The story of the five men of Gwent who fought in the battle made famous in the 'Men of Harlech' film - Zulu

Zulu, Rorke's Drift and the five Gwent connections

Zulu, Rorke's Drift and the Gwent connection

Zulu, Rorke's Drift and the Gwent connection

First published in News
Last updated
Free Press Series: Photograph of the Author by

IT became one of the most famous battles the Welsh have fought in - and the film depicting it grew to be an iconic favourite.

Today marks both the 50th anniversary of the release of Zulu and 135 years since the Battle of Rorke's Drift was fought.

Eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded after the action, the highest number in any engagement fought by the British Army.

The movie, directed by Sir Stanley Baker in 1964, centred on the heroic defence of Rorke's Drift by the 24th Regiment's B Company in the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879.

Many of the men of the 24th of Foot - later the South Wales Borderers - who held the position, were from Gwent.

John Fielding VC

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Private John Fielding, from Ty Coch in Cwmbran, served as Pte John Williams and received the Victoria Cross after defending the remote station at Rorke’s Drift against 4,000 Zulus. He and around 150 soldiers faced up to 4,000 Zulu Impis, fresh from their crushing victory over the British at Isandlwana as they descended on his tiny outpost.

Abergavenny-born Fielding joined the British Army at the age of 20 in 1877 under the assumed name of Williams and today, his relatives and veterans organisations in the Torfaen area mark the anniversary of the battle every year with a parade.

The annual parade and service takes place at St Michael and All Angels Church, Llantarnam, where he is buried.

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Robert Jones VC

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Robert Jones was born in Clytha near Abergavenny and was 21-years-old when he fought at Rorke's Drift. A private in the 2nd Battalion, 24th Regiment of Foot he was awarded the VC for his heroism inside the hospital at the outpost.

He and Pte William Jones saved six out of the seven patients in hospital , firing at oncoming Zulus through a hole they had cut in the wall.

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John Samuel Jobbins

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A native of Pontypool and a ‘puddler’ (coal-washer) Private John Samuel Jobbins was another Gwent defender of Rorke’s Drift and received the Zulu War medal with three clasps. He died age 79 in 1934 at his home in Pontypool and was buried with full military honours.

A street in a new housing estate has been named after him, Jobbins Way, and a group of veterans discovered his grave last year in Trevethin cemetery after the graveyard had become overgrown by weeds and brambles. They are holding a service in his memory on the 25th January.

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Abraham Evans

Abraham Evans was born at Twynyrffrwd, Abersychan in 1855 and enlisted in the Royal Artillery in Newport at the age of 19 and three years after that went to South Africa where he fought in battles prior to the Zulu wars.

When the British Army, which had marched from the Cape, arrived at Rorke's Drift on the Natal border in 1879 Evans was confined to the mission hospital suffering from dysentery.

After the near-annihilation of the British Force at Isandlwana and as Zulu reserves turned against the tiny outpost at nearby Rorke's Drift, Evans manned the defences and helped repel the Zulus.

Gunner Evans died in 1915.

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William Partridge

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BLAINA man William Partridge enlisted in the 24th Regiment of Foot in 1877 aged 20, after having previously enrolled in the Monmouthshire Militia.

He was promoted to Lance Corporal in 1878 while serving in South Africa but reverted to Private later that year.

He fought to defend the Rorke’s Drift mission station alongside the small force from the 24th Regiment of Foot. They were also joined by soldiers from the Royal Engineers and the 2nd/3rd Natal Native Contingent.

Later that year he was awarded a Good Conduct Badge South Africa Medal 1877-79 for the part he played in the war. He died aged 71 in 1930.

Read more...

And here's the famous rendition of Men of Harlech...

Comments (3)

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6:47pm Wed 22 Jan 14

Katie Re-Registered says...

Interesting, well-researched stuff Mr Wade - accompanied by some fascinating period photos. I'd like to see more features about local history in the South Wales Argus like this. Well done!
Interesting, well-researched stuff Mr Wade - accompanied by some fascinating period photos. I'd like to see more features about local history in the South Wales Argus like this. Well done! Katie Re-Registered
  • Score: 3

12:44pm Thu 23 Jan 14

Milkmanofhumankindness says...

Ministry of Defence says it needs new recruits. "More than meets the eye"

The Zulu War was just another colonial war like many in other parts of the worldwide British Empire.
I’m not doubting the bravery of British soldiers in the Victorian era just the fact that they were not fighting for the likes of you or I everyday folk. They were fighting to protect colonial wealth.
In 1879 British colonial officials and the commander-in-chief in South Africa, Lord Chelmsford, considered the independent Zulu Kingdom ruled by Cetshwayo a threat to the British colony.
European colonial expansion is likely to have triggered the whole thing. News at this time was unreliable ( no internet or mobile phones to challenge ).

Self-determination was unthinkable under Benjamin Disraeli's conservative Britain.
The Michael Caine film Zulu was a glorification of inaccuracies!


"History is a set of lies agreed upon."
Napoleon Bonaparte.

and is sketchy at best.
Is this something we should be proud of ? and is this something that should receive funds from councils (directly or indirectly).
The John Williams Fielding VC Memorial Trust managed to secure funding for a replacement headstone,The Cwmbran Regeneration Partnership awarded a grant of £3,752 and any additional costs covered by the Trust. ( or donations from other council various grants!)
A annual Parade will honour the Cwmbran hero and a temporary road closure for future events will be in force in the area of the church each year so no doubt police officers will be present at yet more cost.

Unemployment today has been repackaged we are told Unemployment is down!
However now we have people only doing a few hours a week to keep them off the unemployed list.
The truth is The Working Poor are the new unemployed.

The Long Depression was a worldwide economic recession, beginning in 1873 and running through the spring of 1879. It was the most severe in Europe and the United States.

Britain's workers today are suffering the most protracted squeeze on their incomes since the long depression of the 1870s and are now well into their fifth year of falling real wages.
High inflation and stagnant pay for many workers means that real wages have now fallen for well over 40 months, according to calculations by the TUC. It says that is the longest such stretch of financial pain since 1875 to 1878, when the world economy was mired in the so-called long depression.
These figures expose once again the shallowness of our recovery. Without better jobs and decent pay rises we will not get sustainable growth.


Lets live for today and stand up for the low paid and the willing unemployed who deserve better from the local Labour led short sighted, out for themselves,talking shop puppet councillors and as for the conservatives lets not even go there.
We know little about John Fielding the man! and Remember It is not known why John Fielding chose to join the army, nor why he enlisted in a name other than his own. John may have joined the glorious force because there was little else for him in the way of work other than a low paid labour intensive existence in the many British dark industrial satanic mills of the day. The working class consisted of both the skilled as well as the unskilled and workers were exploited at the hands of the other two classes. Fielding later served as a recruiting agent for the The South Wales Borderers so I think that he would have approved of making efforts to the employment prospects of young people and the low paid so that they don’t need to join up and get sent to some far off land where they may never return from.

Sadly Suicide was an issue for many Victorian soldiers, which has echoes of reality of more modern conflicts. All too often the long term unemployed are portrayed by the media as being lazy work-shy scroungers and more often than not this is far from the truth.
Unemployed young people are twice as likely to be on anti-depressants and many have contemplated suicide, a disturbing report has found.
A study for The Prince's Trust found long-term jobless youngsters aged 16 to 25 are suffering "devastating" symptoms of mental illness and often self-harming.
More than 2,000 young people were surveyed, with 40% of those who were out of work saying they faced symptoms of mental illness.
Those unemployed for over a year were more likely to say they had no-one to confide in.

The Army is launching a £3m recruitment campaign aimed at boosting both the regular and reserve forces, this is the Tory response to unemployment, working poor and zero hours.
A poll commissioned by the Army to mark the campaign's launch suggested that 23% of people were not satisfied with their current career.When asked what was missing 30% said a decent salary; 27% said excellent training and personal development; 25% said a challenging and exciting role; 35% said UK and overseas travel; and 18% said getting paid while getting qualifications.
The research, carried out by OnePoll, surveyed 2,000 people in December 2013.

Some young lads (and indeed these days girls) clearly want to be soldiers but many have in the past chosen this path out of sheer lack of decent local job prospects.
Fielding later served as a recruiting agent for the The South Wales Borderers.

Most young people however just want jobs in the communities they grew up in.
No doubt some Labour councillor or another at some point in the future will suggest that we spend thousands more and have a statue built of the soldier who was no doubt very brave.
The memory and history of John Fielding and the Zulu war can be kept alive through history education in our schools.
Wouldn’t it be more honourable if funding is used to set up a John Fielding back to work program helping people find employment in Cwmbran or use the money to fund just one or two modern apprentices.
That would be something we could be proud of.

The coalition government of today are letting our youth fall through the cracks in our culture.
And our local Labour party are more interested in ceremonies for dead men and although the Labour party have promised jobs for young people and a living wage if they get elected - on a local level they could be doing a lot more right now.

I have the utmost respect for Private Williams and all soldiers, however today We have many willing young people without work and many working people using food banks, now you tell me what you think John the soldier would say if he could speak to us now. In his day the Army had moved the regiment's base to Brecon to recruit from unskilled industrial labourers.
And bear in mind he was keen to help young people himself he later served as a recruiting agent for the The South Wales Borderers.

Take the film with a large pinch of salt.
Anyone who is in any doubt about the facts of the Zulu war or what John Fielding and hundreds of young boys just like like him were up-against in the 1870s before and after signing up to the army should check out the views Bill Cainan, curator of the Regimental Museum of The Royal Welsh, based at Brecon, Powys.
You may find this BBC link helpful:


http://www.bbc.co.uk
/news/uk-wales-16948
284

Ironical the local councillor for Llantarnam is one of the youngest in the country yet has little to say about the money wasted.
Ministry of Defence says it needs new recruits. "More than meets the eye" The Zulu War was just another colonial war like many in other parts of the worldwide British Empire. I’m not doubting the bravery of British soldiers in the Victorian era just the fact that they were not fighting for the likes of you or I everyday folk. They were fighting to protect colonial wealth. In 1879 British colonial officials and the commander-in-chief in South Africa, Lord Chelmsford, considered the independent Zulu Kingdom ruled by Cetshwayo a threat to the British colony. European colonial expansion is likely to have triggered the whole thing. News at this time was unreliable ( no internet or mobile phones to challenge ). Self-determination was unthinkable under Benjamin Disraeli's conservative Britain. The Michael Caine film Zulu was a glorification of inaccuracies! "History is a set of lies agreed upon." Napoleon Bonaparte. and is sketchy at best. Is this something we should be proud of ? and is this something that should receive funds from councils (directly or indirectly). The John Williams Fielding VC Memorial Trust managed to secure funding for a replacement headstone,The Cwmbran Regeneration Partnership awarded a grant of £3,752 and any additional costs covered by the Trust. ( or donations from other council various grants!) A annual Parade will honour the Cwmbran hero and a temporary road closure for future events will be in force in the area of the church each year so no doubt police officers will be present at yet more cost. Unemployment today has been repackaged we are told Unemployment is down! However now we have people only doing a few hours a week to keep them off the unemployed list. The truth is The Working Poor are the new unemployed. The Long Depression was a worldwide economic recession, beginning in 1873 and running through the spring of 1879. It was the most severe in Europe and the United States. Britain's workers today are suffering the most protracted squeeze on their incomes since the long depression of the 1870s and are now well into their fifth year of falling real wages. High inflation and stagnant pay for many workers means that real wages have now fallen for well over 40 months, according to calculations by the TUC. It says that is the longest such stretch of financial pain since 1875 to 1878, when the world economy was mired in the so-called long depression. These figures expose once again the shallowness of our recovery. Without better jobs and decent pay rises we will not get sustainable growth. Lets live for today and stand up for the low paid and the willing unemployed who deserve better from the local Labour led short sighted, out for themselves,talking shop puppet councillors and as for the conservatives lets not even go there. We know little about John Fielding the man! and Remember It is not known why John Fielding chose to join the army, nor why he enlisted in a name other than his own. John may have joined the glorious force because there was little else for him in the way of work other than a low paid labour intensive existence in the many British dark industrial satanic mills of the day. The working class consisted of both the skilled as well as the unskilled and workers were exploited at the hands of the other two classes. Fielding later served as a recruiting agent for the The South Wales Borderers so I think that he would have approved of making efforts to the employment prospects of young people and the low paid so that they don’t need to join up and get sent to some far off land where they may never return from. Sadly Suicide was an issue for many Victorian soldiers, which has echoes of reality of more modern conflicts. All too often the long term unemployed are portrayed by the media as being lazy work-shy scroungers and more often than not this is far from the truth. Unemployed young people are twice as likely to be on anti-depressants and many have contemplated suicide, a disturbing report has found. A study for The Prince's Trust found long-term jobless youngsters aged 16 to 25 are suffering "devastating" symptoms of mental illness and often self-harming. More than 2,000 young people were surveyed, with 40% of those who were out of work saying they faced symptoms of mental illness. Those unemployed for over a year were more likely to say they had no-one to confide in. The Army is launching a £3m recruitment campaign aimed at boosting both the regular and reserve forces, this is the Tory response to unemployment, working poor and zero hours. A poll commissioned by the Army to mark the campaign's launch suggested that 23% of people were not satisfied with their current career.When asked what was missing 30% said a decent salary; 27% said excellent training and personal development; 25% said a challenging and exciting role; 35% said UK and overseas travel; and 18% said getting paid while getting qualifications. The research, carried out by OnePoll, surveyed 2,000 people in December 2013. Some young lads (and indeed these days girls) clearly want to be soldiers but many have in the past chosen this path out of sheer lack of decent local job prospects. Fielding later served as a recruiting agent for the The South Wales Borderers. Most young people however just want jobs in the communities they grew up in. No doubt some Labour councillor or another at some point in the future will suggest that we spend thousands more and have a statue built of the soldier who was no doubt very brave. The memory and history of John Fielding and the Zulu war can be kept alive through history education in our schools. Wouldn’t it be more honourable if funding is used to set up a John Fielding back to work program helping people find employment in Cwmbran or use the money to fund just one or two modern apprentices. That would be something we could be proud of. The coalition government of today are letting our youth fall through the cracks in our culture. And our local Labour party are more interested in ceremonies for dead men and although the Labour party have promised jobs for young people and a living wage if they get elected - on a local level they could be doing a lot more right now. I have the utmost respect for Private Williams and all soldiers, however today We have many willing young people without work and many working people using food banks, now you tell me what you think John the soldier would say if he could speak to us now. In his day the Army had moved the regiment's base to Brecon to recruit from unskilled industrial labourers. And bear in mind he was keen to help young people himself he later served as a recruiting agent for the The South Wales Borderers. Take the film with a large pinch of salt. Anyone who is in any doubt about the facts of the Zulu war or what John Fielding and hundreds of young boys just like like him were up-against in the 1870s before and after signing up to the army should check out the views Bill Cainan, curator of the Regimental Museum of The Royal Welsh, based at Brecon, Powys. You may find this BBC link helpful: http://www.bbc.co.uk /news/uk-wales-16948 284 Ironical the local councillor for Llantarnam is one of the youngest in the country yet has little to say about the money wasted. Milkmanofhumankindness
  • Score: 2

5:40pm Thu 23 Jan 14

Milkmanofhumankindness says...

The original idea of the parade as far as I am aware was to be in honour of John (Williams) Fielding, however recent events have also included other more modern wars and conflicts, we just don’t need this to escalate because we already honour the memory and commitment of all soldiers on Remembrance Sunday held each year in November at the many cenotaphs and existing memorials throughout the country.

Councillors should use funding to help people into employment and to keep up wage structures we dont need any more history lessons or fact finding trips for our elected sevents,
.
The original idea of the parade as far as I am aware was to be in honour of John (Williams) Fielding, however recent events have also included other more modern wars and conflicts, we just don’t need this to escalate because we already honour the memory and commitment of all soldiers on Remembrance Sunday held each year in November at the many cenotaphs and existing memorials throughout the country. Councillors should use funding to help people into employment and to keep up wage structures we dont need any more history lessons or fact finding trips for our elected sevents, . Milkmanofhumankindness
  • Score: 0

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