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Zulu Movie Myths

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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Zulu Movie Myths
    Posted: 25-Feb-2012 at 11:58
I, like many, have watched the movie, Zulu, and have been stirred by the drama. I was just a little surprised by this article about myths involved with the making of it.


Zulu movie Rorke's Drift VC winning battle myths

Lt John Chard (played here by Stanley Baker) and Lt Gonville Bromhead (Michael Caine) in the film Zulu

[QUOTE]"Zulus - thousands of 'em." That is perhaps the line that most people remember from the 1964 film, Zulu.

The film recounts the battle of Rorke's Drift in 1879 when some 150 British soldiers held off around 4,000 warrior tribesman whose land they had invaded.

It was an event which saw 11 Victoria Crosses awarded, more than for any single battle before or since.

That may in part be due to Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli wanting to draw a veil over the huge defeat at Isandlwana earlier on the same day when a column of 1,800 well-armed British military were put to the spear.

However, an analysis of the citations will show that the award of each VC was justly deserved.

But, since it was made nearly half a century ago, the British movie about the seven score or so of men who successfully beat off a Zulu army has become a 139-minute cinematic treasure.

It has sparked an entire industry about what might be an otherwise largely forgotten colonial war and, for most people, it might as well be a documentary of what happened.

At least that is the view of Bill Cainan, curator of the Regimental Museum of The Royal Welsh, based at Brecon, Powys.

That is where the soldiers were based and in the film were portrayed as a fundamentally Welsh regiment, with Rhondda Valley-born actor Stanley Baker in the leading role.

Except that they weren't, says Mr Cainan, who himself served in the army for 37 years.

Industrialisation

Although the regiment had been based in Wales for six years by the battle of Rorke's Drift, they were still titled as the 24th Regiment of Foot (2nd Warwickshire Regiment).

For generations the regiment had recruited from the big strong farmhands working in the fields of Warwickshire and neighbouring counties.

But in the wake of the rapid industrialisation of Wales, and the south Wales valleys in particular, the Army had moved the regiment's base to Brecon to recruit from unskilled industrial labourers.

Yet even then no more than a third of the men in the regiment at that time would have considered themselves Welsh, says Mr Cainan.

He gives a lecture on Saturday at the National Army Museum in London on how the Anglo-Zulu War was received in Wales.

It is the sort of occasion where he comes up against the many myths perpetuated by Zulu, he says.

He said: "Stanley Baker just wanted to put some Welshness into it. He played the regiment as being the South Wales Borderers whereas it was still the 2nd Warwickshire Regiment.

"Mind you, it took the Army nine years - two years after Zulu war - to rename it, to reflect its geographical location."

Perhaps one of the defining moments of the film is the singing of the Welsh marching song, Men of Harlech.

As the surrounded British troops wait for the final onslaught, the opera singer Ivor Emmanuel, starring as Private Owen, leads them in a stirring performance to counteract the Zulu war chants.

'Expected to die'

Even though it is one of the memorable moments in the film, it probably never happened.

Mr Cainan said: "Most of the battle was at night. It finished at approximately midnight.

"The soldiers started with 24,000 rounds of ammunition. By midnight they were down to a 600-round box and any rounds they had left in their pouches. At midnight, they all expected to die.

"But by midnight the Zulus had shot their bolt. The battle had started at 4.30pm and they had taken quite heavy casualties.

"The British fire did not seem to be diminishing. The Zulus had jogged 15 miles to get there and swum a river in flood and they were relatively old regiments - in the uThulwana regiment the average age was 50.

"The Zulus were great warriors but even they had their limit. By midnight they thought 'that's it, finished'.

"If they had tried one more attack, they probably would have succeeded. The film does not convey that."

Yet Zulu has done marvellous things for the memory of the war, said Mr Cainan, even if it has also obscured somewhat the truth behind a battle that is still honoured by descendents on both sides.

He said: "It's a duality. Without the film, we would not have the interest in the Anglo-Zulu War,

"The medals that were issued would not be worth the money they are now."

These men are the These men are the B Company 2/24th Regiment- the men who defended Rorkes Drift.- the men who defended Rorkes Drift.The defenders of Rorke's Drift: B Company 2/24th Warwickshire Regiment

The two main Victoria Crosses, awarded to Lieutenant John Chard [played by Baker] and Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead [played by Michael Caine] are probably worth up to four times more than others VCs, he said.

"But because it is such a well-crafted film, many people treat it as a documentary.

"When you start say 'that's not quite right' the eyebrows start to raise and people say 'but I've seen the film!'."

The line "Zulus - thousands of 'em" is uttered in the film by Colour Sergeant Bourne [played by Nigel Green].

Green was middle-aged, but Bourne was only 24. In fact, he was one of the youngest colour sergeants in the British Army.

And the line of his - that people misquote, actually - did he say it? Who knows?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-16948284

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  Quote Toltec Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Feb-2012 at 13:50
This doesn't seem to be much of a criticism, I've heard much worse. It's a very accurate movie by the standards of any other movie out there, but those stardards are painfully low.
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  Quote Centrix Vigilis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Feb-2012 at 17:20
Concur with Toltec.
The gap between hollywood and historical accuracy, in general, is legendary in most occasions. That the good curator is pointing that out is not a serious threat to the valor of heroism on both sides that day. Matter of fact I ken his pain.
 
As a Soldier-historian, he no doubt prizes accuracy and concise factual examination in the detail of the reporting of the action. Nothing wrong with that.
 
That unfortunately doesn't sell tickets nor does it support the glorification of a screenwriter.
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  Quote Nick1986 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Feb-2012 at 19:20
Harry Hook's daughters were outraged when he was depicted as a rogue and drunk. In reality he was a model soldier who never drank alcohol
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  Quote Nick1986 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Mar-2012 at 19:04

The helmets of the British soldiers wouldn't have been white. They were dyed with tea to make the wearer less of an easy target
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  Quote Michael Mckean Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Mar-2012 at 18:34
There are a number of innacuracies in Zulu, still an amazing film though.
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  Quote Nick1986 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Mar-2012 at 19:11
Regardless of its imperialistic message, i enjoyed Zulu. It's a bit like a British western
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  Quote JohnAshtone Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Sep-2012 at 09:21

It was easier from a film making point of view and clearness of story to make the Regiment Welsh, just look at the list of V.C.s the majority are Welshman.

 
I have just been reading Byron Farwell's Queen Victoria's Little Wars, and was fully aware that most of the action took place at night, however from a filmmakers point of view it becomes complicated, so for ease of story one makes it during daylight.
 
Lt. Gonville Bromhead was short and dark, and not very intelligent, however he was from a military Family. 
 
As films go Zulu gets the essence, also it shows the Zulus point of view and not in a bad light, as most people get the impression that the Zulus were as put upon by the Christian Missionaries as by the British trying to stop slavery, and bring Laws and trade.
 
And as for Hookies portrayel, I would still have preferred James Booth running the Country as Hook, instead of that wretched Son in law of his Tony B. Liar lol.
 
Still a 5* film warts and all.
 
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  Quote Nick1986 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Sep-2012 at 19:40
Originally Michael Caine was going to play Hook. But the director took one look at him and cast him as an officer
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  Quote Kevinmeath Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jan-2013 at 17:14
Well one thing that is not shown in the film is Private Joeseph Willams as the Zulu takes the Hospital he (a new recruit along with his friend John Williams who works to help the patients escape and get the VC) bayonet charges along the corridor driving the Zulu back, and holds the doorway with bullet and bayonet.
 
He is eventually ceased and hacked to death.
 
His corpse is bably mutilated and is taken by the British as a sign of savagry but may well have been the Zulu wish to dip their spear into a lion-- effectively a tribute to a brave warrior.
 
It was said that he would have been awarded the VC had he lived(official papers say so) but there were no posthumous awards then -- two Anglo-Irish Officers at the same time Melvill and Coghill had families who purseued the war office to award their brave sons posthumous VC's from actions not far away, working class Joseph Williams had no such champions.
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  Quote Nick1986 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Jan-2013 at 10:17
The Zulus were brave warriors, but i never understood why they butchered the wounded. A helpless enemy posed no threat to them
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  Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Jan-2013 at 13:48
Nick, if don't understand why the Zulus butchered, then you've read very little about them. I would suggest "The Washing of the Spears". In a 19th Century African context, they were fairly decent types.
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  Quote Kevinmeath Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Jan-2013 at 18:23
I am not sure I would go along with 'decent types' but certainly no worse or better than anyone else.
 
They didn't take prisoners-- what do you want a prisoner for? but niether did the British
 
They killed wounded found but so did the Boers and the British.
 
They 'washed spears' to be part of the 'kill' so it can be seen as a mark of respect.
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  Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jan-2013 at 19:15
Well, it can certainly be said that they never did anything to others that they did not expect would be done to themselves. But then, when your chief can simply crush your skull to show visitors that he has the power of life and death over you, you grow up with different values.
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  Quote Nick1986 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09-Jan-2013 at 17:16
Originally posted by Kevinmeath

I am not sure I would go along with 'decent types' but certainly no worse or better than anyone else.
 
They didn't take prisoners-- what do you want a prisoner for? but niether did the British
 
They killed wounded found but so did the Boers and the British.
 
They 'washed spears' to be part of the 'kill' so it can be seen as a mark of respect.

I guess there were practical reasons for such butchery: killing a helpless enemy prevents him recovering and killing you
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  Quote Mountain Man Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Jan-2013 at 13:37
A classic film, as is its companion epic Zulu Dawn about the defeat at Islandwhana.
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  Quote Kevinmeath Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Sep-2013 at 19:03
Originally posted by Mountain Man

A classic film, as is its companion epic Zulu Dawn about the defeat at Islandwhana.



I didn't like that film even less accurate than Zulu.

redcoats break and run? bullshit they formed rally companies and fought to the end.

Even the companies caught in line with no chance to form square formed pathetic little groups back to back-- at least that's what the Zulu said.
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  Quote Mountain Man Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Sep-2013 at 18:50

redcoats break and run? bullshit they formed rally companies and fought to the end.

Even the companies caught in line with no chance to form square formed pathetic little groups back to back-- at least that's what the Zulu said.

No doubt some of therm did, but the Zulus could see only their small [portion of the battle, obscured by dust and gunpowder and men struggling to kill each other.  What we do know is that an entire modern military force of some 1500 trained soldiers was nevertheless wiped out to a man by Zulus equipped with nothing but spears...not one of Britain's finest hours.
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  Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Sep-2013 at 23:37
As for fighting to the end, considering the place and time, this is quite believable. White men out on the High Veldt. Yes, not much chance of survival with all those Zulus about. This wasn't, after all, a typical European battlefield with all kinds of armies and uniforms mucking about. Surviving on your own was nearly impossible. Certainly better to hang together and try to fight it out.

I believe that was also the motivating factor in the Foreign Legion stand at Cameron. Unless you could pass for a Mexican, and even this was subject to challenge to verify that you were on the right side, it was better to fight for as long as you could.
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  Quote Kevinmeath Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Sep-2013 at 18:18
Originally posted by Mountain Man


redcoats break and run? bullshit they formed rally companies and fought to the end.

Even the companies caught in line with no chance to form square formed pathetic little groups back to back-- at least that's what the Zulu said.No doubt some of therm did, but the Zulus could see only their small [portion of the battle, obscured by dust and gunpowder and men struggling to kill each other.  What we do know is that an entire modern military force of some 1500 trained soldiers was nevertheless wiped out to a man by Zulus equipped with nothing but spears...not one of Britain's finest hours.


Well the Zulus did state that the redcoats did not run but kept formation and the positioning of the bodies would agree.

The 1800 troops at Isandlwana, only 600 or so were redcoats then the rest 'local forces' ranging from well equipped colonial cavalry (white and Black African) to at best moderate and poorly armed (1 in 10 had a rifle) Black African infantry.

25 percent of the Zulu were armed with guns --of very 'mixed' quality it has to be said-- so in the unlike film the Rocket troop (disgracefully left isolated by Durnford) are not over run by a 'black mass of warriors' but rather cut down by a huge volley.

The camp was poorly laid out designed to be defended by at least 2 battalions of redcoats (if it was designed at all which many doubt such was the arrogance of the British Staff officers, much to the dismay of the officers of the 24th) but Chelmsford marched half the troops off.

It is however open to debate whether any other European army would have faired any better against the Zulu.
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