Zulu: The Movie and the Welsh

Today is March 1st and St. David’s Day, the patron saint of Wales and therefore as a Welsh exile, my national day. Nationalism is of course an interesting piece of conflict and I thought I might post a bit of Welsh nationalist movie footage, with a bit of a twist.

Wikipedia notes:

The Battle of Rorke’s Drift was a battle in the Anglo-Zulu War. The defence of the mission station of Rorke’s Drift, under the command of Lieutenant John Chard of the Royal Engineers, immediately followed the British Army’s defeat at the Battle of Isandlwana on 22 January 1879, and continued into the following day, 23 January. Just over 150 British and colonial troops successfully defended the garrison against an intense assault by 3,000 to 4,000 Zulu warriors. The massive, but piecemeal Zulu attacks on Rorke’s Drift came very close to defeating the tiny garrison but were ultimately repelled. Eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded to the defenders, along with a number of other decorations and honours.

More at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Rorke’s_Drift

The unit involved on the British side was B Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th (2nd Warwickshire) Regiment of Foot (2nd and 4th), later known as the South Wales Borderers. So this was a battle mainly of Welsh men and it was well captured in the finale to Cy Endfield’s 1964 movie Zulu shown below. Watch it and then consider the questions below the link and maybe watch it a second time after reading them:


And this is Cy (1914-95) the Director: An American who was blacklisted as a Communist in 1951 by the House Un-American Activities Committee, and worked only in Britain thereafter, which adds a further twist to the situation.

The clip can be seen from many perspectives. First, it can be seen as a comment on how humans use music to psychologically prepare to slaughter other humans, to bond against an enemy and maintain their courage against overwhelming odds. It is a good illustration musically of counter-point. It can be seen as a demonstration that with volley fire, Henry Martini breech loaders and unlimited supplies of ammunition, a British infantry square was relatively impregnable unless artillery was deployed against it. If you see the piles of bodies at the end, (though you don’t see the appalling wounds the Henry Martini rifle inflicted), you can see why one of the movie characters talks later about butchery and the slaughter house that is war. You can see it as Zulus defending their homeland from the colonial invader, though they get no real voice, only their singing. Or you can see it as one set of victims of English colonialism, the Welsh, being used to the do the dirty work of the English, against fellow victims of colonialism, the Zulus. And today, being St. David’s Day, I think that is how I will leave it. Cymru am byth! (Wales forever!)

In any event, I think the clip is challenging and should make us pause to think and let the multiple and other unlisted possibilities sink in, which is what art not to mention post-colonial studies is all about.

Footnote: Thanks to Pavitra for helping make this Welsh man post-colonial


About creativeconflictwisdom

I spent 32 years in a Fortune Five company working on conflict: organizational, labor relations and senior management. I have consulted in a dozen different business sectors and the US Military. I work with a local environmental non profit. I have written a book on the neuroscience of conflict, and its implications for conflict handling called Creative Conflict Wisdom (forthcoming).
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