Rorke’s Drift Part 11 – Lieutenant Chard.  “A bit of a plodder” 

‘You will be in charge, though of course nothing will happen.’ – Major Spalding said to Lieutenant Chard just before he left the drift on the 22nd of January 1879. 

As we know something pretty bloody big happened and for Chard, who’d never really been looked upon fondly by his peers, found himself in charge of defending Rorke’s Drift against thousands of Zulu warriors. 

John Rouse Merriott Chard was born at Boxhill (funnily enough I live 30 minutes away from a town called Boxhill here in Australia) on 21 December 1847.

He was educated at Cheltenham Grammar School and Plymouth New Grammar School, and after a period of private tuition he enrolled at the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich in 1868. Chard then received a commission as a Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers. 

In December 1978 Chard was attached to the 5th Company Royal Engineers and was sent to Africa. 

After arrival on 5 January, Chard was dispatched with a small group of sappers to repair and maintain the ponts (a river ferry, esp one that is guided by a cable from one bank to the other) at one of the few crossings of the Buffalo River which ran along the border of Natal and the Zulu Kingdom. A short distance downstream was Rorke’s Drift. 

Chard’s group arrived on 19 January and set up camp near the crossing. On the morning of 22nd of January, he received an order that his sappers were required at Isandlwana 10 miles (16 km) to the east, where Chelmsford had set up an advanced camp for his main invasion column which had marched into Zulu territory two weeks before. However, when he arrived Chard was informed that only his men were required and that he should return to Rorke’s Drift. While at Isandlwana, Chard had personally witnessed a Zulu army approaching the camp in the distance and upon his return to the Drift at about 1 pm, he informed Major Spalding of the situation. Spalding decided to depart the Drift to hurry British reinforcements en route from Helpmekaar. 

By all accounts, before Rorke’s Drift, Chard had been “a bit of a plodder”, however Chard conducted himself gallantly at on the fateful day. Despite what the movie would have you believe it wasn’t Chard that decided they should stay and fight but Commisary Dalton, more on him another time, but Chard was responsible for setting up the mealie barricades and the general defence organisation. He certainly earned his Victoria Cross. 

The figure I’m using to represent Chard is the movie version (Stanley Baker) but, as I’ve said before, this project is a mix of Hollywood and Historical accuracy. I’m not sure if the miniature came with the boxed set from Warlord games or if I acquired him from another supplier? I’m not good at keeping track of things like that haha. 

He was a joy to paint though. 

Sorry the picture quality isn’t great, the lighting wasn’t the best in the cabin.

Sadly, Chard developed mouth cancer and, despite having his tongue removed to stop the spread, he passed away at age of 50 in 1897. 



21 thoughts on “Rorke’s Drift Part 11 – Lieutenant Chard.  “A bit of a plodder” ”

    1. Ahhh thanks mate. Yes I believe I have all four. Glad you like him. As I say the light wasn’t great and you can’t see the highlights that well but they are there. I’m not going to do eyes though. It’s enough pressure trying to get approximately 420 minis done for this project haha.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Great work on the figure Luke, just like the movie. Funny I know Cheltenham and Plymouth well, as I used to live 20 minutes away from Cheltenham and worked there for several years and spent a lot of time in Plymouth as well

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Chard is my favorite historical figure from the battle. He was not from aristocracy as was Bromhead, and his engineer skills made the defense of Rorke’s Drift possible. As an engineer, I always found his story fascinating far beyond the movie. You’ve painted him up quite well (superbly I should say) and may I say that this hobby trek you’re on is the best ever. Awesome!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. He’s a standout that’s for sure. He initially wanted to leave the Drift but commissary Dalton persuaded him to stay as he knew they’d stand more of a chance of surviving if they stayed and fought. Chards decision to put up the biscuit boxes was perfect and then of course, later, the redoubt allowing for several lines of volley fire really saved them at the end.


  3. As many, many other heroes, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time… Also, as many other wronged people, he was the one who had to decide what to do, and what to order.

    Liked by 1 person

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