Frank Bourne Hero of Rorkes Drift


The defence of Rorkes Drift is without doubt one of the most notable actions in the past within the British army. It was at this modest mission station along the border of Zululand and Natal where 4,000 Zulu warriors attacked the garrison of no more than 140 British soldiers. The soldiers fought for their lives all night and by the early morning, the Zulu warriors had retreated. The top award for gallantry in the British Army is the Victoria Cross and the action at Rorkes Drift saw 12 VCs awarded, more than in every other individual action in history.

The fight was depicted in the Stanley Baker movie “Zulu” and one of many leading characters who acted with distinction at Rorkes Drift, in the end did not receive a Victoria Cross. Colour Sergeant Frank Bourne was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and that is ranked 2nd behind the Victoria Cross. Furthermore, Bourne was also offered a commission although he turn it down. As he was the eighth son in his family, there was no money on hand and this was a period when money bought commissions for officers within the British Army.

Nevertheless, Bourne was a career soldier and a very good one too. Immediately following South Africa, he served in both India and Burma prior to at long last earning his commission 11 years following the Battle of Rorkes Drift. He eventually retired from the British Army in 1907. Only seven years afterwards, The First World War started and Bourne re-enlisted in the army. By the conclusion of the Great War in 1918, Bourne had been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and was made an OBE. Bourne left the military again, on this occasion for good.

Because of the actor who played the part of Bourne in the film Zulu, the majority of people presumed Frank Bourne to have been middle aged during the time of the Battle of Rorkes Drift however in truth he was merely 24 years old.

After the finish of The First World War, Bourne lived in retirement in Beckenham, South London and he was the last survivor of the battle to pass away at the age of 91 on 8th May 1945, the very day World War II in Europe came to an end.

Despite the fact he didn’t receive the Victoria Cross, CSM Frank Bourne was one of the most well known soldiers who fought at Rorkes Drift.



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