Saturday, January 22, 2011

"...Zulus to the south west. Thousands of them."

Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Rorke's Drift which was fought over the 22nd and 23rd of January 1879 during the Anglo-Zulu War. This battle, the defence of the mission station at Rorke's Drift, came immediately after the British defeat at the Battle of Isandlwana where about 20,000 Zulu warriors attacked a portion of the British main column, killing around 1,300 troops.

After the Battle of Isandlwana a force of about 4000 Zulus attacked the tiny garrison at Rorke's Drift. Defending the mission station against this force were just over 150 British and Colonial troops. This small force successfully repelled the Zulu attacks which began on the afternoon of the 22nd and carried on into the early hours of the following morning. 11 Victoria Crosses were awarded to the defenders, along with a number of other decorations and honours.

A film entitled Zulu, based on the Battle of Rorke's drift, was released in 1964. It starred Stanley Baker, Jack Hawkins, James Booth, and in his first starring role, a young Michael Caine. I first saw this film on television around the 100th anniversary of the battle in late January 1979. I was at the impressionable age of 11 and this film had a huge impact on me.

I've seen this film many times before but made a special point to watch it again today on the 132nd anniversary of the historical battle. I love the bravery and heroism this film depicts, on both the British and Zulu sides. I love the stirring music score by John Barry. I love the performance of the actors, especially Michael Caine and James Booth. Zulu is a film that still captivates me even to this day.

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