Friday, 30 November 2012


Before I start part 4 of The Battle of Rorke's Drift, I would like to make an announcement and give anyone who may be interested the heads-up, that I am going to put my Zulu War collection up FOR SALE.
This will include all the figures, wagons, buildings, pieces of terrain, back-drops and anything else that has been shown on this blog over the past 12 months concerning the Zulu War. I want to sell it, if possible as a complete collection rather than in lots of small parts. So next week I will list a complete breakdown of what there is and the price, along with a sneak peek of the Zulu War British Lancers that I will put on in a future post. Part 5 of Rorke's Drift will have to miss a week and follow on the week after.

                                           THE FIGHT FOR THE HOSPITAL.

As it grew dark, the defenders - six able-bodied men and perhaps 20 armed patients - had a good field of fire from behind windows and loop-holes, but the Zulus came on in such numbers that they were at last able to get close enough to run right up to the outside walls. They broke in first through a door in the wall on the Western end of the building, where Private Joseph Williams, succeeded in shooting 14 of them before he was overcome.

At the front too, once the dog-leg barricade had been abandoned, there was nothing stopping the Zulus rushing the veranda, and forcing their way in through the doors at the front.

Such were the conditions, however, that most of the defenders were unaware of what was happening outside their own rooms. No sooner had the Zulus reached the building than they set the roof on fire.
"Come back Mr Bromhead, Sir"


When Private Hook's room became too full of smoke for him to bear, he rushed through into the next room containing several patients. The Zulus were trying to break through the door he had shut behind him. The interior walls were just made of sun dried mud-brick, and the defenders were able to hack a big hole through the wall and the patients were pushed and pulled through one by one, until at last the man defending the room sprinted after them. Then the whole process began anew in the next room.

They worked their way through to the rooms at the Eastern end of the building. The only way out of the building was now through a small window which opened into the centre of the yard. But the yard had been abandoned, and was effectively no-man's land.
 The defenders had to pass the patients out into the darkness, where they dropped to the ground and had to scramble the best they could across the yard towards the sanctuary of the biscuit-box wall opposite.

Private Hook has a last sip of medicine before leaving the building.


Evan as the desperate struggle in the hospital was underway, the Zulus kept up their pressure on the storehouse. Although a number of attacks had been repulsed, it soon became clear that the angle between the front wall and the line of biscuit-boxes was now the most vulnerable sector of the perimeter. This area was the least sheltered from the fire directed on the post from all directions. Furthermore, the Zulus could creep up under cover of the rocky ledge and crouch below it with impunity. Bromhead himself took command of this sector, but the fire was so dangerous that of six men with him only he and one other escaped injury.

Corporal Schiess, an NCO of the NNC who had been wounded in the foot was determined to clear the Zulus away from the ledge, and leaving the shelter of the biscuit-box wall, he crept out a few yards along the abandoned front barricade, suddenly stood up, and leaned across to fire down on the Zulus crouching on the other side. Apart from having his hat shot off, he killed three Zulus before returning to his place.

Pressure on the wall remained intense. Private Hitch wounded in the shoulder and being treated by Surgeon Reynolds, whilst Bromhead defends the wall.

Next week............Zulu War collection FOR SALE.

Week after............The Redoubt and Darkness, the final part of the defence of Rorke's Drift.



Friday, 23 November 2012

Rorke's Drift part 3 The Main Attack.

Following on from last weeks instalment of Rorke's Drift and once again, much of the narrative is taken from the excellent Osprey Campaign book Rorke's Drift by Ian Knight.

                                                               THE MAIN ATTACK.

The first rush on the hospital had just been beaten back when the main Zulu body - the uThulwana, iNdlondlo and uDloko - came into sight. Seeing the heavy fire from the back of the post, and that the iNdluyengwe were already engaged at the front, this body veered slightly to its left, passed the hospital and moved into the bush at the front in a dense mass.

They were apparently led by two izinduna on horseback, one whose name is not recorded, was shot dead by a soldier on the back wall, and the other was Prince Dabulamanzi. Although the attack so far showed no signs of careful planning, - the Zulus had simply advanced and attacked - a directing hand became more obvious once the Prince arrived.

Once the main body had manoeuvred into position the attacks on the hospital veranda were renewed with heightened intensity. Several times the warriors rose up out of the cover and charged forward, only to be driven back after a violent melee that spilled onto the veranda itself.

Others took advantage of the bush to extend their attacks further to their left, trying to find a way in along the centre of the front barricade. The combination of rocky ledge and barricade was too much of an obstacle however and they were shot down or bayoneted as they tried to clamber up.

With the arrival of the main body the Zulus also moved to occupy the Shiyane Terrace. It was excellent natural cover and hundreds of Zulus armed with firearms nestled in among the rocks and opened a heavy fire on the back of the post.

The Zulu marksmen had an uninterrupted view into the yard and the defenders manning the front barricade had their backs exposed to the hill.

Chard could do little but order the men on the back barricade, who were comparatively safe, to suppress the Zulu fire as best they could. 

Chaplain Smith hands out ammunition to the defenders on the South wall.

The battle had now been raging for almost an hour, and the casualties in the yard were beginning to mount up and causing Chard some concern. The attacks on the front wall showed no signs of abating and the defenders had finally been driven off the veranda, and had retired to an improvised dog-leg barricade which connected the front right corner of the hospital to the front wall.. From here they could rake the front of the hospital with rifle fire, although dozens of warriors pressed themselves against the walls in the blind spots and tried to batter their way in through the front doors.

Furthermore, the attacks along the centre of the front wall were now even more determined.

A serious assault took place on the barricade directly in front of the storehouse. A track ran up to the buildings there through the ledge, and although it had been blocked off with mealie-bags, it provided less of an obstacle to the attackers.

Chard gathered two or three men to meet the rush, and was joined by Bromhead with two or three more.

It was repulsed, but Chard was concerned that his mounting casualties in the yard might leave a section of the wall undefended. At about 6.00pm he gave the order for his men to abandon the yard and retreat back behind the interior partition of biscuit-boxes. The wounded were dragged inside the new perimeter but there was no time to carry away the dead.

The new position offered Chard a number of advantages. It was almost entirely protected from fire from the hill by the storehouse, and he had the same number of men to defend a much smaller area.

It did mean, however, that the Zulus would now rush forward and occupy the area at the foot of the old front wall, which was effectively dead ground.

Here dozens of them could mass, untouched by British fire. Worse still it meant that it was impossible to keep them away from the hospital, which was now an isolated bastion, defended only by its patients and a handful of able bodied men, in the midst of ground occupied by the enemy.

NEXT WEEK..............................THE FIGHT FOR THE HOSPITAL.