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22nd December 2004Zulu Dawn
By Andy

This is the first time I've visited this site and find it very intresting, having watch Zulu Dawn last night and having very little knowledge of the events I was wondering how accurate it was, in particular is CSM Williams(played by Bob Hoskins) actually real, if so was it an accurate portrayal, Same question about Lt Vereker, Thanks
22nd December 2004Glenn Wade
Hi Andy
The movie does give you a good idea of the tumult and confusion at Isandlwana but, as with every historical film, it has it's inaccuracies. Lt Vereker is a factual character but his role in the film is not what happened to him, he died in the camp after giving a horse to a Native who claimed it as his. CSM Williams is a character invented for the movie although I am sure some NCO's at the battle would have acted that way. But after all, it's a good movie and isn't meant to be a documentary. Enjoy it mate as I and thousands of others do.
23rd December 2004Andy
Thank you Glenn for the speedy reply, I was just intrested in the people who may have been there, where there any other notable people there not portrayed in the film? (on either the British side or the Zulu's)

23rd December 2004Paul Cubbin
There are probably so many people missed out or mis-represented that it would take too long to tell. But then, its a very good film and yes, it probably does capture much of the spirit if not the facts. The role of the Edendale Horse (Colonel Durnford's excellent Native Mounted Infantry) probably deserved a bit more attention in my view. Being mounted (and well disciplined and led) they managed to stay in a cohesive formation and doubtless saved lives at the river by firing controlled volleys across the water into the Zulus and over the heads of frantic escapees. Maybe the era in which the film was made can explain this (racial equality being a little less advanced) or maybe it was simply something that could not have been easily fitted into the film. Who knows. I find a lot of the accounts from Zulu warriors fascinating. Almost without fail they seemed to be somewhat in awe of the ferocity with which outnumbered and surrounded British soldiers fought and died. Many pulled throwing assegais out of their own bodies and retained them as weapons.
Bob Hoskins' actions seem to represent this fighting spirit admirably (remember how he growls "Come 'ere," and grabs a Zulu, butts him and finishes him off with his own film entertainment).
There were so many gallant last stands in this battle, most obviously unrecorded, that each person will probably think of one that stands out. For me it is the unarmed drummer boy, twelve years old, who refused to accept a lift on a horse from an NNC rider. He regarded it as dereliction of his post to leave the wagon he was meant to guard. The body of a drummer boy was found next day strung upside down on the wheel of a wagon. His body had been utterly mutilated. I guess that isn't the kind of thing that a film audience wants to see.
24th December 2004Andy
Thanks for that, could you recomend any decent books on the battles of Rouke's Drift and Isandlwana? (I can't help feeling there so much I'm missing out on) Thank you and Merry Christmas to everyone in the forum

24th December 2004Paul Cubbin
For easily accessible pick-up-and-readability I like Edmund Yorke's 'Rorkes Drift' from Tempus. You can get through it fairly quickly and there's some nice pics. For a thorough insight into the Zulus I personally think the seminal work is Desmond Morris's 'The Washing of the Spears' by Abacus. Having said that every book I read seems to have a slightly different spin on things. Morris, for instance, is very pro-Chelmsford.
24th December 2004Andy
Thanks for that, I'll see if I can get hold of a copy, I wasn't expecting such a quick reply.

27th December 2004Mike Snook
Paul and Andy,

Just be aware of the limitations of Donald Morris's book. The Washing of the Spears was the classic of its day - but that was the mid 1960s and a whole 40 years worth of water has passed under the bridge since then. There are a number of significant howlers to be found there. If it is Isandlwana you are interested in then you will not be enlightened by Morris who follows the 'Official History' as contained in the 'Narrative of Field Operations.' Now on the face of it, that sounds fine - except the so called official history is at best superficial, and at worst completely misrepresents the dispositions of the troops and the course of the battle.

You would be beter advised to stick with Ian Knight. He wrote a book called 'Zulu: Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift.' Its ISBN is 1-872004-23-7. Its very nicely presented and illustrated with a number of colour plates, some good maps and a first class text. It was quite expensive when it came out (about 30 pounds) but I don't know whether you can still get it new or not. But would be a good bet. It was published by Windrow and Greene in 1992 (I think). Ian also has Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift books in the Osprey series. Again try the Osprey Publishing website. These Ospreys would be an excellent introduction to the subject.

If you want a wider history of the Zulu nation I would recommend Prof John Laband's book, 'The Rise and Fall of the Zulu Nation.' ISBN 1-85409-421-1which was Arms and Armour Press in about 1995. It was also published under the title 'Rope of Sand' in South Africa. (Its quite deep and maybe not ideal as a beginner's book however - especially as Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift are only part of the much deeper history).

Right up to date is 'Zulu Victory' by Ron Lock and Peter Quantrill which is about to come out in paperback. (Greenhill Books). Punchy, controversial in places, but nicely done. I reviewed this for British Army Review when it first came out and gave it a highly recommended. Greenhill have their own website too.

In summary, if you begin with Washing of the Spears you will saddle yourself with misconceptions that it might take years to get out of your head. Its old hat now. Ian Knights Osprey books would be a good start - because they are nicely presented, historically reliable and cheap as chips as I gather they say these days!!

Hope that's useful -

31st December 2004Michael Boyle

I too laboured for many years with some misconceptions bred from 'WotS' but only for lack of any other information (outside of encycloepidias).Today with so many other fine books available (many of which directly reference it's inaccuracies) I still feel it's a good introduction to the field for the broad picture it paints of the entire era. Plus it's a good read. Today being able to follow 'WotS' immediately with many of the fine current publications should avoid any long term misconceptual problems.(Particularly for those who combine it with this forum!)


1st January 2005Mike Snook

You make a very fair point as ever. My chief gripe is with his Isandlwana chapter which is pretty wide of the mark. But for a long time in my youth I didn't go anywhere without my copy of WotS - and it undoubtedly caught my imagination in those long gone days of the 70s and 80s. Oh to be 20 again!

Regards as ever, and a Happy New Year to you.


3rd January 2005Ian P
HI Andy
Glad you enjoyed Zulu Dawn as statedby other reolies it was both fact and fiction with the Names of men there if you are interested in a Zulu view try reading Great Zulu Commanders by Ian Knight it coveres Zulu leaders from Shaka to Bambatha Ka Mancinza who lead the last Zulu Rebellion in 1906 best reguards
3rd January 2005Ian P
Hi Andy
sorry spelling mistake it should have read stated by other replies
4th January 2005Michael Boyle

Morris' chapter on Isandlwana did prove to be way off the mark but even by the early Sixties little thought (or research) had been given to the disaster. Still there is something perversely appealing to the thought that a first rate line regt. was foiled in battle by a complex ammo box and bureacratic quartermasters! (Some even tend to discuss it today.)

20 again? Not now but given the opportunity to repeat it then I'd love to change things round a bit!

Best and a Happy (and secure) New Year to you as well.


4th January 2005Andy
Thanks to you all for your replies, hopefully I can learn more about both ours and the zulu's history.

Happy New Year