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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Castrioti

January 23rd, 1879 - The Battle of Rorke's Drift

Conflict: Zulu War

Combatants: British vs. Zulus

Location: Zululand (South Africa)

Outcome: British victory


Fresh off the victory at Isandhlwana, approximately 4,000 Zulu warriors split off to attack the small British garrison at Rorke's Drift. This small outpost on the Tugela River was occupied by 140 British soldiers, but only 85 were fit for duty at the time of the attack. During the afternoon and evening of January 22nd, the Zulus launched six all-out assaults on the tiny garrison.


Defense of Rorke's Drift by Alphonse-Marie-Adolphe de Neuville

The commanding officer, Brevet Major John Chard of the Royal Engineers, made excellent use of rifle fire and artillery to fend off the Zulu attacks. On the morning of January 23rd, the Zulus withdrew leaving around 400 dead on the field. The British suffered 17 men killed and 10 wounded.


The Defence of Rorke's Drift by Elizabeth Thompson (Lady Butler)

Victoria Cross to Major Chard by G. Durand

Points of Interest:

  • Major John Chard and ten other soldiers received a Victoria Cross for their actions at Rorke's Drift.

  • The Battle of Rorke's Drift is depicted in the film Zulu (1964) with Stanley Baker and Michael Caine.

Rorke's Drift Survivors by an unknown photographer

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Sources:


Dupuy, Trevor N., Johnson, Curt, & Bongard, David L. (1992). The Harper's Encyclopedia of Military Biography. New York: Castle Books (HarperCollins).


Dupuy, R. Ernest & Dupuy, Trevor N. (1993). The Harper's Encyclopedia of Military History. New York: HarperCollins.


Eggenberger, David (1985). An Encyclopedia of Battles: Accounts of Over 1,560 Battles from 1479 B.C. to the Present. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

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