Mission to South Africa to honour Rorke’s Drift battle

Sgt Wesley McDonald
Sgt Wesley McDonald

A SOLDIER from St Helens has travelled to South Africa to be honoured for his regiment’s involvement with the famous battle of Rorke’s Drift.

Sgt Wesley McDonnell, 27, was one of 22 soldiers from the infantry unit’s three battalions to take part in the trip to the historic city.

The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment received the Freedom of the township of Ladysmith in recognition of their parent regiment’s service in the Boer War and the defence of Rorke’s Drift.

The battle of Rorke’s Drift became the most famous incident in the Anglo-Zulu war.

A small battalion of 150 British troops successfully defending the garrison from an intense attack by 4,000 Zulu warriors.

Eleven soldiers were awarded Victoria Crosses and the battle was immortalised in the 1964 Michael Caine film, Zulu.

Sgt McDonnell has served in Cyprus, Germany, the Falkland Islands, Canada, twice in Iraq and is now in training for a potential deployment to Afghanistan.

He volunteered for the South Africa trip because he loves to travel and wanted to learn more about the Anglo–Boer War of 1899-1902, which involved all the parent regiments of the Duke of Lancaster’s.

He said: “The situation those soldiers found themselves in – outnumbered, limited logistics and isolated – raised important lessons which I can take with me to Afghanistan if we go there.

“My Platoon has been focusing on Counter IED training, basic patrol skills and marksmanship. I am impressed with the equipment and training we have received.”

The Freedom of Ladysmith was awarded in recognition of the sacrifice made by members of the Duke of Lancaster’s parent regiments during the defence and eventual relief of the town.

While there, the soldiers took part in the Freedom ceremony, parading with other military units from South Africa before the city’s Mayor M V Madlala and the Colonel of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, Brigadier Mike Griffiths.

The trip also saw the party take in an extensive battlefield tour, walking many historic sites including the Spion Kop where the British lost 1,500 soldiers.

They also visited Rorke’s Drift itself, went adventure training, abseiling and white water rafting, and helped with a community project by painting a school building.