Friday, 9 November 2012

Battle of Rorke's Drift. part1. The Build-Up.

Following on from my Battle of Isandlwana series, I intend to cover Rorke's Drift with a mixture of historical fact and Hollywood fiction from the film Zulu, so please take this account with a large pinch of salt. 
Since the main column's move forward to Isandlwana, life had been quite at Rorke's Drift.

Lieutenant John Chard, Royal Engineers, was supervising work on the ponts at the crossing. Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead, commander of B Company of the 2nd/24th, stationed at Rorke's Drift, was returning from a hunting trip when he came across Chard at the crossing.
Bromhead: "Hot work?"
Chard: "Damned hot work."
Bromhead: "You've come down from the column?"
Chard: "That's right.They want a bridge across the river"
Bromhead: "Who said you could use my men?"
Chard: "They were sitting around on their backsides doing nothing."
Bromhead: "Rather you asked first old boy".
Chard: "I was told their officer was out hunting."

"Fall them in Corporal Allen."

The first distant shots from Isandlwana could be heard at Rorke's Drift shortly after noon, and by 3.00pm news had reached them by a stream of exhausted and terrified survivors from the defeat of the main column at Isandlwana, who had ridden past.
The decision was made to make a stand and the men were ordered to drag out the mealie-bags and biscuit-boxes from the store, ready to form barricades.

 Chard and Bromhead agreed, the garrison would make a stand. 

Rorke's post consisted of two long thatched bungalows, 30yds apart. The storehouse was the bigger of the two, about 80ft by 20ft, while the hospital was 60ft by 18ft.

 Both buildings had opened verandas at the front.

 A wooden staircase ran up the outside wall at the western end of the storehouse, to an attic under the eaves.

 The general feeling amongst the garrison was that the loss of either building would spell the end of the post, so it was decided to leave the patients where they were, and to place half a dozen men in the hospital to assist in its defence.

Rorke had built his buildings on a flat shelf which dropped away a few feet in front of them in a bank four or five feet high. The storehouse was set back slightly, and a well-built stone cattle-krall lay on its right front corner.

 This was incorporated into the defensive line. A barricade was run across the front of the post to the far left corner of the hospital, where possible this was placed on top of the ledge.

The two wagons were run into a line between the front left corner of the storehouse and the right rear of the hospital.
"Beg pardon Sir, about the soup Sir."

 Pre-battle nerves and a visit to the W.C.

Sergeant Windridge: "Owen you've got a voice haven't you?"
Owen: "Yes sergeant, Baritone."
Windridge: "Well get up on that hill and sing out if you see anything, you too, and take your bundle you dozy Welshman."

"When you look at it this country's not as bit as good as Bala and the lake there. Not really green like, nothing to hold a man in his grave."

"He's a Peeler 716, come to arrest the Zulus."

At about 4pm whilst the garrison was working feverishly to complete the barricades, a party of about 100 black horsemen under a white officer rode up to the post. These were NNH survivors of Isandlwana, who had cut their way through the encircling Zulu horns.  Chard: "Thank God you're here".
Mounted Officer: "I'm surprised your still here, do you know there are 4,000 Zulus coming this way?"
Chard: "Throw your men out in a screen South of here, you know how the Zulus think about cavalry".
Mounted Officer: "I know how my men feel about Zulus, we only just got through."
Chard: "Bromhead if you know this man, tell him we need him. Stand fast, stand fast all of you, where the hell do you think you are going?"
Mounted Officer: "If they're going to die, they will die on their own farms."
Chard: "Dont go. We need you, damn you."

There departure caused a much more serious defection, however. The NNC company garrisoned at Rorke's Drift took one look at them and decided to follow their example, throwing down their weapons, voulting over the barricades and fleeing into the bush.

In a matter of minutes Chard's position had deteriorated badly, he had counted on between 300 and 400 men to man a perimeter which stretched for more than 100yds and included two buildings and now he just had 150. As a precaution he immediately gave the order to build a new barricade which would bisect the yard, running from the front left corner of the storehouse to the front barricade. The position was now effectively cut in half, so that if either buildings fell it would be possible to fall back on the other.

This line was scarcely complete when a shout from a lookout warned that the Zulus were approaching.

Colour Sergeant Bourne: "Sentries report Zulus to the South West, thousands of them."

NEXT WEEK................ part 2. The Initial Attack.


  1. great figures and terrain, love the narative too
    Peace James
    Exiles Painting

  2. Great stuff again Pat!!

    Are the buildings from Redoubt?



  3. Fantastic Pat!!! Incredible photos and writing. A very enjoyable post!

  4. Thanks Chaps, Andy the buildings are from Redoubt Enterprises with some conversion work done. See earlier posts.

  5. Pat, great terrain, figs and post! Keep us the momentum!

  6. Amazing shots and fantastic terrain...nice work Pat

  7. Excellent stuff!!! keep it up Pat!

  8. Really amazing effort - details and research is inspiring. So much here to ogle at!!


  9. Fantastic photos and post, makes me want to watch Zulu again!

  10. Fantastic stuff, SW! Also makes me want to see the film, again. Great photography, too.

    Cheers, Simon

  11. I can´t find the words to express how brilliant this is!!

  12. Thanks very much Chaps. I noticed I had a few more 'Followers' joined the blog today, which now brings the number to over 100, so thanks again for all your support.

  13. Thank you Pat that you want to share this with us! It's lovely from the first picture. That conversion between Chard and Bromhead, the cook asking about the soupe, just wonderfull!
    Looking forward to next week post!


  14. Already shaping up to be just as fantastic as the Isandlwana story! Wonderful!


  15. Oh Pat you've done it again! I have no doubt I shall be glued to every subsequent post - just fabulous!

  16. I am running out of superlatives here Pat. Just wow, you have really brought life to your collection with the ammo carries, the guys moving the mealie bags etc, truly great touches.

  17. Awesome, just awesome. Story telling in miniature doesn't get any better.

    Thanks for sharing.

  18. Hi Pat

    Am new to this but need to do a project. Can you please tell me where you purchased most of the soldiers, terrain etc




    1. Vicky,
      The figures are from Wargames Foundry, Empress Miniatures, Redoubt Enterprises, Warlord Games, Old Glory (casualties), and a few converted Perry Miniatures. Google these and it will come up with their details. The buildings are from Redoubt but Warlord now does the Rorke Drift buildings as well. As for the rest of the terrain, click on 'Terrain' under 'Labels' on the right hand side of this page.