Battle of Rorkes Drift a scrimshaw tale

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 26th August, 2013

A carved elephant’s tusk containing the scrimshawed tale recounting the Battle of Rorkes Drift in 1879 between the might of the Zulu nation and a small contingent of British soldiers is a highlight of Glenelg Auctions massive two-day collectibles and military auction from 10.30am Saturday.

Made famous in the 1964 film Zulu, the Battle of Rorkes Drift involved about 150 British soldiers under the command of the Royal Engineers Lieutenant John Chard defending the mission station at the post against an overwhelming 4000-strong Zulu force during the Anglo-Zulu War.

More or less forced to stay and defend the post because of the number of wounded soldiers being cared for at the on site hospital, the courageous British force resisted stoutly – losing only 17 men and inflicting heavy casualties on their Zulu opponents.

For their efforts, the soldiers were awarded 11 Victoria Crosses (the highest number ever presented for a single battle) and four Distinguished Conduct Medals.

The sale is at 109 Learmonth Street, Portland (old wool store complex) and features many interesting and collectible military and other items among the more than 2000 lots.

Not least among the offerings is an exact copy of Ned Kelly’s suit of armour complete with bullet indentations as the Victoria Police tried to gun him down at Glenrowan in June 1880 during a defiant last-ditch stand.

A Japanese samurai suit of armour, constructed with a solid iron breastplate and a gilded monogram on the leather and displayed on a cast iron stand, is another attraction for collectors.

The auction contains 56 antique weapons including a Japanese war lords matchlock musket inlaid with a silver dragon, believed to be somewhere between 200 and 400 years old.

There are three Brown Bess muskets, famous for guarding convicts and used during the American Revolution, Napoleonic Wars and the Indian Mutiny.

A 1770s flintlock brass barrel blunderbuss with flick bayonet should attract plenty of attention along with bayoneted flintlock pistols, a rare matchlock pistol and a four-barrel flintlock pistol.

Other items of interest include a 1950s Coke machine, a Texaco petrol bowser, an 1850s whaling gun with case and accessories, grizzly, black bear and other traps and an 1860s butter churn.

There also is a 1930s pinball machine with famous racing horses (including Phar Lap) of the time and a range of vintage children’s toys including pedal cars, a rocking horse, train sets, tin and cast iron trucks, motorcycles and aircraft.

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