Rorke’s Drift Part 24 – Ammunition Smith and a completely fictional character 

Reverend George Smith, Army Chaplain, was born in Docking in Norfolk on the 8th of January 1845. ‘Padre’ George Smith served as a missionary in South Africa from 1870.

However, he is best remembered for his part in the famous defence of Rorke’s Drift during the Zulu War of 1877–79 which won him the praise of several officers involved in that action in their reports. As an assistant army chaplain, and therefore a non-combatant, Smith played a supportive role in the defence, where he distributed ammunition to the soldiers of the 24th Regiment of Foot (2nd Warwickshires) who were manning the barricades. 

After the Zulu War he was often referred to as “Ammunition Smith”. As an assistant army chaplain, and therefore technically a civilian, Smith was not entitled to receive a campaign medal or other award for his part in the defence. Instead he was offered, and accepted, a position as a regular army chaplain.

Unfortunately Smith was not portrayed in the 1964 film Zulu. I think this is a shame because having a non-combatant as a character taking part in the defence could have really added to the film. Maybe he was a conscientious objector who refused to pick up a gun but helped with the ammunition and other duties. Plus he was really there! 

Again it’s weird to me how some things were made up for the movie and other things weren’t included. For example the cook we see at Rorke’s Drift in the movie, who complained about his soup going to waste, was completely fictional but a little comic relief was kind of cool. I’ve chosen to include him in my project because I liked his moustache haha. Here he is lugging an ammo box. 



26 thoughts on “Rorke’s Drift Part 24 – Ammunition Smith and a completely fictional character ”

  1. Great characterful models, mate! As for filmic licence, it’s just the way of the world and can add to a story or be greatly detrimental, depending on the situation…

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Makes me wonder though…if a soldier died and his rifle was on the ground, I would sure pick it up and start firing if I’m in a spot that’s being fired upon!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting post!

    This is all new to me as I barely know much about the events that took place, only short descriptions in some media. I’ve also never seen the film (shocking I know!).

    As for film of historical events and people, I remember how the Dambuster movie got certain facts and characterisations wrong. For example, the way the film portrayed WC Guy Gibson was different from the real life personality of the man himself, though WWII movie adaptions nack in the day were in the mindset of post WWII. Much of those films were rose tinted Hollywood coated media, to a certain degree they actually harmed the history of that bloody and terrible era with propaganda and curated fantasies. Even thinking back I don’t think the Dambust movie really showed just how devastating the operation was from both the RAF team behind the mission and the German civilians who survived the dam flooding. It did leave an impact that even today is still being debated.

    It’s why I like 1917, it shows bravery, common unity of soldiers and the British spirit to fight for loved ones from afar. Though the film makes the point that not all things were trope heroics, top brass being perfect and propaganda of glory.

    Honestly, I’d be down for a Dambuster remake with Sam Mendez directing it, or Peter Jackson filming an ANZAC story. I so think nowadays we have the technology, declassified documentation and creative approach to really make the War film era of the 2020’s.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I guess it’s a question of who shot first: Greedo or Solo? Historiams will either have a bias to their world view or at least present both sides of the story. Same as with filmmakers. The most compelling history media is the ones that put aside bias and morality and present perspective on why such decisions were made and the experience one has witnessed. A good example is a book I read some years ago called Stalingrad, by Antony Beevor, who rather than says “this person is bad” or “this is what you should be thinking”, he writes it like a chronology of events tied to personal accounts of those who fought in the battle and those involved in the hierarchy. I learnt quite a lot from reading just how deluded the two dictators were, and how victory really was achieved. Sadly, history lessons in education (from what I’ve went through) and how it’s been taught nowadays is nothing but textbook copy and paste rubbish.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Osprey are good from what I’ve read. They tend to write some books as a straightforward account of the subject without getting too preachy to certain biases. I’m currently reading about the MK VI tanks of WWI by Osprey publishing. It’s a great book to read and educates you more than what bs textbook loop on the same subject education at school would ever teach you. You may be able to find out some more info on the Zulu battle through the Osprey books for battles, uniforms and faction specifc subjects. Another book I’m reading is the WWI Britidh Army in 1916, another great book to read.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. “Ammunition Smith”! Great nickname and two awesome new characters added to your lot. So, I didn’t rightly know what an Army Chaplain was and it actually came up in my reading. Kudos for that!

    Liked by 2 people

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