I’ve read a few books about Rorke’s Drift and this is one I will be keeping in my library. The book covers aspects of the battle not previously covered in anything else I’ve read, such as the defence and the withdrawal from the hospital and who was where and when during this time.
Rorke’s Drift was the defence of a mission station by 155 British soldiers against at least 3,000 Zulus, possibly more, over the afternoon, evening, and night of 22-23 January 1879. The British survived with 15 dead (2 later dying from their injuries) and the Zulus lost between 600 – 900. The defenders were down to their last boxes of ammunition when Lord Chelmsford, with a column of soldiers, turned up early in the morning of the 23rd to stop the Zulus attacking again otherwise it would likely have been a different story.
The book includes all the citations for the 11 (yes eleven) Victoria Crosses earned over the 12 hours of fighting. The fighting was hand-to-hand at times, with bayonets being used against spears in the night time.
The attitude of Garnett Wolseley shines through. He despised the two lieutenants, Chard and Bromhead, who lead the defence, writing about Chard after presenting him with his VC
“A more uninteresting or more stupid-looking fellow I never saw. Wood (a subordinate of Wolseley) tells me he is a most useless officer, fit for nothing.”
This is sheer class bias written about a man who’d recently organised the greatest defence of a place by the British army there’s ever been. Chard was very modest, almost shy, and unassuming. His actions did the talking and his men admired him.
14 hours prior to Rorke’s Drift, the Zulus had massacred 1300 British soldiers at iSandlwana, about 6 miles away. Survivors from this massacre passed by Rorke’s Drift as they were fleeing, telling the men there what was coming their way.
The soldiers stayed where they were.