Colour-Sergeant Bourne was played by Nigel Green in the film 'Zulu' giving the impression that the senior NCO at Rorke's Drift was a cross between an unflappable sergeant-major and a father figure to the men of B Company. The reality was that although the above photo shows a man who could fit such a description, he was in fact a 23 year old NCO who was at first nervous of his responsibilities. Bourne described himself as being 5'6" tall and painfully thin. He was promoted Colour-Sergeant in April 1878 and known to his men as 'the kid'.
He was the last surviving veteran of the garrison, living to the age of 91 and dying in May 1945. He rose through the ranks to become a lieutenant-colonel. In 1934 he attended the Northern Command Tattoo with 4 other survivors of Rorke's Drift. The following year he recorded an account of the battle for the BBC in a series entitled 'I Was There'. There was a transcript of the talk published in The Listener but the recording itself was destroyed in the 1960s because it was considered no longer of any interest. He considered himself lucky to have been there and always celebrated the anniversary of the 22nd Jan. He was recommended for an award by Lieutenant Chard and given the Distinguished Conduct Medal. He was much later awarded the OBE. The photo shows him in a captain's uniform pre-1900. Although he has a pouchbelt and sabretache he has an infantry tunic. The cocked hat was worn by specialistofficer like surgeons or vets, or staff officers.
Regimental details | Soldiers at Rorke's Drift