Rorke’s Drift - History and Facts | History Hit

Rorke’s Drift

Msinga Local Municipality, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Rorke’s Drift was the site of a famous British victory in the Anglo-Zulu Wars.

Peta Stamper

27 Jul 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Rorke’s Drift

Rorke’s Drift in South Africa was the site of a famous battle during the Anglo-Zulu Wars in which 139 British soldiers fiercely and successfully defended the area and their garrison against between 4,000-5,000 Zulu Warriors.

Considered to be one of the most heroic and brave defences in British military history, the Battle of Rorke’s Drift resulted in the award of a momentous 11 Victoria Crosses. Rorke’s Drift features as one of our Top Ten tourist attractions in South Africa.

Rorke’s Drift history

The Battle of Rorke’s Drift took place on 22 January 1879 and was a welcome piece of good news for the British following their disastrous defeat at Isandlwana Battlefield, which occurred on the same day. The battle began when a contingent of Zulu warriors – known as the Undi Corps – broke off from their main force as the British were being defeated at Isandlwana, and diverted 6 miles to attack Rorke’s Drift.

Armed with assegai short spears and shields of cowhide, the Zulu’s unplanned attack on Rorke’s Drift was led by Prince Dabulamanzi kaMpande. The Zulus were unable to scale the defensive walls and attacked the hospital that the British desperately tried to defend as the roof set ablaze. Their attack continued into the night.

However, as dawn broke the British saw the Zulus had gone, leaving only the dead and badly wounded. Those left behind were shown little mercy by the British who has seen the carnage of Isandlwana.

Rorke’s Drift today

Today, there is a British memorial at Rorke’s Drift, where visitors can tour the battlefield and view the visitor centre. At the battlefield also stands a white stone obelisk memorial. Most visitors also take the opportunity to visit the nearby Isandlwana Battlefield as well.

Getting to Rorke’s Drift

The easiest way of reaching Rorke’s Drift is by car. Find it off the R68 from Dundee to Nqutu or the R33 between Dundee and Pomeroy – both gravel roads.

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