The sketch that proved soldier was a hero

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Private David Jenkins was among the 150 soldiers who fought in the heroic defence of the small South African missionary outpost in 1879, which was immortalised by the film Zulu starring Michael Caine.

 

London - A soldier who survived the Battle of Rorke’s Drift against 4 000 Zulus only to be forgotten on its Roll of Honour has finally been hailed a war hero – thanks to a 130-year-old sketch.

Private David Jenkins was among the 150 soldiers who fought in the heroic defence of the small South African missionary outpost in 1879, which was immortalised by the film Zulu starring Michael Caine.

Such was the bravery shown by the heavily outnumbered troops that after the battle 11 Victoria Crosses were awarded.

However, Private Jenkins’s name was somehow left out of the Roll of Honour, and for more than 130 years his descendants have tried in vain to have his heroism recognised. But they had no proof – until spotting a sketch of a ‘Private Jenkins’ by a Victorian war artist that was being used to illustrate a competition run by the National Army Museum.

The Battle of Rorke’s Drift had been nominated as one of Britain’s greatest battles, and the image chosen to represent it was a pencil sketch by Lady Elizabeth Butler of Private Jenkins.

His great-grandson Geoff Rees recognised the face instantly and was able to prove to historians that his relative was a long-forgotten war hero.

The artist had been commissioned by Queen Victoria to commemorate the battle in her painting The Defence of Rorke’s Drift.

Mr Rees said: “Lady Elizabeth Butler visited the survivors who returned to Portsmouth in the autumn of 1879 and she was treated to a re-enactment of the battle.

“She famously used real models who were actually there to paint her war scenes.”

Each soldier who survived the battle had also been given a Bible to commemorate their role. Private Jenkins’s Bible was handed over to the museum’s historians as added proof that he had fought at Rorke’s Drift. Private David Jenkins of 1st Battalion, 24th (2nd Warwickshire) Regiment of Foot, has now been reinstated in the battle’s Roll of Honour.

A spokesman for the National Army Museum said: “When his great-grandson contacted us with irrefutable evidence proving David Jenkins’s presence at the battle and his identity in the museum’s sketch book, we set the record straight.”

Mr Rees, 52, from Swansea, said he was incredibly proud of his great-grandfather’s part in history.

He added: “It’s nice that the history books have finally been corrected to recognise his role.

“What I find most inspiring about the battle is that it was won by ordinary men who fought so heroically for one another. How exposed must they have felt, yet they defended the outpost to a man over a nightmarish 12-hour period.” - Daily Mail

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