AS England battle with South Africa for supremacy on the cricket field the anniversary of a more bitter and bloody struggle approaches.

It is almost exactly 126 years since the infamous fight for the mission station at Rorke's Drift.

This was the best known conflict of the Boer War and prompted the well-known film Zulu.

It was also where William Jones from Evesham became one of 11 soldiers to earn the Victoria Cross.

Local historian Michael Barnard believes William Jones remains the only soldier from Evesham to win this highest medal for bravery.

Visitors to the Evesham Almonry Museum and Heritage Centre can still see a picture of one of the town's bravest sons.

The bloody battle to defend the isolated mission station in Natal Province took place on January 22 and 23, 1879.

A small British force of men was surrounded by thousands of hostile Catswoyoe Impi Zulu warriors.

Private Jones and three other soldiers were commemorated specifically for their part in defending the hospital at the station.

They stood their ground against overwhelming force before the hospital was finally burned to the ground.

When all looked completely lost the Zulus called off the attack allegedly in deference to the bravery of the British defenders.

William Jones collected his medal from Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle the following January.

It was the culmination of an impressive military career for the son of a building labourer who started his working life in the shoe and boot trade in the town.

Aged just 19, he went to Birmingham to enlist in the 24th Regiment of Foot, which later became the South Wales Borderers.

In those days of Empire he served in Mauritius, Burma and India before travelling to South Africa.

He was in his 40th year when he became one of the historic survivors of B Company.

But life did not begin at 40 for William Jones who was invalided out of the army after returning from South Africa.

For a time he toured the country as part of the Wild Bill Hickock show in which he re-enacted his exploits at Rorke's Drift.

His later years were not very happy with a combination of ill health and lack of money taking its toll.

The man who had fought so bravely for his country was reduced to pawning his Victoria Cross for just £5 to help feed his family.

He suffered from what is now called senile dementia and died at the home of his daughter in Ardwick in 1913.

"The second half of his life could not match the excitement and glory of the first and it was a sorry end," said Mr Barnard, aged 76, from Badsey.

"He married twice and had many children. His first wife used to go overseas with him and died abroad."

William Jones was 73 and was given a funeral with full military honours. The white helmet that he wore at Rorke's Drift was carried on top of his coffin. He is buried at Philips Park cemetery in Manchester.