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What happened at Rorke’s Drift? How 150 soldiers held off

On January 11, 1879, a British force commanded by Lieutenant-General Lord Chelmsford invaded Zululand.

From 22 to 23 January, on the bank of the Buffalo River in Natal Province, South Africa a 140-strong British garrison successfully defended the Rorke’s Drift mission station.

The British garrison was commanded by Lieutenant John Chard, Royal Engineers and Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead of the 24 Foot. 

The Zulus were commanded by Prince Dabulamanzi kaMapande. 

Lt Chard was the commanding officer and organised the epic defence which saw them defy all odds to see off the 4,000 fierce Zulu warriors.

Rorke’s Drift inspired the 1964 Hollywood blockbuster starring Stanley Baker and Michael Caine

For 12 hours the British repelled the spear-carrying tribesmen with accurate shooting and brutal hand-to-hand combat. 

The Zulus, known for their bravery and ferocity, were eventually forced to retreat with 350 of their number killed compared to 17 British.

The defensive British force was rewarded by Queen Victoria’s government with no fewer than 11 Victoria Crosses.

The battle was part of the wider Anglo-Zulu war took place during 1879.

The conflict began because the Zulu kingdom presented an obstacle to British imperial ambitions in southern Africa.

The British invasion of Zululand began on January 11, 1879, with the British seeking an eventual federation in Africa.

Source: British  


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