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The Defence of Rorke's Drift 1879

Location: 45km’s South East of the town Dundee

Situated on the Buffalo River, some twenty eight kilometres from Helpmekaar and named after James Rorke, Rorke’s Drift is famous for the epic battle which took place there in 1879. The Mission buildings were converted into a commissariat depot and hospital, garrisoned by about 100 men under the command of Lieutenants Bromhead and Chard.

On the afternoon of 22 January 1879, after a large sector of the British forces at Isandlwana had been wiped out, news was brought to the little garrison that the "whole" Zulu army was advancing on the post. Immediately steps were taken to put the post in a state of defence. The buildings were loop holed, spaces barricaded with wagons, biscuit boxes and bags of corn flour. Shortly after, the post was fiercely attacked by a large body of Zulus under the command of Dabulamanzi.

Repeated attacks during the night were repulsed with rifle and bayonet. The ferocity of the attack was clearly demonstrated by the glowing gun barrels of the defending soldiers. The hospital was set on fire. Most of the inmates were rescued, but with great difficulty. The Zulus withdrew early the next morning when Lord Chelmsford arrived on the scene. He found survivors begrimed with smoke, their hands seared and their shoulders black and blue from rifle recoil.

A third of the defensive forces had been killed or wounded and ammunition was down to its last. Queen Victoria then awarded a record number of 11 Victoria Crosses to the men who had shown exceptional valour in the face of impossible odds.