How the Victoria Cross Was Won by Lt Gonville Bromhead in the Zulu War

If you have seen the film “ZULU” Michael Caine portrayed the part of Gonville Bromhead in the defense of Rorkes Drift.

The battle at Rorke’s Drift, during the afternoon of 22nd January 1879, is among the most famous in the history of the British Army. The battle began at 4:30 PM and continued for twelve hours.

Around 4,000 Zulus against 139 men of ours and that included medical staff and hospital patients.

The Defenders of Rorkes Drift were awarded 11 Victoria Crosses plus many other awards. The most surprising part was that Colour Sgt Bourne only received a Distinguished Conduct Medal.

One of the 11 VCs awarded was to:

Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead 2nd Battalion 24th Warwickshire Regiment

London Gazette on 2nd May 1879.

Digest of Citation reads:

On 22nd and 23rd January 1879 at Rourke’s Drift, Natal, South Africa, Lieutenant Bromhead shared the command of the defenders of the post with Lieutenant J.R.M.Chard of the Royal Engineers, setting a fine example and conducting himself with great gallantry in most trying circumstances.

The Gazette also stated:

Lieut. Chard, Royal Engineers, and Lieut. Gonville S. Bromhead, 2nd Battn. 24th Regt. For their gallant conduct at the defense of Rourke’s Drift, on the occasion of the attack by the Zulus on the 22nd and 23rd of June,1879.

The Lieut. General commanding the troops, in his report, stated that if it was not for the fine conduct and excellent behavior of these two officers under the most trying circumstances, the defense of Rorke’s Drift post would not have been conducted with that intelligence and tenacity which so essentially characterized it.

After the battle Lt Bromhead was immediately promoted to Captain.

Sir Garnet Wolseley presented G Bromhead his Victoria Cross at a ceremony held on the 22nd of August 1879 at Utrecht,Holland.

Gonville Bromhead was Born in Versailles, France on 29th August 1845

His Father and Mother were Sir Edmund de Gonville Bromhead Bart. and Judith Christine daughter of James Wood Esq. He went to school at Magnus Grammar in Newark.

He joined the 24th Regiment on 20th April 1867. Not only did he win the Victoria Cross but was twice mentioned in Despatches and of course was awarded the Zulu Wars medal with bar 1877-8-9. He also served in the Burmese Expedition of 1885 and 1887-9 for which he received the the two Burma Clasps

He was promoted through Captain and finally Major and his medal entitlement was

Victoria Cross

South Africa Medal 1877-79

1 clasp:

“1877-8-9”

India General Service Medal 1854-95

2 clasps:

“Burma 1885-87” – “Burma 1887-89”

He died in India on 9th February 1891 in Allahabad and his grave is there at The New Cantonment Cemetery.



Source by Barry Sheppard

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