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Zulu Film 50 Years On

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http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/the-untold-story-of-the-film-zulu-starring-michael-caine-50-years-on-9069558.html

This Wednesday marks a double anniversary. On 22 January 1879, at a remote mission station in Natal, South Africa, barely more than 100 British soldiers held off wave after wave of attacks by some 4,000 Zulu warriors. The Battle of Rorke’s Drift lasted 10 hours, from late afternoon till just before dawn the following morning. By the end of the fighting, 15 soldiers lay dead, with another two mortally wounded. Surrounding the camp were the bodies of 350 Zulus.

This makes for a remarkable tale of courage and tenacity, on both sides of the perimeter. But historically the battle was a minor incident which had little influence on the course of the Anglo-Zulu War. It might have remained a footnote in the history books or an anecdote told at regimental dinners had it not been for a film which dramatised the story and has kept it in the public mind ever since.

Premiered 85 years to the day after the event it commemorates, the film Zulu is 50 years’ old this week. On its initial release, in 1964, it was one of the biggest box-office hits of all time in the home market. For the next 12 years it remained in constant cinema circulation before making its first appearance on television. It has since become a Bank holiday television perennial, and remains beloved by the British public. But the story behind the film’s making is as unusual as the one that it tells.

Always a film I've enjoyed watching, the fact that they held out just shows what a military screw up the Battle of Isandlwana had been the previous day.

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Always a film I've enjoyed watching, the fact that they held out just shows what a military screw up the Battle of Isandlwana had been the previous day.

Absolutely, the film is brilliant, but you really need to read some history books to get the full picture - plenty of good books available on the subject.

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Absolutely, the film is brilliant, but you really need to read some history books to get the full picture - plenty of good books available on the subject.

Spears against Guns and machine guns.

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Spears against Guns and machine guns.

I'm 99% sure there were no machineguns on either side, about 1/3 of the British dead were due to Zulu guns, and the British were firing so rapidly that their rifles overheated and jammed a lot.

But, other than that, perfectly accurate.

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Spears against Guns and machine guns.

It's the other way round now. :o

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I'm 99% sure there were no machineguns on either side, about 1/3 of the British dead were due to Zulu guns, and the British were firing so rapidly that their rifles overheated and jammed a lot.

But, other than that, perfectly accurate.

Lord Chelmsford did make extra special sure to bring a couple of Gatling guns along for the final match though...

wiki: Battle of Ulundi

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I'm 99% sure there were no machineguns on either side, about 1/3 of the British dead were due to Zulu guns, and the British were firing so rapidly that their rifles overheated and jammed a lot.

But, other than that, perfectly accurate.

I believe they had Martini-Henry rifles - these were single shot breach loaders.

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I believe they had Martini-Henry rifles - these were single shot breach loaders.

So did I, until...

It is quite true that the victorious Zulu army at iSandlwana stripped the camp of almost everything of value, and certainly took away all the modern firearms. There were probably the best part of a thousand Martini-Henry rifles and Swinburne-Henry carbines, together with a smaller number of older muzzle-loading Snider or Enfield types, and hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition. These were nominally presented to King Cetshwayo but the king, aware of how jealously those who had one prized it, allowed those who captured them to keep them. And these were certainly used to good effect at later battles in the war, once the warriors had had time to practise with them - notably at Khambula Hill (29 March 1879).

But the rub is that the regiments who attack Rorke's Drift had been in reserve at iSandlwana, had not encountered significant numbers of British troops before crossing into Natal, and had not taken part in the looting of the camp - so their opportunities to acquire a British firearm that day were so limited as to be nigh on impossible.

In fact, the Zulus already possessed many thousands of firearms before the war began and, powerful though the image of a ’warrior nation’ armed only with shields and spears is, the truth - as usual - was far more complex...

The only real evidence that Martini-Henrys were used by the Zulus at Rorke's Drift comes from Col. Sgt. Bourne who recalled that he recognised the sound of Martini-Henry bullets whistling over-head. But Bourne - an otherwise credible source - was writing many years later and was familiar by then with the established regimental lore regarding the rifles captured at iSandlwana; it's far more probable that if he did genuinely hear Martini-Henry rounds they were the result of the cross-fires that occasionaly developed during the battle.

The Martini-Henry was undoubtedly the most accurate weapon employed on the battlefield and it is likely that - as they did in later battle - if the Zulus had been using them then they would have achieved more casualties by rifle-fire than they actually did. British medical reports regarding the soldiers hit by Zulu bullets are unanimous that all of the wounds were caused by musket balls rather than Martini-Henry bullets.

from the myths section of Ian Knight's website. His book on Rorke's Drift is pretty good imho. Certainly better put together than his website

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