Anglo-Zulu War Victoria Cross Recipient. He received the award from Lieutenant General Sir Garnet Wolseley on July 16, 1879 in South Africa for his actions as a lieutenant in the 5th Company, British Royal Engineers on 23 and 23 January 1897 at Rorke's Drift in Natal Province, South Africa during the Anglo-Zulu War. He received his education at Cheltenham Grammar and Plymouth New Grammar Schools, followed by the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich, Greater London, England. In July 1868 he was commissioned a lieutenant in the British Royal Engineers and underwent an additional two years' training at Chatham, Kent, England. Following tours in Bermuda and Malta, he returned to England in 1879 where he was assigned to the 5th Company, British Royal Engineers. In December 1878 he and his unit was sent to Natal, South Africa to assist with building bridges in preparation for the invasion of the Zulu Kingdom and he was placed in command of the British defenses at Rorke's Drift. On the morning of January 22, 1879, a Zulu Army annihilated a large British force at Isandlwana. Later in the afternoon, a smaller Zulu force, which did not participate in the earlier slaughter, attacked the small supply outpost at Rorke's Drift, ten miles to the West on the Buffalo River. Defended by only 131 soldiers, of which 39 were in the hospital, against almost 4,000 Zulu warriors, he and his men, a company of the 2nd Battalion, 24th Regiment of Foot, along with a large company of the 3rd Natal Native Contingent, held out against unceasing Zulu attacks throughout the evening and into the night. Early the next morning, after heavy losses, the Zulu's withdrew. As a result of their incredible bravery in the face of an overwhelming enemy force, 11 men, including Lieutenant Chard, were awarded the Victoria Cross. This was the largest amount of Victoria Crosses ever awarded for a single engagement, and the bravery of Lt. Chard is still commemorated by the South African Army with the John Chard Medal for Bravery. Following his award, he was promoted to the rank of captain and brevet major and saw further action at the Battle of Ulundi. He remained in South Africa until the end of the Zulu War in July 1879 and was sent to England where he received a hero's welcome and was assigned to duty at Devonport in Devon. In December 1881 he was assigned to Cyprus and returned to Preston, Lancashire, England in March 1887. In December 1892 he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel and assigned to Singapore, returning to England in 1896 and became the Commanding Royal Engineer at Perth, Scotland with a promotion to the rank of colonel in January 1897. Shortly afterwards, he was diagnosed with tongue cancer and he died as a result the following November at the age of 49. In addition to the Victoria Cross, he also received the 1880 South African Medal (with 1879 clasp). His Victoria Cross citation reads: "THE Queen has been graciously pleased to signify Her intention to confer the decoration of the Victoria Cross on the undermentioned Officers and Soldiers of Her Majesty's Army, whose claims have been submitted for Her Majesty's approval, for their gallant conduct in the defence of Rorke's Drift, on the occasion of the attack by the Zulus, as recorded against their names, for their gallant conduct at the defence of Rorke's Drift, on the occasion of the attack by the Zulus on the 22nd and 23rd January, 1879. Royal Engineers Lieutenant (now Captain and Brevet Major) J. R. M. Chard. 2nd Battalion 24th Regiment Lieutenant (now Captain and Brevet Major) G. Bromhead. The Lieutenant-General commanding the troops reports that, had it not been for the fine example and excellent behaviour of these two Officers under the most trying circumstances, the defence of Rorke's Drift post would not have been conducted with that intelligence and tenacity which so essentially characterised it. The Lieutenant-General adds, that its success must, in a great degree, be attributable to the two young Officers who exercised the Chief Command on the occasion in question." He was portrayed by actor Stanley Baker in the 1964 film "Zulu" which was based on the defense of Rorke's Drift. His Victoria Cross and South African Medal are on display at The Lord Ashcroft Gallery of the British Imperial War Museum in London, England.
Bio by: William Bjornstad