Don't miss a story sign up to the North Devon Gazette's FREE daily newsletter CLICK HERE

Hartland teenager who fought the Zulus

09:14 12 March 2014

A picture of some of the Rorke's Drift defenders taken in 1879.

A picture of some of the Rorke's Drift defenders taken in 1879.

Archant

The tale of a North Devon farm labourer who fought in the 1879 Zulu War is retold in a new book Defenders of Rorke’s Drift.

Defenders of Rorke's Drift - A Collection of Tributes is a new book by James Bancroft that features the life of Hartland farm worker turned soldier William Wilcox.Defenders of Rorke's Drift - A Collection of Tributes is a new book by James Bancroft that features the life of Hartland farm worker turned soldier William Wilcox.

A Hartland teenager who fought the Zulus at Rorke’s Drift is among the unsung heroes of the famous battle to be remembered in a new book.

William Wilcox was aged just 19 when he took part in the battle of 1879 which saw a small force of mostly British defenders hold off an army of thousands of Zulu warriors.

The action was depicted in the film Zulu! and the although many were decorated for gallantry – including an unprecedented 11 Victoria Cross awards – many were not.

William Wilcox’s story is among 26 tributes to some of those unsung participants in a new book Defenders of Rorke’s Drift by James Bancroft.

The son of a Hartland farm worker, William was born on August 17 1860 and began working on a local farm aged 11.

He enlisted at Cardiff on February 9, 1877, and as 1187 Private Wilcox was posted to the 2nd Battalion, 24th Regiment, at Dover, serving as a servant for one of the officers.

He received orders for active service in South Africa, and sailed to the Cape in February 1878, taking part in the Cape Frontier War, and during the Zulu War was present at the defence of Rorke’s Drift, one of the youngest men in the garrison.

For his service he received the South Africa Medal with 1877-8-9 clasp.

The defence was all the more remarkable since just a day or so before the Zulus had attacked and destroyed a British column at Isandlwana, with the loss of more than 1,300 men.

In his book, James Bancroft tells how later in his military career William was tried for desertion and theft of government property. He was eventually shipped back to England and released from Forton Military Prison in 1881.

On return to Devon he became an agricultural labourer again, and by 1891 he was working at Docton Farm, having developed a passion for any kind of engine.

He married Lily Vanstone, on February 27 1892, at Bideford Register Office, and they rented a home in Limebridge, Hartland, where their only child, Maud Mary, was born in 1892.

Lily died in 1917, and William and moved into a caravan at Brightly Quarry. He died at Newbridge in Dolton on May 29, 1925, aged 64.

James Bancroft has written more than 100 books and articles. Copies of Defenders of Rorke’s Drift are available via at www.bancroftpublishing.com.

0 comments

Other News Stories

Find out when Santa will be visiting Bideford, Barnstaple, Torrington, Northam, Appledore, Fremington, Yelland and Braunton.

Read more
Yesterday, 19:43

Guest had to break glass with his bare feet and barely escaped alive with his young son after Europa fire that revealed ‘a number of failings’

Read more
Yesterday, 16:35

Police are appealing for information after a woman in her 60s had to be cut from her car at junction of Abbotsham Road and Belvoir Road.

Read more
Yesterday, 16:00

The tractor, which still works today, was first bought in 1954 and is the inspiration behind a series of children’s books.

Read more
Yesterday, 14:51

Bishop Sarah Mullally visits centre as part of a three day tour of North Devon

Read more
Yesterday, 12:29

The force has confirmed it is investigating allegations in Devon and Cornwall of child sex abuse within football.

Read more
Yesterday, 12:12

A hearing will run next week in Northam to determine the future of Westward Ho! village green on Golf Links Road.

Read more
Yesterday, 10:43

School goes from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘good’ in just two years

Read more
Yesterday, 10:25

Find out what time the Christmas lights will be switched on in Bideford on Sunday, and what else you can expect throughout the day.

Read more
Yesterday, 10:10

Find out how you can give a gift and help North Devon families in crisis over the festive holiday during our annual appeal.

Read more

Local Weather

Sunny

Sunny

max temp: 7°C

min temp: 3°C

Most Read News

Useful Links

Advertise in the paper
Submit a Story
Subscribe to the paper
Competitions
North Devon Football League
Order Photos
Family notices
iwitness24
Facebook
Twitter
Google Plus Page
Reader Travel

Family Notices 24

Read Online

Image
Read the North Devon Gazette e-edition E-edition

Newsletter Sign Up

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Local business directory

North Devon's trusted business finder

Find planning applications