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The Rorke's Drift Commanders (Hardback)

Gonville Bromhead and John Chard

Military > Biographies Military > Frontline Books > Frontline: 17th-19th Centuries Military > Frontline Books > Frontline: Boer-Zulu War Military > Pre-WWI > Anglo-Zulu Wars

By James W Bancroft
Frontline Books
Pages: 232
Illustrations: 70 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399009966
Published: 30th August 2022

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Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead and Lieutenant John Chard had fame thrust upon them, as did the place known as Rorke’s Drift, which before 1879 was an unknown homestead situated in the middle of the South African veld.

Although both men came from families whose various members were highly distinguished for their military service and for their service to the church, they became reluctant heroes after being awarded Britain’s highest decoration for valour, the Victoria Cross.

During the Anglo-Zulu War in 1879, a British invasion force was massacred at iSandlwana, after which a wing of the Zulu army about 3,000 strong attacked the outpost at Rorke’s Drift. Lieutenants Bromhead and Chard commanded the post, and after supervising the construction of barricades they led their men in defensive actions throughout the night until the Zulus lost heart and returned to their kraals. For their gallantry ‘under most trying circumstances’, both Bromhead and Chard, along with nine of their comrades, were subsequently awarded the Victoria Cross.

In 1964 the defence of Rorke’s Drift was brought back to public attention with the producing of the epic motion picture Zulu! In this film, Chard was portrayed by Sir Stanley Baker, whilst Bromhead provided Sir Michael Caine with his first starring role.

Bromhead and Chard epitomised the way of life of Victorian officers, with the exception that fate put them at Rorke’s Drift. They became major players in a battle which continues to excite interest and cause debate, and is unlikely ever to be forgotten.

Informative enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of an informative Introduction, three Appendices, black/white images, a nine page listing of Research Sources, a seven page Bibliography, and a three page Index, "The Rorke's Drift Commanders: Gonville Bromhead and John Chard" is an impressively researched work of meticulous scholarship. Effectively organized and presented, "The Rorke's Drift Commanders: Gonville Bromhead and John Chard " will prove to be a welcome addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library 19th Century British Military History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

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Midwest Book Review

Zulu remains one of my favourite movies, and James Bancroft's detailed look at Lieutenants Chard and Bromhead provides welcome extra and valuable information about these two seminal characters from one of the most fascinating battles in British military history.

Books Monthly

Pen & Sword/Frontline Books have produced yet another useful volume about the Victorian Empire. This one covers the battles of Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift. Students of the Empire; people interested in the regimental histories of the South Wales Borderers and the Royal Engineers; and anyone who has enjoyed the classic film Zulu will want to read this.

5 out of 5

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Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)

An excellent book that delves deep into the backgrounds of the two men and shows how one event, and the accompanying acclaim can change lives. "And some have greatness thrust upon them".

Michael McCarthy, Battlefield Guide

Michael McCarthy

About James W Bancroft

JAMES BANCROFT has produced more than 100 books and articles, the subjects of which reflect his varied interests. He has contributed a number of articles for The New Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and his book Rorke’s Drift: The Zulu War, 1879 has been re-printed seven times. His JWB Historical Library, compiled over four decades, is one of the largest private collections of its kind in the world. When he is not writing, James enjoys singing and playing and listening to music, and being with his growing family.

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