“They have shown, in this difficulty—as they have ever shown—the utmost devotion and bravery. Those who have fallen will be remembered, and will be mourned; but we must not forget the exhibition of heroic valour by those who have been spared.“ (Benjamin Disraeli, “MINISTERIAL STATEMENT“, 13 February 1879)
|Elizabeth Thompson, Lady Butler (1846 - 1933): "The Defence of Rorke's Drift" (1880)|
|From left to right: Sir Henry Bartle Frere, King Cetshwayo kaMpande, Lord Chelmsford (ret.), Prince Dabulamanzi kaMpande, Lt John Chard, Lt Gonville Bromhead|
It’s about 9 miles from Isandlwana to Rorke’s Drift and early in the afternoon, two survivors from the battle galloped past the strolling Lieutenant John Chard of the Royal Engineers, temporary commander of the depot, the hospital and 140 men of B company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot, a few Royal Engineers, Medical Corps and army staff usually found in a depot. The two shocked the bemused lieutenant into action with their news of the lost battle and the approaching impi and Chad, his second-in-command Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead and Acting Assistant Commissary James Dalton of the Commissariat and Transport Department, an ex-sergeant of the 85th Foot, immediately began their hasty preparations to defend against the Zulu, thousands of them. With improvised barricades made of boxes and mealie bags the former farmstead, Swedish mission station and now army depot was fortified and about half past four, the vanguard of Dabulamanzi charged. Legend has it that the 24th Foot was a Welsh regiment. About one fourth of the men behind the defences at Rorke’s Drift actually was recruited in Wales, the rest were English from the industrial centres around Birmingham and a few Irish and they did not, in all probability, sing “Men of Harlech” to counter the Zulu war chants, especially not long after midnight, when the final attacks on the last defences around the storehouse finally began to slacken. Their regimental march in 1879 was “The Warwickshire Lads" anyway. But there was incredible bravery on both sides, from those who ran into the withering fire of British Martini-Henry rifles, dying in their hundreds trying to carry the barricades and those who held and held again and fought, often enough, in close combat, bayonet against assegai, until their enemy could not go on any longer after a full day of quick marching through the high veldt and eight hours fighting. But the defenders of Rorke’s Drift were finished as well and it’s highly doubtful if they could have held against another attack of Dabulamanzi’s men. They never came. Incredibly enough, only 17 of the defenders were dead and 15 wounded, most of them from rifle fire of Zulu marksmen positioned in the hills around the place. About one tenth of the impi had died and about 500 were wounded. Many of them were killed in the morning by British patrols, probably just like the Zulu dispatched the British wounded at Isandlwana and at 8 a.m., Chelmsford’s relief force arrived on the scene. Honour was restored.
|Alphonse de Neuville (1835 - 1887): "The Defence of Rorke's Drift 1879" (1880)|
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