It is the 140th anniversary of the battle of Rorke’s Drift, a minor engagement in the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879. Contravening orders, Prince Dabulamanzi kaMpande led a force of roughly 4000 Zulu warriors against a unit of 150 British soldiers led by lieutenants Chard and Bromehead, based at the mission station in Rorke’s Drift. On the 22nd and 23rd of January, the Zulu forces repeatedly attacked the British defenses, and were pushed back, in a battle pitting numbers against technology. An estimated 350 Zulu warriors were killed and 500 wounded, and 17 British soldiers died and 15 were wounded.
I first heard of Rorke’s Drift when I was ten or twelve, when I first saw the film Zulu, directed in 1964 by Cy Enfield and featuring Stanley Baker and Michael Caine. It’s still one of my favorite movies, and back in the day it made a colossal impact – the Anglo-Zulu war is not something you get in the history curriculum in Italian middle grades, and therefore the movie was, to me and my friends, first, basically an adventure story, and secondly, totally open-ended; we had no idea of how it would end, every twist and turn, every new charge was a surprise.
Zulu is a great movie (yes, I know, it is historically inaccurate, so sue me) and I guess my interest for colonial history and the British empire started there.
It was therefore only to be expected that I would do my own take on Rorke’s Drift sooner or later.
Cue to Hope & Glory.