The bravery of Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead during the defence of the mission station at Rorke's Drift in the Zulu War of 1879 has come to symbolise courage in the face of overwhelming odds.
But 118 years after the death of this British hero– famously portrayed by Michael Caine in the film Zulu – his grave at Allahabad, India, lies in ruins – the headstone broken on the ground, surrounded by animal dung and overgrown grass.
For his gallantry at Rorke's Drift, Lt Bromhead, of the 2nd Battalion, 24th Foot (later the South Wales Borderers), was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration for valour – and one of a record 11 VCs awarded to the mission's defenders. He helped to command around 140 soldiers, of whom 36 were sick or injured, against about 4,500 Zulu warriors intent on destroying the post and killing the garrison. The battle raged for 12 hours before the Zulu attack was abandoned.
The citation for his VC stated: "Lt Bromhead shared the command of the defenders of the post with Lt JRM Chard of the Royal Engineers, setting a fine example and conducting himself with great gallantry in most trying circumstances."
Promoted to Major, Bromhead went on to serve in Burma during the 1880s before dying of typhoid at Camp Dabhaura, Allahabad, India on 9 February 1892.
Lord Roper, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary War Graves and Battlefields Heritage Group, said last night he would take urgent action to restore the resting place of one of Britain's best-known military heroes. "I will be contacting the British High Commission in Delhi to ask whether they can do anything about it. It is very sad that the grave of someone of such historic distinction is in such a condition," he said.
Brigadier David Bromhead, the great, great nephew of the Rorke's Drift hero said yesterday: "It's sad, and I hadn't realised it had got that bad. It doesn't surprise me, I'm afraid. Maybe it's a heartless thing to say, but you can't really blame anyone at that end – I suppose it's the inevitable result of the passing of time. I don't know quite how one deals with something like that, unless you employ someone to maintain it locally. I'll talk to the regiment about it to see what can be done."
The British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia (BACSA) confirmed that the matter has now been referred to the Indian army. Dr Rosie Llewellyn-Jones of BACSA said: "I am very confident that this grave will be restored in the very near future."Reuse content