The battles of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift

On this day in 1879 the battles of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift took place in Zululand, Southern Africa. These are two of the most iconic battles in British history; one a great disaster the other a heroic victory.

In brief the Anglo-Zulu War came about from a result of political conflict met with personal ambition. From this a British force invaded Zululand.


Here a British column of some 1700 British and allied soldiers were met ill prepared at there camp by a Zulu army of 20,000. The British would fight to the last man and in all 1300 would be killed.

Rorke’s Drift

Just hours after the loss at Isandlwana a Christian mission station turned supply depot and field hospital would become the sight of a fiercly fought battle. This saw a tiny force of some 155 British and Colonial allies against a Zulu force numbering some 3,000 - 4,000. But with great leadership and brave soldiers the British were able to fend of the Zulu attacks and force the enemy to withdraw.

The victory at Rorke’s Drift allowed some face to be saved by Britain though the disaster at Isandlwana made sure a better prepared second invasion was launched into Zululand. Also battle tactics were altered and a new respect given to the fighting prowess of the Zulu. The end result of the war was a British victory and an end to a Zulu independent nation.