A forgotten Victoria Cross hero who battled Zulu warriors should be recognised on the city’s Walk of Fame, a war historian has urged.
Mike Heaven, office manager for the Birmingham-based War Research Society, this week added his voice to the growing call for Private Samuel Wassall to be honoured by ‘his own people’.
Wassall received the highest military honour for plucking a wounded comrade from Buffalo River during the January 22, 1879, Battle of Isandlwana.
It was one of the blackest days in army history, with 1,300 troops slaughtered by Zulus. The Brummie’s bravery was highlighted in film Zulu Dawn.
Mr Heaven, 70, said: “I can’t see a reason why there should not be something commemorating Pte Wassall.
"People like him laid their lives on the line to save others, or died in the attempt. Perhaps his name on the walkway of stars in Broad Street?”
Wassall is believed to have been born in Alcester Street, Aston, on July 28, 1856, the son of a wire-maker. He worked as a apprentice dyer before joining the 80th Regiment (Staffordshire Volunteers), later the South Staffs Regiment, in 1874.
He was only 22 when the camp at Isandhlwana was over-run by Zulus. Wassall managed to reach Buffalo River and spotted a comrade, Pte Westwood, being carried downstream.
Though Zulus were on his tail, Pte Wassall sprang from his horse, swam out and rescued the soldier. They made it back to the bank and Pte Wassall managed to coax his horse across the river while dragging the injured man by his arm.
His selfless act almost went unnoticed. It was only when an officer overheard Pte Westwood speak of the daring rescue while recovering in hospital, that his heroics came to light.
Brian Best, secretary of the Victoria Cross Society, stressed the need to locally mark Wassall’s deed – either with a plaque or name on a memorial. The 70-year-old said: “He was the only one to get the VC at Isandlwana. Many years after the battle medals were given posthumously to two officers who escaped to save the colours.”
Those honours proved controversial, however, with some claiming the officers simply fled.
Mr Best added: “I’d support any moves to honour Pte Wassall. He certainly deserved it.”
There is a stumbling block, however, a spokesman for the Staffordshire Regiment Museum pointed out. The Whittington museum has two addresses for Wassall’s place of birth which makes erecting a plaque difficult.
But assistant curator Willie Turner backed the plans. He said: “We certainly wouldn’t be against it because he was one of our ours. The more recognition, the better.”
Wassall’s medals have been kept at the museum for many years.
After leaving the army, Wassall settled in Barrow-in-Furness where he worked as a dockyard electrician. He and his wife had four sons and three daughters. He died aged 70 and his gravestone still stands in Barrow cemetery.