South Africa 1877-79 (Zulu War)

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Despite the attention grabbed, thanks largely to its recreations on the big by the Zulu war in South Africa in 1879, there were other long and difficult campaigns against other tribes both in 1879 and in 1877-78. The campaigns were an expedition against the Galeka and Gaika tribes in 1877-78, fighting against the Griquas near Kimberley in 1878, and a campaign against the Basutos which ran concurrently with the Zulu War in Natal of 1879. The reason for the latter overshadowing the other campaigns is that two important pitched battles were fought on the same day, Isandhlwana and Rorke’s Drift, which are notable events in British military history. Isandhlwana was a signal defeat for the British, thanks in large part to the incompetence of its commander, Lord Chelmsford, in which an entire British column was massacred. Rorke’s Drift was a heroic against-the-odds defence of an isolated mission and hospital station by a hugely outnumbered British force. This was commanded by two young and junior officers, Lieutenants Chard and Bromhead. More VCs were won at Rorke’s Drift than in any other one day action fought by the British army.