burma rising

The Real Colour-Sergeant Bourne

Many of you will have seen the film Zulu, but what you may not know is that at the time of the real-life battle of Rorke’s Drift, Colour Sergeant (C/Sgt) Bourne was not the tall, middle aged man depicted. In actual fact Bourne was only 5'6" tall and was the youngest NCO to hold the rank of C/Sgt in the entire British Army. His nickname was the Kid. After Rorke’s Drift he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal ( at the time just lower than the Victoria Cross) for coolness and bravery in the field. He was also offered an officer’s commission but turned it down as at the time he could not afford to be an officer. He then went on to serve in India and Burma rising to the rank of Quartermaster Sergeant in 1884. In 1890 he was commissioned and in 1893 was appointed Adjutant of the School of Musketry at Hythe in Kent. He retired from the Army in 1907. During WW1 he rejoined the Army and was appointed Adjutant of the School of Musketry in Dublin. After the war he was awarded the honorary rank of Lt Colonel and the OBE. He lived in retiremental quarters in Beckenham Kent. He was the last surviving defender of Rorke’s Drift and died on VE Day 1945 aged 91. The BBC actually recorded an interview with him in the 40s, but destroyed the final product after deciding nobody would find it interesting enough to listen to…