Military Archive Research
by Dr. Stuart C Blank
Member of the Orders and Medals Research Society (OMRS)
Member of the Royal Air Force Historical Society (RAFHS)
Member of the Naval Historical Collectors and Research Association (NHCRA)
Member of the Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS)
Member of the International Bank Note Society (IBNS)
Member of the International Bond and Share Society (IBSS)




Review of
Zulu – The Truth Behind the Film
By Paul Raby
RRP GBP £7.99
ISBN 9780956430106

Available from: Paul Raby, 50 Monkton Road, York, YO319AX, United Kingdom Tel.: 07970365260 e-mail: Postage is believed to be free in the UK

The film “Zulu” must rate amongst the most famous military epics of all time. It is screened regularly and it raised interest in the battle of Rorke’s Drift to unimaginable levels. The battle of Rorke’s Drift occurred shortly after the infamous defeat of the British Army column under Lord Chelmsford by King Cetshwayo’s Zulu warriors on 22nd January 1879. The first battle occurred at Isandlwana where a total of nearly 1,500 officers and men mainly from the 24th Regiment of Foot were annihilated.

The battle of Rorke’s Drift occurred slightly after Isandlwana on the 22nd / 23rd January 1879. At Rorke’s Drift 11 awards of the eminent Victoria Crosses (VC) were hard earned. The Victoria Cross is the supreme British award for gallantry in direct combat with the enemy. The end scene of the film states that 1,344 have been awarded since its introduction. Of these the 11 awards illustrate how brave the defenders of Rorke’s Drift were. More than 1,344 VCs have now been awarded but this figure was correct at the time when the film was released.

After a short introduction the book has a chapter on the backgrounds of the principal actors. This is an interesting section and it reveals many little known facts on their careers. Then the book progresses by charting the film scene by scene. The author has compared each scene of the film to the actual events on a chronological basis. His comparisons illustrate the numerous “historical” inaccuracies in the film.

The manuscript states these inaccuracies and continuity errors in the film in a lucid manner. Some of the continuity errors include wounds moving around the wounded person’s body, men clean shaven then with beards, bayonets appearing on rifles which did not have any moments before. Other more important “historical” inaccuracies include men’s names (and numbers) which were not present, uniform errors, the myth of the 24th Foot at the time being a Welsh regiment, the songs the men and the Zulus were supposed to sing etc. Other inaccuracies include the Reverend Otto Witt’s daughter and the usages of the wagons as barriers. In the film the wagons were (mainly) upturned whereas that was not the actual case.

In short, this volume is a very interesting read. I have watched the film numerous times and the author’s work provides a careful analysis of the film compared to the actual events. Like the film it is easy to follow and very entertaining. It provides a backdrop to the film and it is highly recommended as reading for anyone interested in this famous battle. I also think the author has done a great service by his outstanding research to “correct” and illustrate the inaccuracies of the film. Many “myths” have occurred since the film was released and the book indicates the true events.

November 2011