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Zulu

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The Race

The small native tribe that expanded across much of what is now South Africa, Lesotho and Zimbabwe in the 1800s bringing a rare form of civilization at the time. The Zulu Royal Family had developed a strict regime of subordinate families and leaders, demanding that every man became a warrior and served the Zulu nation before being allowed to marry and settle down.

Only on encountering the Boers and the British did their empire begin to wain and they were too much of a defiant beacon to other tribes to be allowed to remain powerful. The second Zulu War in 1879 was started by the British by pushing the Zulus into a corner and forcing them into war to save face.

The Film

Along with The Wild Geese probably one the best war films of all times. And this despite it being riddled with inaccuracies. Zulu is set in a time when the globe was nearly all pink and the enemies we fought had sharp sticks and ironing boards as weapons.

Like all Welsh people, MDN feels a strong stirring of pride whilst watching this heroic tale of the Welsh-recruited 24th of Foot giving it what-for with their Martini-Henry rifles to hordes of sneaky Zulus armed with knitting needles. This does seem strange, as at the time the 24th of Foot were the 2nd Warwickshires - an English regiment - and it was only two years later that it was changed to a Welsh regiment - the South Wales Borderers.

True, there were some trogs in the regiment but only because the depot at the time was in Brecon and some of the locals had joined. Not really a grounding for massive Welsh pride, but I suppose you have to grab what you can.

For a few of those returning to Blighty after their ordeal at Rorke's Drift it was decided that they be dished out a big bag of Victoria Crosses, eleven in all, the most ever given out for a single engagement. Colour Sgt Bourne, by far the coolest chap in the film didn't get one (he was offered a DCM and a comission, but declined the comission as he could not afford it at that time. Interestingly, the film shows him as about 40, whereas at Rorke's Drift, Bourne was only 24.).

The film also reveals the break away from defence tactics of "man the lines until last man standing" to the early conception of the Quick Reaction Force (QRF), where a body of men are formed to react to areas of weakness on any flank and repel the enemy until defenses are restored.

The Quote

Many a drunken Squaddie has paid homage to this film while out on the piss by randomly shouting,

"Zulus, farzends of em!"

It's 1995, The Rugby World Cup is being held in South Africa. My copy of "Zulu" went missing. The video was then found with a label stuck to it saying "The last time Wales won anything in SA".

Still, can't argue with the facts!!

Quotes Not in the Film but should be

Zulu is a rich vein for non-quotes, lines that have entered into the consciousness despite never having been said.

"Well I don't know what's wrong with 'em, ten minutes ago they was all singing and dancing!"

and possibly the best known non-quote of all time -

"Don't you go throwing those Bloody Spears at me!"

Trivia

When Rupert Murdoch shifted his operations to Wapping and the printers' union got a bit upset about it, police reinforcements were drafted in to control the situation. Someone had the bright idea that the boys in blue would feel much braver if they were inspired by watching films such as Zulu, with its heroic example of a few brave souls fighting on while seriously outnumbered. The next day, as the Sun rose over the battle lines, came the terrifying sound of batons beating against riot shields: BOOMboomBOOMboomBOOMboom



In the early 90s when that great celebration of Afro-Caribbean culture, the Notting Hill Carnival was taking place (otherwise known as ‘Operation Turn a Blind Eye to Drug Dealing’) the boys and girls in blue were being fed in one of the local schools.

To keep them happy there was a tv in a corner with a selection of films, the most popular one of which was Zulu.

This was all well and good until the Press got a hold of this and the next day there were the usual accusations of endemic racism etc etc…

Unsurprisingly the next year at the same drug fest, sorry celebration of Afro-Caribbean culture, there was not a copy of Zulu to be seen.

Links

  1. As usual wikipedia is very good on the subject of both the Zulus and the film.
  2. More quotes from wikiquote.
  3. Historical revisionism gone mad: Zulu 1000.