When the British government announced their intention of withdrawing from their Aden Protectorate, a number of guerrilla groups emerged to hasten the British departure. The uprising was brought to an abrupt halt by the arrival of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.
Aden has been in British hands since 1836 when Sultan Muhsin bin Fadl ceded the territory to them, British marines were stationed there from 1839 to prevent pirate attacks on British ships on passage to India. The territory, being about equidistant from the British possessions of Suez Canal, Bombay and Zanzibar, became an important resupply and coaling base for the British navy engaged in protecting the empire.
The battle for this little known outpost and the deeds of its heroic defenders has become an undying example of discipline and British guts in the face of overwhelming odds. This small but famous victory overshadowed the greater defeat suffered earlier in the day by Lord Chelmsford’s army at Isandlwhana.
Rorke’s Drift, known as “Jims land” to the Zulus, or kwaJimu in their own isiZulu language, was a mission station and former trading post of James Rorke, an Irish trader. It was located near a ford, or drift, on the Buffalo River which marked the border between British held Natal and the Zulu Kingdom. Following Rorke’s death, (he shot himself in a drunken rage) a Swedish missionary, Otto Witt, purchased the post and used it as a base to bring Christianity to the natives.