Frank Bourne Rorkes Drift Hero


The Battle of Rorkes Drift is certainly one of the most popular battles in the past of the British army. It was at this little mission station near the border of Zululand and Natal where a few thousand Zulu warriors attacked the garrison of around 140 British soldiers. The soldiers fought for their lives all night and by morning, the Zulus had withdrawn. The highest award for gallantry from the British Army is the Victoria Cross and the defence of Rorkes Drift saw twelve VCs awarded, greater than in any other single action in history.

The fight was portrayed in the Stanley Baker movie “Zulu” and one of several leading characters who acted with distinction at Rorkes Drift, in the end failed to receive a Victoria Cross. Colour Sergeant Frank Bourne was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal that is ranked second behind the Victoria Cross. In addition, Bourne was also offered a commission although he turn it down. As Bourne was the eighth son in his family, there was no money on hand and this would have been a time when wealth was used to buy commissions for officers with the British Army.

Having said that, Bourne was destined to be a career soldier and an excellent one too. Following South Africa, he was posted to India and Burma prior to eventually earning his commission eleven years following the Battle of Rorkes Drift. He at long last retired from the British Army in 1907. Only seven years afterwards, The Great War broke out 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, now for ever.

Due to the actor who portrayed Bourne in the motion picture Zulu, several people considered Frank Bourne to have been in his mid-50s during the time of the Battle of Rorkes Drift but in reality he was simply 24 years old. Just after the end of The Great War, he lived in retirement in Beckenham, South London and he was the final survivor of Rorkes Drift to pass away at the age of 91 on 8th May 1945, the very day the Second World War in Europe came to an end.

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