In January 1879 the British invaded KwaZulu in South Africa, without the sanction of the Home Government, in a war brought about by the misguided policy of "Confederating" Southern Africa under the direction of the Governor-General Sir Henry Bartle Edward Frere. The fiercely indepedent AmaZulu people refused to lay down their arms and accept British rule over the Sovereign Kingdom. The British General Officer Commanding, Lord Chelmsford, despite having abundant military intelligence on the AmaZulu, had a misconceived idea of the fighting prowess of his enemy. The result was that on 22nd January a British force of seventeen hundred strong, was attacked and only some four hundred men, of whom only some eighty Europeans, survived at a place called Isandhlwana.
Prince Dabulamanzi kaMpande commanded an impi, the Undi 'corps' of 4,500. His men had played little part in the action at Isandhlwana, but goaded on by his men, and despite the orders of his brother, King Cetshwayo kaMpande, not to cross the Buffalo River into Natal, he chose to attack the British supply base close to a river crossing known as Rorke's Drift, which the AmaZulu called KwaJimu.
After a number of unsuccessful attacks the Zulus set fire to the hospital, burst in and began to spear the patients. A private named Alfred Henry Hook, a Gloucestershire man, kept them at bay with his bayonet while his friend John Williams hacked holes in the wall separating one room from another and dragged the patients through one by one, the last man had dislocated his knee. Williams had to break the other to get him out of a window and into the yard where the barricades offered some protection.
Fighting went on all night in the fitful glare from the blazing hospital as the Zulus made charge after charge on the barricades. Both sides fought with desperate courage. A patient from the hospital, a Swiss born adventurer Christian Ferdnand Schiess, stabbed three Zulus in quick succession after he had clambered over the breastwork. In the yard Surgeon James Henry Reynolds tended to the wounded, oblivious to the life and death struggle going on all around him. Those too badly hurt to shoot propped themselves up as best they could and reloaded the guns, and re-supplied ammunition to those who were still on their feet.
When dawn came at last, the Zulus drew off taking their wounded with them and leaving at least 351 dead around the barricades. Later Lord Chelmsford arrived on the scene with a relief column of British Soldiers.
The video above depicts the final battle after a day and half of hard combat.
This is a great movie for several reasons:
- It's a true story, not some comic-book fantasy with no basis in reality.
- Filmed during the age of apartheid in South Africa, it depicts both sides (Zulu & British) nobly and with respect.
- It is a powerful anti-war statement.
- It is graphic testimony to the fact that sometimes we are called to prevail against overwhelming odds.
The battle that is underway for the church in this age - while unseen to human eyes - is just as violent and relentless as the one depicted in the film. While the Battle for Rorke's Drift was localized to a tiny geographical patch of land in South Africa, the war we are engaged in is cosmic in scale and involves spiritual forces with unimaginable power.
Organization, strong leadership, loyalty, discipline, training and courage gave the British victory. The same will stand the church in good stead as we find ourselves facing a determined enemy.
In 2 Kings 6, Elisha and his fearful servant are surrounded and hopelessly outnumbered by enemy forces. Elisha prays that God would open his servants' eyes to see the unseen Heavenly forces engaged in the battle for them. And the servant sees that those with Elisha and him are more than those who are against them.
May God open our eyes too.
While we sometimes may feel like the hopelessly out-numbered British staring defeat and death in the face ... like them, the church will ultimately emerge victorious and triumphant. As Jesus said in Matt 16:18, the gates of Hell will not prevail against His church.