The Hero of Rorke’s Drift & GG Grandfather Samuel Slade
On the morning of January 22, 1879, a Zulu Army annihilated a large British force at Isandlwana. Later in the afternoon, a smaller Zulu force, which did not participate in the earlier slaughter, attacked the small supply outpost at Rorke’s Drift, 10 miles to the West on the Buffalo River. Defended by only 131 soldiers, of which 39 were in the hospital, against almost 4,000 Zulu warriors, Lieutenant Chard and his command, men of the 2nd Battalion, 24th Regiment of Foot, held out against unceasing Zulu attacks throughout the evening and into the night. Early the next morning, after heavy losses, the Zulu’s withdrew. For their incredible bravery in the face of an overwhelming force, 11 men, including Lt. Chard received the Victoria Cross. These events are depicted in the 1963 film ZULU – starring & directed by Stanley Baker.
Chard returned to England to a heroes welcome. There were many official receptions around the country where Lt. Chard was the guest of honour. Queen Victoria invited him to Balmoral, Scotland for an audience with Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, during which he related the story of the defence of Rorke’s Drift, to Her Majesty.
Lt. Chard’s military career continued until 1896 when he was diagnosed with throat cancer. After a number of surgeries [including the removal of his tongue] subsequent medical examinations deemed his condition to be terminal. In 1897 he returned to the Rectory at Hatch Beauchamp, in Somerset, the home of his younger brother, The Reverend C.E.Chard, Vicar of the parish. After much suffering and despite a determined battle, Colonel Chard passed peacefully away, in his sleep, shortly after 9.30 pm on Monday November 1st 1897.
The funeral service and burial took place at the Parish Church of St.John the Baptist, in Hatch Beauchamp, Somerset. Her Majesty Queen Victoria sent a wreath which bore the words – “A mark of admiration and regard for a Brave Soldier from his Sovereign”. Many official guests attended the funeral, as well as a large gathering of local personalities present, representing not only Taunton, but many of the villages and hamlets in the surrounding countryside. The more notable included: Mr.Burnell of Oakfield, Mr. F.N.Greenslade of West Hatch; Mr William Jeffrey of Beercrocombe, Mr. Chambers of Othery, Mr. Haycraft, Mr. Quick and Mr.Samuel Slade, of Hatch Beauchamp [our GG Grandfather who died 16 years later in 1913 – and is buried in the same cemetery as Chard] Mr.E.C.Prew of Lillesdon, Mr.Penny of Curry Mallet, Mr.A.Yule of Hatch Beauchamp and others.