Zulu

Factual error: In the climactic charge scenes in which the three ranks of British soldiers deliver volley after volley into the Zulu masses, the soldiers closest to the camera are correctly equipped with lever action Martini-Henry rifles but those further back in the line can be seen pulling up and back on bolt action rifles, wrong for the era.

12

Factual error: A bit of dramatic license was taken by the scriptwriters. Though portrayed in the film as a skiving drunkard, in real life Private Hook was considered a model soldier who was a lifetime teetotaller. Hook was receiving good conduct pay at the time of the battle.

8

Factual error: Assistant Commissary Dalton, portrayed as a bit of an upper-class twit in the film, was in actuality a former infantry quartermaster sergeant and the most experienced soldier in the garrison. He helped to plan the defense.

5

Factual error: The 24th is identified as the "South Wales Borderers." In 1879, the regiment was the 2nd Warwickshire. It did not become a Welsh regiment until 1881.

2

Factual error: Colour Sergeant Bourne was in fact rather a small man (which Nigel Green is not) and was actually, in his early 20s, the youngest colour sergeant in the British Army.

4

Factual error: Lieutenants Chard and Bromhead were both rather elderly for their ranks (in their mid-30s) and Bromhead's career had begun to suffer due to a hearing problem. Like most members of the garrison, both had full beards.

4

Factual error: After the battle, the remaining Zulus left the field without making a sound, unlike the movie.

Factual error: In the actual battle the wagons were not tipped over, the space beneath was filled with mealie bags and ammunition boxes. This made the bayonet equipped rifles more effective against the much shorter assagais, since the assagai-armed Zulus could not engage without climbing onto the wagons.

1

Factual error: In history, the battle at Rourke's Drift was NOT ordered by Cetewayo. Cetewayo gave specific commands to his men not to attack any entrenched British positions; the Rourke's Drift assault was in fact spearheaded by one of his headstrong siblings eager to prove his warrior worth to his brother.

Factual error: The Swedish missionary Otto Witt is portrayed as a drunkard who encourages the soldiers to abandon their posts. In reality Otto Witt helped the defense by helping to build the barricades. He later volunteered to assist as a lookout on the nearby hill. He departed before the battle to join his wife and two daughters at a nearby farm.

Robin Allen
2

Factual error: Stanley Baker (in the scene where he reloads his revolver) is shown using a Webley Mark VI - not issued until 1915.

1

Factual error: Conversely Corporal Allen, portrayed as the model soldier, was demoted from sergeant (his previous rank) for drunkenness before the battle.

Factual error: Henry Hook in fact retired from the Army as a Sergeant-Instructor, hardly the barrack-room lawyer as which he is portrayed.

Factual error: At the begining of the film, Chard and Bromhead do not know one another and during the preparations for the defence it is indicated that Chard and Commissary Dalton do not know each other. Chard had actually been stationed at Rorke's Drift for several days before the battle and knew both Bromhead and Dalton.

Factual error: Several of the Martini-Henrys shown in the movie are later models that could not possibly have been present at Rorke's Drift. These include the Mark III, Mark IV, and several variants of the Francotte Cadet and Boer ZAR Contract Westley-Richards (neither manufactured until 1895) along with Bromhead's hunting rifle. One of the Zulus is even carrying a Martini-Enfield .303 Carbine, not manufactured until 1899.

Factual error: Dabulamanzi led the Zulus attacking Rorke's Drift. He was either a brother or half brother of Cetewayo, not one of his sons.

DON

Factual error: Another commissary (senior to Dalton) and an army chaplain (who distinguished himself by handing out ammunition during the battle) were also present in the garrison.

Factual error: When private Hitch is wounded, he is shot in the leg. He was actually shot in the shoulder. The bullet shattered his shoulder blade and he was invalided out of the Army as a result.

Factual error: The webbing the British soldiers wear is incorrect. They are wearing Slade Wallace which is 1888 onwards. They should be wearing 71 Valise pattern.

Factual error: In the hospital, Corporal Friedrich Schiess tells William and Robert Jones that he's a member of the Natal Mounted Police. In actuality, Cpl. Schiess was a member of the Natal Native Contingent, a distinctly different branch of the colonial forces. The Natal Mounted Police did, however, have three men present at the Battle of Rorke's Drift: Troopers Lugg, Green, and Hunter, and Trooper Henry Lugg later published two detailed accounts of the battle.

Continuity mistake: In the scene where Michael Caine shoots at the cheetah, you can see the trainer in the clump of trees beckoning the animal on.

More mistakes in Zulu

Surgeon Maj. Reynolds: You know this boy?
Orderly: Name is Cole, sir. He's a paper hanger.
Surgeon Maj. Reynolds: Well, he's a dead paper hanger now.

More quotes from Zulu

Trivia: Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who played King Cetewayo in the film is actually a real-life distant descendant of the very same Zulu king he was playing. Small wonder the producers decided to choose him to play Cetewayo.

More trivia for Zulu

Question: I first saw the movie in a cinema when it was first released. I'm quite sure I saw a scene which was later edited out, perhaps to accommodate the ratio of television screens. Before the attack various soldiers stop to listen to a strange sound echoing over the hills - "like a train" someone says. After we hear the sound twice my memory is that the movie cut to a panoramic view of thousands of Zulu warriors running across the veld, banging their shields with their spears, on their way to Rorke's Drift. This is what was causing the "train" sound, a phenomenon that is not explained subsequently anywhere in the edited version of the film. The dramatic effect of the shot, panning across what looks like thousands of armed Zulus, was riveting and served to emphasise the impossible odds faced by the British. Am I the only one who recalls this scene?

Answer: Absolutely correct. This exact scene is in my DVD of Zulu. They may have changes when the TV version aired, but this definitely in the original.

stiiggy
More questions & answers from Zulu

Join the mailing list

Separate from membership, this is to get updates about mistakes in recent releases. Addresses are not passed on to any third party, and are used solely for direct communication from this site. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Check out the mistake & trivia books, on Kindle and in paperback.