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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 May 2006, 06:00 GMT 07:00 UK
County honours Rorke's Drift hero
Re-enactment of the Zulu Wars
145 troops were attacked by a Zulu army numbering over 4,000
A Pembrokeshire man who was one of the youngest soldiers to fight at Rorke's Drift is being honoured in the county.

A plaque in memory of Private Thomas Collins will be unveiled on Wednesday at Pelcomb, followed by a march past at the cenotaph at Haverfordwest.

It marks an end to a campaign to honour the soldier, thought to be the only one from the county to fight in the battle.

Immortalised in the film Zulu, it saw 145 British troops attacked by 4,000 Zulu warriors, on 22 January 1879.

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

The battle resulted in the awarding of 11 Victoria Crosses although Private Collins of 'B' Company of the 2nd Battalion of the 24th Regiment of Foot was not among them.

A Pembrokeshire blue stone complete with plaque will be unveiled at the site of the old school in Pelcomb where it was believed he attended as a boy.

The life of Private Collins
An 1882 'Illustrated London News' drawing of the aftermath of the Battle of Rorke's Drift
Born one of eight children at Pelcomb on 13 September, 1861
Aged 16 he joined the 24th of Foot, almost certainly lying about his age.
Fought at Rorke's Drift in 1879, at the age of 18
Served in Malta, Burma and India and was invalided out of the Army in 1891
No record of his death but one theory is he emigrated to the US with family members.

Military representatives, including the Commander of 160 (Wales) Brigade, will then attend a service at Haverfordwest which will include the Last Post.

Peter Stock, who has helped organise the day, said one of the reasons it had taken the county so long to honour Private Collins was he almost certainly lied about his age when he joined the military so his records did not match-up.

"Thomas Collins was only 16 when he went to the Army but he put his age down as 20," he explained.

"Army records are very detailed and accurate and we had to make sure that everything was authentic.

"We had been looking for a man four years older than he actually was - he was just 18 at the Battle of Rorke's Drift."

When Private Collins was invalided out of the Army in 1891 suffering from severe rheumatism, he did not return to the county and there were no records of his death.

"We are 99% certain he emigrated to America where he had family and this is where the county lost the connection," added Mr Stock.

"A lot of research has gone into it. It will be good to finally recognise him."


SEE ALSO:
Plan to honour Rorke's Drift hero
22 Jan 06 |  South West Wales
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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