A prayer’s as good as a bayonet on a day like this.
Colour Sergeant Frank Bourne, Zulu
Tony Rennell at the Daily Mail Online has a grand salute to one of the greatest war flicks: Zulu:
Yet Zulu thankfully avoids taking sides in this moral morass. It doesn’t play on manufactured guilt, or lecture and hector us from some anachronistic ethical high ground. It avoids self-righteous, self-serving politics and pays pure and simple tribute to human endeavour.
The moment that, for me, elevates it into a different dimension is when a young British soldier stares open-mouthed at the huge enemy army encircling Rorke’s Drift. The situation looks hopeless, and death — skewered agonisingly in the dust — a certainty.
His is the authentic voice of soldiering through the centuries — as true today for our troops in Afghanistan as it was for Queen Victoria’s footsoldiers. Men doing their duty, facing death because that’s their job. No hint of glory. No pleasure in killing.
And there is a price to pay for the victors as well as the defeated. As the smoke of guns disperses over the final battle scene, the British soldiers stare in horror at the piled-up bodies of Zulu around their sand-bagged last redoubt.
They are not triumphant but appalled at the ‘butcher’s yard’ — as Lt Chard (Stanley Baker) puts it — which they have inflicted. ‘I feel sick,’ says Lt Bromhead (Caine), ‘and ashamed.’ Continue reading
The fourth in my ongoing examinations of the poetry of Rudyard Kipling. The other posts in the series may be read here, here and here. Kipling was a passionate man in his likes and dislikes, and always wore his heart firmly attached to his sleeve. Throughout his career he championed the rankers and non-commissioned officers in the British Army. He rightly thought that the men who were at the sharp end of the stick in battle often got the short end of the stick outside of battle. Kipling never forgot about them, and he made certain his readers never forgot about them, making them the subject of many of his poems, books and short stories, and constantly reminding the British that their nation and empire relied upon the raw courage of men too often regarded as scum by civilians. Kipling didn’t romanticize them, he knew them too well for that, but he did recognize their virtues as well as their vices, and honored them for the courage and good humor with which most of them went about their dangerous tasks. One of my favorite poems of Kipling is The ‘Eathen, written by Kipling in 1895, which is Kipling’s salute to the British non-com, and a searching look at how a slum recruit becomes a good one. Continue reading