AN ANNUAL celebration of a Cwmbran soldier who was awarded the UK’s highest military honour for his part in an 1879 battle was held on Saturday.

The parade marking the 139th anniversary of the 1879 Battle of Rorke’s Drift and Private John Fielding took place in Cwmbran.

Pte Fielding, along with 11 other members of the 2nd Battalion, 24th Regiment of Foot, later the South Wales Borderers, was awarded a Victoria Cross for his part in the defending a remote South African station from 4,000 Zulu natives.

Despite the rain, around 60 people, including members of Pte Fielding’s family, gathered on Saturday morning to be led by the South Wales Police Marching Band and Drums from Abbeyfields to St Michael and All Angels church in Llantarnam, where the former soldier is buried, for a graveside service.

Among those to be on hand to pay their respects was great-grandson Peter Fielding.

He said: “I had been looking forward to the march, especially seeing the assembled groups.

“I have been coming for years.

“It is fantastic to see everyone turn up, especially when there’s poor weather. Because of that it makes the day a very valid and moving one.”

Doreen Morris, 80, of Llantarnam, also attended the event organised by the Cwmbran and District Ex-Services Association.

“My parents used to tell me the tale of John Fielding,” she said. “He’s a true hero.

“He made a big sacrifice to save those injured by the Zulus.

“I think it’s wonderful that so many people have turned out to remember him.”

And James Church, 34, of Newport, was also in attendance.

“I’ve been coming for a couple of years to the march, for the same reason as everyone else,” he said.

“We need to make sure that people like John Fielding and what they did is never forgotten.

“He is a hero.”

Pte Fielding enlisted as Pte John Williams, and died in 1932. His memory is marked with a road name near the church where he is buried, John Fielding Gardens off Newport Road, as well as in the name of a Wetherspoons pub in the centre of Cwmbran.

The Battle of Rorke’s Drift was depicted in the 1964 film Zulu starring Michael Caine and featuring narration by Richard Burton.