The bare facts of the battle are these: approximately one hundred British soldiers defeated a force of Zulus thirty or forty times their number in defense of a barely defensible fortification in South Africa. Extraordinary bravery was exhibited by the defenders. But extraordinary bravery, as Glover points out, was not unusual in the British army. The lasting significance of Rorke’s Drift, for men of European blood, is that a few Christian European men were more than a match for barbarians. And they will always be, 1) if they act like Christian men, and 2) if they dogmatically refuse to even consider that their own culture should not prevail over barbarism.
“Christian” liberals refuse to place any significance, except a negative one, on the European experience in places like Africa and central America, but they are wrong. If they would stop looking for signs of God in the unhallowed charnel houses of academia, they would see Christ in the European past.
Private Alfred Henry Hook stands as a sign of contradiction to the anti-European “Christian” liberal and to the non-Christian world that believes the sacrifice on Calvary was foolishness.
“In the room where I was now there were nine sick men, and I was alone to look after them for some time, still firing away with the hospital burning. Suddenly in the thick smoke I saw John Williams, who had rushed in through a doorway communicating with another room, and above the din of battle and the cries of the wounded I heard him shout, ‘The Zulus are all over the place! They’ve dragged Joseph Williams out and killed him!’“Greater love hath no man…” Would a non-European risk so much to get his fellow wounded soldiers to safety in the midst of fire and battle? The barbarians leave their sick and wounded.
“John Williams had held the adjoining room with Private Harrigan for more than an hour until they had not a cartridge left. The Zulus had then burst in and dragged out Joseph Williams and two of the patients and assegaied them. It was only because they were so busy with this slaughtering that John Williams and two of the patients
were able to knock a hole in the partition and get into the room where I was posted. Harrigan was killed.
“What were we to do? We were pinned like rats in a hole. Already the Zulus were fiercely trying to burst in through the doorway. The only way of escape was the wall itself –by making a hole big enough for a man to crawl through into an adjoining room, and so on until we got outside. Williams worked desperately at the wall with the navy’s pick which I had been using to make some of the loopholes with.
“All this time the Zulus were trying to get into the room. Their assegais kept whizzing towards us, and one struck me in front of the helmet. We were wearing the white tropical helmets then. But the helmet titled back under the blow and made the spear lose its power, so that I escaped with a scalp wound, which did not trouble me much then.
“Only one man at a time could get in at the door. A big Zulu sprang forward and seized my rifle; but I tore it free and slipping a cartridge in, I shot him point-blank. Time after time the Zulus gripped the muzzle and tried to tear the rifle from me, and time after time I wrenched it back, because I had a better grip than they had.
“All this time Williams was getting the sick through the hole into the next room—all except one, a soldier of the Twenty-Fourth named Connolly, who could not move because of a broken leg. Watching for my chance I dashed from the doorway, and grabbing Connolly, I pulled him after me through the hole. His leg got broken again but there was no help for it. As soon as we left the room the Zulus burst in with furious cries of disappointment and rage.
“Now there was a repetition of the work of holding the doorway, except I had to stand by a hole in the wall instead of a door while Williams picked away at the far wall to make an opening to escape into the next room. There was more desperate and almost hopeless fighting, as it seemed, but most of the poor fellows were got through the hole. Again I had to drag Connolly through, a terrific task because he was a heavy man.
“Privates William Jones and Robert Jones during all this time had been doing magnificent work in another ward which faced the hill. They kept at it with bullet and bayonet until six of the seven patients in that ward had been removed. They would have got the seventh—Sergeant Maxfield—out safely but he was delirious with fever and although they managed to dress him, he refused to move. Robert Jones made a last rush to try and get him away like the rest; but when he got back into the room he saw that Maxfield was being stabbed by the Zulus as he lay on his bed.
“We—Williams, and R. Jones and W. Jones and myself—were the last men to leave the hospital after most of the sick and wounded had been carried through a small window and away from the burning, but
it was impossible to save a few of them and they were butchered.”
Also of special note is the fact that the Natal native contingent cut and ran before the Zulus arrived. You cannot expect non-Europeans to fight for European causes.
The movie, Zulu, was made about Rorke’s Drift in 1960. At that date Hollywood was running scared but was not so scared that they wouldn’t depict British soldiers in a positive light. They did invest the Zulus with a nobility they did not possess, but at least they paid tribute to the brave defenders of Rorke’s Drift.
There is a special scene in the movie that I always used to show to my students to highlight the difference between a Christian people and a barbarian people.
The Zulus, in preparation for a massive attack, are spread out, exhibiting their numbers and chanting their barbaric war songs. Chard, the British commander, seeing that his men are becoming unnerved by the chanting, tells his Welshmen (the soldiers were predominantly Welsh) to start singing. As the barbarians chant, the Welshmen sing, “Men of Harlech.” What a contrast!
Rorke’s Drift has even more significance for the West than Franco’s glorious victory over the communists for the simple reason that Third World barbarism, as depicted in Camp of the Saints, is currently the greatest danger to the West. The only difference between then and now is that we have no men willing to sing “Men of Harlech” as they shoot down the advancing Zulus.