Mid Wales

Brecon campaign to buy Rorke's Drift Victoria Crosses' museum

A Victoria Cross owned by the Regimental Museum of The Royal Welsh
Image caption One of the 18 Victoria Crosses held at the Regimental Museum of The Royal Welsh

A campaign is trying to raise £500,000 to buy and extend an Army museum which is home to six Victoria Crosses won at Rorke's Drift, the battle immortalised in the film Zulu.

The Regimental Museum of The Royal Welsh in Brecon is home to 18 VCs - the UK's highest military bravery honour.

The friends of the museum want to buy or lease the building from the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

There are fears the MoD will be unable to support it in the future.

The museum has around 50,000 artefacts on display from the 17th Century to the present day. Its collection ranges from buttons off tunics to machine guns and spears and shields from the 19th Century Zulu War.

But an additional 50,000 artefacts from the Welch Regiment, including 3,000 medals, are in storage because there is no room to display them.

The museum's friends said the Grade II-listed building desperately needed extending so the complete collection could be shown.

But in order to receive money from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to support the expansion the friends must own the building.

Museum curator Bill Cainan said the plans could transform the museum.

"We are building up a fund to support our plans. We'd like to buy or lease the museum off the MoD and then apply for money from the HLF for the major refurbishment," he said.

"We plan to apply for around £2m from the HLF to build a second storey on our armoury and medal room, which would contain the Welch Regiment's medals."

"We'd also like to build a research suite so people researching family history can have better access to our regimental archives."

Mr Cainan said because of financial pressures it was feared the MoD would be unable to invest in the scheme to expand the museum, so the friends had decided to try and buy or lease it.

One of the museum's focal points is the Zulu War room which contains spoils of war such as Zulu shields and spears.

In the 3,500-strong medal room is a Victoria Cross (VC) won by Lt Gonville Bromhead for his part in the defence of Rorke's Drift during the Zulu War in 1879.

That medal alone is worth more than £700,000, while the entire collection of 18 VCs is valued at millions of pounds.

The battle was immortalised by the movie Zulu, starring Michael Caine and Welsh screen star Stanley Baker, and recounts when some 150 British soldiers held off around 4,000 warrior tribesman whose land they had invaded.

Eleven VCs were awarded for the defence, more than for any single battle before or since.

Chair of the Friends of the Royal Welsh Regimental Museum, Dorcas Cresswell, said £40,000 had been raised so far.

A black tie fund raising dinner at Peterstone Court Hotel, Llanhamlach, Brecon, on Saturday night will add to that total.

Among the guests will be Welsh Secretary David Jones.

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