Which single battle saw the most Victoria Crosses awarded? The subject of our talk this month was ‘The Defence of Rorke’s Drift’ , a mission station on the banks of the Buffalo River on the border between Natal and Zulu Land. Originally established as a trading post by James Rorke it was known locally as “Jim’s Land”. The Battle of Rorke’s Drift between the British Army and the Zulu warriors was depicted in the film Zulu starring Michael Caine and took place on 22nd and 23rd of January 1879 immediately following the British Army’s defeat by the Zulus at the Battle of Isandlhwana,
Lou Fletcher, who is a member of the Anglo-Zulu War Historical Research Society, gave members a fascinating account of the tragic and heroic events which took place on those two days when 150 British redcoats, some already wounded, faced 4,000 Zulu warriors. Under the command of Lieutenant John Chard, the British soldiers built a defensive perimeter of mealie bags alongside the mission station around an area the size of two tennis courts and within this, they built a small redoubt, a fortification some eight feet high. Throughout the night, and in the glow of their burning hospital, the brave men repelled wave after wave of attacking Zulus and, at first light, when ammunition for their Martini-Henry rifles was running low they saw that the Zulus were gone. Seventeen of the defenders died and eleven of the survivors received The Victoria Cross.
Michael Edmonds, on behalf of members, thanked Lou for his stunning talk which was thoroughly enjoyed by all present. The subject of the February meeting of the Tavistock Probus Club is “Tavistock Area Support Services”.
Anyone interested in the Tavistock Probus Club may contact the secretary on 01822 615669.