kiwisue (kiwisue) wrote,


Brett & I have just finished watching the 8 part series video and (no surprise) were thoroughly impressed by Martin Shaw's ability to grasp the essence of a character. Rhodes isn’t my idea of a hero, in fact I despise much of what he did in southern Africa, his double-dealing and high-handedness, yet the portrayal was exceptionally human.

As a side note, I was very drawn to the character Frank Johnson, the Pioneer commander played by SA actor, and now film-maker, Gavin Hood. He drew my eye in every scene he played where Rhodes was not in the picture. In fact it is this observance that leads to my further comment on the series:

Whilst ‘Rhodes’ was above the average in historical accuracy, the attack of the impis against Dr Jameson’s column seemed questionable. The impis attached in bands, but without any obvious tactics, at odds with my understanding of Zulu warfare which used a 'Buffalo horn' formation (the Matabele broke away from the Zulu some years before). The very small number of colonialist forces seemed to have one (?Vickers) gun between them, relying on individual riflemen. I kept expecting their postion to be totally over-run, based on the apparent balance of forces, but this account has them much more heavily ordinanced:
“By mid-October 1893, Jameson's mounted column had crossed the Umniati River into Matabeleland. Armed with two 7-pounder field guns and a number of machine guns, the troopers were at first virtually unopposed. Small pox had recently scourged Lobengula's camp, and the king vainly tried to negotiate peace. It was not until October 25 that the Ndebele finally attacked. Six thousand warriors slashed at Jameson's wagon-laagered encampment on the Sthangai River. Hundreds of Ndebele died under the flaming muzzles of Martini-Henry rifles and Maxim machine guns. Less than 10 members of Jameson's column were killed or wounded.

A week later, on November 1, a second frontal assault on Jameson's laager at Bembesi resulted in more than 1,000 Ndebele casualties. Lobengula fled. In an effort to overtake him, a 30-man detachment of troopers under Major Alan Wilson recklessly crossed the Shangani on December 3, but was cut off by the king's amabutho and cut down to the last man.”

(end quote)

The makers of ‘Rhodes’ obviously compressed the October and November attacks into one, and merged Wilson’s character with Johnson’s. In real life, Frank Johnson apparently survived Rhodes & wrote a book: ‘Great Days’, published in 1940.

I think they moved the smallpox epidemic to the part with Lobengula’s end as well. He had pustules on his face just before he died.

Anyone know more or have any opinions about the historicity of 'Rhodes'?
Tags: history, martin_shaw, tv

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