William Jones VC Rorke’s Drift January 1879

William Jones served as a private soldier with B Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Regimen of Foot, later known as The South Wales Borderers.

Private William Jones VC

During the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, also known as the Defence of Rorke’s Drift, which was an engagement during the Anglo-Zulu War which took place on 22 to 23 January 1879, William Jones was awarded the Victoria Cross for his part in rescuing patients from a burning hospital which had also been overrun by Zulu warriors. During this engagement he was involved in hand-to-hand combat with a bayonet.

Actor Richard Davies in the film Zulu

In 1964 William Jones was portrayed by actor Richard Davies in the film ‘Zulu’.

After leaving the army Jones became a member of the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show but sometime during the 1890’s he was unable to find work and was forced to pawn his VC and later sold the pawn ticket to buy food. He was later sent to a workhouse in Bridge Street Manchester and there is also anecdotal evidence of Jones wandering the streets of Manchester saying the Zulus were after him which resulted in him being confined to a mental hospital.  

On 15 April 1913 William Jones died and was buried in a pauper’s grave in Phillips Park Cemetery, Manchester and not until 2007, after a long campaign, was his grave given a headstone.   His VC is now on display at the Regimental Museum of the Royal Welsh in Brecon, Wales.  

Author: Alan Malcher

Military historian and defence commentator

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