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Rorkes Drift and Isandlwana

...22nd January 1879, Minute by Minute, from Greenhill Books

Title: Rorkes Drift & Isandlwana, Minute by Minute
Author: Chris Peers
Publisher: Greenhill Books
ISBN: 978-1-78438-534-7

A new 186-page book with the story of the fighting at both Isandlwana and Rorkes Drift, and presenting the story of the significant day of 22nd January 1879 in a minute by minute format. As explained in the Introduction, the author has pieced together a variety of records and personal accounts and arrived at what he believes is the good representation of what happened on the day. As he makes clear, some records don't necessarily agree with each other, so the task was to sift through and decide which was the most likely correct.
The book is divided into 9 chapters, plus the Introduction and a Prologue, and a final Conclusion. The main body of the text then starts before Dawn on the 22nd January. Then on through the Early Hours and Late Morning, describing the events with various elements of Chelmsford's main force heading to a camp by Isandlwana. The force was split, there was some confusion over orders and it does include some good background on the Zulu command and units as well. The fighting was fierce, and while they suffered significant casualties, they took no British prisoners, all they defeated were killed. Then in the second half of the book, the events at Rorkes Drift. Not exactly the story as told by the famous film, but close, and with the actions of many of the main characters. The fighting at Rorkes Drift went on into the night, but all fell silent by the following morning. I was especially taken by the stories of what happened after the events to the characters of those whose name is well known thanks to the film, the VC winners and others. One or two made rather sad reading.
Not a period I usually study, though I have long been a huge fan of the old film. I admit I wasn't conscious that the fighting at the 2 locations all took place on the same day, rather than a day or so apart. I found this a very readable account and I learnt a lot. There are plenty of maps and modern photos showing the battlegrounds today. If like me your knowledge of the story doesn't go much beyond the film 'Zulu', I think you will enjoy this one, I know I did.
Thanks to Greenhill Books for our review copy.


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