Shangani Patrol – the movie

Last Saturday I put up a snippet from Frederick Russell Burnham‘s book, “Scouting on Two Continents“.

The excerpt concerned the famous Shangani Patrol, that was wiped out in a legendary “last stand” fight against the Matabele tribe in 1893.  In colonial Rhodesia the incident was regarded in the same light as the last stand at the Alamo in Texas, or that of the three hundred Spartans at Thermopylae.

In 1970 a feature film was made on location about the incident, called simply “Shangani Patrol“.  I remember it as being a bit too unquestioningly patriotic for my taste (given that at the time, white majority rule was being imposed by fiat in both Rhodesia and South Africa), and not sufficiently even-handed in its treatment of both sides of the war.  Nevertheless, it stuck to the facts fairly accurately, and seemed well made for the time and place, fifty years ago.

A reader informed me that the entire movie is currently available on YouTube.  I don’t know how long that will remain the case, but if you’d like to watch it, I’ve embedded it below.  It’s about an hour and a half long.

It was one of history’s most celebrated “last stands”, at least as far as the colonial era was concerned, and is worthy of attention.  As their monument in the Matopo Hills attests, those who died were indeed “Brave Men”.  At the last, as the Matabele victors stood over the fallen members of the patrol, an induna (war chief) proclaimed, “Do not touch their bodies!  They were men of men, and their fathers were men before them.”  The victims were therefore not mutilated, as was the custom in tribal warfare.  Their bodies were left intact as a testament to their courage, even in the face of certain death.  The Matabele who had fought them later attested to this.

Let us know what you thought of the movie in Comments.



  1. I took a look at it. Not a great film, but not a bad one either. Burnham was portrayed by Will Hutchins, who I best remember from the 1950s western TV series Sugarfoot.

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