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Last Updated: Sunday, 22 January 2006, 14:36 GMT
Plan to honour Rorke's Drift hero
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
A campaign to gain recognition for a west Wales soldier who fought in the battle of Rorke's Drift has begun.

This weekend marks the 127th anniversary of the battle - re-enacted in the 1964 film Zulu - in which 145 British soldiers held off a Zulu army.

And a campaign is under way in Pembrokeshire to remember one of the Rorke's Drift defenders - Private Thomas Collins, from Haverfordwest.

Campaigners want to erect a plaque to honour the soldier in his home county.

The defence of Rorke's Drift took place on 22 January 1879, when just 145 soldiers from the 24th Foot, which later became the South Wales Borderers, held off an army of about 4,000 Zulu warriors at a border post in South Africa.

The losses of the British garrison were reported as 17 dead and 10 wounded, with the Zulus losing 450 men.

The life of Private Thomas Collins, believed to be the only Pembrokeshire soldier to take part in the famous battle, has been researched by George Harris, from Pembrokeshire.

I'm going to see that his efforts at Rorke's Drift are in some way or other remembered within this county
Clive Collins

Mr Harris said: "There is no doubt about it, they would have been absolutely scared stiff, without a shadow of a doubt every one of those men were heroes because to survive what they did was unbelievable."

He added that he had found that Private Collins was born in Camrose, near Haverfordwest.

"I knew for a considerable time one of the men was a Camrose man and details were confirmed by the regimental museum in Brecon," he said.

"He was a labourer and enlisted on May 22 1877. He was slightly over 5ft 6inches tall and had a fresh complexion, grey eyes and light brown hair."

Victoria Cross
The defenders of Rorke's Drift were awarded seven Victoria Crosses

The defenders of Rorke's Drift were awarded 11 Victoria Crosses - with seven to a single regiment, although Private Collins was not among those honoured.

Private Collins was finally invalided out of the army on June 16, 1891 - suffering from severe rheumatism.

"The chances are Private Thomas Collins probably died in poverty," said Mr Harris.

"Leaving an army job means you're unfit for duties and means you're unfit to work in civvie street as well."

Mr Harris added that a committee has been formed to campaign for a stone and plaque to be erected in memory of Private Collins.

Another involved in the campaign, chair of Pembrokeshire County Council Clive Collins, said he believes he may be distantly related to Private Collins but stressed the connection was "a little tenuous".

He added: "I am determined this man will be honoured during my year in office.

"I'm going to see that his efforts at Rorke's Drift are in some way or other remembered within this county."




SEE ALSO:
Recognition for 'Zulu' graves
12 Nov 03 |  Nottinghamshire
Zulu treasure in garage
13 Jan 03 |  England
Rorke's Drift medals on show
07 Dec 99 |  Wales


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