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The Defence of Rorke's Drift
A fully detailed account written by John Young, Trustee, Anglo-Zulu War Royal Research Trust.
All images (except Rev. Geroge Smith) taken from the collection of John Young.                     

"First comes the trader, then the missionary, then the red soldier."   Words spoken in 1879 by King Cetshwayo kaMpande, when alluding to his Kingdom's war with the British, but words that are equally appropriate to the development of Rorke's Drift.

In 1849 a trader named James Rorke purchased a tract of land measuring a thousand acres on the banks of the Buffalo River in Natal.  The river formed a natural border between British governed Natal and the independent Kingdom of KwaZulu.  Apparently, Rorke was the son of an Irish soldier who had served in the Eastern Cape.  James Rorke himself had allegedly seen service in the Seventh Cape Frontier War.   On the river at the point close to where Rorke settled was a natural ford across, or as it is referred to in South Africa - a drift.  A drift, which in time would bear his name.

Rorke traded his merchandise across the Buffalo to his near neighbours the Zulus.  The Zulus proved to be eager customers prepared to barter for anything the trader might offer; trinkets, liquor, beads, cloth - guns!  There was the passing trade, whites on hunting expeditions.  Rorke set about establishing himself in two large buildings nestling under the western end of a hill, known to the Zulu as Shiyane, the eyebrow.  The buildings were brick and stone built, with thatched roofs, and wide stoeps or verandas.  One of these buildings served Rorke as a house, the other a store for his merchandise.  The Zulu called Rorke's store - kwaJimu, Jim's place.  Thus established, Rorke married but it was lonely life; the nearest Europeans were at Helpmekaar, which was then only a small clutch of houses.  New settlers opened- up the country and soon settlements sprung-up - Dundee, Newcastle and Utrecht, the towns' names reflecting the origins of the settlers.  James Rorke became a respected member of the scattered frontier community.  In the wake of the Langalibalele uprising, local volunteer forces were formed from within the male population; Natal was then a Colony, rather than a part of the Cape Colony.  Rorke volunteered, and became a First Lieutenant in the Buffalo Border Guard.  One of the tasks of the Buffalo Border Guard was to prevent the running of guns into KwaZulu, a task that Rorke must have found difficult to enforce. 

In July, 1875, "then comes the missionary."  Karl Titlestad, a Norwegian missionary, was anxious to purchase from Rorke his trading post with a view to using it as base to preach the Gospel to the Zulus.  Rorke was keen to accept the offer, but he did not live long to realise the profits.  He died on 24th October, 1875 at the age of forty-eight at his trading-post after a very short illness.   Some contend he shot himself in a rage.   His widow eventually sold the trading post to the Norwegian Missionary Society in 1878.   A Swedish missionary, Otto Witt, took up the incumbency of what was now a Mission Station.  Rorke's store was transformed into a makeshift church.  Witt also decided to rename Shiyane, which he called Oskarberg in honour of the King of Norway and Sweden.  Witt endeavoured to spread the cause of Christianity across the Buffalo River to the so-called heathen Zulus.  But King Cetshwayo was wary of the methods employed by all missionaries, the king preferring to consort with European traders; his eye was on worldly goods, rather than heavenly wealth. 

Reverend Otto Witt

Under these adverse conditions Witt laboured to convert the Zulus in the vicinity of Rorke's Drift.   Across the Buffalo River, were the umuzi of the Chieftain Sihayo kaXongo.  Sihayo was a personal favourite of King Cetshwayo, who had supported the uSuthu faction which had led the king to power, and who had fought at the side of the king in the bitter war of succession.  But Sihayo was a progressive man for his time; he opted to wear European dress, and shared the Witts' hospitality at their dinner table.  Sihayo had wide-reaching network of trading links extending throughout Natal, Swaziland and Mozambique.  He had at his disposal horses, wagons and firearms.  And he also had two unfaithful wives.  It was the incursion into Natal in July 1878, and the ultimate fate of those two women, which Sir Henry Bartle Edward Frere, abetted by Sir Theophilus Shepstone, used to give as one of the reasons for the Ultimatum delivered to the Zulu delegation on the banks of the Lower Tugela River, under the wild fig tree close to the Indian Ocean, on 11th December, 1878.  An ultimatum, which Frere knew King Cetshwayo, could not accept, and would lead to one path - war!  Frere in his guise as Commander-in-Chief, Southern Africa, placed the conduct of the war in the hands of Lieutenant-General Lord Chelmsford, General Officer Commanding Southern Africa.

A contemporary 'colourised' photograph showing the ponts at Rorke's Drift

"Then comes the red soldier."    Lord Chelmsford attached his headquarters to Number Three Column.  The Column mustered at Helpmekaar in December, 1878, waiting in vain for a response from the Zulu sovereign.  When it was deduced that no response would be forthcoming Number Three Column moved on to Rorke's Drift and pitched camp.  The former trading post, come mission-station, was ideally situated as an advanced commissariat supply depôt to support an invasion.  Consequently, Witt had his mission-station requisitioned. 

The church was pressed into service as a store, and Witt's house transformed into a hospital, to house a few sick and injured men.  Witt made arrangements for his wife and daughter to go and stay with friends at Msinga, whilst he remained to keep a watchful eye on his mission-station.   Ponts were employed at Rorke's Drift, under the supervision of a civilian ferryman named Daniells.  Shortly after dawn on Saturday, 11th January, 1879 the British, Colonial and African elements of Number Three Column began crossing the flooded waters of the Buffalo River into Zululand.  The invasion was underway.   

Left behind in command at Rorke's Drift was Brevet Major Henry Spalding, of the 104th Regiment, Lord Chelmsford's Deputy Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster General.  One of his many tasks was to keep open the lines of communication and supply between the advancing column and Helpmekaar.

In charge of the stores depôt at the mission-station was Assistant Commissary Walter Dunne of the Commissariat and Transport Department.  Two locally recruited volunteers; Acting Assistant Commissary James Langley Dalton and Acting Storekeeper Louis Byrne, and Second-Corporal Francis Attwood of the Army Service Corps assisted him in this task.

The patients of the improvised hospital were under the care of Surgeon James Henry Reynolds of the Army Medical Department, aided by three other-ranks of the Army Hospital Corps and a civilian servant.  Three of Reynolds's patients were casualties from the first clash with the Zulus at Sokhexe, wounded in the assault on Sihayo's Kraal.  The others, some eighteen or so were members of the Column who were suffering from various ills and injuries.

2nd Battalion of the 24th Regiment of Foot, taken in September of 1879 at Pinetown

The garrison at the mission-station was formed by 'B' Company, of the 2nd Battalion, of the 24th (2nd Warwickshire) Regiment of Foot.  The Company was under the command of Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead.  Bromhead was a popular officer, but it is said that he was afflicted by deafness, so deaf was he that it was alleged that he failed to hear commands on parade, and it was for that reason his company were chosen for the less than arduous task of protecting the supply depot.

'B' Company's senior non-commissioned officer was Colour Sergeant Frank Edward Bourne.  Bourne was a twenty-four year old, short man who had risen to his rank within seven years.  He, like many of the men in 'B' Company, had seen action before but this was only on a limited scale in the Ninth Cape Frontier War.

Number Three Column was camped on the Zulu side of Rorke's Drift, prior to any further advance into the enemy's territory.  The supply of the Column was hampered when one of the ponts employed in ferrying across essentials had broken down.  A small advance party of one officer and five other-ranks of the 5th(Field) Company, Royal Engineers, were hurried up-country from the port of Durban, where they had only landed on the 5th of January.  The party arrived at Rorke's Drift on 19th January, the officer leading the party being Lieutenant John Rouse Merriott Chard.  The following day, Monday, 20th January, Lord Chelmsford and his headquarters accompanied the advance of Colonel Richard Glyn's Number Three Column, to the temporary staging-camp at the base of the mountain of Isandlwana. Lord Chelmsford had ordered up to Rorke's Drift part of Brevet Colonel Anthony Durnford's Number Two Column to support the offensive thrust into Zululand.  Durnford's force arrived at Rorke's Drift late in the evening of the 20th, and encamped on the Zulu bank only recently vacated by Number Three Column.  At the same time Lord Chelmsford had ordered that 'G' Company of the 1st Battalion, 24th Foot, should vacate their position on the lines of communication at Helpmekaar, when relieved by 'D' Company of the 1st/24th which was marching up from Greytown, and entrench a position covering the ponts at Rorke's Drift.  In the meantime a company of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Regiment, Natal Native Contingent under the command of Captain William Stevenson, would supplement the garrison.
Lt. J R M Chard in civilian dress

On Tuesday, 21st January, a two-pronged reconnaissance, led respectively by Major John Dartnell, Natal Mounted Police, and Commandant Rupert Lonsdale of the 3rd Natal Native Contingent, left the camp at Isandlwana to probe for Zulu forces in the vicinity of the Mangeni Valley, some twelve miles south-east of Isandlwana.  When Dartnell and Lonsdale linked-up they confronted a small force of Zulus, near the Mangeni Waterfall.  Fearing they were in contact with the main Zulu force, gallopers were sent back to Isandlwana appealing for reinforcements.  But as we know with hindsight, these were not the main Zulu impi, but what many historians describe as a lure to entice a division of Number Three Column.  A response, which was exactly what, the Zulu izinduna got.   The British response and the consequent disaster at Isandhlwana are dealt elsewhere on this website, but how that affected the garrison at Rorke's Drift must be explained.  Late in the evening of the 21st, Lieutenant Horace Lockwood Smith-Dorrien, of the 95th Foot, was ordered to convey the General's orders to Durnford at Rorke's Drift, the order was to move up to Isandlwana.  John Chard also received orders from the General's Headquarters ordering his men up to Isandlwana, but the order was somewhat vague as it was unclear whether Chard himself was to go forward.

Early in the morning of Wednesday, 22nd January, 1879, Chard sought permission from Major Spalding to go to Isandlwana to clarify the matter.  Shortly after eight o'clock Chard rode into the camp, his men were following behind in a wagon.  The camp was alive with excitement, Zulus had been sighted on the Nquthu Plateau to the left front of the camp, and the troops were forming-up in readiness.  Chard was informed his men were to be attached to the Column.  However, he was required to return to Rorke's Drift and entrench the position overlooking the ponts on the Natal bank.  Accordingly, Chard rode back along the track towards Rorke's Drift; here he encountered Durnford at the head of his part-column moving up to Isandlwana.  Chard acquainted his fellow Royal Engineer with the intelligence regarding the presence of Zulus on the Nquthu Plateau.  Chard's sappers had fallen in with the mainly mounted force, he ordered his Corporal and three Sappers off of the wagon and gave them orders to join the force at Isandlwana.  Then he ordered his batman, Driver Robson and a mixed-race wagon driver to turn the wagon, which contained tools, and return with him to Rorke's Drift in order to entrench the position.  Upon his return to the mission-station Chard reported to Spalding.

As yet Captain Rainforth's 'G' Company, 1st/24th, had not arrived.  Unbeknown to Spalding 'D' Company, 1st/24th had been delayed by bad weather en-route, and had not reached Helpmekaar Spalding was concerned as to the whereabouts of Rainforth's men and penned a camp order deploying one N.C.O. and six other-ranks as a pont guard.  This small number were be augmented by fifty of Stevenson's N.N.C.  Having done so he decided to ride to Helpmekaar and ascertain the delay of the reinforcements.  Almost as an afterthought he consulted a copy of the Army List, to establish who would command the post in his absence.  The command devolved to Chard, whose seniority pre-dated Bromhead's by three years.  This done Spalding rode out, and with it him went his chance of military glory. 

Chard went down to the ponts and settled down in his tent for lunch.  At about 12.30 p.m., cannon-fire was heard from the direction of Isandlwana.  Surgeon Reynolds, Otto Witt and the Reverend George Smith, a local Anglican missionary and Chaplain of the Weenen Yeomanry, a local volunteer unit, who was serving as a volunteer Chaplain to Number Three Column, climbed to the top of the Oskarberg and peered through a telescope towards Isandlwana.  They could see through the heat haze what was obviously a battle taking place.

On the Natal side of the Buffalo, the three observed four horsemen riding at the gallop towards the mission-station, fearing that the riders might require medical assistance Reynolds made his way down to the post, leaving Witt and Smith on the hill top.   Bromhead and Chard were also aware of the approaching horsemen, and must have sensed that something was amiss.  A rider rode up to Bromhead and Dunne of Commissariat, and blurted-out, "The camp is taken by Zulus!"  Dunne peered across the river and saw a number of Natal Native Horse riding towards Natal.   At the ponts two white horsemen from the Zulu bank, who asked to be ferried across, were hailing Chard.  One of the horsemen was Lieutenant J. Adendorff, of the 1st/3rd N.N.C.; he imparted the dire news to Chard, his companion, Lieutenant Vaine rode on to pass the word to Helpmekaar. 

Reverend George "Ammunition" Smith from the Royal Army Chaplains Department's Collection

Bromhead dispatched a message to Chard calling him back to the mission-station.  Word of the disaster spread amongst the small pont-guard, Sergeant Frederick Millne of the 2nd Battalion of the 3rd Foot, 'The Buffs', and the civilian ferryman, Daniells, volunteered to moor the ponts mid-stream and with the pont-guard defend the crossing.  Chard was heartened by the offer, but politely declined it.  

Upon reaching the post Chard and Bromhead found it difficult to comprehend the disaster, which had befallen the camp at Isandlwana.  A hurried officers' conference was called, it was James Dalton, who brought the two lieutenants to reality.  Stressing that the only option should the Zulus attack the post at Rorke's Drift would be fight - not flight, and with the words, "Now we must make a defence!" he motivated the others into action.  A dribble of survivors from Isandlwana, paused and attempted to impress on the garrison the futility of a defence.  But the men busied themselves preparing barricades from the stores at hand, and ignored their pleas.  Only Adendorff elected to remain.  A party of Natal Native Horse of about one hundred men rode up, under the command of Lieutenant Alfred Henderson, who placed his men at Chard's disposal.  With Henderson was the meat contractor of the Natal Mounted Police, Bob Hall.  Chard ordered Henderson to deploy his men in mounted screen behind the Oskarberg, protecting the approach from Fugitives' Drift.  The time was about 3.30p.m. The Reverends Witt and Smith had now come down from their vantage point on top of the Oskarberg.  They had distressing news; the Zulus were crossing upriver in force.  Witt fearful of his wife's safety at nearby Msinga, decamped taking with him a wounded N.N.C. officer from the hospital.  To protect the remaining hospital patients Lieutenant Bromhead had detailed a hospital guard of six men; Privates Alfred Henry Hook, Robert Jones, William Jones, John Williams, Joseph Williams and Thomas Cole.  Many of the hospital patients were able to bear arms and the hospital was loopholed in readiness to receive an attack.

Infantry picquets were deployed in skirmishing order on the lower slopes of the Oskarberg, and the pont guard withdrawn to the post.  At 4.20 p.m. the crackle of musketry was heard from the position where the Natal Native Horse were deployed, and black horsemen galloped past the now fortified post.  Henderson paused and spoke to Chard, he stated that his men would no longer obey orders, and he could not convince them to stand and fight.  But their desertion must be considered in the light of their previous actions at Isandlwana, where they had fought virtually from first to last before quitting the field, now they were low on ammunition.  They must have thought that a fort built from biscuit boxes and mealie sacks, could do little to deter the Zulus flushed with the success of Isandlwana.  Trooper Henry Lugg, a patient in the hospital, heard Bob Hall's famous warning as he too rode by - "Here they come black as hell and as thick as grass!"

Stevenson's untried, faint-hearted N.N.C. company having witnessed the retreat of the Native Horse decided that enough was enough, and opted to quit the post.  Stevenson and his N.C.O.'s led the way.  Outraged by this defection a number of shots rang out after them, fired from the front of the post, one of them finding its mark in the back of Corporal W. Anderson.

From a position on top of the store's roof, Private Fred Hitch shouted he could see some four to six thousand Zulus advancing towards the post.  One wit, Private Augustus Morris, retorted from below,  "Is that all?"

Chard withdrew the infantry picquets and the Zulus came in sight.  Ranged against Chard's command of scare one hundred and fifty men, were over four thousand warriors drawn from the amabutho-regiments of the uThulwana, the iNdlondlo and the uDloko, all these men were in their forties and wore the isicoco of a married man.  The iNdluyengwe were an unmarried regiment, its ranks filled by men in their later twenties.  These regiments had formed the uNdi corps had been the Zulu reserve at Isandlwana, their only contribution to that battle had been to harry the fugitives on the trail leading to the Buffalo River.  The commander of the Zulu force was Prince Dabulamanzi kaMpande, the half brother of King Cetshwayo.  Keen for his share of the glory, which would cover those who had fought so well at Isandlwana, Dabulamanzi heeded the cry "Let us go and have a fight at Jim's!" and contrary to the king's orders to act only in the defence within the borders of KwaZulu, he led his men across the Buffalo and into Natal.

The first Zulu assault was directed towards the rear of the hospital, a mass of warriors from the iNdluyengwe loped towards the building, Trooper Lugg of the Natal Mounted Police recounted, "I had the satisfaction of seeing the first man I fired at roll over at 350, and then my nerves were as steady as a rock..." he continued, "...There was some of the best shooting at 450 yards that I have ever seen."

Rorke's Drift, as the Zulu's would have first seen it

Looking up the incline to the Hospital, and the steep ledge

Private Hook at the other end of the hospital, stated how the Zulus were checked by the fire from the hospital and that from the storehouse, and forced to take cover less than fifty yards from the rear wall.  The warriors crept forward and took up positions behind the ovens and cookhouse.

Others swept wide of the hospital and launched an attack on the side of the hospital and the barricade to the front of the hospital.  Some Zulus took up position in the broken terraces and caves of the Oskarberg and began shooting down at the post, at this time their inaccurate fire proved more of a nuisance than a threat.  Hiding inside one of the caves was Chard's mixed-race wagon driver, who luckily survived to give testimony to accuracy of the defenders' return fire.

Inside the hospital, Private Thomas Cole, allegedly nerved by an attack of claustrophobia, fled from the room he had been detailed to defend with Hook.  He emerged from the veranda and moved towards the front wall which was under attack, however, his progress was stopped by a bullet in the head, the bullet continued in its trajectory and smashed the nose of Private James Bushe.  The Zulus appeared to be gaining the advantage at the barricade in front of the hospital, a timely bayonet charge led by Lt. Gonville Bromhead, put pay to this, causing the warriors to retreat.  Undaunted, again and again the Zulus pressed home their attack, countered each time by Bromhead and his bayonets.  Reinforced by the deployment of warriors of the other regiments, the Zulus rushed towards the side and front of the hospital barricade, compelling the defenders to abandon this position.  With great haste a line of boxes was thrown-up, a dogleg connecting the eastern end of the hospital to the front wall, from this position the defenders raked the warriors who endeavoured to force their way into the front of the hospital.  Chaplain Smith witnessed this, "...such a heavy fire was sent along the front of the hospital that, although scores of Zulus jumped over the mealie bags to get into the building, nearly every man perished in that fatal leap."

Colour Sergeant Bourne was moved by the courage of the Zulus, he later recounted, "To show their fearless and their contempt for the red-coats...they tried to leap the parapet, and at times seized our bayonets, only to be shot down.  Looking back, one cannot but admire their fanatical bravery."

On the rear wall the aim of the Zulu riflemen was improving, Corporal John Lyons was struck in the neck by a musket ball, (that very ball is on display at the Museum of the South Wales Borderers, Brecon.) thus wounded he encouraged his fellow corporal, William Allan, "Give it to them, Allan, I'm done; I'm dying." Allan replied,  "All right Jack."  Before a bullet too struck him in his right arm.  Lyons saw Chard and implored him for help, Chard and some others dragged him to safety, and to the care of Surgeon Reynolds.

A defensive line was being constructed linking the western end of the store to the northern barricade in front of the store.  James Dalton the architect of the defences fell severely wounded in the upper body.  Manning this secondary line of defence was Bromhead, Private Hitch and five others, but they exposed to rifle fire from both the front and back of the post.  Of this group only Bromhead remained unscathed, four of the men were killed, and Hitch and the other wounded.  The slug, which struck Hitch's right shoulder, shattered the shoulder blade into thirty-nine pieces.  Seeing Hitch's plight Bromhead, handed him his revolver in order to defend himself.

The Defence of Rorke's Drift

The bullet-swept yard between the two buildings was now untenable, and the hospital defenders were cut off from the newly formed line of defence.  Corporal Christian Ferdinand Schiess, a Swiss serving in the N.N.C., crept out along the abandoned front wall, and dropped down over the barricade, over the rocky ledge and killed three Zulus whose fire had been exacting a toll on the defenders.

Before night fell, some of the defenders could see a cloud of dust rising from the road that led to Helpmekaar.  A cheer went up from the defenders it could only mean one thing, a relief force from Helpmekaar.  It was in fact Spalding at the head of the two 1st/24th companies from Helpmekaar.  Some three miles distant from the mission-station, Spalding was confronted by a number of Zulus who deployed in an attempt to surround his two hundred or so men.  Spalding was convinced that the post at Rorke's Drift must have shared the fate of Isandlwana, and withdrew on Helpmekaar.

Then, there began in earnest a battle within a battle, the defence of the hospital, and what must be amplified at this time a defence conducted purely by private soldiers, not one of the hospital defenders was a non-commissioned officer, there was a sergeant present, Maxfield, but he was delirious with fever, and thus cannot be considered to have performed any active role in the defence.

The Zulus launched a concerted attack on the hospital, assaulting the western end room held by Privates John and Joseph Williams.  With them in this room were Private William Horrigan and two other patients.  With bullet and bayonet the two aided by Horrigan held the room, which had no means of exit save for door leading to the outside and to the Zulus.  John Williams seized a pick-axe and began knocking a hole in a partition wall, then the Zulus grabbed hold of Joseph Williams's rifle and manhandled him out of the room, spread-eagled him and assegaied him.  With the door undefended, the warriors poured into the room, killing the two hospital cases, just in time John Williams and Horrigan escaped through the breached wall.  The roof of the hospital was now ablaze, and a choking smoke filled the small confined room.  Pressed by the Zulus Hook left his room, leaving behind much to his chagrin the wounded N.N.C. private, Hook heard the Zulus questioning the private before putting him to death.

Hook found himself in a room containing nine sick men, until John Williams, who informed Hook of Joseph Williams's fate, Horrigan was dead, joined him also, he had stumbled in the wrong direction after exiting the escape hole and blundered into some Zulus in the smoke and confusion.  John Williams knocked a hole in the wall of this room, whilst Hook held off the Zulu challenge.  A flung assegai struck Hook's helmet, the blade grazing his head, so confined was the space that only one Zulu at a time could attempt to engage Hook, who met each attack in turn.  In the meantime, John Williams had succeeded in evacuating all but one of the sick, Private John Connolly, who was recovering from having dislocated his knee.  Hook left his post and dragging Connolly behind him escaped through the hole, dislocating his knee again in the bargain.

Others decided to take their chances outside, Privates John Waters and William Beckett hid for a short time in a wardrobe, before rushing outside.  Beckett was seen by a Zulu, who stabbed him in the stomach, inflicting a wound that would prove to be fatal, he staggered off and collapsed.

Waters was luckier, he had equipped himself with a black cloak, and covering himself with it hid in the long grass.  He changed position and moved to the cookhouse, only to find it occupied by Zulus.  Rather than risk detection should he move, he decided to remain where he was.

"Vote of Thanks"

Gunner Arthur Howard went out over the northern parapet at the western end of the hospital, and ensconced himself among the Zulu corpses.

Back inside the hospital John Williams and Hook, forced their way through a side wall of a room which was resolutely defended by Privates Robert and William Jones, they too had held of a fierce onslaught of warriors.  Robert Jones had been slightly wounded by an assegai that had grazed his abdomen.  The remaining four soldiers of the hospital guard saw that they only option was to pass the patients out of a high window in the rear south-eastern room out into the bullet-swept yard.  Seeing their plight the wounded Corporal William Allan and Private Frederick Hitch rushed to the window to render what assistance they could, whilst from the second line of defence the defenders kept the Zulus' heads down.  Trooper Sidney Hunter of the Natal Mounted Police stumbled to the ground having exited the window, disorientated, he hesitated long enough for a Zulu warrior to leap the abandoned mealie bag defences and assegai him, before him too fell to the rifles of the defenders.

Now only one patient remained in the hospital, the fever-ridden Sergeant Robert Maxfield.  Robert Jones made one last gallant rush in an attempt to save him, Jones returned to the room only to see Maxfield being stabbed to death.  Jones sadly left him to his fate, whilst he made good his own escape.

Chard's command was now confined to the small area in front of the storehouse.  Surgeon Reynolds was now treating the wounded on the veranda.  Chaplain Smith went around the defenders praising the Lord and passing the ammunition, rebuking as he did so the oaths of the defenders.  One retorted that, the Padre should keep to prayer whilst he busied himself in sending the Zulus to Hell.

Walter Dunne of the Commissariat Department busied himself in building a last redoubt of mealie sacks, eight feet high.  The Zulus pressed the defenders from the cattle kraal, which was situated to the left front of the store.  The burning thatch of the hospital illuminated the dark night, helping the soldiers to pick their targets.  The insistent attacks of the warriors probed the small perimeter, but each time the Zulus were driven back.  As the night wore on the attacks lessened in their ferocity.

First light on Thursday, 22nd January, 1879 brought the defenders a sight of utter devastation; hundreds of Zulu dead ringed the post, the air reeked of burnt flesh from the hospital - but the Zulus were gone.  In the last few hours they had begun to slip away back across the Buffalo River, and into KwaZulu, now only the dead and wounded remained, save for one who stood up and fired at the post, before he too loped off.

Private Waters and Gunner Howard emerged from their hiding places, and regained the safety of the post.  Chard ordered out some small patrols to assess the situation, Private Hook and Trooper Lugg both had close calls when they were separately attacked by warriors feigning death.  Hook bayoneted his opponent, whilst Lugg stabbed his with a knife.

Chard called an officers' conference, fearing further attacks he ordered the ruin of the hospital to be pulled down to clear a line of fire.  A tally was taken of the ammunition; it revealed that out of a store of some 20,000 rounds only nine hundred were left.  At 7 o'clock a large body of Zulus were seen to the southwest, Chard recalled his patrols and ordered the demolition operations stayed, but the Zulus made their way back towards the Buffalo.  From their position the Zulus could see the approach of Lord Chelmsford's force, which had spent the night on the bloody field of Isandlwana.

British lookouts perched on the storehouse roof, peered towards the drift.  Galloping towards them was a detachment of mounted infantry, cheers erupted from the defenders.  Rorke's Drift had been relieved.

Of the one hundred and fifty, or so, of the defenders, fifteen had died outright, two others would died from their wounds, and sixteen others had been wounded.

Eleven of the defenders were awarded the Victoria Cross, and five others were nominated for the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

    Queen Victoria summed up the action, when she stated, "The Defence of Rorke's Drift is Immortal."


The Monument at Rorke's Drift to the 2/24th Regiment
The Memorial to the Zulu Warriors who fell at Rorke's Drift