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Like Wolves on the Fold: The Defence of…

Like Wolves on the Fold: The Defence of Rorke's Drift

by Mike Snook

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The defense of Rorke’s Drift by not more than 100 men against a Zulu army of several thousand warriors is a touchstone event in English history. It displays all the traits the English want to be seen to have: brave, calm underdogs using superior discipline and military know-how to defeat a much bigger enemy. A hit film in the 1960’s featuring a new young star straight from Swinging London, Michael Caine, didn’t hurt either.

Snook has written a purely military history of the action and focuses on the single day and night of the battle. A brief preamble describes the lead-in to the battle following the major British defeat at Isandlwana. For all the flat reconstruction of the facts of the battle Snook has produced a very readable narrative that maintains the excitement and tension of the action very well. As a serving soldier Snook is very well able through his own admiration of what these soldiers did to show us that real military action, and real bravery, is nothing like the movies.

If you want a book that explores a wider perspective than the specific action on the day of battle, or that takes an interest in the personalities, characters and their thoughts then avoid this. There is very little reported speech nor much blood-curdling description of how men fought and died.

This is a book that provides excitement and tension through a matter-of-fact style that does describe one of the great heroic feats of modern warfare. Read it if only to learn how men react in the face of certain death and rejoice in how they become selfless brothers and quiet heroes. ( )
  pierthinker | Jun 18, 2012 |
To begin with let me say that this book is written about one of my favorite all-time subjects, the defence of Rourke's Drift during the Zulu War. With this knowledge I knew I would derive some enjoyment from the book. I would recommend 4 stars for the book if it were for a casual reader who was not that particularly interested in military history. But to the student, I can only muster up 3.
It is a workable piece on the battle, but I've read a few others that were much more informative and engaging. Mr. Snook is an ex-military man, as am I, and I can recognize his approach and style to recounting the event. That particular style never lends itself to very enjoyable reading. Why is it that professional soldiers never make great authors?
There is the perception that Mr. Snook considers his work as the "definitive" piece on the subject. He discredits other books, and even some of the contemporary sources, on the battle without really any explaination as to why they are wrong and he is right. I got the sense that he would be happy if we all threw our other books on the battle away and coronated his as the Bible of the battle. Any teacher, student, professional, or amatuer historian knows better. The more sources the better, this being just another source. ( )
  Poleaxe | Dec 31, 2008 |
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"On January 22, 1879, a single company of the 24th Regiment, along with a few dozen recuperating patients, fought off a ferocious attack by more than 4,500 Zulu warriors who had earlier that day helped decimate the British expeditionary force at Isandlwana. This is a fresh interpretation of this event"--From publisher's description.… (more)

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