The Martini–Henry: The Rifle That Stopped The Zulu Army Butt-Cold At Rorke’s Drift
On January 22, 1879, while working on the bank of the Drift, Lieutenant John Chard, Royal Engineers, officer commanding at Rorke’s drift, received news of the slaughter at Isandhlwana. He rushed back to the mission to discover Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead, Commander of the men of the 2/24th, had also heard the intelligence and was preparing to move the invalids to safety in heavy ox-carts.
Chard realized that the slow-moving vehicles would never get the men clear of the Zulus, and he ordered that perimeters of biscuit boxes and mealie (maize) bags be set up to act as defensive barricades. Men of the Natal Kaffirs, retreating from Isandhlwana, arrived during these preparations and were pressed into service.
Several members of the 2/24th were sent into the hospital to guard the patients, and the rest of the forces were positioned to await the Zulu onslaught.