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*All distances listed are as the crow flies, and not actual travel distances.
It was on January 22nd in 1879 that the British were to suffer their worst military defeat in an attempt to subdue the Zulu nation at Isindlwana in the province of what is today known as KwaZulu-Natal. Over 1500 men lay dead and immediately following this battle, a section of the Zulu army formation continued on to Rorke’s Drift in an attempt to overpower British troops stationed there. What they were met with was fierce resistance from a small band consisting of 135 soldiers. After a battle that lasted almost 12 hours, the Zulu impis retreated at a cost of 350 dead while the British had lost 17 men. More Victoria Cross medals were issued to soldiers in this battle than any other.
Rorke’s Drift was established in 1860 by trader James Rorke who ran a store for 15 years. After his death, a Swedish Missionary Society purchased the land and established the Oscarberg mission station. Two stone buildings were erected and at the start of the Anglo-Zulu wars, the British took occupation of the buildings, one to serve as a supply store, the other as a field hospital. Following the Rorke’s Drift siege of 1879, the buildings were razed but the site is today remembered by the placement of stone cairns where the buildings once stood. The 1964 movie Zulu, starring Michael Caine, recreates the Rorke’s Drift battle.
Apart from the battle site, the area affords the visitor warm sunny days and long hikes or horse riding through majestic countryside. Birdlife is plentiful and hiring of angling gear is available to fish along the Buffalo River. Walks can be taken along the old wagon road to experience some of the area’s history while the nearby cemetery contains the graves of 12 soldiers who died in the Rorke’s Drift battle.