Zulu battle shield used at the Battle of Rorke’s Drift 140 years ago goes up for sale for £5,000

Zulu battle shield used at the Battle of Rorke’s Drift 140 years ago goes up for sale for £5,000

A Zulu shield believed to have been used when 4,000 warriors attacked 140 British troops in South Africa will be auctioned off for £5,000.  The c

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A Zulu shield believed to have been used when 4,000 warriors attacked 140 British troops in South Africa will be auctioned off for £5,000. 

The cowhide armour may have been picked up from the battlefield following the Battle of Rorke’s Drift where a large Zulu army attacked a small mission station. 

Now, 140 years later, the black 45inch shield will go under the hammer with Lyon & Turnbull at their African & Oceanic Art auction in Edinburgh.

The famous battle was reimagined in the film Zulu, 1964, which starred Michael Caine as a British infantry officer. 

A Zulu shield, believed to have been picked up after the Battle of Rorke's Drift in South Africa, 1879, as a trophy will be auctioned off in Edinburgh at the start of next month for £5,000

A Zulu shield, believed to have been picked up after the Battle of Rorke's Drift in South Africa, 1879, as a trophy will be auctioned off in Edinburgh at the start of next month for £5,000

A Zulu shield, believed to have been picked up after the Battle of Rorke’s Drift in South Africa, 1879, as a trophy will be auctioned off in Edinburgh at the start of next month for £5,000

During the 12-hour battle as many as 4,000 Zulu warriors faced 140 British troops

During the 12-hour battle as many as 4,000 Zulu warriors faced 140 British troops

During the 12-hour battle as many as 4,000 Zulu warriors faced 140 British troops

Michael Caine wearing a British Army uniform in the film 'Zulu' on the battle released in 1964

Michael Caine wearing a British Army uniform in the film 'Zulu' on the battle released in 1964

 Michael Caine wearing a British Army uniform in the film ‘Zulu’ on the battle released in 1964

The shield belonged to a prominent regimental historian before passing into the hands of a private collector and being placed in an auction.

Its style suggests its original bearer was from the group umCijo, the sharp ones, which fought at both Rorke’s Drift and Isandlwana, where the shield may also have been used.

And the armour’s dark colour means it could have been used by an unmarried, inexperienced man, as only the experienced warriors used white shields.

Alex Tweedy, specialist at Lyon & Turnbull, said: ‘This demarcation formed the basis of the Zulu’s famous battle formation imitating the horns, chest and loins of a cow, which is thought to have originated in hunting as a means of encircling game.

The dark colour of the shield suggests it was used by a young inexperienced male during the battle as experienced warriors used white shields

The dark colour of the shield suggests it was used by a young inexperienced male during the battle as experienced warriors used white shields

The dark colour of the shield suggests it was used by a young inexperienced male during the battle as experienced warriors used white shields

‘During combat, the youngest and swiftest warriors, carrying dark shields, made up the ‘horns’, attempting to surround the enemy and draw him into the ‘chest’, whereupon the elite white shields would destroy him.

‘It is absolutely possible that this shield was used at Rorke’s Drift and Isandlwana.

‘The British soldiers would pick up shields, wooden clubs known as knobkerries and occasionally shields from the battlefield and take them home as trophies.’ 

The Battles of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift took place on January 22 and 23, 1879, with completely contrasting outcomes.

At Isandlwana, 1,300 British soldiers were killed by rampaging Zulu warriors wielding spears and shields who overwhelmed them.

But the tide turned when a heroic band of British soldiers somehow defended their mission station at Rorke’s Drift despite being so heavily outnumbered.

The Battle of Rorke’s Drift was eventually turned into a film in 1964, starring Michael Caine, who plays an infantry officer.

Over 350 Zulus were killed, compared to 17 Brits, in the rearguard action which prompted the award of 11 Victoria Crosses, the highest accolade for gallantry.

The sale takes place on May 1.

The shield will be put up for auction in Edinburgh by Lyon & Turnbull for £5,000

The shield will be put up for auction in Edinburgh by Lyon & Turnbull for £5,000

The shield will be put up for auction in Edinburgh by Lyon & Turnbull for £5,000

What happened at Rorke’s Drift? How 150 British soldiers held off 4,000 Zulu warriors in 1879 battle

On January 11, 1879, a British force commanded by Lieutenant-General Lord Chelmsford invaded Zululand.

From 22 to 23 January, on the bank of the Buffalo River in Natal Province, South Africa a 140-strong British garrison successfully defended the Rorke’s Drift mission station.

The British garrison was commanded by Lieutenant John Chard, Royal Engineers and Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead of the 24 Foot. 

The Zulus were commanded by Prince Dabulamanzi kaMapande. 

Lt Chard was the commanding officer and organised the epic defence which saw them defy all odds to see off the 4,000 fierce Zulu warriors.

Rorke's Drift inspired the 1964 Hollywood blockbuster starring Stanley Baker and Michael Caine

Rorke's Drift inspired the 1964 Hollywood blockbuster starring Stanley Baker and Michael Caine

Rorke’s Drift inspired the 1964 Hollywood blockbuster starring Stanley Baker and Michael Caine

For 12 hours the British repelled the spear-carrying tribesmen with accurate shooting and brutal hand-to-hand combat. 

The Zulus, known for their bravery and ferocity, were eventually forced to retreat with 350 of their number killed compared to 17 British.

The defensive British force was rewarded by Queen Victoria’s government with no fewer than 11 Victoria Crosses.

The battle was part of the wider Anglo-Zulu war took place during 1879.

The conflict began because the Zulu kingdom presented an obstacle to British imperial ambitions in southern Africa.

The British invasion of Zululand began on January 11, 1879, with the British seeking an eventual federation in Africa.

Source: British Battles.com  

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