Zulu is my favorite movie ever…

Posted: September 3, 2009 by datechguy in hobbies, war
Tags: , , ,

…and Kurt Schlichter gives it the credit that it is due:

Understand that Zulu is a true story. In January 1879, a column of about 1500 poorly-deployed British troops was overrun at Isandhlwana by the 20,000-man Zulu army of King Catshweyo. After that slaughter – the Zulus did not bother with niceties like taking prisoners – the Zulus turned their attention to the nearby mission station at Rourke’s Drift, defended by about 100 Welsh infantrymen and their English officers. The desperate battle against overwhelming odds that followed became a legend.

Zulu is one of those films that just clicks. The story, of course, is compelling, but at the center are the characters. Stanley Baker, who also directed, plays Lieutenant Chard, the engineer who happened to be at Rourke’s Drift building a bridge when the Zulus arrived and who took charge of the defense. Baker’s subtle portrayal counterpoints the character’s tactical skill in planning the battle with his evident fear of failing his men.

He brings up an interesting point, one of the reasons why I have a soft spot for the men of the Edwardian and Victorian ages:

Caine, a Korean War veteran, is fantastic – a nobleman at first more concerned with hunting and horsemanship than leading his men, but who also demonstrates bravery and aplomb under fire. And there’s a larger truth there about such men even today – for example, Prince Harry is a London party boy yet he pulled every one of his many strings to get himself sent into combat in Afghanistan.

It didn’t hurt that actual Zulus played the Zulus either.

Here is my choice for a clip form the movie:

It is very much worth your time and even more so is to look up some of the actual men who fought. My favorite is Color Sgt. Frank Bourne who also was the last survivor of the battle, dying on VE day May 8th 1945. A transcript of his account of the battle from 1936 is here.

Where are men like that today in the British Isles? They still fight for England and still use cold steel in the 21st century:

Prepared by the U.S. Urban Warfare Analysis Center:

Executive Summary:

In May 2004, approximately 20 British troops in Basra were ambushed and forced out of their vehicles by about 100 Shiite militia fighters. When ammunition ran low, the British troops fixed bayonets and charged the enemy. About 20 militiamen were killed in the assault without any British deaths.

The bayonet charge appea More..red to succeed for three main reasons. First, the attack was the first of its kind in that region and captured the element of surprise. Second, enemy fighters probably believed jihadist propaganda stating that coalition troops were cowards unwilling to fight in close combat, further enhancing the element of surprise. Third, the strict discipline of the British troops overwhelmed the ability of the militia fighters to organize a cohesive counteraction.

The effects of this tactical action in Basra are not immediately applicable elsewhere, but an important dominant theme emerges regarding the need to avoid predictable patterns of behavior within restrictive rules of engagement. Commanders should keep adversaries off balance with creative feints and occasional shows of force lest they surrender the initiative to the enemy.

What? You never heard of it? Mark Steyn wasn’t surprised you didn’t:

Here’s a story no American news organization thought worth covering last week, so you’ll just have to take it from me. In the southern Iraqi town of Amara, 20 men from Scotland’s Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders came under attack from 100 or so of Muqtada al-Sadr’s ”insurgents.” So they fixed bayonets and charged.

It was the first British bayonet charge since the Falklands War 20 years ago. And at the end of it some 35 of the enemy were dead in return for three minor wounds on the Argylls’ side.

The army report above analyzes why a bayonet charge by troops out of Ammo can work against men with 21st century weapons but Steyn puts it plainly:

When a chap’s charging at you with a bayonet, he’s telling you he’s personally willing to run you through with cold steel.

That speaks volumes.

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