If you’ve seen Zulu (1964), the film that made Michael Caine a star, you will doubtless have heard of Rorke’s Drift, a victory of the misty-eyed variety, where on 22 and 23 January 1879, 139 British soldiers successfully defended a small mission station from around 4000 Zulu warriors. Queen Victoria lavished 11 Victoria Crosses on the survivors and the battle was assured its dramatic place in British military history.
However, for the full picture you must travel 15km across the plain to Isandlwana, the precursor to Rorke’s Drift. It’s here that, only hours earlier, the Zulu dealt the Empire one of its great Battlefields disasters by annihilating the main body of the British force in devastating style. Tellingly, Zulu Dawn (1979), the film made about Isandlwana, never became the cult classic Zulu is now. Victory sells better than defeat.