Zulu 1000 is a re-appraisal of the SAS's role during the South African campaign of the 1870s - in particular the heroic defence of the mission station at Rorke's Drift by a beleaguered four-man patrol. Sometimes bewildering, often confusing, but never dull, Zulu 1000 makes for a cracking read.
"Here come the buggers again!" cried Lance Corporal George McJones (252), B Squadron's best shot. The four man team rushed to the mealie bag barricade that they'd constructed during the overnight lull in the fighting. The sight that greeted them struck dread in to each man's heart. Spread before them was an entire Zulu impi - over 10,000 warriors. The soldiers looked at each other in astonishment. Where were they all coming from? They must have slaughtered well over five hundred already. Suddenly, the Zulus began to sing their war chant. Sergeant Bob McWilliams (1157) exclaimed "We can do better than that boys, can't we?" and the four troopers launched in to a spirited rendition of My ol' man's a dustman - the squadron song and a popular music hall ditty of the time.
Undeterred by this display of bravura, the Zulus advanced at speed. The SAS men steadied themselves for the black onslaught - their bayonets glinting in the morning sunlight. An assegi pierced a mealie bag - missing Trooper Tommy McJones (1098) by inches. "Steady lads!" reassured the sergeant. "OK, let the fuckers have it!" Four eager barrels discharged a hail of .45 Martini Bianco bullets in the direction of the charging hordes, felling a swathe like a scythe through grass.
After several volleys, the SAS men were almost out of ammo. "Sarge, we need air support, and we need it pretty bloody quick." demanded Trooper Billy McWilliams (720). McWilliams was ex-Royal Engineers and he knew what was coming. The sergeant fired a very light in to the cloudless sky and almost immediately a balloon of the Royal Engineers hove silently, but menacingly in to view.
High above the parched veldt, Sapper Tom McCoy snapped the magazine of .45 in to the top of his twin-barrelled Gardner machine gun. The sun glanced off the brightly polished brass casing, momentarily dazzling him as he sweated under his helmet. He saw what was unfolding far below and time was of the essence. He levelled the weapon at maximum depression and began to crank the action. The gun began spewing round after round in to the boiling mass of Zulus, carving huge swathes from their ranks. Laughing uncontrollably, McCoy emptied magazine after magazine in to the panicking impi as they tried to escape the lead maelstrom striking them down from above.
Their escape was doomed. Mounds of writhing, bloodied Zulus quickly formed as the terrible lead storm shredded their serried ranks with no quarter given. After several thousand rounds, hardly any Zulus survived. The twitching heaps of slaughtered humanity - testament to the Empire's technological prowess.
"Righto boys. Let's finish the buggers off!" cried Sgt McWilliams, as the four men leaped eagerly in to the carnage - bayonets at the ready - before slashing and stabbing the hapless wounded Zulus with gusto, laughing all the way. No prisoners. That would teach the Queen's enemies a lesson. "This one's trying to surrender sarge!" chortled McWilliams. But the tough sergeant was having none of it. "Slot 'im!" he growled and the trooper duly obliged, repeatedly thrusting the bayonet in to the squirming native's torso in a euphoria of victory. "That'll do lad. Well done. I'll see you get a VC for this."
So great and total was the rout, the entire Empire erupted in to rapturous joy - all four men receiving the nation's highest honour. So popular was the regiment, even fashion adopted large sideys and bushy moustaches as the required look of the late Victorian age.
Cyril Clunge's first attempt at non-fiction, Zulu 1000 has received much criticism and derisive howls from both the literati and military historians alike. Variously described as historical revisionism gone mad, to a balanced re-assessment of Britain's colonial role, the work has both plaudits and detractors.
As it was. I felt I was almost there - David Irving
Stunning historical revision - Richard Holmes
Good drills - Andy McNab
Disturbing - Commission for Racial Equality
Stop chucking those bloody book reviews at me - Michael Caine