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Major John Chard’s account of the battle of Rorke’s Drift on 22 January 1879

VIC/MAIN/O/46 (view extracts from the document)

In the late 1870s, the Zulu kingdom presented an obstacle to British imperial ambitions in southern Africa.

Acting largely on his own initiative, the British High Commissioner presented the Zulu king Cetshwayo with an ultimatum with which he could not comply, and subsequently sent a force to invade Zululand.

Lady Butler, The Defence of Rorke's Drift, RCIN 405897 ©

The Zulus achieved a resounding victory over the British troops in the first engagement, at Isandlwana on 22 January 1879. Later that same day, a portion of the Zulu forces assaulted the British field station at Rorke's Drift, but despite being heavily outnumbered the British soldiers repelled the attack.

Many honours were awarded to the defenders, including eleven Victoria Crosses. Queen Victoria requested a written account of the assault from the Officer in command at Rorke's Drift, Lieutenant (later Major) John Chard. His eye-witness report includes these dramatic sketches of the progress of the Zulu attack.