The Battle of Rorke’s Drift was an improbable victory at a time when a victory was urgently required. The author has provided a stimulating and fresh review of the conditions applying during the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 – Highly Recommended.
NAME: The Fall of Rorke's Drift, An Alternative History Of The Anglo-Zulu War Of 1879 FILE: R3008 AUTHOR: John Laband PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword, Greenhill Books BINDING: hard back PRICE: £19.99 GENRE: Non Fiction SUBJECT: South Africa, Dash For Empire, British Army, War Office, colonial expansion, Boers, Zulu, asymmetric warfare, training organization, Impi, Isandlwana, Kambula
IMAGE: B3008.jpg BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/y4hkc67n LINKS: DESCRIPTION: The Battle of Rorke's Drift was an improbable victory at a time when a victory was urgently required. The author has provided a stimulating and fresh review of the conditions applying during the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 – Highly Recommended.
The British had only captured Cape Province during the Napoleonic Wars. It was an important stopping place on the route from Europe to India, South Asia and Australia but it was held by the Dutch. Napoleon’s decision to rename the Netherlands after the ancient name of Batavia and place a member of his family on the throne of this ‘new’ nation was adequate excuse for the British to seize Cape Province and the Dutch East Indies. It denied convenient ports to the French privateers operating in the Eastern Oceans and it provided safe havens with victualling and repair facilities for British naval and mercantile shipping. The Dutch settlers responded by trekking inland and creating the Orange Free State. This placed fresh pressure on the Zulu who were the Prussians of Africa with a well trained and drilled military machine. As the Zulu were acquiring modern fire arms they were a potentially serious threat to the Europeans expanding their colonies across Africa.
The British had a relatively small army in South Africa that was still the product of an era when commissions were purchased, along with preferment. The senior officers failed to understand that all aboriginal Africans were not poorly armed and organised tribes. By crossing into the Zulu heartlands the British force under Lord Chelmsford was being very provocative and the combination of arrogance and ignorance led to the Zulus, bringing them to battle and wiping out the British force. In the process, they were provided with new stocks of modern weapons and the motivation to go on to destroy any British troops they met. It was another humiliation for British soldiers after the Indian disasters of the Massacre of the Khyber Pass and the Indian Mutiny. The Government at home desperately needed a victory to divert public attention and this was provided by the successful defence of the river crossing and mission at Rorke’s Drift by a tiny British force against a huge Zulu army.
Alternative histories can be something of an acquired taste. In war the margins between failure and victory can be very small. A single minor change in conditions can dramatically change the outcome. It can be difficult to identify whether victory was a result of courage and firm leadership, or plain luck, or a stupid mistake or two by the losers. Historically, only the result is important because it then triggers a chain of events and the winners write the history. This book provides a stimulating read and provides fresh insight to support the conclusions the author draws and presents convincingly.
The award of medals rarely has a true recognition of courage in the face of the enemy. The award of eleven VCs was extraordinary for a single action but it did not recognise all of the heroism by the small British force which was a mixture of line regiment soldiers, engineers, native troops and colonial police. During the hard fought battle probably every person there merited the award of a VC and as this award is made sparingly one or two soldiers might have been selected to accept what was really recognition of all engaged in the defence. The number issued probably more accurately reflects the need of politicians to divert public attention from humiliating defeat and a war caused by deficient diplomacy.
To take the starting point of a defeat at Rorke’s Drift, a historian opens up a series of potential events that might have followed on. This has provided an absorbing sequence of potential events that are well argued.