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25th May 2003Hospital Fire
By Paul Neville
In the film Zulu, the hospital is set on fire by a spark from a rifle being fired by the Zulu's. My borther recently visited the site and was told: a) The zulu' s never got on the roof and b) the roof was purposely set on fire by the Zulus to try to kill or drive out the defenders of the hospital. When according to his guide the fire actually helped the British defence as they now had to pull back and man a much smaller area, giving them more concentrated fire power to stave of attacks.
25th May 2003John Young

Your brother's guide was nearly right. The Zulu attackers did set fire to the thatched roof. The burning thatch acting like a giant torch and betrayed the positions of the Zulu warriors. (See C.E. Caldwell's 'Small Wars...')

John Y.
25th May 2003paul neville
Thank-you John for the answer. Did the Zulu's ever get on the roof or was that a bit of extra action in the film? Also the guide told my brother the first attack was directed at the hospital. Is this also right.
25th May 2003John Young

To my knowledge that is just a piece of sheer invention for the movie.

Yes the first attack was on the hospital - see 'The Battle' link on the left & click on the detailed account and you will find: '...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.

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...'

Hope that helps.

John Y.