like the Zulus in ZULU?
I am not qualified to make a serious assessment of the British outfits involved but I do remember thinking it was a combination of Engineers and Infantry along with some Boer scouts.
I am not sure how accurate the movie was but it showed a group of Engineers working before the attack.
Men of Harlech
January is not a particularly good month for the British army, as it is also the 171th anniversary of the annihilation of Elphinstone’s army in retreat from Kabul, Afghanistan.
Ironically, the Elphinstone family produced some of the finest Admirals in British naval history, and the worst General in world history.
My favorite secen from Zulu http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWuaSww3JnA
Yes, that’s correct.
May I recommend as additional reading a book called Against These Three-A Bio of Paul Kruger, Cecil Rhodes & Lobengula by Stuart Cloete http://www.amazon.com/Against-Three-A-Kruger-Rhodes-Lobengula/dp/B0017DSLLO
Bromhead was the other subaltern. I didn’t know the Royal Army at that time used infantry troops to do engineering details.
One of my favorite movies. I watch it every chance I get.
They used Zulus as extras and you could see them charging with war cries and assegais in hand. Very realistic battle scenes.
I always wondered if any of the actors representing the British army garrison ever had a moment’s thought about: “Hey, what if one of these guys gets excited and has a “flashback” about being a warrior?”
The opposite might be true.
My Father was in the combat engineers and I was recently reading of their normal assignments. In addition to all their engineering duties they were to be used as infantry as needed.
They were fully trained as infantry in addition to their specialized training. They carried what was basically infantry weapons. For instance they carried M1 Garands, not carbines or pistols.
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