Two medals awarded to one of the defenders of Rorke’s Drift will go on sale at London auction house Spink on 24 July, where they are expected to sell for around £40,000-£50,000.

The battle of Rorke’s Drift took place in January 1879 in South Africa and was later made famous by the 1964 film Zulu, starring Michael Caine and Stanley Baker.

The pair of medals belonged to Gunner Arthur Howard of the Royal Artillery, who was one of those defending the base’s hospital building when it caught fire. Escaping the flames he managed to crawl away into undergrowth and play dead, despite being trodden on by several Zulu warriors as the battle raged on.

Gunner Howard was born on 2 May 1851 at Eynsford, Kent, where he attended the village school and then worked an agricultural labourer.

He joined the Royal Artillery in 1871 and was recovering from fever at Rorke’s Drift when the base was attacked by a large Zulu force. Some 11 Victoria Crosses, the highest British military award for bravery, were awarded following the battle.

Howard was discharged from the army after 19 years’ service on 30 May 1890 and went on to work at the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich.

He died in 1935, aged 84, and was buried in an unmarked grave in Brockley cemetery in south London. In 2012 a headstone was finally erected at the site, followed by a service attended by members of Howard’s former regiment as well as HRH Prince Valekhata Shange of Zululand.