Synopsis: Zululand, South Africa, 1879. The British are fighting the Zulus and one of their columns has just been wiped out at Isandlwana. The Zulus next fix their sights on the small British outpost at Rorke's Drift. At the outpost are 150 British troops under the command of Lieutenants Bromhead and Chard. In the next few days these 150 troops will fight about 4,000 Zulus in one of the most courageous battles in history.
Genre: Drama, History, War
Director(s): Cy Endfield
Production: Paramount Pictures
Rotten Tomatoes:
138 min

The Secretary of State for War received the following dispatch from Lord Chelmsford, ...Commander-in-Chief of Her Majesty's forces in Natal, South Africa. "I regret to report a disastrous engagement which took place on the morning of the 22nd of January between the armies of the Zulu king Cetewayo and our Number 3 Column, consisting of Five Companies of the 1 st Battalion, 24th Regiment of Foot, and one company of the 2nd Battalion, a total of nearly 1,500 men, officers and other ranks. " "The Zulus, in overwhelming numbers, launched a highly disciplined attack on the slopes of the mountain ISANDHLWANA, and in spite of gallant resistance..." What did he ask, Father? Whether a man of God like myself was pleased to see so many warriors married to so many maidens at one time. How can he imagine it would please anyone? Do you think I said it pleased me, daughter? I told him I was unhappy to see so many brides who may soon become widows. That was a very good answer, Father. Why do they have those little spears? The girls, I mean? It's a symbol of their chastity, daughter. It's splendid, I know, but it's quite horrible too, isn't it? The Book says, "What went ye out into the wilderness to see?" - "A man clothed in soft raiment?" - Yes, Father. You must understand these things if you're going to stay in Africa. That's why I brought you here. They are a great people, daughter. But how can they let themselves be married in droves? Young girls to... to old men. In Europe, young women accept arranged marriages with rich men. Perhaps the Zulu girls are luckier. Getting a brave man. Margareta. - Wait. Alright. - Father! Wait, Margareta. - O Lord in heaven! - What is it? Father? have been massacred. While I stood here talking peace, a war has started. Ishiwan! Ishiwan! Didn't you say that Ishiwan... Yes. It's their name for our mission station at Rorke's Drift. - They're going to destroy it. - Why? There are British soldiers at Rorke's Drift. - But only a handful. - Come. - It's a hospital. Tell him. - Do you think he will listen? We must get there. There'll be a massacre. Father! - Alright, Corporal Allen. - Sir. Corp? Let go. Right turn. Quick march. Colour Sergeant Bourne, what's that shooting? A rifle, Hughes. If you're sick in hospital, I suggest you lie down. Yes, Colour Sergeant. Hookie, who's doing all that shooting? - Who do you think? - Who do you think? Mr. Bromhead is shooting defenceless animals for the officers' dinner. I wish he'd bring us some fresh meat. I wonder what they're cooking for supper. Same as usual. Horse meat and axle grease. Which one has got the bullet? Shut up, you cripple! Come on, make your mind up. - It's turning blue. - Yes, very pretty. Which one? It's under that one. The boy's clever. The boy's good. How about putting some money on? Five rounds! Independent! Fire! Stuff me with green apples. If a dog was as sick as him, they'd shoot him. Five rounds! Independent! Fire! Shut up, you rotten, sick... Why don't you leave him alone? He's sick enough. You'll kill him! Wouldn't bother Hookie, would it? Wouldn't bother if Maxfield was dead. I don't care if you were all dead. Blimey! Rorke's Drift. It'd take an Irishman to give his name to a rotten, stinking middle-of-nowhere hole like this. Hold that pont! - Corporal Allen? - Sir? - Get some men in the water! - Sir. You heard that officer of Engineers. Get it. Heave! Put a bit more weight on that rope, you men. He's even got a voice like a corporal. Sort of like a female hippopotamus in labour. - Hot work? - Damned hot work. Still, the river cools you off a bit, though? - Who are you? - John Chard. Royal Engineers. Bromhead. 24th. That's my post, up there. You've come down from the column? Right. They want a bridge across the river. Who said you could use my men? They were sitting on their backsides doing nothing. I'd rather you asked first, old boy. I was told their officer was out hunting. Yes. I'll tell my man to clean your kit. - Don't bother. - No bother. I'm not offering to clean it myself. A chap ought to look smart in front of the men. Don't you think? Well, chin-chin. Do carry on with your mud pies. You. - What's your name? - Owen. Sir. - Are you supposed to be here? - Yes, sir. Well, not exactly. You see, sir... Only, you've got my solo tenor out there. - I've got your what? - 612 Williams, sir. We were going to practise this afternoon with the company choir. But you've got my only solo tenor working in the cold water. Well, I hope he sings better than he works. Indeed, sir. He does. Every piece of wood in this blistering country's eaten by ants. The heat and the dust, sir. Very nasty on the larynx. Mr. Bromhead lets you have a choir? Every Welsh regiment has a choir, sir. Mr. Bromhead is English, but he is a proper gentleman. There's no doubt of that. - And what do you sing? - Me, sir? Baritone, sir. Good. I can find work for baritones as well as tenors. See what you make of that. Below the escarpment. - Two riders. - Gallopers from the column, sir? Very wonderful things, these, sir, aren't they? - Corporal Allen? - Sir? Get your party ashore at the double. Alright, you heard that officer of Engineers. Make fast and back to the bank. Move. Come on, lad. - Trouble, sir? - Could be. I can anchor the ponts midstream. This is a situation you think an Engineer officer can't handle? - No, sir. Beg your pardon, sir. - Fall them in. We ain't finished the bridge, sir. - Fall them in, Corporal. - Sir. Get fell in, you men. Squad. Squad, 'shun. Left turn. Left wheel. By the left. Quick march. Left, left. Left, left, left, right, left. Hey, you! What's going on down there? - They're building barricades. - What's that? Ride like hell. Tell them they can't get here too soon. Corporal, I want all these people out of here. Douse these fires and turn the boilers over. - They've got soup in them. - Pour it on the fires. - Get a rifle. - A rifle? But I don't... Mr. Chard? Mr. Chard? - Commissary Dalton, is it? - That is correct. - You've just asked this man... - To pour the soup on the fires. See that he does it. All these bags of maize inside the perimeter. I don't want these tents providing cover for the enemy. Does he know what it's like to make soup for 100 men in this heat? Don't distress yourself, dear fellow. There's your own officer. - Go and speak with him. - Yes, sir. Chard? This is Adendorff, Natal Native Contingent. From Isandhlwana. Bromhead, 24th Foot. You've come from there? Alright, man, is it true? Beg your pardon, sir. About the soup, sir. What about the soup? This gentleman, sir, said to put it on the fire. - He did? - We have thatched roofs here. No need to make the Zulus a present of fire. Yes. Then get on with it. - There's a good fellow. - Am I to take a rifle, too, sir? The entire column. - It's damned impossible. 800 men? - 1,200 men. There were 400 native levies also. Damn the levies. More cowardly blacks. What the hell do you mean, cowardly blacks? They died on your side. Who do you think is coming to wipe out your command, the Grenadier Guards? What the deuce is the matter with him? - Adendorff? Are you staying? - Is there anywhere else to go? Talk to our levies, will you? Tell them whose side they're on. Did the runner bring orders? He brought orders to the commander of this post. - To do what? - To hold our ground. To hold our ground? What military genius thought up that one? Somebody's son and heir, who got a commission before he could shave? I rather fancy that he's nobody's son and heir now. - Who are they? - The Witts. - Witts? - The Swedish missionaries here. This is their station. They've chosen a damned odd time for a prayer meeting. I think you better get them out of here. Are you giving me an order, old boy? Bromhead? Let's get one thing clear. I'm no line officer. I'm an engineer. - I came here to build a bridge. - Lucky for you. Otherwise, you would've been chopped with the rest of the column. Alright. What's the date of your commission? Now don't tell me. I suppose you have seniority. Oh, well. I suppose there are such things as gifted amateurs. - You question my right to command? - Not your right. Never mind. We can... cooperate, as they say. - I'll be here, won't I? - Bromhead? Have you been here long enough to put a lookout on that hill? Erm... Not since we've been chatting, no. I've started the barricades, though. I managed to think of that. Who's the sergeant with the muscles? Sgt Windridge. Good man. Not you again? Yes, sir, Surgeon Reynolds. It's my arm, sir. The only trouble is you never work with it. Pretty terrible pain, sir. Alright. Off with your vest. - Now, sir? - Now, sir. Yes, sir. It's cruel to bend, sir. You know what you've got there, my malingering Hector? No, sir. Hook's the name, sir. You've got a fine, handsome boil, my friend. There's one glistening boil for every soldier in Africa. You may not win many medals on this campaign. But you'll certainly get more boils. For every gunshot wound I probe, I expect to lance three boils. Medicinal brandy would set me up. Brandy's for heroes. The rest of you will make do with boils in your skin, flies in your meat and dysentery in your bellies. Now, then. This is going to hurt you a lot more than it will me, I'm happy to say. Mr. Bromhead? Cetewayo is coming with two impies to destroy you. You must talk to Lt Chard, Mr. Witt. He commands here. Margareta. I am ready to take away your sick and wounded. Please supply the wagons. Daughter, tell the men to get ready. One moment, Miss Margareta. Mr. Witt? I don't suppose you hold the Queen's commission? I am a man of peace, sir. Allow a Queen's officer to give orders to her soldiers. Now, how do you know what Cetewayo is doing? We have just come from his kraal. He's a member of my parish. Your parish? Are you sure you're on the right side of the river? I am here to do my duty. I expect your cooperation. What's our strength? Seven officers, including surgeon, commissaries. And Adendorff now, I suppose. Wounded and sick, 36. Fit for duty, 97. And about 40 native levies. Not much of an army for you. There are 4,000 Zulus coming against you. You must abandon this mission. Mr. Chard? Adendorff sent his trooper to Helpmekaar. - There's a relief column there. - There was three days ago. Mr. Bromhead, issue our walking wounded with arms and ammunition. You will all be killed like those this morning. And now the sick in their beds. All of you. I don't think so, Mr. Witt. The army doesn't like more than one disaster in a day. Looks bad in the newspapers and upsets civilians at their breakfast. Sir, the Book says, "There is no king that can be saved by the multitude of a host..." Mr. Witt? When I have the impertinence to climb into your pulpit and deliver a sermon, then you may tell me my duty. It is not your duty to sacrifice the sick. Are you a student of tactics too, Miss Witt? Are you a Christian? Sgt Windridge? It is your duty to let us take those men away. Not that way, Miss Witt. - Sir. - Come, daughter. Sergeant, put two good men on that hill. Tell them to keep their eyes peeled. - Mr. Bromhead, sir? - Double up, dammit! Carry on, Sgt Windridge, there's a good fellow. Colour Sergeant Bourne? Mr. Bromhead? I had a calf like you once, back home in Merioneth. I'll get you some milk. I'll make you strong. Would you like that, then? What the hell do you think you're doing? Shut up! Owen! Yes, Sergeant? - You've got a voice? - Yes, baritone, Sergeant. Get up on that hill and sing out if you see anything. You too. And take your bandook, you dozy Welshman! The classical attack of the Zulus is in the shape of a bull buffalo. The head, the horns and the loins. First, the head moves forward. The enemy moves in to meet it. But it's only a feint. The warriors in the head disperse to form the encircling horns. The enemy is drawn in on the loins. The horns close in on the back and sides. Finish. It looks jolly simple, doesn't it? It's jolly deadly, old boy. Well done. We'll make an Englishman of you yet. No, thanks. I'm a Boer. The Zulus are the enemies of my blood. What are you doing here? You don't object to our help? It depends what you damned English want for it afterwards. Alright. Hospital. Church. Cattle kraal. Stables. An outside perimeter joining the buildings here and here. We don't move out to meet the feint of the buffalo head. We hold the outside perimeter. If that collapses, we move back into this area here. How high can you build a wall, Bromhead? It should be shoulder high. But if the fuzzies moved out of Isandhlwana immediately, they could be here, well, now. It's just a matter of time. We'll have to make the time. Your only plan is to stand behind a few feet of mealie bags, and wait for the attack? That's right. We wait. If 1,200 men couldn't hold a defensive position this morning, what chance have we with 100? Listen, I'll take the company up into the hills. I know how to disperse them. Ambush, you see? We cut them down in the passes. Bromhead? I want that line of boxes across here, from the cattle kraal to the outside perimeter. If they get over this... redoubt. And a final redoubt here. Put it in the middle. What are you doing in here? This is a church! Don't you realise, this is an altar table? I'm sorry. There's nothing larger. We need it now. There's no chloroform. Go to the hospital. Tell the sick to be ready to leave. I want cold water, lots of it, a probe, a saw, some nitric acid. Don't take it too badly, Mr. Witt. Isn't this as good a place as any for a man to be when he's in pain? Excuse me, sir. Tuck your heads in afore they fall off. Sorry, sir. I have orders to get some of these bags outside. Alright, get on with it. I was praying that your officer may turn to God's word. That's right, sir. A prayer's as good as a bayonet on a day like this. - Have you prayed? - There'll be a time for it, sir. What will you say? Pick it up. Bit of the Psalms, I suppose. My father was a lay preacher. A great one for the Psalms, he was. There was one that might have been written for a soldier. Say it, man. Lift your voice to God. - Now, sir? - Yes. Let them hear your voice. They know my voice. Let them hear it now in praise of the Lord. Call upon him. Call upon him, man, for your salvation. As far as I can remember, sir, it goes something like this. "He maketh wars to cease in all the world; he breaketh the bow and snappeth the spear in sunder." D'you know it, sir? "I shall be exalted among the heathen, I shall be exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us." That's it, sir. Nobody told you to stop working. You lead-backsided... Get sweating. I've been thinking. I've got it all sorted out. Company! What are you doing here, Miss? He doesn't need any help. I'll look after him. Won't I? You are all to be evacuated soon in the wagons. - Who says? - My father. That's nice, isn't it? Your father. You and me, Hookie. Mr. Chard's orders. In this room. Here we are. What are you talking about? I'm sick. I'm excused duty. What are you doing? I'm making a loophole, see? Me and Hookie's gonna fight in here. You're joking! I'm sick. Nobody's got any right to ask me to muck around in a battle. I'm getting out. - Private Hook! - Yes? Yes, Sergeant. I know you, Hook. Yeah, you ought to. You're no good, Hook. They gave us you because you are no good to anyone except the Queen and Sgt Maxfield. Thank you very much, the both of you. Take this rifle, Hook, and get to it! I'll make a soldier of you yet. What for? Did I ever see a Zulu walk down the City Road? No! So what am I doing here? You are here because you were a thief. - And you still are one... - Certainly. ...Hook, my lad. And now, you can be a soldier, like what they pay you for. You got me 28 days' field punishment in Brecon. Isn't that enough? Pick up the bayonet and help Williams. And put your tunic on! Know what he did? Sent money to my missus. What did you do that for? You hate him for it? What do you want me to do? Cry my heart out? Give him a big kiss? I thought you might pray for him. She's a dry one. Very cool. You know what she needs. Play your cards right, and it could be you. Can I help anyone? There will be wagons soon to take you away. He's dying. There's nothing you can do. Nothing? There must be. - 'Shun! - Pay attention. Are there any walking sick without rifles? Me. You, Dutchy? You couldn't walk to the latrine. This is not my first action. Come on. Are you expecting sick men to fight? What's he going to do, 593? I think he wants to be a hero, 716. Haven't you red necks got names instead of numbers? This is a Welsh regiment, man. Though there are some foreigners from England in it. I am Jones from Bwlchgwyn. He is Jones from Builth Wells. There are four more Joneses in C Company. Confusing, isn't it, Dutchy? What's your name, then? It's Schiess. And I'm not Dutch. I'm Swiss. There's a silly man, by damn. He's got himself into a private war. I belong to Natal Mounted Police. Is that true, then? He's a peeler, 716. Come to arrest the Zulus. What do you know about Zulus? Bunch of savages. Hmm! Alright, how far can you red necks march in a day? A Zulu regiment can run 50 miles and fight a battle at the end of it. There's daft. I don't see no sense in running to fight a battle. What are you doing here? Why don't you go? No. Not until you have gone. You know Cetewayo has a regiment of young girls, warriors, called Ripen At Noon. There's pretty. Hey, come on. Come on. Here. Here! Give us... Just a little kiss? Come on! Hey, boys! Take a look at this. - What is it, boyo? - Flaming dust. What else? No, by damn, it's horses! The cavalry! It's the relief column, you long-range sniper, you. Colour Sergeant? Sir? Stephenson, Darnford's Horse. - Thank God you're here. - I'm surprised you're still here. There are 4,000 Zulus coming this way. Can you throw out your men in a screen to the south? You know how Zulus feel about cavalry. I know how my men feel about Zulus. We've just got through them. - Stephenson. - Bromhead. What price, this? Your whole regiment's gone. Bromhead? You know this man. Tell him we need him. I'm sorry. Look at my men. Stand fast, all of you! Where are they going? Get them back here! - Let go of my bridle! - Get them back here! If they're going to die, they'll die on their own farms. You're the professionals. You fight here if you want to. We need you! Don't go! Don't go! Stay! We need you, damn you! You didn't say a single word to help. When you take command, old boy, you're on your own. The first lesson the General, my grandfather, ever taught me. Alright, then. Nobody told you to stop working. Brothers! The way of the Lord has been shown to us. "Thou shalt not kill," saith the Lord. Brothers! God's love is peace. - Colour Sergeant Bourne? - Go in peace! Stay not to kill and be killed. Go, I say. The sin of Cain will be upon you. "Am I my brother's keeper?" Asked Cain. Yea, we are all our brother's keeper. "The nations are but a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance." Bring him along. Mr. Witt, I'm getting you off this post. Sir, they've all hopped it. All of them. Give me those wagons and I will save the sick. You want the wagons? Mr. Bourne? Windridge? Get those wagons in. God loves a sinner come to his understanding. Hey, we're in luck. Looks like the old parson got Chard to let us go. Heave! Right, lads. Heave. Heave. O Lord God, give me strength! Oh, God! God forgive me. I have the strength of thousands while the spirit of God is with me. Colour Sergeant Bourne? Oh, God, forgive me. Get him away from here. Leave him alone! Miss Witt! Animals! All of you! - Animals! - Sgt Woodridge. We shall not go. If you send us away, we shall come back. Lock him in the storeroom. Put a man on the door. Alright, men, get back to work. And you...! Put Miss Witt in the church with Surgeon Reynolds. It was sad, you know. And sick. Had a battle coming, see? Animals are very sensitive to noise. Why worry about a calf? I thought I was tired of farming. No adventure in it. But when you look at it, this country's not a bit as good as Bala and the lake there. Not really green, like. And the soil. There's no moisture in it. Nothing to hold a man in his grave. Chard? One of my men, Hook. - Do you know him? - No. In the hospital, malingering, under arrest. He's a thief, a coward and an insubordinate barrack-room lawyer. - And you've given him a rifle. - What? In Queen's regulations, it specifically states... Damn funny. Like a... Like a train in the distance. You were saying about Hook? Mr. Bromhead, sir? Sentries come in from the hill. Colour Sergeant? You have something to report? - Sir? - Then tell me. Very good, sir. The sentries report Zulus to the southwest. Thousands of them. Alright, Colour Sergeant, stand to. Stand... to. Look to your front. Mark the orders. Mark the target when it comes. Look to your front. Mark your target when it comes. Look to your front. Look to your front. Mark your target when it comes. Mark your target. Look to your front. - Hitch, do your tunic up. - My tunic? Do it up. Where do you think you are, man? Look to your front. Mark your target when it comes. To your front. - Mark your target when it comes. - Look to your front. Mark the orders. Mark your target when it comes. Boy? You hear me, boy? Will you be Cain and kill your brother? "Thou shalt not kill," saith the Lord. You believe in the Lord's word, don't you? Obey the word, boy. Obey the Lord. Go to the others. Boy, go to the others. He's... - Mr. Witt says... - Never mind him, boy. You get along back to the ramparts with your mates. Yes, sir. Mr. Witt, sir? Be quiet now, will you? There's a good gentleman. You'll upset the lads. - You know my father was at Waterloo. - He was? He got his colonelcy after that. Did he? And my great-grandfather, he was the johnny who knelt beside Wolfe at Quebec. Did they make him a colonel too? No, you don't see what I'm driving at. You're telling me you're the professional, I'm the amateur. No. What I mean is... I mean, I wish right now... ...I were a damned ranker, like Hook or Hitch. You're not, are you? You're an officer and a gentleman. Listen. That damned train again. "He breaketh the bow and snappeth the spear in sunder!" "I will be exalted among the heathen." "I will be exalted in the earth." "The Lord of hosts is with us." I hope so. As I live and die, I hope so. Company will fix bayonets! Fix! Bayonets! Attention! You slovenly soldier, Hitch. Load! North rampart, stand fast! South rampart... at 100 yards! Volley fire! Present! Fire! Reload! Fire! Fire! Reload! Independent, fire at will! That's very nice of him. - They're just asking for it. - Keep firing, soldier. Mark your targets before you fire. Adendorff, what's wrong with them? - Why don't they fight? - They're counting your guns. What? See that old boy up on the hill? He's counting your guns. Testing your firing power with the lives of his warriors. Cease firing! - Well? - They'll be back. Stand fast! wouldn't you say? That leaves only 3,940. "Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away." "Behold, thou art fair, my love!" How long? As soon as they've regrouped. "Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely." He can't be! He is. Drunk as a lord. - 15 minutes. - If we're lucky. Colour Sergeant Bourne? "Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it." Yes, sir, the gentleman has a bottle. Then get him out of here. Put him on his cart. Tie him on if necessary. The sooner we get rid of them the better. Chard. They won't stand a chance with the Zulus. They're Witt's parishioners. But the woman, do you want to see her killed? Do you, Bromhead? Because you will if we don't get them out of here. Come along, sir. There's a good gentleman. Alright, pick him up. "I have sinned against heaven, and before thee." Oh, no! Father! "Peace be within thy walls..." Father! Drive with the sun at your back. You should make it safely. Sergeant! - Father! - Leave me alone! Try to understand him, Miss Witt. Death awaits you! You have made a covenant with death and with hell you are in agreement! You're all going to die! Don't you realise? Can't you see? You're all going to die! Die! - Death awaits you all! - He's right. Die! Why is it us? - Die! - Why us? Because we're here, lad, and nobody else. Just us. Colour Sergeant. Right, now get back to your posts. At the double. Here they come again! Volley! Fire! - I can't see a bloody one now. - They've gone to ground. Reload! There they go! Eyes front. Look to the front! What the devil's going on? Tell me what's happening. I've got to know. They're on both sides! We haven't enough men at the north wall. Can't you take some from the south? How will we hold that if we do? Adendorff, are they going to hit us everywhere at once? I told you, remember. The horns of the buffalo. The south could have been a feint. We can't man the whole perimeter. We've got to outgun them somewhere. Alright, Bromhead, take men from the south, one section in three. Reinforce the north wall. But if they do come from the south again? Get on with it, Mr. Bromhead. At the double. Colour Sergeant Bourne, I want every other man from sections one, three and five over at the north wall. Come on, then, at the double. First two. Follow me. Where would you like me? You pick your own ground. It's your country, isn't it? Hey, who left the door open? Blazes! Where did they get those? Off the bodies of your regiment at Isandhlwana. That's a bitter pill, our own damn rifles! Keep your heads down. - Corporal Allen! - Sir. This is your section now. Keep the heads of those marksmen down. - Can't see none of 'em, sir. - Corporal, fire at the smoke. - Keep them pinned down, not us. - Sir. Fire at the smoke. Fire at the smoke. Mr. Bromhead! - Not the best of shots, are they? - Get a platoon together. I'll need more than one if I'm going after them. You're not. Get a platoon of good bayonet men. Take head on anything that breaks through. - It's still a holding action? - Right. Your job is to plug the gaps from the inside. - And get yourself a good sergeant. - Yes, sir! Hitch! Get down! How can I shoot them if I can't see them? Hitch! My leg! Corp! Corp? Can I undo my tunic buttons now, can I, Corp? Stretcher bearers! Come on, attack, damn you! Here they come! North wall, volley fire! Present! At 100 yards! Fire! Reload! Independent, fire at will! - Bromhead! - Follow me! Bromhead! Mr. Chard, I'll get you help. Keep our squad on the wall, Sergeant. Chard! Are you alright? Take... command. Corporal! You're the professional. - Take command. - Lance Corporal! Now, listen, old boy, you're not badly hurt. We need you! Damn you, we need you. Understand? Get him to Surgeon Reynolds. Take command. You want it, don't you? - Sergeant Windridge! - Sir! Scalpel. Orderly, damn it! Will you keep the flies away! Fan it! Damn you, Chard! Damn all you butchers! Why? It's alright, boy, you sleep. I'm damned if I can tell you why. You know this boy? Name of Cole, sir. He was a paperhanger. He's a dead paperhanger now. Orderlies! Are you alright? There they go, boys. After 'em! Stand fast! They're retiring, sir. North wall, hold your fire. Down! What is it? Another blasted trick? They're forming up on the south plain. I knew it! They're going to attack both walls at once. I doubt it, not unless they have no other choice. The old general couldn't use his rifles on the hill for fear of hitting his own men. This way, he probes for weaknesses on the one wall while he keeps the other pinned down. Yes. They're on the move, sir! North wall, keep those riflemen on the hill pinned down. South wall, volley fire! Present! Fire! Reload! - Hookie, do something! - I'm excused duty. - I haven't excused you, have I? - You want some help. Why didn't you say so? This rifle! Honestly, I can't manage it. Now, now, you heard what the officer said. Come on. But if it really came down to it, sir, I couldn't really shoot anyone. Careful! Pop that chap, somebody! Good fellow. Good fellow. You see? Sir! You're doing fine. Where... You want to rest here a bit? Watch it! Can you move your leg? - If you want me to dance. - I want you to crawl. Come on, you slovenly soldier, we've got work to do. It's alright, sir, we'll do that for you. - I'm alright. - You better get to the surgeon. I'll try to get someone to help you. I can manage. Here. Here. Hold them! Hey, Noel, Tommy, look! Oh, my God! Bromhead, reorganise your flying platoon with Sgt Windridge. But I... Yes, sir, of course. Sir. - Well done, Corporal. Stand by. - Sir. Colour Sergeant Bourne! Sir? Are you alright, sir? Thank you, Mr. Bourne. The men on the church roof, have them support your fire against the hillside. - Corporal? - Sir. Section on the roof, bring your rifles about on the hillside. Fire at the smoke. The men on the hospital loopholes, they've nothing to fire at. Bring them to the front windows to support the north wall. Colour Sergeant? - Sir. - I want half your men now. An even number, sir? - Form two lines on the double. - Sir! Company! Company! En garde! Fall back! Clear the line of fire! Front rank! Fire! Rear rank! Fire! Advance! Independent, fire at will! Cease firing! Hey, Thomas. There's some water. Oh, thank God! - 470 Davies was hit, you know. - No! Aye, in the throat. What a pity. The man is a great bass baritone. In the throat, is it? Aye. Hey, where are you going? - I'm going to see that calf, man. - Come back! What are you doing? Tommy! Mr. Bourne, there should be 12 more men working on this redoubt. They're very tired, sir. I don't give a damn. I want this nine foot high, firing steps inside. Form details to clear away the Zulu warriors. Rebuild the south ramparts. Keep them moving. - You understand? - Yes, sir. Very good, sir. Alright, lads, keep it moving. We're next, boys. This is the blind spot. Even if those flaming officers ain't seen it, I bet the Zulus have. - Howarth, put your money up. - Are you stupid? What bloody good will it do you if you do win? - We're all goners! - Well, it don't matter if you lose! Hey, Hookie. Hughsie. There's brandy in Reynolds' medical cabinet. Borrow some. - It's locked up. - Kick it down, then. Hey, that's company punishment. Company punishment. On the right. Form close columns of platoons. - By the right! - You lucky bastard! Oh dear. Well, your mum will need somebody to milk her now, won't she? Stand to! Alright, alright, I can hear you. Out you get, Hookie, you've done your bit. Quick! Thousands of 'em! 612! Knock a hole in that wall! Better get down now, sir. Sir! Get down now, sir! No! Jones, it's me! Come on, get through, you bloody Englishman! Get out! Jonesy! Come on up! Get to Surgeon Reynolds. Right, get on the wall. Hook! I know you! What about the money you sent my old woman? Hook! That's it, Hook, my lad! That's it! Hookie! Stay where you are, Maxfield! Hookie! Get out! That's my boy, Hook! You're a soldier now! I've made a soldier of you! Where's my bloody sergeant? Get out! Come on! Is everybody out? On the wall. Hookie? Where's Hookie? Come down! Hookie! That's a flogging offence! Get out, for God's sake, man! - Everybody out? - Everybody that will get out. - Abandon the outside ramparts. - Bugler! Retire to this wall! Colour Sergeant, carry on building the inner redoubt. Sir! Alright, nobody told you to stop working! Look at that. - Do you think he wanted it that way? - Look at it burn! Any more in there? Then we'll have to take them from the outside walls. - Colour Sergeant Bourne. - Sir? Hey, Owen? - Are you awake, man? - What is it? I didn't think it was going to die. - Can you see something? - No, the calf, I'm talking about. There's sorry I am. Aye. Seems a pity, doesn't it? How many times have they come since sunset? I don't know. Do you reckon they'll come again? I think they've got more guts than we have, boyo. Soldiers! Alright, back to your posts. You, hold there. Orderly, see to these men. Colour Sergeant. Put a third of our men in the redoubt. Send the bugler to me. I was asleep, sir. You let me sleep? You shouldn't have done that. Is there any water? I sent what was left to Reynolds. Yes, of course. It's fear dries the mouth, isn't it? When a man's as thirsty as this. I could have drunk a river. Thank you for what you said. Hmm? Oh, you mean about our needing you? Yes. Don't bother, old boy, it's true. Sir? Come with me. Get in the redoubt, my lucky lads. Make a move. Come on. Alright, lads, take up your positions on the firing step. Keep your heads down. - How old are you, boy? - Sir? It doesn't matter. You know what to sound? Yes, sir. Stay by me. Do you think the Welsh can't do better than that, Owen? Well, they've got a very good bass section, mind, but no top tenors, that's for sure. Sing! Come on, sing! At 100 yards! Volley fire! Present! Aim! Fire! Right, stand by. Lips dry? - Sergeant! - Prepare! Now! Spit, boy! Redoubt party! Fire! Volley by ranks! Front rank, fire! Second rank, fire! Third rank, fire! Cease firing! Three hours and they haven't come again. Mr. Chard, sir. The patrol's come back. The Zulus have gone. All of them. It's a miracle! If it's a miracle, Colour Sergeant, it's a short-chamber Boxer-Henry .45 calibre miracle. And a bayonet, sir, with some guts behind it. - Fall them in. Call the roll. - Sir. - Fall in. - Well, you did it. Me? - Abel? - Sir. Adams? - Barry? - Sir. - Beckett? - He's wounded, sir. - He's dying, sir. - It's sad. Keep your voices down. Byrne? - Camp? - Sir. Chick? Cole? - Who was left in here? - I don't know. They had names and faces. What do you mean, you don't know? Chard! Alright. - 363 Davies? - Sir. Well... ...you've fought your first action. Does everyone feel like this afterwards? How do you feel? Sick. Well, you have to be alive to feel sick. You asked me, I told you. There's something else. I feel ashamed. Was that how it was for you? The first time? The first time? You think I could stand this butcher's yard more than once? I didn't know. I told you... ...I came up here to build a bridge. Fagan? Green, 459? Sir. - Hughes? - Excused duty. No comedians, please. - Hughes? - Yes, Colour Sergeant. Say sir. Officer on parade. Sir! Hayden? Hitch? Hitch, I saw you. - You're alive. - I am? Oh, thanks very much. - Answer the roll. Say sir. - Sir! Alright. Now get off into the sickbay where you belong. - Hook? - Yes, sir, me too. Stay where you are, Hook! Well, we haven't done too badly. Oh, my God! Adendorff, why have they stopped? God damn you! - I want an answer! - Haven't you had enough? Both of you! My God, can't you see it's all over! Your bloody egos don't matter any more! We're dead! What are you waiting for? Come on. Those bastards! They're taunting us! No. No. You couldn't be more wrong. They're... they're saluting you. They're saluting fellow braves. They're saluting you. Oh, my eye! Will you look! In the 100 years since the Victoria Cross was created for valour and extreme courage beyond that expected of a British soldier in face of the enemy, only 1,344 have been awarded. 11 of these were won by the defenders of the mission station at Rorke's Drift, Natal, January 22nd to the 23rd, 1879. Frederick Schiess, Corporal, Natal Native Contingent. William Allen, Corporal, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot. Fred Hitch, Private, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot. James Langley Dalton, Acting Assistant Commissary, Army Commissariat Department. 612 John Williams, Private, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot. 716 Robert Jones, 593 William Jones, Privates, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot. Henry Hook, Private, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot. James Henry Reynolds, Surgeon Major, Army Hospital Corps. Gonville Bromhead, Lieutenant, B Company, 2nd Battalion of the 24th Regiment of Foot, South Wales Borderers. John Rouse Merriott Chard, Lieutenant, Royal Engineers, Officer Commanding Rorke's Drift.

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John Prebble

John Edward Curtis Prebble, FRSL, OBE,(23 June 1915 – 30 January 2001) was an English journalist, novelist, documentarian and popular historian. He is best known for his studies of Scottish history. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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    "Zulu" Scripts.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2024. Web. 15 Jun 2024. <https://www.scripts.com/script/zulu_24065>.

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