How The Distinguished Conduct Medal Was Won By C/Sgt Frank Bourne In The Zulu War

Frank Bourne was born in Balcombe Sussex on 27th April 1854

He joined the 24th when he was 18 in 1872.

Made Corporal in 1875

and Sergeant in 1878

Not long after the Regiment had been sent out to the Cape of Good Hope he was promoted to Colour


After the Kaffir war of 1878 the Regiment went to Natal for the Zulu War.

With 4,500 men under his command Lord Chelmsford crossed the Buffalo river at Rorkes Drift.

C/Sgt Bourne and the men of B Company were left behind at Rorkes Drift.

Watching Chelmsford begin the advance of the main column to start the war with the Zulus left C/Sgt

Bourne was very disappointed as he had to guard Hospital stores and wanted to be amongst the action.

At this time little did he know!

The battle at Rorke’s Drift, during the afternoon of 22nd January 1879, is among the most famous in

the history of the British Army.The battle began at 4:30 PM and continued for twelve hours.

Around 4,000 Zulus against 139 men of ours and that included medical staff and hospital patients.

Colour Sergeant Bourne’s ‘behaviour during the battle was one of, the greatest coolness and

gallantry, which earned him the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

The Defenders of Rorkes Drift were awarded 11 Victoria Crosses plus many other awards. The most

surprising part was that Colour Sgt Bourne only received a Distinguished Conduct Medal.

There are a few stories kicking about as to why he never received the Victoria Cross. None of them

make sense. He was a driving force behind the defence.

Following the Zulu Wars C/Sgt F Bourne was offered a commission but didn’t accept it due to lack of

funds. Or so the story goes.

Then later he was of to Burma and promoted QM Sergeant in 1884

Finally accepting a commission in 1890.

Adjutant at the School of Musketry in 1893.

Retiring from the army in 1907 only to join up again at the outbreak of World War 1 and served in


Once the war was over he was given the Honoury rank of Lt/Col and also was awarded the OBE

Living to the ripe old age of 91 and being the last survivor of Rorkes Drift he passed away on the

8th May 1945 which was VE day.

I see people displaying medals of Lt Col Frank Bourne but only 2 the DCM and Zulu. Even the Zulu

medal is incorrect.

These were his medals

Lieutenant-Colonel Frank Bourne,

Order British Empire,

Distinguished Conduct Medal

South Africa Zulu 1877-8-9 (Not 1877-9 as often quoted)

India General Service Medal Burma 1887-89

As seen in the Regimental Museum and confirmed to me in a recent telephone call.

Source by Barry Sheppard

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