- Published: November 24, 2021
- Updated: June 24, 2022
- Language: English
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Significance of the Action
It is also referred to as the Anglo-Zulu War and remains a defining moment in British military history. The battle is a show of iconic defense of a mission station by a tiny force of British troops. In this particular battle, the combatants were the British infantry under the command of Lieutenant John Chard and Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead, against Zulu Warriors led by Prince Dabulamanzi KaMapande (Britishbattles. com, 2012). In this particular battle, a mere 139 British troops managed to emerge victorious over about 4500 Zulu warriors. This victory was particularly important for the British since they had just lost the Battle of Isandlwana earlier that day.
According to Dermody (2012), the armed encounter occurred on January 22 1879 at 04: 30 hours when over 4000 Zulus attacked a mission post at Rorke’s Drift. After falling at the Battle of Isandlwana, British Army remnants had fallen back to a missionary station that was run by Otto Witt, a Swedish Missionary. Many people at the mission were noncombatants or civilians and thus the British defense commanders could only assemble 139 able-bodied troops against the many Zulus. The successful defense of the mission post by the British forces restored pride back to British military and even saw the awarding of 11 Victoria Crosses (Dermody, 2012).
Causes to Effects
On the eleventh day of January 1879, Lord Chelmsford and his army invaded KwaZulu in South Africa. However, the AmaZulu people declined to lay down their arms and accept British rule but instead repelled the invasion. As a result, the Zulu Army sidestepped the advancing British forces and shattered the troops left at the camp by the Isandlwana Hill. While the Zulu King did not wish to invade the British Natal colony, the king’s younger brother reached the Tugela River and cut off the few British soldiers who were escaping (Britishbattles. com, 2012).
Dabulamanzi resolved to lead the Zulu regiments to capture Rorke’s Drift. However, Lieutenant Chard had received intelligence of an impending attack from the Zulu. With the few men, the commanders made a defensive perimeter consisting of overturned carts, Mealie bags that surrounded the hospital and storehouse, 2 foot biscuit boxes that weighed nearly 100 pounds (Ratkiff III, 2003). The commanders also ordered a second defensive perimeter line at the middle of the mission so that the troops could fall back if there was need to. The Zulu warriors were met by heavy fire from the fort as well as bayonets and quite a number of them died while others retreated. Their defeat has been attributed to the fact that these Zulu regiments had never been engaged in battle.
Military Lessons Learned
Many of the military lessons learned from this particular battle concern small unit leaders. One particular lesson is the utilization of intelligence platforms for commanders in developing an understanding of the battle field, the enemy’s intent, disposition and composition (Michael, 2009). Chard and Bromhead used information provided by a Calvary Unit to make the necessary preparations for defense. They knew that the enemies were many and thus had to put in place two defense lines in case of fall back.
Another lesson learnt is that well-trained and disciplined soldiers who are better equipped can be capable of fending off a strong enemy onslaught. The B Company was well-trained and well-versed with bayonet skills unlike the Zulu warriors who relied on numbers. Thus, the B Company was able to repel the wave assaults of the Zulus. Also, the Zulu infantry did not have aspects such as artillery support. Therefore, another great military lesson is that even the best infantry in the world can be cut to pieces when attacking a fortified position without artillery support (Young, 2008).
Britishbattles. com. (2012) The Battle of Rorke’s Drift. Retrieved from http://www. britishbattles. com/zulu-war/rorkes-drift. htm
Dermody, N. (2012, February 25) Zulu Movie Rorke’s Drift VC Winning Battle Myths. BBC News. Retrieved from http://www. bbc. co. uk/news/uk-wales-16948284
Michael, L. (2009, December 14) Rorke’s Drift Revisited: Lessons for the Small Unit Leader. Retrieved from http://greathistory. com/rorkes-drift-revisited-lessons-for-the-small-unit-leader. htm
Ratkiff III, A. (2003) The Battle at Rorke’s Drift. ARMOR, February 2003, pp. 31-35.
Young, J. (2008, July 14) The Defense of Rorke’s Drift. Retrieved from http://www. rorkesdriftvc. com/battle/battle. htm