ZULU: the Heroism and Tragedy of
the Zulu War of 1879 by Saul David,|
(Viking, £20. ISBN 0670914746)
When people think of the Zulu War, they all
too often think of the popular film starring
Michael Caine, which recounts the famous
battle at Rorke's Drift, in which 140 British
troops of the 2/24 Warwickshire Regiment
(later renamed the South Wales Borderers)
defied a Zulu army of around 4,000 in a
10-hour engagement. Eleven VCs were
awarded following the events that day.
Yet while Rorke's Drift remains a
celebrated example of the British army's
fortitude in the face of overwhelming
odds, it has also successfully hidden the
less palatable truths behind the Zulu war.
Saul David argues that the war was both
unnecessary and unjustifiable. Interestingly,
it was a war that the British Government
Men on the spot forced the issue, and
in an age where communication was slow,
little could be done to stop them.
The war went ahead and ultimately
resulted in the destruction of the
independent Zulu kingdom, which was
annexed and incorporated into Natal.
David attacks the British commander,
Lord Chelmsford, who had little experience
in the field and was `hopelessly out of his
depth when it came to fighting the Zulus'.
To his credit, the author finds plenty of
evidence to support his case.
Chelmsford neglected to study his
opponents' fighting strategies, ignored
the need for detailed reconnaissance and
divided his army into columns too weak
to withstand a determined attack.
Eleven days into the war, his central
column (922 white troops and 840 black
auxiliaries) were destroyed at Isandlwana.
The determined defence at Rorke's Drift
the following day went some way to
restoring his reputation, but he was never
forgiven by Disraeli.
Despite the heroism of the combatants
on both sides, David's refreshingly clear and
exciting account of the war highlights that
in an age when many colonial wars were
mismanaged, few were as unjustifiable and
poorly led as the Zulu war of 1879.
In Black and White: The Life of
Sammy Davis Jr by Wil Haygood |
(Aurum, £20. ISBN 1845130138)
As one of the celebrated members of the
Rat Pack, Sammy Davis Jr seemed to have it
all. Prodigiously talented as an impressionist,
singer and dancer, he shone on stage and
seemed to have a lot of fun off it. Yet, as
with so many gifted people, Sammy Davis
had many inner conflicts. `He wanted to
be white' said one of his girlfriends, and
throughout the book this theme is never far
from the surface. To the indignation of both
black militants and white rednecks most
of his many women, including his second
wife, the actress May Britt, were white.
When he was considering marrying
the actress Kim Novak, he was warned
by the Mob that he would lose his other
eye (he had already lost one in a car crash
in 1953) if he didn't stop seeing her, and
go and marry a black showgirl in Las Vegas
called Lorad White.
Terrified of the consequences, he
promptly showered a startled Miss White
with gifts and married her two days later.
The marriage lasted 12 months.
Sammy Davis never went to school and
throughout his life remained incapable of
writing even a simple letter. He grew up with
few friends in an adult world of vaudeville
and soon carrying the act in a trio with his
father and veteran entertainer Will Mastin.
Most significantly, he hardly knew his
Cuban mother. It doesn't take a psychologist
to recognise that the love he so sought from
his audiences and professional associates was
a desperate replacement for love he never
received from his mother.
Haygood documents how throughout
the sixties and seventies, Davis lavished time,
money and contributions to hangers-on as
well as to public figures, ranging from Martin
Luther King to Richard Nixon, in a bid to
be loved and accepted.
He died of throat cancer at the age of 64
a tragically early end to an extraordinary life,
which is meticulously covered by the author.
Indeed, if there is a fault in the book, it is that
it is too long (around 500 pages).
Nevertheless, Haygood deserves much
praise for writing an excellent show business
biography about a man whose talent on stage
was often matched by his insecurity off it.
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