Thursday, 22 January 2015

ZULU Dawn!

Isandlwana - April 2014 (photo by Craig Mitchell)

Today is the 136th anniversary of the major conflicts of the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879, first the devastating defeat of British forces at Isandlwana by the Zulus and on the same day, into the early hours of the 23rd January 1879, the defence of Rorke's Drift by a British garrison hopelessly outnumbered by Zulu impis. The dramatic events not only resulted in heavy loss of life but had serious consequences for both sides leading to the destruction of the Zulu Kingdom and way of life, and questioning the expansion polices at the heart of the mighty Victorian British Empire.

Yours truly with the distinctive Isandlwana behind (April 2014)

As you will know if you've visited my blog before these far flung events have had a profound effect on me (and others!) all these years later which is difficult to explain. There is something deeply moving about an indigenous people's defence of their realm against an unjustified imperialist invasion and the difference in weaponry and technologies at their disposal. Just imagine for a minute answering your monarch's call to fight against professional soldiers armed with the very latest modern weapons, when all you had were decades old spears (assegai), clubs (knobkerries) and shields.

Haydn, Craig, Paul & I after successfully climbing Isandlwana (April 2014)

In the Zulu's favour were their familiarity with the terrain, sophisticated tactics, discipline and an unnerving loyalty to their King, despite any misgivings they may have had. However, despite these qualities there were huge losses amongst the Zulu's causing their King, Cetshwayo, to seek peace with the invaders, despite 'scoring' several victories over the British. The embarrassment of those victories though sealed the Zulu's fate as the British poured every resource at their disposal to finally crush the Zulu's resistance some 6 months later, setting fire to the royal homestead at Ulundi (Ondini) and eventually capturing and exiling Cetshwayo from his kingdom.

Meeting young Thandeka Zulu at Rorke's Drift (April 2014)

However the bravery of the Zulu's struck a chord with the British public who clamoured for information on these 'noble savages' who had stood up against the empire's might. Eventually Cetshwayo travelled to London where he was feted by the media and granted an audience with Queen Victoria at Osborne House. He was, in time, returned to his Zululand throne, but heavily curtailed in his authority and influence, the previous might of the Zulu kingdom was never again seen.

A panel of Matt Soffe's dramatic colouring from the re-mastered comic!

The interest in all things Zulu has echoed down the years since 1879, most famously for my generation in the movies Zulu, (which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014) and Zulu Dawn, leading directly to me creating my own comic books based on events at Rorke's Drift and of course visiting the battlefield and Zulu Kingdom sites in 2010 and 2014. This interest continues with new Zulu related comic work being prepared alongside a brand new 're-mastered' collection of my Water Cart Rescue strips being coloured for the first time by the very talented Matt Soffe, who has previously contributed colours to several Accent UK books.

More of these projects will follow in the weeks ahead but I just wanted to mark today's anniversary and, as I always do on this day, pay respect to those who lost their lives all those many years ago.
The Zulu Memorial at Rorke's Drift (April 2014)
The British Memorial at Rorke's Drift (April 2014)


  1. Your work looks great in colour - can't wait to see (and own) the finished result!

    1. Thanks Garen, I was blown away by Matt's first sample pages and it gets better and better each page that comes in. Fingers-crossed it will be well worth waiting for and ready for the full convention season - watch this space!