"Collins had enlisted in the army on May 22,1877, aged just 15. He lied about his age, however, claiming to be 22 and, standing at five feet six inches tall - most soldiers on enlistment at this time were under nourished and small - this was readily believed.
Collins sailed for South Africa in February 1878 and was just 17 years old when the Zulus attacked Rorke's Drift.
The defence of the Mission Station is too well known to describe here. Suffice to say that, led by Lieutenants Chard and Bromhead - played by Baker and Caine in the film -
The defence of Rorke's Drift was an example of incredible bravery, just 17 defenders being killed while over 500 Zulus were cut down as they - with equal bravery - stormed the hastily erected defences around Rorke's Drift.
Sixteen gallantry medals were awarded to the defenders, 11 of them being the Victoria Cross, the medal instigated by Queen Victoria in 1856. Seven VCs went to men of the Borderers, the most ever presented to any single Regiment in one day. It could so easily have been many more as the idea of a posthumous award was not realised until the early 20th century.
Thomas Collins was awarded the South African Medal (with the 1877-78 -79 clasp) but his future life was not as idyllic or as pleasant as he might have hoped. He served in the army, in places like India, until his discharge in 1891.
Then he returned to his native Wales and settled in Newport where he worked as a labourer.
However, his health, physical and emotional, deteriorated and in 1901 he was admitted to Newport Asylum. He died in the asylum on 17 April 1908 at just 47 years of age.
The defence of Rorke's Drift was an example of selfless courage and devotion to duty, particularly in the face of the overwhelming defeat at Isandlawana. It would have been so easy for Chard and Bromhead to order a retreat and flee the camp. Instead, they stayed and fought. And men like the young Thomas Collins, still a teenager, stayed with them"
Source: Wales History