Rorke's Drift war hero finally gets his own tombstone... 116 years after his death


Blackleaf
#1
Immortalised in the film Zulu starring Michael Caine, the Battle of Rorke's Drift was one of the most heroic moments in British history.

Just 150 heroic British redcoats successfully held off over 4,000 primitive Zulu savages on the banks of the Buffalo River in Natal, South Africa on 22nd and 23rd January 1879.

Then aged 20, Private Edward Savage was reported to have jumped from a hospital window to join the fighting - despite having an injured knee. Despite such bravery, the Welshman died in 1893, aged 35, without getting a headstone.

Eventually historians managed to track down his unmarked grave at a cemetery in Cardiff and on Saturday the black marble memorial was finally unveiled with the epitaph: 'A Rorke's Drift defender'.

Better late than never: Rorke's Drift war hero finally gets his own tombstone... 116 years after his death

By Daily Mail Reporter
6th June 2011
Daily Mail


It was a battle immortalised in the Hollywood film Zulu, starring Michael Caine.

At Rorke's Drift 150 British troops held off 4,000 Zulu warriors on the banks of the Buffalo River in Natal, South Africa.

Then aged 20, Private Edward Savage was reported to have jumped from a hospital window to join the fighting - despite having an injured knee.


It's been a long time coming: Edward Savage is finally honoured for his heroism

A total of 11 soldiers were awarded the Victoria Cross for their bravery.

However despite the battle going into the history books and later being famously told in the 1964 movie starring Michael Caine and Stanley Baker, Welshman Savage had already gone to his grave in 1893, aged 35, without getting a headstone.

Historians eventually found out about his unmarked grave at Cathays Cemetery in Cardif and began a campaign.

On Saturday the black marble memorial was finally unveiled with the epitaph: 'A Rorke's Drift defender'.

Savage, the son of Irish parents, joined the army in 1877 at 18 and sailed the following year to South Africa.


Rorke's Drift Defender: Private Savage leapt out of a hospital with an injured knee to fight

He was serving with the 24th (2nd Warwickshire) Regiment of Foot when the defence of Rorke's Drift, a mission station, took place on 22 January 1879 following the British Army's defeat at the Battle of Isandlwana.

Savage was later interviewed by a newspaper after arriving back in Wales.

The report said: 'Seeing the danger drawing nearer, though suffering from an injured knee, he jumped out of the window into the fort. He assisted in the defence, lying on his side and taking aim at the Zulus through the opening in the biscuit boxes.'

Despite cutting his hand 'he, however, kept "pegging away" and did some execution.'

The report added: 'Savage says he never spent such a miserable night in his life.

'There was a momentary danger of being shot dead and the likelihood of perishing of cold and hunger.'

Savage married and settled in the Riverside areas of Cardiff after leaving the Army, taking a job as a council worker.

The Friends of Cathays Cemetery (FOCC) received support from the Royal Welsh Firing Line and the Cardiff Castle Military Museum to put up a memorial on his grave.

The organisation also managed to track down some of Savage's descendants in Canada.


Remembrance: The grave was finally given a headstone thanks to the Friends of Cathays Cemetery

His great-grandson Derek Bumstead, of London, Ontario, said he knew nothing about his ancestor until he was contacted by the FOCC.

Mr Bumstead, whose father emigrated to Canada shortly after World War II, said: 'I was thrilled because the Savage branch of my father's family tree was virtually unknown to us.

'Naturally I was very proud to find out that my great-grandfather served in such a famous battle. Sadly my father died not long before we received this information about his grandfather.


Hollywood treatment: The battle was immortalised in the 1964 film Zulu, starring Michael Caine

'Dad was from a very close family and was always tremendously proud of his heritage. He would have been really thrilled to have known about Edward Savage and his courageous exploits in Africa in this pivotal battle.

'One of his favourite films happened to be Zulu. I have several fond memories of watching the movie with my dad on different occasions over the years... and can only imagine how much more the experience would have meant to each of us had we known that dad's grandfather was actually there.'

John Farnhill, from the FOCC, said: 'One of our members mentioned there was a Rorke's Drift survivor buried there.

'We had a look and found there was no headstone. We are just pleased Pte Savage has been honoured at last for what was an important chapter in British history.'

Rorke's Drift war hero finally gets his own tombstone... 116 years after his death | Mail Online
Last edited by Blackleaf; Jun 6th, 2011 at 07:51 AM..
 
Bar Sinister
+1
#2  Top Rated Post
I have a problem with the "4000 primitive Zulu savages." First of all, the Zulu's military organization was one of the most sophisticated in the world at that time. Secondly, it was the British who invaded the Zulu homeland, not the other way around. These primitive savages were simply defending their homeland against an aggressive and ruthless empire that believed it had a god-given right to subjugate any so-called "primitive" society. Given the fact that the Zulus armed only with spears and clubs charged bravely into the massed rifle fire of well-trained British soldiers, one really has to wonder who the real heroes were in this battle.
 
#juan
+1
#3
Quote: Originally Posted by Bar SinisterView Post

I have a problem with the "4000 primitive Zulu savages." First of all, the Zulu's military organization was one of the most sophisticated in the world at that time. Secondly, it was the British who invaded the Zulu homeland, not the other way around. These primitive savages were simply defending their homeland against an aggressive and ruthless empire that believed it had a god-given right to subjugate any so-called "primitive" society. Given the fact that the Zulus armed only with spears and clubs charged bravely into the massed rifle fire of well-trained British soldiers, one really has to wonder who the real heroes were in this battle.

The British soldiers did what they were ordered to do. Just a short time before the battle at Rorke's Drift, several thousand British
soldiers were caught in the open and massacred by that same Zulu army. Regardless of whether the battle was right or wrong,
there were something like 11 Victoria Cross medals handed out to soldiers who fought at the battle of Rorke's Drift.
 
Bar Sinister
#4
Quote: Originally Posted by #juanView Post

The British soldiers did what they were ordered to do. Just a short time before the battle at Rorke's Drift, several thousand British soldiers were caught in the open and massacred by that same Zulu army. Regardless of whether the battle was right or wrong, there were something like 11 Victoria Cross medals handed out to soldiers who fought at the battle of Rorke's Drift.

The soldiers killed at Isandlwana were not massacred. They were killed in a battle in which the attacking Zulus lost more men than they did. If there was a massacre then the slaughter was a mutual event. The main difference following the battle was that the British had substantially superior press agents. For almost a century the fact that the British were invading Zulu territory was ignored.
 
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