First light arrived. Soon these hours come to pass would be the last now for many, if not all. Pockets of men snored. Some chatted quietly amidst the rubble and stacks of other things they’d used to build new barricades from crumbled walls. Much fewer in numbers after the wounds and loss of yesterdays all-day melee. Seemingly not urgent the young Lieutenant shook his comrade’s shoulder gently. But still, it woke him with a jolt and, rubbing tired eyes, he gulped at what he then saw, too.
Across the tops of every hill surrounding, they stood. So tall and not one, but in their hundreds. Intimidating. Bodies glistened, gleaming in their bold near-naked presence. At the early morning sun all had begun silent then, the noise came with the lowest of hum then, some warriors cut their lines, ran out, began beating on their animal skin shields and others scrape their spears into the air in these, their opening peacock strutted dares. These simple acts were just the prelude to the coming slaughter. The hum became a roaring of threats and other promised deeds and to drown them out, defiant, the soldiers held their dignity. Sang Men of Harlech, knowing each had made their peace and were readied now to do or die beneath the Zulu Dawn.
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In January 1879 fewer than 150 British soldiers, of whom almost a quarter were invalids before the fighting even started, defended a postage-stamp of land against 4,500 Zulu warriors.
This historic battle was made into a very colourful movie in 1964 starring Michael Caine, Stanley Baker and Jack Hawkins. It ends with a narration by Richard Burton, listing the defenders who all received the Victoria Cross. Eleven were awarded for the actual fighting at Rorke’s Drift, the most ever for a regiment in a single battle in British military history.
Although he wasn’t a part of this battle I’ve included a short video which is well worth watching to see the power of the Zulu warrior’s fitness and physique, the song is great too. One of the most famous of all Zulu warriors and best known is: Shaka. Such was his fame that in 1986 they made a TV series of his life Starring Henry Cele.
Here’s a couple of links if you wish to read more about the battle and amazing warriors:
My piece for 9/11 memoriam was posted yesterday Teach the Children