The Rorke's Drift VC
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|17th August 2005||"What really happened at Rourke's Drift ?"|
By Mike Conway
I have just returned from a holiday in SA where we visited the battlefield. I picked up a small pamphlet with the above title by one Pat Rundgren which effectively says the whole story of Rourke's Drift was grossly exagerated to buy Chelmsford some dignity.
To be fair Rundgren supports his suggestions by what appears to be a considered analysis of the primary evidence.
Has anyone any comment to make if they have read this publication?
|17th August 2005||Paul Cubbin|
Not having read the pamphlet I can't tell whether Pat Rundgren (man or woman?) means that the incident itself received more attention than might otherwise have been the case or whether the actual events were doctored in the re-telling.
If the former, then, yes, there is an argument that has always (since news of the events hit London) said the defence of Rorkes Drift was deliberately focussed on by a desperate military who needed a heroic victory to counteract a colossal defeat. I think most people would agree that there is a nugget of truth in that standpoint. Of course, the manner in which this propaganda was or was not exploited in no way diminishes the achievements of the men who fought that day.
If the latter, then I'm afraid the entire may have fallen out the back of a bovine native of the region. Chelmsford didn't have control over, or in any way influence, the stories of the individuals who were involved and few of them had anything to gain by such a fabrication. Indeed, why would Zulu accounts of the action exist?
As I say, I am unfamiliar with the pamphlet to which you refer, or indeed its author, but it does carry the unmistakeable whiff of someone who wants to make a name for themselves on the back of the work of others.
|17th August 2005||Martin Everett|
Pat Rundgren is a former Rhodesian who moved south and is a member of the re-local enactment group, the Dundee Diehards, and battlefield guide. This background has to be taken into account when he comments on the role of the British. However despite his slightly slanted views, he does enjoy showing tourists around Rorke's Drift. He is not a historian.
However, turning back to January 1879, just think what you would do if you were one of only 120 soldiers - and 600 of your mates had just been killed just 10 miles away - and the there was little prospect of being supported by other friendly forces - and you are being attacked by 3,000 to 4,000 Zulu warriors. I think anyone, including Pat Rundgren, would be a little apprehensive to say the least.
|17th August 2005||Peter Ewart|
I think this chap's views have come up before after other contributors have been in his guide party at RD.
After allowing for the very well aired & partly justifiable arguments about the high profile given to RD after the disaster of Isandlwana (although surely the doctoring of the Hlobane details while reporting on Kambula beats Chelmsford's supposed efforts hands down!) I don't think any attempt to play down the events at RD hold water. There were too many graphic eye-witness accounts including several very detailed reports by educated participants.
Not only that - is he suggesting that Chelmsford's (or his Staff's) highlighting of the defence of RD would somehow brush the disaster of Isandlwana under the carpet? Fat chance. Chelmsford would surely have known that nothing could divert attention from the loss of more than half of a modern two-battalion regiment of the line at the hands of "a bunch of savages" - and nor did it.
If one looks at the press and/or the parliamentary reports of 1879, one item dominates - Isandlwana.
|18th August 2005||Edward Bear|
There's also a preference amongst some people for the 'of course it was' type of simplified analysis. A bit like guides in London's East end will tell you that Jack the Ripper was the really Duke of Clarance and Avondale! And Chard "...only came here to build a bridge" and Bromhead being the snotty twerp played by Michael Caine.
Decent and engaging fellow Pat Rundgren is, historian he ain't.
|18th August 2005||Clive Dickens|
Pat Rungren is a very good friend of mine and has been for quite a number of years I have enjoyed the hospitality of Pat and his lovely wife Cheryl on a number of occasions. His views on what happened at Rorkes Drift are in the main I think correct if anyone who wishes to pass judgement on him then please read his booklet FIRST ands not criticise from 10,000 miles distance, Pat says he does not belive that theer where 4 to 5000 Zulus at Rorkes Drift at one time also the soldiers of B coy 24th foot would have been very poor shots to use up sixty bullets per one dead Zulu, also both Chard and Bromhead where both considered very poor officers an opinion which was shared by both Gen Wolsley and Evelyn Wood so Pat's opinions are fair I think
|18th August 2005||Paul Cubbin|
Clive, I have no idea if this was aimed at me or not, so I will assume not until directly named or contacted.
The points you have raised above (if present in the pamphlet) have been covered fairly well on this site and elsewhere already. The whole 'bullets to kills' ratio is misleading as it assumes a one-bullet one-kill as well as missing out all sorts of important factors like the Zulu wounded being removed or crawling off. As most of the action was fought at night and the defenders were firing from fouled-up, hot weapons after the first few rounds, accuracy was bound to be impaired. Even so, for a Victorian action 60 rounds per kill was actually pretty good. In the Franco-Prussian War it was closer to ten times that, and they wore lovely bright uniforms.
As to the numbers involved, where did the rest of the corps go then?
Also, Bromhead and Chard, what kind of officers were they? Well, that's speculative and subjective. Wolsley thought they were no good? Well, he thought much the same of nearly everyone who held a post under Chelmsford. His petty hissy fit about the Victoria Crosses awarded did him no favours in anyone's eyes and he finished the campaign looking rather sillier than when the began it. The prime duty of an officer is to protect the men under your command, both Chard and Bromhead achieved this in dramatic fashion so perhaps they weren't all that bad after all.
Don't get me wrong, opinions are great, but they are like backsides...everyone has one. As long as this publication does not pretend to anything more than a collection of opinions, and the reasons for them are given, then I don't think anyone can see the harm. Of course, this is my opinion, and its a shame that I can't afford the airfare to give it in person. I give anyone full leave to criticise my post regardless of geographic location.
|18th August 2005||Martin Everett|
I have read Pat's booklet. He wrote it to be controversial - that is Pat's style. Wolseley's comments are well known. Nevertheless, Bromhead achieved two high gradings at Hythe. Both officers may be consider to be average officers who achieved their objectives at RD under challenging circumstances. Remember it was the first time in action for these officers and their men. They got it right. You cannot ask for more. Perhaps Dalton was the real architect of the defence. Wolseley and Wood never had Chard and Bromhead under direct command so he was not, in my opinion, in a position to make an measured accessment of either of them. In fact Wolseley thought he was going to present the VC to Charles Bromhead (bother of Gonville) who had served with him in the Ashanti. Perhaps the below average comment refers to Charles.
And the comment about the number of hits per round - it was dark - wasn't it. Perhaps it worth waiting for Col Mike Snook's new book on RD then we put put Pat's comments into perspective.
Remember also that apart from 24th themselves (who acknowledge the anniversary of the immortal defence), very few people had heard of RD until the movie 'Zulu' in 1964.
|19th August 2005||Clive Dickens|
First'ly Paul the answer is No I was not getting at you in anyway and secoundly Martin I intend to Get Col Snook's book when it is released .But getting back to Pat if you knew him you would realise a lot of his comments are tongue in the cheek stuff he likes nothing better to wind us Brits up ha is always doing it with me but he still knows his stuff and is a very nice chap.
|19th August 2005||Martin Everett|
I think you are the same as I am. However, the diificulty of those working in KZN is the lack of primary source material so many tour guides use published sources which are more than adequate for the visitor. But as you know from this site some publications are a long way from being truly accurate. Has Pat time to go to the Killie Campbell Library?
|20th August 2005||Clive Dickens|
Yes Pat took me there himself He is very clued up on both the Zulu War and Boer War but he also thinks very differently in some things he has is own idea's such such as Rorkes Drift and some hold water others do not but yes he has studied these war very deeply but he also loves to wind people up .But he in all is a very nice fellow. If you met him I am sure you would be impressed.
Last time I was in South Africa I had a very nasty tummy upset Pat said he would take me to see a doctor he did it was a Zulu Sangoma.
and yes he gave some leaves to chew and within an hour my tummy upset had gone .
|21st August 2005||Martin Everett|
I have met Pat on a number of occasions as most the the AZW battlefield guides over the last 10 years. I encourage all of them to come to Brecon - they cannot present the real passion and feeling without a the experience of a trip to the spiritual home of the 24th.
|21st August 2005||Clve Dickens|
I could not agree more I have been to your museum around a dozen times now and I always get the feeling it is the first time it is such a good museum ,it is a pity you cannot get it online in a virtual tour some of the Scottish regiments have done this. or perhaps a video or DVD with you yourself explaining the contents this I think would be a certain seller.
|21st August 2005||Paul Cubbin|
I keep meaning to go (it's just up the Valley's Road from me) and something keeps popping up. Right, I'll go this Tuesday and hope the weather's nice.