Rorke's Drift part two - THE INITIAL ATTACK.
Time 4.30pm. From the store-house the garrisons lookout could see the Zulus, the iNdluyengwe approach from the Southern flank of the Shiyane Hill. They advanced rapidly to attack, fanning out into their usual crescent attack formation. There were perhaps 500 or 600 of the iNdluyengwe in this first rush. Chard gave the order to open fire at about 500 yds range. (film quote - "North ramparts stand fast, South ramparts at 100yds volley fire, present, fire". I think it was Michael Caine - Bromhead who shouted out this command in the film?)
The attack did not falter until it pressed close to the buildings, and Chard thought for a moment that nothing would stop them.
However, at just 50 yds from the rear wall they were caught in a heavy crossfire from the buildings and the attack stalled.
Large numbers of warriors threw themselves down in the grass and wriggled forward to take possession of the cover offered by the cook-house, ovens and ditch, from here they opened a heavy fire on the back wall at just a few yards range.
Checked at the rear of the post, most of the iNdluyengwe veered to their left, passed round the end of the hospital, and poured into the bush at the front of the post.
From here, scarcely pausing to regroup, they launched the first of a series of attacks on the front of the hospital, and it immediately became apparent that this was the post's weak-spot. The Zulus were able to advance under shelter of long grass and bush up to a few feet away from the inadequate barricade. (Due to running out of time before the battle began, the defenders were unable to clear a field of fire, also this point in front of the hospital was the furthest away from the storehouse for the men to drag the heavy bags.)
Despite a heavy fire poured into them at close range, they rushed right up and engaged the defenders hand to hand.
This first rush was driven back by a squad of men in a bayonet charge led by Lieutenant Bromhead and Colour-Sergeant Bourne.
NEXT WEEK ................ THE MAIN ATTACK.
The main Zulu body come into sight and sweep round the front of the hospital ...........