On January 11th, 1879, Lord Chelmsford led an invading British army into Zululand and raised the ire of the Zulu nation, perhaps one of the most vicious of Africa’s savage tribes. His army crossed the Tugela River the same day at Rorke’s Drift, a small river crossing and mission station that connects British Natal and Zululand. A small supply depot was built at the ford and then garrisoned by the brave lads of B Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th (2nd Warwickshire) Regiment of Foot (2nd/24th) under Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead.
On 22nd January 1879, the Zulu Army bypassed Lord Chelmsford’s advancing force and annihilated the 1st Battalion, 24th Foot, commanded by Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Pulleine, which had set up an advanced camp by the hill of Isandlwana. The Zulu force, consisting of 20,000 warriors, overwhelmed Pullein’s 1,800 British and auxiliary troops. Towards the end of the tragic Battle of Isandlwana, the proud redcoats formed desperate last stands and “squares,” fighting back-to-back and hand-to-hand with bayonet and rifle butt once their ammunition ran out. No quarter was given to them and they fought to the last to save the honor of their colors. The solitary last stand by the guard of Chelmsford’s tent – a wild Irishman of the 24th kept the black barbarians at bay by the point his bayonet until he was run through and the general’s flag captured.
Of the 1,700-plus force of British troops and African auxiliaries, about 1,300 were killed, most of them Europeans, including field commanders Pulleine and Colonel Anthony Durnford. Only five Imperial officers survived, and the 52 officers lost was the most lost by any British battalion up to that time. Some 1,000 Martini-Henry rifles, the two field artillery guns, 400,000 rounds of ammunition, three colors, most of the 2,000 draft animals and 130 wagons, provisions such as tinned food, biscuits, beer, overcoats, tents and other supplies, were taken by the Zulus or left abandoned on the field. Of the survivors, most were from the auxiliaries.
A few months later, a British war correspondent, Archibald Forbes, visited the site of the massacre at Isandlwana. His description is chilling, but unsurprising: “Some [of the dead men] were almost wholly dismembered, heaps of yellow clammy bones. I forbear to describe the faces, with their blackened features and beards bleached by rain and sun. Every man had been disemboweled. Some were scalped. And others had been subject to even ghastlier mutilations. The clothes had lasted better than the poor bodies they covered, and helped keep the skeletons together.”
The same day that Chelmsford’s 1st Battalion was slaughtered almost to the man, the garrison of barely more than 100 of Her Majesty’s soldiers at Rorke’s Drift was attacked by approximately 4,000 Zulu savages. The brave men of Britannia held off wave after wave of attacks by the Zulu hordes. The Battle of Rorke’s Drift lasted 10 hours, from late afternoon till just before dawn the following morning. By the end of the fighting, 15 soldiers lay dead, with another two mortally wounded. Surrounding the camp were the bodies of hundreds of dead and wounded Zulus. After the battle, 11 men received the Victoria Cross, the British Empire’s highest award for gallantry — the largest number of VCs ever awarded for a single engagement.
The truly excellent 1964 film, Zulu, chronicles the courageous defenders of Rorke’s Drift. With an excellent cast, thrilling battle scenes, an unforgettable song (“Men of Harlech”) and an overwhelming sense of White admiration, this film is required viewing for the Alt-Right. The film is essentially non-political as a whole, but does illustrate the superiority of White military tactics and innovation and our “stiff upper lip” grit, as well as, the ignorance and incompetence of Victorian social justice warriors (think Swedish missionaries). It’s a film that under no circumstances would (((Hollywood))) make today – unless they completely re-wrote history entirely (like they did in the poppycock film The Four Feathers (2002) which fallaciously depicted the British losing the 1885 Battle of Abu Klea).
You’d think a film about White imperialistic soldiers soundly defeating black hordes would have been the product of traditionalist filmmakers, but quite the contrary. Screenwriter John Prebble (Zulu was his only screenwriter credit, but his research on the heartbreaking Battle of Culloden was used for the docudrama Culloden) was a communist and had volunteered to fight against Franco’s noble forces in the Spanish Civil War. His co-writer, American and second-generation immigrant (((Cy Endfield))), had been accurately, and predictably, exposed as a communist during a 1951 House Un-American Activities Committee hearing. Endfield’s production partner and the film’s headliner, though he would be overshadowed by Michael Caine, was Welshman Stanley Baker (The Guns of Navarone), a life-long supporter of the British Labour Party and shitlib causes.
Baker portrays Lieutenant John Chard of the Royal Engineers and later assumes command of the small detachment (by virtue of his commission date). He perfects the single-minded and professional British officer, although the real-life Chard had a somewhat lackluster military career. Chard was designed to be the main protagonist of the film, but Caine’s Lieutenant Bromhead became the breakout star of the film and the audiences’ favorite. Unlike the middle-class and practical Chard, Bromhead is arrogant, wealthy and aesthetic – the blonde haired and red tunic-clad Caine dispatching Zulus with his Webley makes for an inspiring impression.
In addition to the two outstanding leads, Zulu has a first-rate supporting cast. Jack Hawkins (Bridge on the River Kwai) plays the proto-SJW Reverend Otto Witt, a Swedish do-gooder missionary who is blind to the Zulu’s savagery and our heroes’ duty to defend their post. Private Henry Hook, played by the wolfish James Booth, is a drunken rogue and malingerer. “Hookie” redeems himself by saving the lives of the hospital patients (as well as partaking in libations during the battle) and earns a VC.
But, perhaps my favorite character (and a motivating real-life soldier) is Colour Sergeant Frank Bourne – portrayed by the gruff Nigel Green (check out the cult-classic and innovative stop-motion animation pioneered in Jason and the Argonauts). Green’s Colour Sergeant Bourne depicts the quintessential stoutness and discipline of the Victorian British enlisted soldier. He is the veteran old soldier, calm and composed in the face of the Zulu assault, stoically arbitrating between the quarreling officers, the panicky and bewildered troops and the provocative Hook. When the hypocritical drunkard, Reverend Witt, begins screaming that the whole unit “is going to die!” Bourne confronts him with a dignified murmur: “Be quiet now, will you, there’s a good gentleman. You’ll upset the lads.”
The real-life Colour Sergeant Bourne requested a commission rather than the Victoria Cross for his bravery in the battle. He was granted this request and went on to become a Lieutenant Colonel. When he died in 1945, he was the last surviving British soldier from the battle.
Ultimately, Zulu is about pure heroism and that old toughness that used to be the hallmark of the British Empire. “Men of Harlech,” the song belted out by the besieged soldiers during the film’s climax is extremely powerful. “Can’t you see their spear points gleaming,” our heroes sing – as the viewer hears the thundering sound of thousands of Zulu assegai (stabbing spears) banging down on cowhide shields and the massive horde descending on the proud Welshmen. Outnumbered and likely doomed to the same fate as the lost souls at Isandlwana, our heroes roar: “Men of Harlech, on to glory, this shall ever be your story, keep these fighting words before ye, Welshmen will not yield!” And they didn’t.
If you haven’t seen this film, I highly recommend it. This is easily a five star film.
PS. This song is best sung after a few pints with the lads:
Men of Harlech, stop your dreaming
Can’t you see their spear points gleaming
See their warrior’s pennants streaming
To this battle field
Men of Harlech stand ye steady
It cannot be ever said ye
For the battle were not ready
Welshmen never yield!
Form the hills rebounding
Let this war cry sounding
Summon all at Cambria’s call
The mighty force surrounding
Men of Harlech, on to glory
This shall ever be your story
Keep these fighting words before ye
Cambria (Welshmen never) will not yield
0 Stars – The Four Feathers (2002)
1 Stars – Breaker Morant
2 Stars – Zulu Dawn
3 Stars – The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968)
4 Stars – Khartoum
5 Stars – Gunga Din