The Anglo-Zulu War: 22 JAN 1879 – Battle of Rorke’s Drift


Eleven days after the British commenced their invasion of Zululand in South Africa, a Zulu force of 20,000 warriors attacked a portion of the British main column at Isandlwana.

The numerically superior Zulus ultimately overwhelmed the British, killing over 1,300 troops, including all those out on the forward firing line, though not without significant casualties. After their ammunition was expended, the British soldiers would fight in close combat making use of their bayonets in their final stand.

Near the end of the battle 4,000 Zulu warriors attacked the fortified mission station at Rorke’s Drift. A garrison held by just 150 British and colonial soldiers commanded by Lt. John Chard of The Royal Engineers and Lt. Gonville Bromhead of the 24th Regiment of Foot.

The assault lasted 11 hours. Fighting initially from the walls, then inside the hospital, at the cattle kraal and finally back to the storehouse. The garrison at Rorke’s Drift, outnumbered more than 20 to 1 fought for every inch and eventually the Zulu attack faltered. Of the 20,000 rounds of ammunition stockpiled at the station, only 900 remained after the battle.

Eleven Victoria Crosses would be awarded for the action at Rorke’s Drift. Within half a year Britain had annexed the Zulu Kingdom.

The infamous battle was immortalised in British history in the 1964 adaptation staring Michael Caine. It is available to watch on YouTube.