Lieutenant's notes on Battle of Rorke's Drift at auction for £15,000

Map that shows the terror of the Battle of Rorke’s Drift: Lieutenant’s ‘anxiety-inducing’ notes detail how 139-strong British force held off 3,000 Zulus in infamous siege

  • Lt John Chard’s men held off 3,000 Zulu warriors during the 1879 Battle of Rorke’s Drift in South Africa
  • Queen Victoria was presented with an account by Chard of the siege afterwards showing battle’s details
  • However a draft version was kept by the family of the commanding officer for more than a century
  • Now it has now been put up for auction at Bonhams and could sell for up to £15,000 next month

A Lieutenant’s ‘anxiety-inducing’ notes that detail the Battle of Rorke’s Drift are going up for auction and could fetch £15,000. 

Queen Victoria was presented with an account of the infamous 1879 siege after Lieutenant John Chard’s 139 men held off 3,000 Zulu warriors in South Africa.

However a draft version was kept by the family of the commanding officer for more than a century and has now been put up for auction. 

An official retelling of the battle was also shown in the 1964 film Zulu starring Stanley Baker as Chard and Michael Caine as lieutenant Gonville Bromhead. 

A Lieutenant’s ‘anxiety-inducing’ notes and maps (pictured) that detail the Battle of Rorke’s Drift are going up for auction and could fetch £15,000

Queen Victoria was presented with an account of the siege after Lieutenant John Chard’s 139 men held off 3,000 Zulu warriors in the 1879 Battle of Rorke’s Drift. Pictured is a painting of the battle

An official retelling of the battle was shown in the 1964 film Zulu starring Stanley Baker as Chard (pictured) and Michael Caine as lieutenant Gonville Bromhead

The family’s draft version details Chard’s recollections of the landscape and garrison before the siege, which came hours after a terrible defeat for British forces at Isandlwana.  

Chard’s official account for the queen which included perfected landscape sketches was put on display for the first time by the Royal Collection Trust in 2014.

In addition historians such as John Prebble who helped write the screen play for Zulu were given access to this account.  

The draft is being sold by Bonhams next month with an estimate that it could sell for up to £15,000. It contains several sketches and maps as well as his ‘working thoughts’.

Matthew Haley – the auction house’s head of books and manuscripts – told The Times: ‘It is Chard writing in his own hand, working up his narrative, it is very very vivid as he talks about going around the battlefield finding body parts.

The draft is being sold by Bonhams next month with an estimate that it could sell for up to £15,000. It contains several sketches and maps as well as his ‘working thoughts’ (pictured) 

There were 11 Victoria Crosses awarded to those involved in the Battle of Rorke’s Drift where 15 British troops died alongside 370 Zulus. Pictured is a battle scene in the film Zulu

The British garrison was commanded by Lieutenant John Chard (pictured), Royal Engineers and Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead of the 24 Foot

‘It is striking how mega outnumbered the British garrison was. The narrative is anxiety inducing. You would be absolutely petrified.’

The sale next month also includes a sword of honour given to him by the people of his hometown of Plymouth, which has an estimate of £15,000 to £25,000.

There were 11 Victoria Crosses awarded to those involved in the Battle of Rorke’s Drift where 15 British troops died alongside 370 Zulus.  

The battle was part of the wider Anglo-Zulu war took place during 1879.

The conflict began because the Zulu kingdom presented an obstacle to British imperial ambitions in southern Africa. 

What happened at Rorke’s Drift? How 139 British soldiers held off 3,000 Zulu warriors in 1879 battle

On January 11, 1879, a British force commanded by Lieutenant-General Lord Chelmsford invaded Zululand.

From 22 to 23 January, on the bank of the Buffalo River in Natal Province, South Africa a 139-strong British garrison successfully defended the Rorke’s Drift mission station.

The British garrison was commanded by Lieutenant John Chard, Royal Engineers and Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead of the 24 Foot.

The Zulus were commanded by Prince Dabulamanzi kaMapande.

Lt Chard was the commanding officer and organised the epic defence which saw them defy all odds to see off the 4,000 fierce Zulu warriors. 

Rorke’s Drift inspired the 1964 Hollywood blockbuster starring Stanley Baker and Michael Caine

For 12 hours the British repelled the spear-carrying tribesmen with accurate shooting and brutal hand-to-hand combat.

The Zulus, known for their bravery and ferocity, were eventually forced to retreat with 350 of their number killed compared to 17 British.

The defensive British force was rewarded by Queen Victoria’s government with no fewer than 11 Victoria Crosses.

The battle was part of the wider Anglo-Zulu war took place during 1879.

The conflict began because the Zulu kingdom presented an obstacle to British imperial ambitions in southern Africa.

The British invasion of Zululand began on January 11, 1879, with the British seeking an eventual federation in Africa.

Source: British Battles.com  

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