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Wrexham writer on journey into history for novel

Published date: 01 May 2014 |
Published by: Staff reporter
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AN author has spoken of his inspirational visit to Africa to research his latest novel.

Dave McCall, 64 of Acton, Wrexham, travelled to KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa in preparation for writing the book The Kraals of Ulundi – set during the 19th century Zulu War.

Talking about the journey Mr McCall, who writes historical novels under the pen name David Ebsworth, said: “It was amazing, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

“I feel it is important to go out to the locations you are writing about to get a real feel for the place and everything then becomes more vivid.”

While in KwaZulu-Natal Mr McCall spoke to modern day Zulus, descendants of warriors who fought in the war of 1879.

“As a result of the war Zulu culture was partially destroyed, and for some I talked to there was still a feeling of anger. But there was also a sense of respect for the British soldiers who fought.”

The Zulu War began on January 12, 1879 and the British Army was defeated in the Battle of Isandlwana on January 22.

The Battle of Rorke’s Drift immediately afterwards featured soldiers from the 24th Regiment of Foot, known as the South Wales Borderers from 1881.

Mr McCall said: “There was virtually no justification for the British invasion of Zululand.

“Within two weeks, Lord Chelmsford had led his forces into total disaster, with 1,300 British troops and native auxiliaries massacred on the slopes of the mountain called Isandlwana.

“Chelmsford’s reputation was only saved by the gallant defence, on the following day, of the local mission station at Rorke’s Drift by 104 men of B Company, Second Battalion, the 24th Regiment of Foot, then known as the Warwickshire Regiment.

“Chelmsford suffered further defeats before finally winning the war at the Battle of Ulundi, on July 4, 1879.

“But perhaps the worst disaster of the war was the death of French Prince Imperial, Louis Napoleon, killed in a Zulu ambush at the beginning of the previous month. It’s the death of Louis that forms the background to The Kraals of Ulundi, in which three men and three women are brought together by the event, their destinies changed forever.”

Mr McCall remembers how as a teenager he watched the iconic film Zulu starring Michael Caine.

“It tells the story of Rorke’s Drift. In 1979 there was also a prequel called Zulu Dawn, starring Burt Lancaster and Peter O’Toole.

“It portrayed the British army’s catastrophic defeat, on January 22, 1879, at the Battle of Isandlwana

“They’re two wonderful films. But the battles they portray only tell the story of the Zulu War’s first few days, while the conflict actually raged for another six months.”

Mr McCall will be at the Waterstones store in Wrexham on May 10 for a presentation about the background to the book, which runs from noon to 1.30pm.

For more news from across the region visit newsnorthwales.co.uk

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