Saturday, January 22, 2022

Review of "Rorke’s Drift 1879," by Ian Knight

 Review of

Rorke’s Drift 1879, by Ian Knight ISBN 1855325063

Five out of five stars

A small battle with major consequences

 As the British influence and control was creeping northward from the southern tip of Africa, there was an inevitable collision between the encroaching Europeans and the native communities. One of the most powerful opponents of further incursion was the Zulu nation. Like similar classes between Native Americans and European invaders, it was a case of a well-armed and disciplined force against a weakly armed more numerous enemy.

 One of the most famous battles in the Anglo-Zulu War took place at an outpost called Rorke’s Drift. It was there that approximately 150 Imperial soldiers fought off an army of approximately 3,000 Zulu soldiers. It ended with a large number of casualties and at best could be considered a draw.

 Yet, it was not. The large number of losses with no clear victory had a demoralizing effect on the Zulu nation. From that point on it was clear that the Zulu army could not stand against the disciplined troops of the British Empire.

 Like so many battles of this type, it was a spontaneous event and not planned. Knight is very even-handed in his descriptions of the battle in the sense he praises the valor and courage exhibited by both sides. It is also made clear that the inferior nature of the Zulu weapons was the key factor in their “defeat.” Handheld spears are of little value against an enemy that can shoot accurately for several hundred yards.

 A battle far more significant than the number of combatants would imply, the battle of Rorke’s Drift was a turning point. The British forces were awarded 11 Victoria Crosses and at the end it was clear to all that Zulu power could not stand against the might of the British soldier armed with modern weapons.

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