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Last Updated: Friday, 5 October 2007, 11:39 GMT 12:39 UK
Zulu War hero's sculpture honour
Artist impression of the sculpture
The sculpture is in tribute to the bravery of Pte Fielding/Williams
A soldier, among 11 awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery during a famous Zulu War battle in South Africa, is being honoured with a sculpture.

Private John Fielding, also known as John Williams, was 21 when he risked his life to save eight hospitalised soldiers at Rorke's Drift in 1879.

The battle was immortalised in the 1964 film Zulu, starring Michael Caine.

The memorial has been placed at a new housing complex near Cwmbran, which has also been named after Pte Fielding.

The Battle of Rorke's Drift was fought on 22 January 1879 in Natal, South Africa.

Around 140 British troops, mainly Welshmen, faced an army of around 4,500 Zulu warriors as they tried to protect a British base at the Rorke's Drift crossing on the Tugela river.

Earlier that day, the Zulus, armed with spears, had killed more than 1,000 British soldiers at nearby Isandlwana.

But the small crew of soldiers at Rorke's Drift, a supplies base and military hospital, were able to fight off the approaching Zulu warriors.

An 1882 'Illustrated London News' drawing of the aftermath of the Battle of Rorke's Drift
The Rorke's Drift defenders held out against enormous odds

During the battle, the hospital at the base was set on fire and stormed by the Zulus and the patients had to be evacuated.

But Pte Fielding and his comrade Alfred Hook defended the hospital until their ammunition ran out.

They then brought eight patients to safety, holding back the enemy with bayonets.

After a heavy night of fighting, the Zulu warriors withdrew from the battle in the morning.

Abergavenny-born Pte Fielding was the last surviving VC holder from the battle, when he died in 1932.

He was buried in Llantarnam near Cwmbran, close to the site of a new housing development which has been named after him.

His character was played by Peter Gill in the epic film Zulu.

Stone carver Teucer Wilson, who was commissioned by the developers, said: "I wanted to create a sculpture that was relevant to the struggle of all those who fought in Rorke's Drift, but also have a timeless quality.

"It will be in a residential area so I want it to be something people enjoy passing and studying, and something that makes people think."

Victoria Cross
Pte Fielding/Williams was awarded a Victoria Cross

The final stone will feature the words of a song called "Y Corn Hirlas" (the Hirlas Horn), which is a traditional celebratory hymn about bravery in the battlefield, along with a carving of the horn itself.

A lion and the words 'for valour', which both feature on the Victoria Cross, will also be carved into the stone.

"It was a fascinating piece to research and it represents a very important piece of local Welsh history," he added.

The sculpture will stand about 1.2m off the ground.

Debby Pavitt from developers Redrow Homes explained: "John Fielding is a local hero and it is only fitting that a memorial should be created on the site."

Zulu battle guide visits barracks
10 Sep 07 |  Mid Wales
Plan to honour Rorke's Drift hero
22 Jan 06 |  South West Wales
Rorke's Drift medals on show
07 Dec 99 |  Wales


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