Rorke's Drift

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The Battle of Rorke's Drift was a battle in the Anglo-Zulu War. The defence of the mission station of Rorke's Drift, under command of Lieutenant John Chard of the Royal Engineers, immediately followed the British Army's defeat at the Battle of Isandlwana the morning of 22 January 1879, and continued into the following day, 23 January. One hundred and fifty-two British and colonial troops successfully defended the garrison against an intense assault by three to four thousand Zulu warriors. The massive, but piecemeal,[7] Zulu attacks on Rorke's Drift came very close to defeating the tiny garrison but were ultimately repelled. Eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded to the defenders, along with a number of other decorations and honours.

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Prelude

Rorke's Drift, known as kwaJimu ("Jim's Land") in Zulu, was a mission station and the former trading post of James Rorke, an Irish trader. It was located near a drift, or ford, on the Buffalo (Mzinyathi) River, which at the time formed the border between the British colony of Natal and the Zulu kingdom (kwaZulu). On 9 January 1879, the British No. 3 (Centre) Column, under Lord Chelmsford, arrived and encamped at the drift. On 11 January, the date the British ultimatum to the Zulus expired, the column crossed the river and encamped on the Zulu bank. A small force comprising of B Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th (2nd Warwickshire) Regiment of Foot under Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead was detailed to garrison the post, which had been turned into a supply depot and hospital under the overall command of Brevet Major Henry Spalding, 104th Foot, a member of Chelmsford's staff.

On 20 January, after reconnaissance patrolling and building of a track for its wagons, Chelmsford's column marched to Isandlwana, approximately 6 miles (10 km) to the east, leaving behind the small garrison. A large company of the 2nd/3rd Natal Native Contingent (NNC) under Captain William Stephenson was ordered to reinforce the post, and G Company of the 1st/24th Foot, stationed at Helpmekaar, was ordered to move up to and help fortify the drift after its own relief arrived. Later that evening a portion of the No. 2 Column under Brevet Colonel Anthony Durnford, late of the Royal Engineers, arrived at the drift and camped on the Zulu bank, where it remained through the next day.

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