I was surfing on blog links yesterday evening, and came across a reference to a film which can be variously described as ”glorious history’, ‘xenophobic rubbish’, ‘racist propaganda’ or simply one of the best action films ever made.
I write of course about ‘Zulu’, the story of the defence of a tiny mission station in Natal, South Africa in January 1897, by British soldiers from B company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot, later known as the South Wales Borderers, some Natal Militia volunteers; all under the command of Lieutenant John Chard and Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead.The garrison of the mission station comprised 8 officers and 131 non-commissioned ranks. Of these 17 were killed and 10 wounded.
The battle of Rorke’s Drift followed the massacre of over 1700 British troops at Isandlwhana by the same Zulus who fought against the tiny number of British soldiers. to this day, no one resally knows how a disciplined force was overrun by such a foe, but they were, and the Welshmen who died at Rorke’s Drift were all shot by British bullets from British rifles captured the previous day.
When I was in Durban during my Merchant Navy days, the nightwatchman aboard our ship was an incredibly ancient Zulu man, and we got talking one evening. H e claimed that his grandfather fought at Isandlwhana as part of a Zulu ‘Impi’ or regiment, and what his grandfather told him as a young boy had stayed with him all those years. He told me that the young men were always placed at the vanguard of the charge, and the older, more experienced warriors at the rear. The battle cry was simple, “Those who move forward may die; those who run back will die!”