This weekend in Folkestone there was set to be a charity showing of the film Zulu to help raise cash for the arms forces charity SSAFA. Members of the charity voted to show the 1964 classic portrayal of the battle of Rorke’s Drift but, like cycling, they are clearly just racist. 28 virtue signalling busy bodies have written to the Council demanding that the showing be scrapped stating that:
“We believe that the choice of the film Zulu, with its inaccurate portrayal of historical events and its distortions and racist overtones, could have a negative effect on relationships within the changing and richly diverse communities here in Folkestone….
The so-called epic story of ‘honour courage and pride’ portrayed is far from the truth about what really happened.This film glorifies the myth that was created in 1879 after the humiliation of the British military de-feat at the battle of Isandlwana…
The Battle of Rorke’s Drift was, in reality, little more than a footnote after a far more important, and far more gory battle earlier in the day, 11 miles away at Isandlwana.”
Yadda, yadda, yadda.
There is another movie about Isandlwana where 4,000 British soldiers were wiped out by a 20,000 strong Zulu force. Made in 1979 Zulu Dawn is worth watching as well. In reality both battles are just part of the events of the Anglo Zulu wars of 1879. The first battle was a great defeat for Britain the second a bit of a triumph as 156 Brits held off 4,000 Zulus suffering a dozen casualties while the Zulus suffered almost a thousand. 11 Victoria Crosses were awarded after Rorke’s Drift.
The 1964 film Zulu references the earlier defeat at Isandlwana in full. It does have some poetic license. Most of the ordinary soldiers were from the Midlands not, as in the film, from South Wales. But in how the battle was fought, the evacuation of the hospital, the retreat to smaller and smaller redoubts and the characters involved it is fairly accurate.
The Anglo Zulu wars were not as the PC clots imagine a battle between black and white but between two empires. The British Empire in Africa brought railways, Christianity, farming on scale that ended famine, the rule of law and the end of slavery. The militaristic and authoritarian Zulu empire engaged in slavery, plunder and indeed genocide of smaller tribes.
When my PC Mrs or my Islington based daughter start to berate the evils of the British Empire, I cite the conquest of the Zulus as a clear example of a way in which the British made the world a better place. Our empire had its faults but it was a far more pleasant one in the way it treated the various non Zulu tribes of Africa than was the Zulu empire. Indeed after we British won the Anglo Zulu wars the Zulu people themselves were able to enjoy a peaceful existence under British oversight which they had been denied in the decades of aggressive military expansion that had proceeded our arrival.
If schools in Britain today taught history in its full context rather than simply lecturing our kids about our “shameful” Imperial past, no one would be terming the 1964 classic as having racist overtones. But they don’t. This time common sense has prevailed and the showing is going ahead. Almost 18,000 folks took part on a poll run by the local paper and just 7% think the film should be banned.
I wonder how many of those 7% have seen the film they want to ban or understand the context of a clash between two empires where the Brits were not actually the bad guys? I suspect very few. But times are a changing. How long I wonder before the 1964 Michael Caine classic will like most of the comedy from the 1970s be deemed offensive and removed from our screens entirely.