Cover Image: A Handful of Heroes, Rorke's Drift

A Handful of Heroes, Rorke's Drift

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Member Reviews

After visiting the sites of Rorke's Drift and Isandlwana, these battles have held a major fascination for me. Having watched the film Zulu many times over the years it is enjoyable to read a book that sets the record straight on many of the features of the battle. and the main characters. 
The author has compiled a substantial amount of exciting new evidence from a number of verifiable sources.
As an example, Stanley Baker's role as Lt Chard in the film did not accurately portray the actual experiences of the officer. Seemingly Chard only arrived at Rorke's Drift an hour or so before the battle and had little part in the construction of the defences other than to quickly add more large biscuit tins to the defensive walls. Serious doubts were also mentioned about the authenticity of his post-battle reports, with a fascinating detailed scientific comparison of his normal writing style vs that of his two reports.
I was unaware of Sister Janet Wells who attended to the injured troops after the battle and who also treated wounded Zulu warriors. A very young, brave, and focussed young lady who did not get the recognition she deserved at the time.
I was surprised to learn that it was members of the Warwickshire regiment that took part in the battle, not the Welsh Borderers. The Warwickshires were incorporated into the Welsh Borderers several years later!
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Many years ago I saw the Stanley Baker film "Zulu." Before viewing it I was unfamiliar with the defense of Rorke's Drift, and with the Anglo-Zulu War entirely.  Because I was curious about the accuracy of the movie, I read Donald Morris' masterful "The Washing of the Spears," which is essential reading for anyone interested in this subject.  To Morris' tome I would add Katie Stossel's "A Handful of Heroes: Rorke's Drift."

This is a terrific book.  Well-written and well-researched, Stossel doesn't miss anything.   Due to newly-discovered historical materials we now know more about the defense of Rorke's Drift, including the fact that the defenders were more prepared militarily than was previously thought.

I highly recommend this book.  The defense of Rorke's Drift was a gallant action in a little-known war, but it has an outsize reputation.  It is worth knowing the truth of this action and its place in history.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC.
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I've only ever heard about Rorke's Drift in passing, I haven't even seen the film so I was intrigued by the prospect of reading a book about the subject. Using newly discovered letters & documents, the author examines the facts about the legend of Rorkes Drift where a relatively small number of men defended the outpost which was under attack by a large group of Zulu warriors.

Evidence seems to cast doubt on the author identification of the Chard report of the incident, & shows that the outpost was already reasonably prepared for an attack (without taking anything away from the bravery of those involved in the battle). I couldn't say how accurate the information is, but the author has definitely heavily researched the subject, & although some sections were academically dry, most hold the attention well. 

My thanks to NetGalley & publishers, Pen & Sword, for the opportunity to read an ARC.
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An well done novel regarding a little known battle between the British and the Zulus. The story is well told and the author does a great job on dispelling falsehoods and misinformation regarding the events. A great read for the history buff.

Thank you to #NetGalley and Pen & Ink for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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Like many people, my knowledge of the Battle of Rorke’s Drift is primarily fed by the film Zulu which came out in the 60’s and was a big hit in the cinemas. Having read Stossel’s book, what surprised me was the number of small details in the film that were historically correct except of course the very poignant scene where the men all sing “Men of Harlech” in fine Welsh voice which it turns out they did not have since, SPOILER ALERT, the majority of the force were in fact Brummies! This is not to say that the film is a full and accurate portrayal. What I realized, having read the very compelling account Stossel has put together, is that the famous defense of the garrison by about 150 troops against 4-5,000 Zulu warriors is just a portion of the story. The real intrigue lies in the many sub plots: the “illegitimacy” of the Anglo Zulu war initiated without Parliament’s knowledge; the incompetence of Lord Chelmsford troops in the Battle of Isandlwana leading to their near annihilation; the eloquent and beguiling tone of the official report of the engagement supposedly written by the Garrison commander who lacked either the literary and leadership skills for such achievements; the disproportionate number of Victoria Crosses and other awards clearly designed to influence public opinion and a Monarchy with an agenda that does not appear to be fully aligned with that of her own Government.
I found the book a fascinating and enjoyable read. The Author has skillfully assembled these stories and more to provide a detailed picture of life as a soldier in the British Empire and the impact of political and personal ambitions. The History enthusiasts will appreciate her weaving together of other published opinions and the due diligence she applies to the more controversial topics. The Novices, like myself, can just soak up the intrigue and the atmosphere she creates on each page.
Many thanks to Netgalley and Pen and Sword books for allowing me to review this advanced copy.
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I found this a curious book.  While meticulously researched, it lacked the feel of a military history book as I usually encounter them.  There is a relatively scant discussion of the battles at Iswandlwana and at Rorke’s Drift.  Most of the book is an analysis of the after action reports, the varied claims about the battle, the merits of the decorations rewarded, and the verity of claims to have participated by certain individuals.  Some of the chapters, like the detailed analysis of Lt. Chard’s report on the battle were just not of interest to me.  So, Kudos for the research but I would have preferred a traditional exploration of the battles and more focus on the larger military landscape of the period.  For the completist.
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