After a crushing defeat at the Battle of Isandlwana, the Zulu army is advancing on a small British garrison at Rorke's Drift to deal another blow to the British invasion of Zululand.
Meanwhile, at the garrison the British hear about their defeat. A group of bridge builders from the Royal Engineers led by Lieutenant John Chard (Stanley Baker) join up with the contingent led by Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead (Michael Caine) where the latter is put out to find himself outranked by Chard due to duration of service.
As the sounds of marching Zulus approaching grows louder, Chard realises he cannot outrun the Zulus, especially because of the military hospital that dominates the base. Chard, under constant scrutiny from Bromhead, orders bags and crates of food to be stacked up to form a makeshift wall. Behind this, the British make their final stand.