Obituary in The Citizen, 8/18/2005

Screen lie on hero Hook

Today the funeral takes place of the actor James Booth. Although his was not a household name, you'd definitely recognise his face from dozens of films and TV dramas over the last 45 years.

He was in Twin Peaks, Airport 77, The Sweeney, Lovejoy and The Bill, among many others. But his most celebrated role was playing Gloucestershire war hero Henry Hook in the 1964 film Zulu.

Churcham-born Hook won the Victoria Cross for gallantry at the Defence of Rorke's Drift in 1879 and was, by all accounts, a brave God-fearing soldier. In fact, he was teetotal and even carried a Bible with him in to battle.

So when the film was released, it came as something of a shock to Hook's descendants to see him portrayed by Booth as a hard-drinking Cockney malingerer.

So why did a movie which was so accurate in other ways get the details of this character so spectacularly wrong?

Author and historian Alan Baynham-Jones, from Bream, is the region's leading expert on the Zulu War and he's been letting me in on his theory. He's convinced the writers confused Henry Hook with another VC winner, Pte Fred Hitch.

Alan once met James Booth and tells me the actor was horrified to discover that the screenplay had misrepresented such a courageous man.