22 January 2010

Disaster in Africa!

January 22, 1879

   This morning, at the foot of the mountain of Isandlwana in the Natal Colony, five companies of the First Battalion, 24th Regiment and one company of the Second Battalion, along with four hundred Native levies were killed virtually to the last man by warriors of the Zulu king Ceteshwayo.

   This same afternoon, another company (B Co., 2nd Batt.), consisting of 139 men, officers and other ranks, was besieged at the mission station at Rorke's Drift, only six miles as the crow flies from the scene of Lord Chelmsford's crushing defeat. Between four and five thousand Zulus who had not fought at Isandlwana (and were therefore still fresh) surrounded and assaulted the hastily prepared defenses of the mission.

   The siege lasted all afternoon, overnight, and into the morning. In the end, the British suffered 31 casualties, seventeen of them dead. Over three hundred Zulus were killed. In recognition of the valour shown by the defenders, 11 were awarded the Victoria Cross, the kingdom's highest military honor.

   Tonight, I'm drinking beer, wearing a pith helmet, and watching ZULU on DVD.

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