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Zulu: The Heroism and Tragedy of the Zulu War of 1879

David, Saul
Penguin Books

Saul David gives another excellent account of combat.

His background convincingly argues the War was unnecessary and provoked by British military and administrative figures. The fighting is addressed by recounting key engagements chronologically, culminating in the Zulu defeat at Ulundi. Each is well presented; you come away feeling having had as close an experience of events as possible.

The defence of Rorke’s Drift takes centre-piece. Fans of the motion picture ‘Zulu’ may be disappointed with some revelations (his remark about the singing of ‘Men of Harlech’ was amusing) of the “true story”. David analyzes the actions of the garrison’s commanding officers, Lieutenants Chard and Bromhead, drawing important conclusions on the awarding of their VCs. Happily it does not lessen the film’s inspirational value.

The Epilogue explores War-related issues and the responsibilities of some officers, including a ‘whatever happened to’ round up of some key figures.

Zulu is enhanced with fine black and white photographs and reprints of cartoons and paintings. One painting of officers and men in the thick of battle at Rorke’s Drift is a delight to dwell on. Maps are excellent but at least one (Isandlwana) needs scale; presenting them as foldouts would have avoided flicking between each and the narrative. It has 400 pages (plus introductory pieces, appendices, index and lists).

Zulu is enjoyable, illuminating, readable and a good addition to the home library.

Bruce R. Sivalingam October 2006