Thursday, January 23, 2014

On this day in 1879

Image via Wikipedia
The battle of Roarke's Drift ended in a blaze of Martini-Henry smoke as 156 desperate British soldiers showed what fortified positions and brass cartridges could accomplish against thousands of attackers armed with spear and shield. 

Valor was present in overwhelming numbers on both sides that day.  Eleven Victoria Crosses were won that day.  In that day the VC was not awarded posthumously, and so the count would have been higher. This was the most number of those awards won - purchased with blood, really - by a single Regiment in a single action in the history of the Royal Army.  The final assault was immortalized in the 1964 film Zulu.

This film could never be made today, more's the pity.


RM1(SS) (ret) said...

Nitpick: The British army. There is no Royal Army.

ProudHillbilly said...

And that is a great movie as well.

Timmeehh said...

The VC is NOT won. It is earned.

Goober said...

Good movie about a horrible chapter in history.

This is a perfect example of the best men you can imagine, fighting and dying gallantly for a cause so silly that it will never be able to justify the loss.

It wasn't the first example, nor will it be the last.

If not for the British government, these brave men on each side would never have met each other. They would never have faced off across that drift, and would never have died bleeding from their wounds and screaming in the dust.

Men don't travel the globe to kill each other. Governments force them to; yet I'm supposed to believe that we'd be so much worse off if the government had less power over me and my family.

I've been somewhat cautious about the whole bravado aspect of military clashes since I've had children. I've no desire to fill their heads with nonsense about dying an honorable and brave death in some far off land to further the agenda (and line the pockets) of the political classes.

I won't be their pawn, or encourage my children to be. I won't have my family dying at Rourke's drift for nothing, and as honorable and brave as their deaths were, that is exactly what they died for.

Don't get me wrong. There are things a man knows are worth fighting and dying over. The Zulu at Rourke's probably fell within this category. But because a politician said so? Because you've been given orders?

Violence for any other purpose than self-defense is just abhorrent to me, and I can't stop thinking about how truly senseless the whole thing was, every time I watch "Zulu Dawn" because the only bad guys are the faceless bureaucrats back in England that put these men there to kill each other. The Zulu aren't the bad guys. Neither are the redcoat soldiers. Yet they are the only ones who die on the drift.

Chris said...

As I noted earlier today, in another context, "No bureaucrats were harmed in the making of this debacle."

I have this movie in both VHS and DVD. It's always been in my "top 5 movies". I agree, however, that the historical event was entirely avoidable had it not been for the urge for empire among some Brits at the time.

Goober said...

One Brit, to be exact, who gave the crown incomplete and even incorrect information, and gave orders to nvade zululand against direct and clear orders to diffuse tensions instead of inflame them.

I'm often caught ranting about the seven men who caused WWI and chose war instead of peace, but the Zulu war was literally one man who chose war for his own selfish reasons.

It's men like him that make me wish I believed in Hell.

Goober said...

That scene when they all start chanting and beating their sheilds in unison is just unspeakably awesome and horrifying. Talk about effective psychological warfare

Old NFO said...

Great movie of a truly sad moment in history...

.45ACP+P said...

Thanks for the history reminder. I dug out the VHS and watched it "Old School".