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Home » War and Rebellion » Zulu War (1879) » South Wales Borderers

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  • The massive structure of the Keep at the entrance to the military Barracks in the Watton, Brecon.  An armaments store was built here in 1805, and the increasing demands of the campaigns of the Victorian years led to the construction of the barracks in the 1840s.  The Keep was completed in 1879.  The South Wales Borderers, famed for their exploits in the Anglo-Zulu wars, were based here.
The Barracks, Brecon, 1900s
  • After advancing into Zululand, early on 22 January 1879, Lord Chelmsford split his force and went in search of the main Zulu army, leaving half in camp at Isandhlwana under the command of Colonel Henry Pulleine 1/24th.  The Zulus attacked the camp with a force of 25,000 warriors.  Out of 1,700 British and Colonial troops in the camp, 850 were killed.  The 24th Foot - later the South Wales Borderers - lost 596 men that day.  Colonel Pulleine's last message to Lord Chelmsford reads as follows: 

'Staff Officer - Report just come in that Zulus are advancing in force from the left front of the cam (8.5 am).  H B Pulleine, Lt. Col'.

The message was received at 9.30 am by Captain Hallam Parr, a Staff Officer in the field with Lord Chelmsford.
Colonel Henry Pulleine's final message from Isandlwana, Zululand, 22 January 1879
  • The movie 'Zulu' tells the story of a significant event in Welsh military history - the defence of Rorke's Drift on the 22nd and 23rd of January 1879.  Eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded, seven to soldiers of the 24th Foot, later the South Wales Borderers.  The movie was co-produced by Stanley Baker and Cy Endfield.  The film was premiered in Wales at the Olympia Cinema, Cardiff.  (Sir) Stanley Baker from the Rhondda Valley played the part of Lieutenant John Chard VC and (Sir) Michael Caine that of Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead VC.
Programme of the Welsh Premeire of the film 'Zulu', front cover, 23 March 1964
  • John (Jack) Henry Williams VC DCM MM was awarded his VC in 1918 and John Williams VC was one of the defenders at Rorke's Drift in 1879.
Former Company Sergeant Major Jack Williams and former Private John Williams outside the Guard Room, Brecon Barracks at the Comrades' Reunion, 15 May 1932
  • This letter was written just before the start of the Anglo-Zulu campaign and reads as follows:

'Perie Bush April 17th 1878

Dear Father and Mother and Sisters

I have had a chance once more to write to you a few lines to let you now all that I am safe and healthy at preasant and hope that you are all the same. Dear Father and Mother I hope. that we shall meet once more if the Lord pleace I ham in a strange country but got plenty of friends wher are all 4 Jolly Welshmen together not liveing very fare from one another to the reason that I did not write sooner I have had no chance whe whent on board the ship on the first of February and whe sail out on the second of the same date and whe reach Madera in 5 days but whe did not stop there at all whe stop at Simons Bay one night and a day and then whe sail on to East London in 38 days that was the 10th of March and I was not thinking nothing about Llangyfalach fair then only just now I was glad to have my feet on Land once more I casn tell you.  Whe stop at East London one night and then march up the country a few miles and whe with the train about 40 miles to King Williamson whe stop there two nights no train to further and march then on 13th March across the river Buffilo and to a place they call Green River stop there one night next day whe march to Baily's Grave and from there to Perie Bush hear I have all wonders.  Evry sort of Birds monkys one particular thing I have notice his a Grasspoper his so big has a black bird wonderful sise and you can see a Butterfly so big has any of the Black Martin his building in Hebron Chapel there his millions of goats her Buloxe and nothing to be seen very pretty whe had a weding here today two natives of the fingoes tribe the young man give to old woman the young womans another the best ten head of cattle and then they go to church a few minutes and come out and then they have man and wife but a Boar and a Sow I call them myselfe.  I got plenty to eat here you can by a sheep for five shillings good one to I can say now that I have full oranges from the tree without asking anybody so now I much conclude with my kind love to you all many times give my kind love to little Sally if she his alive and let me now how she his comeing on I am going on sentry now I will write one every week now if I can this morning I had the paper and stamp.

 From youre truly Son 

A letter written by Private Griffith Griffiths, Peribush, Natal, to his family in Clydach, near Swansea, 17 April 1878, page 1 of 3
  • The Victoria Cross is Britain's highest award for gallantry and was instituted in January 1856.  Only 1,354 (including three bars to soldiers who have received the coveted decoration twice) have been awarded since its inception.  Eighty-one servicemen with Welsh connections have gained this highly prized decoration and the Victoria Cross shown here was awarded to Private John Williams VC 2/24th Foot for his actions at the defence of Rorke's Drift during the 1879 Anglo-Zulu war.  John Fielding (who served under the name John Williams) was born in Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, lived in Cwmbran, and is buried in Llantarnam.
A Victoria Cross awarded to John Williams during the Anglo-Zulu war, 1879