But perhaps they were what led the hubristic Lord Chelmsford, the commander-in-chief during the Anglo-Zulu War, to take half of his soldiers away from Isandlwana to hunt for the Zulu enemy.In his absence, as the opening shots of Zulu reveal, the other half didn’t survive.Spears and clubs, commanders thought, were no match for European massed firepower and strict discipline.I hardly need to mention imperial theories about racial superiority.But as with every great myth, the truth was stretched – and stretched again.The Battle of Rorke’s Drift was, in reality, little more than a footnote after a far more important (and far more gory) battle earlier in the day, 11 miles away at Isandlwana.His friend Stanley Baker, who plays Lieutenant John Chard in the film, was happy to join the venture.But the film didn’t come from these two men alone: Zulu is very much of its time.
It was the ultimate humiliation for the British Empire. Because for decades, its forces had been used to easy victories over badly equipped native armies.
“Hookie” redeems himself by saving the lives of the patients there and, in doing so, earns a VC.
The real Hook, however, was a teetotal Methodist and a model soldier.
Men of Harlech – the song belted out by our heroes during the film’s climax – evokes similar themes of battle. “The haughty foe surrounding.” The British had rifles, of course, but they were outnumbered by about 25 to one. ” And yet they vanquished the enemy – killing hundreds of Zulus and forcing them, eventually, to abandon the attack.
In a way, it’s extraordinary that this exciting story was filmed as late as the Sixties.