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Like Wolves on the Fold: The Defence of Rorke's Drift [Paperback]

Lieut. Col. Mike Snook
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
Price: £16.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

30 Jun 2010
Wednesday 22 January 1879 was one of the most dramatic days in the annals of military history. In the morning, a modern British army was swept aside by the onset of a seemingly unstoppable host at Isandlwana. Nearby, at a remote border outpost on the Buffalo River, a single company of the 24th Regiment and a few dozen recuperating hospital patients were passing another hot, monotonous day. News of the disaster across the river came like a bolt from the blue. Retreat was not an option. It seemed certain that the Rorke's Drift detachment would share the terrible fate of their comrades. Colonel Snook brings the insights of a military professional to bear in this strikingly original account. It is an extraordinary tale - a victory largely achieved by the sheer bloody-mindedness in adversity of the British infantryman, fighting at the remarkable odds of over thirty to one. The heroics of all eleven VC winners are recounted in detail, and we are offered new insights into how the Zulu attack unfolded and how 150 men achieved their improbable victory. The author describes the remainder of the war, from the recovery of the lost Queen's Colour of the 24th to the climactic charge of the 17th Lancers at Ulundi. We return to Isandlwana to consider culpability, and learn of the often tragic fates of many of the war's participants.

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Like Wolves on the Fold: The Defence of Rorke's Drift + How Can Man Die Better: The Secrets of Isandlwana Revealed + Zulu Rising: The Epic Story of iSandlwana and Rorke's Drift
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Frontline Books; Revised edition (30 Jun 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848325835
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848325838
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.5 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 474,367 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Colonel Mike Snook was commissioned into the Royal Regiment of Wales (24th/41st Foot) and over the ensuing 30 years served all round the world in command, operations and intelligence appointments. He spent two thirds of his career overseas and saw active service in four campaigns. He is a graduate of the University of Leicester, The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, the Army Staff College at Camberley and has a doctorate in military history from Cranfield University. Twice honoured for operational distinction, he was awarded the MBE in 2000. He spent more than four years as a British military adviser in South Africa and prior to the secession of South Sudan was the head of the J3 Ops branch for the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS). A recognized authority on the military history of the Victorian era, he is the author of How Can Man Die Better: the Secrets of Isandlwana Revealed, Like Wolves on the Fold: The Defence of Rorke's Drift, Into the Jaws of Death: British Military Blunders 1879-1900, Go Strong into the Desert: The Mahdist Uprising 1881-5 and Beyond the Reach of Empire: Wolseley's Failed Campaign to Save Gordon and Khartoum. He has travelled extensively over Britain's imperial battlefields in Africa and has often guided and mentored British Army war studies packages. He is an Honorary Academic Adviser to the Victorian Wars Forum (VWF).

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Custer should have been so lucky 27 Jan 2007
On Wednesday morning, January 22, 1879, the 1st Battalion and most of the 2nd of the British 24th Regiment of Foot was wiped about by a Zulu army at Isandlwana in South Africa. (This battle is covered in Lieutenant Colonel Mike Snook's book, HOW CAN MAN DIE BETTER.)

After Isandlwana, the victorious tribesmen swarmed on several miles to the missionary compound, comprising a residence/hospital and storehouse, at Rorke's Drift. Here, for five hours in the late afternoon and evening of January 22nd, 154 remnant troops of the 2nd/24th successfully held off a siege by some 4,500 assailants. This stalwart defense, the crowning glory in the history of the 24th (now the Royal Regiment of Wales), is the subject of LIKE WOLVES ON THE FOLD, also by Snook.

I'm no expert on such narratives, but this book seems to me to be as exemplary an account of a small unit defensive action as one can find anywhere. Based on after-action reports and participants' memoirs, it's of the sort I would have expected from Custer and his 7th Cavalry troopers, or the Alamo defenders, or the 300 Spartans of Thermopylae, had any of the former heroic bands had the good fortune to survive. But at Rorke's Drift, luck had little to do with it - just gritty determination, an adequate supply of ammo, inspired leadership from Lieutenants John Chard and Gonville Bromhead, and not just a little desperation; they were surrounded.

The volume includes a commendable 33-page section of photographs and painting reproductions.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like wolves on the fold,a great read. 29 April 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I highly recommend this book. An informative well paced account of the heroic deeds in South Africa. Being a military man himself, the author can draw on a wealth of experience from the point of view of the man on the ground, the ordinary soldier. At the end of the book he even gives you tips on visiting the country and battlefield areas! If you loved the film Zulu then buy this book and you won't be disappointed.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Soldier's Tribute to a Heroic Action 14 May 2010
By Greywolf TOP 1000 REVIEWER
The 1879 defence of Rorke's Drift by 150 British soldiers against 4,500 Zulus is one of the most famous military actions in British history. The main reason for this is the superb 1964 film, Zulu, starring Stanley Baker and Michael Caine in the roles of Lieutenants Chard and Bromhead, the officers in command of the post. The other is that more Victoria Crosses were awarded for this action than for any other before or since. The reasons why are made clear in this well-written account.
The fame of Rorke's Drift is such that this book joins a long line of others. What differentiates it is that this is written by an experienced, serving officer. Not only that, but a serving officer in the Royal Regiment of Wales that incorporates the old 24th Regiment that provided most of the Drift's gallant defenders. The author's first-hand knowledge of military tactics, chains of command and psychology enables him to offer fresh insights into this historic action and especially into the motivations of those who took part. While this is the book's strongest selling point, it may also account for one or two weaknesses, in that the author seems unusually lenient towards some members of his own profession. Other writers, for example, have criticized Major Spalding, the original commanding officer of Rorke's Drift, for failing to return to his post having left it in the morning to ride to another depot a few miles away. In Mike Snook's account, Spalding's actions are not only excusable but entirely justifiable. Of course, he may well be right and he certainly makes a good case.
There are other minor points, such as the fact that Private 'Old King' Cole seems to be killed twice, and the question of whether NNC Lieutenant Adendorf did or did not take part in the defence is glossed over rather quickly.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read 11 April 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Having just finished How Can Man Die Better, picking up this companion volume to the Battle of Rorke's Drift was an treat eagerly awaited. As always, Lt Col Mike Snook brings to bear his soldierly skills with those of an historian very much in tune with his subject. Read and smell the fear, gunpowder, sweat, blood, terror, elation and post battle trauma. Highly recommended.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Victory From Defeat 17 Oct 2012
I have to confess that after the first chapter I was struggling with this and couldn't work out if it was the style (written by an out and out 'military' man) or if it was the fact I needed to read How Can Man Die Better which tells the story of the Zulu massacre of the British at Isandlwana.

Simply put if you, like me, picked up this book because of only having a hazy history of the matter from the film Zulu! ('Fousands of 'em!) then you are the one needing the lesson in military history. And there could not be a better author for it.It is a much better book than it initially seemed as it is a follow on from the first book, and once you get 'established' it becomes that rare thing amongst the history section - a great book.

Putting to rest many popular myths raised by the film - notably there was no 'ordered fire' from the start so everyone was basically firing at will (so forget the line in the film when given the order to fire at will 'That's very nice of him!'), and also there was no close harmony singing to raise morale.

So forget all that and, without giving anything else away, what you have is a well written book, that drags you into the soldier's boots, puts you in the mind of the officers and shows the sheer terror, valour and ferocity of the fight.

Mike Snook also lays to rest some long held beliefs about the roles the men played based on simple facts and his own military thinking. You cannot deny that it was a brave and amazing effort that allowed them to hold out, but you also cannot deny that it would never have been such a great stand if it had not been for the out and out disaster that was Isandlwana.

With the simple addition of some excellent plans, some really good photos and a final chapter that actually tells you what happened to the men in the years after this is a fully rounded and, yes, 'filling' account of Rorke's Drift.
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