you are currently viewing: Discussion Forum


The Rorke's Drift VC Discussion Forum
(View Discussion Rules)


PLEASE NOTE: This forum is now inactive and is provided for reference purposes only. The live forum is available at

(Back To Topic List)

DateOriginal Topic
5th June 2003Younghusband shaking hands with his men
By Miguel
One of the most remarkable episodes during the last moments at Isandhlwana was when the zulus stopped the charge to let Younghusband shake hands with his men who were about to die.

Is there any reliable source for this account? Did the zulus tell the story to British soldiers when the war was over or was the source some fugitive from the massacre?
5th June 2003Mark Hobson
Without meaning to put a dampner on things, it was quite common for newspapers and artists of the day to romanticise dreadful events such as Isandlwana by describing the final moments of battle (especially if it was a British defeat) in somewhat colourful and dramatic fashion. Participants families also liked to as it helped with coming to terms with their loss. This is not to suggest they did not show extreme courage at the end but one has to take these version of events with a pinch of salt. Would the Zulus really stop to allow their enemy to shake hands and say their farewells before closing in for the kill, especially when they would have been at the zenith of their aggresion and eager to 'wash their spears'? Accounts of Isandlwana, Hlobane and Ntombe (all British defeats) are full of similar stirring stories. The reality might have been different.
But who really knows?
6th June 2003Miguel
I had the same feeling as you, Mark. I found it difficult to believe that event ever took place, that's why I asked for the sources. Zulus stopping or not, I also found it hard to believe that Younghusband (or any other officer for that matter) would have even think of shaking hands with anybody, specially considering that
a) it meant disrupting the firing line in front of an advancing army closing in very fast,
b) they were probably not in the mood for many niceties with 22.000 zulus charging madly against you with the obvious intention of seeing the colour of your guts, and
c) relationships between officers and rank were probably not that open in those days.

Again, who really knows?
6th June 2003paul neville
You would have to think it was the work of a journalist rather than a true event. It is like the drawing of the line in the sand at the Alamo, or Henry V speech before the battle of Agincourt. All good for book, newspaper circulation and something to pass onto future generations of Englishmen.
7th June 2003Alan Critchley
Another tale I heard from a couple of guides was that when the ammunition ran out, Younghusband charged down to the base wielding his sword. He put up a brave fight from a wagon but was eventually shot through the head. The Zulus thought him very brave and carried him on a shield back to his men, now dead. There is only the large cairn in that immediate area so who knows? Nice story, for the Zulus as well.
8th June 2003Trevor
At the time of the Tenimin Square massacre. I watched in awe as a lone student stood his ground in front of a Tank bearing down on him. In the end the Tank broke formation trying to avoid this lad, and was eventually forced to stop. "Or kill him"
My point is. History is littered with stranger and more heroic tales than that of Younghusband. That were true! So why not this one?
15th June 2003Andrew
I read the same account of Younghusband shaking hands with his men before charging in a suicidle bayonets charge, in Great Military Blunders and it wasa Zulu warrior, who had been interviewed, told the story about Younghusband.
21st June 2003Andrew
The reporter may have just made the story up to make the defeat look glorious, like the artists of the time painted defeats when everybody was huddled in a small group around the flag and ready to fight to the last man. I reckon the story was just an accessory to make the defeat look good.
2nd May 2005Nigel H Crosby
Please beaware; their is nothing friendly in war any type of war especially hand to hand; when Lt Younghusband and his men were flanked 400 yards away on the left from the camp the warriors of the uNodwengu Corps blocked all escape and killed them to the last man; a Zulu warrior was interviewed stated that c company 1/24 and younghusbands men but up a brave fight; the first two attacks were replused but as ammunition ran low the Zulu chanrged again and again; when the finally reached the red coats' the british begged for mercy; the zulu replied how can we when you come to take out land and eat us up. They killed then to the last man; no flags no charge just hand to hand fighting.
2nd May 2005Coll
I don't know what is maybe the true story regarding Younghusband's stand, but in many ways I set my mind on the fact that after several initial assaults on this particular group by the masses of Zulus, there must have been a point at which the soldiers, knowing their fate was sealed, managed to exchange looks with each other, expressions on their faces only ever witnessed by soldiers in other similar situations through time, where in a way the look said it all, a farewell to the man or men standing at your side, possibly one or two shaking hands with those close to them, as they faced death together, the last images of friends and fellow soldiers they would see, not embracing death, but maybe accepting the inevitability of their demise.