November 18, 2014

Rorke's Drift: Rare Account Of Zulu Battle Written The Day After Sells For £15k


Old books and letters have always been a good investment  - if you can afford them.
This is a letter about an historic battle in the 19th century.
The film about it was also great  - made long ago as mentioned below. 
Worth watching as indeed is the mini-series "Shaka Zulu".

A rare eyewitness account by one of the British heroes of the Battle of Rorke's Drift - where 150 soldiers fought off 4,000 Zulu warriors - has sold for £15,500 at auction.
Assistant Commissary Officer (ACO) Walter Dunne's letter, dated January 24, 1879, describes how he and a vastly outnumbered group of soldiers successfully defended the outpost in South Africa.

The ACO was recommended for the Victoria Cross for his role in the heroic stand, which was later immortalised in the 1964 film Zulu, starring Michael Caine and Stanley Baker.
The letter, which was bought by a museum, reveals how, together with a comrade, he fortified the mission station by organising a makeshift barricade from 200lb mealie bags which were stacked 5ft high.

The following day, ACO Dunne picked up a delivery note for the mealie bags and used it to write the letter to friend Capt Warneford in Cape Colony in South Africa.

He describes how, after the Zulus killed 1,500 British soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 24th Regiment of Foot at Isandlwana, they headed to the outpost at Rorke's Drift, quickly surrounding the troops.

The Rorke's Drift letter was discovered in an album of letters, paintings and other items collected by Captain WJ Warneford's wife Winifred.

The sale at auctioneers Henry Aldridge and Son in Devizes, Wiltshire, also saw letters from Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead, who commanded the 2nd Battalion of the 24th Foot, fetch £1,200 when they went under the hammer. They were bought by a collector who specialises in the Zulu wars.

Lt Bromhead was awarded the Victoria Cross for his part in the battle.
Letters from Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Durnford, who was killed at nearby Isandlwana, were also part of the sale.

Of ACO Dunne's letter, auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said: 'We were very happy with that because it was a unique piece of history. We were delighted to have been given the opportunity of selling it. Material from Rorke's Drift is like hen's teeth - you just do not come across it.'

ACO Dunne, who was in charge of the stores at Rorke's Drift, praises Lt Bromhead who was played by Caine in the famous film.

The defence of Rorke's Drift was recognised with the awarding of no fewer than 11 Victoria Crosses. ACO Dunne, from County Cork, was turned down for a VC but was mentioned in dispatches.

After 35 years of service, he retired to Gibraltar in 1908 but died the same year at a nursing home.

Mr Aldridge described the album as a 'fascinating chronicle of a colonial family in the early part of the 19th century - a tumultuous period of history'.

It was on January 22 1879, on the Natal border with Zululand, in South Africa, that the tiny British garrison of 140 men - many of them sick and wounded - fought for at least 12 hours to repel repeated attacks by up to 4,000 Zulu warriors.

The defence was rewarded by Queen Victoria's government with no fewer than 11 Victoria Crosses.

The name of Rorke’s Drift led to the much-loved film,"Zulu", starring Stanley Baker and Michael Caine.

The movie, which is still celebrated more than 50 years after it was made, saw Baker play Lieutenant John Chard, while Caine played his right-hand man, Lieutenant Goville Bromhead.

After fighting day and night the Zulus eventually retreated after 351 of the men died and 500 were wounded.

It was part of the wider Anglo - Zulu war took place during 1879.
The conflict began because the Zulu kingdom presented an obstacle to British imperial ambitions in southern Africa.

The British invasion of Zululand began on January 11 1879, with the British objective being an eventual federation in Africa.

The battle of Isandlwana erupted on the 22nd of January 1879, 11 days after the British started their invasion. 20,000 Zulu warriors attacked 1,800 British, colonial and native troops and 400 civilians.

The Zulus, who had more numbers, overwhelmed the British, killing over 1,300 troops, while around 1,000 Zulu soldiers were killed.

The battle of Rorke's Drift started almost immediately after, ending on the 23rd.
The Battle of Ulundi on the 4th of July 1879 effectively ended the Zulu-Anglo war, with the defeat of the Zulu forces by the British when over 5,200 British and African soldiers razed the capital of Zululand after defeating the main Zulu army.

The war ultimately ended with a British victory, and Zulu independence.

Above:Finest hour: Painting commemorating the heroic defence of Rorke's Drift in 1879 - a victory by the British against the odds.

With thanks to The Daily Mail
Film clip: Trailers From Hell.

 Rorke’s Drift horror described in lost letter

A FIRST-HAND account of the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, at which a small contingent of British redcoats fought off thousands of Zulu warriors, has come to light in a girl’s scrapbook. 
The letter, written on a chit for a type of coarse cornflour, is one of the only scraps of paper to survive the battle to defend the tiny mission station.

It is dated January 24, 1879, the day after the battle, which was celebrated in a film starring Stanley Baker and a young Michael Caine. It was written by Walter Adolphus Dunne, a commissary officer attached to the 24th Regiment of Foot, later the South Wales Borderers. Dunne was responsible for provisioning the horses and had also purchased the feed bags that formed a vital part of the defences.

The previous day the British Army had suffered one of the worst defeats in its history when 1,350 men were massacred by the Zulu army at the Battle of Isandlwana.

The few survivors who made it back to the mission at Rorke’s Drift were able to warn the defenders in time to throw up rudimentary defences, including Dunne’s mealie sacks, which were used as sandbags.

Although the Zulus were armed only with short stabbing spears, known as assegais, and leather shields, they had already proved themselves fearless and more than a match for the redcoats with their Martini-Henry rifles and bayonets.

About 4,000 warriors who had been held in reserve at Isandlwana ran the 11 miles to Rorke’s Drift determined to finish off the British presence in Zululand. The sight of the massed warriors terrified the native Natal contingent, who fled in fear leaving just the British defenders.

Dunne, who was writing to a former army comrade William Warneford, first told him about the defeat at Isandlwana.

He wrote: “Sad news about the 1/24th. 5Cd commanded by Col. Pulleine were cut to pieces and the camp sacked. 20 Officers are missing.”

He went on: “About 1000 of the Kafirs came in here and attacked us on the same day (22nd).
“We had got about 2 hours notice and fortified the place with bags of grain biscuit boxes &c. They came on most determinedly on all sides. They drove our fellows out of the hospital, killed the patients and burned the place.

“They made several attempts to storm us but the soldiers kept up such a steady killing fire that they were driven back each time.
“We had only 80 men, the contingent having bolted before a shot was fired.
The fight was kept up all night & in the morning the Kafirs retreated leaving 351 dead bodies. Dalton was wounded in the shoulder and temp clerk Byrne killed & 12 of the men ... ”
He then lists some of the officers missing after Isandlwana who would have been known to Warneford.

The letter came to light in a scrapbook that was kept by Warneford’s daughter and sold at auction earlier this year.

The letter was resold on its own in November, in Devizes, Wiltshire, where it was bought by the Museum of the Royal Welsh Regiment in Brecon for pounds 13,000 with the help of the Arts Council and other benefactors. Rorke’s Drift has become the best known battle of the Zulu Wars thanks to the 1964 film.

Eleven Victoria Crosses, were awarded, the largest number presented to a single regiment at any engagement.

The battle claimed the lives of 17 British soldiers, including patients in the mission hospital, and an estimated 600 Zulus died.
By Simon de Bruxelles 


Updated: December 22nd.
With thanks to The Australian

Related: Another Stanley Baker film - Helen Of Troy 

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Shaka Zulu - Military Leader