One of the fiercest battles fought by the British Army, the Battle of Rorke’s Drift was immortalised in the film Zulu, starring Michael Caine, which had its premiere 50 years ago today on the 85th anniversary of the battle. The battle took place at a small mission in Zululand a few hours after one of the biggest disasters in colonial history, as British military commanders underestimated the well-disciplined Zulu fighters as “savages with pointed sticks” whose only tactic was to rush headlong at the enemy. More than 600 heavily-armed red coat British soldiers were slaughtered with clubs and spears at Isandlwana when they were outflanked and caught by surprise after making an unauthorised attack into Zulu territory. There were fewer than half a dozen survivors.
Mr Cainan, a former regimental sergeant major, is curator of the regimental museum of the The Royal Welsh in the town of Brecon, which was the home depot of the 24th Regiment of Foot to which most of the defenders at Rorke’s Drift belonged. The museum contains relics of battles dating back to the 1680’s as well as more recent conflicts including Iraq and Afghanistan, but it is the relics of the Anglo-Zulu Wars of the 1870’s that most visitors come to see. The campaign to keep the museum was initiated after it was suggested that the collection should be moved to Cardiff, which caused outrage in Brecon.
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