Zulu: The Battle of Rorke’s Drift

Released in 1964, the film Zulu portrays the 1879 battle and defense of the little mission/military outpost Rorke’s Drift by 130-odd men against  approximately 4,000 Zulu warriors.  The film starts with an account of the military disaster of Isandhlwana; 1500 British soldiers were slaughtered at their encampment.  The news reaches Rorke’s Drift and preparations for battle commence. There are two officers with the  rank of lieutenant at the outpost, so the one, Chard, takes command due to having received his commission a few months earlier.  Barricades are erected, ammunition doled out, the walking sick armed, and scouts sent up the hill to notify the small contingent of the Zulu’s approach.  The minister, Mr. Witt, is sent off with his daughter after demoralizing the native solders, preaching sedition to the regulars, and getting quite drunk.  He leaves darkly predicting the death of the company.  The fortification of grain bags and wagons,  biscuit boxes and existing stone walls continues.  Scouts come in reporting Zulus on the approach; the sound of Zulus beating their shields with the butt of their spears can be heard at the outpost.   The Zulus attack, their main weapon a spear called an “assegai”, though they also have rifles from the previous engagement of Isandhlwana. This film is fairly good,  though several of the details and characters are incorrectly portrayed.  This film did not have  a fair maid  fall head over hills in love with an American who saves the day and everyone else through his heroic action, in the face of great stupidity and foppishness on the part of the previously mentioned everyone else. Therefore I rank it as fairly good.  Battle scenes are tense, well played and realistic.  (As far as I can tell, for I have never been set upon by Zulus.)  Character development good.  Quotable lines many.  Historical accuracy, fair. I quote from this site: “Some details ought to be mentioned though. Rev. Witt was not a drunk. He, along with Rev. Smith (who did not feature in the film but played an important role) and Surgeon Reynolds went up to the Oskerberg (Shiyane Hill) to look out for the approaching Zulus. There were two parties who warned the post of the possible approach of the Zulus and told of the events at Isandhlwana. One reported to Chard at the river, the other, including Adendorff (Gert Van Der Berg), reported to Chard at the mission station. The command at the station was not decided between Chard and Bromhead on the basis of date of commission, it was decided by Capt. Spalding (Officer in command) before going to Helpmekaar, not before saying to Chard ‘Which of you is senior, you or Bromhead?’ Chard said ‘I don’t know.’ Having then checked the army list Spalding said to Chard ‘I see that you are senior, so you will be in charge. Of course, nothing will happen, and I shall be back again early this evening.’ Ah well.  It is a good film for all that.  This is a very interesting segment of history, the colonization of Africa and events prior to the Boer war.  If you would like a small dose of this time period, you could do far worse.  This should pique your curiosity.  Naturally, this is a movie, hence ENTERTAINMENT. You should never, never, get your history from movies.   (A movie is not a substitute for reality.   Consult your Common Sense before consuming, discontinue use if symptoms of wide-eyed gullibility develop.  This post is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any symptoms of prolonged exposure to nonsense.  For that you need a good deal of cold water. Prices lower in Canada.) As a caution, one of the opening scenes is of a wedding ceremony of the Zulus.  Many topless Zulus.  Cussing is “hell”, “damn”, and “bastard”.  This film portrays soldiers, and soldiers swear. Links & such Padre George Smith’s account from his diary Transcript of an interview with Colours Sergeant Frank Bourne on Youtube. Written transcript here. This site has a lot of information, especially on errors in the movie:   http://www.rorkesdriftvc.com/index.html Another site:  http://www.britishbattles.com/zulu-war/rorkes-drift.htm

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