The Consensus 100 Greatest War Movies


Ad Honorem
Mar 2019
That was interesting, but the methodology kind of leaves me with this itch to maybe also put together a 100 Best War Movies not-in-the-English-language? :)
I would also be extremely interested in such a list as well


Ad Honoris
May 2011
Navan, Ireland
I love Zulu but am surprised that it should take number one slot.
As a movie about an historical event by 'Hollywood ' standards it very accurate but if you read about Rorkes Drift

I remember the excitement of seeing for the first time as a boy one New Year’s eve when it was first shown on GB TV. The days before video/DVD the ‘big movies’ at Christmas was a real cause of excitement. That film encouraged me to read about the battle and the war plus develop a love of history. The film is great but as history it’s not very good at all. Correct its entertainment not a documentary.

For instance CSM Bourne great character in the movie but he doesn’t look very good for a 23 year old whose nickname among the men was the ‘the lad’. Youngest CSM in British army, something like the 5th son of respectable small farmer he had run away from home and enlisted against his parents wishes. Retired with the rank of Lt Colonel.

‘Hookie’ far from being a 1960’s anti-hero was a teetotal bible carrying model soldier, the company cook for whom one of the worst parts of the battle was he was called to give his account of the battle to Chelmsford—he was in shirtsleeves and a dirty apron as he had been making tea, ‘how dare they let me stand in front of my general improperly dressed!!’ He was mortified. He did however take a drink, not during but after the battle. Rum ration was issued and Hookie lined up for his a surprised CSM Bourne questioned him to which Hook replied "I could do with a drink after that"

Commissary Dalton far from being a pen pusher with an upper class accent shown in the film was in fact an ex –regular sergeant who was re-employed as a civil contractor or commissary because of his efficiency. Many writers, a bit unfairly in my opinion, credit him and not Chard with the decsion to fortify and fight. Many accounts tell of his bravery until wounded, jumping onto the biscuit box barricades to fire into the advancing warriors. Initially he was not to be awarded the VC because as he was a civilian but this caused up roar in ‘B coy’ 24th, such was their opinion of his bravery. The use of biscuit boxes not sand bags was source of some ironic comments on the quality of army cuisine.

In the film you are really left wondering what John Williams does to get his VC, his real name was John Fielding born to Irish immigrants in Cwmbran. He enlisted to ‘get away from some trouble’ (local rumours are he ‘got a girl in trouble’ can find no evidence but might be true). He joined on the same day and place as one Joseph Williams, (friends?). He and Joseph volunteered to defend the hospital, which they did bravely both were inexperienced soldiers --- 2/24th was a young battalion while 1/24th were veterans ---- John helped the patients through the holes he had knocked in the walls in order to escape the flames, Joseph held the Zulus at the door allowing them to escape, he was eventually hacked to pieces, it was commented upon the high number of cartridge cases and dead Zulu at his post. It was stated that if he had survived he would have been awarded the VC, postumous awards were not granted at that time.

They didn’t even sing ( I remember my aunts in tears at that point of the movie and regularly brings a lump to my throat), they did shout abuse at the Zulu surprise, surprise the average group of squadies are not very tune full when they burst into song, even Welsh ones. The regiment had had only moved to Brecon in 1874 and was in the process of becoming Welsh, 1881 renamed the 24th South Wales Borderers.

Surgeon Reynolds was not an anti-war medic moaning about 'butchers like Chard' agiain in 1960's PC fashion but rather a brave officer who when not treating the wounded move around the garrison distributing ammunition at great personnel danger. He was at all times accompanied by his little terrier dog who never flinched under gunfire and would attack any Zulu who came too near.

There was no South African explaining about the Zulu-- they are not sure if a South African trooper called Ardendorf was at the post ,in some records he is but others claim he rode off shortly after his arrival.

Local Cavalry did arrive and after a brief action did leave but they were not white troopers but black African.

As for the award of all those VC's being political there is something in that especially to Chard and Bromhead --- the award to them brought the question of why not Dalton (received his) and why not CSM Bourne-- he received a lesser award and the offer of a commission. While those two officers were very brave ,Bromhead in particular leading the defence and continuously exposing himself to danger-- however the argument was, that's their job.

Its important to note that this is not to say that the other ranks (even the critics of the officer VC's agreed on this ) did not fight bravely and its a bit 'dodgy' to go judging from a far who did or did not deserve a bravery award in past wars.

In fact 'politics' probably meant that one of those soldiers who deserved an award missed out ---- years later after much lobbying it was decided to award posthumous VC's , Lt's Melvill and Coghill who had attempted to rescue the Colours and cut their way out of Isandlwana were amongst the first awards. Joseph Williams had no middle class parents to lobby for his award and ;enough' had been awarded for Rorkes Drift.
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May 2011
New Iberia, La.
An analysis of non-English war movies would be great, but I fear it would be difficult to find enough sources to get a useable number. My list does include foreign movies (The Tin Drum, Colonel Redl, Scipio Africanus, Battleship Potemkin, Ballad of a Soldier, Rome Open City, Alexander Nevsky, Stalingrad. Battle of Algiers, Napoleon, Das Boot, Grand Illusion) but certainly some great movies were left out. Mainly because Video Hound and Belle and Blade do not have many (if any) foreign films. Here is the methodology:

I found four 100 Greatest War Movies lists that I feel are knowledgeable on the subject. Two of those lists (Military History magazine and Channel 4) rank the movies. The others are Film Site and the book 101 War Movies You Must See Before You Die. I also used three books that rate war movies: Video Hound’s War Movies, Brassey’s Guide to War Films, and The Belle and Blade Guide to Classic War Videos. The reason why the list is limited to only movies from the 20th Century is because the sources do not include 21st Century movies.

I won’t bore with the details, but basically the score is a combination of the average rating from the ratings books and a rating based on the ranking from the two ranked lists (on a scale of 1-5). I grouped the movies based on how many lists they made so only movies that were in both Military History magazine and Channel 4 made the top 43.

Let's use "Come and See" as an example.

Belle and Blade = N/A
Brassey’s = 3.0
Video Hound = N/A
War Movies = N/A
Military History = not on list
Channel 4 = #71
Film Site = not on list
101 War Movies = yes
Rotten Tomatoes = #50 (but I did not use this list at the time)

I gave it a 4.1 for being between #60-80 on the Channel 4 list and then averaged it with the 3.0 from Brassey''s which came out to a 3.55. That was not enough to make the top 100. #100 - The Manchurian Candidate had a 3.9.
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Forum Staff
Feb 2009
Eastern PA
I won’t bore with the details, but basically the score is a combination of the average rating from the ratings books and a rating based on the ranking from the two ranked lists (on a scale of 1-5). I grouped the movies based on how many lists they made so only movies that were in both Military History magazine and Channel 4 made the top 43.

Your list was great, wmb. Thank you for all the effort and the detailed posts.
May 2011
New Iberia, La.
Excellent stuff, Kevinmeath. Thanks. Here is my analysis:

1. The Witts are visiting the village of Cetewayo and witness a mass marriage ceremony when word arrives about the Zulu victory at Isandhlwana. HOLLYWOOD Otto Witt was a Swedish Lutheran pastor who had purchased Rorke’s Drift and established a mission. His attempts to Christianize the Zulu’s on the other side of the border had been unsuccessful and he attributed this to the traditionalism of Cetewayo. He actually favored the British invasion and would not have been a guest at a Zulu ritual on the eve of the battle. Witt was at Rorke’s Drift the whole time and he had sent his family away. He did not have an adult daughter. The movie implies that when the King hears of the battle, he orders the attack on Rorke’s Drift. Actually, Ceteswayo had given orders for the Zulu army to stay on its side of the border.
2. Chard is an engineer building a pont (ferry) at Rorke’s Drift. HISTORY Chard was assigned the task of constructing the pont and actually had been to the camp at Isandhlwana and returned the morning of the battle.
3. Bromhead returns from a hunting trip and meets Chard for the first time. HOLLYWOOD The two officers had met earlier and their relationship was not adversarial as depicted in the film.
4. Word of the defeat at Isandhlwana arrives from a Boer named Adendorff. HISTORY Adendorf was one of several survivors who stopped at the camp and reported the disaster. He was the only one to stay and was thus the only person to fight in both battles.
5. Rorke’s Drift is a supply depot/camp that is also the site of the Witts’ mission. HISTORY
6. Chard takes command because of his seniority of just two months. HOLLYWOOD Maj. Spalding was in command and when he left to get reinforcements, he left Chard in command after checking who had seniority. Chard was three years senior to Bromhead.
7. Witt claims Cetewayo is part of his parish and he wants to take the sick to safety. Witt is an alcoholic. HOLLYWOOD Witt left to go to his family after witnessing the Zulu army approaching from a hillside. A Reverend Smith stayed for the battle. He helped hand out ammunition and gave moral support. There is no evidence Witt was an alcoholic.
8. Adendorf describes the Zulu “buffalo horn” tactic. HISTORY The Zulu’s are famous for using a tactic that involved double envelopment. They did use this tactic at Isandhlwana, but the movie includes this scene to imply they used it at Rorke’s Drift when in reality it was mainly piecemeal frontal attacks.
9. Bromhead suggests going into the hills and ambushing the Zulu. Chard decides to defend the post by building walls out of mealy bags and wagons. HISTYWOOD Bromhead and Chard did consider evacuating the post, but it was Assistant Commissary Dalton who insisted that leaving in a column with the wounded would play into Zulu hands. The British did construct walls out of mealie bags, biscuit boxes, and overturned wagons. This process had already been started by Bromhead and Dalton by the time Chard returned from the pont.
10. A unit of Boer cavalry arrives, but refuses to stay and reinforce the garrison. HISTYWOOD A unit of Durnford’s native cavalry (they would have been mostly black) did arrive and was posted forward, but they withdrew when the Zulu approached because they were low on ammunition and felt the situation was hopeless. They were not led by Stephenson, he was the leader of the native infantry that runs away.
11. Witt encourages the native troops to run away. Chard arrests him and later sends him away. HISTYWOOD Witt had nothing to do with this incident. They deserted soon after the cavalry left. Two British officers (including Stephenson) went with them and one of them was shot in the back by a British soldier. These soldiers would not have been in uniforms, by the way
12. The Zulu sneak up and then stand clashing their spears on their shields. They advance, but stop to take fire. Adendorf explains that the Zulu leaders are determining the strength of the British garrison. They then withdraw. Adendorf estimates that there are 4,000 Zulu. HOLLYWOOD In the first attack, the Zulu did not attempt to surround the camp. They came straight on and the British opened fire at 500 meters and the Zulu returned fire. The Zulu were quiet. They came on steady until about 50 meters out when they were enfiladed by volleys from wall by the storage building. This blunted the attack and some of the Zulu regrouped and made a dash for the front of the hospital where some crossed the barricade and there was some bayonet to assegai contact. This lasted only several minutes before the Zulu retreated to the brush. Smaller attacks followed. Adendorf’s estimate is a good one.
13. A Zulu unit armed with rifles start firing from a ridge overlooking the camp. It is implied that the Zulu are armed with Martini-Henrys taken at Isandhlwana. The British return fire (including Chard with his pistol at 300 yards). HISTYWOOD The Zulu did fire from the hillside. It was basically a nuisance due to the inaccuracy of the motley weapons the Zulu had. They were not armed with captured Martini-Henrys. The movie implies the Zulu were the army coming on after its success at Isandhlwana when actually the force was the Zulu reserve which had not tasted blood in that battle and wanted some glory of its own.
14. The Zulu attack in waves. Chard shifts men to hot spots. Bromhead leads a reserve squad. The fighting is bayonet to assegai. Some of the Zulu break through the walls. HISTYWOOD The movie accurately reflects the intensity of the fighting, but exaggerates the number of bayonet and assegai wounds. Most of the deaths were caused by bullets. Eventually, Chard withdraws to the wall by the storage building abandoning the hospital.
15. Cpl. Schiess leaves the hospital to help and ends up saving Chard’s life. Chard is wounded in the neck and is taken to the hospital where Surgeon-Major Reynolds is taking care of the wounded. HISTYWOOD Schiess is one of the heroes of the battle. He was in the hospital with blisters and was subsequently shot in the foot, but at one point he left the hospital to kill several Zulu who had approached the wall. I found no evidence that he saved Chard’s life or that Chard was wounded and went to the hospital. Reynolds did do great work with the wounded, but it is unlikely that he was cynical as portrayed in the movie. He even left the hospital area occasionally to deliver ammunition. His fox terrier Dick was by his side throughout the fight.
16. The Zulu assault the hospital and set fire to the roof. Bromhead climbs on the roof to fight. The Zulu get into the hospital and the patients and soldiers cut holes in the walls to escape from room to room. HISTORY The Zulu did concentrate on the hospital and managed to capture it after several assaults. Bromhead fighting on the roof is pure Hollywood, but the depiction of the chaotic fighting in the hospital is a strength of the movie.
17. Hooks is a malingerer, but becomes a hero in the defense of the hospital. HISTYWOOD The character assassination of Hooks is the biggest canard in the movie. He was actually a good soldier and a teetotaller. He was assigned to help defend the hospital. His family was incensed with his portrayal. As far as his actions once the battle began, they are well done. By the time Hook escaped from the building it was dark and Chard had withdrawn to the inner perimeter.
18. At a crucial point in the battle, the cattle get loose from the kraal and blunt a Zulu attack. HOLLYWOOD The Zulu captured the kraal after several attempts, but I found no reference to patriotic cattle helping the Brits.
19. During the night, to the light of the burning hospital, the attacks continue. The movie implies that the attacks are piecemeal and held off by gunfire. HISTORY The movie downplays the numerous attacks during the night by the light of the burning hospital. These assaults were held off by rifle fire. The attacks died down after 2 A.M. and there were only desultory shots ceasing around 4 A.M.
20. The next morning the two sides serenade each other. The British sing “Men of Harlech”. HOLLYWOOD Pure bull crap. It was not even a Welsh regiment so they would not have sung that particular song.
21. The Zulu launch one last assault and the British retreat to the last wall. Volleys end the attack. HOLLYWOOD There was no fighting after 4 A.M.
22. A calling of the roll leaves the impression that the percentage dead is high. HOLLYWOOD Out of 140 men, the British lost only 17 killed and 10 wounded. The Zulu deaths were estimated at over 500.
23. The Zulu salute the British and then leave. HISTYWOOD A large force of Zulu (probably unrelated to the ones who participated in the battle) did appear on a hill and stayed for about an hour before moving on. There was no equivalent of a salute.

RATING = .46 (Much lower than "Zulu Dawn")


Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
I would also be extremely interested in such a list as well
For starters I can always post a list someone else made of the 100 best French language war films. :)

And here's and Italian list:
Film guerra italiani

And a German (which admittedly seems to at times have a generous idea about Germanness):
Die besten Kriegsfilme aus Deutschland |

Mucking about for the Russian ones:
Категория:Военные фильмы России — Википедия

One can do the same for Japanese. The English wikipedia page lists 41 (witch to Japanese though and the tally jumps to 146):
Category:Japanese war films - Wikipedia

And that's most of the major combatants in WWII. Rather a lot of watch I find.

Anyone have the experience of having seen one or more of these?

I found the Italian WWI film "Gli uomini contro" well worth watching in its bleakness:

Also find that I just might have to have a look at this Japanese trilogy (link to the first installment):

It's by Kobayashi Masaki, the director of what I arguably think is the best samurai movie ever: "Harakiri/Seppuku" so reason enough to check it out:
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Ad Honoris
May 2011
Navan, Ireland
Excellent stuff, Kevinmeath. Thanks. Here is my analysis:
Don't disagree with most of what you have written but a couple of points,

...............13. A Zulu unit armed with rifles start firing from a ridge overlooking the camp. It is implied that the Zulu are armed with Martini-Henrys taken at Isandhlwana. The British return fire (including Chard with his pistol at 300 yards). HISTYWOOD The Zulu did fire from the hillside. It was basically a nuisance due to the inaccuracy of the motley weapons the Zulu had. They were not armed with captured Martini-Henrys. The movie implies the Zulu were the army coming on after its success at Isandhlwana when actually the force was the Zulu reserve which had not tasted blood in that battle and wanted some glory of its own.............................
It stated in the film that the Zulus were armed rifles 'taken from your regiment'.

Now 25% of Zulus had firearms but they were generally old and the Zulu were poor shots (poor powder an very significant point).

Most British casualties were actually GSW's.

Now traditionally it is claimed that the Zulu had at least some of the 24th's Martini Henrys --CSM Bourne as a very old man says so in a BBC interview. A very experienced soldier, joined in the ranks and retires the Lt Colonel in charge of the school of musketry in Dublin, he knew about guns.

Historians so 'No, No' they could not have the regiments that attacked Rorkes Drift were in reserve and in no place to acquire the weapons. Perhaps a few from fugitives but little ammunition.

Bourne was very old at the time (true) and must have had 'false memory syndrome'.

Perhaps, perhaps not.

Snook claims that the remains of a British Lt and 2/3 of a platoon of redcoats have been found in the path of the reserve regiments (having cut their way out only to be slaughtered later) so that might explain it.

Greaves' book is very interesting as he points out that we have the medical records of the wounded and they show a repeated failure of Zulu gunshots to break bone --not Martini-Henrys -- which would seem to undermine the idea.

We do not have the medical records for the dead however Greaves also points out that in the witness accounts there are numerous cases of soldiers killed by being shot through the body, killed instantly now that is the Martini-Henry

..................A large force of Zulu (probably unrelated to the ones who participated in the battle) did appear on a hill and stayed for about an hour before moving on. There was no equivalent of a salute.................
I believe they were just a rearguard 'chilling' moving off when they saw the remains of the column returning.

As to whether they were a 'Welsh' regiment the answer is No, well Yes, well sort of.

I think Adrian Greaves' book is the best I have read and an excellent source of information.

I remember scanning the Rorkes Drift Roll and at least twenty odd soldiers have a Welsh names (place of birth and or enlistment is I am told a unreliable measure for the time.) That is a far higher percentage than the Welsh population as a whole.

The regiment was based in Wales 5 or so years previously and were in the process of becoming 'Welsh', in 1881 they (as part of military reforms attempting to associate a regiment with a locality) ,were officially renamed The 'South Wales Borderers' and based in Brecon. In 1879 they were officially 24th foot (2nd Warwickshire) but like almost all regiments the geographical association was meaningless.

They recruited in South Wales for only a few years but even then South Wales was a place of huge migration from all over Britain and Europe during this period, in fact at times it equalled (for its size)places like USA and Canada for migrants. Over the years they did become 'Welsh' but in 1879 they were only a little more Welsh than any other regiment (at one time the Irish made up almost 50% of the army).

.....................RATING = .46 (Much lower than "Zulu Dawn")
Why do you say 'Zulu Dawn' is a more accurate movie? I found the lines of redcoats running to be quite offensive -- they formed squares and died (on the whole) in formation. Even those companies caught in the open formed 'pathetic' --I mean that in the true sense of the word---'little rally squares'.

Mike Snook repeats the (improvable) regimental tale that the line officers gave up their horses to die with their men-- no line officer survived.

The film also takes a Durnford view --complete with Oirish accent -- who was not an experienced Zulu fighter at all and galloped off to engage the Zulu Impi demanding two companies of redcoats in support (the camp was already 50% undermanned) who he then abandoned as he retreats in disorder towards the camp. (Along with his own rocket troop who were not over-run by a mass of Zulu but felled by a massive volley).

The Redcoats (by the position of their bodies) either out ran the Zulu (quite a feat for hobnailed booted veterans) en masse or (imo more likely) formed a rally square and tried to fight their way back to camp -- failing but getting most of the way.

Its generally accepted now that (especially for the Imperial troops) ammunition supply was not a problem that sufficient did reach the redcoat companies at least until the collapse. Then they did eventually run out of ammunition.

The notion that the Quartermasters would not distribute to other units is dismissed by authors such as Mike Snook as nonsense since QMS do this all the time then balance the books afterwards. The idea that they only could be open by screw drivers is simply wrong and the notion that soldiers wouldn't think of using their rifle butts simply absurd.

One of the incidents that is quoted as illustrating this is QMS Bloomfied telling LT Smith-Dorien off for taking ammunition from 'his regiments' wagon to distribute to the troops.

But the quote is out of context -- Bloomfield had been ordered to prepare a wagon for immediate dispatch in support of the majority of the 2/24th who had marched off with Chelmsford to engage a 'large Zulu Impi'. They did not know that the main Zulu Impi was about to attack them. Bloomfield (an experienced NCO) sees a junior officer 'taking command of the situation' and starting to unload a wagon he has just loaded and expects to send of in any minute to his regiment who may be in dire need of it, no wonder he was annoyed.

QMS Bloomfield is killed quite soon afterward (in a similar way as shown in the film). The other QMS Pullen is also unfairly maligned esp as we know that his final actions was to rally the pioneer section, bandsmen and general 'odds and sods' and lead them in a charge to attempt to hold back the advancing Zulu wing. He sent a civilian messenger to Col Pulliene telling them that he was hard pressed, what is often labelled 'Durnfords Stand' (implied in the movie) is actually started by QMS Pullen.

When the final rout came the 1/24th did not break as shown in the film but fought on in rally squares. The Martini-Henry with bayonet attached actually out reached a Zulu stabbing assagi

Major White was last seen walking towards the carnage-- the paymaster and veteran of almost 30 years in the regiment -- calls were made to him to get to his horse and save himself-- but he was seen shaking his head and smiling, sword under his arm loading his revolver walking towards were the redcoats were making a last stand. Zulu accounts are clear that the redcoats stood their ground. They claim that Captain Younghusbands company continued to retreat in good order volley firing until backed against the face of the mountain, here they fired until their ammunition failed. According to the Zulu they then allowed the Captain to shake the hand of his men then they charged the Zulu with sword and bayonet-- suicide? or a last futile desperate attempt to cut their way the other redcoats.

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May 2011
New Iberia, La.
Great stuff. Thanks. I used Ian Knight's "Zulu Rising", but I am getting ready to read "How Can Man Die Better" by Mike Snook and "Like Wolves on the Fold" by Snook to reassess. Here is my analysis of "Zulu Dawn":

1. Frere issues an ultimatum to Cetshwayo accusing him of abusing his people. He and Chelmsford plot together to bring on the war so the British could invade Zululand. HISTORY A Boundary Commission had found no evidence of Zulu intentions to expand across the border so Frere had to fall back on the killing of two of Cetshwayo’s wifes who had taken refuge in Natal. Frere decided to take action on his own against government policy because a done deal would be accepted.

2. Chelmsford’s army consists of a mixture of regulars, native militia, Durnsford’s cavalry, and colonial volunteers like Vereker. HISTORY The total force was 6,670 regulars of the 24th Infantry, 2,000 of the Natal Native Contingent, 2,000 colonials, 17 cannons, and one Congreve battery. The force was divided into three columns and Chelmsford led the central column which is covered in the movie. The movie does not accurately depict the hundreds of large wagons pulled by up to twenty oxen.

3. A Zulu collaborator delivers the ultimatum to Cetshwayo. UNKNOWN I could not determine how Cetshwayo found out about the ultimatum, but the movie does accurately show how he decided to call out his impis and fight for their land.

4. Some of the British are against the invasion and question Frere’s justification. HISTORY

5. Norris-Newman is a newspaper correspondent who is critical of Chelmsford. HISTYWOOD There was a Norris-Newman and he exemplifies the embedded Victorian journalist. They typically sided with the army that they were travelling with and it is unlikely he would have been a cynic. There public would have been expecting pro-British articles.

6. The first contact comes soon after crossing the Buffalo River when some Zulu scouts are run down and killed. HOLLYWOOD The crossing was watched by Zulu scouts but it was uneventful.

7. Three Zulu warriors allow themselves to be captured and tortured in order to give false intelligence about the location of the Zulu army. They later escape to warn the Zulus. HOLLYWOOD I assume this was inserted into the movie to develop a recognizable Zulu warrior, to show the craftiness of the Zulu, and to highlight British treatment of Zulu captives. In fact, when two Zulu scouts were actually captured and reported the position of the Zulu army, Chelmsford insisted it was elsewhere.

8. Chelmsford refuses advice from a Boer about the advisibility of laagering the camp at Isandhlwana. HISTORY Chelmsford had total faith in the power of the Martini-Henry and felt laagering the camp would be an unnecessary waste of time.

9. A Boer rancher arrives and tells Chelmsford that the Zulu army is heading his way, but Chelmsford prefers to believe the tortured captives. HOLLYWOOD

10. Durnford arrives and tells Chelmsford that the main Zulu army is heading their way seeking a battle before harvest time. Chelmsford orders Durnford to reinforce Pulleine. HISTYWOOD Chelmsford sent out a reconnaissance force under a Maj. Dartnell. When he encountered Zulus he went on the defensive and called on Chelmsford for reinforcements. Chelmsford sent orders to Durnford to go to Isandhlwana, Durnford did not receive the orders personally from him.

11. Chelmsford takes part of the army to find the Zulu army and ends up camping eight miles away and stopping for a breakfast. HISTORY Chelmsford left with 2,000 men, but when he made contact with a Zulu force he called for more force and thus ended leaving only 1,350 at Isandhlwana. The breakfast has been overblown as there was no wagon and no fine china and silverware.

12. Durnford sends Vereker to set up some pickets and in the process of chasing some Zulu herders, they run into the Zulu army which immediately moves on the British camp. HISTYWOOD A picket sent out by Durnford led by Lt. Raw (not Vereker) was chasing some Zulu scouts when they crested a ridge and encountered the main Zulu force. Although the Zulu had not planned on fighting until the next day because of an ominous new moon. The Zulu quickly adjusted and launched their attack.

13. The British regulars set up double lines outside the camp. HISTORY The lines were advanced further than the movie indicates, but that is no big deal.

14. The Congreve rocket battery is isolated and quickly overrun. HISTORY The rockets went out with Durnford and were only able to get off a few rounds before being swamped.

15. Chelmsford receives a vague message that Pulleine is under attack, but does nothing. HISTORY Chelmsford was confident the camp could take care of itself. He still felt the main Zulu army was in front of him. In fact, when another more strident message arrived causing a unit to head toward the camp on its officer’s initiative, Chelmsford recalled the unit!

16. Durnford leads his cavalry forward and runs into the enemy and makes a stand. HISTORY Durnford pushed forward to make contact and was forced to go to ground soon after.

17. Quartermaster Bloomfield is slow in distributing the ammunition. DISPUTED Recent scholarship has revised the characterization of Bloomfield as an officious buffoon. He apparently was just being protective of the Chelmsford’s reserve supply and was under orders. He was soon convinced that the crisis overrode the orders. There has also been questioning of the belief that the British regulars were defeated due to a shortage of ammunition. The movie does do a good job of portraying the popular view of this issue.

18. Vereker’s unit joins Durnford, but they are forced to withdraw and as soon as they make it back to the camp the Zulu’s come storming in. HISTYWOOD Vereker fought on ridge separate from Durnford. Durnford’s retreat led to the collapse of the British right.

19. Melvill, Coghill, and Vereker try to save the colors. HOLLYWOOD Vereker did not participate in this. He was in the camp horseless when the final moments arrived. He found an abandoned horse and was going to attempt to escape when a soldier claimed the horse was his, so he gave it up and that was the last that was seen of him. Melvill did leave with the colors but they were furled. Coghill did not accompany him but was in the same group of escapees. They both died trying to cross the Manzimnyama River and the colors were lost to be recovered downstream later.

20. Pulleine is killed in his tent. HISTYWOOD No one can be completely sure how he died. A Zulu warrior was eyewitness to the death of a British officer similar to how the movie depicts Pulleine’s death, but it could have been another officer.

21. Durnford is shot from on top of a wagon and is then speared. HISTORY Durnford went down fighting in the chaos of the camp. The death is a bit enhanced, but it is acceptable.

22. Chelmsford arrives at dusk to survey the disaster site. HISTORY This actually happened after dark.

RATING = .68


Ad Honoris
May 2011
Navan, Ireland
Great stuff. Thanks. I used Ian Knight's "Zulu Rising", but I am getting ready to read "How Can Man Die Better" by Mike Snook and "Like Wolves on the Fold" by Snook to reassess. Here is my analysis of "Zulu Dawn":

You will not go far wrong reading Ian Knight-- but I found Mike Snook to be excellent in particular "How Can Man Die Better", the other about Rorkes Drift is good enough but I found Adrian Greaves 'Rorkes Drift' to be better (particularly liked the short biography of many of the defenders).

Snook is of course biased he was Colonel of the successor regiment of the 24th and so very much is in the anti-Durnford camp and pro Pulleine. He was also military attaché in South Africa and so spent a great deal of time talking to the Zulu which is very interesting.

I enjoyed both books.

Open a thread when you have read them.